Alone with God

Today is a snow day. A winter storm came through last night that dumped a lot of ice and snow in my area. Since I live on a hill, it would be much too unsafe for me to try to go anywhere today. Earlier today I stepped outside for a few minutes to let my dog out. As I stood there surrounded by nothing but white, it occurred to me that it was quiet. I would even describe it as eerie. It is never silent where I live because my house is about 100 feet from a highway. There is always the noise of vehicles passing by, both day and night. This morning, there was nothing. No cars, no dogs barking in the distance, and no birds chirping. It was truly calm. That is not normal.

We do not embrace the need for stillness in our lives. We are always surrounded by noise. In fact, I would say that we prefer it this way. When is the last time that you made the effort to remove everything from the background and breathed in the quiet? It is difficult for us to do. This is mostly because we have such an attachment to our phones. The minute that thing rings, vibrates, or dings, the tranquility is taken away. 

Have you ever noticed how often Jesus got away from everything and everyone? He would often go away from the hustle and bustle that was his earthly life and just be alone with God. In Matthew 14, after Jesus learned of John the Baptist’s death and fed the 5000, he went up into the mountains to be alone and pray. He does the same thing in Luke 6 before picking his 12 disciples. Again, we see him do this prior to being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. This was a frequent part of Jesus’ life. As Luke 5:16 puts it, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” 

If the King of Kings and Lord of Lords had to do this, then why do we feel as though we can get by without it? We cannot use the excuse that we are too busy for such things. If the savior of the world found time to get away, then so should we. If we find ourselves too busy to spend time alone with God, then we have made ourselves far busier than we were intended to be. Afterall, people will always make time for that which is most important to them. 

It was not out of weakness that Jesus would retreat from the crowds but out of wisdom. He knew that he needed to recharge his mind, heart, and soul. It is wearisome and tiring to constantly be going and going and going. Yet, that is what the world tells us that we need to do. It is what we tell ourselves that we need to do. Rest is not only a gift from God, but it is also a commandment. We were not created to go nonstop. This is why God gave us the sabbath because we were designed to have a period of rest and to be in the stillness of God’s presence. Are you feeling completely worn down and beat up? My advice is to take some time, put everything else away, quiet all the noise and distractions in your life, and go be in the quiet with your Heavenly Father. Jesus needed this and so do we. 

Not Good Enough

One of the issues in which I have found that most people struggle with is the thought that they are not good enough. That can spill over into pretty much every aspect of life. Unfortunately, one of the areas that it will affect is our spiritual life. We know that God calls us to live holy lives. We also know that we are sinners and fail quite often at that. We know of all our mistakes and shortcomings. Then, we start to think that is what defines us. Somewhere along the way, the thought enters our minds that God cannot use us because we are not perfect. We believe that we will not be effective for God because we are so far from holy.

Have you ever taken the time to look into the lives of the Biblical heroes? If I were to rattle off the names of the men and women who built the faith, then you would probably think that they were all upstanding, good people. That is not the case, not even close. Let’s look at a few of the most prevalent people from scripture and see just how imperfect all of them were.

We’ll start with Noah, the one that God called “righteous” in Genesis Chapter 7. He and his family were chosen to be saved from the oncoming flood that was going to destroy the world. He was picked specifically to build the ark, fill it up with animals, and to restart the human race. Clearly, he must have been an upstanding citizen, right? Well, the last time that we see Noah in scripture is in Genesis 9 where he is passed out naked and drunk. His son walked into his tent and saw this, thus bringing shame on Noah and his family. Not exactly the actions of a perfect man.

Moses is maybe the most important figure in all of the Old Testament. He was the one God chose to lead his people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Moses had that famous moment where he talked to God through the burning bush in the desert. Do you know why Moses happened to be out in the desert at that time? It was because he had killed someone in Egypt, buried the body to cover up his crime, still got caught, and decided to run away. Yet, this was the man chosen to save God’s people from oppression. Moses never actually even got to enter the Promised Land because he disobeyed God while leading his people on their 40-year journey. Again, not the story you would expect from the man God used to set his people free.

Perhaps the most heinous of sins committed in the entire Bible was by King David. If you recall, David was chosen specifically by God to be King of Israel. This is the man who God said,  “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). He also called David, “A man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Pretty high praise, huh? The man whom God spoke so glowingly about eventually became king, united Israel, and won battle after battle. 

One day, David saw a beautiful woman by the name of Bathsheba bathing. He sent his people to inquire about her. Turns out, she was married. David didn’t care. He summoned her to his palace and slept with her. Bathsheba became pregnant. On top of that, her husband (Uriah) was out at war. There was no doubt it was David’s kid. So, to cover up his sin, David had Uriah killed and married Bathsheba. What was it that God was saying about his heart?

Look at those whom Jesus chose as his followers. Most of them were lowly, uneducated fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector, which meant he would have been seen as a traitor to the Jews because he worked for the Romans and extorted his own people. Mary Magdalene had been infested with demons. Thomas doubted. Peter denied even knowing Jesus when times got tough. Judas sold out Jesus to be killed. Paul made it his life mission to destroy the church, throw Christians in prison, and occasionally preside over the killing of Christ followers. Those were the hand-selected chosen by Jesus.

You can search throughout all of scripture and find story after story of God using those who were not good enough. The truth is that you are not good enough. In fact, none of us are. We all have our sin and shortcomings, but that does not mean that you are disqualified from being used by God. The only thing that any of the people in the Bible did was say yes to God when he called them to do something. Heck, some of them were rather reluctant to do so. Looking at you, Jonah. That is all that is asked of us, to say yes. 

We will always have a million reasons as to why we are not good enough. None of them matter. God can and will use you if you are willing. Not because of your goodness, but because of his. Today, say the same thing to God that Isaiah said, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). Then, be willing to go wherever it is that the Lord may send you. One day, someone may even be writing about you as a hero of the faith. 

Out of the Tomb

There is a fascinating story in John 11. It may be a familiar story to some of you. It is the story of Jesus and Lazarus. Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha, whose names you may also recognize. Based on what we know from this story and what we learn in Luke 10, Jesus and the three siblings were friends. There is no mention of their parents or of spouses. That context leads us to believe that they were probably still young (teenagers), and their parents have passed away. They would have been dependent upon each other for everything. 

One day, Jesus got word that Lazarus was sick and in bad shape. The sisters, knowing whom Jesus was and believing him to be capable of healing their brother, sent for Jesus to come to the house. Now, one would assume that Jesus would drop what he was doing and rush over to save their brother. John 11 specifically points out that Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary (Verses 3&5). It would make sense for him to come to the aid of those whom he loved. That is not the case though. In fact, he decided to wait two more days before he went to the house of his friends. In that time, Lazarus passed away.

When Jesus finally arrived to Bethany (the town in which the siblings lived), the sisters were not happy with him. We can all understand why. They had gone to Jesus when they needed him the most, and he didn’t show up. Separately, both Martha and Mary confronted Jesus with the statement, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21&32). They were brokenhearted, devastated, and angry with Jesus. They simply did not understand why he decided to not help them. He let Lazarus die, even though he could have prevented it. In that moment, they must have questioned the compassion and love that Jesus so often preached about. 

This is not where the story ends. Jesus went to the tomb where Lazarus’ body had been put to rest. It had been four days since Lazarus had died. If you’re confused at the timeline, it took two days for Jesus to begin to travel to Bethany and then two days of walking. To quote the Wizard of Oz, Lazarus wasn’t merely dead but really, most sincerely dead. Once Jesus arrived at the tomb, the crowd grief stricken, he said a prayer and exclaimed loudly for all to hear, “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). Then, the man who had died emerged from the tomb. Although he did not follow their desired timeline, Jesus healed Lazarus in a far more spectacular way than what the sisters had thought or imagined.

Maybe you have found yourself or find yourself in the same situation as John 11. Things in your life have fallen apart. Perhaps you are in a place that you need divine intervention or there is no hope for the circumstances to get better. You go to Jesus asking him to intervene, but he does not. I know that I have been there. Then, we get upset because Christ has seemingly delayed the help that we require. Jesus could have, at any moment, stepped in and healed Lazarus. Actually, at this point in his ministry, Jesus had shown that he could simply just speak and a miracle would happen. Why did he wait until Lazarus died? Because Jesus wanted to show that he can bring life into death. 

This is the same thing that he can do for you. Jesus had a plan all along for Lazarus. This is evident in John 11:4, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of Man may be glorified in it.” Jesus knew the situation, and he loved the three siblings dearly. He could have healed Lazarus immediately, but he had something much more magnificent in mind for them. Lazarus got to be one of the very few people that we see in scripture to be raised from the dead. 

Jesus has much more magnificent things in mind for you. Just because he has not responded as quickly as you had hoped, does not mean that he forgotten you or is delayed. He has great plans for you. What you are going through will not lead to permanent death. It may hurt right now, but it will not last forever. Jesus will come to you at just the right time and work something amazing into your life. He loves you and cares for you. He wants the best for you. Sometimes that best comes out of letting something die and Jesus breathing new life into it. At some point, Jesus will shout your name and call you to “come out.” When he does, you will walk out of that tomb and into new life. Patience is not a thing that we like to practice. Sometimes, we must simply wait on the Lord and let him work things together for us. You will never be left in that tomb. Jesus will always come to you at just the right time and do something more than you can possibly think or imagine.