4 Steps to Learning How to Rest Effectively in God

Rest Effectively

Rest for some people comes naturally. For me, however, learning how to rest effectively has been a struggle. God gives rest to the weary. It is a gift I am only just beginning to understand and receive.

My father would often admonish me to slow down, saying, “You always lean into the wind!” Obviously, even as a child I erred toward quick movement and constant action.

How about you? Are you like many people who fall exhausted into bed each night after high pressure days? Do you, like others, rise from a night’s sleep without feeling refreshed? Have you learned how to rest effectively? More importantly, do you know how to rest in God? True rest encompasses spiritual, physical, and emotional elements. Only then will we find the powerful secret of rest.

“It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.”
Psalm 127:2

Peace and Rest

Step 1 — Discern When to Work and When to Rest

Psalms 127 describes me — overworked and anxious! God instructs us to work. Most people possess a desire to accomplish, to better ourselves and things around us. A good day of productive labor gives a sense of satisfaction, but God knows we need a healthy balance. He instructs us to work for six days, followed by a Sabbath rest.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . “
Exodus 20:8-10

In some seasons of life, this may seem near impossible. How does a young mother not work to care for her children? Shift work or being on continuous call doesn’t afford flexibility to designate a consistent day for sabbath rest each week.

Rest from Work

God created us and remembers we are “made from dust” (Psalm 103:14). He knows continuous work will cause us to implode! Between work shifts and serving in ministry, I, too, struggle to eek out a sabbath rest. Then what?

For people whose employment runs from nine-to-five o’clock five days a week, schedules may require very little adaptation for a sabbath rest. For many others, diligence to prioritize where and how to spend precious time becomes essential. One day a week (Saturday, Sunday, or any other day) to pull away from responsibility and work will increase one’s ability to enjoy refreshing, sustaining rest.

The first step in learning how to rest effectively comes with giving God permission to reset our focus away from work. Through sabbath rest, we give our bodies and minds a break from routine pressures.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
Jeremiah 31:25

Step 2 — Get Away With God

Jesus faced similar pressures when He walked this earth. Many times, He invited His disciples to leave the crowds for time to rest with Him. He understands the unending demands of responsibility.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'”
Mark 6:31

For me, just beginning each day fresh with God helps to set my pace and give me perspective. Finishing the day with Him, settles my heart and mind. My “quiet place” with God includes Bible reading and meditation on His Word, prayer, and worship. It also includes being still within to hear His gentle whispers in my heart — sometimes affirming, sometimes convicting, often giving direction.

The “quiet place” of rest might include going for a walk in nature, allowing Him to reset the rhythms of life. God often nudges our thoughts toward Him during these times. He seeks opportunity to simply “be with” us. Every thriving relationship requires uninterrupted time together, including our relationship with God.

Somehow, in the midst of time with Him, we find rest. This simple step helps to train us to rest effectively in Him.

Step 3 — Trust God is Good

Training ourselves to draw away from work and near to God sets the foundation of trusting Him with all the other “burdens” and pressures we pick up and carry. I worry over family, concern myself about the future, and feel anxious over the uncertainty of our times. Trust! Easy to say; hard to do!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

The secret for true rest comes in trusting God — trusting He is always good to me and those I love. Doubting God’s goodness lies at the core of my struggle to rest in Him.

So I work more, try harder, and attempt to control everything possible. I wear out, play out, and burn out. “Get away with me and you will recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest,” sounds too good to be true.

Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it!” Instead, I resist Him, going my direction, doing things my way, and expecting Him to watch how I do everything! It usually ends in misguided effort, ultimate failure, and guaranteed fatigue. But as I learn how to trust and rest effectively in God, I walk more with Him, work better beside Him and through Him, while watching closely how He works. How peaceful and easy everything becomes, while trusting His ways and co-operating with the Holy Spirit.

Step 4 — Discovering God’s Grace

As an unaccomplished musician, I remember well the hours upon hours spent leaning over the ivory keys of an upright grand piano. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it sure helps. From childhood into adulthood, hours turned into weeks, and week into years of practice and concentrated effort.

“The unforced rhythms of grace” play a different tune, however. Paint swirled upon a canvas by a skilled artist yields fluently to the flow of the brush. Clay upon the potter’s wheel offers no resistance to the will of trained hands. As we fully rest in God’s plan, we learn to flow freely in the unforced rhythms of His grace and love. Here we find sweet rest. Here we recover abundant life, living freely and lightly.

Artist Painting

In “the unforced rhythms of grace” — where soul, body, and spirit find refuge and rest — guilt holds no sway.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power if made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Learning how to rest effectively in God partners with grace. How peaceful the heart becomes when we acknowledge we don’t need all the answers. Success does not depend on our ability, strength, power, resources, or wisdom. It depends on God. As we rest in Him, He works through us all the more.

Learning How to Rest Effectively

Life, for all of us, continuously changes. We no sooner learn the rhythm of one season when suddenly we face another. Sometimes changes shift slowly. Often, they come like violent upheavals. My husband and I are learning again to rest effectively in God. In Him alone, we find rest in transition and change.

Learning suggests an ongoing process — a process of internal change and transformation. Learning also suggests a Teacher faithfully guiding the steps of that journey.

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.”
Psalm 71:17

David, once a shepherd and then a king, wrote,

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside quiet water, he refreshes my soul.”
Psalm 23:1-2

Sheep Resting

Sometimes God, our Shepherd, makes us lie down. Usually, when we have forgotten to rest.

May I invite you to come with me as together we learn how to rest effectively. Let us allow God, our Good Shepherd, to give us times of rest “in green pastures” and “beside quiet waters”. Through rest may we recover our lives, living freely and lightly, and may we experience the “unforced rhythms of grace.”

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A Double Portion — Double for the Trouble

Double Portion

The saying “double for the trouble” originated with God. He turns even the most difficult situations for our good and His glory. I grew up hearing this idiom without knowing where or how it began.

Has someone ever stolen something from you? Perhaps money or possessions? Maybe reputation or position? Be encouraged, my friends! If we continue to trust God, putting our hope in Him, He will restore.

“And when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.”
Deuteronomy 30:2-3

God moves beyond simple restoration, however, desiring to give us double for the trouble we go through.

Two Kittens

The Thief

Make no mistake! Jesus warns — a thief lurks among us.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

This thief comes with evil intention to steal everything and anything he can, rushing in like a lion to the kill, destroying fully and completely. But God! Ha! I love those words whenever I read them. But God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bring us both physical and spiritual life, now and forever. God’s restoration exceeds everything the enemy tries to destroy. God gives back to the full.

“Full” here means superior, superabundant, excessive, and preeminent. When God gives double for the trouble the enemy has caused, it defies explanation or expectation.

Two horses

Double for the Trouble

Elisha became Elijah’s servant and understudy. If you think tagging with this out-spoken miracle-working great prophet was easy, think again! Only Elisha succeeded at the task. Elijah tried to shake him off more than once, but Elisha tracked his master diligently. Finally, Elijah asked,

” . . . ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied.’ ”
2 Kings 2:9

And Elisha received what he asked for!

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, banishing him from home and family. Slavery turned to imprisonment through no fault of his own. Years earlier, God had given Joseph dreams of his divine destiny — dreams that under the circumstance appeared lost and stolen forever. For a season,

“They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the LORD proved him true.”
Psalm 105:18

But God! But God proved Himself faithful, elevating Joseph from the prison to a palace, second in rank only to Pharoah. Much later, when Joseph’s descendants inherited the promised land, Joseph received double for the trouble.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘These are the boundaries of the land that you will divide among the twelve tribes of Israel as their inheritance, with two portions for Joseph.”
Ezekiel 47:13

God’s sovereignty exceeds time and circumstances.

Two Birds

More Not Less

Sometimes the losses we experience come through our own mistakes, poor choices. or even sinful actions. Job didn’t fit any of these scenarios. Yet in a single day he lost his work force of oxen and donkeys, his revenue in sheep and shepherds, his means of transportation by camels, and even his closest relationships with family. Refusing to blame God for the extreme tragedy, he acknowledged everything came from God and ultimately belonged to Him.

Even when Satan inflicted what he thought would be a fatal blow, painful sores head to toe, Job maintained his devotion and faithfulness to God.

No matter how many times I hear Job’s story, I marvel. Look at the ending to Job’s story.

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
Job 42:10

Double for the trouble! God restored twice the number of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys, many more children, and a hundred and forty more years to his life (Job 42:12-17)

God doesn’t always restore like for like. Hebrews 11, also known as the Bible’s faith chapter, tells us sometimes the full reward isn’t realized until heaven. God will come through for you, though. He always has; He always will.

Two Sheep

Double Portion

I’m not sure what you have been or are facing. May I encourage you today with these words from the prophet Isaiah?

“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Isaiah 61:7-8

Does shame feel like your portion? Don’t despair. God is preparing a double portion of His inheritance for you. Have you felt the sting of disgrace? Your story isn’t over yet! God’s grace is greater. His justice final. Because He is faithful, we wait in hope for Him to turn things around and make them right.

Zechariah understood God’s guarantee of double for the trouble. God announced through Zechariah this promise.

“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”
Zechariah 9:12

Our fortress is none other than God Himself. Let’s return to and stick with our Mighty Fortress! As willing prisoners, we hold with hope to God. God announced to Heaven and Earth His promise to “restore twice as much” as anyone or anything has taken from us.

Restoration is coming! Double for the trouble we have endured! Don’t lose hope, dear ones, hold fast.

Two Fish

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Focus on the Greatest: Faith, Hope, and Love

Faith, Hope, Love

Can you imagine the impact upon us as individuals and upon our society if everyone would turn their focus toward faith, hope, and love? These are undoubtably the greatest and best assets anyone could possess and share with others, not just now but for eternity.

Many people live frivolously, even selfishly, expecting unending tomorrows in which to “eat, drink and be merry.” But what if we knew our time was short, our opportunities limited? Would the flow and direction of our lives change? Would an eternal perspective help us refocus our priorities and energies?

“And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.’ ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you . . . ” ‘ ”
Luke 12:19-20

It is all too easy to become distracted by the trivial and consumed with the mundane. Too often the responsibilities of life dictate our agendas and demand our time. The urgent pushes ahead of the necessary. Re-evaluating our focus helps to center us, pulling us toward far-reaching eternal goals and targets.

Whether I speak, write, teach, mentor or encourage, I’m continually brought back to the motivation behind it all — faith, hope, and love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

“These three remain,” existing for eternity!

Faith

Paul commends the church in Corinth for their effective use of spiritual gifts. He asks them to remember and honor each individual, valuing their uniqueness. Like us, the Corinthian church struggled to maintain unity within diversity. Like us, they elevated the minor and diminished the major. They found it easy to focus on the external functioning of gifts and ignore the deeper issues of the heart. They faced these challenges — sometimes well, sometimes not.

Faith, Hope, Love

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:2

That’s an impressive list, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want a faith to move mountains or the gift of prophecy? What about an ability to understand the deep secrets and mysteries of God? Many people pursue these gifts and receive them. God, speaking through Paul, clearly states that these things don’t impress or please Him. Unless, of course, they spill from a heart overflowing with love.

Unbelief, scepticism, cynicism, and doubt permeate our culture. But there’s good news. they are all temporary ailments of a society in which God is absent. Every negative will come to an end. Faith leads the list of eternal qualities, replacing all negative undercurrents.

Hope

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Proverbs 13:12

Never before have people become so connected yet disconnected at the same time. The bombardment of information and influence serves only to amplify our loneliness. People feel incredibly isolated and ignored while their social media “friend” lists explode and expand.

Hopelessness in various forms pervades. Hope defers. Heartsickness abounds.

The Greatest Things

The longing within us refuses to be quenched and screams for more faith, hope, and love. For a while people hope; often, they give up. Like the faint scent of rain swept away by the harsh winds of reality, hearts lie barren and dry — hopeless in a world without significant hope.

Jesus restores hope!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”
1 Peter 1:3-4

No matter how hopeless your situation appears, it lasts for a season. Jesus Christ grants each one of us an eternal and living hope. Receive your inheritance of hope, securely kept for you. Hope floods your eternal future! Nothing and no one can stop it!

Love

We have all experienced frail, fickle, and faltering love. Genuine love, never fails or falters. We all crave a love that endures. It is a basic need of all humanity.

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease, where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
1 Corinthians 13:8

Even in Christian circles, we easily major on the minors and overlook the major or greatest qualities within God’s Kingdom. No attribute outweighs the significance of love.

I don’t need to look outside myself to find a discrepancy between belief and action. Oh, how frail, fickle, and faltering my own love often becomes!

Jesus Love

Many people feel rejected, abandoned, and unloved. Maybe, you know the feeling all too well. Listen to the following verse and allow God to speak directly to your heart,

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
Isaiah 54:10

It’s possible for mountains to shake and crumble, but impossible for God’s love to be shaken, let alone cease. I find it comforting to know that hatred will end, but God’s love remains eternally secure.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Since God’s Word is true, enduring forever, how should we respond? Since everything else will eventually pass away, how can we nurture faith, hope and love, first in our lives and then in others?

God has given to each of us a measure of these qualities in seed form. When we plant and nurture them (activating them), they will grow and increase. The principle of sowing and reaping runs throughout God’s Word.

  • “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” Psalm 126:5.
  • “A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” Proverbs 11:18.
  • “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6.
Sharing Faith

Together, let’s aim to live our lives in the best way possible. Let’s pursue the eternal qualities of faith, hope, and love, both in ourselves and in others. May we commit ourselves to inspire faith, instill hope, and ignite love. How we each accomplish the task will look different, but every one of us possesses the ability to make a difference.

May we focus on these greatest and enduring qualities of faith, hope, and love, receiving them fully, and then just as freely, giving them away. Let’s stop for a moment to ask God how we might spread these attributes further.

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The Power of One: Become an Influencer

The Power of One

Media, in various forms, grabs attention and influences masses. God chooses the power of one, one person willing and available to step forward as His voice, His representation, and His reflection upon those around us. Have you experienced the power of one? Are you that one for others?

Moses lost his value and worth somewhere between Pharoah’s palace and the back side of the desert. When God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt, he saw only his inadequacy. But Moses’ brother Aaron came, willing to walk the journey with him. Only with his brother’s assistance did Moses agree to carry out God’s initiative (Exodus 3-4).

In her barrenness, Hannah appears to be the only one praying for a son. The power of one praying mother resulted in one praying son, Samuel, who listened to God’s voice and motivated an entire nation to love and serve God (1 Samuel 1-3).

One young woman, Esther, inspired by her brave uncle Mordecai, risked her life and pleaded for the redemption of her nation. The power of one resulted in many lives being saved (Esther 4-5).

God used a shepherd, a despised housewife, and an orphan girl to move in influence beyond all expectation. None of them realized the potential difference they would make. They aren’t alone. Biblical accounts of the power of one dot the pages from Genesis to Revelation.

Electric Power

One Man Sharpens Another

“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17

This familiar proverb speaks within the context of friendship. The Hebrew word for “another” means, friend, companion, or fellow.” I’ve heard people explain this verse as being like iron put to a whetstone, forcefully and abrasively grinding away at another’s dull edge. But the proverb more accurately speaks of the positive influence we have upon each other through living life in community.

People are being impacted by the way we live our normal everyday lives. How we deal with difficult situations, our attitudes, our values, and our choice of priorities affects others.

The caretaker-custodian of a church we previously attended was an retired elderly gentleman. He sang as he cleaned bathrooms, corridors, and sanctuary. He warmly greeted everyone who came through the doors of the little church. Often, after a few minutes in his presence, people no longer desired to meet with the pastor. His love for Jesus spilled over to everyone. He went from business to business in our small town, encouraging and praying for employers and employees. He travelled weekly to a smaller community holding services and praying for the handful of attendees. This humble man impacted multiple lives for the Kingdom of God. Through him, I, and many others, witnessed the power of one.

One Light

Though Heaven records this man’s influence of faith, few on Earth know his name. In some ways, he resembled Philip:

“Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there . . . so there was great joy in that city.”
Acts 8:4-8

The power of one ripples through towns, cities, and regions.

Looking For One More

Jesus said,

” . . . If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
Matthew 18:12-14

Wind Prayer

One Lamb Found!

“I grew up in New Age, discipled in meditating, automatic handwriting, and Ouija boards. I saw demons, heard things in our home, and was afraid of the dark.

During a retreat in Grade 12, I sat on my bed doing homework. I noticed my roommate reading a Bible. “Do you really believe that stuff?” I asked. That opened the door for her to share her faith.

We developed a weird friendship, debating spirituality. She was the only Christian open to talking to me. I looked for mistakes, wanting to find flaws in the Bible.

That year, she developed cancer. I regularly visited my “born again” friend, often finding her reading the Bible. “I’ve been praying or you,” she said one day. I didn’t understand how she could be so happy while extremely sick. There became less and less of her as she became more and more ill, but she had light, joy, and peace about her. What I didn’t know was that she and her whole family were praying for me, even during their trials.

She recovered, and we both went on to university. It took four more years for me to come to the Lord. I wrestled with understanding Jesus and what He did on the cross. In my final year of university, when I should have been the happiest, I was suicidal and depressed. Finally, I lay on the floor praying, calling out to God, accepting Him.

I casually told my friend and couldn’t understand why she jumped around beaming with excitement. God answered the prayers that she and her family had been praying for six years.”

This testimony tells how one young person experienced the power of one!

The Unknown Ones

Most people know Billy Graham’s impact on 2.2 billion people with the Gospel. Few know about Edward Kimball.

Edward taught a ruckus Sunday School class of teenage boys. Concerned about their eternal destiny, He visited a shoe store where one of his students worked to lead him to Jesus. That young man, Dwight L. Moody, affected thousands with the Gospel, including Wilbur Chapman. Chapman became an evangelist leading thousands to Christ, one of whom was Billy Sunday. Billy Sunday led Mordecai Ham to faith. Ham held his own street meetings and crusades, where a young man named Billy Frank received Jesus Christ as his Savior. Billy Frank is better known to us as Billy Graham. Every one of these powerful men of God trace their faith and ministry to a single faithful Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball. Did Edward realize the power of one? Or did Edward simply love well where God planted him?

Lightning Power

Do you know who brought the Apostle Peter to Jesus? We continuously find him introducing someone else to Jesus.

” . . . ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus . . . and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him . . . Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said, and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell Him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus . . . ”
John 1:35-42

I will never be a “Peter,” but like Edward Kimball and Andrew, I can bring people to meet Jesus. The impact and influence of the power of one unknown, unacclaimed, unacknowledged, everyday you and me cannot be unestimated.

Thankful for the One

My heart overflows with gratitude for the ones who guided me into the Kingdom of God. I look forward to meeting each one in Heaven. The camp counselor who led me through the sinner’s prayer while kneeling beside a steel-framed bunk on the cold concrete floor. Those who didn’t give up but continued to pray as this lost sheep wandered far from the fold. Others who patiently discipled this over-confident, zealous, fire-cracker toward the steadfast path of humble faith. They applauded my stumbling efforts and over-looked my blundering mistakes. Many have gone on to Glory. I wish I could publicly name you, but can’t.

Power

Saul of Tarsus posed the greatest threat to the early church. Saul, the assassinator and persecutor! Heading toward Damascus, Jesus brought his devilish mission to an abrupt end, leaving him blind on the road. One man risked reaching out.

“In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ “Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The Lord told him,Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying . . . ‘”
Acts 9:10-11

Though afraid, Ananias responded to God’s call. Placing his hands on Saul, he prayed. Through the power of one relatively unknown faithful follower, Jesus healed Saul of blindness and filled him with the Holy Spirit as a bonus.

It was also through the power of one other that Saul gained traction in the Christian community. Do you know his name? The one who stood in the gap while the Jews plotted Saul’s death and Christians cowered in fear?

Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.”
Acts 9:27

The Silent One

Often the power of one goes unnoticed, as they applaud the achievements of others, hide behind the curtain of obscurity, and diligently perform menial tasks. They remain the silent ones, without podiums, credentials, or microphones. Yet this chosen multitude impacts billions! Their influence in eternal destinies receives the highest heavenly accolades seldom, if ever, echoed on Earth. And with that, they are pleased!

The Power of One

I encourage you to think about, and if possible, thank your “one,” remembering who stood with you when you were alone, comforted you when you felt broken, encouraged you when you wanted to give up, and sacrificed to meet your need despite their personal pain. Remember again the one who prayed, who shared their faith, and who walked beside you.

Let’s thank God for the power of one.

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Love and Faith — What Little Boys Taught Me About Fear

Love and Faith

God often teaches us powerful life lessons of love and faith at the most inconvenient times and in the most uncomfortable ways. These lessons remain with us for a lifetime, influencing decisions and stabilizing us in uncertain situations.

Faith and fear are mutually incompatible. In reality, however, faith fails to find a firm foundation until love paves the way.

Our children are long grown, but memories of their frightened cries piercing the dark night run fresh through my mind. Lights turned on, to prove nothing hiding in a closet or under the bed, failed to dispel fear. The reassurance that dad and mom were in the next room impacted the angst little. Even prayer and affirmation that the Presence and protection of Jesus covered them only faintly eased their discomfort. Information alone holds little resistance against fear. Yet, when love draws close, confidence and calm prevail!

Fear flees without a fight when love enters.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18

Whether during a global crisis or the not-so-simple daily pressures of life, love makes all the difference. No matter our age, social status, or race, we all need to know love and support. Do you have someone who loves you unconditionally? Someone constant through success and failure, health and illness, prosperity and lack, the strength of youth and the frailty of old age? Who is your someone — the person you could call anytime, day or night, who will listen, support and encourage?

If you can name anyone, you are in the privileged minority.

How Mental Health Is the New Domain of Ministry to the Next Generation - Barna
How Mental Health Is the New Domain of Ministry to the Next Generation - Barna

Mental Health

I’m not sure I have experienced times as full of angst as in this season. The breakdown of the family, the disintegration of faith communities, and often fluctuating political impetus seriously affect us all. Deceptive addictions, in various forms, clench cruel claws and breathe death into the unsuspecting in pandemic proportions. We suffer generationally from dis-ease both within and around us. No one guarantees immunity or promises cure.

Just as my little children needed love with flesh in their fear-filled darkness, our world needs it too. We, as God’s hands and feet, can rise to the occasion, push aside our own insecurities and fatigue, demonstrating love and faith within this present global famine.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
1 John 3:18

Only One-Third of Young Adults Feels Cared for by Others  - Barna

Barna conducted this study pre-pandemic on 18 to 35-year-olds. Only one in three young adults felt loved by those close to them. What I find shocking is that these young adults said they “feel the broad, global trends more than they feel loved and supported by others close to them.” The reality that two-thirds of young adults do not feel unloved and unsupported should shock us all into high alert.

The effects of the last several months of isolation and uncertainty have only exacerbated the problem, not just among the young, but among us all. God created us to thrive in loving faith-filled community. People of all ages are struggling emotionally and relationally. They may not describe themselves as anxious or depressed, yet confess they struggle to maintain concentration and focus, feel elevated concern for themselves and others, and are uncertain about employment, housing and their ability to secure the basics of life.

As Christians, we have the antidote! God planted faith and love within us.

It’s Up to Us All

If this kind of love sounds messy, you’re right. If you think this kind of love is best left to professional pastors and clergy, you’re mistaken. Your family needs you. Your neighbors need you. Even your church needs you. Your workplace needs you.

Only Jesus held a doctorate in love. Only He got it right all the time. Please, don’t underestimate what simple demonstrations of love and faith might do when committed to Him.

Christians Struggled with Relational Health Prior to the Crisis—So What Has Changed? - Barna

Maybe we should start our efforts with those who stand in the centre of the fray — “professional” clergy. The pressure upon pastors to care for their congregations effectively, through a pandemic, has taken a toll. Five years ago, only two percent of pastors rated their emotional health as below average or poor. Today, over twenty percent say they suffer. May I encourage you to love those who lead. Assist and support them however God directs you.

“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work . . . “
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Let’s begin together by practicing love and faith with those who have dedicated themselves to serve God, us and others.

Know the Signs

If we willingly slow our pace, even a little, and look around, for even a moment, the evidence becomes obvious.

Only One-Third of Young Adults Feels Cared for by Others  - Barna

God’s Word never fails! Perfect love always casts out anxiety, fear, uncertainty and insecurity, rendering them powerless — like a lion without fangs or claws. I propose we engage in love and faith like never before. Though we may feel love for others, they may genuinely question that love. Here lies the great disconnect. Only when we learn to demonstrate love and faith in ways people comprehend will we shift the tide of mental anguish.

Peter says,

“Now, because of your obedience to the truth, you have purified your very souls, and this empowers you to be full of love for your fellow believers. So express this sincere love toward one another passionately and with a pure heart. For through the eternal and living Word of God, you have been born again. And this “seed” that he planted within you can never be destroyed but will live and grow inside of you forever.”
1 Peter 1:22-23

Christ planted the seed of His perfect love in each one of us. His seed of love empowers us to love fully. He not only preserves the seed but guarantees it will live and grow inside of us forever. Wow! What a promise! Love planted in each of us, living and growing into a vibrant reality, impacting those desperate for it. He takes the pressure off, providing us with everything we need to love others, especially those within the body of believers.

Love and faith work together.

There Is Proof

Barna also researched how the Christian community functions in crisis. Better than average, apparently! Bravo, people of God, you are doing it! Your love within the ranks is having an impact.

Christians Struggled with Relational Health Prior to the Crisis—So What Has Changed? - Barna

Sadly, those outside the faith are suffering the most. However, that reality presents great opportunity. Though fear has taken up temporary residence in the cultural love vacuum, God appoints us to serve eviction notice to the squatter of fear. I daily witness people stepping through the invisible barriers of uncertainty, reaching across cubicles, hallways, alleys, denominations, cities and nations. With hearts overflowing, they extend to the emotional hurting love and faith in action.

I hear voices of young and old resolutely declare,

” . . . Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8

How Love Looks

Only thirty percent of the global population feels supported, secure, and hopeful. Hold off on discouragement, though! As hints of spring crease the snow-clad landscape, I’m reminded of little bees, hidden in cloistered hives. Soon they will stretch sleeping wings, moving out to work silently their God-given task. As they fearlessly take flight, extending beyond their secure habitat, they benefit our world in powerful ways, producing incredible fruitfulness.

May I encourage you to reach beyond your secure cloister, “pollinating,” with love and faith, those you come in contact with by supporting them and letting them know you believe in who they are. Yes, validate the work they do and the gifts they possess, but, more importantly, endorse them as uniquely created by God with divine purpose, having irreplaceable worth.

Love and faith create, enrich, and sustain others, fostering hope for the future. Although most of us have learned to dream silently, we can encourage others to dream beyond human possibility. May we become dream keepers and dream builders, encouraging and fostering potential in others. We can faithfully pray they will achieve their full capability.

By creating an atmosphere of love and faith, and building support and hope, we will make progress in dislodging fear and anxiety. One word of encouragement, one act of kindness, one phone call, one moment of your time, may be the turning point for someone.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34

It’s Personal

A young woman sat huddled in the center of her bed, cocooned in a fetal position by darkness within and without. Spiritually and emotionally tormented, no cries for help pierced the broken stillness. Hopelessness gripped her heart and suffocated all hope . . . until . . . love walked in.

Her father slowly ascended the staircase and slipped quietly beside her. He knew. He, too, lived the dark night of depression. Slowly, he reached out his large gentle hand, and with not much more than whisper offered, “Honey, I love you.”

Like a mighty wrecking ball, the walled fortress of desperation and despair crumbled. Love made a way! Love broke through! My father responded to his grown daughter’s unuttered cry, slip into my night, and embraced me with love — a love that changed everything.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2

What if our simple acts of love deposit seeds of flourishing love in others in the same way that Christ deposited love in us? What if we each possess powerful seeds of love and faith that will ultimately produce more of the same? Maybe, just maybe, we can become like little bees gently spreading the pollen of love and faith (one act at a time) that will bear more fruit than anyone realizes. Maybe together, we can turn the tide, tip the tables and trample the terror that has gripped people for far too long (one person at a time).

References

You might appreciate these Barna references:

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Superhero? Stash the Cape and Walk with Humility

Walk in Humility

Do I stash the cape or keep it? It’s fun designing characters for a children’s book. Artists and authors often use attributes they see within themselves or others for character development. Though super heros in flowing capes make great comic heros, they are hard to live with in daily life.

Recently, everything coming my way (videos, sermons, personal studies) focuses on the element of humility — an attribute I possess too little of! As much as I desire less pride and more humility, achieving that goal often requires time and effort.

Paul wrote to the Philippians,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
Philippians 2:3-4

Zap

These wise words establish godly perspective. In both artistry and life, perspective is everything. How we position ourselves in relationships determines how vibrant those relationships become.

Looking Down

When artists portray a character struggling or defeated, they view the image from a high angle looking down. The reader will automatically perceive the character as being fearful or shy. Even slight variations, like a hand turned upward, give the subject a subordinate position.

For most people, deliberately assuming this lower position creates internal struggle. For most people, only rarely do we willingly desire to appear inferior to others.

Superhero

Jesus noticed this propensity to choose the best seats, highest places, and honored positions. In Luke 14, He tells His followers,

“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor . . . take the lowest place . . . “
Luke 14:8-11

Sooner or later, self-promotion ultimately leads to humiliation! Most of us consider ourselves too cultured and dignified for such brash behavior. But I honestly need to ask myself a few straight questions: How willing am I to seek advice? How readily do I receive correction, especially if it is from someone not in authority? Do I ask others for help or do I find my own way?

For me, these are all difficult. I would far rather be the teacher than the student or the one who provides than the one receiving. Most of us gladly halt what we are doing to help others, but stutter when asking for similar assistance.

Boom

For relationships to grow and mature, they must be reciprocal. Lopsided one-upmanship disappears when we let go of pride and perfection, offering permission to stash the cape. Reciprocal means giving and receiving — a willingness to take the lower position.

Eye to Eye

I hope many genuine relationships fill your life. Paul says,

“Therefore if you have any encouragement for being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Philippians 2:1-2

The strongest relationships I enjoy are those “united with Christ.” Though natural families form incredible bonds, spiritual ones become even stronger. When our natural family also becomes our spiritual family, we possess the best of both.

Hero

What propels relationships grounded in Christ? The first two attributes Paul mentions are the comfort of Christ’s love and sharing in the Spirit. To know how loved we are, despite our weaknesses and failures, releases us to love others — not as superiors but equals. Eye to eye! The Spirit dwelling within us, leads us into a fuller re-presentation of Christ in the world.

We can stash the cape, leaving any superhero facade behind. Walking on a common level, we experience tenderness and compassion, similar mindsets, and mutual love for each other.

Looking Up

Every picture book or movie presents a hero by looking from what is called the “worm” view. With a few artistic strokes the hero looms large, powerful, and independent within the scope of their surroundings.

A child running through the yard with fabric flowing off their shoulder’s announcing the world will soon be delivered, brings smiles from adult onlookers. Unfortunately, many of us carry our imaginary capes into adulthood, viewing ourselves with superhero status: superior and strong.

Pow! Bang!

We pull invisible capes from who-knows-where and masquerade as someone significant. Oh, don’t worry, we maintain our “Christianese” behind the polished mask of false humility.

Jesus’ words echo in my heart as a warning,

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Matthew 23:11-23

Scripture gives no room for “might” or “maybe.” They will be! Experience has taught me, the sooner I choose the low position and look up, the better for everyone!

One Hero

When I’m willing to stash my cape, refusing to pretend super Christian status, I clearly see the real Hero — the only Hero, the true Hero worth looking to. What made Him so heroic? He lowered Himself lower than I could imagine, becoming nothing, so we could become everything He designed us to be.

” . . . he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus became Superhero #1, for all time, for all people. He didn’t just stash a phony cape; He left Heaven, descended from the highest place of glory and power, to become like us — dust. Talk about a giant step downward!

Kapow!

Only when we see our glorified Lord will we fully understand how low He came. And the result? He snatched a dying world from eternal hell, trampled the head of that slimy serpent, and declared victory over every oppressive dis-ease the enemy once unleashed.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

Stash the Cape

Jesus set the ultimate example, showing us how to restore relationship. The One who could have come like most comic strip heros, looking down on the world, didn’t! He could have dominated, intimidated, and controlled, but He wouldn’t.

Jesus came — looked humanity in the eye and walked at our level. He allowed people to pay His way, wash His feet, and serve Him, without feeling demeaned. Jesus also lifted people (demon possessed, adulterous, wicked, sketchy, diseased, contaminated people) from low positions. Each time, He demonstrated honor and value.

Stash the Cape

So why do we struggle to stash the cape, to show our flaws, and be real with each other? Why do we obstinately refuse the low road?

Jesus chose a different way.

“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

Because Jesus KNEW — understood completely His identity in the Father and His ministry — He was secure. The same possibility is true for us! Insecurity causes us to reach for superficial capes and earthly titles. Insecurity motivates us to look down on some, compare ourselves with ourselves, and desire the accolades of others. Security allows us to stash the cape and relate honestly.

The Frame

Every artist or illustrator considers how to “frame” their characters. Wide angle, or close-up? Left, right, or center? Through reading Daniel, God reminded me of the “frame” I need to walk in humility.

A dream disturbed King Nebuchadnezzar. He called in all his astrologers, magicians, enchanters and sorcerers — his full arsenal of dream interpreters — demanding they both tell him the dream and interpret it. They panicked, “You’re asking the impossible! No one on earth can do what the king asks!” (Daniel 2) True story!

Daniel quickly solicits the prayer support of his friends. As a result, God reveals both the dream and meaning. When he approaches the king with the answer, Daniel clearly says, “God in heaven reveals mysteries. It isn’t about me or my wisdom. I’m no better than anyone else, but God wants you to know and understand.” (Dan 2:28-30)

Daniel showed complete humility. He responded to situations by taking the low road, seeking the help of his comrades, claiming no credit for himself and desiring the good of others.

Supermom

That’s our frame for humility. God exalted — first, last, and middle. Others honored as better than ourselves.

So when you see the evidence of pride (no matter how subtle) in my strut, carried in my continence, or waffled in my words, I give you permission to tell me plainly, “Stash the cape, girl! Be real!” Please help me swap my phony cape for the legitimate cloak of humility.

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Boldness! Difference Makers Possess a Different Spirit

Difference Makers

Boldness! Think for a moment of difference makers — those who are bold in their faith, willing to stand, or even fight for what’s right. How many difference makers do you know? Is your list long or short? What qualities or attributes secured their place in this elite category?

Even in the most difficult of circumstances, they rise fearless, daring and brave before danger. Others on your list may possess a steady confidence and assurance. Do you know people who stand out from the mediocre crowd as adventurous, free and bold thinkers? Or perhaps audacious, gutsy faith makes them bold difference makers.

I guarantee none of them secured the weighty mantle of boldness by marching in step with crowd-pleasers or glory-seekers. Thirty years ago, my search for fearless risk takers for the Kingdom of God would have appeared scant. Today, I hear a distinct sound rising from off-beat places, setting a new rhythm, as more people respond to God’s call to make a difference.

We all desire to be bold, to become true difference makers. We want our lives to matter both now and for eternity. But how?

A Different Spirit

If we follow the masses, we will become disillusioned. If we cast our gaze to earthly leaders as our example, it may disappoint us.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
Numbers 13:1-2

Moses picked the cream of the crop, the best of the best from each tribe, the fathers and leaders to be the forerunners and difference makers, paving the way for all to follow. These recognized leaders were to be the first to step into God’s promise.

Even after rereading this passage dozens of times, the names of these twelve delegates slip from my memory. All proved to be cookie-cutter replicas of would be greatness. Except for two of them, the rest fade into oblivion. Why? Boldness, or lack of it, created the dividing factor.

“Each time you fail, there’s a clue to your future success. You need to fail boldly if you want to succeed extravagantly.”
T.D. Jakes

Ten recognized leaders viewed themselves through the lens of the natural. They focused on fortified cities. Intimidated by giants, they concluding,

” . . . We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size . . . We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’ ”
Numbers 13:31-33

The majority, ten of the twelve, “dibbat” — whispered a defamatory evil report. Just that one word paints vivid imagery of their true nature.

Only two men, whose names have endured and whose prominence increased, stood against the crowd. Joshua and Caleb rose up with boldness,

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’ “
Numbers 13:30

Oh, how my heart leaps to see the Calebs of our generation rising with a clear voice, inviting us to join them. “Go! We can!”

Influencers

Recognized within their families and communities, all twelve men occupied platforms of influence. Little did they realize the impending consequences and impact of their unsteady leadership.

Because of small thinking, weak faith and fear-based assessment, they and an entire nation of people wasted forty years in the wilderness until a new generation rose with boldness to do what should have been done decades earlier. What a sobering reality! Too afraid to pursue God’s promise, they died running away from it.

Only Joshua and Caleb marched resolutely into it!

“But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”
Numbers 14:24

Caleb became a difference maker because he possessed a different spirit — a spirit that flowed directly from following God wholeheartedly.”

Few people reach the height of influence these twelve possessed. Unfortunately, they underestimated the power of their influence for both good and evil. Our impact may never reach beyond the boundaries of family, workplace, community or church, but we dare not repeat their error. With God in the equation, only He knows the ripple effect of our voice of influence.

The power of our influence exceeds our wildest imagination. Ears listen to our voices; eyes watch our steps; hearts follow our ways. Let’s strive to be a Caleb, one who follows God wholehearted and possesses a different spirit. May we develop boldness to use our influence, becoming difference makers.

Mountain Takers

Caleb literally means “whole hearted”, which also encompasses “faithful, devotion, bold and brave.” Even in old age, he refused to excuse himself from battle, while leaning on a cane or resting under an olive tree.

” . . . So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day . . . ” Numbers 14: 10-12

With the wind blowing through his whitened beard, Caleb raised his sword, pointing toward the territory of “his” promise, where the largest of the giants perched themselves resolutely behind their walled fortresses. “Let me loose!” Caleb shouted, “I’m prepared to conquer!” What boldness!

He knew the success of the conquest lay in divine, not human, hands.

“Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb . . . ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.”
Number 14:13-14

Joshua bless Caleb, but he still had to fight to secure that blessing!

Boldness flows from an intimate relationship with God. Caleb’s family participated in, and benefited from, his audacious faith. As a watchful guardian over his own household, he promised to give his daughter in marriage to only the bravest and boldest man, willing to take the city by force. His nephew, Othniel, rose to the challenge, seizing Hebron with his uncle.

“Only those leaders who act boldly in times of crisis and change are willingly followed.”
Andy Stanley

Difference makers become mountain takers, passing the mantle of boldness to subsequent generations.

Difference Makers

The Bible preserves these defining moments of ancient encounters with giants, impossible assignments of combat, and incredible conquests for God’s purposes. Through them, the Holy Spirit warns us:

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”
1 Corinthians 10:11

Though the circumstances vary, everyone faces challenges — challenges to overcome through wholehearted devotion to God and unflinching boldness. We must resist the temptation to look for the easy way out or follow the often misdirected crowds.

Second, these accounts create pathways of hope.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
Romans 15:4

Boldness

“Fear no one! Love everyone!”
Rob Reimer, Senior Pastor LSC

As we ponder boldness and influence making, the question that each of us must answer is, “Who is the strongest voice in our lives — God or people?” Have we become more concerned with what God is saying or what people are thinking about us? Only if we develop the attributes of Caleb will we become difference makers in our time.

May our lists of difference makers expand as men and women, boys and girls, the old and young, rise up: daring and brave, fearless before danger, confident and assured, standing out prominently, audacious, adventurous and free. Listen! Look around! Can you see and hear them?

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Blinded! To See or Not to See

Blinded

Have you ever been blinded? The flash of a welder’s arc caused damage to our son’s eyes when he was still in high school. He was hospitalized with his eyes bandaged over for several days as a result. Afterward, he carefully avoided any similar incidents.

I have sometimes thought about which one of the five senses, I value the most? If I had to part with one, which one would I choose? Perhaps parting with the sense of taste might not be a half-bad idea — especially the taste of chocolate! Though hard-pressed to decide, the ability to see would definitely be at the top of my priorities to keep.

Perhaps that reason undergirds my compassion toward the blind who came to Jesus. We see them, like blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52, crying out, by-passing protocol, refusing to be permanently imprisoned in darkness by silence.

However, the gnawing awareness of my own “blindness,” resulting from the equally imposing confinement within the dark recesses of my heart, makes up the greatest reason. I cannot deny my inability to see as God sees.

Palm Trees Water

“Lord, have mercy.” I too cry out, “I want to see!”

A Blind Man

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.”
Mark 8:22

Bethsaida, a fishing village north of the Sea of Galilee, became one of the most frequently mentioned places in the New Testament. Here, Jesus performed many miracles. Peter, Andrew and Philip, with faith, all left Bethsaida and everything in it, to follow Jesus. Now they, with Jesus, returned.

Whether they were friends or family of the blind man we’re not sure, but they came looking for Jesus to help where no other help was found. “They . . . begged Jesus to touch him” — “parakaleo“-ing Him, “calling for His aid, beseeching with strong force, entreating and looking for comfort.”

I appreciate Mark’s short, to the point, action-packed, essentials-only writing style. Every detail significant. Every word precise. Painting clear visuals for our imaginations.

Blinded

Jesus’ methods of healing changed with each encounter, because He did only what He saw the Father do (John 5:19-20). Here . . .

“He took the bind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hand on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ “
Mark 8:23

I wouldn’t recommend this healing scenario as a prayer model! Can you imagine the shocked expressions, air-gasping, and indiscreet murmuring of onlookers?

Sunlight through Trees

With the exception of the ten lepers who were healed as they went (Luke 17:11-19), Jesus healed diseases and infirmities instantly. This time, He sensed an invisible block to this man’s complete restoration. He asks, “Do you see anything,” moving the blind man from passive by-stander to active participant in his own healing.

“He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Mark 8:24

At one time, he saw people and trees. Before being blinded, he saw both. Now he recognized the difference.

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Mark 8:25

See Clearly

Jesus touched my eyes when He touched my heart and claimed me for His own. I gave Him my resolute, “Yes!” to follow Him wherever He may lead, and yield to Him whatever He asks. He touched the eyes of my heart to see. Once was good but not enough!

Again, He moves me from by-stander to active participant in my healing as He asks, “Do you see?” How often I’ve come begging Him for clearer vision — for Him to touch me “once more!”

Honestly, most of the time, I see people who “look like trees walking around.” My heart is still blinded to truth, warping my perception of others.

Brilliant sky

Some I see as palm trees of rest and refreshing. Others I see as thorn bushes, cutting deeply, drawing unnecessary blood when I get close. Still others resemble junipers, sapping strength, resources and life with each encounter. Many appear fickle — green and growing one season, barren and dead the next. A precious few become shelters of prayer with their spreading canopy protecting me from the enemy’s onslaughts. Still others stand menacingly tall in high positions, with deadly accuracy striking like lightning in a prairie storm.

I need to be honest before God, myself and you as I write with genuine tears. I’m blinded to His perception of all those He loves and has given His life for. I’m unable to see clearly His reflection in their faces.

The root of this man’s blindness remains hidden — the cause undisclosed. The source for my own inability to see hides concealed in the recesses of both my past and present. Whether I’m blinded by cynicism or criticism, unforgiveness or judgement, self-protection or ignorance, Jesus offers the only “parakaleo.” He alone provides both help and comfort.

Although miracles validated Jesus’ ministry, His intension went far beyond easing temporary pain. The miracles He performed were supposed to stir repentance, build faith and bring glory to God. That primary purpose remains unchanged!

Once More

Once more, I need Jesus to miraculously touch my blinded eyes and soften my hardened heart. Paul, someone else formerly blinded to truth, exhorted his spiritual son, Timothy,

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people . . . this is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunrise Trees

Paul “urges” (parakalo,” the same word as “parakaleo” in Mark). He calls for Timothy’s aid — “beseeching with strong force, entreating and looking for comfort,” for everyone based on the cross.

“Touch my heart again and again, Lord. Spit upon my spiritual eyes that I would see people as you do — valued, significant, worthy of love, honor, and dignity. Like the blind man, may my eyes be open and my sight restored. May I clearly see each one as You do.”

Go Home

Mark ends the account with,

“Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t even go into the village.’ ”
Mark 8:26

I’m not exactly sure why Jesus gave such specific instruction not to go into Bethsaida. Jesus, who led him by the hand out, warned him not to go back. Was something about this village the source of his blindness? Or was Jesus protecting him from falling under a soon-to-be-proclaimed curse?

Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago . . .” Luke 10:13

God graciously offers seasons of visitation and repentance to us — turn around moments, fresh starts and God encounters. When Jesus comes, He longs to do far more than physical miracles. He desires our hearts, wanting us to see with clear vision.

Road Home

Miracle moments often incite overconfidence or pride, causing us to think we can handle situations we’re ill prepared for. Jesus knows when it’s essential to establish a distance between us and the things, people or places that blind. So He takes us by the hand and leads us.

Those who responded to Him, headed straight home. No detours or distractions! Like Peter, Andrew and Philip, they followed Jesus, not blindly, but with fresh faith and sight.

Perhaps with His once-more touch upon my heart, I too will see and follow Him the same way.

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From Stuck to Unstuck! A Change of Position

I can’t count how many times I’ve gone from stuck to unstuck—overcoming seasons of immoveability from places, positions or ways of thinking. Can you relate?

Yesterday, while ice fishing, someone’s vehicle became stuck on the ice. Though his new four-wheel-drive truck contained the capacity to move, his inexperience driving in icy conditions held him at a halt.

A little pull from another vehicle was all it took to get him mobile again. First, however, he had to do a few things: admit he needed help, agree to receive help, and co-operate with the help given. Does this sound familiar?

Admit

For me, the first step is the hardest—admitting that I’m stuck. I’m stubborn! Born that way, I think! The last thing I want to acknowledge to myself, or anyone else, is I’m in a bind. The quagmire labeled “STUBBORN” overflows with bull-headed stuck ones like me.

Stuck on Lake Ice Fishing

“So with the wisdom given to me from the Lord I say: You should not live like the unbelievers around you who walk in their empty delusions. Their corrupted logic has been clouded because their hearts are so far from God—their blinded understanding and deep-seated moral darkness keeps them from the true knowledge of God. Because of spiritual apathy, they surrender their lives to lewdness, impurity, and sexual obsession.”
Ephesians 4:17-19

I don’t mind reading Paul’s lists if I can’t find myself within the lines. It bites when I do!

When you read through the Bible, you find us: stuck in sin, stuck in the past, stuck in fear, stuck in shame, stuck in bitterness. Perpetually stuck ones blame others for their stuck-ness. It exemplifies the things we struggle to admit about ourselves—empty delusions, corrupted logic, hearts far from God, blinded understanding and deep-seated moral darkness.

No wonder I don’t want to admit how stuck I am—spiritually, relationally, or morally. I honestly desire to move from stuck to unstuck. But, I need help. I often feel like the man on the ice, knowing that God has already equipped me with everything I need, but somehow unable to move. I too must develop the expertise, strength and wisdom to apply God’s provision.

Stuck Snow Storm

Agree

Paul sought to use his own traction to inspire others into faith mobility. Throughout the Book of Ephesians, he pulls his readers to the solid ground of their identity in Christ.

” . . . To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 1:1-2

Often, just being reminded who we are in Christ is enough to pull us up and out. Other times, considering how God supernaturally grafted us into an incredible global body of believers inspires us to step into united momentum.

With God, yesterday never dictates tomorrow.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

Stuck in Snow

Assuming a new attitude enables us to receive the help God sends. Honestly, my mind contains more slippery patches of faulty logic and selfish motivations than the lake we were fishing on.

Consistent daily disciplines help me become spiritually mobile again. Simple practices like worship, prayer, Bible reading and meditation. Each one helps move me out of stuck to unstuck, gradually bringing me into agreement with God’s ways, thoughts and purposes.

Co-operate

Many years ago, our old yellow Chev station wagon, packed to the roof with children and groceries, stopped several miles from home. No amount of coaxing persuaded the worn out engine to turn one more time. After a frantic call home, help arrived. (To ensure a speedy rescue, I probably added, “Your ice cream is melting!”)

Rather than a gentle pull, my help gave me a firm push—a push over the side of a steep hill, a push through the valley, and a push up an even steeper grade on the far side. With each jolt, my muscles tensed and finger whitened as I gripped the steering wheel. Although I absolutely needed the push, it felt dangerously uncomfortable.

Helpful push

I’m reminded of other situations, when I’ve needed even more intensely uncomfortable “pushes” out of apathy or self-protection.

Paul pushed too!

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully . . . Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold . . . steal no longer . . . work . . . do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths . . . do not grieve the Holy Spirit . . . get rid of bitterness, rage and anger . . . ”
Ephesians 4:25-31

Paul pushes some serious touch points, refusing to soften his words. Unconcerned whether his listeners become uncomfortable or offended, Paul speaks bluntly, saying what he needs to say, because he loves!

Love risks everything to move us from stuck to unstuck. I’m thankful for those who love enough to speak truth to me.

Reposition

Breaking out of old patterns represents an accomplishment worth celebrating. Paul points to positional change, requiring continued movement in an intentional direction.

Driving in Snow

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 4:32-5:2

I desire instant change—microwave moments. God prefers to work through process—slow, crock-pot-style process—moving us from stuck to unstuck.

Paul exhorts, “Get up everyone and walk! Take a step; then another. Put one foot ahead of the next and move, creating a momentum of change.”

No Parking!

On New Year’s Day, I crawled out from under my warm blankets early to walk into the new day, and year, with a friend. Poplar bluffs shielded us from -20C windchills, while relaxed conversation warmed our steps. We admitted areas of stuck-ness, pulled each other up to our position in Christ and sometimes even pushed each other toward godliness. We’ve given each other permission to speak boldly, honestly, even bluntly, into our lives. Though not always comfortable, we know it’s necessary for God’s purposes to be worked through us.

We desire to

” . . . Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:8-9

Winter Walking Trails

At one point along our walk, we stopped, breathed deeply and turned to enjoy the quietness of our surroundings. At that precise moment, the sun rose, bringing in a new day. Although God allows brief moments of refreshing and renewing, He posts “No Parking” signs along our path of progress. He walks beside us, pulling us forward, pushing us higher, extending His strong arm of help whenever we need it.

I pray we all begin this year by celebrating the steps we’ve already taken, trusting God with those still ahead, and then picking up the pace and moving on toward goodness, righteousness, truth, and all that pleases God.

With God, we can do it, moving from stuck to unstuck.

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Overcome Spiritual Fatigue: Minister Out of the Overflow

Overcome Spiritual Fatigue

These last few months have been a sometimes-up-sometimes-down battle to overcome spiritual fatigue. It’s a battle I’m winning! Sensing the pressures, first emotionally and then physically, I realized too slowly the true intensity of the battles I was facing.

God desires that we minster out of the overflow of the Spirit, rather than a dry well of exhaustion. Recently, I knew I was due for a personal inventory check. It was time for me to lean into God’s promise through Isaiah.

“He gives strength to the weary and
increases the power of the weak.”
Isaiah 40:29

At times, we all become weary and weak. However, when fatigue lingers, becoming constant and limiting, we are wise to take heed and evaluate the cause.

Fatigue

“As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:13-14

Dust is the humbling, present reality of these bodies we occupy.

Taking Inventory

My first step to overcome spiritual fatigue began with this basic inventory check:

  • healthy diet
  • adequate sleep
  • routine exercise

It sounds far too practical, but these daily consistencies are critical for overall health and vitality. Any lack in these areas seriously affects my ability to function and reach my potential. Unhealthy cravings, irritability or lethargy often trace back to imbalance in one of these three elements.

Lethargy

Jesus set such a wonderful example in caring for His disciples. When they were hungry, He provided food. He often drew them away from the demanding crowds for much needed rest.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ “
Mark 6:31

A healthy diet goes far beyond food. What am I filling my mind with? Am I pacifying, or medicating, an important need with a cheap substitute?

What about rest? Am I getting adequate sleep and guarding a “Sabbath” rest? (This has honestly been a struggle for me!) Exodus 31:17 tells us that God, who never runs low on energy, “rested and was refreshed” on the Sabbath. How much more important for us? Recreation gives God time to re-create and re-fresh us. Having fun is seriously important for stress packed lives.

Sometimes, to overcome spiritual fatigue, we must begin by taking care of physical and emotional needs.

The Problem

Because much of the work I do involves people in critically disturbing situations, it often drains my energy reserve and leaves me feeling fatigued. Some of what I witness is extremely dehumanizing. Ultimately, behind the scenes of each one of these lives lurks spiritual entities, attempting to “steal, kill and destroy” people whom Jesus loves deeply.

Sleep

Regardless of the situations which are making withdrawals from our inner reserve, God’s promise remains,

” ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ ”
Matthew 11:28-30

Just reading these words offers insight and breathing space. Whenever I’m feeling “weary and burdened” and the “yoke” weighs heavy, I know I’m carrying something God willingly offers to relieve me of. Only He possesses the strength and power to carry the weight of human oppression, injustice and indignity.

“Come to me,” Jesus invites.

The Solution

Don’t discard God’s solution as overly practical. “Come!”

Do you know Jesus Christ? Are you living in personal relationship with Him? Great!

“. . . He saved us through the washing of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
Titus 3:5

The renewal by the Holy Spirit is ours. Not just a onetime, special, salvation offer, but a continual opportunity to come to Him for a redo!

Tired

The solution to overcome spiritual fatigue also appears simple and practical. In coming, we:

  • spend time with Him daily in prayer, Bible reading and meditating on His Word
  • pursue a heart attitude of worship, quietly or expressively
  • adopt praise, being thankful to God in the midst of all situations and struggles

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:30-31

When you’re feeling more than a little fatigued and stumble, don’t panic. For those who “hope in the Lord,” it is a temporary condition.

Sit at Jesus’ feet, receiving and being filled anew with His Spirit, He will renew your strength. Just like exhaustion came gradually, often restoring takes process as well. Come! Drink deep from His reserve — drink again and again.

Resting

Overcome Spiritual Fatigue

To overcome spiritual fatigue might require one more step — identify unnecessary hindrances.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith . . .”
Hebrews 12:1-2

I’ve been asking God to examine my heart to expose any unresolved issues of unforgiveness, bitterness, critical judgements, selfishness or pride. Yours may be different, but these are often my tangle points. God clearly says the responsibility to “throw off” these weights belongs to us.

After this last step, the flow into our lives through Holy Spirit runs pure and strong. As we identify the problems and develop solutions to overcome spiritual fatigue, the overflow comes clear and constant.

Horse sleeping

How much better and more fulfilling to minister out of the overflow of Holy Spirit, rather than from the stagnant sludge of spiritual fatigue. Through these practical steps, God’s renewing and revitalizing pours through us and from us to others.

I hope my brief progress report on how to overcome spiritual fatigue encourages you. My dad would say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Whether we’re needing prevention or a cure, an ounce or a pound, God is able. Come!

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