It is in Vain

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
(Psalm 127:1–2, ESV)

I get up fairly early to spend with the Lord each day (I actually have a standing appointment with God on my calendar, but I’m a geek and that’s another blog). This morning I was thinking about the busy week ahead, all the things on my list to do. And I thought, Maybe this morning instead of reading the Psalms with God I’ll get a jumpstart on sermon prep for the week. God knows how much I have to do this week and He’ll understand.

As I was thinking this, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and I decided to spend my time with God, but not in Psalms. I would generate a reading plan about the Holy Spirit and start reading through those passages as my “devotional” time. Even while I was trying to make a deal with the Holy Spirit, I realized that if this was my plan I would end up spending my entire “devotional” time researching reading plans, rather than meeting with God in His Word. Plus, researching Holy Spirit reading plans is one of the tasks on my to do list for the week.

I felt pretty strongly that God wanted me to keep my meeting with Him in the Psalms, and the Psalm for today is Psalm 127. I read through the Psalm a few times (it’s only five verses) and was listening to what God might be saying. I got hung up on verse 2 and the way different English Bibles translate it in different ways, so I read it in Hebrew and was thinking about the various translation options when all of a sudden the Holy Spirit turned a light bulb on in my head.

Here I had been trying to convince myself to skip my meeting with God so that I could rise up early and work ahead on my week. But unless the LORD builds the house, the builders work in vain, and unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen work in vain… And God couldn’t have spoken any more clearly to me: “It is in vain that you rise up early (v. 2). Unless the LORD shepherds the church, the pastor works in vain! Getting up early to work won’t work unless God is the One working. So if I’m going to get up early, I might as well enjoy a cup of coffee with my Lord and let Him empower my work later.

As God so patiently spent time with me and brought that to my attention, I couldn’t help but laugh. There was no condemnation in His conviction, and I could feel His smile when  I finally got what He was saying to me this morning. My prayer for you this week is that you’ll remember to spend time with God in the midst of the busy-ness of life.


Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

In My Distress

“I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.” (Psalm 120:1, NIV)

How is your prayer life? Mine has gone through many seasons alternating between fervent, regular, intimate prayer and periods of dryness where I feel like God doesn’t answer or I just plain don’t pray. One thing’s for sure, though, when I’m in a rough patch in life, my prayer habits tend to improve. Funny how distress often causes us to remember God! O that we would call on the Lord when times are good, and not just when trouble heads our way!

This hasn’t always been the pattern in my life. A few years ago, when Asher was a baby, he was pretty sick and had to go to the ER. Even though I was a pastor who counseled people to call on the Lord in times of trouble, it didn’t occur to me to apply that counsel to my own life. We got to the hospital, checked in, and were waiting for the doctor. Corinne asked me if I would pray for Asher, and I immediately recognized the Holy Spirit speaking through my bride: Are you going to ask for My help or try to muscle through this on your own?

The truth that God walks through our distress with us, giving us the strength to endure, fell from my head to my heart. I had learned it, but I didn’t know it–does that make sense? It took a little distress in my life for God to teach me that lesson.

One of my favorite things about God is that He answers us when we call on Him. He walks through life with us. He helps us when we’re weak and calms us when we’re afraid. He celebrates with us when things go well, and encourages us when they don’t. My prayer for this week is that you will call on the Lord and He will answer you, whether you’re in distress or delight.


Photo by Felipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash

Reading the Bible in 4 Steps

Most evangelical Christians believe that reading the Bible is of utmost importance. Yet, the Bible is a somewhat intimidating book to read. For one thing, it’s enormous. For another, the Bible was written by over 40 human authors over a period of 1400 years. There’s a lot of cultural-historical contexts we don’t see behind the pages of God’s Word. This week, I want to share with you a relatively simple way to approach the Bible devotionally.

This method is an ancient one known as lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”), and it’s been practiced by Christians for over 1,000 years. I personally use lectio divina in my devotional reading, and I can tell you from experience that it’s a great way to meet God in His Word and listen to Him speak to you through what you’re reading in Scripture. It’s not, however, the best way to do in-depth Bible study. It’s not inductive or based on precepts. It most likely won’t point you to the author’s original intent. I wouldn’t claim that the things I hear God speak during my devotional reading are universally applicable or that I’ve discovered the true meaning of the passage, and I don’t use lectio divina as a method of preparing for a sermon. It’s just what I do to spend time with God in His Word.

Lectio divina is traditionally based on four steps: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation). It actually has a preparation step as well, of praying that God will speak and give you ears to hear what He says through His Word.

Lectio (reading). Read the passage slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully. Look for patterns, repetition, and words or phrases that seem to grab your attention. I like to read it aloud, if possible, and try to imagine how the human author would’ve spoken these words. Once you’ve read through it initially, reread it even more slowly. Pause where something seems to catch your heart and think about what’s being said.

Meditatio (mediation). Whatever part of the text seemed to stand out, that seemed to speak directly to you, might be something the Holy Spirit wants you to focus on. Go back and read the passage a third time, looking for how your phrase, sentence, or verse fits into the rest of the section. Stop and think deeply about why the Holy Spirit brought these words from this text to your attention. How might they apply to your life? As you meditate, what else comes to mind? Who else comes to mind? Is there a specific action you need to do (or stop doing)? A belief you need to change? A person you need to pray for or reach out to?

Oratio (prayer). Talk to God about what you read in His Word. Talk to Him just like you would talk to a friend sitting across the table over coffee. How does the passage make you feel? What challenges you? What excites you? What don’t you understand? What do you grasp more now that you’ve read–about God, life, yourself, etc.? Can you pray the Scripture back to God? Personally, I like to summarize my prayer in a couple paragraphs in a journal.

Contemplatio (contemplation). Ask God to speak back to you, and read the passage one more time with a listening heart, then be quiet and sit in silence before the Lord. Just be with God, aware of His presence, enjoying an intimate moment with Him. Over time, this silent communion with God will become one of the most (probably the most) meaningful moments of your day. During this time, resolve to do whatever God tells you to do–to put into practice what He has spoken to you through His Word.

I’ve found that these four simple steps have guided my devotional time with God, and helped me to develop a conversational relationship with God that has led to a truly personal connection with the Creator of the Universe. That connection is something I cannot live without. My prayer for you this week is that you would find the same thing as you approach the Lord in prayer and Scripture!


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

A Shepherd

“[F]rom tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people… And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Psalm 78:71a, 72, NIV).

Psalm 78 is a great overview of Israel’s history and how God led them, protected them, provided for them, and disciplined them when they sinned. It reveals God as the Shepherd of His people, and we shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus is also revealed as a shepherd in the New Testament, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). In Psalm 78 God raised up another shepherd to lead His people–David. And I love what the Bible says about David’s leadership as king of Israel: he shepherded them with integrity of heart and led them with skillful hands.

As someone God has called to be a pastor (or shepherd, for that is what the word pastor literally means) of His people I pray these words would be true of me as well. I confess my sin to God and ask for integrity of heart through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. And I constantly pray for wisdom, that I may lead with skillful hands. I pray this as well for the elders and all those in leadership at LakeView.

Hebrews 13:7 says to “remember your leaders” and a few verses later in 17 it says that the leaders of the church “keep watch over you as those who must give an account.” The elders, who are also shepherds of God’s people, have a heavy responsibility. They will stand before God one day and give an account for every decision they made, every word they said, every policy they wrote as an elder and shepherd of LakeView. They need our prayers and encouragement to shepherd with integrity of heart and lead with skillful hands.

Will you join me this week in praying for each of the elders by name?

  • Mike Moll
  • Ryan Horrisberger
  • Wayne Hansen
  • Tom Roe
  • Kevin Louis
  • Gary Cook

Let the Glory of Your Name be the Passion of the Church

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth.” (Psalm 57:11, NIV)

David wrote these words while hiding in a cave from King Saul, who was trying to find and kill him. Even when being pursued by an enemy who most certainly would’ve murdered him, David took refuge in the worship of God! It’s easy to praise God when things are going well, but how often do we exalt Him when things are not going well? When life is hard, God is our refuge, and worship is our solace.

For that to be true of us, we must be enamored by God. When was the last time I experienced the awesome glory of God? Do I seek His glory? Moses said to the Lord, “Show me Your glory,” and God answered his prayer. We sing songs about God’s glory filling all the earth, but are those songs really the anthem of our hearts? Do we look for God, seeking to be transformed by encountering His glory? Do we hunger for His name to be exalted above the heavens and His glory to fill the earth?

Or have we grown so familiar with phrases from songs and words like “glory” that they’ve lost their sparkle? Are we so busy with our own lives, our own jobs, our own pursuits, and our own glory that we forget we live not for ourselves, but for the Glorious One who alone deserves to be worshiped? When we put things in perspective and live outside of ourselves for the glory of God, we will find that worship becomes our refuge from the storms of life, and God’s Spirit sustains us as we commune with Him.

There’s a song by Chris Tomlin that has a line in it that makes my heart leap every time I hear it. The song is All to Us, and the line is “Let the glory of Your name be the passion of the church.” Amen! That is my prayer for this week.


Photo by Ksenia Kudelkina on Unsplash

Prayer for the Fools

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1, ESV)

We live in a society that largely has declared, “There is no God.” While it’s true that the majority of Americans claim to believe in God, it’s also true that the majority of Americans (including the majority of Christians in America) live as though God doesn’t exist. When we fail to acknowledge God, we not only overlook an entire Universe of evidence that He is real, we also reject the foundation of right and wrong. If there is no God, there is no morality–no real justice to build a society on.

We’ve all seen where the path of denying God leads. This is true whether we say He doesn’t exist, or whether we claim to believe and yet live as though He doesn’t matter. To deny or forget about God is to be a fool, and that will ultimately lead to “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. [Those who ignore God] are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:29-32, NIV).

Sadly those words are a pretty accurate description of our society. This week, let’s pray for the fools who deny God (knowing that sometimes we’ll be praying for ourselves when our actions fail to acknowledge the Lord).


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Faith Comes By Hearing

This is the last of my Advent prayer devotionals. I’m calling us all to pray for the unsaved who were in church services over the Christmas holidays. We’ve had a lot of guests at LakeView the last couple Sundays, and some of them may not know the Lord. If you’re part of a different church, the same is likely true in your congregation as well. Let us not underestimate the power of prayer, but rather bring these people to the Lord and ask Him to move in their hearts.

If you invited someone in the past month, would you mention them by name in your prayer and initiate a conversation with them about where they’re at with God? A natural place to start is by asking them about their visit to LakeView.

Scripture and prayer are below. Merry Christmas!


How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15, NIV)

Lord, I come before You to pray for those who have visited churches in the past few weeks. Thank You for stirring in the hearts of Christians to bring their friends into their church family. Thank You for the opportunities You’ve given me and others to preach the good news of Jesus. Thank You for leading faithful men and women to plan non-threatening events that make it easy to invite a friend.

I ask You now to work in the hearts and minds of the people who’ve walked through our doors. Holy Spirit, convict them, bother them, keep them awake, show them Your power and mercy, heal them by Your love, speak to them, and draw them to Christ. Bring them back into conversations with their friends and family members who are saved.

I also ask that You would embolden our hearts to initiate follow up conversations with those neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends. Give us the opportunities to speak, the courage to speak, and the discernment to know what to say and when to say it. Father, I pray that every one of my brothers and sisters in Christ would see themselves as preachers of the gospel. That what Paul said in Romans 10:15 would be true of them, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Thank You for Your work in and through us. We love You. Amen.