Why a Bible Reading Plan

As part of our rollout of Seeing Jesus Together, we will utilize a Bible reading plan. For some of you, this is an old habit. But for some of you, this will be new. So let me make a case for the benefits of a Bible Reading Plan.

It disciplines us. Structure is good. It helps create a habit and keeps us disciplined. Following a Bible reading plan creates the structure that keeps us on task. You will find it more difficult to miss a day the more you keep to it.

It honors how God has given us the Bible. The Bible is a comprehensive story from the beginning to the end. Each little story tells us the one grand story of Creation —> Fall —> New Creation. A reading plan that works through books of the Bible keeps us in God’s story instead of us using the Bible to craft our own story. It’s imposing at times and difficult at times, but that is part of the design — it makes us wrestle with things that we wouldn’t naturally wrestle with. And in doing so, God rewrites our hearts so that we are rooted in his story.

Also, the Bible is composed of multiple genres — poetry, historical narrative, prophecy, epistles, the gospels, wisdom literature, and apocrypha. We will all tend to prefer one genre over others, but we need all of the genres through which God has revealed himself.

It takes us where we don’t necessarily want to go, but where we need to go. A reading plan that works through books of the Bible keeps us in God’s story instead of us using the Bible to craft our own story. It’s imposing at times and difficult at times, but that is part of the design — it makes us wrestle with things that we wouldn’t naturally wrestle with. And in doing so, God rewrites our hearts so that we are rooted in his story.

This is one of the reasons that we preach through books of the Bible. God is setting the agenda through his Word. And when he sets the agenda, we are transformed from our old way of thinking and living into his New Creation way of thinking, feeling, and living.

We are forced to slow down because some things aren’t easy to follow. Parts of the Bible are difficult to read — but they are still essentially important. We are naturally prone to skip over these sections, but there is much to gain from slow reading and wrestling through these more difficult sections. The historical narratives of Kings and Chronicles seem so foreign…because they are. But the history and places are part of God’s story of redemption, and we benefit from seeing God’s hand move during these times. Leviticus seems like a codebook for a different time and place…because it is. But we have much to gain from the Lord by working our way through Leviticus. But we will have to slow down to read and understand. And slow reading forces us to meditate…to dwell more deeply in God’s Word.

We get a sense of the One Story of the Bible. I can’t tell you how many times people have connected the dots of the Bible because they stuck to a reading plan. As the dots get connected from Genesis through the Gospels and to Revelation, our awe at God’s hand in accomplishing redemption increases. Jesus is the central figure of the Bible. And reading each part of the Bible in light of the whole helps us worship, adore, and entrust ourselves to him.

It keeps us reading together. One of the goals of Seeing Jesus Together is reading God’s Word in community. By following a Bible reading plan, as a community we will be reading sections of Scripture at the same time. This will help us be able to talk together about what the Hoy Spirit is showing us, what we are learning, and what sins we are being convicted of. You will find that it helps facilitate community.

ZPC Year End 2021

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14)

How do we fix this?

This seems to be the modern starting place for any problem. The hidden assumption is that we can fix any problem. So…how do we fix this?

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, I told our leadership that during plagues God often culls and refines his people. Throughout redemptive history, this has been his pattern. But I forgot how painful his work of refining is. About this time last year, we were all heard saying, “2021 will be better,” — but we are living in a time of great social unrest on all fronts. And I continue to think, “none of us are doing well, but none of us realize it.”

One unfortunate thing that happens when the Lord brings unrest is that his people can retreat from his mission and turn on each other. These often go hand in hand. May we guard ourselves against this tendency and instead remember that the Lord Jesus has already won the war with the world, the flesh, and the Devil so that we may move onward together — deeper into Christ and deeper onward with his mission.

“And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Exodus 14:22)

During great unrest, God has continued to build his church, and there is much to celebrate. As we move into 2022, let us pull back as a church and remember what the Lord has done over the past year.

Growth. We strive to be Christ-centered and people-oriented. We have grown over the last two years. The pandemic has been extremely difficult for every church in the nation. We have lost some deeply loved families over our response to the pandemic, and we have grieved their departure. At the same time, we have received some of you as new families and individuals and are incredibly thankful. You have been a tremendous encouragement. May the Lord Jesus continue to bring his sheep that we may shepherd them for his glory.

Additionally, the Lord gave us new covenant children – James Reynolds (March), Edison and Warren Peck (April), Clementine Willems (September), Quinn Bain (November), and Aggie Enlow (December).

Rebuilding. Restarting worship during the pandemic seemed like we were replanting Zion. We moved across the street, had to figure out children’s ministry again, etc. When we moved back to the sanctuary, we knew that we would have to rebuild almost everything from scratch. I am thankful for everyone who has put in overtime work behind the scenes to keep us worshipping and serving the Lord Jesus. Our volunteers have been amazing! We trust the body of Christ to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). So our volunteers are essential. Your hidden work is not unseen by our Savior. He rejoices in your small sacrifices and multiplies them for his glory.

Praying. One of the great encouragements during the past 18 months is that we have learned to pray more and more often. Stripped of our ability to make things happen, we have been pushed back into the lap of Jesus for him to accomplish what he wants. There has been a faithful group meeting to pray together every Sunday night. We hope to start back monthly in-person corporate prayer in the spring.

Zion Christian Academy. We are very thankful for Rick Jarvis as he leads the ministry of Zion Christian Academy. ZCA’s enrollment has grown this year to just over 450 students. Health and faithfulness are a good measure of a ministry’s success. ZCA is healthier than it has been in years, thanks to Rick’s leadership. The school’s health will help us make disciples who serve Jesus by being educated by a biblical worldview so that they may serve the King in every area of life.

Elders and Deacons. We are thankful for Jim Davis and the Lord’s calling to serve as an elder. Additionally, after decades of service on the Session, Buck Young has rotated off. We praise God for his work over the years shepherding the flock of God that was entrusted to his care. The Lord Jesus provided a new deacon in Rik Talley, who was installed and ordained this fall. Also, we are thankful for the four years of service that Rick Conrad gave to Zion as his term has come to an end.

Staffing. Our staff are here to serve Jesus and his church. The Session and Diaconate spent a great deal of time praying, discussing, and seeking wisdom for what our church staff needed to look like for the future. The Lord Jesus also provided us with Jeff Wilkins. What a gift he has been to our church body! Jeff started part-time in the spring to help us while we sought the Lord’s direction for the best staffing for our growing church. At the end of our six-month journey, it became obvious that the person we were looking for was Jeff Wilkins. Jeff’s main work is to oversee our Adult Discipleship ministry.

Additionally, Keaton Paul serves our student ministry by overseeing the Bible Department at ZCA and leading our youth at ZPC. Keaton is in the process of seeking ordination in our denomination. This is an arduous process because a man needs to prove he is able to watch his life and doctrine closely. This Fall, Keaton passed his licensure exams and will go before the presbytery for his ordination exams in the spring. Once ordained, Keaton will serve as Pastor of Student Discipleship at ZCA and ZPC.

Whitney McAulay came on board as our Nursery Coordinator.

Kathy Mullery will be retiring at the end of the year. She has faithfully served our church for eight years. We will be revamping her position and are excited to announce that Kim Scruggs will be serving in this new position. Kim will be part-time and will be in the office some, and working out of the office some. Kathy Bain will continue to serve as our Communications Director.

Church Planting. We continue to sense the Lord calling us to plant in small towns around us. Some of you have approached us and said that you are willing to move to go on mission for the Lord Jesus in church planting. This is amazing! Church planting is long and challenging work, and funding is one of the main reasons church plants don’t make it. So, we are thankful that the Lord has provided almost $90,000 for the effort from various sources. If you would like to give to this effort, you can write a check and designate it for “Church Planting” (or give on our website). Please continue to pray the Lord would call a church planter and his family to serve with us.

Finances. Your generosity has continued to be strong. Our fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. We finished the 2019-2020 fiscal year just a little over budgeted giving — while many churches were under budgeted giving and running the red.

In 2021, you gave $21,494.78 toward the Deacon’s Fund. $4,622.50 was distributed to disaster relief. We were able to give $14,839.38 to the Fennema family. We distributed over $6,500 to help subsidize counseling needs. And Zion gave just over $4,500 toward Missionary Christmas gifts.

Currently, as we approach the year-end, we want to encourage you to give generously. Tithe (10%) to the church, and then give above and beyond to ministries who are on mission with Jesus — missionaries, local mercy works, RUF campus ministers, church planting, etc.

You can donate through stocks, by mailing a check into the office, or by giving online (www.zioncolumbia.org/give). All donations must be received by December 31 to count toward the 2021 tax year.

Looking Ahead

Will 2022 be better? In some ways “yes,” and in some ways “no.” We live in between the advents — in the now and not-yet — between the arrival of the Kingdom of God and the consummation of the Kingdom of God at Jesus’ return.

So until that day, we can rest in Christ for his work is finished and his victory is won. Jesus, our Redeemer, reigns.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

In Christ,

Pastor Paul

Review: The Wisdom Pyramid

We need help navigating the torrent of ideas.

You have probably felt the increasing tension over everything. It doesn’t take much to create a Twitter storm. Its not just in the buffered world of social media where conflict explodes. We walk on eggshells in our conversations constantly trying to assess what tribe someone belongs to so we know what topics to avoid. Even holiday parties need to be navigated with great care because of the potential for explosive conflict.

I am convinced that one of the reasons that tribalism is rampant in the modern world is because we are flooded with information. We don’t know how to process the torrent of ideas, so we take the shortcut of having our tribe process the ideas for us.

Brett McCracken has given us a tool for our information consumption that borrows from the old tool of the Food Pyramid. Just like binge eating can slowly erode our physical health, we need to be constantly assessing not only what we are consuming with our minds, but in what proportion we are consuming it.

In The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World, McCracken outlines a strategy for our information diet that starts with proximity to God. God speaks in his Word and that should be the bulk of our information intake. But we don’t always know the best way to interpret and apply his Word, so we go to the church next — both historically in the creeds and presently in other believers in our local church. Next we gain insights from creation through General Revelation. Then we find value in books (it’s a humble move to put books at a lower priority level than the local church when he is writing a book). Beauty is next — art, movies, novels, culture, rest, etc. And then finally the internet and social media.

You can watch a short video explanation of the concept here.

Parents of teens, this book is especially written for you — your children need help learning how to navigate a world where they receive more information with less wisdom imparted to them. The increase in anxiety amongst Gen Z is partially the result of not knowing how to process the torrent of information.

Note: Crossway provided me a review copy free of charge.

10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask

Regret and fear are the two primary emotions parents face when their student approaches college.

Regret over all the things that they have not prepared them for. And fear over all the things they have not prepared them for.

The world of college is a world of new ideas and new experiences. The number of students who stray away from Jesus during college is alarming. They simply are not prepared to filter the new ideas and new experiences through the person and work of Jesus.

So, I want to recommend a book to every parent of a teenager: 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) About Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin.

Rebecca McLaughlin has walked in the academic stratosphere — a PhD from Oxford as well as a theological degree from Oak Hill College in London. She can distill the typical objections to Christianity that any student will face, and to do with a clear explanation that speaks to teenagers. Throughout her book, she introduces students to academics who are leaders in their fields at elite academic institutions, and who are faithfully following Jesus.

She handles the scriptures well, as well as connecting the Bible to the stories that students grew up hearing — from Disney to Harry Potter.

Most parents are not aware that what the typical objections are, let alone how to answer them. But McLaughlin goes a step further, she believes that most objections to Jesus “stop being roadblocks and instead become signposts” — they point us to the world’s need for Jesus.

In this book, I want to offer a different approach. Rather than protecting my kids from divergent ideas, or urging them to affirm all beliefs equally, I want to equip them to have real conversations with real people who really think differently from them—and from me. I want them to learn how to listen well and how to question what they hear. If what I believe is true, it will stand up to scrutiny. The Christian faith sprang up in a world that was violently hostile to its claims. But rather than extinguishing the small spark of the early church, the winds of opposition gave it oxygen to spread. Two thousand years later (as I explain in chapter 1) it’s still spreading. But I don’t want my kids to believe in Jesus just because I say so, or just because it’s the largest and most diverse religion in the world, or just because going to church makes you happier, healthier, and more generous to others. I want them to see Jesus for themselves and to believe that what he says about himself is true.

Fathers, let me urge you to get this book and begin working through it with your teenage children (if you are looking for a starting age, let me suggest 15). If you are a single mom with teenagers, this is a great opportunity to prepare them for college. Because of their access to the internet, social media, and movies — high school students are already aware of these objections. They are looking for answers, and this is a great book that can help you.

What are your thoughts on insurgency?

In a world broken by sin, we will always have sinful rulers. In fact, that is all that we will ever have in our earthly kingdoms.

Because of that, there are times when resisting those authorities is necessary.

We are not there. Not even close.

This is not a time for a just war.

This is a time for Romans 13:1-2:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” – Romans 13:1-2

I was recently asked, “What is your opinion of insurgency?” I am seldom shocked by a question. After 25 years of ministry, I think I have heard most of them.

But this one shocked me.

At the time, it was strange, so I assumed that it was hypothetical. It seemed so far from something I needed to address.

That is until Wednesday, January 6, 2021, when the Capitol was sieged by violent, armed rebels.

Now there are FBI reports that there are armed protests planned at every state capitol as well as the U.S. Capitol (here’s the Fox News link too).

Let me be clear — armed protests are not protests. They are acts of violence.

This is true no matter who is carrying them out or why they are being carried out. Violent protests are not protests — they are fleshly (Galatians 6:20) acts against those who bear God’s image.

I seldom buy the excuse that oppressed people get frustrated and then turn violent. I didn’t believe that when the BLM protests turned violent, nor do I believe it when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.

Evil people perpetrate evil on others, and sometimes it turns violent. If you don’t believe me, put two toddlers together in a room and just let them play for 10 minutes. If you still don’t believe me, join me for a marriage counseling session. Or just ask my wife about me, because this stuff is in my own heart.

Rather, the followers of Jesus have to turn away from evil violence: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

In case you are wondering — there is less at stake in the political world than you think. The Lord is sovereign over all things — “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.” (Daniel 2:21)

To arm yourselves against a justly elected official is an act of sedition against the Great King of Kings. “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed.” (Romans 13:2)

And we need to heed the warning, “those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:2)

In fact, you may not like the departing president or the arriving president, but you must honor him (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17). The same is true for the state governors, the state legislatures, and your mayor.

The Christian’s engagement with politics should always have a certain shape to our zeal:

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21-23)

So, if you are considering involvement in a violent protest — put down your weapons, and take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Do not violently fight, honor the elected officials for the sake of Jesus — “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Peter 2:15)

And then wait for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to return, for his kingdom has no end.

The Importance of This Election

Politics are important. We have the unique privilege in America of having a voice and a vote. Across the history of humanity, the ability of the average citizen to employ their will to effect politics is amazingly unique.

So politics are important. The people of the Lord Jesus are “aliens and sojourners” (1 Peter 2:11) who are to seek the welfare of the place where we live (Jeremiah 29:7). That is a healthy tension that keeps politics from becoming too important.

But politics have become ultimate for many Christians. There are a variety of reasons for this, but one of those reasons is our consumption of media (including Facebook and YouTube…and especially Twitter).

Trevin Wax has a helpful article on Why So Many Americans Will Be Shocked on Election Day.

Our online preferences reinforce the “big sort.” Consider the LifeWay Research and ERLC Civility study that shows 48 % of evangelicals by belief agree that they “prefer to follow or befriend people on social media who have similar thoughts on social and political issues.” That’s not surprising, as people generally befriend others with similar interest and outlook…

He continues:

Unfortunately, the result is a myopic and distorted view of reality. We are left with impressions from Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter delivered up by algorithms that create a narrative that may be far from the truth. The Trump supporter sees video after video of large campaign rallies, Biden’s frequent gaffes, and anecdotal evidence or selective bits of data that point to a huge upset on Election Day. The Biden supporter sees video after video of Trump saying something demeaning or silly, celebrity endorsements for the Democratic candidate, and data points that signal a landslide Biden win.”

Finding a Treasure In an Unusual Place

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16:31)

Around sixty percent of the COVID deaths have been in people over the age of 70. As that statistic has been discussed, the dialogue has been discouraging. Some have argued that we are disrupting lives and the economy for people who would have likely died soon anyways.

This should upset a follower of Jesus.

First, the most vulnerable are the most protected. They are never disposable. Second, all life is valuable because we are made in the image of God. We must protect both the unborn child AND the older saint.

Lastly, the wisdom for living is a treasure that is given to the aged.

Wisdom is the ability to navigate life according to God’s creation design. Wisdom is essential to human flourishing. Thus, wisdom is a treasure:

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.” (Proverbs 3:13-16)

When a younger woman is overwhelmed with raising kids, running a household, being a wife, and possibly managing a business — she needs wisdom to navigate life.

Where should she get that? From an older woman (Titus 2:4). An older woman should mentor a younger woman. The Lord has stored up a treasure of wisdom in that older woman, and that treasure is not meant to be hoarded.

If we are dismissive of our older saints, we are throwing away a storehouse of treasures. The Lord has stored up a vast cache of treasure, and hidden that cache in the hearts and minds of the older saints.

Paul Tripp writes:

“The Bible looks at youth and aging in the exact opposite way from our culture. While the Bible esteems the vigor of the young, it views old age as a sign of blessing and repeatedly calls on us to honor the aged (Isa. 46:4, Lev. 19:32, Prov. 23:22, 1 Tim. 5:1). The tendency of modern Western culture to despise aging and to worship youthfulness is one subtle indicator of how far it has moved away from a biblical perspective on life. In Scripture old age is a sign of God’s covenantal faithfulness. It is also connected with functional wisdom. We, on the other hand, crave youth, dread getting old, and quickly put out to pasture all those who have lived long enough to have acquired some functional life-wisdom. This ageism is part of the oxygen of our culture. We all breathe it in daily, and it has affected the way each of us views who we are and where we are going.” (Tripp, Lost in the Middle, pg 83)

Worship In My Pajamas

I get the draw to online worship.

For the last two weeks, we were in Corona Quarantine, so we experienced a casual Sunday morning. We rolled out of bed and got to watch online. There was no fighting to get the kids ready and no running late. We didn’t have to get dressed, and when we were done, we got to return to our casual Sunday morning.

It was easy, and it was comfortable.

When we got done, I turned to Jill and said, “I get why people could get used to this.” And I fear that many of us have gotten used to it.

I know for some of us, you need to stay home. You have a family member who is in the high-risk category, and you want to be able to see them. I also understand the temptation to stay away because it’s tough to have your kids in worship. For some, it’s cumbersome to be in worship because of the masks.

But we belong to a Savior who gave up comfort to take up discomfort for our sake – “even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

His people are told to have the same mindset (Philippians 2:5). Comfort and the Christian life are often at odds with each other.

Throughout redemptive history, the Lord has used plagues to both cull and refine his people. What comes out of the plague is a more faithful remnant.

I think one of the idols he is going after is our love of comfort and ease.

My family will tell you that it is one of my core idols – probably the one that causes the most pain in our family. At the heart of most of our hearts is the belief that my life is supposed to be about my pleasure. And instead of Jesus turning that over in our hearts when we come to him, we expect him to fit into that narrative.

But the gospel is about death and then life. We are to die to ourselves (Luke 9:23). We are to crucify the passions of the flesh (1 Peter 4:1). We are to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Now let’s circle back to worship. Worship is not primarily for what we get but what we give. We give glory and honor to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. And we do this together. Corporately. God has made a people for his own possession (1 Peter 2:9).

We have to gather in person. This is a command (Hebrews 10:25). When the people of God gather together for worship, a time and space hole opens in the fabric of the universe — heaven and earth meet.

“But you [plural, “y’all”] have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:22-23)

You do not get the same reality at home in your pajamas. You may get something good from it, and good is better than nothing. But let’s not think that FaceTiming a relative into the dinner table is the same thing as having that family member at the table.

So, for the time being, some may need to settle for the substitute. I get that, and God in his kindness will sustain you in these extraordinary times. Please do not forsake the Lord’s Day worship all together. If necessary, watch the live stream. That is why we are giving it as an option.

But if you are just staying at home and watching because it is easier and more comfortable. Well…we need to repent.

We need to be willing to put our love of comfortable to death, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus by attending to the work of corporate worship.

Why Unhealthy People Crave Controversy

“To be sure, controversies happen in every era since people will have differing views on important issues, and sometimes even disagreements about how important those issues are. But Scripture speaks repeatedly about those who have what the apostle Paul calls “an unhealthy craving for controversy” (1 Tim. 6:4). Of course, Paul was more than willing to speak into controversies himself—from opposing Peter to his face for refusing to eat with Gentiles to some of those fiery letters to the Corinthians. But this was as different from craving controversy for the sake of controversy as conjugal love is from an orgy.”

From time to time, we will post from other blogs. Here at The Gospel Coalition, Russell Moore posts a helpful article: Why Unhealthy People Crave Controversy.

One Reason Why We Aren’t Doing Well

I’ve been on a mission to install this baseline in all of our lives: None of us are doing well and nobody realizes it.

We all hate the masks. Nobody likes them. They are uncomfortable. They remind us that things aren’t normal. They hinder us from seeing each other’s expressions.

Every interaction and every decision is incredibly complex. Unfortunately, the masks have become a shibboleth for your political views. What once was a routine stop at the store to get a few items has turned into a very complicated ritual.

We have to navigate questions like:

Do I wear a mask? (which usually necessitates a return to my car because I forgot my mask).

Is that person that I cut off with my cart mad? I’m not sure. I can’t see their facial expression.

What are others going to think if I don’t wear a mask (or if I do wear a mask)?

Then with every allergy sniffle, you wonder if you are supposed to get tested for COVID.

Plans are interrupted at the last minute because of a concern over a possible infection by someone we had contact with.

The list goes on and on and on. Every decision is complicated, and we just were not designed to have to think through little things.

One author compares this to what missionaries go through when they enter a new culture:

When someone moves to a completely new culture, many of the ‘autopilots’ your brain uses for thousands of small decisions every day become ineffective. In a similar way, your current environment has likely changed sufficiently enough that many of your own ‘autopilots’ are no longer working. When this happens, the next remaining option for your brain is to use a second decision-making process that requires far more effort and energy (glucose) to operate. Your body can only supply glucose to your brain at a certain rate – a rate far below what would be required to use this kind of thinking continually. Thus, additional thinking about routine matters has likely left you with a chronically depleted level of glucose in your brain. All to say: You are experiencing “culture shock”.

These times are frustrating and exhausting. Therefore, none of us are doing well, but nobody realizes it.

We need a better outlet for our frustration. We need to send the roots of our hearts deeper into the God who loves us in Christ.

Turn it off and turn to the Lord. Psalm 1 describes a person who is like a firmly planted tree that bears fruit year-round (instead of seasonally).

The key to this kind of thriving?

his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:2

Here’s the reality. We are so caught up with constant stimulation, news, and social media that we simply cannot meditate on God’s Word. Meditation requires some downtime. Meditation requires mulling over God’s Word until you start to appreciate the nuances and beauty. Meditation lets God’s Word marinate in our hearts until they are seasoned by his love.

But this is difficult to do when we are constantly stimulated.

So, turn it off. Turn off the news (hint: there’s no life and hope on CNN and Fox News, they are not going to give you Gospel news). Turn off social media.

Instead, just sit and meditate on God’s Word.

Embrace the grief before the Lord. This is a time of grieving. Acknowledge that this is a time of exhaustion. Because every decision is laden with weight and difficulty, we are more prone to frustration. And when frustrated, little things become big things. The kid’s toys on the floor aren’t a big deal, but I make it into a big deal when I’m tired and frustrated. Small things explode into big things. And right now, we are all physically and emotionally exhausted.

I think we have lost the discipline of lament. We need to learn to recognize our pain and pour out our grief to the Lord. The psalms can help us here:

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:14–15, ESV)

The Lord wants us to bring our dark emotions to him. As a discipline, before we turn to our issues or our loved ones, we probably should turn to the Lord and pour out our laments to him. I think this will help us think more clearly, carefully, and lovingly.

Finally, this has become a promise from Jesus that I repeat to myself almost daily now:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, ESV)