Travel is always easier when you take the trip with someone who’s been there before. That’s the part of the COVID19 shutdown and the ensuing economic decline that has rattled so many people. We’ve never been down this road before. We have no vaccine for COVID19. There’s a reason it’s called a novel virus. Novel means new and boy howdy, this one’s so new, it caught an entire medical community with moisture behind their ears.[Read more…]
I love babies!
BAbies and Christmas just seem to go together. Particularly one baby. So the carols tell us.
- “The Virgin Mary had a baby Boy. And they say that His name is Jesus.”
- “Hark the herald angels sing. Glory to the newborn King.”
- “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.”
- “Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day . . . “
New life. New prospects. Innocence. Oh, and they are so downright cute! What excitement!
Maybe I’m thinking about babies so much because our family is about to welcome a little one. Like any parent or grandparent, my mind is a swirl of questions:[Read more…]
Is SOLITUDE a scary word for you?
How much time do you spend alone? I mean, just you. No people interaction, no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or SnapChat. No TV or Youtube. Maybe even ditch the book. Just you.
“Why should I?” you might be asking. “Aren’t we supposed to be relational beings? What benefit is there in solitude? What if I can’t get away from my peeps? And, since this is an online Bible study, is solitude really a biblical habit commanded by Scripture?”
In our continuing study of Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, we come to the chapter about Solitude. I had the same questions you might be having. I came to the conclusion that, like many of the practices we’ve discussed, solitude is a tool that leads us to develop habits and traits that definitely do have a biblical base.
Let’s look at the Word
The Bible gives us six examples of men who spent time alone with God:
- Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32).
- Moses camped out with God on the mountain for many days (Exodus 20:21; 24:18; 34:28).
- Elijah, after the confrontation at Mt Carmel, left his servant and went on into the desert. There, he met with God and received his next assignment (1 Kings 19).
Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1,2).
- Jesus tried to get away with his disciples after the death of John the Baptist (Mt 14:13). But 5000 families tracked him down (Mt 14:14). The need for solitude was strong enough that, after he fed the people, he didn’t give up. He sent everyone away, including the disciples and headed to the hills (Mt 14:22,23).
- Peter was by himself on the rooftop of a house when he had the vision of the sheet coming down from Heaven. God used that time to prepare him for the arrival of the delegation from Cornelius (Acts 10:9-23).
- Paul spent three years by himself in Arabia after his conversion (Galatians 1:16-18).
What do I learn from these examples? Solitude in and of itself is not the main point. It’s what we do while we are alone – praying, studying, and focusing on God. Solitude creates the environment for those relational moments with our Heavenly Father to happen. Each of these people had an encounter with God when they were by themselves.
What good will solitude do me?
Here are seven benefits of solitude:
- Provides a time to rest. Elijah needed rest.
- Reduces distractions so we can hear God better. Jesus had to take his disciples to remote places, so he could teach them in private.
- Declutters our lives and teaches us that God is enough. Jacob, Jesus, Paul, and Elijah were away from all comforts of daily life. Stripped of the extras, they were able to focus on God and God alone.
- Clarifies our awareness of God. Each of the Biblical people above had an encounter with God when they were alone and away.
- Teaches us to slow down and let God do the work instead of us. (See Psalm 37:7 and Exodus 14:14.)
- Teaches us to control our thoughts and our tongue. We can be still and silent even within a group. The ability to marshal our thoughts when we are by ourselves will help us be better listeners and control our tongue when we are with other people. Check out Proverbs 17:28 and James 1:19. Ouch!
- Renews our strength. Just as Elijah found renewal, we can come back to our work refueled. As my close friend, Pam, says, “Sometimes the best thing I can do for my family is to go upstairs, close the door, and read a book.” We will relate with people better if we derive our strength from God.
How do I get away and alone?
You might think you are trapped in your environment. Every one of us can seek solitude.
When can you grab a few quiet moments?
Here are some ideas:
- Early morning before we get out of bed.
- A few moments over a cup of coffee.
- Last thing before bed, step out and enjoy the silence of the night.
- Some moms find their only escape is in the bathroom. If that’s what it takes, do it!
- A scheduled retreat. Let your family know this is important to you. Plan a Day Alone With God . Where could you go to have your own personal retreat?
Foster emphasizes that solitude is not just physical escape; it is solitude in the inner man. The important lesson is not that we have alone time but that we use our alone time to be with God, whether we spend the time thinking, meditating, praying, listening, or studying.
Do I have to do or think anything?
This lesson is hard for me. Sometimes, it’s good to just rest. Not think, pray, ponder, plan, or fret. Just be. Just let go of the world for a few moments, give the controls over to God, and let the world spin without me for that period of time. That’s the purpose behind my 20-minute power naps in the afternoon. I may or may not doze off, it doesn’t matter. It’s a time to recharge and not think about anything. I rise from my chair, renewed and re-energized, ready to face the rest of my day after reaffirming God’s purposes and plans for me.
Perhaps that’s what God had in mind when He said, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” As we get alone and away, we can take a deep breath and remember who is in charge. After all, the rest of that verse says, “I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in all the earth.”
How will you seek solitude this week?
Look at your to-do list and Day-Planner. When can you spend time alone with God? What will you need to give up in order to spend time alone with Him and no one else? How will you spend that time?
Let me know! How did your time of solitude go? How are you closer to the Lord and refreshed for what He wants you to do because of it?
May you be blessed and refreshed as you bask in your Savior’s presence!
The best sign of the magnificence of God is a transformed life.
Several years ago, a speaker at the North American Christian Convention concluded his talk by having a number of people parade across the stage, each holding those cardboard signs often held by homeless people. Etched in permanent marker, the first side told of a past life: homeless, divorced, suicidal, addicted, or lonely.
Then each person turned their sign around and we read of a new life: transformed, freed, filled with joy, and alone no more. The smile on each face cast the personal touch – this wasn’t just a sermon illustration. This change really did happen.
Isabel (not her real name) could have filled a refrigerator box with the details of her transformed life.
I met Isabel the day before my mother’s surgery while our family was poking around an import store just to have something to do to fill the hours. As we interacted with the store owner, in response to something I told her, she suddenly launched into her life story. We ceased our meandering and stood spellbound as we heard a story of abuse, betrayal, depression, release and transformation.
With Isabel’s permission, I’d like to share her story with you.
Born in Honduras, Isabel suffered abuse at the hands of both her father and step-father while her mother turned her head. Isabel survived a house fire at a young age. At fifteen years old, she was kidnapped. Anger at her mother and despair at her life sucked her into the drug culture. Several times she tried to commit suicide.
In all of this, she knew nothing of God.
When she reached the United States, at one point, someone handed her a scrap of paper that simply said, “If you would like to know more about Jesus, call this number.” She ignored the message but kept the note.
Meanwhile, she married into an abusive situation and had a child. At age 21, with an 18 month old baby, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and faced the reality that she might die. Even though she had tried to commit suicide several times, now she did not want to die. She had a child she needed to live for.
“God if you are real,” Isabel spoke into the unknown, “show me. If You prove to me that You are real, I promise I will find out more about this Jesus.”
As Isabel told this next part, she had tears in her eyes and her English failed her. She told how she had a vision of a man dressed in glowing white robes that came toward her. Something like fish scales fell from her eyes and in her dream, she realized she was coming face to face with the Living Lord. It was only years later that she read the account in Acts 9 about Saul on the road to Damascus and realized her experience was much like Saul’s.
How appropriate that her experience simulated the Apostle Pauls’ encounter with Jesus. Paul told his apprentice in 1 Timothy 1:15,16:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners –of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”
Catch what that verse is saying! Did you ever wonder why God selected Paul to be the first messenger of the Gospel to the Gentiles? Why a former murderer? Why someone who originally opposed the faith? Why not someone like Peter, John or Andrew?
Yeah, good ole’ Andrew! He would have been my choice. Or what about that little boy who had the faith to share his lunch with Jesus? He had a good doctrinal grounding. No, God chose Paul because Paul was a living example of the fact that God can absolutely turn around a life headed in the wrong direction.
That was God’s plan for Isabel as well.
Today, Isabel has three children with a loving husband. She is a small business owner of a flourishing import shop. Her life is totally turned around. She told us how her business was only a tool, a platform for proclaiming Christ. “I evaluate every person who enters my store to see if they are ready to hear my story,” she told us. “Sometimes it’s not right, sometimes they aren’t ready. But I pray for God to show me who I can tell about Jesus.”
My feet shifted several times. I felt like I was standing on holy ground, for surely the presence of the magnificent Lord was in that place. My family, normally conservative in our expression of worship, gathered in a spontaneous prayer circle and praised the Lord for His interest and ability to rescue lives from the mired pit of sin and self-destruction. We prayed that God would mightily use Isabel to reflect His grace to those He brought into her store.
Do you know someone who is entangled in sin’s clutches either through their own choices or the evil and wickedness imposed by others? Do you ever wonder if it is too late for that person to experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus? It isn’t. Look at Isabel, oh, look at Isabel!
You can be part of the process. Pray fervently for that person to discover Jesus. Pray also that God will show you how He can use you to bring healing and restoration to that person.