Come and Sit with Me for a While

“You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” —Psalm 16:11

Our Bible discussion among internationals was winding down for the evening. Just in our little breakout group alone were people originating from Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, China, and even two from Michigan. Now it was time to share our prayer requests. One by one they poured out from full hearts—deep desires for faithfulness, hope, healing, strength, stamina, and direction, some of these for ourselves and some for others. When it was her turn, one young woman—we’ll call her Michelle for purposes of this post—prefaced her plea, explaining to us, “Sometimes I will say to God, ‘I don’t have a prayer [right now], but can you come and sit with me for a while?’ I find it calming and freeing.” Her prayer? She wanted more of this. And in that humble moment, we all did. For this was relationship—the Creator and the created, together.

It is good simply to be in the presence of God—resting in His love, trusting in His care, and enjoying His being. David longed for such nearness, expressing his desire through lyrics, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”1 Likewise, God desires us to draw near and just be with Him, such as the time when Jesus and His disciples were so busy in ministry that they didn’t even have a chance to eat. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,” He told them, so “they went away by themselves . . . to a quiet place.”2 Jesus and His friends, just being together.

The 17th century mathematician, physicist, philosopher, and theologian Blaise Pascal once opined, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” If this is true, then here is some good news for humanity and its problems: we don’t have to sit anywhere alone. Take a moment today—now, if you can—and sit quietly with God. Enjoy His presence, knowing He enjoys yours—the Creator and the created, Jesus and His friends, God and you, together.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. —Psalm 73:28

Jesus, come and sit with me for a while. In Your presence may I find freedom and calm. Amen.

1 Psalm 42:1-2
2 Mark 6:31-32


Balm or Blame

Do you remember Hank? In our September 14 post, he gave us a glimpse of life under parole—released from incarceration, yet remaining under the watchful eye of the penal system. He is grateful for his new season of life; he uses it daily “to contribute to a broken society that [I] helped break.” While Hank views his parole experience as “a positive one” overall, it is not without challenges, for there is, in his words, an implied, “We’ll let you out, but . . . we’re going to remind you of what you’ve done and who you are.” Now parole officers have the difficult job of protecting society while navigating offenders back into it, and those who do it well deserve our gratitude. Yet Hank’s experience illustrates the human tendency to blame and criticize others for their moral frailties, even though we struggle mightily with our own. In our sin nature, we scorn theirs. There must be a better way.

Jesus once asked a gathered crowd, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”1 We all sin, then sin again in judging others, and in doing so, we hold them to a standard we, through our flesh, cannot attain. The apostle Paul speaks for us all: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”2 Even we who are born into Christ struggle against our sin nature, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other . . .”3 We cannot live a godly life by our own power, nor can anyone else, so why would we heap accusations and judgments upon the already battle-scarred among us? They need balm, not blame.

James wrote, “Don’t speak evil against each other . . . If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law [of love].”4 Instead, life in Christ looks more like this: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”5 Then do we ignore sin? No, not at all. Sin is serious. But “if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”6 Apply balm, not blame. (It’ll feel better to you, too.)

Father, You have compassion on us, remembering that “we are dust.”7 May we be so merciful, bearing hope, not hurt, and balm, not blame. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Matthew 7:3
2 Romans 7:18
3 Galatians 5:17
4 James 4:11 NLT
5 Colossians 3:13-15
6 Galatians 6:1
7 Psalm 103:13-14


Competitive Stamina

Bill and Norma Proffitt taught me the meaning of work ethic. Owners of a drive-in restaurant, their oft-repeated mantra to their young workforce was, “There’s always something to do,” and we were expected to take initiative in noticing and addressing tasks in need of attention. Eventually entering my profession, then, I applied myself beyond the obvious, as I’d been taught. Leadership noticed; I advanced quickly and did well. There came a time, though, when I foolishly thought to myself, “From here on, advancement is political.” Predictably, my career stalled until, coming to my senses one day, I resolved to forget about all else and return to what I did best: learning, creativity and focus. My career accelerated soon afterward, and I enjoyed new challenges, opportunities and positions throughout the remainder of my work-life.

Today, we call it “competitive stamina”— maintaining unrelenting readiness and intensity through constant focus, determination and discipline. Without it in sports, teams blow 21-point leads or lose to opponents they took for granted. Without it in life, GPAs slip and careers derail or stall. And without it inside, our spiritual life becomes unfruitful. Of all the apostles, perhaps Paul best understood stamina. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” he said, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”1 He likewise urges us to refocus our hearts and minds: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”2

“Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit,”3 the apostle exhorted. What does this look like? “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”4Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests,”5 and “Stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”6 Peter would remind us of our invisible opposition awaiting the opportune time to strike: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”7 And David would chime in through song, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”8

Life in Christ, walking in the Spirit, prayer, unity, wisdom, and the Word—these are God’s gifts of grace. Through them, He sustains us; we gain competitive stamina. So today, let’s run to win.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:25

Father, grace us in Your strength to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.9 In His name we pray. Amen.

1 Philippians 3:13-14
2 Colossians 3:1-2
3 Galatians 5:25
4 Colossians 4:2
5 Ephesians 6:18
6 Philippians 1:28
7 1 Peter 5:8
8 Psalm 119:10-11
9 Hebrews 12:1-2