Category  |  Spiritual Disciplines

Wake-Up Call!

During the years when I traveled frequently and stayed in a different city every night, I always scheduled a wake-up call when I checked into a hotel. Along with a personal alarm, I needed a jangling telephone to help get me out of bed and moving in the morning.

The book of Revelation contains a spiritual wake-up call in the apostle John’s letters to the seven churches in the province of Asia. To the church in Sardis he wrote this message from Jesus Himself: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God” (Rev. 3:1–2).

In the midst of spiritual fatigue, we may fail to notice the lethargy that creeps into our relationship with God. But the Lord tells us to “remember . . . what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent” (v. 3).

Many people find that scheduling some extra time each morning to read the Bible and talk to the Lord in prayer helps them stay spiritually alert. It’s not a job, but a joy to spend time with Jesus and know that He prepares us for whatever lies ahead that day.

Be Still

“We’ve created more information in the last five years than in all of human history before it, and it’s coming at us all the time” (Daniel Levitin, author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload).  “In a sense,” Levitin says, “we become addicted to the hyperstimulation.” The constant barrage of news and knowledge can dominate…

Enjoy the View

Sunsets. People tend to stop what they are doing to watch them . . . snap pictures of them . . . enjoy the beautiful view.

My wife and I watched the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico recently. A crowd of people surrounded us, mostly strangers who had gathered at the beach to watch this nightly phenomenon. At the moment the sun fully slipped below the horizon the crowd broke out with applause.

Why do people respond like that? The book of Psalms offers a clue. The psalmist wrote of God ordering the sun to praise its Creator (Ps. 148:3). And wherever the rays of the sun shine across the earth, people are moved to praise along with them.

The beauty that comes to us through nature speaks to our souls like few things do. It not only has the capacity to stop us in our tracks and captivate our attention, it also has the power to turn our focus to the Maker of beauty itself.

The wonder of God’s vast creation can cause us to pause and remember what’s truly important. Ultimately, it reminds us that there is a Creator behind the stunning entrance and exit of the day, One who so loved the world He made that He entered it in order to redeem and restore it.

When We Don’t Understand

Although I depend on technology every day to get my job done, I don’t understand much about how it works. I turn my computer on, bring up a Word document, and get to work on my writing. Yet my inability to comprehend how microchips, hard drives, Wi-Fi connections, and full-color displays actually function doesn’t get in the way of my benefiting from technology.

In a sense, this mirrors our relationship with God. Isaiah 55:8–9 reminds us that God is far beyond us: “’My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ”

Even though we don’t understand everything about God that doesn’t prevent us from trusting Him. He has proven His love for us. The apostle Paul wrote, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Trusting that love, we can walk with Him even when life doesn’t make sense.

Something I Should Know?

During a concert, singer-songwriter David Wilcox responded to a question from the audience about how he composes songs. He said there are three aspects to his process: a quiet room, an empty page, and the question, “Is there something I should know?” It struck me as a wonderful approach for followers of Jesus as we seek the Lord’s plan for our lives each day.

            Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, He took time to be alone in prayer. After feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, He sent His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee by boat while He dismissed the crowd (Matt. 14:22). “After [Jesus] had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night he was there alone” (v. 23).

            If the Lord Jesus saw the need to be alone with His Father, how much more we need a daily time of solitude to pour out our hearts to God, ponder His Word, and prepare to follow His directions. 

            A quiet room—anywhere we can focus on the Lord without distractions.

            An empty page—a receptive mind, a blank sheet of paper, a willingness to listen.

            Is there something I should know? “Lord, speak to me by Your Spirit, Your written Word, and the assurance of Your direction.”

            From that quiet hillside, Jesus descended into a violent storm, knowing exactly what His Father wanted Him to do (vv. 24-27).

No Drifting

At the end of one school semester, my wife and I picked up our daughter from her school 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. On our way back home we detoured to a nearby beach resort for snacks. While enjoying our time there, we watched the boats at the seashore. Usually they are anchored to prevent them from drifting away, but I noticed one boat drifting unhindered among the others—slowly and steadily making its way out to sea.

As we drove home, I reflected on the timely caution given to believers in the book of Hebrews: "We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away" (Heb. 2:1). We have good reason to stay close. The author of Hebrews says that while the Mosaic law was reliable and needed to be obeyed, the message of the Son of God is far superior. Our salvation is  “so great” in Jesus that He shouldn’t be ignored.

Drifting in our relationship with God is hardly noticeable at first; it happens gradually. However, spending time talking with Him in prayer and reading His Word, confessing our wrongs to Him, and interacting with other followers of Jesus can help us stay anchored in Him. As we connect with the Lord regularly, He will be faithful to sustain us, and we can avoid drifting away.

The Gallery of God

Psalm 100 is like a work of art that helps us celebrate our unseen God. While the focus of our worship is beyond view, His people make Him known.

Imagine the artist with brush and palette working the colorful words of this psalm onto a canvas. What emerges before our eyes is a world—“all the earth”—shouting for joy to the Lord (v. 1). Joy. Because it is the delight of our God to redeem us from death. “For the joy that was set before Him,” Jesus endured the cross (Heb. 12:2 nkjv).

As our eyes move across the canvas we see an all-world choir of countless members singing “with gladness” and “joyful songs” (Ps. 100:2). Our heavenly Father’s heart is pleased when His people worship Him for who He is and what He has done.

Then we see images of ourselves, fashioned from dust in the hands of our Creator, and led like sheep into green pasture (v. 3). We, His people, have a loving Shepherd.

Finally, we see God’s great and glorious dwelling place—and the gates through which His rescued people enter His unseen presence, while giving Him thanks and praise (v. 4).

What a picture, inspired by our God. Our good, loving, and faithful God. No wonder it will take forever to enjoy His greatness!

The Power of God’s Music

The Sound of Music, one of the most successful musical films ever produced, was released as a motion picture in 1965. It won many accolades, including five Academy Awards, as it captured the hearts and voices of people around the world. More than half a century later, people still attend special showings of the film where viewers come dressed as their favorite character and sing along during the performance.

 Music is deeply rooted in our souls. And for followers of Jesus, it is a powerful means of encouraging each other along the journey of faith. Paul urged the believers in Colosse, “Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts” (Col. 3:16 Phillips).

Singing together to the Lord embeds the message of His love in our minds and souls. It is a powerful ministry of teaching and encouragement that we share together. Whether our hearts cry out, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10), or joyfully shout, “And he will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15), the power of music that exalts God lifts our spirits and grants us peace.

Let us sing to the Lord today.

All His Benefits

A recurring difficulty on our journey of life is becoming so focused on what we need at the moment that we forget what we already have. I was reminded of that when our church choir sang a beautiful anthem based on Psalm 103. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (v. 2 nkjv). The Lord is our forgiver, healer, redeemer, provider, satisfier, and renewer (vv. 4-5). How could we forget that? And yet we often do when the events of daily life shift our attention to pressing needs, recurring failures, and circumstances that seem out of control.

The writer of this psalm calls us to remember, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious . . . He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” (vv. 8,10-11).

In our walk of faith, we come to Jesus Christ humbled by our unworthiness. There is no sense of entitlement as we receive His grace and are overwhelmed by the lavishness of His love. They remind us of all His benefits.

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name” (v. 1).

Related Topics

Spiritual Disciplines > Adoration

Enjoy the View

Sunsets. People tend to stop what they are doing to watch them . . . snap pictures of them . . . enjoy the beautiful view.

My wife and I watched the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico recently. A crowd of people surrounded us, mostly strangers who had gathered at the beach to watch this nightly phenomenon. At the moment the sun fully slipped below the horizon the crowd broke out with applause.

Why do people respond like that? The book of Psalms offers a clue. The psalmist wrote of God ordering the sun to praise its Creator (Ps. 148:3). And wherever the rays of the sun shine across the earth, people are moved to praise along with them.

The beauty that comes to us through nature speaks to our souls like few things do. It not only has the capacity to stop us in our tracks and captivate our attention, it also has the power to turn our focus to the Maker of beauty itself.

The wonder of God’s vast creation can cause us to pause and remember what’s truly important. Ultimately, it reminds us that there is a Creator behind the stunning entrance and exit of the day, One who so loved the world He made that He entered it in order to redeem and restore it.

When We Don’t Understand

Although I depend on technology every day to get my job done, I don’t understand much about how it works. I turn my computer on, bring up a Word document, and get to work on my writing. Yet my inability to comprehend how microchips, hard drives, Wi-Fi connections, and full-color displays actually function doesn’t get in the way of my benefiting from technology.

In a sense, this mirrors our relationship with God. Isaiah 55:8–9 reminds us that God is far beyond us: “’My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ”

Even though we don’t understand everything about God that doesn’t prevent us from trusting Him. He has proven His love for us. The apostle Paul wrote, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Trusting that love, we can walk with Him even when life doesn’t make sense.

The Gallery of God

Psalm 100 is like a work of art that helps us celebrate our unseen God. While the focus of our worship is beyond view, His people make Him known.

Imagine the artist with brush and palette working the colorful words of this psalm onto a canvas. What emerges before our eyes is a world—“all the earth”—shouting for joy to the Lord (v. 1). Joy. Because it is the delight of our God to redeem us from death. “For the joy that was set before Him,” Jesus endured the cross (Heb. 12:2 nkjv).

As our eyes move across the canvas we see an all-world choir of countless members singing “with gladness” and “joyful songs” (Ps. 100:2). Our heavenly Father’s heart is pleased when His people worship Him for who He is and what He has done.

Then we see images of ourselves, fashioned from dust in the hands of our Creator, and led like sheep into green pasture (v. 3). We, His people, have a loving Shepherd.

Finally, we see God’s great and glorious dwelling place—and the gates through which His rescued people enter His unseen presence, while giving Him thanks and praise (v. 4).

What a picture, inspired by our God. Our good, loving, and faithful God. No wonder it will take forever to enjoy His greatness!

Spiritual Disciplines > Fasting

Time Out

El Bulli restaurant, 2 hours north of Barcelona, is so popular that customers must reserve a table 6 months in advance. But noted Spanish chef Ferran Adrià decided to close the doors of his award-winning restaurant for 2 years so he and his staff could have time to think, plan, and innovate. Adrià told Hemispheres Magazine, “If we are winning all the prizes, why change? Working 15 hours a day leaves us very little time to create.” In the midst of great success, they took time out for what is most important to them.

For The God I Love

A couple of years ago in our church we did a sermon series on the Old Testament tabernacle. Leading up to the message on the table of showbread, I did something I had never done before—I fasted from food for several days. I fasted because I wanted to experience the truth that “man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3). I wanted to deny myself something I love, food, for the God I love more. As I fasted, I followed Jesus’ teaching about fasting in Matthew 6:16-18.