How to Find Real Rest During Spring Break

It is the second semester of school, the holiday season is past, but baseball and rodeo season are upon us.

If you’re anything like me, one busy season just leads into another busy season.

Once this thing/season/class/whatever is over, then I will have time to take a break.

But then there’s always just another thing/season/class/whatever!

Spring break is around the corner, and I want to encourage you (and me) to rest.

But I mean more than just take naps, vacations, and breaks from our normal activities.

Real rest.

Not just the kind of rest promised by our culture, but a rest that is promised by God.

Naps and vacations are good and necessary, but they will never truly slow down our hurried hearts and minds. We need a rest that is not momentary, but constant and sustaining. We need the rest of Jesus.

In an oft-quoted passage, Jesus calls to all people to find true rest in him:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

 Whatever your job, schedule, or suffering, Jesus is the only place we can truly experience rest—true rest—soul rest. And it comes not merely from taking a break, but in running toward Jesus, learning from Jesus, and surrendering to Jesus.

1. Go to him.

To find true rest, run towards Jesus. His offer of life, purpose, and peace in him is an open invitation to all people. No matter your burdens, anxieties, or struggles, remember that his invitation is to you. Don’t distract yourself with empty alternatives. Instead of 15 more minutes sleeping in, pray with your spouse. Instead of one more Netflix show, journal your hopes and prayers before bed. Go to the one who loves you, seeks you, and saves you: in prayer and thought, in your desires and time – go to him and find peace in his presence.

2. Learn from him.

To truly experience the rest of Jesus, you have to understand and know him. Learn from me, he says. This isn’t a boring history lesson; it is coming face to face with the Creator of the world, the purpose of life, the answer to all suffering and sin in the world. Open your Bible this spring break – read scripture to your children or begin your day with a devotional. Study the Word of God and begin to understand and experience his promised rest.

3. Surrender to him.

Our lives are full of expectations and burdens, but Jesus takes on all that we bring to him. Life in Christ should not give us anxiety or fear of failure, but instead free us up to live independently of this world and dependently upon the one who knows, rescues, and redeems us. He is the only one who will bring us true rest, because he is the only one who can quiet our anxiety, fulfill our longing, and give us eternal significance. We are all seeking after something; we are all finding our identity and purpose in some promise. When we surrender to Jesus, he takes on our burdens and frees us to live a life of true peace and purpose – the only life of true and eternal rest.

This spring break, take your extra time and reject the temptation to simply fill it with other frantic activities. Instead, fill it with a whole new way of life in Jesus.

Let this week be not just a blip or break but the beginning of rest in him.

God, Why?

Have you ever wanted God to answer for the bad things that have happened to you or others?

Have you asked things like, “Why did you choose this road for me? What is your plan? Do you even care? How can heartbreak like this come to someone who follows you?”

I know I sure have, and I know the confusion it caused. Praising God while carrying pain and doubt felt like trying to map constellations in a thunderstorm.

But thanks to his accommodating grace, God gives us an in-depth look at these types of situations in the book of Job.

In what scholars believe to be one of the oldest stories in the Bible, we see that Job asked many of the questions you and I have wondered — and, honestly, who could blame him?

Through an unusual arrangement, God allowed Satan to take everything from Job, except his life. In a matter of minutes, this wealthy man learned he had just lost his property, his abundant livestock, servants, and even his children. He was understandably in very grave duress, and the book maps out his journey of processing this trauma.

It’s not all grim and hopeless, though.

When I read the story recently, three things stuck out to me that I believe point to the relational heart of God:

1. God allows us to ask questions

While Job refused to curse God, he did dispute God’s kindness. “Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands?” (Job 10:3).

Clearly, Job couldn’t understand how the God to whom he’d remained devoted would let him lose everything. While Job’s friends urgently warned him to put a tight lid on what they believed was a sinful doubt struggle, Job continued to take his complaints to God, even when he thought his impertinence would provoke God’s wrath. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face,” (Job 13:15).

He then begs God, “Keep listening to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears,” (Job 13:17). God wasn’t threatened by human emotion on display. Job was not punished for the rawness with which he approached God.

How many times have I stood with my fellow worshipers, lifted my voice in praise, and suddenly choked on doubt when trying to sing of God’s goodness?

God’s response to Job gives me hope that I can approach him vulnerably, and let my heart be open, knowing I will not be judged for laying my confusion at his feet.

It reminds me of a stanza in the old hymn, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul”:

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face,

And shall I seek in vain?

And can the ear of sovereign grace,

Be deaf when I complain?

No still the ear of sovereign grace

Attends the mourner’s prayer

Oh may I ever find access,

To breathe my sorrows there.

2. God is patient with grief

The whole book of Job is 42 chapters long — the majority of these alternating between Job’s expressions of pain and his “friends” trying (and failing) to adequately answer for the calamities that have befallen him.

Over and over, they told him that he must have sinned, otherwise God wouldn’t have sent this judgment. They berated his natural grief and rebuked the way he implored God.

But, instead of getting involved in the dialogue, God seemed to remain silent for a while. It’s not until chapter 38 that we see God speak, and it wasn’t to dish out judgment on Job for anguishing.

In fact, God never once scolded Job for his feelings of sadness.

A few years ago, my husband and I went through a heartbreaking season of infertility and miscarriage. We sensed that many people dismissed our sadness after the season dragged on. One person even told us that maybe we should stop praying for a child, if God clearly didn’t want to give us one! What a hard walk it was to continually ask that of the Lord, despite of years of disappointing reality.

But through that journey, God was always available. His voice was one of comfort and love, not shame or mere tolerance to our insistent praying.

3. God wants us to trust him

Instead of providing rationale for the purpose for Job’s suffering, God turns the charges on end. In a series of mic-drop inquiries, God makes it clear that Job isn’t qualified to demand answers. “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it,” (Job 40:2).

Using pretty robust hyperbole, God let Job feel a bit of his overwhelming greatness. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding… you know for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” (Job 38:4, 21). By highlighting his might against human scantness, he was inviting Job to trust and submit to his sovereignty.

The message is this: if you cannot control time, space, or all the details of life on earth, then you may find security in the LORD — Yahweh — who does.

The extensiveness with which God shows his capability moves Job to repentance and humility, and this is where their relationship lands at the conclusion of the story.

I’ll be completely honest, I’ve wanted to raise my fist at the Lord before. At times, my prayers have not been PG. But, in a mix of anger and submission, I’ve been left time and again with the ultimate bottom line: “Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth,” (Psalm 73:25).

God doesn’t always address my situation, but he always shows himself powerful.

After all, there is none greater than the one who sees all and knows all. He is worthy to be trusted with my heart, so I can submit to his sovereignty. Even if my heart is feeble, he is worthy to be praised for his majesty.

Thankfully, Job’s prostration was not permanent. God granted him even more of the wealth, family, and renown than he had known before. What is probably more valuable than all of that fortune, however, was that Job came out of his disaster with a deeper understanding of who God is and how much he can be trusted — even when his ways don’t make human sense.

We can benefit from the telling of Job’s story. When our pain causes us to question God’s intentions, let us hold fast to his heart. He is a safe place for earnest doubts and struggles, he is patient with our expressions and emotions, and he is always inviting us to trust him.

10 Ways to BLESS Your Top 5

At Clear Creek Community Church we talk often about having a Top 5, which is simply a list of five people we are praying would come to faith in Jesus. We like to use the BLESS acronym as we think about how to intentionally engage our Top 5. BLESS stands for Begin with prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, and Story.

But what are some specific and creative ways to BLESS your Top 5?

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 10 ideas to BLESS the people on your Top 5:

  1. Throw a Spring Break BBQ or block party for neighbors, coworkers, or your kids’ teammates.
  2. Surprise someone with a thoughtful gift.
  3. Volunteer as a coach or team organizer for a kid’s sport team.
  4. Hang out in front of your house and say “hi,” to those who pass by. Pull weeds, water the grass, watch your kids play in the front yard, or just enjoy a beverage on the driveway.
  5. Invite someone to dinner. It can be simple and fun! For example, put some tables in the driveway, order some pizza, and enjoy a nice spring evening.
  6. Invite someone to serve the community with you at one of our Go Local Partners.
  7. Offer to go in on a delivery of mulch with your neighbor and work together on both flowerbeds.
  8. Organize a March Madness Bracket with prizes.
  9. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.).
  10. Host a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside).

God has put people in your life for a reason and sharing your faith with them doesn’t need to be intimidating. It can start as simple as showing someone the love of Christ and looking for opportunities to share with them the hope of the Gospel.

5 Ways to Pray for Your Top 5

So you’ve identified the five people you most want to see come to know Jesus, but… now what?

When praying for those in your life who are far from God, where do you start?

Here are five suggestions on where to begin:

  1. God is already at work in the lives of those you love. So, consider asking God to reveal to you how he is already working in their lives and how you can simply join in that work.
  1. Pray for the needs they have mentioned to you in casual conversation. Maybe there are health issues, worries, or struggles they are dealing with. Commit to praying over those things and checking in with them on how those things are going.
  1. Ask God to give them a hunger for the things of God — to seek to know him. Pray that they might have a desire for more than this world has to offer.
  1. Pray that God would bring additional people into their lives to love them and help lead them to Jesus.
  1. Spend some time being still before God. Ask him to give you creativity on how to bless your friends and a heart of compassion towards them.

Commit to pray for the friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers you’ve put on your Top 5 and see how God grows your heart for them.

Listening Well

Good relationships often start with a lot of listening.

It’s hard to know someone if the only thing we’re focused on is being known.

And so whether it’s a romantic relationship, a business partnership, or just a casual friendship, we build relational equity by taking the time to know the person sitting across from us.

We take the time to listen.

When it comes to relationships with people we’re praying would come to know Jesus, truly hearing and understanding what they’re saying and feeling may be the kindest and most loving gift we can give.

In order to BLESS our neighbors, friends, or coworkers, we need to listen with intention.

We need to listen to understand their hearts, their fears, their dreams, their disappointments, their hopes, and their longings.

And fundamentally, we need to listen with the simple goal of getting to know them better.

But not everyone is a confident and charismatic conversationalist. So, if you need some help knowing where to begin, here are some conversation starters…

  1. Tell me your story. Where did you grow up?
    • What’s your favorite part about living here?
    • What do you miss from home (if they moved recently)?
  1. What do you do for fun? How do you spend your free time?
    • What are you reading?
    • Are there any Netflix/Hulu/television series you’d recommend?
  1. What’s your favorite (team, Burger, BBQ or Mexican food restaurant, vacation spot, etc.)?
  1. What kinds of jobs have you had? Which did you like best? Which was the hardest?
  1. What are your dreams for the future?
  1. Have you traveled anywhere interesting lately?
    • If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?  Why?
  1. What brings you joy?

2 Mistakes to Avoid When Reaching Your Top 5

Having a Top 5 is a simple way to identify, pray for, and be intentional with the people in our lives we hope come to know the grace of Jesus.

Thankfully, we aren’t the ones who save. Jesus is. The pressure isn’t on us to transform hearts or to have all the answers. Yet we have a responsibility to take seriously the mission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Here are two simple mistakes to avoid when reaching your Top 5.

TREATING PEOPLE LIKE A PROJECT

We must be careful not to think of the people on our Top 5 as projects.

They aren’t just names on a list.

They are friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors.

These are people we love – because they are worth loving, regardless of what they believe.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”

You have been entrusted with a message, not assigned a project.

When our loved ones celebrate, we celebrate! When they grieve, we grieve. When they need support, we serve. We do this because we love the people in our lives and because that’s the kind of people we are.

We love because he first loved us. And we pray that through our relationships, God will speak grace into hearts.

Another mistake to avoid is…

NOT BEING READY TO SHARE YOUR STORY

The passage above from 2 Corinthians says that we’ve been entrusted with a message of reconciliation. At some point you will have an opportunity to talk about Jesus with someone.

What will you say?

You don’t have to know everything about the Bible or have a comprehensive understanding of systematic theology to share the message of Jesus. Although you should be growing in your knowledge of the Bible and understanding of God, you don’t have to have it all worked out before you share the hope that you have in Christ.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”

For starters, all you need to know is why you have hope in Christ.

What has he done in your life?

How have you experienced healing and freedom?

Why have you put your trust in Jesus?

Peter says we should always be prepared to share the hope in us. A little preparation goes a long way. Take a few minutes to write out your story. It could be as simple as looking back at the story from your baptism, or jotting down something God has done in your life recently. Knowing in advance what you want to say will serve you well when the opportunity presents itself.

When it comes to reaching our Top 5, we love the people in our lives like Jesus would, and we rest knowing that he is the one who will transform their heart.

Routines for a Heart of Revival

God established rhythms of worship and remembrance for the Hebrews when they left Egypt and first became the nation of Israel. In addition to Sabbath days of rest, there were holy days of remembrance, feasts, times for confession, and days of thanksgiving. Through this intentionality, God’s people were taught to practice cycles of renewal.

Why were these days and times so important to the identity of God’s chosen people?

Jesus said the entire law could be summed up by the purpose of loving God or others. If everything God commanded was meant to help us love him or our neighbors better, then somehow the concept of regimen and rhythm was meant to help us grow closer to God and serve others.

Perhaps establishing or reestablishing a spiritual routine will prepare our hearts for the revival we desire.

Routines Positions Us

Psychologists agree regular routines decrease stress, promote better sleep, and are healthier for children.

During the pandemic, when millions lost their weekly patterns of work and play and home, mental distress increased. Routines decrease the mental load of decision-making and form a culture in our lives and homes.

God knew ordering our time was essential to maximizing our relationship with him. When God established routines for his people, they regularly included prayer, fasting, worship, giving, and remembrance. These activities often compete with work, school, activities, and the stresses associated with a full schedule.

But in our day of fast-paced and maxed-out schedules, the routines leading to revival slow us down, regularly, so we can hear from God and acknowledge him.

Routines Remind Us
Alarms remind us to wake up. We follow patterns when driving to routine locations. Important traditions put us in the mindset for holidays.

Routines help us do important things.

Proverbs 8:17 declares, “Those who seek me diligently find me.”

One of the benefits of a spiritual routine is that it establishes a consistent rhythm exposing us to truth: God exists and is the creator of all things; God loves you and desires you to know him.

Ignoring our spiritual wellbeing, like ignoring our physical wellbeing, can have dire consequences over time.

Daily prayer, regularly reading God’s word, weekly worship, small group encouragement, an annual fast — these are reminders of who God is and the kingdom in which we live.

What other ways might put you in the path of the work God is doing in and around you?

Routines Form Us
Our habits form us.

Twice Jesus was described doing an activity “as was his custom.” Both times the “custom” or routine had to do with worship and prayer (Luke 4:16, 22:39).

Jesus taught regularly in the temples and retreated often to pray.

There are routines which will improve your physical fitness, practices which will help you lose weight, and disciplines which will, over time, strengthen your financial position.

There are specific routines, too, which help position us to know God better. Hearing and reading God’s word (worship) and prayer are examples modeled by Jesus.

“Routine” may sound ordinary, but without organization, our time is reactionary to the events around us and not intentional toward the goals to which we aspire. Small deeds accomplish grand intentions.

A lack of routine results in a life lived according to circumstance. But routines, on the other hand, form us according to a plan.

Getting Started
1. Start Small — Start by modifying your current routine rather than trying to completely upend your schedule. Do you have silent time at lunch each day? Could you adjust how you spend your commute? Would an extra-long hot bath give you time to reflect? How hard would it be to carve ten minutes off of your gaming time? Consider a modification which overcomes the typical objections to personal renewal.
2. Remove Roadblocks — For some, accountability partners are essential pieces of daily or weekly routines. However, other friends may be a distraction. If the routine requires quiet peace, like prayer, remove the possibility of any distractions during the time you set aside. If the routine involves the joy of being with others, like weekly worship, then let everyone in your circle of friends and acquaintances know that you are busy during that time.
3. Get It on Your Calendar — Set a recurring 15-minute “meeting” on your calendar at the same time each day. Use the notification to pause and pray, read a short Scripture, text someone with an encouragement, or give to those in need. Even if you are super busy, you will be glad the reminder is there, and it will give you an opportunity to acknowledge and respond as soon as possible. To be successful, routines do have to be flexible. But first, they have to be a priority.

God’s design for his covenant people included annual, weekly, and daily routines meant to structure our days and intentionally focus us on worshiping him and loving others. Routines help us pause, remind us of the God we serve, and form us over time. If you are not typically a “routine” person, start small, remove obvious roadblocks, and commit to calendaring prayer, worship, and encouragement.

Nourishing these practices will prepare your heart for revival.

Long Road of Obedience

We see it recorded throughout the Bible.

It is in the long-suffering of the people of Israel, the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, and the personal reflections of Paul.

It is the yearning voiced in many Psalms and in the cries of the saints in Revelation.

It is part of the fabric of Scripture, and yet, when we encounter it personally, instead of accepting the spiritual heritage we have in common with the people of God throughout history, we often find ourselves frustrated and discouraged.

“It” is our longing for God to bring to ultimate completion his promises to his people.

“It” includes our personal longing for the practical implications of his promises in our lives and our souls, right now.

This is true not only of our desire for material and circumstantial comforts, but of the yearning we have for our own spiritual maturity – our desire to want to know and obey God.

How many times have you asked yourself, Why do I still have these sinful thoughts? Why do I still want to do what I know I should stop doing? When am I going to change?

How are we to respond when we find ourselves being discouraged when our personal patterns of sin repeat themselves?

You would think that king David would have had his spiritual act together.

He had been chosen by God to rule Israel. God spoke to him, protected him, and prospered him.

God lifted David from the smelly obscurity of shepherding sheep and placed him in a palace.

Of all people you would expect David to be able to model thoroughgoing obedience.

But read the story of his life and you see a man who was at times immature, rash, selfish, and even violent.

The prophet Nathan confronted David about a particularly sinful act of selfishness (2 Samuel 11-12). We can learn from David’s response in Psalm 51:

Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Psalm 51:9-11

Here are some questions to consider in light of David’s words in Psalm 51.

When you sin, stumble, fall short – again – do you struggle with guilt? Do you think God is disappointed with you, maybe even angry? Do you fear God is going to punish you?

 David did not feel that way. He didn’t hide from God, and he didn’t allow his sin to estrange him from God. Instead, he turned to the gracious character of God.

“Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”

David wasn’t hoping God would do those things, he was stating what he knew God had already promised to do.

In other words, in the conviction of his sin he acknowledged his need for God’s grace, and he confessed his trust that God is so gracious.

Who are you depending on to do the work of transforming your thoughts and actions?

When you ask yourself, Why do I still have these sinful thoughts? Or, Why do I still want to do what I know I should stop doing?

Are you focused on changing through your own effort and discipline?

David clearly wasn’t.

David asked God to work in him, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”

There is a powerful and encouraging word in verse 10, renew.

It isn’t that David doesn’t know God or hasn’t wanted to obey God, he has been a faithful man and he asks God to work to renew his heart. David knows that God being restored to the throne of his heart is the basis of a faithful, obedient life.

Do you tend to engage your failure from a physical, material perspective?

David lived in the presence of God and with a continuing sense of the Lord’s Spirit within him. He knew that his worldly failures were the result of the sin that also abided in him. He was engaged in a spiritual struggle.

He asked for mercy, for renewal, and for God’s patience because he knew God’s grace is greater than the brokenness he could not completely escape.

We should be challenged and encouraged by David’s response to his sinfulness.

When we are discouraged by the unholy things we do, like David, we should be overwhelmed by the power of God’s abiding grace.

Before we set about redisciplining ourselves and redoubling our efforts to be good, we should, like David, first choose to believe God and to enthusiastically throw ourselves into the sea of his love.

When we suffer again from our inability to completely avoid succumbing to our sin we should, like David, seek to address the spiritual struggle within us.

God has forgiven us in Christ, already.

God has the power to transform the desires of our hearts.

God is present with us and in us.

In these truths are the roots of sustained obedience and ongoing transformation.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

A New Year, A New Rhythm: Lectio Divina

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
James 4:8a

Recently, Bruce Wesley kicked off the new year by challenging Clear Creek Community Church to “Seize an opportunity in the New Year… [to] do something simple in your relationship with God.”

As I think about the simple things I’ve done to grow in my relationship with the Lord over the years, I think back to times someone challenged me to journal as I read Scripture. That was a simple practice I adopted and God drew near to me through it.

Or, I think about our 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting, following simple prompts to draw near to God on a daily basis.

But there has been one practice I’ve embraced over the last year where I made an intentional effort to draw near to God. As a result, I can attest that God has drawn near to me.

So, if you’re looking for a simple way to draw near to God, I want to encourage you to seize this opportunity with me in 2023.

The practice is called lectio divina. That’s a Latin phrase that simply translates to “divine reading.” It’s reading or listening to the Bible with an acknowledgment of God’s presence with you. This kind of devotional reading aims at growing intimacy with the Lord, more than gathering information about him.

This isn’t Bible study, it’s divine reading.

If you think about the first 1,500 years of church history, a majority of the known world was considered illiterate, and many who could read didn’t have their own copy of the scriptures to read. So instead, these saints of old would gather for a time of lectio divina. They would listen to the Bible read with the desire to be with God and hear from God. And perhaps, a brief and memorable word would become their daily bread, something that would encourage them throughout the day or week until they could come back to God’s word again.

What would it look like to approach reading the Bible that way in the new year?

Well, lectio divina is traditionally made up of five movements. I try to incorporate these five movements in daily devotional time with the Lord. It usually takes about 30 minutes each morning.

1. Silencio — Quietly prepare your heart

Personally, I try and begin by spending five minutes in silent prayer, simply asking God to meet with me, slowing down, relaxing my breathing, and intentionally acknowledging God’s presence with me. St. Ignatius of Loyola suggests beginning this time of prayer by standing in front of the chair you’re about to sit in and imagining God has already been waiting to meet you there.

2. Lectio — Read the word

Read Scripture slowly, perhaps even out loud, lingering over words as the Holy Spirit leads. As you are encouraged or convicted, or something catches your attention, don’t rush past it. Stop. Consider what God might want to say to you in that moment. My rhythm is choosing a Bible reading plan where I read a chapter a day of either the Old Testament or New Testament plus a daily Psalm. The psalms are the “prayer book of the Bible,” so I begin there allowing the psalm to guide my worship and devotion. It’s no coincidence that often the psalm for that day divinely expresses some emotion or thought I’ve been trying to express to God. Acknowledge God’s forethought in bringing you to whatever text you read that day.

3. Meditatio — Meditate

Consider reading through the selected text a second time, savoring the words. Think about Christian meditation as ruminating and gnawing. Ruminate like a cow chewing its cud, turning it over again and again for the purpose of fully digesting it. Gnaw on the scriptures like a dog gnaws on a bone to get as much meat and flavor as possible. Meditating is another practice that slows me down. Instead of rushing through a time of reading the Bible, I stop, write down certain words or verses that God brings to mind, and then prayerfully meditate on them.

4. Oratio — Respond in prayer

Allow the scriptures you’ve just read to guide your prayers in response. Who did God bring to mind as you read these verses in the Bible? Use that as a prompt to intercede for them in prayer. Where were you personally convicted or challenged? Use that as a catalyst to commit to following Jesus in a different way or to confess sin. Author Basil Pennington suggests choosing a “word of life” (a simple phrase from your daily reading) and allowing that to guide not only your responsive prayer, but a sense of unceasing prayer throughout the day. I recently hung a small keychain on my key ring. Every time I reach for my keys and see it or touch it, I use that as a reminder to pray whatever “word of life” God brought to my mind that day. Consider doing something simple like that to guide your prayer, connected to your devotional reading.

5. Contemplatio — Contemplate, rest, and wait in the presence of God

What if instead of closing our Bible and quickly rushing off to our next agenda item, we instead committed to rest in God’s presence for a few minutes after we read his word? As an efficiency-minded person, this is a practice I must force myself into. I have to resist the urge to speed through my time with the Lord in order to move on to the next task of my day. To be honest, the most important moment of my day is when I am resting in God’s presence. And that shouldn’t be rushed. Resist the urge to pull out your phone. Resist the urge to fill the silence with your words to God. What if you committed to two-to-three minutes of silence with the Lord and allowed him to speak to you as you concluded your time of lectio divina.

This is a simple practice of drawing near to God. I’d challenge you as we begin a new year, to seize the opportunity with me to meet with God in a daily rhythm like this. It may be challenging or awkward at first, but when you draw near to God, he will draw near to you.

5 Books We Recommend for 2023

Reading a great book can be transformative, whether its fictional, theological, devotional, or anything else! Reading a great book can also just be a great way to find quiet away from the hustle and chaos of modern, screen-centered life.

We asked a few members of our church staff, “What was the best book you read in 2022, and why?” Here is what they told us!

So, choose one (or more) of these books to read in 2023. Consider inviting a friend to join you and pray that God would transform your hearts and your minds through reading and contemplating the wisdom you find.

Trusting God by Jerry Bridges

“Sometimes it’s easier to obey God than it is to trust him. Even when we don’t want to obey them, we generally see God’s laws as reasonable and wise … but sometimes our circumstances defy explanation, leaving us confused, frustrated, and struggling with the very honest question ‘can I trust God?’”

Trusting God is a robust study on the topic of Gods sovereignty; you’ll find yourself trusting him more completely — even when life hurts.

Denise Ward (IT Director, Group Guide)

Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortland

The best book I read this year was Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortland. I just appreciated the emphasis on God’s love for sinful, struggling people. It helps a sinner want to draw near to Jesus instead of hiding or feeling unworthy. I needed it and the guys in my small group needed it, too.

Greg Poore (Associate Pastor)

The Son of David by Nancy Guthrie

Nancy Guthrie is a gifted Bible teacher. In this book, she puts you in the place of the original New Testament reader, showing you specifically how the Old Testament leads to Jesus. She shows you how all the “great characters” of the Old Testament ultimately point to Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the Old Testament like this. I learned a lot and really enjoyed it along the way.

Rachel Fisher (Small Groups Associate)

Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton

This book has changed my prayer life, and I think it will change yours as well. It is both insightful and practical. Not only are there helpful revelations in each chapter, but each concludes with a practice that makes it easy to immediately apply what the Spirit reveals to you. You have to read this invitation to the wonder and mystery of prayer!

Tanner Smith (Director of Prayer Ministry, Worship Leader)

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright

Wright’s book answers questions about the biblical perspective on last things: Where do we go when we die? Where is Heaven? How does the resurrection impact our resurrection? What is the new heavens and earth about? How do these truths impact the church’s mission?

Wright, a world-class New Testament scholar, clears up misunderstandings that pervade today’s church on end times issues with incredible discernment and clarity. There won’t be many better books on the subject than the one N.T. Wright has penned. This book’s teaching on the future will make a difference in your present.

Yancey Arrington (Teaching Pastor)