Recently I had friends coming for dinner.  Knowing it was going to be a long night of cooking, hosting, and cleaning, I decided to spend time meditating on God before starting to prepare dinner.  Up to this point my evening time of meditation was reserved for just before bedtime.  I knew that if I waited until then on this night, I would likely be thoroughly exhausted and unable to focus.

Spending time with God at this earlier hour was wonderful!  Because I wasn’t tired, I was able to more fully focus on Him, and I loved it.

As I left my meditation time to prepare the meal and host my friends, I was surprised at how the moments I’d spent with God positively affected my energy level and creativity.  The effect was as if I’d spent time in an oxygen chamber (though I’ve never actually been in an oxygen chamber, from what I’ve heard about the experience, that’s how it felt).

Since that evening, I’ve been working to make this time-switch my new habit.  I find that when I meditate on God at this earlier hour, I am more available to Him and better able to stay focused on Him.  Sitting, standing, or kneeling silently in His Presence, I sense His love.  When I leave my time of silence, I notice His creative energy and help as I prepare dinner and through the remainder of the evening.

“And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”  Luke 5:16, KJV

Earlier this week on April 21, I read a devotional entitled “A Cleared Calendar” in Max Lucado’s devotional book Grace for the Moment.  It reminded me that spending time with God in solitude is imperative for a healthy relationship with my Heavenly Father.  I am recording it here for any who struggle with the call to be active for God, and who perhaps feel a bit selfish when their heart calls them to quiet and prayer.

A Cleared Calendar

By Max Lucado

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Luke 5:16 NIV

“How long has it been since you let God have you?

I mean really have you?  How long since you gave him a portion of undiluted, uninterrupted time listening for his voice?  Apparently, Jesus did.  He made a deliberate effort to spend time with God.

Spend much time reading about the listening life of Jesus and a distinct pattern emerges.  He spent regular time with God, praying and listening.  Mark says, ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed’ (mark 1:35 NIV) . . .

Let me ask the obvious. If Jesus, the Son of God, the sinless Savior of humankind, thought it worthwhile to clear his calendar to pray, wouldn’t we be wise to do the same?”

With the truth of this message, I look forward to the Sabbath!

When people learn that I keep the Sabbath they are often curious about what I do on that day and why I do it.  Their ‘why’ tends to be another way of asking what benefit I receive from separating myself from my daily work to spend time resting and focusing on God.

Recently while reading Oswald Chambers devotional My Utmost for His Highest, I came across a poem that resonated with my experience of one of the benefits I receive from spending one day each week with God.  The following poem is untitled, and is recorded in his March 22nd devotional.

“We cannot kindle when we will

The fire which in the heart resides,

The spirit bloweth and is still,

In mystery our soul abides;

But tasks in hours of insight will’d

Can be through hours of gloom fulfilled.”

On the Sabbath I find that I am aware of His Spirit differently than the other six days of the week.  This allows Him to do in me what He wills, so that the following week because of time spent with Him, I am changed.

The above blog post was written on April 1, 2016 by Robby for Christianquietude.wordpress.com

Growing up in Grand Haven, Michigan, my family always spent New Year’s Eve attending the watchnight service at the Assemblies of God church near our home on Beechtree Street.  When the service began between 10:00 and 11:00 pm, we sang, listened to a sermon, then time was given for personal testimony when congregants stood to share their joys and sorrows as they talked about what God was doing in their lives.  When the clock’s hands neared midnight we gathered at the altar or stayed in our seats to “pray the new year in”.  Walking home after the service, I remember feeling at peace.

Praying the new year in was a way to stop at the end of one year and the beginning of the next, to be still and know that God is God.

As I look back on those watchnight services, I say to myself, “Good times!”

I am thankful that in my family and in that community there was an acknowledgement that each new year is a gift from God.  I’m thankful that as a child I developed the habit of looking back at each previous year to asses my life, to repent when it was needed, and to thank God for what He had done in my life.  I now see that this yearly service helped me develop the practice of praying as David prayed in Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Though watchnight services seem to be out of fashion, I plan to spend some time “praying the new year in”.  I want to take time to consider this past year and to express my profound gr attitude for all God has done.  I want to assess the year that has passed, and repent where repentance is needed.  And I want to invite God’s Spirit to be present in my life to guide me into and through this new year.

*A watchnight service is a Christian church service held on New Year’s Eve that concludes shortly after midnight.  Those in attendance review the past year, and seek God’s guidance as they look to the year ahead.

RK

Recently on the TV show The Voice, Emily Ann Roberts sang, “I Come to the Garden Alone” – a song she chose to honor her grandfather.  Listening to her angelic voice, I was reminded of how Sabbath keeping and silent meditation on God has shifted my perspective of that well-loved hymn.

Though I always thought the song was beautiful, I used to wonder about the words in the chorus, “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”  This portion of the song confused me, I thought the words were a bit prideful and misguided.  How dare the songwriter assume that the joy they experienced was a joy no other Christian had ever experienced?  That was before I began the practice of Sabbath keeping and silent meditation on God.

Since developing this practice I find that through His Spirit, God speaks to me personally.  He never contradicts His Word, but He reaches my heart and spirit with the exact message I need.  I have come to understand that having a relationship with God means intimacy, and that intimacy sometimes involves messages that are for me alone.  I don’t mean that when God tells me, “I love you”, He never says it to any of His other children.  I do mean that when He says it to me, He says it in the exact way He wants me to receive it at that moment.

I recall experiencing this kind of intimate communication one Sabbath while meditating on the love of God.  His voice came to my heart and asked,”Robby, do I love you?”  I answered, “Yes God.  You love the whole world, and because I’m part of your world I know you love me.”  God’s voice again spoke to my heart, “I’m not asking you about who or what else I love.  I want to know if you believe I love you?”  Oh.  I had never considered that question for myself.  I knew God was asking me what I believed about His love for me, and that He wanted me to answer this very important question.  As I asked myself that question, I thought back on all the ways God has been such a loving Father, how He has led and protected me, and all the answered prayers.  My answer came easily, and I knew in a way I had never known before that God loves me personally and intimately.  In that moment I went from believing God loved the world enough to send His Son to die for all people, to believing that I am His especially loved child.  Because of that moment of listening to the truth God was speaking into my life, my view of God, my relationship with Him and my life have been forever changed.

In that moment I experienced the words of that well-loved hymn, ” . . . And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”  I now know the words of this song are not prideful or misguided, but awe-inspired and humbling.

I am thankful Emily Ann chose this song to honor her grandfather.  And I am thankful for the truth of the words of the song  – that God communicates personal messages to His children that He knows we need to hear.  RK

Since beginning the remodel of our house I’ve made many decisions.  The most important decision was which contractor to hire, then came decisions about tile, granite, mirrors, light fixtures, wall and carpet color, and the list goes on.  It all feels pretty weighty because once these items are purchased and installed we will be living with them for a long time.  Thankfully I”m happy with everything we’ve chosen so far.

Looking back on my recent weeks of remodeling chaos, I am reminded of another weighty decision I made some years ago that has allowed me to remain enthusiastic in spite of the dust and confusion.  That decision was to become a Sabbath-keeper.

How has Sabbath keeping helped me get through my house remodel?

*It helps me tolerate the noise and confusion because I know that there will soon be a day of peace and quiet.

*On the Sabbath I can sleep in a bit.

*On the Sabbath I can take a leisurely nap without the interruption of pounding, sawing, and the worker’s music choices.

*It is the  one day I do not need to make any weighty decisions – I can simply be.

*On the Sabbath more than any other day I am reminded that God is in charge, that I don’t have to control everything, and that no matter what has happened or what will happen, I can trust Him.

*Because I’ve spent the Sabbath in rest and quiet I am able to face the new week with optimism and energy.

*Most importantly, I get to spend my day focused on God and His presence in my life.  Because of the time spent with Him, His Spirit strengthens my entire being.

While I’m happy with my remodeling choices, I’m even happier with my choice to be a Sabbath keeper.  It adds adds value to every moment of my life, and now it is helping me through a house remodel.

Three weeks in a row the same prayer request from the same woman read, “Pray that God would restore the joy and delight I once found in Him”.   Remembering when that same request was the silent cry of my heart, I mentally retraced my path of rediscovering delight in God.

Like most God-directed journeys, this one began with an unexpected change of plans.  One spring day I was informed that the following year I would be teaching the Pentateuch to high school students at the local Christian school.  Though I had anticipated fun in the sun and some time away from school work, because this was a new teaching assignment I spent my summer working my way from Genesis to Deuteronomy.  I was determined to be faithful to God and to my students.  Up to that point in my life I tended to work sixteen to eighteen hour days, and so losing my summer break led my heart to cry out, “God, you know I love you, but I’m so tired and my joy in you is gone.  Help me find delight in you.”

In God’s providence, the answer to my heart’s cry coincided with what He wanted to teach me about the Sabbath.

When school began in the fall I was ready.  I taught that in Genesis 2 the seventh day held a special place in God’s economy – He called it holy.  When we got to Exodus 16, I explained that God used the Sabbath to train the Israelites to trust Him as they collected extra manna on the sixth day so they could rest from work on the seventh.  As I taught, I sensed God’s Spirit urging me to trust Him with my time by working six days and resting on the seventh.  Reaching Exodus 20, I saw as if for the first time that the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God.  Facing my students I sensed God asking me to obey this law that I had neglected.  Though my life’s pattern was obedience, I struggled with this.  Visions of unfinished lesson plans and ungraded papers haunted me.  How could I get everything done in six days when I couldn’t fit it into seven?  In the end I said yes.  I knew I had to trust that God knew best.

That first Friday evening as the Sabbath began I sat on my back deck watching the sun set.  I knew that the next twenty-four hours were holy, unlike any other day of the week.  God’s felt presence surrounded me as I read the Bible, prayed, and sat quietly in His presence.  On that day and every Sabbath since, I find delight in God.  He reminds me that my value comes not from doing more, but from simply being His child.  Each Sabbath I delight in a God who provides one day in seven for me to refocus and spend time with Him.

Some time after I began keeping the Sabbath I happened upon Isaiah 58.  Verses 13-14 say, “If thou . . . call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord . . . then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.”

When I obeyed God’s urging to take the Sabbath seriously I had no idea that through my obedience He would answer my prayer and the cry of my heart.

God is true to His word.  I silently prayed for the woman’s request, knowing God would answer.  Just as He delights in us, He desires our delight be in Him.

Why do I continue the practice of Christian meditation?  In the silence, in the being-with-God time, He speaks to me at a heart-level.

For many years I experienced God’s love solely from head-knowledge.  Logic told me there was a God, and that through Jesus Christ He demonstrated His love for all mankind.  I knew that if He loved all mankind, He must also love me.

This was good information and was what I clung to for many years.  Yet during those years I don’t ever remember feeling like God’s especially loved daughter.

When I spend time with God in silence, as if in layers, His love becomes real to my heart.  When my intention is to listen to His silence and His voice, His Spirit shows me how His love for me is specific and unique.

Knowing I am loved by God in this one-on-one kind of way alters how I view life and how I walk through my days.  This love permeates my heart, transforms my life, and makes my relationship with Him more complete than it has ever been.

The message of the prevailing culture is that the busier I am and the more I accomplish, the more valuable I am.  Unfortunately, this is also the prevailing message in many churches and in much Christian teaching.

I love finding a different focus in Christian writing that counters this message.  On January 4 while reading my “Streams in the Desert” devotional I found such a message.  The following excerpts spoke to me.

The author begins, “Slow me down, Lord!  Ease the pounding of my heart by quieting my mind.  Steady my hurried pace with the vision of the eternal reach of time.”  Reading that, my heart agrees and begins to quiet.

Three verses record the rich benefit of waiting on God:

“The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him . . .”  Lamentations 3:25

“Wait on the Lord . . . He shall strengthen thine heart.”  Psalm 27:14

“Wait on the Lord . . . and He shall exalt thee . . .”  Psalm 37:34

As the devotion concludes, Dr. James Vaughan gives four purposes for waiting on God.  He writes:  “It practices the patience of faith.  It gives time for the preparation for the coming gift.  It makes the blessing the sweeter when it arrives.  It shows the sovereignty of God – to give just when and as He pleases.”

As I spend time in silent meditation I find that Dr. Vaughan’s purposes resonate, and I would add that they are not only the purposes, but also the benefits of waiting on God.

In addition to Dr. Vaughan’s purposes listed above, through the practice of Christian meditation I am daily reminded of one more purpose and benefit – that God desires a relationship with me, and that He delights in my presence.

As I anticipate sundown, the beginning of the Sabbath, I have prepared my home. To help prepare my heart, I pray this prayer from the book, The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Devotions,by Arthur Bennett.

“O God most high, most glorious,

The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,

For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed,

but thou art for ever at peace.

Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment,

they stand fast as the eternal hills.

Thy power knows no bound,

thy goodness no stint.

Thou bringest order out of confusion,

and my defeats are thy victories;

The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows,

to leave every concern entirely to thee,

every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood;

Revive deep spirituality in my heart;

Let me live near to the great shepherd,

hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.

Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth,

from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.

Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,

burning into me by experience the things I know;

Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,

that I may bear its reproach,

vindicate it,

see Jesus as its essence,

know it in the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;

unbelief mars my confidence,

sin makes me forget thee.

Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;

Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,

that all else is trifling.

Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.

Abide in me, gracious God.”