Monday, August 11, 2014

What in the World is Going On

I don't consider myself to be an expert in eschatology by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, anyone who says they know the details of how the end times will unfold is most assuredly wrong. God has preserved an element of mystery while also providing enough detail for His people to be prepared. And so I look at what is happening in our world with great interest. As I do, I have so say that it seems as if (at a minimum) the stage is being set for our Savior's return. Let me give you a few reasons why I believe this is true.
  1. All Eyes on Israel - Events in Israel continue to capture the headlines as the world increasingly criticizes the Jewish people in their defense against the terrorist attacks from Hamas. Multiple cease fires have been broken and each time Israel has been on the defensive from the barrage of rockets fired from Gaza behind their human shield of innocent women and children. And yet, the wave of antisemitism growing in our world is matched only by what was witnessed during the time Hitler's evil reign.  It is right to pay attention to Israel because God is not yet finished with the covenant promise He made to His people.  He will bless those who bless His people and He will curse those who curse them.  In the end, it is the church who may be Israel's only friend.  Keep your eyes on Israel.
  2. An Alliance of Evil - The growing alliance between Russian and Iran must not be ignored.  This is a partnership that is unprecedented in history and yet the Bible promises it will be a major factor in the end times.  The growing unrest in Ukraine and the atrocities of shooting down a commercial jet liner seem to hide behind the shadows.  Despite the economic sanctions imposed by the west, Russia has been strengthened by an historic $20 billion oil deal with Iran to by pass the Western sanctions.  Keep your eyes on this alliance.
  3. Hidden Atrocities - Also almost undetected is the bloody civil war in Syria that has left over 170,00 dead and millions of refugees fleeing for safety.  The Islamic extremist group, know as ISIS, is sweeping through much of Iraq killing scores of Christians and other religious minorities.  Their demands are simple, "Convert to Islam or Die!"  Their brutal rampage includes the beheading of children, crucifying Christians and massacres of genocidal proportion.  Keep your eyes on this growing evil.
  4. Transition of Power - In all this chaos, it has been to policy of the United States to keep their hands clean.  Our passive approach to these world events was only slightly (and reluctantly) modified when President Obama recently gave permission to allow the US military to protect the interest of the United States in the southern region of Kurdistan if they had to.  Our airstrikes seemed to have slowed the progression of the ISIS onslaught in the area but it's certainly not enough to remove the threat completely.  The United States is equipping the Kurdish army, known as Peshmerga, to fight this battle on their own.  This is of special interest from a biblical perspective because the ancestors of the Kurds are known in the Bible as the Medes.  The Medes have a key role in destroying Babylon in the end times so keep your eye on Kurdistan.
  5. The Silence of America - One of the most nagging questions when considering the end time is the role of one of the most influential countries in the world, the United States of America.  And yet, the Bible seems to be silent on the subject.  It's as if we don't exist.  And yet we are witnessing a time in history when America is increasingly losing respect and influence in foreign affairs.  Our own economic crisis only compounds this problem.  Perhaps we simply implode in an economic crisis that prevents us from making any meaningful impact in world events.  No one knows, but keep your eyes on America.
Regardless of your agreement or difference of opinion on these matters, I hope we can all conclude, at the very least, that these events should cause us to pray.  Brothers and sisters in Christ are being killed and persecuted and they should consistently occupy our minds and be the focus of our prayers.  In addition, whether the Lord is returning in 3 months or in 3000 years, we should always stand ready for His arrival.  The fields are white with harvest and until his return we are called to spread the good news of the Gospel as  Ambassadors for Christ and Ministers of reconciliation.  So be committed to your calling so that when Christ does return, He will find you faithful.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Endurance of a Nation

I recently finished a book by Joel Rosenberg entitled, The Auschwitz Escape. I purchased the audio version of this novel so that I could listen to during my morning jog. Like most of this authors other titles, this novel is a work of historical fiction. Which simply means that although the characters in the story are fictional, many of the events are historically true. This particular account follows the life of a Jewish boy who was caught in the turmoil of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power during WWII. The details of his experience in the Nazi death camp in Aushwitz was deeply moving. As I finished the book this week, I was wiping tears from my face as I jogged through my neighborhood streets. It was a moving reminder of the plight of the Jewish people during such a tragic time in our history. And yet, it is just one of the stories involving God’s people. They suffered during their slavery to Egypt and the oppression of the Roman Empire. Even as we speak, the nation of Israel wakes up to a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza. The rhetoric of Muslim leaders around the world is a call to completely “eliminate the Zionist regime”. And yet God made a covenant promise that protects the enemies of Israel from ever accomplishing this threat. He will one day restore the nation of Israel under the rule of Jesus as their Messiah and King. Until that day, may we pray for the nation of Israel to see the hope of their salvation in their Messiah today.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Beauty of God's Design

Let’s talk about rain… that’s something near and dear to us here in West Texas. And let’s go back to where the process begins - the ocean. This is the place where water that ultimately falls on our crops must begin its journey. This is where the sun causes the water in the ocean to evaporate… a process by which water stops being water for a while so that it can go up and not down. It rises as a vapor until it forms a cloud. And once in the sky, the clouds actually begin to remove all the salt from the ocean water, because saltwater on our crops would kill them. Once purified, these tiny droplets of water begin to form around microscopic particles of sand. This cloud of water then travels hundreds of miles carrying billions of pounds of water. In fact, one square inch of rain, which falls on one square mile of farmland, would be almost about 2 million gallons, or 1.6 billion lbs of water. So billions of pounds of water ascend from the earth, traveling hundreds of miles in the sky, and then it all falls back to the earth with a gentle tap of a rain drop… giving life to the fields, to the animals, and to us. Now let’s turn from a rain drop to a tear drop. Tears are the lubrication system for the eyes. Inside each tear drop is a thin layer of oil that keeps water in your eye from evaporating. That’s important because tears give clarity to your vision… which is why you blink in order to see more clearly. And have you ever started crying when you cut onions? Do you know why? It’s because onions release a chemical that turns to sulfuric acid when it comes in contact with the eye. But those tears make that sulfuric acid harmless… and even though it stings, your tears are actually keeping you from going blind. In fact, each teardrop is filled with all kinds of antibacterial agents that fight infection in your eye every second of every day. Even tears that are released when you’re sad have a purpose. How many of you have actually felt better after a good cry when you’re sad? There’s a reason for that! The chemicals that accumulate in your body during times of stress are released in incredibly high concentration through your tears. I give you these examples because I want you to see the deep complexity in the apparent simplicity of God’s design, because we are just scratching the surface. All we’re talking about is rain drops and tear drops. But even in them we see the miraculous beauty of God’s design guided by His infinite wisdom. You see, God understands how life is supposed to work because it was His idea to begin with. He wants us to live in the beauty of His design. And when we learn to walk in wisdom, guided by His Word and empowered by His Spirit, we experience more than we could ever ask or imagine. It is a profit that is greater than silver or gold and more precious than jewels. Nothing you desire could ever compare to the richness of who you are in Christ!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Celebrating Freedom

Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence declaring America’s independence from Britain. It’s one of my favorite holidays because it is often filled with many of my favorite things: cookouts, family, friends and fireworks! It is a great celebration as we enjoy the freedom we have in our country that many in our world will never know. But actually, at Melonie Park Church, we began this celebration of freedom a week early... but in a different way. We celebrated the testimonies of changed lives through baptism. People spoke of the new freedom they found through faith in Jesus Christ. A freedom from the penalty of sin and the hope of a new life in Christ. I love the way Eugene Peterson portrays the picture baptism in The Message. He says,
“That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace = a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism in the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of is raised into a light filled world by our Father so that we can see where we are going in our new grace-sovereign country.”
As we celebrated the freedom we have in our country, always remember that this world is not our home. We live in a new life in a new land where grace reigns through faith in Jesus Christ. May your life tell the story of His redemption every single day!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Telling Your Story

Memorials are an important part of God’s story in our lives and the Bible is filled with examples. God often uses these memorials to create a conversation that He expects to be passed down from one generation to the next. And this was particularly important for the ancient cultures who depended on their oral tradition as a primary means of communication. In fact, much of what they knew about God was based on the stories the children heard from their parents and relatives in their own social community. This is hard for us to appreciate in the digital age because we often don’t need other people to gain information. For example, if you want to know about a subject, all you have to do is “Google it”. As a result, we don’t often share our personal stories of how God is at work in our lives. In fact, I read a recent study that revealed 40% of church going Christian homes either rarely or never discussed spiritual matters as a family. It is the absence of these stories that can make God into a subject I might learn about instead of a person I get to know. That’s why I want to encourage the body of Christ to be committed to telling their story. We need to raise up the next generation of Christian disciples by teaching them how they might know the living God in a real and personal way as we have come to know Him ourselves. Take some time on this Memorial Day to consider how you might continue the tradition of men and women who have been faithful to tell their story.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Hope of Rose

Well, I went to visit my friend Lisa this weekend, just like I encouraged others to do. It’s easy for me to give out advice that I am unwilling to follow and so I took the time to go and visit my sweet friend in the Lord. Lisa was up in her chair and she grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. She went on to explain (as she always does) how good God has been to her and what she has learned from listening to sermons and devotionals that she engages with most every day. Lisa spoke these words over the hum of a ventilator machine that was helping her breath. But that machine was the only reminder that Lisa was in poor health because her spirit is alive and well. During our conversation, she brought up the Easter message and told me, “I heard what you said brother Todd. Jesus is our only hope. I believe that.” Well of course she does. Unlike you and I, she isn’t distracted by the success of a career and the allure of riches. She doesn’t have a family or a marriage that is a security for her. Her health is failing and the promise of healing gives her no hope. Instead, she looks beyond this life and understands that the promise of hope is yet to come. Hope is not an emotion… hope is a person. About that time, I look over at her roommate Rose. Rose is paralyzed from the neck down and I have never seen her in any other position than lying motionless on her back. Mentally, she appears to be a bright person but a stroke has robbed her of her ability to speak. Although she can mouth the words, she cannot make the sounds. I try hard to understand what she says and so when I saw her trying to tell me something, I went up close to her face and watched her lips as she said, “I have that hope too.” Wow! What a humbling reminder. “If we are to hope in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1Cor 15:19) I can only pray that I can have the hope of Rose in both sickness and in health. A hope not limited to my present reality but in the promise of things that are yet to come. Hope is not an emotion... hope is a person. And that person is Jesus Christ. Thank you for the reminder Rose!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sunday was Palm Sunday. The day the crowds were ready to crown Jesus as king. "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest." This is the day they had been waiting for... the day Israel would be set free from the oppression of Roman rule... the day the promised Messiah would deliver his people and establish His kingdom on earth. The air was filled with anticipation, and as the night grew dark, the excitement refused to sleep. The next day, Jesus walks into the temple and what He observes makes His stomach turn. The same people who were ready to make Him king were now in the temple preparing their hearts for worship. But instead of bringing their own animals, those that were without spot or blemish, they simply bought one from the merchants in the temple courts. Of course, they weren't as good as the animals they had at home, but it sure was more convenient. And in the end, it allowed them to fulfill their religious obligation without a great deal of personal cost. Jesus looked at the compromise that filled the temple and he knew it reflected the hearts of those who wanted to crown him as king. They liked the idea of worshiping God on their terms. They preferred a religion that minimized sacrifice and maximized benefit. They were all for Jesus when He did what they wanted Him to do. But when He began to turn over the tables in the temple, they just stood and stared. They began to realize that this might actually cost them something. It was a subtle but important shift. Those who were ready to crown Jesus as king began to wonder if this was such a good idea. After all, they like the idea of Jesus as one who would conquer their enemies and give them a comfortable life, but they were not as excited about the idea of Him ruling over their heart as well. They preferred the idea of a customized Messiah that came with minimal cost and maximal benefit... and we are not all that different.

Monday, March 24, 2014

I'm Discouraged

I have not written in recent weeks because I just didn't feel like I had anything worth saying. To be honest, I've been discouraged. I've seen the evidence of the enemy's attacks in what seems like every direction I turn. I've stood at the graveside of young parents who had to bury a child that didn't live long enough to see the light of day. I've looked into the eyes of a wife who has been abandoned by her husband... I've seen the same look of pain in the eyes of a husband whose love has been repeated rejected by his wife. Our church had an intruder who broke in and stole instruments and equipment used by those who help lead worship on Sunday mornings. People I've discipled have walked away from the church and the list goes on and on. And then I turn on the TV and listen to Carl Sagan's mentor speak of the spiritual connection he feels with science in knowing that all living things are connected in a great web of life that originated for the spontaneous evolution of a single life giving cell. I see a Russian tyrant have his way in the world because everyone else is too impotent or too apathetic to do anything about it. It's discouraging! It's discouraging because it's times like these that it "feels like" the enemy is winning. Like he's gaining ground and we are losing hope. Now, intellectually I know that's not true. I'm a pastor for goodness sake and so I know all the right answers. But I'm also a human being and sometimes it just "feels like" the prince of this world is advancing at a greater rate than the kingdom of God. And then God spoke to my heart as I prepared another sermon in our study of Nehemiah. Here you have a remnant of Jews, who are in the midst of a spiritual revival, trying to take steps of faith as they re-build the wall their enemies have destroyed. They are good people trying to do a good work for God. And yet, what does the enemy do? He shows up to mock the Jews and their miserable conditions. He belittles the work they are doing and threatens to terminate their progress by taking their life. As a result, the workers begin to crumble under the pressure. "The strength of the workers is failing and there is too much work to do. We are convinced that we will never be able to finish the wall." I look at those workers and I see myself. I too easily listen to the lies of the enemy and start to believe they are true. After most Sundays, I go through a mild to moderate depression as the enemy whispers in my ear, "Boy, that was a lot of work but I'm not sure anyone was listening. Did you notice that person nodding off? Is what you have to say really making a difference? The church sure had a lot of empty seats. Maybe your mission is failing." The enemy knows where it hurts and that's where he attacks. Like we see in Nehemiah, his goal is to discourage you enough that you will lost hope and quit. He speaks lies into those areas in your life where you struggle and doubt. It's like a person who stands over a piano and sings a note. Without touching the piano at all, the string that matches the note that is sung will begin to resonate. In the same way, Satan will speak a lie that will resonate in the areas where you struggle. For me, he tells me that I'm failing. That what I am doing is not making a difference. And if I'm not careful, I begin to believe this is true. I start to lose hope. And so as Nehemiah taught the Jews, I go to the Lord in prayer. I speak honestly about what is on my heart and I let the truth of His word speak louder in my life than any lie of the enemy. I crawl under the shelter of my God and know that He has gone before me. This battle belongs to Him. His is the victor, and when I belong to Him, His victory is my reward. I am more than a conqueror in Christ who saved me and set me free. I am an ambassador for Christ, a minister of reconciliation, and I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. That truth of the gospel is what informs every aspect of my life. For what Christ accomplished on the cross has not only transformed my life but it has given me a new and everlasting hope. And the hope of God does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. I will take up the full armor of God so that I will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Because greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. I cling to this truth, because He alone is my rock and my salvation. In Him I will not be greatly shaken!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Every Member a Missionary

It’s all part of God’s original design. Man and woman, created in the image of God. Instructed by God to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth as stewards of His creation. God designed mankind to live in fellowship with Him and in loving unity with one another. His original plan would accomplish God's goal of filling the earth with the goodness of His presence through the blessing of walking in fellowship with Him. But sin changed all that. Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan to doubt God’s provision. They were convinced to live outside of God’s design, and at that moment, everything changed. Instead of seeking to walk with God, they hid from Him. Instead of encouraging one another they blamed each other for their own mistakes. And this same corruption of sin now resides in the heart of every descendant born from the seed of Adam. As Paul explains to the Romans, “There is none righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks for God. All have turned aside.” Sin brings death by separating us from what we were created to enjoy from the beginning—fellowship with God and unity with one another. Only the cross can change our hopeless condition. It is Jesus who restores what sin has destroyed. Only through faith in Him can we live according to our original design. Which includes the great commission given at the beginning of creation. The cross redeems the mission of filling the earth with the goodness of God’s presence as His Spirit now indwells the heart of every believer. Every member in the body of Christ is called to be a missionary who declares God’s redeeming love to the world! But don't overlook the power of sins deception. Our enemy continues to offer His distractions that lure us away from our original design. Like the good and pleasing apple, there is no outward sign of corruption. In fact, what we see in front of us is often good for us and our family. It can be a delight to the eyes with promises of so much good to be gained. But we must listen closely for the hint of a hiss in anything that draws us away from dependance on God or distracts from the call to be His light to the world. Just because its good, doesn't mean it's from God. He created you with a purpose and the cross has redeemed you to live according to your original design. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Celebrate God's Grace

The book of Nehemiah records an occasion when Ezra the priest stood before the people and read the Book of the Law. In hearing the words of the Lord, the people "bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground." (Neh 8:6) This is a response of a people who have been in captivity for 70 years. A people who have not heard God's Word, and for the most part, have not lived according to its truth. Their only right response is to worship the One they have all but forgotten. The passage goes on to explain how certain men were appointed to take what had been read and then go to the people to teach them what it means. Once again, "they read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." (Neh 8:8) After doing this, the people have a completely different response. It says, "the people wept as they heard the words of the Law." (Neh 8:9) So why such a dramatically different response? First it was worship and then it was weeping. I think what we see is often reflected in our own life as well. We go through the routine of religious observance and find ourselves worshiping a God who is very far off. We stand before Him and exalt the holiness of His name but we don't always understand how what He says applies to our life. His truth becomes personal only when we draw near to the Lord and listen to what He says to our heart. A place where His holiness comes close enough to reveal our sin. This is where our worship turns to weeping because we are undone. Like Isaiah we proclaim, "I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips". But God's grace does not allow us to remain in this place. Ezra and Nehemiah know this to be true and so this is what they say to the people:
"Go your way. Eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to the Lord. And do not be grieved for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
They tell them to put aside their weeping and throw a party instead. Why? Because the grace of God is worth celebrating. We are to be strengthened by the joy of the Lord who's delight is in our redemption. He wants us to see our sin in the light of His forgiveness and grace. Because without drawing near, we continue to carry the burden of sin along with us. But God wants to set us free and give us a reason to celebrate. Lord, I want to draw near to you so that your Word becomes personal in my life. I want you to search me O God and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in your everlasting way. Set me free in the joy of your forgiveness and grace to the praise and glory of your great Name! Teach me to celebrate your grace.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rejoice in Suffering

I'll admit, I don't get it. It's counterintuitive. This whole idea of rejoicing in times of suffering is difficult to grasp. I read the account of the apostles preaching in Jerusalem as "more than ever believers were being added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women." This turn of events and the attention being given to the saving message of the gospel was unacceptable to the religious leaders. So they took the apostles and threw them in jail. Only for them to be miraculously released to go right back to the temple in order to pick up where they left off last. Once again they were captured and brought before the religious council who forbid them to continue any more teaching in Jesus name. Peter, speaking on behalf of the others said, "We must obey God rather than men." In other words, you can forbid us if you want to but we will only do what the Lord has called us to do. In order for the religious leaders to put some teeth into their demands, they punished the apostles with a beating before sending them out. And the amazing thing is, as they walk away, skin bleeding and body bruised, the scripture says,
"Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." (Acts 5:41)
As you read closely, you'll find that the apostles didn't rejoice in their beating. They didn't enjoy their physical suffering in a kind of sadistic euphoria. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Christ. They realized that the lashing they received was they same that was given to their Savior. After all, they (like Jesus) were not being punished for a crime. These religious leaders didn't have a problem with the apostles per se. They had a problem with their message. And so, in the end, they rejoiced because they knew that the message they were preaching was being heard. For many who were seeking a Savior, it was the good news of salvation. But for those who were doing just fine on their own, it was an irritable inconvenience to their preferred way of life. But in either case, it was confirmation for the apostles that the good news of salvation in Christ was heard and understood by all. Lord, I too desire to be in a place where I might rejoice when suffering dishonor for Your name. Where my life is so centered around your gospel that my reaction to circumstances is not judged by the presence or absence of pain, but instead, on the understanding of the message I am called to proclaim. I realize that some with respond with great joy, while others will lash out with hatred. But may I realize that the reaction, in both situations, is not based on me and what I have done. It is a response to your truth which is salvation to some and foolishness to others. In whatever I do (or not do), may it be for the glory of your name.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Practicing What You Preach

Ezra was leading a spiritual revival among the people of Israel. By an edict from the ruling King of Persia, Israel was being released from their slavery in Babylon and allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of God. But all along the way, they were being ridiculed and attacked by enemies who were not pleased to see them return to the land. A land now occupied by those who did not believe in the one true God. Ezra knew that they had been given permission by the highest authority in the land, but that didn't mean that the people were going to make it easy on them along the way. And Ezra had made it known that God would be their true refuge and strength. But now it was time for that testimony to be put to the test. Ezra would be transporting priceless articles for the temple some 500 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem. He would be walking right through enemy territory carrying silver and gold, bowls and vessels that were certain to draw the attention of those who would be more than willing to lighten their load. But Ezra had a dilemma: He had made a claim to the king that was sure to be tested. Here is what he said:
For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horseman to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, "The hand of our God is for good on all who seek Him, and the power of His wrath is against all who forsake Him." Ezra 8:22
In other words, we've got to practice what we preach if we really believe it is true. Either we trust God to be faithful or we look for other means to help us along the way. What a dilemma for Ezra that is equally as relevant in our lives today. Here we are in the Bible Belt of America and we can recite verse after verse of things we claim to be true. But what is our response when God calls us to practice what we preach? Namely, those impossible situations in life that may seem foolish from the world's perspective (kind of like walking into enemy territory with a buffet of priceless artifacts). For example, do we trust God's ability to redeem the marriage of an unfaithful but repentant spouse? Do we sacrifice an advancement in our career to pursue a life in ministry? Are we willing to trust that God can comfort those we love who suffer from an incurable disease? In the end, is there anything in my life that is just too big for Him to handle that would require me to go my own way. Or do I truly believe that He is faithful to carry me through? Lord, help me to live a life that truly trusts in you. Give me strength in those moments when my faith is put to the test. When I am called to practice what I preach. No matter what I face, help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to live out my faith in both word and deed as I proclaim: "You alone are my Rock and my salvation; my stronghold, and in You I will not be greatly shaken." (Ps62:2)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Living a Jet Ski Life

Every year I take a week of silence and solitude to pray, plan and prepare for what I will be teaching in the coming year. God has been so faithful to allow this to be such a profitable time for both me and the work of ministry at Melonie Park Church where I serve. But now that I've done this for a few years, I have learned to anticipate some predictable challenges. For example, I know I will need to work through the weight of loneliness that I feel most acutely when I wake up that first morning and no one is around. Right alongside the loneliness is the deafening sound of silence. Clocks ticking. The refrigerator coming to life with a steady hum and then holding its breath in silence. I've learned to anticipate the sense of panic when I look at what I have set out to do and become instantly overwhelmed with the certainty that there is no possible way to get it all done. These things I've learned to expect, but this year I encountered something new. Each day I woke up and began my work of praying, reading and studying. I stopped briefly to eat on occasion and continued my work until late at night. On average, I probably spent about 15 hours a day trying diligently to maximize the benefit of this time. But as the week went on, I realized that I was like a starving child seeking to satisfy his hunger by gorging on food recently delivered by the Red Cross. It was as if my soul had become so emaciated from the absence of silence and reflection that I felt compelled to greedily devour every waking moment. I even had trouble stopping to sleep at night in fear that I didn't consume enough time and would soon be returning home to live on the rations of a fast paced, sound bite, twitter feed, pace of life. I realized my soul was starving for the nourishment that can only be gained when I stop long enough to be still... bowing low to cup my hands into the spring of Living Water, where God alone can satisfy my soul. Stepping away has caused me to recognize the effect of living in our fast paced world. As media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s (yes, 50 years ago):
"Media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."
That's the world we live in. And perhaps there is a method behind the madness of our highly fragmented information age. Maybe, just maybe, our enemy is behind the schemes of this world and His desire is to keep us moving so fast that we never really stop long enough to feast on the richness of God's love. Oh, we might wave as we zip by on our Jet Ski, but we no longer stop long enough to have a meaningful conversation. We don't go to the quiet place of prayer and reflection to nourish the deepest part of our soul. I think our enemy may be keeping us occupied while he is starving us to death. Lord, forgive me for falling into the enemy's trap. I'm sorry for ever believing that anything in life could possibly be more important than finding my rest in You. Teach me to slow down. Help me step away and be still before You. To listen... to reflect... to pray. I need You to speak words of life into my soul. To nourish me with Your Word... To patiently and lovingly lead me in Your everlasting way. You have my attention. I want to be all Yours. I'm listening now.