It was a tough morning. I could barely keep my eyes open and struggled to get out of bed with any level of energy. I felt mentally ready to face the day and my spirits were high, but my body wasn’t cooperating. It just wanted more sleep!
Have you ever felt that way?
Naturally, I made my way straight to the coffee pot, which is part of my normal routine. But caffeine didn’t do the trick. I’ve noticed that it’s not always the miracle pep-provider that I hope. Fresh fruit for breakfast didn’t help, either. My time with Jesus helped a bit and I could finally start to move the wheels on this bus. Once I got moving, I started feeling a lot better. My liveliness and clarity were great through a couple of morning meetings, but then I sat down to work at my desk and my energy plummeted again.
Why am I so tired, I wondered. And then it became clear. I haven’t taken a real day off for weeks. Our entire family is getting ready for some big moves and gigantic changes and we’ve all been running proverbial marathons. Several of us have been sick, fighting through colds, coughs, and sneezes just trying to stay on track. It seems we never stop. And that’s probably because, in reality, we never stop.
Rest in the Bible
There’s a little gift the Lord gave us that we tend to overlook. It’s the gift of rest. If I dig deeper into my honesty tank, I’d say we ignore the gift. On purpose. That’s not good.
Our family has a propensity to let our ever-increasing task list and upcoming deadlines keep us from enjoying Sabbath. Perhaps your family does too.
Many Scriptural encouragements remind me that the Lord provided rest for our good. Yet it is an aspect of His protection and provision that we often fail to embrace. Consider with me:
Mark 6:31— And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat (ESV).
Matthew 11:29— Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (ESV).
Exodus 34:21— “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest (ESV).
Mark 2:27— And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (ESV).
Setting aside a day each week for rest is commanded (“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. . .” [Exodus 20:8]), and as with all Scriptural commands, it’s intended for our good and God’s glory.
Rest and Productivity
I find it remarkable that when I take true, Sabbath, I’m more productive afterward. I recognize the Lord’s hand of favor and ease over my work. It’s as if I get more done after a break than I would have without one. Then I wonder why it’s so easy to ignore rest and work straight through the week.
Apparently, I’m not alone in neglecting my rest. The Lord addressed it through His prophet, Isaiah. “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling. . .” Isaiah 30:15 (ESV).
This verse is convicting! God offers us so much in our rest, yet we are quick to turn our back, believing we can accomplish more in our own strength. He wants to do more than provide for our rest, He wants to be our rest. By connecting and abiding in Him, thorough His Word and in prayer, we can find refreshing rest in His presence.
Spiritual Growth Through Rest
As we work to sprout our spiritual growth, let’s make a conscious effort to rest our bodies, minds, and spirits. On top of adopting some of the practices we’ve outlined in this series (time in His Word, meditation, and worship), schedule a real, actual day off and rest. Your rest can look a lot different than being a couch potato. You might decide to sleep late or take a nap, but you’ll also find rest as you get out and do something you enjoy—something that’s not part of work or a project on your “to-do” list.
Rest is a wonderful practice that helps us keep God as a high priority in our lives and avoid making our tasks an inadvertent idol. But rest often takes intentional focus. It certainly doesn’t flow into our lives naturally, so we must actively pursue it to enjoy it’s wonderful benefits.
May you embrace the joy of the Lord today,
Springtime brings one of my favorite things—songbirds. Their lovely melodies thrill my heart, especially the meadowlarks. It’s not a far stretch to imagine that they lift their voice to the Lord in praise. After all, Psalm 150:6 says, “let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
If the birds can praise Him, so must we. What a lovely way to sprout our spiritual growth.
In today’s noisy world, it’s easy to forget that we can worship God wherever we are and in whatever we do. Of course, we can worship on Sunday, but we can also praise Him while folding laundry, changing diapers, driving to work, having a lunch meeting, or helping children with their schoolwork. Our praise can take on many forms, like quiet meditation or writing, generosity, serving, speaking, or singing about Who the Lord is and all He has done.
Regardless of our method, heartfelt worship is essential to sprouting our spiritual growth and deepening our connection to God. And we needn’t save our worship for Sundays.
What Happens When We Worship God?
As we lift up our voice in praise, the Bible reveals several things that happen:
- Psalm 22:3 tells us that the Lord inhabits the praise of His people.
- Through praise to the King, we enter His gates and courts (Psalm 100:4).
- Exaltation of the King invites His response as He accepts our praise offering.
- He captures and consumes our attention as our focus shifts from ourselves to the One worthy of adoration.
- The light of the Lord casts out all darkness (Psalm 139:11-12) so that we can have uninterrupted, unhindered time with Him, enjoying the satisfaction that comes through such wondrous communion.
I don’t know about you, but I long for the Lord’s involvement throughout my week and praising His holy name invites His presence and power. One of my favorite Bible events shows this perfectly.
The Power of Worship
In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat learned that a vast number of enemies were coming to fight. He was afraid (naturally—I would be too), and verse 3 tells us that he “resolved to seek the Lord.” He and his people fasted and then declared adoration to God. In response, the Lord caused His Spirit to fall on a man named Jahaziel and said, “You do not have to fight this battle…I am with you” (vv 14-15). Wow. Can you imagine the peace and assurance that brought?
In the morning when it was time to face their enemies, Jehoshaphat “appointed some to sing for the LORD and some to praise the splendor of His holiness. When they went out in front of the armed forces, they kept singing” (verse 21, HCSB).
Here’s the amazing part. When the people lifted their voices in praise, the Lord set an ambush against their enemies and defeated them. The enemies turned on one another and destroyed each other. And it happened, “The moment they began their shouts and praises” (verse 22). That’s not a coincidence. If we don’t believe that God moves through our praise, we should take a much closer look at the Scriptures and watch more intently in our own lives.
Let’s not save our worship on Sunday, but praise Him with all our might, in spirit, and in truth, just as Jesus instructed in John 4:24. It’s sure to sprout our spiritual growth, draw us deeper into His presence, and enrich our abiding connection with God.
May you embrace the Lord’s joy today –
Yesterday on the blog I laid out a simple, 15-minute challenge to sprout our spiritual growth:
Read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb each day.
The simple practice helps turn our hearts to God and keep Him at the forefront of our minds. The Psalms are filled with encouragement and hope while the Proverbs teach wisdom and point us toward a character-filled life. Reviewing them often—reading God’s Word as an ongoing process—draws us into a deeper, abiding connection with the Lord of Hosts.
That’s the entire goal for sprouting our spiritual growth. It’s the process of transformation that draws us into a closer relationship with Jesus. It prepares us to allow the Holy Spirit, making us more like Christ so that we may participate in the divine (see 2 Peter 1:3-8).
As we begin to adopt new practices, it’s not merely for the sake of doing, it’s for the sake of displaying more of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and less of our worldly nature.
Today’s challenge is also simple:
Mull it over.
Meditate on God’s Word
The thought of meditation has taken on some negative connotations. Eastern religions and new age thinking often twist the Biblical practice. Throughout God’s Word, however, we’re instructed to mediate (mull over) on God and on His precepts and ways. When we meditate according to God’s instruction, we ponder His truths.
Biblical meditation is not a practice of emptying our minds to let “the universe fill the voids.” Rather, it is focusing intently on God’s Word.
As you read Scripture, take time to pause when a verse stirs your heart. For example, when I read Psalm 5:12 yesterday, it captured my attention and felt like a spiritual hug from God. So I paused to meditate.
A Meditation Example
In The Passion Translation Psalm 5:12 says:
“Lord, how wonderfully you bless the righteous. Your favor wraps around each one and covers them under your canopy of kindness and joy.”
I began to mull over the verse, considering the wonderful blessings that God gives His children. My mind traveled back a few days and I recalled God’s goodness in both large and very small ways. I thanked the Lord and spent time recognizing each gift as coming from my Heavenly Father.
Next, I pondered the idea of His favor wrapping around me. It isn’t in front of me or behind me, but wraps all around me, shielding me from every direction. When I considered being covered by a canopy of His kindness and joy, I couldn’t help but smile.
Mulling over this passage brought a new thought to my mind: How can I live differently today knowing that God’s favor wraps around me, He has blessings in store for me, and that I am covered in His kindness and joy? As I face things like an uncomfortable conversation, or a new business venture, or deal with a challenging personality, how can I think and act differently knowing the promises of Psalm 5:12?
Embrace God’s Promises
The Psalms and Proverbs are books of poetry. They’re beautifully written AND they are God’s truth. They’re thick with promises that the Lord will fulfill, and gifts that He wishes to lavish upon us as His own.
By mulling over Scripture, by taking the time to recognize that the Words are intended for me, personally, and by receiving them as my own, my outlook changes. My mood improves. And my hope and joy grow. I recognize that the Lord doesn’t intend for me to say stuck in a life of hum-drum, but longs to bless me as a child of the King.
As we move toward sprouting our spiritual growth, I encourage you to take a few minutes after reading God’s Word and mull it over. Let it penetrate your mind and sink into your heart. Receive God’s promises and grab hold of them with all your might.
My friend, Manyesha Batist helped me greatly. I’m thrilled to share her short video that helps me meditate on God’s Word.
If you’re joining me on this journey of spiritual growth, I’d love to know! Please reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram. And share this post with others if you feel they’ll be blessed!
May God’s Word strengthen you today,
I adore spring. The world is alive with the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts.
After a long winter (this year our Colorado winter stretched all the way to May) the newness of spring is a reminder of the redeeming work of Christ. No matter how cold and bleary our past, He makes a way for renewal and hope. Jesus reminds us, regardless of how far we feel we’ve drifted from an abiding connection to Him, that He is steadfast and longs to draw us close once again. I love that.
I’ve recently come out of one of those hazy, blustery seasons of life and I yearn for a fresh start. My connection with God seemed to hang on by a thread and I struggled to feel His nearness or discern His promptings. I was in a season of spiritual winter, to be sure.
Stepping into spring and renewal inspires me greatly. Suddenly, I feel alive and rejuvenated, ready to take on the world. More importantly, I’m ready to reprioritize my walk with Jesus. Intentionally and on purpose. Care to join me?
Sprouting Spiritual Growth
I know what you’re thinking. It’s May. Things are crazy busy this time of year. Is this the best time to make new commitments?
Oh, my sister, yes. Yes it is. Our commitment to Christ is the most precious gift in our lives and leaving it untended will cost us dearly. The blessings of abiding are more than we can imagine so let’s reach out and grab hold. Let’s allow our spiritual growth to sprout again and take root. We don’t have to spend hours a day pulling weeds from our spiritual gardens. Drawing close to God is a little like breathing. It’s something we do all day, every day, alongside every other activity we face.
A 15-Minute Challenge
Could you commit, say, 15 minutes a day to focused, Christ-centered activity? Maybe give up a hand of solitaire on your smartphone or choose a messy bun instead of grabbing the curling iron. I know you can find a quarter of an hour at least 5 or 6 days a week.
Last month I decided to read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb each day. It took me less than 15 minutes each day. Most days I picked up my Bible and read before starting my daily to-do’s. Sometimes I read while I rocked my sleeping granddaughter or while my grandson played with his toys next to me. I’ll admit, there were a few days where I didn’t get it done, but most days I did. And you know what? Just that little bit of time in God’s Word stirred my heart and poured hope and truth into my dry, dusty heart. As they say, a little goes a long way and I’m enjoying the process again this month.
Will you accept the challenge to read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb each day for the month of May? Let’s band together and give God’s Word our focus and attention for a few daily minutes.
I hope you’ll join me! If you’re up for the challenge will you let me know? Let me know on Facebook or Instagram and I’ll be happy to pray for you during the journey. I know you’ll love it and the joy it brings to your jumbled life.
May God’s Word strengthen you today,
I remember receiving the phone call like it was yesterday. The police in our son’s out of state college town wanted to speak with us about some trouble he’d encountered.
That moment started a cyclone of emotions and a paralyzing struggle with fear that simply blindsided me. Although I struggled to identify exactly what I was afraid of, over the next many months, the Lord walked me through a painful and gut-wrenching spiritual journey of discovery and surrender.
As early as the onset, I trusted the Lord and believed—even through this trial—that He had a good plan for my son and our family. Still, I experienced a gripping level of trepidation that nearly stopped my ministry in its tracks and began to have a crippling impact on my life roles of wife and mom. Every part of my life felt as though it were under attack.
The Beginning of Breakthrough
One day my pastor suggested I borrow a book called Fearless by Max Lucado. He pulled it from his bookshelf and I placed it inside my handbag to take home. It sat on the desk in my home office for weeks. Every day as I walked by it, I’d think, “I should read that.” But I was unable to muster the strength to take even the smallest step toward freedom. It was as if I were too sick to reach out and grab a cure.
At last, I picked up the book and opened it. On the first page was nothing more than a Bible verse. It was Matthew 8:26, when Jesus asked His disciples,
“Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”
That was all I could take.
Tears spontaneously filled my eyes. I slammed the book closed and dropped it on my desk as the words penetrated my heart like a dagger. I couldn’t make myself read another word for quite some time.
But as only He can do, the Lord used His living Word to plant a seed of truth and understanding into my life. Matthew 8:26 swirled in my thoughts. It stayed in my mind when I slept, while I showered, and walked through my daily tasks. Slowly, over time, the Lord used that one verse to help me understand the powerful impact of fear and its relationship with faith. Jesus used His Word to reveal a path of victory over fear that has stayed with me many years later.
The Opposition of Fear and Faith
In Matthew 8:26, Jesus referred to His disciples as “men of little faith” because of the fear they experienced. That unfolds an interesting dynamic. Faith and fear are like opposite platforms on a scale.
As our fear increases, it diminishes the manifestation of our faith. Conversely, if our faith increases, it diminishes our fear.
Fear and faith are in opposition and have a direct impact on one another.
It can sometimes feel difficult to hold fast to our faith, which leaves us vulnerable to the enemy’s fiery darts of fear. Even when we can’t identify that “thing” of which we’re fearful, effects of fear can be paralyzing. Just because we follow Christ doesn’t mean we’re exempt. I can tell you from first-hand experience that fear
- Masks our joy
- Keeps us from pursuing our calling
- Causes dissension in relationships
- Makes us feel separated and discontented
- Can manifest in physical symptoms
- Holds us in captivity
- Makes us forget how big God is
Wielding the Shield of Faith
During that season in my life, there was little question that I was in bondage to fear. Each time those fiery darts made impact, I felt the sizzle and smelled the scorch. But God, as He always does, provided a way of protection. Ephesians 6 addresses the full armor of God and teaches that our shield of faith will “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v. 16).
The Greek word thureos describes a large, oblong shield that protected every part of a soldier. It was an essential piece of equipment that was covered in leather to help defend against flaming arrows. The thureos was about waist high and at least as wide as an average person. Warriors became so skilled at using their shield that other pieces of armor often escaped any impact at all.
The illustration aptly demonstrates the power of faith. As Paul referenced a shield of faith, he selected the word thureos to make his point. Our shield of faith offers such complete protection, other pieces of armor (the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, and shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace) rarely receive impact.
“Imagine yourself holding up your shield of faith. All is going well until your eyes see something astonishing. Within your field of vision is something you never imagined and you stand, mouth gaping, feeling your left arm, which holds your shield, begin to slump. What you see with your eyes affects your faith and it begins to falter, ever so slightly. As your faith begins to weaken, your shield moves out of position and you are suddenly vulnerable to the enemy. We may have other pieces of protective armor, but when the enemy fires a flaming arrow, we’re sunk. In my estimation, fear is a flaming arrow!
Think of what was happening to the disciples in Matthew 8. The storm was fierce. It was what the disciples could see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and feel upon their skin. What emotion did they experience? Fear. It can paralyze our brains and make us completely forget (even if just temporarily) how BIG God really is.
I’ll just come out and say it: Fear seems to make us lose our minds and forget the wonders He has performed in our lives and all the ways that He has proven Himself trustworthy. The disciples had many reasons to put their faith in Jesus. They saw Him work many mighty miracles, and yet were afraid when the storm on the sea arose.” *
* this is an excerpt from my book, Finding Joy in the Journey (available on Amazon.com)
As believers in Christ, we love the Lord. We have learned to put our trust in Him and He has proved faithful through His work in our lives. We have seen Him perform modern-day wonders and bring us through hardships, trials, and heartaches. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He is incapable of dishonesty, yet at times, fear consumes us.
Why are we afraid when Christ has proven Himself so faithful? Why do we fear when the Lord of lords is on our side? What is it that makes us waver in our faith?
Can you see the progression?
Our situation becomes frightening and our eyes fix on our situation.
We turn our focus to what we see (our situation) as opposed to what we cannot see (God’s activity).
Our faith is compromised, which causes our shield to move out of position.
We become a vulnerable target for our enemy, which causes deeper fear and a shield that shifts even further.
Faith Delivers Freedom from Fear!
There is good news! Just as quickly as our fear can cause us to lose faith, our faith can conquer our fear. Remembering to raise our shield of faith and duck behind it, even as we quake and tremble, our faith can overtake our fear. And here’s the thing – it can happen in a split second!
Because God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7), the enemy of our souls will not win this battle. With this in mind, take courage. Raise your shield and fight the good fight, knowing God is your defender.
Throughout this battle with fear, God impressed five specific fear-fighting strategies that continue to help me to this day. I’ve compiled them into a beautiful, FREE Printable that you can keep close at hand when fear strikes. Click here to access 5 Fear Fighting Strategies and download the printable instantly!