Blessed Quietness

Noise is everywhere! Music blaring over the speaker system in the clothing stores, loud diesel pickup trucks billowing their smoke as they scream by your house, parents hollering threats at their children as they make their way through Wal-Mart, phone notifications and text messages keeping us on edge, etc.

Sadly, too many of us do not know how to be still or even how to deal with “awkward” quiet. For far too many, our lives are characterized by rush, running, and racket.

While being on sabbatical this month, one of the blessings that has come our way has been times of quiet and stillness. They have come to us seated by the lake at Watauga Point for the afternoon, enjoying the gardens outside Boone Tavern Inn after breakfast, outdoor supper by a quiet brook at Pottery Barn Cafe & Grille, on our back porch, in our family room, and on the deck and the upstairs window seat of a friend’s lake cottage to name a few.

Blessed Quietness, a hymn from yesteryear, speaks to that which alludes so many. How can you know and experience that blessed quietness?

The fourth stanza says, “What a wonderful salvation, where we always see God’s face! What a perfect habitation, what a quiet resting place!” First of all, you must have the chaos in your sinful heart and soul quieted by the resting work of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ alone. On the cross when Jesus was crucified, He declared, It is finished, and He bowed His and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). The work of salvation was complete (Isaiah 53:4-6; Ephesians 2:8-9). The greatest rest for man comes with the complete assurance of full salvation through the complete work of Jesus Christ. Take time to read the following: John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28; 17:3; 1 John 5:11-13.

Second, meditate and operate in life through the familiar words of Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (1-4).

In Hebrew, the words for ‘still waters’ in Psalm 23:2b are “Mai Menochot”, meaning literally, “restful waters”. Our Shepherd wants to lead us to a place of rest, a place of trust, a place of confidence, a place where you rely on Him and focus on Him without anything that will distract you. He wants to take the “heavy load” from your life and replace it with His everlasting peace and rest. (Moran, Hope4Israel.org)

Begin each day with quiet in the presence of your Shepherd. Bathe your soul in the Word of God and prayer. Rest in Him as you read. When you pray, talk out loud to God, but then stop and listen to Him speak quietly to you. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 42:1; Philippians 4:6-8).

Men, you take the lead. Discipline yourself to have times of uninterrupted quiet with the Lord. Designate a place at home, in the woods, on a walk, or by a creek where you can read the Word and commune with the Lord. Here’s a helpful resource.

Husbands, make sure your wife has times of solitude. She is your first ministry.

Dads, teach your children how to be still before the Lord even when they are young.

We will always have noise around us, but don’t let it rob you of the stillness of salvation and your relationship with The Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. Exchange the rush, running and racket for blessed quietness.

Blessed quietness, holy quietness,
what assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea He speaks peace to me,
how the billows cease to roll
!

21 Days of Prayer (Day #14)

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

For fourteen days you have joined with your brothers and sisters in Christ meeting at the Throne of Grace! During these two weeks, you have been challenged to pray with praise, thanksgiving, and gratitude, to intercede for others, to pray contemplating the greatness of God, to believe God for His increase, to consider the sovereignty and compassion of God, to not forsake prayer gatherings, to cry out for our sin-sick nation, and to pray through trials walking in victory.

As you look back over these fourteen days, . . .

  • What has impacted your life about God, about His Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit?
  • What has the Holy Spirit revealed to you about yourself that has led to repentance and a sweeter walk with Christ in you?
  • How has your life of prayer (not your prayer life) changed, been encouraged, and motivated?
  • Has your time in prayer been motivated out of trying to have a relationship with God or because you have a relationship with God Who lives in you?
  • Have you sensed a greater burden and delight in prayer?
  • Have you had times of conversation with your Heavenly Father rather than a one-way chat? Did you pour out your heart and then listen to Him speak or it was just ritualistic prayer phrases?
  • Can you go a day now without praying?

As we embark on this final week leading up to Resurrection Sunday, may your relationship with God in prayer increase even more in view of the empty tomb and the intercession of our living Christ on our behalf right now! May you see God at work all around you each day as your heart for Him is made more sensitive to the One Who indwells you and walks with you as you participate in Christ’s life!

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ”
― John Bunyan

21 Days of Prayer (Day #10)

“Thank you for this 21 day journey. I am one who does not fast well, and I have never been moved to do it, but I was reminded that there are other types of fasts. I for one have now been convicted that I consume far too much political junk food all day. Time for a fast from a chunk of that! Time to re-sort those things.” These are the words from a text I received yesterday morning and used with permission. What rejoicing it brought to my heart! This believer gets it!

Yesterday’s reading took me to Nehemiah 1-2. Nehemiah receives news from Hanani concerning the destruction in Jerusalem. The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire (1:3). He had known some facts of the situation before, but this detailed firsthand account moved him in a powerful way. In verse 4 we read, So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

There are two things that I want you to get from this today.

First of all, note the descriptive words of 1:4. Nehemiah was broken. Indeed, we should be driven and motivated to prayer by the love God has for us and the love of Christ in us, but are you driven to prayer because you are broken over the destruction caused by your own sin, rebellion, pride, disobedience and unbelief? Please catch that as Nehemiah prays (1:5-11), he doesn’t use the pronouns “they” or “you.” He includes himself by the use of “I” and “we.” So much so, you read in 1:6-7, Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. If we are to see a move of God at BCBC, His INCREASE (1 Corinthians 3:7-8), we must be broken!!

Consider something with me, please. Have you ever been so burdened in prayer that you cried out to God in verbal anguish of heart and soul? Did the tears course down your cheeks? Did you find yourself groaning, aching over the burden, weeping over sin, responding in such a fashion as we see with Nehemiah, David (Psalm 34:17-18; 51:1-17), and Jesus (Luke 22:44)?

You see, prayer doesn’t lead you to brokenness until your pride and preferences die (Romans 6). Jesus said, Not MY will but Thine be done (Luke 22:42). “MY” will must die before it is resurrected into “THY” will. This is the power of the cross and the resurrection. Death to self; alive to Christ in you (Galatians 2:20).

Second of all, please note that Nehemiah fasted. Remember, the purpose of fasting is for a Christ-centered, biblical purpose. My challenge to you this week is to set aside whatever will remind you, “I’m giving this up so I can spend time before the Lord in prayer.” For instance, if it is giving up a meal, when you want to eat, let the hunger pain remind you of the greater need of prayer! If you are giving up social media for a week, every time you want to check Facebook, let that be a reminder to pray for God’s increase at BCBC, for lost souls to be saved, and for revival among our church family.

Brokenness and fasting—two important ingredients too often missing in the believer’s life of prayer. Today, let’s . . .

  • Read the passages of Scripture given in today’s prayer challenge and answer the questions. Will you be broken?
  • Consider what needs to be set aside this week in fasting in order to be more aware of the need of prayer and the presence of Christ in you.

21 Days of Prayer (Day #9)

Praise the Lord for all of you who have joined us on this 21 day journey. My heart was thrilled to see the number of hands raised in the morning gathering signifying their commitment to prayer.

Why 21 days? According to www.biblestudy.org, “Twenty-one symbolizes the great wickedness of rebellion and sin. After the children of Israel left Egyptian bondage they had 21 major rebellious events as they traveled and wandered in the wilderness.”

On Monday, February 8th, while driving to Kingsport, TN, and talking with the Lord about the future at Boones Creek Bible Church and the sin that abounds in our world today, He brought prayer and fasting to my mind.

On Tuesday, February 9th, one of the passages in my daily Bible reading was Luke 5:35, But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days, which set my mind to thinking about fasting and prayer. Then I read in Philippians 2:21, For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. A reason to fast is to break us away from a self-seeking mentality. Warren Wiersbe said, “In a very real sense, all of us live either in Philippians 1:21, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain, or in Philippians 2:21.” Then I read Psalm 119:145-152 which speaks of crying out to the LORD with our whole heart.

On Wednesday, February 10th, continuing to seek the Lord’s will for BCBC in reference to prayer and fasting, I read in Luke 6 these words, Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God (6:12). As I read, I wrote in my journal, “Why pray and fast?” The answer came in my reading of Philippians 3, Have no confidence in the flesh. . . . that I may gain Christ (3:3, 9). Making the connection, fasting is not a ritual to brag about or think oneself more spiritual than others or to become a legalistic matter, but it is a time set aside to remove all distractions, even necessary food, to spend concentrated time seeking the Lord’s face in submission, repentance and surrender. The Christ in me fasted and prayed, why shouldn’t I?

In the days to follow, my daily Bible reading continued to contain passages about prayer, fasting, and crying out to God. Upon reading 2 Chronicles 13-21, the Lord settled it in my heart, and we began this journey on Sunday, March 14.

As we work our way through this second week, may I encourage you to:

  • Consider fasting and prayer for the purpose of hungering and thirsting for God rather than earthly, human desires (Psalm 42:1-2a); for the purpose of seeing strongholds of evil (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) torn down in our hearts in such a way that it would usher in a great revival that would “shake” BCBC (Acts 4:31), that would melt our idols and cause us to die daily (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6).
  • Consider fasting and prayer with a proper biblical motive — seeking God’s face, not His hand — with a broken, repentant and contrite spirit (Psalms 34:18; 51:17; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 1 Peter 5:5-7).
  • Consider keeping a journal of the truths God is teaching you about Himself, Christ, the Holy Spirt and yourself. Also, answers to prayer; changes God is bringing to your attitude about prayer; the blessings of prayer and fasting; perhaps writing out your prayers.

I heard Evangelist Ron Lynch say in a recent message that God got ahold of his heart two years ago at Men’s Prayer Advance in reference to his viewpoint on prayer. He said, “God taught me that we are not to have a ‘prayer life’ but a ‘life of prayer’.” May these 21 days in the presence of the Lord bring us to have no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3), but to have a vibrant, faith-filled, obedient, passionate, cup-running-over, expectant, crying out, submissive “life of prayer.”

Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between his will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer. — Elisabeth Elliot

21 Days of Prayer (Day #3)

“Lord, increase our obedience!”

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:1-10

If you read the Bible with a sensitive heart, you will often be overwhelmed with the great difficulty of many of its commands: “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33). “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). The list could go on and on. How can we possibly obey these seemingly impossible commands of Scripture?
The disciples felt overwhelmed by Jesus’ teaching in Luke 17:1-4. He told them to be on guard so that they would not cause any young believers in Him to stumble. And He said that if their brother sinned, they were to rebuke him and if he repented they were to forgive him, no matter how often the cycle was repeated. The disciples instantly realized that these were tough demands. To walk uprightly so as not to cause a new believer to stumble and to forgive someone who has wronged us are not automatic behaviors! Forgiveness especially is tough because our feelings are involved. So the disciples respond by asking the Lord to increase their faith (17:5). It was an honest request stemming from the right motives. They saw that if they wanted to fulfill these demands, they would have to have God’s strength and enabling to do it.
But Jesus’ answer (17:6) indicates that more faith is not really the issue. Faith is not measured by its quantity, but simply by its presence. A mustard seed sized faith will accomplish impossible things. The real need, Jesus says (17:7-10), is for more obedience and humility. We should view ourselves as God’s slaves who owe Him simple and unquestioning obedience. And, when we have done what He requires, we should not get puffed up with pride in our great obedience, but should simply say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” Thus …
When we encounter the difficult commands of Scripture, we should not focus on more faith, but on more obedience and humility. (Steven Cole)

In prayer today, let us focus on “Lord, increase my obedience as I humbly submit to You, Your authority and Your great love for me.”

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the commands of Scripture you are not obeying?
  • In addition, read again through the commands given in the first paragraph of this devotional.
  • Confess your disobedience (1 John 1:9).
  • Cast all your fears, excuses, doubts, laziness, whatever you are choosing as stumbling blocks of disobedience at the feet of Jesus (1 Peter 5:5-7).
  • Submit to the Word and “step into the water” (Joshua 3:8).
  • Bottom line, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15). Make the connection here with abiding love from our 1 John 4:7-21 study.

“Lord, increase our obedience!”

21 Days of Prayer (Day #2)

Yesterday, you spent time in awe of God’s greatness as you meditated on Psalm 145. Oh, how I trust your time in His loving, holy presence was rich and full of grace and glory!!

Psalm 100:4 exhorts us to enter His gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! As you launch into prayer each day on this journey, be sure to spend time praising God for His holiness, goodness, patience, and other attributes. Then, thank God for His blessings and be specific . This morning, use Psalms 100 and 103 to begin your week with praise and thanksgiving.

Here’s an example using Psalm 100

  • Sing a hymn of praise to the Lord (100:1-2).
  • Praise the LORD for His attributes, naming them and sharing why from your heart they are meaningful to you right now (100:3).
  • Praise the LORD for how He will shepherd you this week (100:3).
  • Thank Him for at least ten specific things He has done in the past 24 hours (100:4)
  • Talk to the LORD out of your love relationship with Him as you rejoice in His goodness, His steadfast love, and His faithfulness (100:5).

Now share your requests with the Lord, and before you do, let me ask, “How will your fresh encounter of praise and thanksgiving effect your time of supplication?”

May your prayer life be one of INCREASE today because you have chosen the best part (Luke 10:42).

21 Days of Prayer (Day 1)

21 Days Of Prayer | Devotional Reading Plan | YouVersion Bible

Psalm 145 is glorious psalm of praise acknowledging Who God is and what He has and is doing, James Montgomery Boice said it this way, “Psalm 145 is indeed a monumental praise psalm, a fit summary of all David had learned about God during a long lifetime of following hard after the Almighty.”

Today, as we begin this journey of 21 Days of Prayer to Resurrection Sunday, may I encourage you to give these days to following hard after the Almighty, the God of Majesty, Love, Holiness, Righteousness and Compassion?

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He (Jesus) went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed (Mark 1:35). Jesus said that He came to do the will of His Father (John 6:38). He followed hard after the Almighty.

Today, find a solitary place where you can get alone with your Heavenly Father to pray.

  • Bring your Bible, a journal (book or tablet), and a hymnbook.
  • Read Psalm 145 out loud with heart and devotion to your Heavenly Father.
  • Go back and pray through the psalm, taking your time to meditate on a line or a verse; stop and listen to the Holy Spirit speak to you. Don’t be in a hurry. You can’t know the heart of God on the run.
  • As you pray and are silent at various intervals, write in your journal what the Spirit is saying to you.
  • When a verse speaks of blessing the Lord, choose a song and sing it Him!
  • When a verse speaks of praise, tell the Lord how great He is and thank Him for what He has done.
  • Perhaps record in your journal five things about Who God is and five things He done.
  • When you return to your family, share with them what God has revealed to you about Himself and about you. Have them share with you about their experience in the solitary place with the Lord.
  • Make this time in His presence all about praise and thanksgiving . . . no requests! Just enjoy following hard after the Almighty, being in the presence of the One Who loves you unconditionally, eternally, and immensely!

Psalm 145:18 says, The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. May you be greatly encouraged as you spend time with the One Who sought you out and adopted you for a love relationship that is real and personal. Follow hard after the Almighty!

There’s Still Fire in Furnace!

This week, I had the joy of speaking with a man who has been married for over 60 years, and he said, “There’s still fire in the furnace!” My sweetheart and I will be celebrating our 40th anniversary in June, and we’re still stoking the fire, too!

How do you keep “the fire in the furnace” so your marriage does not grow cold and lifeless? Well, here’s a few tips that I hope will help. I’m sure I have shared some of these in previous posts, but we need to be reminded again and again to keep putting another log on the fire!

  1. Work at your marriage every day.

Don’t let a day go by without kissing each other (ban the peck!), holding each other, complimenting each other, eating a meal together, sharing your heart with each other, and don’t let someone or something come between you; especially your children!

  1. Do the little things.
  • Leave little love notes around the house or in the car or in his suitcase if he travels.
  • Bring home a candy bar for him or a dozen roses for her.
  • Hold hands.
  • Send a text message telling each other how much you love each other.
  • Husbands, seat your wife at the table and open the car door for her.
  • Speak well of each other in front of the children.
  • Pray together.
  • Read the Word together.
  • Flirt with your spouse, and only your spouse!!!
  1. Date once-a-week. 
  • Starbucks and play a game.
  • Pizza on china plates after the kids go to bed.
  • A drive through the country with the windows down, a picnic basket, blanket, and your favorite romantic music as you head to that secluded spot along the creek, in the mountains, or just down the road.
  • Movie and popcorn.
  • A stroll around the neighborhood, hand-in-hand, talking about why you love each other.
  • Share a sundae at Sonic and smooch like you did when you were dating!  (And we know you did.)
  1. Have fun!  
  • Don’t be a fuddy dud, a kill-joy!
  • Laugh at yourself!
  • Walk in the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control)
  • Enjoy each other; enjoy being with each other; your spouse should be your first choice always as your dearest companion.
  • Stop at Chickfila, get an ice cream cone and sit outside under the umbrella tables. Enjoy sharing just the one cone!
  1. Wherever you go, make it an event.
  • Make even walking through the grocery store or the mall with your spouse a fun time!
  • When you leave the house, tell each other how good they look!
  • Serve one another.
  • Make meal time, especially supper, a well-thought out time even with the children.  Be intentional.
  • Pay attention to each other.
  • Serve together at church; put your whole heart into worship; wear it out!!
Love is...Color Monday 2 December 2019 | Artful Asprey Cartoons

May I encourage you to take inventory of your marriage? Be humble.  Be honest.  What needs to change?  God didn’t create marriage for man and woman to be miserable.  As I heard years ago, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.”  You will have hard times in marriage, but choose joy.  Put these five things to practice by God’s grace and enjoy the grace gift of marriage for a long time to come!!

Go ahead; add another log on the fire right now! Keep the furnace hot!

Going to the Mountain

Living in the mountains is in my limited estimation a little glimpse of Heaven! One of my greatest joys in life is hiking, especially the AT, and immersing myself step-by-step in the sustaining handiwork of God as I journey to waterfalls, vista points, cliffs, or just singing along the trail.

Two weeks ago, I had the immense privilege of hiking with a dear friend on the AT in Spivey Gap, near Erwin, TN. What made this hike so special was the week of snowfall prior to our hike. Trudging upward to High Rocks was difficult in the measurable snow of six inches to two feet. Arriving early in the morning, the cloud cover gave way to a beautiful sunny sky which caused the snow to sparkle like a jewelry store. Animal tracks were in abundance as was the partially covered footprints of a hiker from the previous day.

Of all the glorious things I experienced on this hike, what touched me the most was the serene stillness all around us. My friend and I were the only ones on the trail. Several times I would stop to just listen to the quiet and commune with my Lord in silent prayer.

Speaking of prayer, do you do all the talking? Is your prayer life consumed with petitions only. When’s the last time you just knelt or sat in the presence of your Heavenly Father listening to Him commune with your heart in the stillness?

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. While reading this passage this morning from Luke 9:28-29, I came across a rich commentary by Alexander MacLaren that speaks of prayer in a way that I am afraid is foreign to so many, of which I long for as well.

Prayer is more than petitions. It is not necessarily cast into words at all. In its widest, which is its truest sense, it is the attitude and exercise of devout contemplation of God and intercourse in heart, mind, and will with Him, a communion which unites aspiration and attainment, longing and fruition, asking and receiving, seeking and finding, a communion which often finds itself beggared for words, and sometimes even seems to transcend thought. How different is such an hour of rapt communion with the living God from the miserable notions which so many professing Christians have of prayer, as if it were but spoken requests, more or less fervent and sincere, for things that they want! The noblest communion of a soul with God can never be free from the consciousness of need and dependence. Petition must ever be an element in it, but supplication is only a corner of prayer. Such conscious converse with God is the very atmosphere in which the Christian soul should always live, and if it be an experience altogether strange to us we had better ask ourselves whether we yet know the realities of the Christian life, or have any claim to the name. ‘Truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ,’ and if we have no share in that fellowship we do not belong to the class of whom it is the mark and possession. (MacLaren’s Expositions)

Just as the freshly fallen snow had blanketed the mountains with a calming stillness, may you be transfigured by simply moving from the “corner of prayer” petitions to the quiet contemplations of the vast vistas of our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, loving, merciful, gracious Heavenly Father!

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Brief Retreats

Last week I celebrated my 62nd birthday tucked away with my wife in a cottage on Watauga Lake in East Tennessee. Besides acknowledging another year of life and my wife making the day special, we went away for other reasons, too.

First of all, just as Jesus went withdrew Himself from the crowds (Matthew 14:23) and went to the mountain to pray (Luke 6:12-13), we as disciples of Jesus Christ need to do the same (Matthew 11:28-30). Two days removed from cell phones, internet, normal life, distractions, and responsibilities is an investment in your walk with Christ that is more than worth the effort. You have time to pray, listen, write, read, and be still. All you need is your Bible, journal, a ready heart, and a quiet place.

Second, marriages need maintenance like many other things in life. No matter if your marriage is humming or in need of a tune-up or a major overhaul, you and your spouse need brief times away to talk, plan, be attentive to each other, pray, read, play games, take a walk, laugh, sit on the porch swing, take a hike and share what God has been teaching you. All you need is place to get away and leave everything else behind.

May I encourage you to plan a brief retreat in the next six months? You need it in your walk with God and your marriage needs it. Sometimes, it’s good to retreat before you can advance.