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.
The eyes of the nation are on the state of Oklahoma today because we all can relate to the brokenness on display there. These events break our hearts because we know how quickly things can change for any of us. Storms make us recognize how little control we actually have in life and this life is valuable because we are made in God’s image. So, these events bring out that camaraderie we have with other people whether we know them or not. We mourn because lives were lost and weep with those who weep.
We also take comfort in these tragedies because while we have no control over things, God has ultimate control. In the midst of pain He displays His glory and grace in ways He might not have otherwise. It is hard to understand, but we are called to have faith in our unfailing God. We don’t have to see how it all ends; we just need to trust our God who does. C.S. Lewis said it like this in the book “The Problem of Pain”, We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
If we are left to our own understanding and ways we will reject God every time In fact, when things are going really well is when we see people take larger steps away from God. Yet, it is in those times of weakness that we learn to lean a little more. It is in those times of pain that we see the hopeless state we are in and how we do need a Savior. It is there when we throw up our hands in surrender and praise knowing that we serve a mighty God that is never surprised by anything that happens. We serve a God who understands that in is the ultimate problem with this world and has given us a way out of it through Jesus Christ.
What is a proper response in this? We pray and look for ways to help. We also praise God because He sees all, knows all, and redeems circumstances like this for His glory. As Jesus ministers to people, they know that there is a God who loves them and has a plan in their lives.
Interestingly enough, in the wake of all that went on in Oklahoma last night, God was using a show on NBC to display His glory and grace. It really could not have been planned better because of the statement it made to people watching. Here is a clip from the television show “The Voice.” Yes, this was broadcast on network TV last night. Praise God!
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.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership” This quote from John Maxwell has a poignant ring to it today. I say that because there seems to be such a lack of leadership on display that it is astounding. Leadership has nothing to do with a position; it has everything to do with integrity of heart. Honesty cannot be separated from a true leader. Leadership is not about passing blame or deflecting criticism. Leaders know what they are doing and why. Leaders accept responsibility when they need to and never throw others under the bus to do it. I know as a ministry leader it is important to lead with grace and intention. What I mean is that when there are issues that come up, I take the heat and train my leaders in how we could do that better. It means that I, as the leader, need to know what is going on with those directly under me and stay involved in the process. We need leadership, not arrogance.
“People emulate what they see modeled.” The point being that the best way to develop leaders is to model what the developing leaders are to become. Jesus did this everywhere He went with His disciples. One of the more vivid examples comes in John 13 when Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. It says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” (John 13:3) The next statement is incredible. It says, “so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.” (John 13:4) The way that is worded states that as a result of His position and authority, the natural place for Him to be was serving. Of course, this was a vivid example for His disciples, who were perplexed by this. Jesus tells them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14) He wants them to continue His ministry by doing for others what He has done for them. Danny Thomas says, “ Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It is what you do for others.” I agree. This is what Jesus modeled in His ministry.
My concern is that those in positions of leadership today are not modeling true leadership. This is happening all over the place in government and in business. The prevailing mindset places the emphasis on the position held and not on the people they are serving. I believe this is a fatal flaw in any leadership. As soon as the leader loses sight of the people, they push people away. Pride is no friend to someone who has a position of power and it will take people down. At the same time, they are passing this mindset on to others. None of the influence on potential leaders by current leaders will have any lasting impact without the context of relational, shepherding, leadership. This was true with Jesus’ disciples as they left everything they had to follow Jesus. Of course, in the process they gained a lot of insight from that personal relationship with Him. One example of this is Luke 11, where Jesus is praying and one of the disciples ask to be taught to pray. There was a relational context here that allowed Jesus to teach them and also correct them when they were being foolish.
Christian leaders are called to a different way of life and leading. It is leadership that shepherds people rather than forces them into some standardized scale. It is leadership that values the people over the process. It is not about becoming the greatest, but becoming the least, and serving the most. This kind of leadership grows others and causes the world to stand up and notice. All glory, then, goes to God, where it belongs.
My daughter has recently started showing me how pretty she is. It is something I notice because the boys never did this. I also notice that I have been telling her how beautiful she is naturally. With the boys it never dawned on me to compliment their appearance. All they wanted me to do was dig in the dirt with them. Actually, my daughter does also.
This has created an interesting scene as she comes to show me her outfit. I always agree with her because I think it matters for her to be affirmed even at this young age. She does not need much. What she comes looking for is a few moments of attention and an acknowledgement that I have seen her. she quickly moves on to other pressing matters like taking things out of the cupboard.
If we stop to think about it, this is a powerful illustration. Everyday people go to other people to get their approval. This approval might be as simple as some sort of recognition on project, or it could be desire to be noticed for an appearance. This is most noticed in the teenage crowd because they are obvious about it. It is clear that they are just looking for approval, as my daughter does from me. Adults are no better at it. They are better at calling it something else. This isn’t inherently evil, but it certainly can lead to problems.
God looks at things in a different way than we do. God looks at the heart. We should be looking for approval from Him first. It is the approval of our Heavenly Father that ultimately matters. And if that is what we are after, we don’t have to even let God know because in Him we already find all we need.
What makes Kermit Gosnell, who has been convicted of killing three babies in the name of abortion, so different from the rest of us? He claims he was just doing his job. So, what is the big deal? Well, the interesting thing is that as inherently evil as mankind is, there still is in us a desire to preserve life. Life matters. Life is why we have seat belt laws, texting while driving laws and helmet laws. Life is why I tell my kids not to get too close to the edge of the waterfall or run in traffic. We enjoy many things in life, but when someone’s life hangs in the balance, we stop to pay attention to them. Life is still an important issue for all of us.
Of course the topic of abortion is highly politicized. People call it a woman’s right to choose and rant and rave about it all day long. I am not going to get into the politics of it. What I do wonder is where we draw the line. I am thankful that this man was convicted of some of the charges brought against him. It gives me hope that we haven’t completely lost our value for life. I am concerned about how many more people wind up hanging out with a guy like Dr. Gosnell thinking that this is the only solution they have. If only we would help people see that choosing life is not a political issue, it is a humanitarian issue.
The answer to all of this is found in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that there is no longer any condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That means that no matter what has happened in your life you can find hope and forgiveness in a relationship with Jesus. He takes the punishment for your sin and gives you eternal life in its place. It is the only answer we have. People who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy need to know that they have a Savior in Jesus Christ, as do people who are in the midst of other life altering circumstances. In Him is life because God is the author of life and it is Him we choose. It was Jesus Christ who gave up His life so that we could have life forever. Yes, Lord, may you be made known.