Finding Time for God During “RTO”

Photo by Michelen Studios on Unsplash

During the pandemic, most of us found we had extra time on our hands.  In my case, I did not have to commute to work, and many other activities I’d normally do were shut down, so it was easier (not easy) to make time for private time with God in Bible study and prayer.  However, as I’m now in “Return to Office” mode, working 2-3 days a week in the office, I’ve been reminded of Mark 1:35, which says: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Jesus got up early after a very busy night, which Mark describes in verses 33 and 34: “That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.  And the whole city was gathered together at the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”

I am not naturally a morning person, and finding time has been harder, but as I’ve written: “whether you’re working at a job, at home, retired, a student, a parent, or in any role in this world, as God’s creativity was to be reproduced by Adam and Eve, the character of Jesus is being developed in His people in this world.”  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.[1]  If even Jesus needed daily prayer and time to listen to the Father to get His work done, how much more do we all need that time?

My post-pandemic routine is different than my pre-pandemic routine, and daily time with God is not about the means, but the end.  He has work for each of us to do, and whatever your means of having relationship with the Father, making time to spend with Him is vital for approaching each day as an act of worship and service.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14


[1] Ephesians 2:10

Social Media is Full of Absurdities

Social media is a great place to share short bursts of pontification, whether in memes, quips, quotes, or what have you.  Sometimes a little more research may do some good, though.  Several times recently I’ve seen the quote below shared by people protesting what they see as people in power playing loose with Covid data to pompously push pernicious policies that are precariously close to imperious:

“Truly, whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire

Since this quote was often posted by Christians, they might be appalled by the context of the quote:

“Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. If the God‐given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God‐given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.”

On the positive side, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.[1]  Being a Christian requires holding on tight to things that seem absurdities to the world, but it also means we have the “God-given sense of justice” that requires we show mercy to those whose absurdities are different from our own.

I recently started a series of quote posts, so when I post an absurd quote, it may be intentionally absurd, but probably not.  Don’t be shy about letting me know, mercifully…I think Abraham Lincoln said something similar on his website.


[1] 1 Corinthians 1:25

Out of Exile into Exile

Many of us cannot wait for the Covid-19 pandemic to be over, so that we can return to normal and get back to doing the things we want to do.  Lessons learned, and let’s move on.  About a week ago, I posted about John the Baptist and what we can learn from his unexpected circumstances.  I also quoted Psalm 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” – on another blog about learning from sickness.  As if on cue, I got Covid soon after.  Much of this week I’ve been too uncomfortable to sleep, but also without enough energy, physically or mentally, to do much of anything.  And it would appear I still have more to learn from the pandemic.

What do I mean?  Let’s take a look at the Old Testament life of David, and what he learned about trying to get back to normal.

King David’s Lost Decade
David had been anointed king at about age 16 but did not become king until about age 30.  Having already been anointed[1], David was forced into exile by the reigning king Saul, who tried to kill David multiple times.[2]  After this, David was kept by force from the throne he knew he would inherit for about 10 years!  When David says “wait for the LORD” he knows what he means from hard experience.  While David’s behavior in this time was not perfect, he provided some lessons for waiting on God’s deliverance from trials.

First, our timing to receive God’s promises is not God’s timing, and we must trust that His is better.  Warren Wiersbe notes that “It’s likely that David’s fugitive years are reflected in Psalms 7, 11–13, 16–17, 22, 25, 31, 34–35, 52–54, 56–59, 63–64, 142–143.”  These 22 Psalms are full of testimony of David’s faith that God would sustain him through all trials, that God was in still in control, and that God would always be proven faithful and true.  If God had anointed David king, He would get him there when He decided it was the right time.  Because David wrote these Psalms during his exile, Wiersbe says “God’s people today can find strength and courage in their own times of testing. Our Lord quoted Psalms 22:1 and 31:5 when on the cross.”[3]

Second, our power comes from God, and we must trust that He knows what it should and shouldn’t be used for.  On at least two occasions, David was given an opportunity to seize the kingdom from Saul by violent means.  To end his exile on his own terms and timing.  1 Samuel 24:1-7 and 1 Samuel 26:1-11 show Saul completely at David’s mercy, seemingly by God’s Providence, but David knew that if he struck and killed “the Lord’s anointed” he was betraying the Providence sustaining David during his years on the run.  Since David was also “the Lord’s anointed”, could he glorify God for preserving his own life, yet apply a different standard to Saul?  Would God bless David’s future kingdom if David trusted his own power, instead of relying on God’s power and timing?

David eventually rose to the throne and mourned the death of Saul, who took his own life on the battlefield rather than be captured by the opposing Philistine army.  David united the tribes of Israel under his rule, headquartered in Jerusalem, and led the way for the Temple to be built by his son Solomon.  While David’s grievous sins, including adultery and murder, had many consequences for himself, his family, and the nation, David always came back to his God and knew where his strength came from.

When forced back into exile by his son Absalom[4], David returned to the lessons of his earlier exile.  David always knew that salvation belongs to the Lord alone, but also seemed aware that salvation was not done yet.  He wrote in Psalm 17:15 – “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”  While the idea of a future, eternal life was vague in the Old Testament, David knew someday he would meet God and know Him more fully.  David knew that as long as he was on earth he was still in exile, awaiting the full salvation of the Lord, which would come in His power and in His timing.

The Lost Pandemic Years
The pandemic seems like an exile from normal life – the life we think we should be living and the life we think we can return to living once the pandemic is over.  God has promised heaven, how can this continue?  I will eventually be over Covid, and the pandemic will end.  However, what we call our normal lives are also lives lived in exile, waiting for the salvation of the Lord.  Our normal lives remain interrupted not only by sickness, but also by our sin: our impatience, our frustrated longing for justice, our temptation to take salvation into our own hands, and our inability to love as we would like to be loved.  It would appear I still have more to learn from the pandemic.

When we leave the exile of the pandemic for the exile of our normal lives, let’s keep Driving Toward Morning: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:23-25

What is “the Day”?  It is not the day I get over Covid, or the day when the pandemic is no longer disrupting our everyday lives.  It is the Day where not only is every disease defeated, but also the Day we overcome all of our impatience and division and our longing for things to be set right.  It is the Day all of our desires are perfected, and in Him all of our perfect desires are fulfilled.  The Day we are no longer in exile and see the full salvation of the Lord.


[1] 1 Samuel 16:13
[2] 1 Samuel 19:10-12
[3] Wiersbe, Warren.  Be Successful (1 Samuel) (2001).  P. 135.
[4] See related post on Psalm 3, written by David at this time.

#CrucifyHim (a Good Friday parable)

How often have prominent public figures had to walk back, clarify, or disown public comments in response to a social media protest?  A recent Pew Research poll showed that only about 25% of American adults use Twitter, and about 25% of those people write 97% of all Tweets.  Yet, journalists, politicians, executives, individuals, and others often feel they need to bow to Twitter and other social media or be “cancelled.”  I’m not sure which is more worrisome, that so few largely anonymous Twitter users have so much power, or that even U.S. presidents sometimes yield to them.

Paradoxically, while the pandemic has shaken many people’s confidence in authority, at the same time some worldly authorities are claiming more power, having failed so miserably to manage the pandemic and its ripple effects.  To me, a lesson of the pandemic was: “See all these things people trust in?  They can all be torn down overnight.”  It has left a lot of people shaken.  Those we used to trust aren’t trustworthy, but where else can we turn?

The authorities respond: “Just give us more power and we will try again, but harder.  Ignore the evidence and trust us.”

The authorities of Jesus’ time were pretty lousy themselves.  In the greatest abuse of authority in history, they killed Him on a cross on Good Friday, humiliating Him publicly for all of history to see.  The rebel Barabbas was released by Roman political authorities instead of Jesus because of the cries of an angry mob stirred up by a few Jewish religious authorities jealous of Jesus’ appeal and resentful of His claims of authority.  Astonishingly, it’s not entirely unlike Twitter.  In modern times, the mob wouldn’t even need to show up to have Jesus killed, the “influencers” would just have to start #CrucifyHim trending and people would follow along just to be seen holding the popular view.  If Jesus’ message of love and hope for mankind died with Him, where can we turn?

Fortunately, we have Easter, where Jesus responds: “You hit me with all the power you have, and it wasn’t enough.  Even the grave cannot hold Me.  I rose from the dead and now sit at the right hand of the Father, in the place of ultimate authority.  The tomb is empty.  Observe the evidence and trust Me!

Jesus is risen indeed!

The stone that the builders rejected
            has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
            it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
            let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we pray, O LORD!           
            O LORD, we pray, give us success!” – Psalm 118:22-25

When You’re Stuck in Second Gear – Blessed are the Meek #4

Everybody struggles with maintaining hope in tough times, and also with knowing and doing God’s will when what we feel is right seems irrelevant.  Today I’m going to cover a story of how the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah struggled to understand an idea God gave him to share hope with future generations, including us.  The story also loosely follows the outline of the first three Beatitudes and therefore fits in the “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” series.

If misunderstood, the first two Beatitudes alone can leave us in a place where we’re a mess and the world is a terrible place and there’s nothing we can do about any of it.  It can be a place of depression and despair.  Like in the theme song from the TV show Friends[1], we feel like “It hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.”  Where does it end?  But God promises that there is work for each of us to do: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) The third Beatitude, “Blessed are the meek” promises a way forward – for every person in their own way to do whatever He has prepared for them.

The Gearbox of the Beatitudes
As I wrote in the first post on “Blessed are those who mourn” I believe the Beatitudes are an intentional sequence, and here I’ll describe better what I mean.  The Beatitudes are not a chronological path we move through as we mature.  We don’t learn to be fully poor in spirit before we can get any better at mourning or being meek.  The picture is more like gears in a machine that all need to work together for the machine to function in each specific situation.  Weakness in one place affects the entire machine and Jesus was explaining specific parts of becoming more like Him.  God, as our maker, knows how we function, the reasons behind when we fail to function, and the solution.  With the Beatitudes, Jesus encourages us to use the machine for what it was made for – loving God and neighbor in all times and circumstances.  First, being poor in spirit means that we have emptied ourselves of all illusions that our plans are better than God’s.  Second, mourning the state of ourselves and our world means we are emotionally engaged.  That we care.  In the third Beatitude, being meek is where we begin to engage our will, submitting it to God as our benevolent Lord.  If we don’t, “it’s like you’re always stuck in second gear” from the Friends theme song.

The story today (from Jeremiah 32) finds Jeremiah stuck.  The Jews had him imprisoned for speaking the words of their own God, and while he was there, God told him that he should buy a field.  Not only was Jeremiah in prison, but the field he was asked to buy was in enemy territory.  The Babylonians had already conquered much of Judah and were besieging Jerusalem.  Surrounded by despair, we can easily imagine Jeremiah asking: what good will it do?  He might think cutting off Nebuchadnezzar’s ear would be a better idea[2].

Jeremiah Inspects the Gears
As readers of the book of Jeremiah, we are doubly blessed to know that he did buy the field, but also that he recorded his prayer to God as he tried to overcome his reservations.  The prayer is in chapter 32, verses 17-25, and loosely reviews the first two Beatitudes, while he is having trouble engaging the third gear of meekness.  His mind and emotions are engaged, but his will hesitates.

First, Jeremiah reviews the power, character, and history of God to remind him to rely on His Spirit, not on the poverty of his own spirit in verses 17 to 23:

“‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.  You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds. You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day.  You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror.  And you gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey.  And they entered and took possession of it.

Second, Jeremiah mourns the consequences of Judah’s disobedience starting in the middle of verse 23 through verse 24:

But they did not obey your voice or walk in your law. They did nothing of all you commanded them to do. Therefore you have made all this disaster come upon them.  Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it, and because of sword and famine and pestilence the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it.

Yet the prayer closes with Jeremiah doubting the significance of his own obedience in verse 25:

Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.

In a book where the main theme is (temporary and partial) judgment on God’s people who had turned away from Him, there are also moments of (eternal) hope.  Jeremiah bought the field – to show God’s people that their exile would be temporary, and their eternal hope was secure. As the Beatitude says, the meek “shall inherit the earth“!   But there are also two notes of hope for us living centuries later: 1) that doubt is not something only “weak” Christians feel.  Jeremiah felt it too.  And 2) that encouragement matters, even if we see it as a meaningless drop in a turbulent ocean.  If God calls us to do it, it is meaningful.  For a lot of people “It hasn’t been their day, their week, their month, or even their year.”  As I write, the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t quite over and many are struggling to return to “normal,” which isn’t what it used to be.  To quote an old friend of mine in a recent Facebook post: “Encouragement. Everyone needs it, and we hardly ever share it. Don’t wait. Spread the love!”

If you still find yourself stuck, hesitant to shine God’s light in the darkness, go before God and follow the pattern of Jeremiah’s prayer – remember the power of His Spirit when yours is weak and the significance of obedience even in small things.  You might find not only yourself getting out of second gear, but also helping someone else move beyond a rut they’ve found themselves in.

Let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25


This post continues a series on the Beatitudes. To start at the beginning, click here.


[1] “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts (audio here)
[2] See the post “He Who Sits in the Heavens Laughs (Part 2)” for more on the growth in the Apostle Peter from cutting off Malchus’ ear to teaching “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” (1 Peter 2:1)