Article by Scott Hubbard; Content strategist, desiringGod.org If you’ve heard much about the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, you’ve probably heard the word hero. Martin Luther, the hero of Wittenberg, who took his stand against corrupt priests, cardinals, and the pope himself. John Calvin, the hero of Geneva, who wrote the Institutes of the […]
It’s really easy to get mired down in the day to day work of life and lose sight of the blessedness of being called to work for the Lord. Our work differs, but whatever it is, it’s an honor to be called–to be entrusted with a job for His kingdom. Matthew Henry reminded me of this in his commentary of Ecclesiastes 1.
“…a commission is a tacit pardon. Christ sufficiently testifies his forgiving Peter by committing his lambs and sheep to his trust. “
The work He gives us testifies to our belonging to Him. That can give us great joy in our day to day endeavors. Undoubtedly, Satan wants us to doubt our happy reconciliation with the Lord and the importance of our obedience. Rejoice that we have for this moment, work to do, while it is day! We have the privilege to serve our Redeemer, the Lover of our Souls.
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ ” John 21:15
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” John 15:15
“And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” 1 John 3:23
How crowded is your mental space? It is so easy to fill quiet moments with a podcast, music, or a show. I’ve begun to question whether I am spending so much time taking in information that I am not leaving room for my mind to ponder, to wonder, to pray, to praise, and to have the necessary space to be creative. Pondering, wondering, praying to God, praising God, and creating are all activities that a constant stream of media is slowly marginalizing in my life.
But it’s so eeeasy.
Kinda like being sedentary. It’s easy but the results are decreased health and well-being. It’s a rather fearsome thought to consider that while I may be busy on the outside, on the inside I am becoming flaccid.
Taking in information is a largely passive process. Doesn’t it often become our default activity when we find ourselves alone or bored? Media input can also fill a more insidious role when we use it to escape from real problems–which robs us of the emotional and spiritual growth that comes with working through challenges.
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
So here’s a sobering question…. Are my media consumption habits curtailing my fruitfulness? After all, I only have one life here on earth. As the younger set like to say….YOLO. After that, I will appear before the Lord to receive from him my “due for deeds done in the body, whether good or evil.”
“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:9-10
I’ll never forget a plaque hanging on my neighbor’s wall when I was a child that just about made my pigtails stand on end. “Only one life will soon be past only what’s done for Christ will last.” I hadn’t really thought about the brevity of life at that point. I went home that day a more serious child.
And it’s ok to take how we live seriously, as we are told in Philippians 2.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
God has given us all good things–we need to enjoy them responsibly. Whether it’s food, sex, or entertainment, the Christian needs to bring all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
His Word tells us not to eat or drink in excess. It tells us sex is to be enjoyed within marriage. But what about entertainment…sports, newcasts (yes, that’s enjoyable for some of us), music, shows, etc?
I think it’s safe to say that if we aren’t finding the time to pray, meditate or read His Word, we have not devoted enough of our mental space to Him and are most likely crowding it with other things.
The key to fixing it? Ask. Ask Him where to change. Listen for the still, small voice that tells you to unplug for a while. And don’t ask like the rich, young ruler who walked away sad because He couldn’t give up what Christ asked him to.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
My mind is pretty full…somewhat like a garage before the annual yard sale. But a few nights ago I heard a still, small voice ask me to unplug. So I did. And I heard Him, And a prayer for a friend rose from my heart. And I’m really glad I did.
Faithful Christians like Bonhoeffer tried desperately to free the German church from Nazi control but to no avail. Eventually, the moment no one wanted to see, arrived. On June 4th a group of Christians announced in the Barmen Delaration their separation from the Reichskirche.
On June 4— again, thanks to Bishop Bell and Bonhoeffer— the full text of the Barmen Declaration was published in the London Times. It was incendiary, announcing to the world that a group of Christians in Germany had officially and publicly declared their independence from the Nazified Reichskirche. When one read it, it was easy to understand why they had done so.
Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 226). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
We must shake off our fear of this world— the cause of Christ is at stake, and are we to be found sleeping? . . . Christ is looking down at us and asking whether there is anyone left who confesses faith in him.
Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 219). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Only a few weeks later, Hilter would enact his “Night of the Long Knives”–an action that must surely have trebled the mounting sense of desperation among Christian Germans.Embed from Getty Images
Not even Ernst Rohm, one of Hitler’s top servants, escaped the purge.
Do you miss God? Sometimes He seems so far away.
How wonderful it is to know that even though we do not see God face to face now, we are before Him always–and we have the opportunity to bless him daily with our prayers. Here in Revelation the incense rises before the actual throne of God! The days can be very long and just to know that my prayers rise front and center before the Lord of all is a comfort. And what an encouragement too. My daily walks and prayers are sweet gifts to Him. And that’s pretty amazing!
“And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8: 3-4
“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” Psalm 141:2
Thoughts on Prayer by Matthew Henry:
- All the saints are a praying people; none of the children of God are born dumb, a Spirit of grace is always a Spirit of adoption and supplication, teaching us to cry, Abba, Father. Ps. 32:6, For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee.
- 2. Times of danger should be praying times, and so should times of great expectation; both our fears and our hopes should put us upon prayer, and, where the interest of the church of God is deeply concerned, the hearts of the people of God in prayer should be greatly enlarged.
- 3. The prayers of the saints themselves stand in need of the incense and intercession of Christ to make them acceptable and effectual, and there is provision made by Christ for that purpose; he has his incense, his censer, and his altar; he is all himself to his people.
- 4. The prayers of the saints come up before God in a cloud of incense; no prayer, thus recommended, was ever denied audience or acceptance.
- 5. These prayers that were thus accepted in heaven produced great changes upon earth in return to them; the same angel that in his censer offered up the prayers of the saints in the same censer took of the fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth, and this presently caused strange commotions, voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake;these were the answers God gave to the prayers of the saints, and tokens of his anger against the world and that he would do great things to avenge himself and his people of their enemies; and now, all things being thus prepared, the angels discharge their duty.
In Chapter 14 of Bonhoeffer: A Biography, Dietrich heads to London to take on the pastorate of two German congregations. He desired to keep his hand in practical ministry. While there, many concerned British and German thinkers wondered how to fight the Nazi take-over of the German church with the appointment of Muller as it’s leader or Reichsbischof.
In the midst of their concerns and plans, Dietrich seemed to foresee a time when the only work in the fight against Nazism would be the work of suffering faithfully.
While Hildebrandt, Niemöller, and Jacobi were thinking about how to defeat Müller, Bonhoeffer was thinking about God’s highest call, about the call of discipleship and its cost. He was thinking about Jeremiah and about God’s call to partake in suffering, even unto death. Bonhoeffer was working it out in his head at the same time that he was thinking about what the next move should be with Heckel and the church struggle. He was thinking about the deep call of Christ, which was not about winning, but about submission to God, wherever that might lead. In the letter to Sutz, he said, Simply suffering— that is what will be needed then— not parries, blows or thrusts such as may still be possible or admissible in the preliminary fight; the real struggle that perhaps lies ahead must simply be to suffer faithfully. . . . [F] or sometime [the church struggle] hasn’t even been about what it appears to be about; the lines have been drawn somewhere else entirely. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Bonhoeffer was somehow thinking prophetically, that somehow he could see what was ahead of him, that at some point he would be able to do nothing more than “suffer faithfully” in his cell, praising God as he did so, thanking him for the high privilege of being counted worthy to do so.
Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 196). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
When has suffering been the chief work of your life?
Is there someone you know suffering right now?
How can we come alongside fellow Christians who are called to a time of suffering so that they can be faithful and comforted in their struggle?
It’s true. Every day is an adventure, sometimes beautiful like a vista from a mountaintop. Other times, the trail is obstructed and we find that most of our day is spent climbing over the gnarled tree roots of our daily struggles.
That’s why the very best thing we can do every morning is set our compass afresh. It doesn’t take much to get our thinking off by a degree or two–and we all know the implications of wrong thinking can be great over time. Our own human heart misinforms us. Satan is ALWAYS waiting to misinform us. Others, in their imperfections misinform us. So there is no more important work than setting our hearts aright before we venture off on the day’s journey.
And nothing does that better than the Word of God.
It’s the beginning of a new year and the perfect time to scoot on over to your nearest Bible app and find a daily reading plan that takes you through the Bible in a year. A few months ago I realized that in the busyness of life, I was becoming rusty on my recall of certain Scriptures. Another reason to take myself back to the schoolroom.
For me, the best way to get the Word into my heart is audibly. On a walk. With my dog.
On my Bible app there is a button to press which reads the passage aloud. By the end of my walk I’m as convicted and encouraged as the Holy Spirit desires. Sometimes I’m surprised at what details I had forgotten. Mostly, I am impressed with the awesomeness of God and find it easier to move forward in the day with the resolve to do my work well.
So find a reading plan and a routine that DAILY works for you. Below are some links to reading plans you might like. And may God bless you this New Year!!!
2017 Bible Reading Plans
You can check out plans on the “Bible” app by Life.church on your device OR….
5 Day Reading Schedule:
Ligonier Reading Plans: www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/
ESV Bible Reading Plans: www.esv.org/resources/reading-plans/
The Change Your Mind Plan: www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-to-change-your-mind1#When:08:01:00Z
God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: jimhamilton.info/2014/12/03/read-the-bible/
Read the Gospels Every Day: www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2016/12/19/2017-bible-reading-plan-read-the-gospels-every-day/