Morning Joy

I woke up this morning with a heart as gloomy as the rain outside. I didn’t dread the day, nor did I merely “wake up on the wrong side of the bed.” Rather, the emotions from a night of dreams clung to my mind, overshadowing the new day.

With resignation, I fixed the children breakfast and shuffled my oldest off to school. Maybe, I thought, the clouds will clear outside, and the fog of my heart will also lift.

Midmorning, I sat down with my prayer book, The Valley of Vision, and opened to the puppy-eared page, the prayer entitled, “Peril.” As always, the beauty of these puritan prayers touched my writer’s heart. And then I reached this line:

VOV Peril

I was convicted about my resignation to accept the heaviness. God designed sleep to be a blessing. Not only do we need it, but He uses it to speak to us (Genesis 28; Matthew 1), heal us, give us rest.

Sleep reminds us that we are not all knowing, all powerful, all present. We are limited and broken, unable to toil our way to salvation. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)

How appropriate that God uses the metaphor of Sabbath rest when speaking of salvation (Hebrews 4).

And yet, there is something about sleep that leaves us exposed to the attack of the enemy. There is a vulnerability that descends on our hearts and minds as we let go of consciousness and enter the state of sleep. How are we to respond, to pray, when our sleep is being harassed and we are not experiencing the blessing of it?

I have no answers, but I do have promises:

To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. (Psalm 3:4-6)

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14) 

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:21-24)  

My friends, whether you awake in a dream-stupor, or lose sleep to anxiety, stress, depression, or fear, cling to the promises. Whether your night is literal, or a figurative season of struggle, may you know his joy in the morning.

Psalm 42, 8

Emptiness vs. Fullness

Emptiness. It’s the pulse of worldly religions (along with works-righteousness). Worldly emptiness is emptying as a means for finding rest and inner power. It’s finding that inner blankness through which harmony with self and others can blossom.

God never requires that we empty ourselves for the purpose of finding ourselves. Godly emptiness is surrender and repentance (a leaving behind of the old ways) for the purpose of receiving his fullness, of becoming more like him. The end goal of godly emptiness is actually fullness—of the fruit of the Spirit, the presence of God, and the character of Jesus.

It is interesting that when the apostles chose seven men to serve beside them (see Acts 6:3 for the account), they chose not men who were in touch with their inner selves, emptied of worldly concerns, but “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” Full men.

Luke 2:40 gives us a picture of what it means to be a child of God.

Luke 2, 40

As we grow up into Christ, the head of all things, we are ever filling with the wisdom of God and know in increasing measure his grace upon us.

We are in the midst of the season of Lent. Some view this cross-focused time as an opportunity to empty oneself of busyness, distractions, or the things that hinder. Indeed, it is biblical to rid ourselves of these things for the sake of pursuing Christ. But I prefer to approach Lent from another direction—as a season of filling. A season where God’s grace pours in through focused meditation on Christ’s sacrifice. The more we are filled with Christ, the less there is room for anything else. Being saturated with the grace and love of God vaccinates us against the anxieties and noise around us.

The world says, be a broken cistern. Let the bad flow through you and out.

Jesus says,

“I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

And life abundant comes because Jesus takes the filth away from us as we repent and ask him to. But he doesn’t leave us empty. He fills us.

Friends, let us not capitulate to the world’s suggestion that emptiness brings peace. The fullness of Jesus Christ brings peace, and life, and abundance.

Be filled with the Spirit today.

“From the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Colossians 1:9)

God Spoke, Part 2

Who is this God who calls us into relationship with him? Who reached into the misery of sin-stricken humanity and delivered us?

Exodus 20,2

He didn’t rescue us so that we might flounder in the desert. He didn’t rescue us and then tsk us for the crazy dilemma we’d gotten ourselves into at that tree in the garden. Can you just imagine if he brought Israel into the desert then started in on a diatribe, “I thought you knew better. How many times do I have to tell you that I love you? Don’t you remember the words I spoke to Abraham? Well, you should.”

No, he rescued us to be his people, a royal priesthood. And now, as we read Exodus 20 and think of that holy mountain, the thunder and quaking, we don’t view those laws through the glasses of orphans or unredeemed people. We behold the precious life-giving commands as the church Peter describes:

royal priesthood

God spoke because he loved us. He spoke so that we would know how to act as his people. Our following of these commands is an act of praise, a living sacrifice.

So what if we viewed the ten commandments as a creed for how to praise God, how to witness to his wonderful light? And what if we viewed the breaking of these commands as a return to darkness? Why would we run back to slavery when we can live in the freedom Christ offers?

For Christ is God’s wonderful light.

 

God Spoke

The Ten Commandments begin with these words:

And God spoke all these things

But we rush past these words on our way to the do’s and don’ts, the commands which have been considered more burdensome than freeing.

How wrong we’ve been.

While meditating on Exodus 20 recently, I got stuck on these first words.

ten commandments

God’s speaking immediately draws my mind to Genesis 1 and creation. The power of God’s words brought forth everything from nothing. And so here in Exodus, at the new beginning of God’s relating to the people he has just freed, He speaks. An act of creation.

That God spoke to his people implies intimacy. He comes as the personal God of Israel, not as some stranger seeking blind allegiance. He comes with the desire to speak freedom, not slavery, to his people.

But the best thing is that God speaks from who He is. He speaks truth and life. We don’t have to untangle his words and wonder at his intentions. He speaks, and his words create. He is always creating in us, by his Spirit.

“…So it is with every word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire, and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

(Isaiah 55:10).

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

(Hebrews 4:12)

If only we could approach the Law with Jesus in the forefront of our minds. Jesus, the fulfiller of the Law. Jesus, the Living Word. The Word that creates new life in us and fulfills the righteous requirements of the Law in us.

Friends, when you read his Word is it alive in you? Is every God-breathed word held sacred in your heart?

Oh, that we would welcome the totality of God’s Word into our hearts on a daily basis. That we could submit to the action of his Word in our life and say, like Samuel,

“Speak, for your servant is listening!”

(I Samuel 3:10)