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 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!

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.

COVID Counsel #3

Keep Your Eyes on the One Who Walked on Water

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.


Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.


So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

These lyrics written in 1897 by Johnson Oatman, Jr., came to my mind Monday morning as I sang along with the instrumental version playing through Alexa. The bold lines struck a chord in my heart.

Indeed, COVID has been one of “life’s billows” (a great wave or surge of water) that has tossed us in so many directions that we have been or are today tempted to be “discouraged, thinking all is lost.” How interesting our minds and deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) work at moments like these.

The battle is not with COVID but with our thinking.

Is all really lost? Note the phrase, “thinking all is lost.” Is that true? What does God’s Word say about COVID or any circumstance of life?

The songwriter got it right when he said, “So amid the conflict whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all.” That is absolute, eternal truth!

Colossians 1:16–17 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Psalm 97:9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

So, today, do not listen to your thoughts but think His thoughts. Do not listen to yourself; preach the Truth to yourself.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Count Your Blessings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=FZECFq4BvRQ

COVID COUNSEL

Many years ago, I heard a preacher say, “You wouldn’t say it out loud, but you probably think you are the most intelligent creature on the planet. Why? Because you listen to yourself more than anyone else.” By the way, do you ever have a conversation with yourself or with someone else in your mind?

This preacher went on to say something very needful. “Instead of listening to yourself, you need to preach to yourself! You must preach the Truth to yourself!”

David does this in Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

For sure, COVID and 2020 has been filled with inconsistencies, false information, cancellations, deaths, life-altering illnesses, disappointments, fear, anxiety, abrupt changes, and unfulfilled plans and expectations.

Where do you run? Where do you hide? Where do you find rest for your weary soul? Where do you find strength to take the next step, to live the next day? The answer is found in the aforementioned scripture passages. Read and meditate on what David is saying. Put yourself in the passage. Preach the truth to yourself. Do not listen to yourself, your doubts, your confusion, your pain, your sorrow, your fears, etc.

The help of His countenance (42:5) will always be the help of my countenance (42:11; 43:5) as I hope in my God and praise my God while preaching the truth to myself. Counsel your heart.

Hold’er Newt!

My father had many “dad” sayings that have lived on through me. One that came to my mind just this morning was, “Hold’er Newt! She’s a headin’ for the pea patch!” What in the world?????

Well, he would use that statement to describe an action that needed to be slowed down, stopped or taken with caution.

Yesterday, the governor of our great state of Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee, announced that he would not extend the “safer-at-home” orders beyond April 30 and would begin to reopen the state. At that moment, I could hear car engines fire up, restaurants buzzing with weight-gained, post-quarantined shoppers, stimulus checks zeroed out in three debit card swipes at reopened stores, and a state of basic euphoria!!

Okay, Dad! Say it! “Hold’er Newt! She’s a headin’ for the pea patch!” I share in that excitement, but is being set free from quarantine and your life returning to what you call “normal” really what you want? Is it best?

First of all, it all begins with our heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life. The heart here is not the physical organ within your chest, but it describes the inward core of every person. This is “Central Command.” This is NASA’s “Houston.” In other words, it is the headquarters of your feelings, thoughts, actions, and choices. For instance, Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 15:17-19, Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. And in Luke 6:45, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil [i]treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. And we must be reminded of the words of Jeremiah, The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings
(17:9-10).

Has this time of quarantine prepared your heart for greater contentment? Has the Word of God been tucked away in your heart during these six or more weeks of shut-down? Is your heart right with God? Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Philippians 4:11-12).

Second, have you gained a greater desire for prayer and communion with the Lord during these days such that instead of jumping right back into life the way it used to be, you will find yourself seeking the Lord before any decision or action? Will you and your family be praying more about these days ahead? Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God (1 Chronicles 22:19). May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Thirdly, will you live a life of rush, rush, rush again (“crazy busy”) or have you planned into your weekly routine times of rest and refreshment? Proverbs 21:5 says, The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. Have you thought through the biblical priorities of life? What is Christ in you saying about your next step today or next week? Note the words of Christ as recorded in John 4:34, Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Proverbs 16:3,9 has great counsel for us. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Remember, every time you say “no” to a non-essential or lesser priority issue, it allows you to say “yes” to something more important. You see, there is eternal, godly ministry that the Lord would have you to participate in that might have been pushed away due to being too busy and too tired. You have a clean whiteboard today. Choose prayerfully and in a God-honoring way (Matthew 6:33;1 Corinthians 10:31).

I write this today to remind myself and you, when we roll back into “regular life,” let’s not forget that a sovereign God permitted this COVID-19 for many, many reasons. As I said in an earlier post, let’s don’t miss it.

So, okay, Dad! Here you go, “Hold’er Newt! She’s a headin’ for the pea patch!”

Change!!!

old car 1         old car 2

For good while now the “How many ____________ does it take to change a light bulb?” lines have been circulating.  For instance,

  • How many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb? Any of them because they all have their hands in the air!
  • How many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship to your light bulb and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-lived, and tinted; all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.
  • How many independent Baptists does it take to change a light bulb? CHANGE!!  WE AIN’T CHANGIN’ NOTHIN’!!

Now, please take these and others like them all in stride.  It is only a joke.

Truthfully though, for oh so many, change is not a joke.  Most folks don’t like change, and for many, the older we get the harder it is to deal with change. We want our grocery store to stock the same items on the same aisle week-after-week; we tend to want our children to stay young and at home, never to grow up; we are not too fond of anything that is labeled “new and improved” because we know it’s not going to be the same; and we don’t want the stamp machine down at the post office to change either.  Just ask Barney Fife.

You see, change provides a sense of security.  When things supposedly stay the same then we are comfortable.

Truth is, change is all around us every day. Nothing ever stays the same: the universe, your job, your children, the government, the newness of your car, etc.

With that being said, I want to share from my heart two brief, important principles of life in reference to change.  There is much more to be said, but consider these simple truths.

  1. Security in this life can only be found each day in knowing and resting in the Immutable One, Jehovah God.

Malachi 3:6 declares, For I am the Lord, I change not.

Ponder these words found in Psalm 102:12, 25-28, But Thou, O LORD dost abide forever; And Thy name to all generations . . . Of old Thou didst found the earth; And the heavens are the work of Thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end. The children of Thy servants will continue, And their descendants will be established before Thee.”

Since God is unchanging, therefore, His Word is unchanging, His plans are unchanging, His character is unchanging, and His knowledge is unchanging.

This security in Jehovah can only be found through a personal relationship with Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-9).

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

  1. For the follower of Christ, change is the order of the day in our walk with Him.

The good that comes out of all things working together is the daily transformation of our lives into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-29; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peter 1:3-11).  All of us as believers wear an “Under Construction” sign due to the sanctifying work of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

As we spend time in the Word beholding our God and His Son, we are changed by the power of the Word. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17).

So, how do you respond to change? Are you resting today in the Immutable God?  Are you growing and changing into Christlikeness as the Spirit convicts and instructs you?

The most important changes of life are spiritual not material. This isn’t about changing a light bulb which is discarded.  This is about the life of a genuine believer in Christ shining for God’s glory.

Three Anchor Truths In the Middle of the Storm

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Lately I have found myself repeatedly singing,

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm.  (Ryan Stevenson)

The trials and hardships of life, others and mine, at times seem to be so burdensome, numerous, and troubling.

How do we press on in the eye of the storm?  How do we stay afloat?  As I pondered these things, three anchor truths came to mind that can be your stay in the middle of the storm.

#1 Christ suffered, bled and died for me and my sins.

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

When I consider the pain of my trial, I must look to Christ Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself (Hebrews 12:3) to save me from my greatest crisis.  What is my greatest crisis?  The answer: How do I save myself from going to hell because I am a sinner?  Since Jesus Christ took care of my greatest crisis and the tomb is empty, He will enable me to make it through any other crisis.

#2 Christ’s resurrection gives me blazing hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Hope in the New Testament is a…

  • blessed hope (Titus 2:13)
  • joyful hope (1 Thess. 2:19; Rom. 12:12)
  • comforting hope (1Thess. 4:13-18)
  • hope of glory (Col. 1:27)
  • anchoring hope (Heb. 6:19)

“When a Christian truly understands the hope he has in Christ, it results in a steadfast sense of security and stability.” (Gene Getz) 

#3 Being in Christ promises me an awesome future!

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 20:1-4)

Jesus, being God and having been in a boat in the eye of a storm (Mark 4:35-41), is the only true Anchor for life, trouble, sorrow, persecution, misunderstanding, questions, death, pain, sin, etc.

Resting Secure in His Arms

Our world has changed so much since the beginning of February when foster grand-babies entered our lives.   Yes, you did see that as plural . . . twin boys.  Born at 24 weeks and now moving toward seven months old.

As I fed one of the boys last Friday morning, burped him, and then felt him go to sleep on my shoulder, I began to pray with tears streaming down my cheeks.  In his attempt to drift off, he fought it for a while, whimpering, and moving his head back and forth.  It was then I drew him to my face and neck as I sang to him holding him ever so close.  After a few minutes, he was resting, breathing comfortably, and secure in Papaw’s arms.

My tears were not only because of our love for these boys, but also due to what the Lord reminded me as I prayed.  There are times I am fussy, discontent, worried, fretting, fearful, and questioning why.  Never leaving me or forsaking me, my Heavenly Father is there to draw me to His side.  I just need to stop fighting it.  I need to stop trying to hold up my own head and simply rest on His shoulder. There I always find Him to be that quiet place of refuge and strength; that eternal abode of contentment; that One Who accepts me in the Beloved . . . quiet and secure in my Heavenly Father’s arms.

Psalm 62:1           Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.

Psalm 119:114    You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.