Tagged ‘Psalm‘

That Sinking Feeling

A few weeks ago I shared my experience when I grounded my sailboat while navigating Lake Okeechobee. It is currently in long-term storage at a marina while I wait for God to provide the resources needed to repair the rudder. It excites me to see God at work in my life and relationship with him through this experience. I shared on social media the work God has done in my life in my understanding of stewardship versus ownership. It is truly a place of rest when I keep my focus where it should stay.

If you read only those blogs, you might think I always respond the way I should. Nothing is further from the truth. In the following days I found myself struggling to keep my focus on God and not on my circumstances. Most of the time I kept my focus on him. But there were quiet moments when I was alone, far from the spotlight of ministry, and I wrestled with my lack of faith.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 103:14, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” This deeply ministers to me in the moments when I feel all too human. God created me from dust, and to dust someday I will return. In the moments between, I am dusty. I am of this world. I am human. My heart does not always respond the way my head knows it should. It is okay. God knows how he made me. He remembers I am dust.

Throughout Scripture we meet many interesting characters who carried the dust of the world on their journey. Peter is one of my favorites. He is bold, outspoken, quick to action, and undeniably human.

Following the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, Jesus sent the disciples on ahead of him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stayed behind to dismiss the crowds, and when all had departed, he found a place where he could pray in solitude. In the coolness of the evening he was alone. By this time the disciples were far from shore. A storm had risen, and they labored against the wind and the waves.

After many hours, the disciples had only managed to traverse two-thirds of the way across the lake. Darkness consumed the vessel. The tempest beat upon them. They were weary. Their arms ached from rowing. In the waning darkness, the disciples saw the figure of a man walking on the sea. Terror gripped their hearts. “It is a ghost!” they cried.

But it was Jesus! He came to them in the midst of their trial, walking on the water. “Take heart,” he shouted above the wind, “it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Here is where my brash friend Peter makes me smile. He blurted out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Be careful what you ask!  For Jesus says to him, “Come.” And, in one of the most understated moments in Scripture, it says, “So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus” (Matthew 14:28, ESV).

Now we could stop our story right here, and Peter’s actions would impress all of us. Just as you might think more highly of me than you ought after reading the blog of my response to the grounding of the vessel. But let us continue our tale, for this is where it gets interesting.

Peter leapt from the vessel and strutted across the water. He was almost to Jesus. For a second, a flash of lighting illuminated the boiling sea. He glanced to his left and saw the frothy waves kicked up by the fierce wind. In a terrifying moment, he realized he was in the middle of the lake, and the boat was far behind. Fear pierced his heart. He was no longer walking on water. His feet sank beneath the surface, and he felt the cold water engulfing his legs. In a panic he cried, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus reached for him, lifting him above the waves, and with compassion said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Peter and Jesus walked back to the boat and joined the other disciples. The wind and waves ceased their roiling. The trial was ended. (Read Matthew 14:22-33 for the full account of this story.)

I relate to Peter. I want to step out of the boat in the midst of the storm to walk closer to Jesus. I want to focus on him so deeply that logic dissolves, and I find the water firm beneath my feet as I step toward him. But I also know what it means to take my eyes off of Jesus and to focus instead on the wind and the waves. I know that sinking feeling. I know the sensation of cold water engulfing my feet. I know the moments of fear in the midst of trying to trust him fully. I know how the hands of Jesus feel when he reaches down to lift me up. I know his voice when he says to me, “Tim, oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Yet his voice is not condemning. In my mind, I see his eyes looking down at my dusty clothes. Then he looks back to my eyes, smiles and with a wink says, “Yep, you’re dusty. You’re still human. And I’m still God.”

My friend, we are all human. We are dusty. We do not always respond the way we know we should. Sometimes the wind and waves overwhelm us. In those moments, even though we fail to trust him fully, God understands. He still rescues. He still leads us to a place of rest. He still loves.

When Peter and Jesus return to the other disciples in the boat, the seas stopped churning. The wind died down. Rest settled upon the weary. And everyone in the boat, including Peter, worshiped Jesus saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Their focus returned to Jesus. They worshiped. They understood a little more who he was. Our trials illuminate our need of Jesus. In the process we find he truly is the Son of God.

Our God is a God of grace. May we use each trial to trust him more fully. May God increase our faith. May we grow in our relationship with him. May the moments of doubt and confusion decrease, and our moments of trust increase.

Sometimes we walk on water. Sometimes we sink beneath it. May each moment draw us closer to him.

I enjoy reading your thoughts. Please write your comments below.

Life is Worship

On a personal level, I often struggle to balance the responsibilities of ministry with the responsibilities I have in other areas of life. I’m referring to the responsibilities of owning and maintaining a home, a car, and all the other things that crowd into my life. I imagine many of you can relate. As a single adult, I don’t have a helpmate to assist me with the multitude of things that need attention in a home. If something needs to be taken care of around the house, I’m the one who will do it. I’m the one who mows the lawn, empties the dishwasher, vacuums the floor, dusts the furniture, pays the bills, checks the mail, trims the bushes, reconciles the bank statement, washes the windows, cleans the toilets, cleans those little bits of dried toothpaste out of the sink, checks the oil in the car, buys the groceries, and cooks the meals. If you are a single parent, you can multiply this list by one hundred. I feel your pain. I do all these things and more while trying to maintain a ministry career that often takes me away from home for extended periods of time. It can be a bit overwhelming. The grass doesn’t stop growing while I am gone.

Sometimes I feel guilty if I am working on the house while I know there are things related to ministry on which I could be focusing. Frankly, sometimes I get a bad attitude towards it and feel sorry for myself. This is where I found myself last week. I was painting the garage when it happened.

I live with a stewardship mentality. God owns everything, and I just manage what he has entrusted to me. My home is an example of this. I do not own my home. My name may be on the deed, but the reality is that God owns my home. He gave me this home, for this time, for me to live in. I am grateful for it. It is a beautiful place. But it is his, not mine. I merely take care of it for now. At any moment, God could lead me to sell the house and give away all the proceeds. It would be of no consequence to me because it is not my home. When I live this way, I receive an immense freedom to enjoy all that God has given to me. My only responsibility is to be a steward of what he has given to me. I manage it on his behalf, in the way he wants it managed.

Last week I was painting the inside of the garage. It was a project that was long overdue. I had put if off because it really was not that important to me. We’re talking about the garage after all. It was a hot day. The heat index was nearly 100 degrees. As I painted, sweat ran down my arm and dripped off my elbow, spattering the concrete floor. I was tired, and my attitude was sour. Finally I paused and looked around the room, surveying the work that still needed to be completed.

“You know, God,” I said, “If I made more money I could hire someone to do this, and I could be in the house working on an article. I could be working on something that mattered instead of just painting this stupid garage.”

I know it wasn’t fair to speak to him like that, but we have the kind of relationship where we can talk openly to one another. His reply was as frank and direct as my complaint.

“So what you’re saying to me, Tim,” he replied, “is that you think that taking care of my home is not important.”

I was immediately taken aback. It hit me hard because it was true.

I stood there with the brush in my hand and thought about a trip I took a few years ago to Kenya. One day, in the broiling African sun, I served alongside other volunteers painting a large steel gate. I did it with joy because I was serving God as I served the missionary family. It was a privilege! I worshiped God as I worked, thankful for the opportunity to serve him in this way. So what is the difference between painting a gate in Africa and painting a garage in the United States?

In that moment, everything changed for me. I looked around the garage, and I thought about how kind God had been to give me this place to live. That he would entrust me to take care of such a beautiful home was humbling to me. Immediately I hung my head and whispered, “Oh God, forgive me.”

I think for the first time in my life I understood that work could be worship. All these so-called mundane tasks can be moments for worship when I understand that I am serving the King of all Kings in the process. I had made the mistake of separating the work of ministry from the work of living and in the process had missed the wonder of worshiping and serving God in all areas of life.

David wrote,

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2, ESV).

Everything belongs to God. He created it all, so therefore it belongs to him. Everything in this world, even the animals and people that live on it, belong to him. That means your house, your car, your job, your body, your kids, your parents, or your spouse all belong to him. We simply take care of what he gives us to manage.

Paul wrote,

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:17, 23-24, ESV)

Whatever I do, I should do it for God. It does not matter if it is done on the mission field or at home. Everything I say and do should be done in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. I should do it with all my heart, as for the Lord and not for myself or for anyone else. I am serving Jesus when I do this.

It was a profound moment for me, and it changed the way I live my life. Yes, all these tasks still need to be taken care of, but now they are moments for worship. If I am trimming the bushes, I am tending God’s garden. If I am reconciling the bank statement, I am managing God’s money. If I am cleaning the little bits of toothpaste out of the sink, I am making God’s bathroom sparkle. I’m doing it for him, not for me, and that changes everything. I’m doing it for someone I love dearly. What a privilege it is to serve him in the mundane things.

Worship is no longer just an event on Sunday. It is that moment on Monday when I am emptying the dishwasher. It is that moment on Tuesday when I am cleaning the house for a small group meeting. It is that moment on Wednesday when I am grocery shopping, and I consider his faithfulness to provide food for me to eat. It is that moment on Thursday when I am writing a devotional. It is that moment on Friday when I am sharing an evening with friends. It is that moment on Saturday when I am fishing from the shore and marveling that I get to live in such a beautiful place. Every moment of my life is an opportunity for worship.

Friend, what is it in your life right now with which you are struggling? Perhaps, like me, you find yourself in a place where you are having a pity party over some challenge you are facing. That person, problem, or situation belongs to God, not to you. Our responsibility is not to balance all the competing needs, but to remember that they all belong to God alone. We are merely serving God in the process.

I close with the words of the psalmist David who wrote:

Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:2-4, ESV)

That day in my garage, I turned on some worship music and continued to paint. The sweat still dripped from my elbow in the heat, and my arm was still tired from dragging the paint brush across the concrete block, but everything had changed. Suddenly that humble garage had become the temple of the Most High God. I was painting his temple. I was painting his home. I was humbled by the privilege to serve him in this way, and I was worshiping him in the process. I was no longer trying to balance the work of ministry with the other responsibilities in life. All of my life had become ministry. All of my life had become a moment to worship, and I had been changed as a result.

Life is worship. Worship is life.

This article was originally published in the August 2015 Newsletter.

Reflecting on the faithfulness of God

It doesn’t seem possible, but this month marks the completion of 25 years of itinerant ministry. I am dumbfounded when I consider all that God has done. A lot has changed in the past 25 years, and as I look ahead, I can see God changing things again. But as I look back, one thing has been consistent. God has been faithful. He has been faithful to meet all of my needs and the needs of the ministry as I have learned to follow him by faith. It is his faithfulness and kindness that I rely upon.

Most recently God provided in a very dramatic way.

In September, I wrote about how a sense of weariness has crept into my life over the past couple of years. I’ve grown weary of being on the road, schlepping through airports, waiting in line at rental car counters, checking in and out of hotels, and staying in homes, all while traveling to churches and ministries across five continents.

At the same time, the ministry has faced some significant challenges behind the scenes. With the problems in the US economy beginning in 2008, the total number of ministry events I do each year has decreased. During this same period, donations to the ministry have fallen sharply as well. At times I wondered if God were redirecting me somehow. Perhaps it was time to close down the ministry. I looked at a variety of other options but felt no leading from God. The weariness continued to grow.

At some point early this year, I considered taking some time off from travel to focus on the writing side of the ministry. I had started a new book last year but it was only partially completed. The idea of a sabbatical made sense. I could take some time off to focus on finishing the book. But while the time off the road was attractive, I also had to consider the consequences of no ministry events for six months. How would my financial needs be met if there were no income from live events? I considered renting out my house. I looked at a lot of other options. I put off making a decision because I just didn’t know what to do.

Finally, this past August I was able to take a week of vacation with friends. During that time I rested deeply. I didn’t do any work on my laptop, no email, and no ministry events for 7 days. It was so refreshing. But on Friday of that week I started to feel a sense of melancholy setting in. By Saturday, the day I was supposed to fly home, I was depressed. I did not want to go back to my reality at home. I realized at that time that I needed a break from the road and needed to make a decision one way or the other regarding the sabbatical.

I wanted to wait until the end of October to make the decision because then I would have a better idea of where I stood financially. I could look at the money in the bank and make my decision based on whether the funds were available or not. But God doesn’t work that way with me. Instead, he clearly said to me “No, Tim, you make that decision based on whether or not you feel I am leading you to do that and then you trust me for the finances.” And so at the end of August I took some time to fast and pray about the sabbatical. It was important to me to know that God was leading me to do this because I have never closed the calendar in twenty five years of ministry. It was a significant decision for me.

Very quickly into the fast I could tell God was leading me to do this. Once I had a clear word from God, I went online and cleared the calendar on the website. It was official. I would take a 6-month writing-sabbatical beginning in mid-November following my last scheduled ministry event for the year. At the time I made the decision, there was only enough money in the bank to cover the expenses for 2 months. I had no idea how we would make it.

What happened next was stunning. In twenty five years of ministry, I have never seen anything like it. Within 30 days of my making the decision to take the sabbatical, God provided all of the funds needed to cover our operating expenses for the entire sabbatical! And it wasn’t with one large donation. It was many small donations from individuals moved by the Holy Spirit to give. I can’t explain it except to say that God has shown his faithfulness in a remarkable way.

It was an incredible encouragement to me personally. When God provided financially in the dramatic way that he did, it was as if he were putting an exclamation point behind his name “Faithful!”. He was clearly telling me, “I have you in the palm of my hand.” The confirmation that he was indeed leading me to take the writing-sabbatical was significant. It gave me incredible confidence to move forward with the writing of the book.

I share this with you to remind you of the faithfulness of God. I also want you to have an idea of what I see God doing behind the scenes and to ask you to pray for me during this time. I value your prayer support. I believe the Holy Spirit will guide you into how you can best pray. I have been praying that God would give me influence over all of North America. I am passionate to see the church in North America returning to God. I believe the book will challenge many folks to love God with utter abandon and to love others selflessly. I continue to believe that if we would just do those two things, everything would change. Our lives would change. Our churches would change. Our world would change. All for the better.

This past week, I read one of David’s psalms and it ministered to me deeply. It is Psalm 103. I encourage you to read the entire Psalm. But let me share just a few verses with you that spoke to me personally.

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:8-14, ESV).

Now you may think this is an odd passage to share when I have been writing about the faithfulness of God. But what jumped out at me is the line “he remembers that we are dust.” I am not God. I do not think like God. I cannot make my life work apart from God. But he is kind. He is faithful. He remembers that I was created out of the dust of the earth. He is okay with my just being Tim and his being God. He knows when I am weary. He knows when I need to crawl up into his lap to be held by him, and in his faithfulness he provides a way for me to do that.

I need a God like that.

Today, I don’t know what is going on in your world. Perhaps you need to be reminded that God is faithful. He does not treat us as we deserve. Instead, he gives us grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. He knows what is going on in your life. He is aware. He faithfully takes care of his own when we rely upon him. His name is Faithful!

I don’t know what the next 25 years of the ministry will look like. I don’t know what God has planned to achieve through the writing of the new book. I do know that whatever lies ahead, God will be faithful, and that is enough for me. I’m content to follow him one day at a time, to love him, and to love others out of the overflow of his love and faithfulness to me.

This article was originally published in the November 2013 Newsletter.