Grab Hold Of Your Life! – Part One

Well, it is into the middle of the first month of the new year 2020. And, we are all busy back at our regular routines. Christmas – both the western version and the eastern Orthodox version – are over and done with for another year. And, New Year’s celebrations have become a vague memory. We are back to normal, whatever your normal is. Even in the world of ministry everyone is back to ministering. Normal has returned. 

However, regardless of what you do, it is a good time to remember that if we always do what we have always done, we will get what we have always gotten. So, it might be a good time to look at making some changes. After all, 2019 was not the most fulfilling year of your life. You finished the year in a different place than the one you were originally aiming at. Things did not work out the way you planned they would. 

There is a word that I have been using a lot more recently. It is an easy word to know, remember, and speak. It is a one syllable word. Simple and easy. Practice it with me. “No!” That it. But, this simple word will change your life allowing you extra time to think, pray, and journal. To just be instead of always doing. After all, you are a human ‘being’ and not a human ‘doing’. To be a human being and have a vital relationship with the Lord Jesus you need margin in your life.

In his best selling book Margin, Dr. Richard Swenson defined the term ‘margin’ as “the space between our load and our limits.” What we are currently carrying is our load, and our capacity to carry that load is our limit. 

Sadly most of us have erased that space entirely. We live with zero space between our load and our limit. We are living on the edge with nothing to spare. Many are at their breaking point and have nothing left to give. We are just one small decision away from the load circle and the limit circle overlapping on top of each other perfectly. When our limits become our load, that’s when we experience personal (and professional) burnout and depletion.

But  this gets tricky in Christian culture, because we often encourage the idea of being busy to the point of leaving no margin in our lives. How do I know that? Because I hear such statements as:

      • You are doing the Lord’s work!
      • He will fill you up and sustain you!
      • You need to be doing big things for God!

And, these statements are spoken when, no matter what job you are doing in the world, you express that you are tired, broken, over-worked, frustrated…These words are meant to encourage you because you are a Christian and God will support and encourage you. Nonsense! He only supports what He has asked us to do – and He certainly has not asked us to burnout and live without meaning and personal space and time. We were made for more and better than what we are experiencing.

If we allocate 100 percent of our time, we have nothing left over – so if something unexpected happens in our days (which we can count on to happen), we are left trying to rush to the next thing. We are now hurrying ourselves – and those around us. And, we need to remember, Hurry is violence to the soul.”

One of the quickest ways to curb that violence to our own humanity is learn to say “no” in a world of “yeses.”

If you’re not saying no to good things, you’re probably not saying no enough. With the increasing access we have to each other, we have to make sure we’re saying no frequently. I have personally been trying to starve my schedule a bit more recently. I discovered that whenever I feed it, it seems to only grow plumper – needing more and more food the next week and the week after. More activity, More involvement. More appointments. 

Since I first read Dr. Swenson’s book (and I reread it at least once a year) I have placed a ruthlessly high value on space and margin. I fight for it relentlessly, which takes an enormous amount of work. And, at times I still fail and book more ministry and more appointments and more writing deadlines than I can actually comfortably handle and still maintain margin – personal space and time. But I am working on it on a regular basis and moving forward in maintaining margin.

I find it weird that people admire others who are extra busy. But honestly, can’t everyone do that? Last time I checked, it’s easy to fill an entire week. I’m now more interested in people who schedule as little as possible, only what is essential and best for their flourishing. THAT takes work. And commitment. Focus. Vision. That’s countercultural to the society and world in which we live. And totally opposite to the Christian and church culture.

When we don’t make this decision to live with margin and follow through then we will learn the hard way. You will learn from the great teacher Burnout. You will first spend time with Master Overwhelm. You will continue to do things that seem great and awesome and important (which is what hurry feeds on best), but you end the week feeling unfulfilled. Burned out and a little more on edge. Depleted and wound up. 

It is time for Christians – and especially Christian leaders – to be asking ourselves: Why do we have a full schedule? Why do we think we have to do these things? What stuff is necessary to live and what stuff isn’t? What if we prioritize doing nothing? What is “being” becomes more important than “doing”?

And, how will al this happen. Ready for it? Make your default answer no.

That’s it. Without realizing it, most of us make our default answer yes. So, a simple switch from ‘yes’ to ‘no’ and you will, over time, regain margin in your life. And thus regain and reclaim your real life. 

More next time…

Polls, Knee Jerk Demographics

Guest blogger: Bill Lewis – apostle
We have polls for everything. We are questioned, surveyed, prodded for reviews. I cannot buy anything on Amazon without getting an email asking me to review the product, rate the supplier, comment. I get my oil changed and I have an email from the dealer, and then one from the manufacturer. Our political world is polling people everyday to take the temperature of the society. I wonder sometimes who they are asking. Polls make us purely reactionary; we respond rather than lead. And, the Christian world has its pollsters too which make us reactionary as well.

I have read so many articles and books with the statistics neatly packaged with comment and prognosis. The polls can be extremely discouraging. The trends are not good. Reading and following the polls indicate that fewer and fewer people say they need religion. Whole generations are abandoning church. The secularization of the world is increasing, not just in the western world, but across the whole world. As prosperity increases, the need people feel for religion and supernatural intervention decreases. This is true in emerging nations as well as developed nations.

While the polls predict and report decline, we have churches working hard to reach the current generations. There are some very successful churches categorized as mega churches. The statistics say they only represent 4% of church going people. There are a number of reasons for decline. We can always come up with reasons for down turn, but we have very few, if any, answers to turn the tide. Effort has been made, but somehow it comes across as consumerism. Churches are required to cater to an ever increasing number of niches of consumerism. People tend to shop churches like they do at the mall. Does the church provide all the bells and whistles that we think we need? Many times it is children and teen services. Does the church have the facilities for kids? Do they have a vibrant youth program? Sadly, most of the people I know that made a move to a church where they felt their kids would be affected by the youth work have been disappointed in that their kids are now not attending church or serving the Lord. What went wrong? Even some of the parents are now marginal Christians with sporadic attendance.

I like statistics. It gives me a feel for the bigger picture. I also have tried to make adjustments in style, decor, media etc. to be more current with styles and communication. However, all the lights, sound, decor, have not produced an earth shaking rush to church. It has made the atmosphere pleasant and there have been appreciative comments, but no one has become a believer because of the videos, the sound, the music.

So, I have been thinking, praying, pondering, meditating. What are we going to do to change things? Stem the tide of defection? Reach the generations up and coming? What we have been doing has produced people coming to church that live no differently than the rest of the world that does not go to church. That is not working.

I believe that we have to think differently. We do not need to compete with the world. We miss the point about who we are and our mission. The mission is not church attendance. Our mission is not religion. We have to stop talking about church; start talking about Jesus. We must talk about sin and God’s answer to sin. We need to express repentance. Most people need to experience the revelation of their deep lostness and separation from the Creator. Knowing how lost you are, makes the savior that much more precious and amazing.

We do not need more polls, we need Jesus, not the western civilization Jesus, but the Jesus who died and was resurrected for mankind to be saved from sin, darkness, and eternal damnation.

Amazing, the cause of Christ thrived for two millennia without youth groups, Sunday school, and all the other special consumer programs. It was multiplied by the revelation of a risen savior who was truly the Son of God. The message and mission must return to its core values and purpose.

Religion – Relationship

I am on holidays. During the holiday I have had an opportunity to visit a local church and attend Sunday morning service. I have attended a Bible study in a denominational church, the same church as the Sunday assembly.  And, I have visited with several who would call themselves believers but don’t attend any church regularly. Today I had the opportunity to visit a middle-aged man who is an atheist becoming such after many years of attending local churches with his family. It has been interesting to say the least.

As I attended the local church I realized that they are based on an Old Testament model. They are unaware of the priesthood of all believers and expect and allow the priest to do all the ministry. It is a passive form of church where the people come, sit, absorb, and then go home. Transformation seldom happens. In the case of a decent teacher in the pulpit the people do go home informed. Not the case this past Sunday where I attended. The priest is not a good communicator nor a decent Bible teacher. 

The people I have spoken to one-on-one are leaders in the church. They know things need to change, that the church is not alive, nor is it attracting new comers let along new believers. But, to get them to move on making some changes or even a basic change … Not happening. Passive. Even though they agree with what I am saying about the need for change; change will not be happening any time soon if ever.

The man in his early 40’s that I spoke with today once attended church with his parents and siblings. But, currently is not attending anywhere and does not plan to. He did not express any interest in being a believer, a true believer, and attending a local fellowship of believers on a regular basis. He could use the support and encouragement of a local church but his experience in a number of local churches has taught him that what he needs will not be found in the local church. He was looking elsewhere. Now he has just given up and is living without hope. 

Tomorrow I meet with the pastor of a non-denominational church that meets in the same building as the denominational church I attended on Sunday. His is a born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit, local assembly that is very alive and active. He is a good teacher and always has a good word for people when teaching and when meeting with them one-on-one. I have enjoyed our limited contact in the past and look forward to coffee tomorrow and growing the relationship some. He is offering new life to people and giving people hope as found only in Jesus Christ. 

The contrast in the two churches meeting in the same building cannot be missed. Life – death. Light – darkness. Hope – despair. Growth – decline. Relationship – religion. 

My last morning here, Wednesday, I will be attending the Bible study of the first church mentioned. I was a participant last week at the weekly gathering of men from a number of churches in the same denomination. This week I am attending again before heading to the airport to fly home. I have been invited to lead the two hour study. It will, to say the least, be somewhat interesting. I think it will be fun and I am believing that the Holy Spirit will do a great work in the hearts of every man attending and that life and light will be imparted to all those with open hearts.

Relationships

The other day I went to get the mail. There is a mailbox at the local postal outlet where the majority of our mail goes. This way, when I am on the road travelling, it is not piling up out front for all to know that I am away from home. Never know who might take advantage of my absence. 

It is good to have to go and “get the mail.” It gives me opportunity to chat with those who work there and to build relationships with each and everyone of them. I have had tremendous opportunities to share the love of God in very practical ways with a number of them. We are all called to be ambassadors for the Kingdom in our community and neighbourhood. 

Today, in the mailbox there was an advertisement from a Canadian ministry regarding an American speaker who is coming in October to speak in their church. Interesting. I have never heard of the local church. I looked them up on the internet and they seem like a great local church with some solid leaders. So, I noticed that the return address on the oversized postcard inviting me to attend the event is a Florida mailbox. So, I looked up the speaker and, sure enough, he has mailed me the invitation. 

What is most interesting is that his ministry is one I have not connected to in over 20 years. He was once located in California and lost his local church and Bible school due to his chosen lifestyle. Then he relocated to England and set up shop there. Now he is in Florida leading a local church and a training school. So, my name and address has survived 20 plus years and at least three locations. And, out of the blue I receive an invitation to attend his ministry coming to a Canadian church. No contact over all those years. Literally no connection to him or his ministry. And, I am still on a mailing list because I purchased a set of DVDs several decades ago.

Listen folks – the Kingdom is all about relationships. The local church is only as strong as the relationships that exist within the fellowship. It is not about mailing lists and selling ministry resources and holding big events. Ministry that is changing lives and transforming families and communities are all relationally built. Programs are not working. Conferences don’t change lives or transform people. Even mass crusades are having little permanent effect on society, the culture, or individual lives. God works through personal relationships.

I personally stopped attending conferences years ago. I am not interested in spending money on travel, hotel, meals, and registration … then spending money when offerings are taken and resources are offered. I can invest my time and money much more effectively. I work in a local church where I live and, when on the road, minister to local churches. No large conferences. Just relational connections to local church leadership ministering to their people and helping the local church grow strong and effective. And, because we are relationally connected I return to these churches on a regular basis and connect in-between visits as we work in the Kingdom together.

So, a conference 1,800 Km away with someone I don’t relate to or respect in a church I have never heard of… I think I will pass thank you. I wonder if I can get my name removed from the ancient mailing list being used?  A list that I never asked to be placed on in the first place. 

What Is Worship?

When believers come together we “worship.” In fact, generally we call the gathering a “worship service.” But do we really worship? I mean, really?

In most services I attend in every nation where I work we sing songs or choruses about God. We sing songs that encourage us to believe, to move forward, to stand strong. We sing about Him. But, if you watch the words for most songs – the real focus is you, me, us. So, that is not worship. It may move us and may help us feel good, but it is not worship.

Worship must be directed to God. It must be believers expressing their hearts about God to God. The audience of worship is One, God Himself. The songs or choruses must express our love for Him to Him.

But, even that is limited by how much we love Him. Do we love Him with our whole heart? Are we wholehearted about our commitment to follow Him regardless? Are we willing to obey Him with our whole heart? If we do not love Him with our whole heart then our worship is limited or simply nonexistent. 

Going even a little deeper… If we have not given our whole self to Him – our physical life, our emotional life, our hopes and dreams, our desires and plans, our friendships and family, our past, present and future – then we are really not fully worshipping Him. Maybe we are not worshipping Him at all. 

The writer of the book of Hebrews states what worship is:

Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies (whole being) as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In The Passion Translation this reads…

Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvellous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.

This is the correct biblical understanding of worship. This is the foundation of any and all worship that we might be involved in and that we offer up to Him. If we love Him with our whole heart and thus trust Him surrendering ourselves to Him totally we will then obey Him completely and instantly because He states “If you love Me you will obey Me.” Then we are positioned to worship Him from the center of our being with all that we are and all that we have – worship with and from our whole heart.

So, when we sing a song or two and get an emotional feel from it, we say that the “worship was anointed.” What does that mean? What is anointed worship? A feeling? A sense that your heart was touched? You entered into His presence (whatever that really means)? A knowing that you have, once again, encountered God? What does it mean to say that something is anointed? That worship is anointed?

How about we go back to the basics. How about we remove the huge business that worship songs and worship teams have become. A multi-billion dollar business worldwide, by the way. How about we boil it down to the biblical foundation. Worship, yes even anointed worship, is you surrendering yourself to God totally. That and that only “becomes your genuine expression of worship.” Nothing more, nothing less is genuine worship. 

The Purpose of Church?

Recently I had a leader that I work with in Western Canada ask me what the purpose of the Church is? Interesting question – a good question – from someone who is leading a local church and has attended church all of her life. She is looking for a way to revamp the way they do church. In other words, the way the weekly gathering flows – the various things that should go into the weekly “church service.”

The New Testament does not give us a template for a weekly church assembly. It seems that every local church – Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Rome, Jerusalem – functioned as they were led by the Holy Spirit. Most, of course met in private homes. A few used a local school or met outside. But, we are not given a lot of insight into what they did. And, the insight we do gain from the occasional verse is not a set pattern to follow. It is simply what that particular local church did. For example – in Jerusalem …

Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

So some people will choose a verse like this and then design the whole weekly assembly with these elements prominent in the expression of the life of that church. 

The leader who asked the question was quoting a verse – expressing that this was the only verse they could find that expressed the purpose of the church assembly. You know the verse…

1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”

Again, this was Paul’s instruction to the church in Corinth. The format he was suggesting was as a result of the issues they were having when they gathered together – people living in immorality, drunkenness at the services, unruly behaviour. And, if we were to apply this verse and the seven verses following explaining how they would work in the service … then we must also apply the next verse

1 Corinthians 14:34 “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission…”

Remember now, the person who asked the question is a woman who leads a church. Whoops!

You simply cannot take a verse or two out of content and its environment (who it was written to, why, and when) and use it today to base a format on. Not good use of the Bible and not what the Lord meant for us to do. 

The only expressed purpose of the Church – every local church – is found in Ephesians 4:11-16:

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Again, please note that there is no set pattern for the local church assembly or worship service to follow. But, the purpose of the local assembly is clear – leaders are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. 

Ministry is what happens out where believers live. So, they are to be equipped to minister to the lost so that they can be touched by the love of God and come to the foot of the cross and be saved. What goes on in the service or assembly is really “maintenance” as we are ministering to one another and taking care of those who are already sheep and part of the sheepfold. So, as we gather the purpose of the gathering is to equip the saints to reach the lost. This fits with the only call or mandate that the Lord gave the church… “Go into all the world and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19). 

And, we call the local assembly a “worship service!” So, really, is it? What is worship anyways? More on that next time. 

The Kingdom Differences

In the Kingdom of God there are many things happening all at the same time. Some things are generic to all nations. Other events and happenings are specifically targeted for a region or individual nation. God knows what each area needs and fine tunes the Kingdom events and Spirit movements to suit each region and move them forward in His purposes and plan. It is amazing to watch and see. More amazing to be involved in many of the different nations and actually be aware of and have a part to play in the differences. 

For example, when I first went to the nation of Kazakhstan the main topics were the church that Jesus was building and the gifts of the Spirit. The main ministry other than teaching was prophesying. Now, when I go to Kazakhstan the topics are leadership, the Kingdom, and the Church – especially house churches. The three main groups I work with have moved forward, matured, grown, and are hungry for the next step as they move into the Kingdom realm and its expansion through soul winning and church planting.

In March of 2020 I will be in Vietnam. This will be my first visit to that nation and so I have begun to read up on some of its history and especially the role of the Church in the nation – both currently and historically. I am told by those planning the trip that I will be holding a school on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and especially the prophetic. And, that this is the first time ever that this will have been taught to the specific group that is inviting me. So, pioneer work of an apostle. And, in a different place and space than those I work with in Kazakhstan. The Kingdom is amazing that way.

Here is North America …we are seeing the slow death of the traditional Church as younger people no longer find these churches meaningful. But, we are seeing the growth of new churches that are being planted and that target the younger generations. And, we see many traditional born again believers forming or joining house churches where the format of the assembly is flexible and fellowship and prayer are the major focuses. And the mega churches that often have seen major growth through younger people and families transferring in have seen their growth slowing down as smaller church plants become attractive and more suited to the lifestyle of young people and their desire for family type fellowship and relationships.

It is no longer business as usual. Things are changing quickly in the Kingdom. Change is targeted and specific. Different in each place. But the one common feature of all the changes is the return to the primary focus of the Church – seeking and saving the lost. This is what Jesus came to do (Luke 19:10) and what He commanded His Church to do as we “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). When this becomes the focus of all true believers then we will see the pace of change increase and the growth of the Church reach epic Bible proportions. 

I believe we are on the verge of something so amazing and awesome…

Grab Hold Of Your Life! – Part Four

We have mentioned “margin” in this short series of blogs. We can only truly give from margin. Financially,. Emotionally. Vocationally.

Purposely living below our means and not buying everything the world says we need – and maybe saying no to an extra cqar, or a bigger house – leaves margin in our finances. It leaves space. We are spending less than what we have, so we have margin. And when we have margin, we have freedom. Freedom to give, freedom to invest, and freedom from stress.

Same goes with our time.

Don’t spend all the time you have. So you can be free and use it to serve.

When we read through the Gospels, some of the craziest stories about Jesus happened because He lived with margin. Because He had margin He let Himself be interrupted. He wasn’t in a hurry. What He was on His way to do could wait. He was open to the Spirit’s leading.

Most of us today schedule the Holy Spirit right out of our calendar, so we don’t have space to be ready to serve in the ordinary, mundane, unnoticed ways.

So many love to be busy. Volunteering at a scheduled service project. Taking a mission trip (and never seeing the people again after we leave). Leading a small group (but never seeing any of them the rest of the week).

I believe passionately that my street and neighbourhood matters. That we are called to live in those places and in those stories. And furthermore, within those ordinary places, we are called to live in ordinary moments as we go through our days, and to specifically and purposely create space (margin) so we have time for them. And for the people we live with. And next to. And see over and over again.

I wonderful, as do other leaders I relate to, if our busyness with ‘big things’ or ‘big dreams’ or the Great Commission (Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20 to go into all the nations and “make disciples”) is actually our excuse to not have to know the people who live next door?

When we hear the words Great Commission, we immediately think of going out from the call of Jesus to do superhero-type work in a big, loud way. I mean, Jesus Himself said “go and make disciples of all nations,” right?  

But have we somehow forgotten that the person across the hall, and the mailman, and the neighbour, and the barista qualify as people and live in a nation? So why do we have to go do some crazy big thing for God, when the command He gave us can be fulfilled by just being faithful and loving well over and over again?

We probably buy into this lie because we don’t remind ourselves that the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, are a highlight reel. It’s the memorable stories of the early church, compiled to pass on the teachings of Jesus and tell the story of the first-century movement. But it covers just under a hundred years, and it’s a pretty tiny book!

Christianity did not become a movement that turned the world upside down because a guy named Paul was crazy, brave, adventurous, and bold and travelled the world to tell others about Jesus. That contributed, sure. But the world got turned upside down because there were thousands of people who loved Jesus – people we will never hear about or whose names we will never know – and they ate dinners with the people around them.

They said hi to their neighbours.

They lived as witnesses in their daily routines.

Ministry is not just heading out to preach and teach in a church somewhere. Ministry is not just being ordained and having a position and title. Ministry is not this huge, public, notice me event that we plan and execute with precision. Ministry is simply living daily life aware of God’s presence, walking in His peace, releasing His power as we are led in the details of that daily life by the Holy Spirit. We need to choose to have a relatively “boring” life full of incredible richness and meaning. Not one overloaded with activities and events lived on the edge of exhaustion and collapse.

But, to have real life and thus real ministry to the people we come into contact daily we must first have margin. 

Seneca (an ancient philosopher) wrote that one of the more complex and truly confusing things about our human experience is how we treat time. And how we weirdly treat it so much differently than other assets or things under our rule. He said,

“No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbour can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives – worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passers-by, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers. You can only hand so many hours of your day over to other people before there is nothing left.”

Even if there is something left, you may have lost the clarity, the energy, and the capacity to do anything with it. 

Drink – Don’t Drive

A quote from an unknown source: “The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it.” One of the greatest lessons that I’m learning from God is that rest is not a sin. Taking a break doesn’t mean you are lazy or that you are not valuable. Catching your breath now and then does not mean you are not carrying your load, or that you are less committed to your church, your company, or your calling.

I have learned that scheduling rest in BEFORE my calendar fills up is really the way to go. rest is jot an afterthought; it has to be a primary responsibility. It brings a rhythm back to life and a cadence that makes like sustainable. If you are tired, your soul gets weary. And if your soul gets weary, you are depleted more than you can afford. If you were a long distance runner there is a rule that is followed; every fifteen minutes you drink six ounces of water. Even if you are not thirsty you are not allowed to violate your hydration limits. Here’s the point – If you wait until you are thirsty to take a drink, it’s too late. Your body is already into dehydration. The same is true spiritually for your soul and your spirit.

This is why God gave us the gift of rest (the Sabbath). And, today it seems that we have a hard time accepting His extravagant gift. We somehow imagine that the world (or our family, our marriage, our company) won’t be able to go on without our involvement. There is simply too much to do and no time to rest. Yet God says: “You shall do no work at all… it is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls.” (Leviticus 23:31-32) Did you hear what it said? In this version of the commandment it tells us the reason for a time of rest – a sabbath. It is to “humble your soul.”

What does that mean? God is saying that if we wait until the work is done before we rest, we will never rest. The work will never be done! So even in the midst of the work, we have to cease and rest. Wow! You mean, we are not indispensable? This may be a really rude awakening. but the fact is the world will go on even if we are not involved for a day. Don’t think about this one too long, but the world will also go on even after we depart this life. I know it is difficult to contemplate, but it is true. When we rest at predesignated intervals, we are reminding ourselves that ultimately God controls the outcomes, not me or all of my wonderful efforts. It is good for us to wean ourselves off the need to be needed. For many, this would be the beginning of health.

In fact, if we violate the Sabbath rest, something morphs in our soul. We start to get proud, edgy, anxious. The psalmist tells us, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2) God says, “Let Me humble your soul with rest. It is not all about you. I can get the work done even without you.” When we rest, God continues His work. When we reenter, it is with a humbled soul, hungry again for what He has called us to do. We return once again as a servant knowing that our Master can and did manage with us but that He is again offering us an opportunity to become involve din His work.

The lesson – drink in on regular intervals and stop driving yourself – take time to rest. In short form: Drink … Don’t Drive!

The Evening and the Morning – The Second Day

I am always amazed at God’s Word, our Bible. Every time I read it I learn something new. Not “learn” as in more information in my head; “learn” as in a heart revelation and thus transformation because of the new insights. An example: I am flying to Bishkek, Krygyzstan recently and I am reading and The Lord asked me, “When does your day begin?” When do you start your day?” Now, when The Lord asks me a question I know He is not looking for information – afterall, He is God and knows everything. He is asking so that I will learn (in my heart) a new truth and thus be transformed. My answer was, “Whenever I wake up!” Of course, at the time of asking I was mixing mornings and evenings up due to flying through 12 time zones on to the other side of Planet Earth. So, in reality I was not sleep and the morning and evenings were all mixed up. But, I digress.

God then showed me that if I were to look at the creation story (book of Genesis) where He created the days, we find these words: “So the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Genesis 1:5 NKJV). This pattern is repeated as God continues to create each successive day. “So the evening and the morning were the second day.” (Genesis 1:8 NKJV). In other words, God started each day in the evening, not the morning. Your day does not begin when you get up. It starts when you go to sleep. Rest begins your new day, not coffee.

I have been doing it wrong. I thought my day began with the morning’s coffee and the start of activities; but instead, it actually began with the evening’s rest. I was now in need of reprogramming my mind to that biblical reality. You see, the success of any short race is determined at the start, and now that my days obviously start in the evening – I needed to start better. There are two ways to win a race. One is to be faster than everyone else , and the other is to start sooner! In a normal race, that’s called cheating. But in life, it’s called wisdom. For an Olympain, it is called illegal. For a Christian, it is called biblical.

If you ever need to sleep in, learn to sleep in on the front side of the clock, not the back side. Simply put, your deepest sleep is when your REM cycles happen, and that typically takes place between 11:00p and 3:00a. That is when you will get your deepest sleep. If you miss getting to bed before 1:00a, you will have missed half your chance at receiving your deepest rest. You may think you can sleep in until 9:00a to get your eight hours of sleep. But you are mistaken! You will have had the sleep time, but not the rest. Your sleep will be shallow compared to what it could have been, and when you awaken just before noon, you will still feel sluggish and lethargic.

So, you can sleep in on the back side dumb, or sleep in on the front side smart. Go to bed at 9:00p and get up at 5:00a. Then you will have had eight hours of sleep – real sleep! Then you will have had a good night’s sleep – evening and morning – because you are cooperating with God’s design for the body.Learn to sleep on the front side of the clock. Sleep right and double your rest…

While in Montreal I am attempting to implement what I learned while flying to Bishkek.