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You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. - Proverbs 3:24 (NLT)
Confession: I’m a terrible sleeper. I’ve always had a certain level of insomnia that has kept me from a good night’s rest. Early in marriage my wife wasn’t prepared for my tossing and turning, my getting up and watching TV, and my turning on a light to read a book. It was a shocker she wasn’t quite ready for. And I was shocked that she was shocked! To me, it was normal. In my reality, it was something that everyone did. I thought it was the nature of being human to go to bed for eight hours and only get four hours of sleep. Angie woke me up to a new truth (pardon the pun): better sleep was out there.
And, while I still struggle with sleeping today, it’s so much better. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that I sleep better after a hard day’s work and with a clear conscience. As I age, I pour more of myself out during the day so my body’s tired at night. And I’ve gained wisdom and self-control that help keep me from being tormented by the devil’s prodding at the midnight hour. It once felt impossible to get a solid eight hours a night. Now, though, it’s completely within reason and it’s awesome.
Some of us need to walk away from our current “reality” and realize there’s something better out there. Maybe it’s a new “normal” we’ve created with our sin. Maybe we’ve done it with our attitude. Maybe our circumstances. But Jesus changed our reality with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. We’ll spend some time this week looking at how. But start by examining your reality.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 12:9 (NLT)
There’s an over looming reality that 24 hours a day, seven days a week there’s a war going on around us. Since the beginning of time, this world has never been fully at peace. There are wars with guns, wars with words and wars in the spiritual realm constantly being fought. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for peace.
The biblical word for peace is shalom. It was often used as a “hello” or “goodbye.” It was a broad term related to health, prosperity, harmony, and wholeness. The word “make” in the Greek means “to take action.” Jesus combines the two words to say that peace has to be made; it usually doesn’t happen by chance. In a meeting, recently, with my friend Gary, he said, “A peacemaker takes the initiative; they wade in and get involved. And contrary to what some people think, peacemaking isn’t perpetual niceness. On the contrary, it’s usually messy and difficult. It’s not avoiding conflict; it’s navigating through it so that everyone can find a better path forward.”
It’s also good to understand that sometimes peacemaking fails. It backfires, which is why Paul said, “If possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) Those two words, “If possible,” say a lot. Sometimes peace isn’t possible, but Jesus says we’ll be blessed when we give it our very best shot. Yet, somehow, we live in a culture of avoidance-makers instead of peace-makers. And if we’ve fallen into a rut of our past, avoidance isn’t the solution.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven - Matthew 4:12 (NLT)
Over Fall Break, I took my kids to Mammoth Cave. I was born and raised here in Kentucky but had never been to the world’s longest cave that practically sits in our backyard. So I enjoyed the excursion as much as they did.
What preceded my visit were all the reports of utter darkness inside the cave. So many folks told me that there was nothing like that moment when they turn the lights out and it is complete 100% darkness. I was told that it was like nothing I’d experienced anywhere else and, I have to say, that was correct. They guide us through all the turns, dips and climbs. And along the entire path, there are lanterns lighting the way. But at one point, after descending into the earth for nearly an hour (and without warning, mind you), the guide flips off the lights.
It was like everything around me ceased to exist. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking about the bright shining sun in the sky. I wasn’t aware of the fresh air on the surface. My mind wasn’t occupied with all the life that existed beyond the cave’s exit. All I thought about was that consuming darkness. I wondered what would happen if they didn’t come back on. I wondered how I would get out.
Jesus’ Beatitudes were a reminder that there’s life and light on the other side. These aren’t cutesy goals to make us happy. They’re reminders that a better life waits for us in heaven. There may be darkness all around and this life isn’t easy. Jesus reminds us here, that we can be blessed on this side of heaven. But the blessing that comes after this life will blow our minds. This blessing will feel like darkness compared to what waits for us.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. - John 13:24 (NLT)
Well, it’s that time of year when we all talk about eating better, exercising more and watching less TV. At this point, late into my thirties, it’s a given that the conversation will, at the very least, be played out inside my head. “You know, Derrick, January could be the month that you quit it with the milkshakes.” And, inevitably, I will skip a milkshake or two in the early parts of the year. But sooner or later I’ll find myself back in the drive-thru at Chick-fil-a where the lady in the window will say, “Where have you been, Derrick?!”
Yes. She knows me by name. Sorry, not sorry.
The problem is (and doctors, fitness gurus, and dietitians will attest to this), that it’s not about eliminating a thing or two from your life. It’s about changing your entire lifestyle. Nothing changes when I exercise once or twice. Nothing changes by cutting out a milkshake but eating break-and-bake cookies for dinner. If I want to see change in my life, I have to change my life, not just a single aspect of it.
That mindset shift is what Jesus was all about. He came and said, “I’m doing something completely different here.” We’re pretty good at building our own false realities and pretending like everyone else sees it. But Jesus told us that He was doing the real thing. And in His real reality, poor people are blessed, pure people are blessed and meek people are blessed. And we don’t just need to change a couple aspects about ourselves to get in on it. We need to change our entire way of thinking.
Too many of us think popping into church on Sunday makes us a Jesus follower. Have you arrived at the place where everything about your thinking has changed? Want to know how to get there? The answer’s in Jesus’ entire Sermon on the Mount. Read it. I dare you. Then ask the Holy Spirit to allow you to have a new perspective.Share Tweet
As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. - Proverbs 26:11 (NLT)
Well, I figured I’d close this week’s devotionals with the most disgusting verse in all of Scripture. That got your attention yet? This verse always had my attention. For me, this verse has been logged in my memory for as long and as deep as John 3:16. As an immature greenhorn in the faith, there was something about this verse that cut me open like a double-edged sword. Or maybe it was that I was an immature teenage boy that thought vomit was funny. Either way, I got the message loud and clear. My sin is gross. And for some reason, I return to it over and over.
As a dad of four kids, I’ve survived my fair share of disgusting experiences. Kids get sick. A lot. I’ve seen things that I can’t unsee. There are images of the past that I would like to erase from my brain. The sights of my children’s digestive detonations haunt me if I allow it.
But for some reason, the truth of John 3:16 can escape me quite easily. I’ve made my fair share of messes. And in those moments I often get a really clear glimpse of the cost that Jesus paid to rescue me from my sin. He died. He suffered. He hurt.
And I forget that.
I mean, I know it happened. But I don’t live like I remember that. If I remembered that like I should, I wouldn’t return to my folly. But I need grace. I return to sin over and over. And that sin is gross.
Today, I want to spend some time appreciating God’s grace. It’s a gift to us. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved…” Ask God to expose those areas in your life where you return to your folly. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you so aware of His grace that you gain self-control and seek His will in your life.Share Tweet