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

His Master’s Voice (aka This Blog Doesn’t Need Another Mascot)

You may not know him by his name, but you’ve probably seen Nipper the dog.  He’s quite famous, although he died in 1895.  Nipper, of course, is the dog from the painting “His Master’s Voice” where he is listening intently to a gramophone.  The picture became a popular logo for many companies, including RCA to sell record players, because the dog looks like it thinks his master is in there talking to him.  The RCA recording technology is so clear!

“His Master’s Voice”, an 1898 painting by Francis Barraud. From Wikipedia Commons.

“His Master’s Voice” is also a good introduction to some posts I’m working on about hearing our Master’s voice.  We might like to be like Nipper, and every now and then we might get a glimpse of what that’s like, but we’re unlike the painting a lot of the time.

For one thing, most dogs are naturally loyal and want to please their masters.  That’s why Nipper loves the gramophone so much.  A funny thing about dogs is that they don’t care what their masters believe.  They won’t discuss philosophy with them.  Not that their master’s philosophy doesn’t matter to the dog, because if their philosophy includes cruelty to animals, that’s very bad.  Dogs just don’t think at that level.  On the other hand, dogs are very, very excited and eager to hear you tell them to do something.  Cats of course are very different – I have two of them – and they’re too often a better picture of how I really relate to my Master in heaven than Nipper is.

The other point is that dogs have great hearing.  The painting has no sound, but you get the idea that, no matter how much noise was going on around him, Nipper would be right there, trying to find his master in the gramophone.  In contrast, people are bombarded with loud voices from all directions and usually aren’t as good at filtering the good from the bad.

Centered on the story of Gideon from the book of Judges, I’ll be sharing a few posts soon about how difficult and messy listening for God’s voice really is.  I’m trying to figure it out every day.

Ebenezer, looking concerned

Lastly, if you see Ebenezer (a squirrel and the blog’s mascot), tell him Nipper is only here for a short visit.  Also remind him that in heaven, even the dogs and squirrels will lie down together in peace.

Coda
One of my favorite song lyrics of all time is:
“I’m looking past the shadows of my mind into the truth; And I’m trying to identify the voices in my head; God, which one’s you?”

It’s from a 2000 song called “Breathing” by Lifehouse.  They probably didn’t have Nipper in mind when they wrote it, but it’s about us all wishing we could pay better attention to our Lord, to know His will, or sometimes just to be present with Him.

You can read the lyrics here, or if you have 4 ½ minutes, listen here.  Apologies for any ads on these sites.


The next post in the series is here

God Equips Those He Calls

Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash

When Jeremiah was called to serve as a prophet, God told him he was literally made for it, as covered in a recent post, but Jeremiah’s response was not an enthusiastic one.  Jeremiah 1:6-8 records this exchange:

“Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’  But the LORD said to me,
            ‘Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
            for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
            and whatever I command you, you shall speak.’”

Even though God had just said “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” Jeremiah objects that he was too young and did not have the natural ability required for the job.  Maybe he doubted anyone would listen to him, so God must have the wrong guy.  God doesn’t disagree that Jeremiah was young (he already knew that), but knows that God’s ability is what matters, not Jeremiah’s.  God knew that someday you and I would be reading Jeremiah’s words regardless of his own youth or ability.  God never picks the wrong person for the job.

But if “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”[1] why does the Scripture tell us that one of its own authors doubted and questioned God Himself?

The answer of course, is “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”  We should learn not only from Jeremiah’s prophecies to the people of his time, but also from His experience with God.  In hindsight, we think that because Jeremiah is a book of the Bible, of course he was able to do the work God gave him, but in the moment of his call, Jeremiah had no idea.  So, when we think our ability is not enough the job at hand, we should remember Jeremiah’s youth and remember that “God does not call the equipped; He equips the called,” as the saying goes.  Jeremiah learned this from his own experience, and we may learn from it as well because the Bible records it.

Also, God shows us Jeremiah’s flaws to comfort us when we feel inadequate, not only in ability but also in faith.  Even if we know that “God does not call the equipped; He equips the called,” we don’t always act on that knowledge.  Jeremiah doubts not only his call, but there are other examples, including when he questions why he should buy a field the Babylonians were about to seize.[2]  Doubt is not something that only some Christians feel – we are not alone in our weakness.  Even the Bible’s own authors had doubt because they could not see as God sees.

God is patient when we are honest with Him about our doubts, but He is also honest with us when He says we were literally made to serve Him.  No Christian is inadequate for the work God gives them, for in His power He accomplishes what He wants. He has no doubts and is faithful in providing everything we need.

Sometimes God sends us before we think we are ready, so we can learn to put our confidence in the right place like Paul, who wrote: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13


[1] 2 Timothy 3:16
[2] The story is in Jeremiah 32, which I covered in an earlier post, here.

Called to Be Our Consecrated Selves

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

People have moments where they wish they had a greater role in the world around them.  We see other people around us, or in stories from the Bible or in the news, and think we’d like to be more like them.  More influential, more effective, more powerful.  For example, what if I could be a prophet or an apostle?  Or in our modern world, maybe a “social media influencer”?  “Be yourself” is often the advice for finding contentment when we feel like this, but the Bible says we are “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”[1]  So, should we be ourselves, or should we be like Jesus?  What will give us contentment?  While not a full answer, the call of Jeremiah the prophet offers some help.

Jeremiah was not a prophet by accident, because Jeremiah 1:4-5 says:

“Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
            and before you were born I consecrated you;
            I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’”

Here, God calls Jeremiah both to conform his ways to God’s, and also to his own specific task.  Like Jeremiah, every Christian is known by God and called to do His will.  Only God knows why we were each made the way we were made, and in a way God calling us to serve Him is like Him saying “stop living like you’re an accident of a random, purposeless world.”  It is because we were made, not just evolved, that we have purpose, and God has “consecrated” us to that purpose.

Stop living like you’re an
accident of a random,
purposeless world.

But each of us was made differently, also on purpose.  Unlike Jeremiah, my fellow travelers on this blog probably aren’t prophets, and that is part of why Jeremiah needed to be a prophet.  His job wasn’t to call everyone else to be a prophet, but to serve everyone else by calling them to find their own purpose in God.  Jeremiah wanted all of God’s people to take whatever He has endowed them with and dedicate it to Him.  Likewise, being “conformed to the image of” Jesus does not mean we should all be carpenters, but that we should apply His righteousness to every task He puts before us.

Therefore, God’s people should never live like they are an accident.  We are all a valuable work of creation, made to find our good and His glory in His amazing design.  We will find our true selves in the One who made us, and God’s people will have unity in Christ’s character, combined with diversity in the infinite creativity of the people He created.

Be yourself, and also be like Jesus.

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


[1] Romans 8:29

Doctrine in Action

Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

In C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters, senior demon Screwtape writes fictional letters to Wormwood, a junior demon, on how to defeat his “patient.”  In one of these letters, Screwtape advises: “As long as [man] does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance… Wallow in it… Write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which [Heavenly Father] plants in a human soul… Do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm [the cause of evil] if [it is kept] out of his will… The more often he feels without acting, the less he will ever be able to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

Christianity is not a soul-less doctrine, but a restoration of the right relationships between souls and their Creator, which should lead to action.  Teaching should lead to love.  In 1 Timothy 1:3-4 Paul writes to Timothy: “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”  In his commentary on the verse, John Calvin says that Paul “judges of doctrine by the fruit; for every tiling that does not edify ought to be rejected, although it has no other fault; and everything that is of no avail but for raising contentions, ought to be doubly condemned.”

Calvin’s note and Screwtape’s fictional letter remind me of the linked Monty Python video of philosophers philosophizing about soccer while simultaneously “playing” soccer.

Every doctrine and institution of the church should empower His people to live for Him.  Are we playing the right game, and are we playing to win?