Numb

It goes by many names. Jaded, cold, complacent, hollow, empty, calloused and distant. But my favorite term to describe this phenomena is numb. What I mean is that feeling you have when you don’t really have any feelings towards God. You are just kind of existing. Sure you remember that passion you once had for the Lord, but somewhere along the way it slowed and turned into what you are currently feeling.

It happens to us all at some point in our Christian walk. Some of us it may happen only once but for most of us average folk we find ourselves in this numb state over and over again. What does God have to say about us being numb towards him? Nothing good. “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16). “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1). “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27).

And while each of the verses above cover a different aspect, (being lukewarm, doing acts without love, being a hypocrite, focusing on outward appearances with wrong motivations), each can find their root in a numbness towards God. So I believe that being numb towards God is a very dangerous thing. But it still happens to us all! So what should we do about it? I’d like to discuss four things that help me when I am struggling with numbness towards God.

The first thing I find helpful is to repent. I find that I often feel numb or distant from God not because HE isn’t there but rather because I am living in unconfessed sin. But 1 John 1:9 tells us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What an amazing truth! But rather than go to God when we sin we have a tendency to run from God because we have sinned. Satan fools us into thinking we can only come to God when we have it all together, so when we don’t, (which is often because we are all sinful), we find ourselves praying less and not confessing sin. The longer this process goes on of living in sin without confession and repentance, the more numb you will start to feel. So if you find yourself feeling numb or cold towards God today, is their some sin you need to confess? Try going to the Lord rather than running from Him.

Second, we need to be with other believers. Just like we tend to run from God instead of to Him when we sin, we often do the same with our brothers and sisters. Instead of going to our community of faith and asking for prayer and help we instead keep our distance because we somehow don’t feel worthy to be there unless we have our act straight. While this is commonly found amongst Christians today it is completely unbiblical. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

This looks different for each of us. Maybe some of you have a great small group where you can go when you are struggling with sin or feeling distant from God. Maybe it’s even your entire Church you can go before and they will lovingly encourage and restore you. For me, I have a few guys in my life I can email or talk with. Anytime I am feeling stuck in sin or distant from God I can share with them. They in turn pray and encourage me through those times. Oh what a blessing Christian community truly is! If you are feeling numb, go and spend time with other believers that we may mutually encourage one another in those numb seasons.

The third thing I have found helpful when I am feeling numb is worship and praise. Psalm 100:1 says “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” A very key word there is “joyful.” It doesn’t say make a begrudgingly forced noise to the Lord. When we worship and praise our Creator it forces us to be joyful because we realize how amazing He is! This can often go together with appreciating his creation. Go to a majestic spot and listen/sing worship to God. Praising God with our mouth, viewing His splendor through creation with our eyes and hearing music given to us from His hand often will help jolt you out of that numb feeling.

The final thing I like to do is to read a book by a Christian author. I especially like to read autobiographies. This is the same as reading the Psalms. I am currently reading “Confessions” by St. Augustine. To hear his raw emotion and his struggles laid bare help me to realize I am not alone. To read through the Psalms and see David say things like “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). To read that these great men of the faith even had struggles and times of numbness helps me realize that I am not alone. Read from other Christians and see how they struggled and how God faithfully brought them through.

So if you are struggling with feeling numb towards God, I hope these four things will help you. Confess your sin and repent. Go and be with other believers. Praise and worship God for He is great and worthy to be praised. And read from others who have shared similar struggles. My prayer is that can all overcome this numb time we may be having through God’s grace and help. May we turn to Him to restore our passion. If you have any other ways that help people regain their passion after God, feel free to post them below. I’d love to hear what others have to say!

Awesome

It’s a word we all use way to often. “Today was an awesome day.” “That band is so awesome.” And because we use the word so much it’s almost as if it has lost it’s meaning. The word awesome originally was used only when something truly inspired awe. Something that made us stop, mouth wide open and say “Awesome.”

I know I personally have lost my sense of awe because I continually ascribe awe to situations that aren’t worthy, yet forget to ascribe awe to those truly worthy situations. And worst of all, I, like many of you, often forget to ascribe awe to God who alone is truly awesome.

Let me give you a scenario. What if Jesus came back right now? What if he appeared in the sky as promised in Revelations this second? Are you really looking forward to that? Are you too caught up in what needs to be done rather than excited for the culmination of all things?

As I watched a sunset the other day I felt that God was showing me just how awesome He is. Yet I was so preoccupied with what needs to get done, plans for the future and my own desires that I couldn’t just stand in awe of God.

And while I could discuss the reasons for why we don’t stand in awe of God, (each person has their own excuses but busyness, caught in sin or too comfortable are three pretty common ones), I want to talk today about the dangers of ascribing awesomeness to the wrong things.

First, when we don’t stand in awe of God we find ourselves sinning more easily. It is always easier to excuse and condone sinful behavior when we lack a proper respect for God. Look at what happened to the Israelites in the Old Testament. They would often dive into sin because they lacked an understanding of the awesomeness of God. In Amos 4:6-13 God recounts all of the ways He has punished the Jews for their sin. Yet they continued to rebel because they had forgotten the might and majesty of God. This is why God says things like “He who makes the morning darkness and treads on the heights of the earth.” (Amos 4:13). He is trying to get us to see just how awesome He is so we will return to Him.

If you find yourself struggling with a variety of sins, this may be a good reason why. The heart of every sin is a greater desire for sin than for God. Basically, we sin because we ascribe awesomeness to some sinful behavior when awesomeness alone should be ascribed to God. So we must look at the awesomeness of God if we are to overcome sinful behavior in our lives.

Second, a proper awe and respect for God gives us a greater desire for evangelism. When we see just how awesome God is we have a deep desire to see others come to know Him as well. This great awe and reverence is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 13:45-46 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” It also caused Paul to “count everything as rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8).

If we really were in awe of God, we would be much more fervent in our desire to see the nations come to repentance. So if you find that you are not as eager to share the Gospel as you should be, then pray that you would experience the awesomeness of God and that would stir in you a desire to share His amazing truth with others.

The third danger when we don’t see the awesomeness of God is that we lose perspective. What I mean is that when we understand how awesome God is we also start to understand how small we are, how temporary our problems and lives are and how brief our time and accomplishments are.

This is important because it helps us avoid two great vices: arrogance and despair. When you see how amazing God is you are forced to become more humble because you see how great He is and how bad you are. In the face of the amazingness of God, we truly are a breath (James 4:14).

This also helps us avoid despair because we see that God is bigger than any problems or trials we could experience. It is easy to be burdened and beat down by the trials of this life. But when we see how great and awesome our Lord is we are able to overcome. This what allowed the early apostles to rejoice after taking a beating (Acts 5:41).

So I hope all of us can understand that lacking a proper respect and awe of God can be a dangerous thing. May each of us pray, seek and desire a greater reverence for God this week. May we all be truly amazed at the greatness of God. May we desire Him more than sin and allow this desire to stir in us a longing to see others share this desire. And may we ultimately see just how awesome God truly is.

Using Our Time for the Eternal Rather than the Earthly

The fact that you are even reading this blog is a miracle. Depending on your reading level, you can probably finish this off in 5-10 minutes. That’s assuming you actually read the whole thing, (I know many won’t even make it to the end before there is something else that snatches their attention away). But even those 5-10 minutes are considered precious in our lives of packed schedules and overcommitments.

And so I thought today I would look at something I think we all struggle with: making time to spend with God. This includes prayer, study, meditation and reflection as well as Church and Bible studies. Many of us assume Church on Sunday is enough spiritual activity for one week. This statement is as foolish as saying we only need food or water once a week.

So first the problem. We are all busy. But honestly, we aren’t as busy as we think we are. How many of us have 10-12 hour work days like those living in third world countries? How many of us are farming from sunup to sundown like our ancestors? And think about all the modern conveniences we have. Things like cars, the internet, microwaves and cell phones make life in the 21st century the fastest it has ever been.

Seems like we should have more time, but for some reason we still don’t. And while I understand our busyness is a partial issue, I don’t think it explains why we struggle to have time for prayer and reflection but work less and live more convenient lives than ever before.

No I think the real problem is our priorities. While Christians profess Jesus is the most important thing in our lives, we rarely act that way. How many of us can speak like David talking about God’s law in Psalm 19:10: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” Maybe if we looked at our Bible this way we would open it a little more often.

But our priorities have become totally out of whack. And I see this problem presenting itself mainly in two ways. First, we over commit. We have some free time in our daily schedule and we pack it with another activity. And while these activities might be good, (outreach, fellowship, etc..), they often force us to lose time with God because we find our lives are too busy.

Second, we prioritize entertainment, fun and relaxation over time with God. Many of us rush about and try to check everything off our daily to-do lists so we can sit down around 7 or 8 PM for what? The sitcom we can’t miss? A drink with our friends? Checking fantasy football stats online? Once we finally have a free second we spend it on fleeting, earthly passions rather than eternal, heavenly joys.

And so maybe this is you. Maybe you find yourself far from God or drifting away. Maybe you just can’t seem to find time with God. Maybe you wish you could pray or meditate more on His Word, yet the daily pressures of life prevent you. You know I am not just about presenting a problem but also practical solutions! So hopefully these four ideas can help you make time for what truly matters.

First, make it THE top priority. How can we as Christians claim Jesus is Lord of our lives when we only throw Him our leftovers? Where you spend your time and money is where your heart is really focused. I challenge you all to consider this. You have time to eat and sleep each day right? Well why not sacrifice one meal, (we already eat too much anyways so giving up one meal wouldn’t be the worst thing), or give up an hour of sleep to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer? Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Second, make a schedule. You plan when you will go to the gym, so why not plan your quiet time with God? We seem to think it’s nonspiritual to have a planned time with God, but this is far from the truth. If you find that your daily schedule is packed already, then mark out an hour or so each day that is just for you and the Lord. If you don’t plan it there’s a good chance you’ll rationalize why you didn’t have time to pray or study today.

Third, understand that saying no is acceptable and good. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:37 “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything else more than this comes from evil.” Notice Jesus didn’t say your no needed to be yes. It is good to say no sometimes. One reason we lack time with God is because we value time with others more than our Heavenly Father. Rather, be willing to say no to someone so that you have time to spend with God each day.

Finally, make sure your quiet time is actually quiet. Many people try to do their prayer or study while they are doing something else. Your commute to work is a great time for prayer, but shouldn’t be the only time you pray. Reading the Bible in a noisy cafeteria is a great way to spend lunch, but it shouldn’t be the only time you open the Bible. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.” Notice the command to be still first. Also, Jesus would frequently go to “desolate places to pray.” (Mark 1:35, 6:31, Luke 6:12-13). And in Matthew 6:6 we are told to “go into your room and shut the door,” when we pray.

God knows we get distracted easily so He commands us to seek Him in a quiet place. Also, I think this a great time for us to meditate and reflect on God. I know the word meditation has some bad connotations because of other religions, but it is a good word. When is the last time you just dwelt on the eternal nature of the trinity? Or that God spoke and creation happened? Or even consider the amazing grace a perfect God would extend to sinful humans through his Son? (2 Corinthians 5:21). Spend time in prayer, study and meditation this week, but make it a quiet place.

Hopefully these are words of encouragement for those who seem overburdened with life and seem to have no time for God. I hope we can all learn what is really most important and that our actions will reflect that this week. May we see that the problem lies with us, not our busyness. May we make God and time with Him our top priority. May we be willing to schedule time with God and say no to others in order to keep our appointment with Him. And may we pray, study and meditate daily in a quiet place so that we can completely focus on Jesus. Let us reclaim our schedule’s and our lives for the glory of God!

Heroes of the Faith- Hudson Taylor

I recently finished a small autobiography on Hudson Taylor. For those of you who do not know Hudson Taylor I will give a brief introduction. My advise though is to do your own research on this man and his remarkable life.

Taylor was born in England to Christian parents. He became a Christian during his teen years thanks to the fervent prayer of his mother. Over time, Taylor became interested in China. He studied medicine in hopes that he may be able to go to China to bring healing to the Chinese bodies and souls. In 1853 he set sail for his first trip to China. He spent a total of 51 years in China sharing the Gospel. He is also the founder of the China Inland Mission which was responsible for much of the early inland mission work done in China. All during one of China’s most tumultuous times due to constant civil war, corruption and suspicion of foreigners.

And so today I want to give you all three things that struck me as I read about Hudson Taylor. I think his life leaves us an example we can yearn to follow as we attempt to share the Good News with all the nations (Matthew 28:19). Please understand that these words are not only meant for those who feel a call to go overseas to proclaim the Gospel but are also life lessons we can take as we go anywhere to share what Jesus has done.

The first thing that struck me about Taylor’s life was prayer. I was amazed at how much time he would spend in prayer. His answer to almost any crisis was to pray about it first, and then act later based on the Lord’s leading. Also, he would pray most fervently when praying for the salvation of those around him. He would spend much time in prayer which provided him a “peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)

I think we can all improve our prayer lives. We live a time when everything is meant to be quick. Fast food has replaced the family meal, email has replaced the posted letter and Wikipedia has replaced the library. I think we are much more prone to act first and pray second these days. I believe if we would follow the example Mr. Taylor left us to spend deep time in prayer, asking God for guidance before we search our own minds, we would better understand the will of God.

Also, I think we can better learn how to pray. Taylor would pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but he would also spend time praying for things with eternal significance. He would continually pray for the salvation of those around him, even his enemies. Or he would pray that the work of God may be furthered in some remote area. And always with the understanding that “Yet not my will, but your will be done.” (Mark 14:36). How much time do you spend praying for protection, comfort and ease which only effect this life when you could be praying for changed hearts, open doors and God’s will? May we learn to pray as Hudson Taylor did!

Secondly, Taylor’s faith is a challenge to all us today. He not only prayers but also actually believes God will do it. Or once he has prayed Taylor trusts that the Lord’s will would be done. Two amazing stories come to mind for Taylor’s life. First, before Taylor had even gone to China he became very ill. Doctors believed he would soon die. He spent any of his conscious time in prayer and trusted the Lord. He was able to recover miraculously without many of the medicine and rest that doctors had ordered him. Secondly, with his finances he learned to never ask anyone but rather ask His Heavenly Father who would provide. Anytime he was down to his last penny and it looked as though he may soon starve God would provide him the exact amount he needed at the perfect time.

Compare that faith to our doubt filled lives today. We pray, but then we do everything we can do to solve the problem, not really trusting that God will answer our call. We pray, but we doubt God will or wants to, so instead we do. We are truly “double minded” and “unstable in all our ways.” (James 1:6-8). This is also a reason many of us choose not to go into full time mission work. We can think of too many excuses not to trust God, (it could be dangerous, I don’t have the money, what about my family, etc…). And while there are many good reasons to stay home and share the Gospel there, I challenge you all to consider if you are staying at home to seek those lost around you or because you don’t trust God outside your comfort zone.

Finally, I was amazed at Hudson Taylor’s perseverance. 51 years in China is no small accomplishment especially during the time he was here. Many times he fell ill, or was beaten or had his things stolen yet he continued to try and reach our to the Chinese people. He saw many family members and good friends die, (many of his children and his first and second wife died before he did), yet he continued the work. He could have gone back to England and stayed there any time. Many of his children probably would have lived if he had been closer to better conditions and more adequate healthcare. But Taylor “counted it all as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8).

We, on the other hand, tend to retreat or run at the first sense of danger or discomfort. Millions are perishing in their sins but we dare not go to them because we fear we may not live with as much comfort and ease as we have at home now. What a sad generation we have become! We may even try to go some place difficult but stay there 1 year at the most. What ever happened to those who would leave all for 51 years to share the Gospel? We have replaced perseverance in missions with many short term trips scattered around our schedule and comfort level.

So I hope you all can be as challenged by the life and work of Hudson Taylor as I am. I encourage you to read more about him yourself. But I hope you won’t just read but you will also act. May we carry on the legacy of this great man of the faith, Hudson Taylor. May we learn to pray without ceasing for the salvation of those around us. May we have faith in God more than our faith in ourselves. May we learn to persevere and choose God’s work over our comfort.

A Cry for Urgency

We all know that our time is ultimately limited. Thus, we prioritize certain activities over others. For example, if I really need to go to the bathroom that takes priority over other things like sleeping or eating. While maybe at other times I am so tired I choose to sleep even though I am hungry. Or perhaps I choose to eat even though I am tired, (I’m a guy so I talk about things close to my heart: eating, sleeping and the bathroom).

My point is that with certain activities we can be quite urgent. But there are many other activities we seem to lack this sense of urgency. We have a “I can do it tomorrow” or “It’s not too important right now” attitude about it. And sadly, this idea has become a big hindrance to our ability to actively and effectively share the Gospel.

I will use myself as a perfect example of this. While I know sharing the Gospel and bringing glory to God is my ultimate purpose and mission, I often can find excuses why I shouldn’t do it. Maybe today I am busy with classes. Or maybe I need to rest because of a busy weekend. I even use language as an excuse of why I can’t share with the hundreds or even thousands of people I pass by each day. I and many of you have lost our sense of urgency. We have found so many other things that require our time that sharing the Gospel is not a life or death thing but rather only for Super Christians and Pastors.

So I am here to call, rather cry out, for urgency amongst the saints who believe in Jesus as Lord. That no matter where you are in your walk with God, we are all on an urgent mission. There are millions of people around us who are in their sins and on their way to hell. We have the cure. We have the key to set them free. Now all we need is the urgency to do it.

Just as Paul tells us in Romans 10:14-15: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Here are a few things that I think will help us become more urgent in our desire to share. First, we need to realize this is an urgent situation. I think we often don’t treat sharing the Gospel as urgent because we believe we can do it later. We don’t seem to understand that life can be taken at any moment. Deep down we understand that death is imminent, but we live as if we and those around us are immortal. Realize that each face you see today is hellbound upon death unless they see and receive Jesus.

Second, we need to realize that we are capable and made for this purpose. I think one reason we don’t have an urgency to share is because we feel that someone more qualified should do it. While many of us know the basics of the faith, we can’t answer all those tough questions a non-believer may have. The problem with this is twofold.

First, you may be the only Christian this person has contact with. Thus, God has made you exactly the person you are in order to share His grace with them. Secondly, it doubts the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke 12:12 tells us: “for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” And while this verse is specifically talking about what to say during persecution, the idea is the same when sharing with non-believers.

Finally, we need to step out of our comfort zone and do it. I think the reason a lot of us lack urgency is because we are so worried about what others may think of us. Maybe you get along with your non-Christian colleagues and so you are scared to share the Gospel with them because it may change or ruin that relationship. Or maybe you are so independent you do your own thing and only share when someone approaches you first or at a Bible study. Or maybe you are just shy. Whatever the excuse may be we need to be willing to lay them down for such an eternal conversation. In Mark 8:33 Jesus calls Peter “Satan” because “… you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

And while I hope these three points will give you more courage and urgency to share the Gospel, I also realize that we must actually practice this in order to change our routine. So I am going to challenge you all, (myself included), this week. I want all of us to try three things. First, share your testimony with someone. Second, share the Gospel with someone. Third, invite someone to Church or a Bible Study. You can do all three to the same person or the three things to three different people.

My goal is that as we start to step out and share the Gospel with urgency we see it isn’t as scary or hard as we thought it would be. That’s why I want us to do all three, not just one of the three. (I think people often just invite others to Church so they don’t have to share. While inviting others to Church is good we are also commanded in Matthew 28:19-20 to “Go” ourselves).

So may we regain the urgency the early Church Fathers and Apostles had. May we realize that there is nothing more important than the Gospel message we have. May we realize that we hold the cure to save millions from eternal punishment. Let us all go this Easter week and share with the perishing the light of hope and life found in Jesus.

Take a Real Sabbath

So I have been gone for the past 3 weeks but I am ready to get back in the swing of things. Problem is, during those three weeks I have been so busy that I have exhausted myself. You would think that 3 weeks off would be a nice time to rest and relax, but I did a poor job of scheduling rest.

I don’t think I am the only one who doesn’t rest as much as he should. The truth is, all of us are so busy we rarely find any down time. But, rest is not only vital to our physical health but to our spiritual health as well.

In Genesis 2:3 we see that God rested after making everything. Now we need to stop and think why would God need to rest? If He is God, He does not grow tired or weary right? Well God was not tired, but rather He was leaving a model for us to follow. God does not need rest, but we do. He rested to show us the importance of a weekly rest.

Later, in Exodus 20:8-11, God commands us to keep a Sabbath day. Basically for each of us to take a day of rest and use it to recover from our hard work and spend time meditating and worshiping God. To break the Sabbath was punishable by death. This commandment was included in God’s top ten list.

I find this interesting because God thought the Sabbath so important he included it in the ten commandments, (before murder, adultery, and theft). We seem to do a pretty good job of keeping the other ten, (in fact, most of the other ten are considered to be Christian basics), yet we seem to bypass this commandment. What if we treated God’s commandment about murder or adultery like we treat His commandment about the Sabbath?

Now some of you might say, “well didn’t Jesus break the Sabbath”? Yes that is true. But to believe that Jesus’ breaking of the Sabbath was a prescriptive lesson for us would be foolish. Jesus’ purpose for breaking the Sabbath was to show the religious people of the day that a religious, halfhearted keeping of the Sabbath is not what God intended. He intended it to be a day of rest, not a religious duty. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27). In fact, we see Jesus resting or withdrawing to desolate places many times throughout the Gospels, (see Matthew 14:13, Luke 5:16 and Mark 3:7).

So what does a real Sabbath look like? Well I believe it doesn’t look like what we currently call our Sunday morning routines. Honestly, most of us are more drained and exhausted after going through Sunday’s. So I want to challenge us all in a few ways on how we can keep a more Biblical Sabbath.

First, choose a day and do no work. I know most of us like to keep our Sabbath on Sunday, but with work schedules the way they are this might be impossible for some of us. Pastor’s don’t take their Sabbath’s on Sunday’s so if you can’t either, don’t worry about it. Instead, pick a day you do have off during the week and actually do no work. This is tough for us these days. Usually we treat our day off as a day to catch up on all the things we need to get done. But that isn’t a true Sabbath. Do no work means do no work.

To help with this, try and find small times during the week to complete tasks. Rather than saving everything up for your day off, try to do a little each day so that when your day off comes, you can use it as a true Sabbath.

Second, rest does not mean waste. I often think if I don’t accomplish something that I have wasted the day. Rather, I need to realize that resting is accomplishing my goal for that day. Have the right perspective going into your day of rest.

Third, use your Sabbath right. A day of rest does not mean a day full of sports, movies and video games. While your Sabbath may include these, they should not be the bulk of your day. Rather, spend that day in study, prayer or fasting. Use it to watch a sermon or listen to a podcast. Maybe worship or start a new book. Remember that the purpose of a Sabbath is twofold: to get you rested and to connect you with our God.

Lastly, don’t let Church be a hindrance. This is a tough one. While Church can rejuvenate us and give us that inspiration to get through the week, it can also be a hindrance to our Sabbath. Now I am not telling you to stop going to Church. Rather, rethink your Sunday routine. Maybe go to Church Saturday night so you can have all Sunday at home. Go to first service and then come home and nap. Or, take your Sabbath on a Saturday and then use Sunday as a day of fellowship.

The problem I see with most of us is we use Saturday as a catch up or fun day, and then expect Sunday to be a day of rest. But Church was never meant to be a time of rest, but rather a time of worship, fellowship and learning. Many of us expect to rest on Sunday’s but all the great worship and fellowship of Church keeps us from it. My advise, don’t treat Church as a Sabbath. Rather, find a way to get your Sabbath on a day you won’t be going to Church.

I hope that all of us can learn how to rest. God felt it was important enough to include it in His Ten Commandments, so I hope each of you will treat it just as important in your week. So may we all schedule our Sabbath. May we find time to rest and spend time personally and intimately with God. May we not treat Church like a Sabbath, but rather as the joyful fellowship it was made to be. And may we all draw closer to God through our time of rest.

Slow Down

So I have been a little busy this last week. How about you all? Is anyone not busy out there? I feel like we have replaced the word “good” with “busy” when someone asks how we are doing. We have managed to pack our daily lives full of tasks, appointments and people. But in all this busyness, do we still have time for God?

I would argue that probably the thing causing the most damage or harm to a Christian’s walk with God is our schedules. We have hundreds of different people or jobs that require our attention. And because these seem to be more clearly visible and urgent we set our Bible down and go deal with whatever the problem is. We have pushed our time with God back to “when I have a moment.”

But just as any relationship suffers when we don’t invest time into it, so does our relationship with God. If I only spend time with my girlfriend once I have completed all of my other daily tasks she won’t be all too happy and our relationship won’t grow. Yet, for some reason, we do just that with our relationship with God. So how can this change?

Well I don’t have some grand secret to making your life easier. I can’t add an hour to each day or tell you some master plan to improve your efficiency by 25%. But I can tell you some things that have helped me.

First, get your priorities straight. Most of us will make sure we spend time with loved ones. Most of us make sure we sleep 6-10 hours a night. Most of us have time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And many of us make sure to watch the same television program each week. But when it comes to our Bible or prayer time, we just squeeze it into whatever is left. We have given God left overs.

David says in Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” I love this picture of David desiring to know the Lord. Very few of us actually know what it means to be starving. But watch us get just a little hungry and we will not stop until we can eat. Do you ever get like this with the Word of God? Do you ever desire it so much you will not stop until you can study or pray or worship? I think we have our priorities way out of line when our God is given mere left overs.

Secondly, I think we need to simplify. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” We need to find time to be still before the Lord. Devotion time on your way to work in traffic helps the road rage, but doesn’t really help us focus on God. Checking your cell phone at Church every 10 minutes for a score update isn’t being still before the Lord. Praying and doing five other things isn’t being still with God.

I find it interesting that many older people I talk with wake up at 5 or 6 am and do their devotions each morning. It’s not like they got old and started doing this, but have been doing it for over 50 years! Their generation understand the importance of starting the day out in silence with the Lord. If you are having a tough time finding time to be still before God, try waking up a little earlier.

Finally, I think it’s good to schedule or organize time to spend with God. I know some worry that this will take the spiritual aspect out of it, but I can promise it doesn’t. When we get busy, having a schedule makes sense. We schedule other important things in our lives, so why wouldn’t we schedule time for our most important relationship? The thing is, you have to stick to it. We often start with a great schedule, but soon something happens, our schedule gets thrown off, and we are back to handing God whatever was left from our busy day.

This is why scheduling is related to the idea of simplicity and priorities. For example, if I have a date scheduled with my girlfriend, I am not going to call that off unless it is an emergency. Treat your devotion time as if it were a date with your Heavenly Father. Don’t allow it to be something you can do another time, but make it an important part of your daily life.

So I hope that each of us can try to slow down a bit. Yes I know you are busy. I just don’t want your busyness to be your undoing. So get those priorities straight, get organized and even wake up earlier if need be. I can tell you that there is nothing more important than having daily time with God.

Where to run

Some of you may be hurting. Some of you may be so busy, stressed or burned out you aren’t even hurting, you’re just numb. Some of you may be having the best day of your life. Whatever situation you are in, we are all in need of somewhere to run. Maybe you need somewhere to run to feel relief from the pain. Maybe you need somewhere to run just to feel anything. Or maybe you just need to run somewhere to celebrate. In any case, Jesus is that place to run.

In scripture time and time again, Jesus tells us to come to Him. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Yet, when trouble strikes we often run somewhere else. Or even worse, when times are good we forget Jesus and don’t seek him at all. So how do you practically, “Come to Jesus?” Depending on what situation you are in, I believe there are numerous ways Jesus makes Himself available to us. So whether you are doing great, just getting by, or are in the bleakest time of your life, Jesus is waiting for you.

First I want to address those who are doing well. Some of you may even be doing great! I would argue this is a dangerous time for you. It seems like we often forget Jesus when or life seems put together and only really call to Him when we feel we need something. In fact, writers in the Bible actually prayed against comfort so they would not grow complacent and forget Jesus. “Remove from me my falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9). Jesus also speaks of how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God because he relies on his riches and forgets the Lord, (Matthew 19:23-24).

So what should our response be when times are good? Thankfulness and praise. We should take every blessing the Lord has given us and use it to praise and glorify His name. In those times we feel like things are going well, let us use that time to glorify the Father for what He has done. We can also use this time to help encourage and lift others up who may be down. Read through the book of Psalms to see a man who understood this. King David, even when he was at the height of his reign, continually praised the Lord for His continual blessings. He leaves us that example: when times are good and comfortable, don’t grow complacent but rather bring glory and praise to God.

But what about those who are down? It’s easy to praise God when times are good, but how do I practically run to Jesus when it seems like everything in my life is going wrong? Well it all starts with your perspective. Most of us feel so bad because our perspective is so self focused, not God focused. My first advise would be to make sure you have your focus not on self or situation, but rather on King and Eternal Kingdom. Look at what Job says after he hears of his children and property being destroyed. “And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).

Once you have the right perspective, you need to know where to run. Alcohol, sex, drugs, video games, sports, exercise, food and sleep are not the right place. These places only distract us or make us feel better for a time, but the real hurt remains. Rather, cry out to Jesus. Again, we see David doing this over and over in the Psalms. Paul tells us to “let our request be known to God.” (Philippians 4:6-7). The power of prayer and the Word of God cannot be overestimated. Also, turning to other Godly people who will pray with you and encourage you to seek the Lord through your distress also can help you run to God. All of these are ways Jesus makes Himself available to us when we are hurting.

Finally, the situation I imagine many of you find yourselves in. Your not having a great time, but your also not having the worst. It is more like you are so busy or caught up with life you have almost grown numb to the presence of the Lord. So where do you turn? Well the best answer I have for this is worship. Just like I talked about a few weeks ago, our lives are meant to be worship, (Romans 12:1-2). If you only see your everyday life as trying to accomplish one task in order to just move onto the next, then I can completely understand why you feel numb. That is life for a machine, not for a human. We were not made just to complete daily tasks until we die.

Rather, we were meant to worship. We were meant to see each and every task as an opportunity to bring glory and worship to our King. So if you are in that numb, busy place right now, I just want to encourage you to remember why you are here. Remember why you are working, or living, or completing those tasks each day. You aren’t doing it just to get to the next one. You aren’t doing it just to have enough free time to indulge in your own pleasures. You are doing each task each day to worship Jesus Christ. So praise and glorify Him in each and every thing you do.

So whether you are happy, hurting, or just so busy you aren’t even sure, remember where to run. Remember that Jesus does have a way for you to come to Him. He offers peace for those who feel they can never have any. He offers grace for those who feel there isn’t enough for them. He offers hope for those who have searched everywhere else and are still left wanting. So may we all run to Jesus and experience His peace that surpasses all understanding.

Be a True Worshiper

Sorry for the two week hiatus. Getting engaged and going on vacation will do that to a guy I guess. Anyways, I have had a very fun and busy two weeks, but have felt a bit of a void. I do truly enjoy writing these blogs. I think they are actually more helpful for me than anyone else! So I am glad I can get back on track this week and hopefully will get back to my once a week post.

This week I wanted to talk about something I think we all either take for granted or just flat out don’t understand. Worship. If you grew up in a Church, you probably think that it is a 20-30 minute block of time each Sunday morning when we sing. If you didn’t grow up in Church, you probably think that is a negative word used to show when someone is too in love with someone or something else. Either way, you are wrong.

Worship is so much more than what we take it for. We try to water it down in order for it to be a part of our lives, but the truth is our entire life IS worship. It is not just something you do but rather a way you live. Problem is that we often forget that we were made to worship. So we get busy and start to lose sight of worship, and soon we feel distant from God. Or even worse, we start to worship something or someone other than God. The truth of the matter is that right now you are worshiping something. It could be money, family, success, material possessions, comfort, relationships, pleasure or anything else we spend our time and money on. But while all these things may be good, none of them were made for our worship.

“Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:22-23). Now that couldn’t be us, could it? When we see a third world country worshiping a tree or a monkey we just feel sad for them because they are not as wise as us and don’t understand that what they are worshiping is no God. But are we any different? Don’t we worship our TV’s on Saturday and Sunday? Don’t we worship ourselves with comfort and pleasure through the palaces we build for ourselves? Don’t we worship money by sacrificing relationships and time just to get a little more? People who worship trees look at us and think we are sad that we would worship small green paper or something as ridiculous as ourselves!

While many of us worship wrongly, others of us take worship for granted. I often find myself in this category. I know worship is important, but I think I sometimes forget how to worship. It’s like I put worship in a box and only allow it to come out on Sunday’s or at a Bible study. Then I feel distant from God and start wondering where He has gone. The problem is that I have taken worshiping the creator God for granted. So, how do I rightly worship?

The obvious first thing is you must be worshiping the right God. As I said above, many things in this life try to distract us or demand our attention or worship. As long as you are busy trying to chase after or worship these other things, your worship will always be meaningless and will leave you feeling empty. Solomon, regarded as the wisest man, (other than Jesus of course), said “And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

We often think if we just have a little more of what we are wrongly worshiping we will be satisfied. But the entire book of Ecclesiastes shows that this idea is false. We must remember to worship God and Him alone.

Second, we need to know how to worship. Psalm 100:1 says “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” This is why we sing songs of praise to our King. And while singing songs is one great way to worship, (I would suggest you not only do it on Sunday’s, but make singing worship songs a regular part of your everyday life), it is not the only thing we do to worship God.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1). Our lives and every moment each day can be worship to King Jesus. But most of us don’t live this way. We only see ministry or Church activities as worship. The truth is everything you do can be worship to the Lord.

There are a thousand mundane things we have to do each day. From showering to driving to eating, we all have our own little routine. In this routine we find comfort, and that is the danger. Often, when we get comfortable doing something, we actually forget why we are doing it in the first place. We just follow the repetition, not for any purpose, but because it has become so routine to do otherwise would throw our lives into disarray.

Rather than just living each day and it’s mundane activities for ourselves, we should be living them for Jesus. Paul tells us that our spiritual worship is found in using our bodies, (and our actions and lives), in a holy and acceptable way for God. We are to keep his commandments and seek his glory even in the most mundane of circumstances. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

So my challenge is that each of us would recognize where we are spending our time and money to see what we are worshiping, and if we are worshiping anything other than Jesus, that we would realize that it will only lead us to emptiness and vanity. Also, I hope each of us can find time to sing praises to our King each and every day. And last, may we all see each day of our lives and every moment and mundane activity of each day as an opportunity to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-34).

Compassion? But I’m Busy!

So the last two weeks have been pretty crazy. I have been teaching more recently, but have also been busier with ministry, planning for the summer, and making this website. This is all on top of the usual mundane activities like cleaning my apartment and such, (which probably explains why my apartment is such a mess…). All this to say, it feels like once I complete a task, there are ten more just waiting for me. Emails are the best example. The more I send out the more I get back! Just when it feels like I am somewhat caught up, more comes my way. (That doesn’t mean don’t send me emails, I LOVE to get emails from you all!).

That’s life. We are all busy. I don’t think any of us get to a point where we can say, “Finally, I got everything done that I needed to do.” But that’s not what I struggled with the last few weeks. I struggled with the fact that as busy and as bogged down with life as I was, there was a multitude of people that needed something from me.

Some needed advise and others just needed an ear to listen to them. Some just wanted to hang out with me or for help with something. Others needed to meet with me to organize ministry or business stuff. Regardless of what they wanted, they were asking for my time, a precious commodity to us all. And that’s where I had my problems. I was so busy, how could I possibly have time to help all these other people with their issues? I mean, I did care for them and ordinarily would jump at the chance to help, but it seems like that all changes when we are busy.

So I prayed, but not a prayer for guidance with how to handle it. It was more like, “God, why me??? I am so busy right now, can’t you send someone else to take care of these people? And hey, can’t you send some people to take care of me? Seems like everyone is asking for my help but not many are offering their help to me! What’s with that God?” Wow, how sinful I am!

So after getting over my little selfish pride issues I tried to think more about how Jesus would handle this. And I got my answer to that in Matthew 14:13-14. For these verses to really mean something though, you need to understand what’s going on. So in the beginning of chapter 14 we learn that Jesus’ relative John has been murdered. That’s why verse 13 says, “When Jesus heard this, (“this” being the death of his relative John), he withdrew from there…” Jesus had just lost someone dear to him, and wanted some time to be alone and mourn.

But then we see in verse 14 that he didn’t really get that chance. Now I am not saying that we shouldn’t mourn for our loved ones or that we can never have any time for ourselves, but I am saying that what Jesus does here is in stark contrast to how we usually live. And the key word here is compassion. Even though Jesus was sad and I imagine he was quite busy as well, he still had compassion for the people.

We can always find some excuse why we cannot help those in need around us. Maybe you are busy, but so was Jesus. Maybe you are upset, but so was Jesus. Maybe you don’t have the money, but Jesus was a homeless man! For all the excuses you and I can make Jesus shows us time and time again in the Gospels that we are to be compassionate people. There is only one excuse we can use that Jesus cannot. We are sinful and fallen, and HE is not. And that is the root issue. My lack of compassion is directly related to my concern for myself. Busyness is the microscope with which we can see the disease of our selfishness and sin.

So I want to challenge us all in two ways. First, I hope we can all find ways to be compassionate this week. Maybe it is to a friend who really needs to talk, or maybe it is with our family who wants to hear about our life. It could even be a beggar on the side of the road. Jesus took the time to intentionally have compassion on the people around him, and in doing so he left us the perfect example of how we should do the same. Don’t let your schedule dictate your love and compassion for others.

Secondly, I hope we can all be understanding when people don’t have compassion on us. We all get busy and we wish someone could help us but sometimes that doesn’t happen. We feel like others are always asking us for our help, but never offering theirs to us. When this happens, let us look to Jesus yet again, who continually put the needs of others before HIS own. There is no better example of this than on the cross. Jesus willingly put our need for forgiveness above his own life and for that we are forever grateful.

So may we all be compassionate this week. May we have compassion and love for those who need something from us, and may we also be compassionate when others do not provide for us the way we want them to. May we follow the example of Jesus Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:6-11