How Can I Know Spiritual Rest?

Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 116:7

One half of all Americans suffer from poor sleep. There is much to obsess over with my eyes on this world. Pressures on our children, financial instability on the horizon, political pressures that will only increase against God’s children, deception and division in our churches, poor health that is exacerbated by life in a toxic world. Just reading this list reinforces the lie that worry is inescapable and peace is unattainable.

God promises each of His children spiritual rest. Not too many years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what it meant. While I had moments of it on a good day, I had no idea how it could be sustained. Rest can’t be dependent upon circumstances because God wouldn’t have promised it to people who live in a cursed world. Rest must mean something else.

Today, you and I can find true calm by remembering three things.

Continue reading “How Can I Know Spiritual Rest?”

How Has Your Life Been Defined?

Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Psalm 119:133

Parents and caregivers give children definition. That’s a lot of power to hold in your hands. Children are born as empty canvasses. Comments made to them define how they see themselves for years to come. They can be rightly defined, wrongly defined, or in the absence of interaction, not defined at all.

It is the role of a parent to see how his child is naturally bent in order to reinforce the ways in which God uniquely created them. Their spoken observations define. “You really like the color red, don’t you!” “I’ve noticed that you can’t wait for a chance to dress up in something pretty!”  “You are always the first one to help others.” “You must be a leader because others quickly follow your great ideas.” Think of how many observations are given to children in just one week. Compile these over the course of their formative years and you have set up a child to know himself and have a vision for the future.

Just as good comments set up a child positively for life, bad comments set them on painful detours. Because children believe what they’re told, they may never have another opportunity to really know themselves as God created them unless they allow His Word to correct all the previous bad messages. God will also be gracious to send them new truth tellers.A child was born to dream and he quickly discovers if his dreams will be affirmed or criticized. If it’s the latter, if he believes his dream is stupid or inappropriate, he will drive it underground and never bring it to the table again for consideration. Because a child wants to please, he will morph into what gets him love and approval. How many doctors should have been teachers? How many teachers should have been musicians? I’m convinced that precious few find their calling.

The only thing worse than wrong definition is no definition. Adults believe that children should be seen and not heard. At family gatherings, children are relegated to a children’s table; not because of space, per se, but because there’s no perceived value in interacting with them. In this parental void, children have no idea who they are. Their lives consist of obeying a set of rules while aching for real relationship. They become doers with no sense of being.

I am one who grew up with a beige internal world. My soul resembled a model home where everything was painted a neutral color. But here’s the thing ~ the walls of a purchased home aren’t meant to stay that way. At some point, someone will buy the house and make it their own. Rooms will be personalized. Artwork will be hung. Beautiful colors will accent rooms. A child without definition can’t decorate his life.

The life of a child of God is rich with definition and color. David says that God keeps our feet steady and that the iniquity of others words and actions need not shape our lives. At the end of the day, no matter how much damage has been done, God steps in at our spiritual birth to assume the role of Father. He heals any disfigurements. He whispers away false accusations. He redefines, recolors, restores, rejuvenates, realigns, and puts our feet on the path for which we were created. Our lives have rich purpose – both externally and internally. We end up doing what had been the point all along ~ each of us living a life that gives glory to God.

I am bound to You and You father me perfectly. Your Word gives me more definition than I’ll ever need in this lifetime. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen



Saying ‘Thank You’

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High. Psalm 50:14

Have you ever noticed how few people ever say ‘thank you’? We are, by nature, selfish and entitled. Because we believe we deserve better, saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t occur to us as often as it should. I can also be offended when I think another’s ‘thank you’ isn’t grand enough for what I gave them. Because they didn’t go into enough detail, or because it took them too long to send an acknowledgement, I call them ungrateful. While it may be true in some cases, my propensity to hold a grudge should be checked against my own sin of entitlement.

I’ve heard it said that Adam and Eve’s offense against God wasn’t necessarily pride but ingratitude. They had access to every single tree created except one but they felt that even that one should be theirs.

If I’m going to measure a ‘thank you’ against the weight of the gift that was given to me, then I’m guilty of not expressing a proper ‘thank you’ to God. The level of my acknowledgement is far beneath what it should be. I casually thank Him for forgiving me when I fail to realize what would happen to me if He hadn’t. I forget to thank Him for my health until I languish for a time under a chronic illness. (I’m still recovering from 13 months of Long Covid.). God owes me nothing and yet He gives me everything. I pray that my thanks won’t be just a whisper under my breath but an audible, hearty Halleluiah.  Perhaps my thanksgiving will be contagious and I will help create an environment of gratitude where everyone considers taking part.

So Father, deepen my gratitude for the privilege of being your child. I vow to finish this race well. Like a bride who stands at an altar, I vow to love you all my life. I vow make you my treasure above all other people, and all other things. Amen

Lifting Up What Is Almost Dead

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.  Isaiah 54;11

Hagar knew what it was to face death.  She experienced an isolation in the wilderness that offered no comfort. She held her nearly dead child in her arms.  Voice weak, completely dehydrated, and half starved.  No water or provision of food was in sight.  She smelled death but refused to succumb to what seemed to be the inevitable.  She poured out her complaint to the God of Israel.  Hagar said, “Let me not look on the death of my child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”  Genesis 21:16-18

Where did Hagar learn to do this?  From the very ones who forced her out of their presence.  Abraham and Sarah.  Oh, the irony.

I’ve cupped my hands around things that appeared to be dying.  Dreams, health, ministries, faith.  From all appearances, many would have said that hoping was foolish.  Death was staring me in the face.  All options were obscure at best.

Hagar, the least likely ministry leader, shows each of us the way to glory.  She prayed, listened, cast her hopes on God, and then obeyed.  She lifted up her boy to the God who breathes life into dead souls.  She could not know that a thousand years later, Ezekiel would watch God breathe over a whole valley of corpses and bring them to their feet.  By the breath of His mouth, He would transform skeletons into warriors.

Has God been true to His promise? Did he make Ishmael the father of a great nation?  Yes.  Many Palestinians have, and will, trust Christ.  When they embrace their Lord, how passionate they are!

Will God hear me when I take what is weak, infirmed, perhaps even dead, and lift it toward heaven?  Yes. Hagar was told to lift Ishmael up and hold him fast with her hand.  Instead of laying him down in defeat, she embraced him in heartfelt prayer.  And oh, what an outcome.

You long to breathe over all things expired.  Amen

Reflection:  Hopeless talk infects an atmosphere of faith.  What have you recently declared hopeless?  Pick it up.  Cup your hands around it.  Lift it up to feel the breath of a life-giving God.

Up Against a Wall

The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of His people. Psalm 33:10

Walls keep enemies on the outside but they can also keep someone who wishes to be free on the inside. Walls are their prison.

The Word of God has a lot to say about keeping our boundary lines secure in order to stay spiritually safe. But scriptures also reveal that God builds a wall in order to thwart the freedom and success of a wayward child. Though that is comforting when we want our loved one to be protected, it is also difficult to watch the struggle. We understand what is wrong but they don’t understand what God is trying to tell them.

The person in captivity lives discouraged because God’s wall obstructs every attempt to move forward. None of their plans come together. What has worked for others just doesn’t work for them. They apply for jobs but never hear back. They save money to fund their dreams but unexpected expenses keep draining their resources. What seems to add up on paper never becomes a reality. Unexpected medical expenses and car repairs (and other flukes) eat into their profits. The result? They are confined inside the wall that Gob built.

And here’s where it affects us. We tell them, “You just need to pray about your future. Only God can fix all of this.” But God is not a cosmic genie – there to facilitate a prosperity that is all about them and not about Him. Telling them to pray and ask for what’s on their wish list doesn’t address the fact that they want everything but God. Until they desire Him and the life He wants for them, the walls won’t come down.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that they did pray, and God in His mercy gave them what they asked for. Would that inspire them to give their lives to Christ? I doubt it. Their new idol would glitter and the joy of success would further shield them from their true spiritual needs.

When we watch someone we love get hemmed in by God, is there anything we can do? Three things.

1.) Bathed with a lot of prayer, there needs to be a conversation with the one who is stuck. They need to know that God is thwarting their path out of love and mercy. He is waiting to bless them, first with Himself, then with spiritual success.

2.) We need to stop trying to help them succeed. We are getting in the way of what God is trying to do.

3.) Ask God to quickly bring them to a place of submission. Ask Him to open their heart to sense His wooing. We are called to fight the fight in prayer by restricting the enemy from deceiving them and releasing them to desire Christ.

Lord, they are in a battle and don’t even know it. I see it so I am putting on my armor to get engaged. I will be Your prophet and your intercessor. In Jesus’ name, Amen



When Life Isn’t What I Dreamed It Would Be

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7

Last night, this quote from John Piper was sent to me. It struck me so deeply that I actually dreamt about it.

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped it would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have. John Piper/Desiring God Ministries

Life is a series of losses to be grieved. On the other side, God waits to be embraced and that is the most difficult thing of all. Satan wants me to believe that I’m forced to embrace the One who withheld my dreams. The very idea of intimacy with God, in that case, is distasteful. Who wants to be a friend with the person who has hurt you the most!

I have to look at the broader picture and take myself off center stage. Every chosen man and woman in Christian history was favored, but then afflicted. The ones who triumphed and experienced some unforgettable mountaintops along the way did so by trusting in the character of God. In spite of suffering, they partnered with a God who loved them and called them.

While Piper’s quote is short, each part penetrates and challenges.

I weep deeply over my disappointments. Tears are not the end of my journey but they are a part of it. It takes courage to admit that my hope has been spent. Think of the times you may have commented to someone, ‘You must be broken hearted!’ Rarely does someone admit it. The hurt is minimized because down deep, we suspect we can’t survive coming to such a conclusion.  Instead, we give our pat answers. ‘It’s just a bump in the road.’ ‘I’m a little sad but I’ll get over it.’ For me to know true joy, I have to embrace the unvarnished truth. Otherwise, unspent grief spills out in depression and/or anger. Most spend their lives trying to numb out pain.

I grieve the losses. Nothing is as intimidating. I believe that if I start crying, the tears will have no end. It’s an illusion. While much of grieving is solitary, I remain in a small community to keep my perspective. I surround myself with those who will encourage grief and not condemn. They speak Jesus’ words over me and give me whatever time is needed to emerge from the ashes. This is one reason not to make shallow people your best friends. Continue reading “When Life Isn’t What I Dreamed It Would Be”