Why is it that kids will not sleep past 6 a.m. on days when they are able to? There is a point in time when people no longer desire to get up early. We are not to that place yet. It is an ongoing battle for stamina and cognitive reasoning. The lack of rest situation seems to lend itself to limited stamina and shady brain function. It also seems like these days of low rest are also the most vulnerable times. It is when I am tired that my mind starts to get irritated with things and even question whether I am making a difference in ministry. Exhaustion is a dangerous place to live.
It is important to figure out ways to rest, no matter what your season of life is. This is true for those in vocational ministry and those not. It really is something we all need to grapple with. If you need an example, you can look at the story of the prophet Elijah. He was a man God was obviously using for amazing things and he still got frustrated. In 1 Kings 19 we see him giving up and telling God he just wants to die. Now, God does not kill him. Instead God gives to Elijah the provisions he needs in order to regain some perspective. He was tired and he really needed some rest.
How does one find time to rest?
Plan for it
I have 4 young children. Unless I plan to rest, it will not happen. This means going to bed earlier than I might normally. It might mean taking a nap on a day off instead of doing work around the yard. It might mean reading a book. It could mean a lot of things. The main thing I have noticed is that I need to plan it.
Set things aside
This is especially hard for people who have jobs that are more integrated into their life. I find that I need to make the decision not to work on my day off. In order to do that, I will make myself notes about things that I need to remember to do and I will place them in my computer bag. It will get done, just not today.
Receive from God
One of the things we learn from Elijah’s story is the need to accept the provisions from God. Elijah did not know what he needed. He knew he was tired and ready to die. We are the same way, albeit a bit less dramatic. (mostly) I find that when I open the Word of God, I receive from the Lord. So often I read a verse or a story that encourages me based on where my mind is that day. I know that is God’s provision for me! He will do the same for you.
I know that when I get tired, I tend to snap a little quicker. I also will get irritated with things that I wouldn’t otherwise get irritated with. This is a clue to me that I need to rest.
There are so many things that I struggle to say no to because I know how it is supposed to be done. Yet, I have learned that saying no is not a sin, while maybe saying yes to everything is. Whenever I say yes to something I say no to something else. The concern is that I say no to my family more than I should. We need to be wise about what we do and don’t do.
Rhythm in ministry is hard to find. Rhythm in a home with young children is perhaps even harder to find. But we know that God walks with us, leads us and provides what we need for the journey. It is important to rest and remember that Jesus provides something far better than stress. He offers peace.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28
In the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma, we have heard a few sad and moving stories. As a parent, I try to put myself in the place of someone who had no idea where their child was. One victim I read about in today’s paper was in third grade like my oldest. So, it is horrible to try to grasp the grief in this.
At the same time, these events highlight how close we all really are, despite all the disunity in the culture today. A woman finds her dog in the rubble and we are moved with compassion for her. I told my wife I just wanted to give her a hug. A student was reported as giving her jacket to a younger student who was shivering in the immediate aftermath at the one school. What a tender moment of self-less love that really was. Elementary school teachers putting themselves out there in order to save the lives of their students is above and beyond the call of duty, yet there seems to have been no hesitation about it. Then there are the people who have shown up to help find people that they do not know. A few days earlier they might have walked right past them in the store; today they look for them in rubble. I think that says something about humanity and our identity as God’s children.
In Jesus’ ministry before the resurrection, He showed to us what it meant to live a life of service. He came to serve and did so everywhere He went. He encountered suffering people and served them where they were at. He showed compassion and love to outcasts of the day. This was quite the statement considering He left the throne to come. He humbled Himself greatly.
We see Jesus at work in very obvious ways in the midst of disaster as people show love to strangers. These people are now in the place of ’the least of these’ like we see in Matthew 25 and need help. They need water, clothing and shelter and look to others for those needs. People step up and give out of what they have to help others. This is no doubt the ministry of Jesus Christ among us.
God is at work and we pray for more of His glory to be made known in this.
We perceive our life through the lenses of our eyes. I see that thing and I want that thing. I see that game and I want to play that game.
The same is true of what we believe are limitations to what we want to do. Often people will be under the impression that God is simply trying to take away any fun we might have, when the opposite is actually true. His commands are a blessing to us and a blessing to other people, but the commands are not all there is. There is a life change and a new direction that takes place.
Be Overcomers Through Christ
Once again the theme is here that we need to love others because we love God. But this is not where it begins. It begins with Jesus Christ on the cross. This gift of salvation in Christ is available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. It is offered to everyone, but you must receive it. That means each person needs to choose to follow Christ for themselves and to trust that He has died for their sin. It is the only hope we have for a future after death and for a meaningful life now.
Jesus said that in this world you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome the world. You know what is so awesome about that is that we get to receive that from him. In other words, we overcome the world because of Jesus. He died for us and we receive from Him a new life.
And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. – 1 John 5:4
This makes the challenges we face bearable knowing that Jesus suffered and died in more ways that we did and He overcame the problem of sin in this world, which is the reason we have suffering in the first place.
So, let me encourage you, if you have never given any thought to truly surrendering your life to Jesus, that you would do that. Jesus offers to all who would believe eternal life because he has paid the penalty for our sin.
Here is an example of how this looks in a song by Matthew West called “Strong Enough”
You are not strong enough. You need Jesus Christ.
You are to Love Other People in Christ
We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. – 1 John 5:2
A mark, or a tell tale sign that you are follower of Jesus Christ is how you treat God and how you treat other people. We are commanded to love God and love other people. What is confusing is how people often view God’s commands. But it says here also that his commands are not burdensome. His commands are actually a means to a blessing for you and for others.
Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. – 1 John 5:3
God is not taking your fun away, but giving you a new path that leads to far greater blessing. It is not about following the rules, it is about knowing Jesus Christ as your friend, as your Lord, as your Savior.
This love for other people matters too. It matters because people will often see God in you through the way you treat others. God’s love is made known through you to others. This involves looking outside of yourself.
There is a video from the Skit Guys that captures this pretty well. I am not able to embed it here. I would encourage you to go there via the link and watch it. I think you will find it to be challenging. — Dennis: An Original Masterpiece (opens in new window)
Who are you around that you could reach out to in love? It is not all about you. Jesus came to give of Himself, die for us so that we would go out and live for Him. This world needs to know the love of God and we are commanded as followers to reach others with that love.
1)Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you accepted His gift of eternal life and been reborn, despite all the struggles and sin?
2)Who can you show God’s love to here, at home, at school, at work? You have no idea what kind of difference you might make in someone’s life.
Most people go to great lengths not to stand out. There is something scary about being singled out or even feeling like you are being singled out. As a Christian you will stand out in some way because the world and Jesus are not on the same page. You will be opposed for following Jesus. You will not be popular for following Jesus. You will potentially lose friends for following Jesus. You stand out, as difficult as it is, because Jesus is alive and calls all of us to a new way of living. There we also invite others to know Him.
One key part of follow Jesus is love. Love goes hand in hand with one who follows God because God is love. He is not the originator of hatred, envy, or anger, but He is the originator of love. God’s love stands out in the world, and this is a good thing.
Love Starts With God
Unlike what we often see or hear about people being good to each other, that is not how it naturally is. In fact, man’s heart is inherently wicked. We don’t love naturally. Now, yes, non-Christian people do demonstrate love at some level, but not at the same level as God does and gives to us through Jesus.
In this way love is the mark of the Spirit’s work in your life because only a true transforming friendship with God actually produces this authentic love. It is only perfect in Him, not in us, and certainly not from us.
”Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.” – 1 John 4:7 (NLT)
Love is God’s very nature. Love captures all that God does. Even His judgment and wrath on people were filtered though His love. In fact, that is why He has demonstrated it so clearly to us in Jesus Christ. Here and now we have relationships with other people, we love our family, friends and spouse – all of those things are but a small piece of the love God has and is working out in our lives.
Love Shows God to Others
The movie version of love is about passion and getting fulfillment or companionship—all good things to a point. But, when people love people they are not close with, are not attracted to, or are enemies with, that is whole new scenario. In this way love shows God to other people.
“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” – 1 John 4:12
God uses us to demonstrate His love to other people so that your life would point others to Him. We went for a walk last summer and a small dog followed us. It was a nice little dog and my kids were happy to have him along for the walk. The problem was that this was not our dog. So, back to the house we went to let them know that their dog was wandering around the neighborhood. We didn’t want it to get hit by a car. Knock, knock, knock—no answer. Well, maybe the dog will stay at home now that we are back at its home. We started moving again back to our house and the dog happily followed us home right into our yard.
Is this our problem? Not technically, no, but this is someone’s dog. People treat their dogs like they would children, although I don’t think they would have lost track of a child for this long. I looked at the tag again and there was a phone number. I called it, no answer. In the mean time we are watching the dog get closer to a busy road by our home. We were going to watch this dog get hit by a car.
What do we do? Go in the house and hope it goes home? I called the police and they put me on hold for 5 minutes. Finally, we saw a woman frantically running down the road obviously looking for her dog. They were reunited and she thanked us for our help.
Does that interaction demonstrate God love to someone? Sure it does. We didn’t have to care. We could have ignored it all together and said, “oh well, if it gets hit by a car it is their problem, not mine.” But that is not what God calls us to. These interactions are often the best ways we can show people who God is because it stands out from the fast paced, me centered world we live in.
People do not see God, but they see you. You are God’s representatives on earth who He choses to use to show His glory and grace to other people.
“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” – 1 John 4:10
We live forever in heaven with God because Jesus lives. It is Jesus who came in the flesh to condemn sin in the flesh. Remember the word condemn? It is like this: there was a crime committed, in our case we rebelled against God and offended Him; the verdict was passed, in this case guilty as charged; the punishment was declared – death and eternal separation from God.
But God, in his love, took on the punishment and condemned sin instead of us by dying on the cross and raising again to live forever. He wins and sin loses. We are called to accept this gift through faith—to believe and turn away from that sin, those things that separate us from God and accept forgiveness and eternal life that is made possible by His death and resurrection.
It is an exchange—He takes our sin, we take His new life. This is the one way to God for all who would receive it.
It is time to stand out in a good way! The world needs to know this love that we have in Christ. Stand out by living it out and watching how God uses you to reach other people for Himself.
In our lives, we have a clear choice. The Bible tells us we have a choice between the path of wisdom and godliness or the path of the fool or wickedness. Each step we take is a step in one of those directions. The question is, where do you want to be and what do you want to lead you? If you let the current of culture and the world lead you, you will get thrown around by what is popular without any real direction or thought. There is a better way. God has provided truth for us to follow.
Be Intentional About How You Think
What do you let direct your thoughts and opinions? Do you just take what everyone says as truth without any thought?
We live in a culture of “feel good” “be true to self” that pushes to take God out of every discussion. There is a new age mindset that makes us and what we feel like as God. The problem with that is there is no constant. People are constantly changing. New fads and ideas are constantly coming in. We don’t let a bunch of changing people to direct how we think, we let an unchanging God have His way in our lives.We need to be intentional about how we think because how we think leads to how we act.
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. – 1 John 4:1-2 (NLT)
As a follower of Jesus Christ, the most important test is how someone views Jesus Christ. Many people today believe that Jesus sinned or that He was not fully God and man. Many people will limit Jesus to “good teacher” or a “prophet” which does not line up with who He is. We accept only that which comes from people who acknowledge Jesus Christ. We cannot get lazy about this.
Know Who You Are
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. – 1 John 4:4
There are many outside forces that want to tell you who you are. But, even if the challenges seem overwhelming and hard, you are from God and have access to one who is greater than all of the challenges. Knowing who you are will give you confidence on how you live. God is with you and moving you along. He dwells in you and speaks truth over your life.
Choose to Prioritize God’s Word
People in the world, as a system in organized rebellion against God, will listen to their own message. We are from God and therefore need to listen to God first. The best way is through His Word.
The devil is always trying to destroy God’s truth. The message that God’s Word changes or is old is not from God, but from the devil. We need to look in the Bible for direction, answers, and right and wrong. In that way we also test what we hear. The Bible is the only trustworthy standard and we uphold it as that.
Over the years there has been fewer people reading and knowing God’s Word. When that happens, we get into dangerous places. God’s Word never fails, never changes and has stood the test of time. God is faithful—meaning he never breaks his promises.
But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception. – 1 John 4:6 (NLT)
The Christian life is not stagnant; it is alive! We are not called to sit still and bask in the sun. We are to live it out.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him; rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” - Colossians 2:6-7
I can hear the voice of my high school gym teacher yelling, “you people are lazy!” ”no rush, hurry up.” It is a strange dynamic to be told to relax and then be told to hurry. Yet, we need both.
I have to admit that I like to sit still. But when I look at things like a body of water, it is the movement that is noticed. It is the movement that keeps things from getting gross. It is the movement that brings life. In this picture of the flowers, it was the movement of the bees that caught my attention and made me appreciate the flowers.
We must never get lazy in our faith. Let’s live it so that we grow and overflow with something that the world so desperately needs!
There is nothing like Play-Doh, is there? Kids will take that stuff and shape, create and build things for hours. It is known for its flexible nature. I could give 2 people a different piece of Play Doh, tell them to create an object and get two unique interpretations of that object. Whereas if I were to give each person a cookie cutter and tell them to make hearts with it we would have virtually the same shape for each of them.
We live in a culture that tells us that we need to look or act a certain way based on our age. Wear these clothes, talk like this, behave this way and you will be just another cookie cutter teenager, college student, or adult, who will maybe turn out alright, but waste a lot of time getting there.
You have so much more potential than that. You are unique, not a cookie cutter. What if we lived out our lives in the context of the identity we have in Christ? In other words, what if we were happy being the unique people we are and less concerned about being a “normal” person. Normal people don’t impact the kingdom of God like unique people do. Normal people don’t make a lasting impression on the lives of people like unique people do.
“If you have ever spent time with “Where’s Waldo” books you understand this. The reason “where’s waldo” works is because they create a picture where a lot of things are the same and blend together. You would never take a picture of a single rose and ask, “Where’s the red rose?” When there is contrast, things are easy to spot.
Scripture gives us some very practical ways we can stand out from the culture around us. Here are a few from Proverbs 25.
Be Kind and Trustworthy
Now, I know this sounds overly simplistic, but consider what sort of drama you see among your people. Is it more common to take revenge on someone, or to be kind to them? Is it more common to tell secrets or to be trustworthy? It is so easy just to laugh and point with the crowd, but to show kindness to someone, now that takes some guts, especially when you are the only one.
Kindness is only one part of this, trustworthiness takes it to a whole new level.
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11
“Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.” Proverbs 25:13
Have you ever been out on a hot day working in the sun? At some point you get thirsty and go to find that cool drink of water. Or you might compare this to running through the sprinkler on a hot day, or jumping into the pool or the ocean. These things refresh the body.
In other words, when you look at someone and know that you can trust them, that is refreshing. Why? It is refreshing because it is not normal.
“Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.” Proverbs 25:26
If being trustworthy is like a drink of cold water, being untrustworthy and doing what is wrong, is like drinking a warm glass of mud.
The picture here, then, is a person who claims to follow Jesus Christ and then does things that are clearly not what a follower of Jesus Christ should be doing. These things muddy the water. Why does this matter for you?
Because we want to represent Jesus well. When people live two lives, it muddies the water and confuses people.
Demonstrate Self- Control
”Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” Proverbs 25:28
How ridiculous would it be for you to build a city without some sort of defense? The wall to the city was critical to the safety of the city.
If you are not able to say no to sin and yes to God at some level, you are vulnerable to attack. Where does self-control come from? It comes from God. It is a fruit of the Spirit. You are not going to be able to do this on your own, but you can ask God to give you the ability to say no to sin and yes to him. You can ask Him to fortify your life with His Word and His Spirit.
The world has enough people who are just getting by, we need people willing to make a difference, willing to stand up and choose to follow God relentlessly.
If you are just an average person, no one will likely notice, but if you truly follow Jesus, you will be noticed and God will be glorified.