Can’t I Just Get Some Rest?

I’m not very spiritual or eloquent this morning. What I am is tired. Joy had oral surgery this week and we have been taking care of her for the past couple of days. I say taking care of her, but really we’ve been keeping up with her. She has been going wide open since the second day. Plus, I have a Bible study lesson to prepare and teach today. Laundry needs to get done. Floors need mopping. And there is always that 2-year-old ball of sweetness and fire that wants Nana’s attention.

What I want to do is follow Jesus’ advice to His disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). Rest is important. It was modeled for us by God Himself in the creation week when He rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). Yes, rest would be so nice. Let me just sit with Jesus in a quiet place as the disciples did. Or did they?

Let’s look a little farther into this story. “But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them” (v. 33). What happened to their solitary, quiet place alone with Jesus? What happened to their day of rest? It got swallowed up by needy people. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 34).

I want to talk to those of you who are tired. I’d love for this story to say that Jesus sent the crowd away so His disciples could rest. But it doesn’t. He taught them and then He fed them. More than five thousand of them. And the disciples were right there helping Him. Then Jesus sent them off in a boat and into a storm. When they got to the other side of the lake, more people were waiting. Oh, how I relate! But He showed up for all of them. The needy people and the disciples. And He will show up for you and me. Weary, beloved servant, Jesus knows. He cares. And He is with you.

Before I could finish this post, Joy woke up and came running into my study. Laundry and floors can wait. My girl needs morning snuggles. Jesus knows.

Do You Measure Up?

When I post my devotionals every morning to this blog, I have to go into the admin page. This page contains a bar graph showing how many people have visited each day.  I try not to look because I used to get really excited when the bar went high and really discouraged by low numbers, thinking I should just quit since no one wants to read what I’m writing. The ego is a very fickle thing, even for people in ministry. Yesterday I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the bar graph was all the way to the top of the chart. Wow! That’s gotta be some pretty high numbers. So I looked. And sure enough, I had hit at or near the highest line on the chart. The number thirty. The graph adjusts itself based on the past ten days. Well, that’s kind of deflating.

But it made me think about a verse in one of Paul’s letters: “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corin. 10:12). In the church, we tend to compare ourselves with others – discouraged (or jealous) when we don’t measure up to the most “devout saints” and a bit smug when we think we are more righteous than someone who struggles with things we don’t. Paul said such comparisons are not serving the Body. Because there is only one standard to measure up to – that of Jesus.

I may think I am holier-than-thou, but am I as holy as Jesus? You may consider a woman’s outfit inappropriate for church, but are you wearing robes of righteousness? I may not string together a chain of profanities, but are my words always light and life? Your faith may be a little stronger than mine, but can you go willingly to the cross like Jesus? For my sins?

We are all struggling in this life. None of us will reach the top of the bar like Jesus – at least not this side of heaven. Instead of measuring ourselves against other fallible human beings, we need to make Jesus our only goal. Beloved, I am not better than you and you are not better than me, but we can help each other be more like Jesus. I’m willing – are you?

When You’re a Long Way From Where You Thought You’d Be

See the source image

“God, I know you called me to ministry, to teach and share your Word. Why am I fluffing flowers at a grocery store? I thought there would be more to my life than this.”

Facebook memory reminded me today of a dry season in my life. I had felt God’s call more than ten years before but I was toughing it out in seminary and working at a grocery store. Every attempt I made to start Bible studies and discipling fell apart. I was frustrated and disappointed. Had I heard God wrong?

In Acts 23 Paul is under arrest for declaring the name of Jesus, accused by the Romans of inciting riots, and by the Jews of blasphemy. I often wonder if, in that prison, Paul questioned whether he had gotten it wrong too. To understand his call, you have to go back to Acts 9:15, when God declared that Paul would carry His name before Jews, Gentiles, and kings. At this moment, he is a long way from fulfilling his destiny. But then the Lord Jesus came to him in his cell and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify about me in Rome” (Acts 23:11).

Paul endured multiple trials and great persecution, faced a storm at sea, and was shipwrecked and snake-bitten along the way. But Acts 28:14 says, “And so we came to Rome.” God was faithful to His promise to Paul, and he did indeed preach the Gospel and declare the name of Jesus in Rome. But there was a lot of space between the promise and the fulfillment. 

V. Raymond Edman said, “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”  As I look back at that memory, and consider that today I am working in a seminary, teaching Bible studies, teaching through writing, and continuing to prepare for something more through grad school, I realize God’s call and His faithfulness are just as true for me.

I don’t know what God has spoken over you, nor how long you’ve waited to see it come to fruition. But I do know that His promises never fail and His Word never returns void. Stand firm in the faithful nature of the Lord, Beloved, and believe that what He has declared in the light, will be fulfilled despite the darkness.

“And so we came to . . .”

Make Every Minute Count

See the source image

A verse came to me this morning: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You” (Psalm 73:25). Then another: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). They were very convicting to me.  If I can truly say that earth has nothing I desire above God, and that Jesus alone has the words of eternal life, then why do I spend more time on Facebook than I do in the Good Book? Why do I listen to the opinions of others rather than listening to the only words that matter? And why does my quiet time get derailed by social media and emails and news and checking my bank account?

So I asked the Lord, “Have I forsaken my first love?” In Revelation, the Lord Jesus addressed seven churches, the first was the church in Ephesus (2:1-7). He commended them for their perseverance, endurance, and not tolerating wickedness and false apostles. But He also chastised them for “forsaking their first love” (v. 4) He said, “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Remember the things you did at first” (v. 5). I remembered the days before the internet was part of my daily life. I would spend long stretches of time studying God’s Word and writing – prayers and devotions and lessons. I would spend days chewing on one passage or theme in Scripture. Those are the “things I did at first.” Granted, a lot more has changed in my life: work, school, my granddaughter, but those legitimate things should make me all the more determined to make every minute count when I have one.

Yet social media is a ministry platform, a way to speak life and truth and encouragement to others – to you. I believe God has called me to this.  But it should not take away from Him. I must allow the Holy Spirit to work the fruit of self-control in me.

Beloved, are you paying attention to how you spend the gift of precious minutes? Who gets the most – God or a hand-held device?  (Yes, I know, you’re probably reading this on your phone.) I would ask the same question another way – who sees your face the most – your children or your screens?  If I stepped on your toes, know that mine are also throbbing. To adapt Moses’ words: “Lord, teach us to number our minutes aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). What will you do to make every minute count?

Needy People

See the source image

I was so tired. It had been a hectic morning in a busy week and I just wanted to eat my lunch in peace. I had chosen the farthest corner to get away from everyone else in the cafeteria. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her. I tried to make myself small and unnoticeable. But she noticed anyway and set down her tray on the other side of the table. “I’m so glad to see you! I need to talk to you.” And she launched into her latest drama. “Why couldn’t she see that I wanted to be alone?” I thought. I listened to her non-stop for thirty minutes and as she prepared to leave, the Spirit prompted me to pray with her. She hugged me tightly and said, “Oh thank you! You always know how to make me feel better.” As she walked away, I stared at my half-eaten lunch just as my phone chimed. I opened the daily devotional app to read Luke 9:10-11: “Jesus took them with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed Him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” He welcomed them. Not just tolerated them. He received them with delight. And He shared the kingdom with them. His time alone with His disciples had been hijacked. Or was it a divine interruption?

The truth is, I was once a needy sponge myself, searching out kind faces and willing (more like reluctant) ears to listen to me. No doubt I wore some folks out. But somebody cared enough about me to pour into my empty heart and lead me to God’s healing touch. Now I try to be the one who cares and listens. When a needy friend comes around I remind myself that Jesus welcomed people who interrupted His life. People like me.

Maybe, Beloved, God wants you to be His conduit of love and kindness – and patience – to lead someone into His healing arms. You could be the hinge on which their life turns around. Jesus welcomed needy people. He welcomed me. And He welcomed you. Somebody needs you today. Will you welcome them in Jesus’ name?

Satan Hates Me

“A great door for effective work has opened for me and there are many who oppose me” (1 Corinthians 16:9).

Satan doesn’t like me. Want to know how I know? He has worked overtime this year to break me and to stop the work God has called me to do. He has hammered my family, taken away my husband’s health and livelihood, and brought tension and frustration between the three of us. He has caused financial hardships. He has tried to destroy my confidence in my calling, telling me that I spent four years in seminary for nothing and I will never be in ministry. He has shaken my faith and battered my joy. And I almost believed him, that is until he attacked the heart of my calling.

Last week my 4-year-old laptop died. The one I write on. The one I use to write blog posts and words of encouragement and Bible-study lessons. The one I used to start writing my first book. That’s when I recognized that the enemy had declared war on God’s purpose for my life, and like Paul, I realized that was a sure sign of God’s calling. I am not a young person who can type on my phone with great speed and accuracy (I’ve been at this simple post for more than an hour!), but if this is the only way I can fulfill my calling, so be it. Satan will not win.

Beloved, I don’t know what God has called you to do with your life, but I do know that the enemy wants to discourage you and make you give up. He will use every avenue he can against you, but do not let him win. You stay the course. You keep the faith. You do it to the best of your ability with whatever you have left and you do it with fierce determination and conviction. Because the enemy only opposes what God blesses, so if Satan’s got you in his crosshairs you can know that you’re doing what God created you to do.

Satan doesn’t like me – in fact he hates me. But he hates me because he’s afraid of me and what God intends to do through me. And in the Bible, that’s the clear, bold mark of God’s calling. Let’s get back to it friend – you and I have a purpose to fulfill!