Time To Unplug

 I always look forward to our family vacations at the beach. During these times, I am very fortunate to be able to “shelve” my smartphone. This allows me to truly unplug and focus solely on my family and our time together, without distractions, or interruptions. I realize not everyone can detach in such a way. However, I also couldn’t help but notice how many at the beach were glued to their phones. Folks were sitting in a beautiful location, but not noticing it. They were sitting at tables with others, but not talking. They were walking along the beach, but not looking around. Kids were anxious to play, but parents were too distracted to join in. I’m sure some of this was work related, but how much of it wasn’t? How much was simply social media, or habitual phone toggling?

Thus, I am reminded to the vital importance “unplugging” has in our lives. Not that we are to boycott technological conveniences, but I do believe we have great opportunity to lessen our obsession and perhaps even our addiction to them in order to reap even greater benefits:

Reconnect: When we allow ourselves to periodically disconnect from the outlets of this world, we open our opportunities to reconnect with God and His blessings. If we can find a quiet place to sit outside, we begin to hear the birds singing once again (Psalm 19:1). We observe the butterflies, bees, squirrels and all the harmonious aspects of life we so quickly miss when we are glued to our devices. We also find time to speak with God, to pray, to meditate on His word and simply allow ourselves to rest in His presence.

Replenish: After a vacation, do you come back replenished, or drained? One of the most powerful replenishing moments I had during my vacation was paddling a kayak out on the ocean and mediating on Psalm 23. I allowed myself to drift far from shore as I reflected and digested every word. It truly replenished my soul, and I couldn’t wait to race back to shore to share with my wife all God revealed to me out there on the water. How thankful I am for taking the time to unplug that day!

Reenergize: If and when we discover the power unplugging can have on reenergizing our minds, bodies and souls, we won’t be so naive to neglect it. We will find the time to shelve the phones, turn off the radios and televisions, and simply enjoy an old fashioned game of checkers with loved ones. This energizes us in ways that propels our productivity more than we can imagine. Better yet, my soul is still on fire from that conversation I had with God out on the water! Why? Because the profound blessings of His word, creation and grace compounded in one grand unplugged moment that I willingly and eagerly pursued. However, this can thankfully occur anytime and anyplace – the question is are we available to pursue them (Isaiah 40:31)?

Application: “Music To My Ears” – Deuteronomy 4:29
As I listened to the ocean waves, the seagulls and the silence created by being away from my devices, my soul was rejuvenated. Stresses dissipated and lingering conversations with those I love reignited. It was all heavenly music to my ears, and a precious reminder to always be bold enough and wise enough to take time to unplug from the devices and to plug into the Divine.

Missing Out From Holding Out

imageAt times, other Christians may say things like, “I’m just not where ‘they’ are in my faith“. Or, “I will never be where ‘they’ are in my faith“. My immediate thought is always, “Why not”? For none of us are superior in any way. For example, history proves how self-serving I’m capable of being. Therefore, I desperately desire God to intervene in my life and openly acknowledge my absolute need for His guidance and direction. So, for those who feel they can’t, or won’t allow their relationship with Christ to grow any further, remember that holding back is costly in many ways:

Blessings: When we hold out on God, do we think He will continue to supply an abundance of blessings? After all, His blessings are not for us to hoard, but to share for the advancement of His Kingdom – not ours. To illustrate, if we gave gifts we wanted distributed, but discovered one was keeping the gifts for themselves, while the other generously gave as we directed, would we continue to support such behavior equally (Matthew 25:14-30)?

Burdens: When we hold out on God, we resolve to keep many of the burdens He is willing to take-on for us. Why would any of us desire to carry more burdens, anxieties and worries than we have to? God is ready and willing to take them all, but when we hold back, we also hold back on trusting Him with our release (Matthew 11:28).

Benefits: Clearly there are benefits to being the children of the King of Kings. Things like eternal life with Christ is something we all get! However, we also benefit by benefitting others with His truth. Yet, when we resolve to hold back our spiritual growth and maturity, we inadvertently reduce our availability to be used fully by God for His purposes. Thereby, our individual opportunities to participate in benefiting the Kingdom are also reduced (Luke 6:38).

Application: “Have It Your Way” – Hebrews 5:12-14
Ultimately, we all have a vital decision to make. Will we continue to have it our way, or wise up, give in and surrender to have it His way? God loves us either way, but why settle for less than God’s best when we don’t have to?

Linger Longer

imageThe other day I realized how I was rushing my kids through dinner, in order to race them off to the showers and then race them off to bed – all so I could race to rest. Then it hit me, how easily I get caught up in this racing mentality. I do it when I race through stores strategically maneuvering to avoid conversations, and during those times I try to dodge random interruptions that seem to inevitably come my way when I’m diligently trying to work and focus on something very “important”. Thankfully, God is patient and loves me enough to gently remind me to the importance of making time to appreciate taking time:

For Children: They don’t stay young long. Granted, they require a lot of energy when they are – but what they require are the same things we need. For who doesn’t need to be loved, or appreciated? Who doesn’t enjoy having someone take a sincere interest in them and demonstrate care? Incredibly, many times this can all be shown by simply spending time together – now, why would we ever want to rush through that (Psalm 127:3)?

For Community: We may think, or want to think, we don’t need others, but we do. We require fellowship with others, in particular with the body of Christ. For it is a powerful tool God uses to help comfort, equip and encourage fellow believers. Therefore, let us never get too busy for serving fellowships, interruptions and conversations (Hebrews 10:45). For it may be those exact interruptions God is using to meet our needs and fulfill His purposes.

For Christ: Clearly, time with Jesus Christ is essential. Yet, how tempting is it to rush through prayer, skim our Bibles and make church an option? When we do this, we miss out big time, but our absence causes others to miss out too. Not that we’re all that, but God has given us gifts to share. Therefore, when we aren’t spending time with Christ we can’t be fully charged for the services He has called us to. Additionally, when we aren’t with others, they are deprived the very gifts God has entrusted us to share (2 Corinthians 9:10).

Application: “Embracing Not Racing” – Matthew 6:34
Granted, there are many problems and struggles in this world, which only emphasizes the importance of enjoying the precious moments that come our way throughout our day. Many times they may come disguised as interruptions, but instead, could they really be Divine interventions? If so, instead of passing them by, or rushing through them, I pray for the wisdom to linger and enjoy them a little longer.

Why Witness?

imageOne of the most frequently asked questions Christians receive revolves around what happens to people who have never heard the gospel. Perhaps they live in remote areas, or simply have never been introduced to the story of Christ. Do they go to hell? O.S. Hawkins, in his book, The Jesus Code, points out that if people can get to heaven by simply being in a position to never hear the gospel, then we should burn all the Bibles, end all missions and do everything possible to ensure no one ever learns of Jesus. Therefore, all can be saved out of ignorance. Clearly, this is counter to Jesus’ great command to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (Mark 16:15). Thankfully, the days of God’s grace are still upon us – largely to allow believers more time to witness to those people who have not heard the gospel and to those who have yet to receive salvation. Therefore, may we rejoice in our opportunity to continue serving in Christ’s divine purposes:

To Share: If someone possessed the treatment to save the life of a snake bitten victim, but withheld it, we would think such a person to be beyond wicked. Yet, how many times do we do the same thing as Christians when we withhold the saving power of Jesus from those in need (Galatians 6:10)? Perhaps we keep the gift of salvation we have been entrusted to ourselves, because we don’t want to intrude, insult, or embarrass, but could it be, by holding back, we are actually delivering them a dire disservice?

To Strengthen: Struggles and challenges abound, which is why testimonies from other believers are so powerful. They serve to strengthen and encourage as others hear how Christ helped us persevere, overcome and grow through our own challenges (1 Thessalonians 5:11). To hold this back is like denying a helping hand to an eager toddler desiring to walk and stand.

To Save: Christians possess and have been entrusted with a powerful gift – Jesus. For He offers eternal life to all who believe in Him. May we never seek to hoard such a potent privilege, but eagerly pursue sharing Him with as many as possible – for it is truly a matter of life and death (John 11:25-26).

Application: “Fill To Fulfill” – Acts 4:1
Overcoming our reservations to lovingly share our faith despite the risks of opposition and obstinance can not be done in our strength. Only Christ can transform our hearts to love enough, care enough and persevere enough to willingly participate in such self-sacrifice. As we surrender our lives to Him, He is faithful to the sending and the saving, while empowering us to the serving.