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Middle of the Night Insomnia: Vigilia Sancti

July 30, 2016

Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night, and have trouble getting back to sleep? Frustrating, wasn’t it. And the next morning you probably complained about having a terrible night. Middle of the night insomnia, it’s often called. Terrible thing.

Or maybe not so much.

The Bible doesn’t have all that much to say about getting “a good night’s sleep” as we understand the expression. The Book of Proverbs observes that keeping sound wisdom and discretion contributes to “sweet sleep” (Prov. 3:21-24).  And Psalm 4:8 offers a beautiful bedtime prayer: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

The Book of Proverbs advises us not to “love” sleep (Prov. 20:13) lest we make ourselves unnecessarily poor. One of the most delightful verses of the Bible is about NOT sleeping too much: “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” Delightful, except perhaps for the teenager whose parents are fond of loudly reciting it to him or her around noon on Saturdays.

On the other hand, Psalm 127:2 advises us not to be a workaholic to the point of routinely skipping sleep, because this reflects a lack of faith in God’s providence. (Apparently this reminder is especially targeted to young parents, because the rest of that Psalm is a reminder about how children are a gift from God…)

The Bible also speaks about sleepless nights: Jesus stayed up all night to pray (Luke 6:12); Jacob had an all-night wrestling match (Genesis 32:24); and Samuel cried out to the Lord all night (1 Samuel 15:11). I don’t know if Paul and Silas were up all night singing, or simply started up their concert around midnight. Either way, the Book of Acts states that it was in the middle of the night (Acts 16:25). And there are many mentions of nocturnal prayer and meditation on God’s word (Psalm 63:6; Psalm 119:55; Psalm 119:148; Luke 2:37) — and weeping and mourning (Job 7:4-5; Job 30:17; Jeremiah 45:3; Lamentations 2:19; Joel 1:13; Psalm 30:5; Psalm 55:17) — well into the night, if not all night. Paul acknowledges that his many hardships included sleeplessness (2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:27). Sleeplessness and restlessness is often associated with wickedness and a guilty conscience (Isaiah 48:22; Proverbs 4:14-16; Hebrews 3:11, 4:1-5; Revelation 14:11).

The Bible has examples of interrupted sleep. One example that might come to mind is when the disciples were on a boat with Jesus and woke him up from a deep slumber — in a panic — when a storm fell upon them (Matthew 8:24, Mark 4:38; Luke 8:23). But there are many other examples where people are awakened, or awake, in the middle of the night. 

Usually we think of interrupted sleep — and especially, middle of the night insomnia — as a bad thing. But notice Psalm 119:62: “At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You Because of Your righteous ordinances.” So, what is the Psalmist suggesting? Are we being coaxed to set our alarms for midnight so that we can wake up and spend some time in prayer? Anathema! (Well, maybe not anathema, but, say it isn’t so!!!).

Part of our reaction to such a suggestion is that we define “a good night’s sleep” as approximately eight hours (give or take) of uninterrupted, sound sleep. We expect and anticipate this each night, every night. If we wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep, we’ll usually complain the next morning that we did not gave a good night’s sleep.

Middle of the night insomnia was not always considered a bad thing, though. The research of Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech and author of At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past (NY: Norton, 2005) has demonstrated that for much of history people slept in two segments separated by a waking period in the middle of the night. They would usually wake up and attend to various tasks, including the usual, plus tending the fire, checking on the security of their surroundings, and allowing themselves some time for prayer, reading and quiet thoughtfulness. There is much documentation of the notion of “first sleep,” followed by a period of waking, followed by a “second sleep”.  We also know that many cultures in warm or tropical climates also featured a corresponding segmented daytime that included a siesta … or, as we know it today, a “power nap.” Professor Ekirch shows that the Industrial Revolution, with its demands for efficiency and uninterrupted shifts of working hours (including early morning starting times facilitated by electricity, alarm clocks and the like), changed these patterns. “Early rising” was a reform movement during the 18th century, and as part of that movement parents were admonished to encourage their children to arise after “first sleep.”

Segmented sleep isn’t necessarily unhealthy. Some French scientists (Arnulf et al, 2011: “Ring the Bell for Matins,” Chronobiology International, 28(10), 930-941) researched the sleep patterns of a group of cloistered monks and nuns. The monastics adhered to the 10-century-old strict schedule of a night split by a 2- to 3-hour long prayer time (Matins) in the middle of each night. The research showed that the human body adapts to and even anticipates nocturnal awakenings, and that such biphasic sleep patterns did not have any adverse health impact. The researchers acknowledged that this study provides a living glance into the sleep patterns of medieval time.

Having fewer hours of sleep on a given night, once in a while, is also not unhealthy. We tend to think that we need eight hours (give or take), each night, every night. But if you do some reading (in addition to, or other than, the stuff put out be the National Sleep Foundation), you’ll discover that the 8-hours-each-night “requirement” is a myth. First of all, recent research shows that we don’t necessarily need a full eight hours of sleep. Second, the quality of our sleep is just as important as the quantity. Third, retiring earlier than later contributes to sleep quality. Fourth, don’t discount the need for a medical sleep study that might result in the use of a CPAP or other sleep aid. Fifth, most people experience sleep cycles that vary from night to night through the week… sometimes including a night here or there with only a few hours of sleep. Sixth, don’t forget about those all important power naps. Seventh, consult your Bible: there’s more than one reason for the Sabbath! Selah.

That said, let’s return to Psalm 119:62: “At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You Because of Your righteous ordinances.” What if you do wake up in the middle of the night? Rise to give thanks! Pray. Spend time with the Lord. And with His word… maybe even doing some memorizing!! Allow this to be your own mini-monastic spiritual retreat, and be grateful — rather than resentful — for this vigilia sancti, this holy insomnia.

Oh, and leave the TV and the computer off. Don’t even look at your smart phone. Too much blue light.

Righteous Indignation

July 2, 2016

Righteous Indignation: Psalm 119:49-56 (Zayin)

  • Introduction: What is “indignation”?
    • What are typical causes of moral indignation or outrage for nonbelievers?/
    • Do/should followers of Christ ever be indignant? If so, about what? Why or why not?
      • What about the command to love (Luke 6:27-28; 23:34)?
  • Compare: Anger …
    • As strife (Galatians 5:19-21) and as potential sin (Ephesians 4:26-27)
    • As something to be guarded against and managed (James 1:19-20)
    • Not an excuse for revenge (Romans 12:19-21)
    • Not an appropriate response to persecution (1 Peter 3:14-17)
    • As expressed by Jesus: Mark 3:1-5; Matthew 21:12-13; 23:13; 26:23-24 and Luke 19:41-44
    • Compare: As expressed by Paul: 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9; 5:12; & 1 Timothy 4:14
  • How does regeneration change us?L07 Regeneration Indignation Sanctification
    • Is there a progression from hating God’s Word, to acknowledging and learning to obey it, to loving His Word?
    • Is there a regression from loving the wisdom of the world, to re-assessing it, to distancing ourselves it, to hating it?
  • COMPARE: Romans 1:25 (preceded and followed by observations regarding sexual morality).
    • Thinking exchange (rejecting the Mind of Christ)
    • Worship exchange (rejecting God as solely worthy of our worship)
  • Indignation and the Imprecatory Psalms: A New Testament Perspective
    • Are Old Testament curses in the Psalms relevant to New Testament believers? (Mark 12:36; John 10:35; 13:18)?
    • God’s justice: Understanding (Romans 2:4-5), participating (Rom. 12:19-21; Luk 6:27-29, 35).
    • Nehemiah 13:25: Sorrowful indignation, or, judgmental, arrogant indignation?
  • Psalm 119: 49-56 – Hope for believers who suffer
    • Prayer for God to remember, and affirmations that the psalmist will remember God and His comforting and hope-giving laws.
    • God awakens His Word … and His hope … in believers (v. 49)
    • His promises – in His Word – comforts believers even when they are derided (vv. 50-52)
      • Does adversity drive us toward God’s Word?
    • Do we sorrowfully experience “hot indignation” when we see God’s law forsaken? (v. 53)
      • Psalm 42:3 and Psalm 123:4 – Is the rejection of God and His law more provoking than the resulting persecution?
    • As we travel on our life’s journey, we can hear and sing and remember God’s Word (vv. 54-55)
      • Habitual singing through suffering, even at night, while staying somewhere temporarily.
    • God enables us to learn about, and love, His Word, and find ourselves resting in His commandments (v. 56).
      • “Kept” [shamar, H8104] includes “guarded,” because in His Word we find comfort, sustenance and restoration.

On Being Winsomely Offensive

April 10, 2016

On Being Winsomely Offensive

Psalm 119:41-48 (Vav)

  • Introduction: How ARE Christians “different” than unbelievers? How OUGHT they be?
  • The Angry Physician example: Lesson; demands-or-doom; 5-minute fix; or the single prescription.
  • The Gospel as Offense (Compare: Gospel as Folly, 1 Corinthians 1:18):
    • Rock (1 Peter 2:7-8); Persecution (2 Timothy 3:12); No More Circumcision (Galatians 5:11).
    • [How] Can we tell why we are found by another to be offensive?
  • Worldly winning with winsomeness: cheerful, pleasant, and appealing.
    • Wordly wisdom includes winsomeness:
    • Old Testament examples: Ecclesiastes 7:1-6; Deuteronomy 4:6
    • New Testament examples:
      • The 2 Corinthians Metaphors:
        • Triumph: 2 Corinthians 2:14
        • Fragrance: 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
        • Email: 2 Corinthians 3:1-3
        • Pottery: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
      • Mind of Christ (John MacDuff, 1870 (1)): Romans 12:1-2
      • Wisdom from Above: James 3:13-18
      • Reflective: Colossians 4:2-6
  • Psalm 119:41-48 (Vav)
    • Prayer that my life and words reflect God’s love and salvation (vv. 41-42)
    • Prayer that I understand the width of God’s gift of liberty (vv. 43-45)
    • May the joy of my salvation overflow, even the presence of kings (vv. 46-47)
    • May the joy of my salvation overflow in praise and meditation (v. 48)
  • Conclusion: Perfume, Imperfections and Prayer


Being winsomely offensive: some observations from Jerram Barr, The Heart of Evangelism (Crossway, 2005):

    • Show respect. “So often as Christians we behave as if we everything to give to the non-Christian and nothing to receive.” (199)
    • Listen. “Every human being is religious in the sense that he or she puts his or her trust in something…The challenge for us is to find out where the person’s trust lies.” (208)
    • Care to Learn and Learn to Care. “…caricaturing or misrepresenting the ideas of unbelievers will be no help to us. It will simply alienate people, for they will rightly be offended by our failure to treat their beliefs seriously.” (212)
    • Avoid Churchspeak. “The New Testament challenges us to express God’s unchanging truth in language of our time rather than in the language of the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries or even of the early part of the twentieth century.” (242)
    • Reason Reasonably. “If we reflect on this thoughtful use of language by the apostles, it is evident that they were building a carefully reasoned presentation of the truth to their hearers.” (245)
    • Proclaim, Parse and Apply … Personally. “…accommodating ourselves to our hearers is precisely what all faithful communication of the Gospel must be, for the Gospel itself – God becoming flesh for us – is the greatest imaginable accommodation to those who need to be saved!” (261) “…the task is always the same, to give a wise word that will assist the understanding of non-Christians.” (265)
    • Prompt. “…the Gospel will always be experienced as a challenge…It will challenge our heart, for our hearts are devoted to many masters in place of the one true Lord. Any faithful communication of the Gospel must come with this challenge. In fact, it is appropriate to assert that if there is no challenge, there is no genuine presentation of the Gospel.” (267-268)

        Conversational tools for digging deeper (Judson Poling, Leadership Journal, Fall 2002, pp. 85-86):

– “That’s an interesting question. What do you think?”

– “What situation in your life makes you wonder about that?”

– “Even though you don’t know, if you had to guess, how would you answer?”

– “Is there any answer that you won’t accept? Why?”

– “What has led you to conclude that?”

– “What information do you think would cause you to change your mind?”

– “What’s the strongest argument for those who disagree with you?”

– “If everyone held that view, what would society look like?”

– “If you found out you were wrong, what would be at risk? How would your life change?”

1. or


Worthless and Wasteful, or Worthy and Worshipful

April 3, 2016

Worthless and Wasteful, or Worthy and Worshipful

Psalm 119:33-40 (He) ה

1.      Introduction: Personal epistemology example: The ethics of big data.

         a.      Attention ➔ Alertness ➔ Awareness ➔ Accessing ➔ Acting ➔ Accountability

2.      Today’s Storer-Uppers!

3.      Becoming aware (curiosity compulsion), as self-destruction.

         a.      The pornography example.                                                      

         b.      The Edenic example: Genesis 3:1-2 ➔ Genesis 3:4-5 ➔ Genesis 3:6-7

4.      Not being fully aware (mindful), as self-destruction: Absorption v. Distractions

         a.      Mark 4:19 

         b.      Luke 8:7 

         c.      Hebrews 12:2 

5.      Living in liberty; freedom within limits

         a.      The fishing example.

         b.      Biblically informed mindfulness: connecting with the task, the Project, the Person.

                  i.      Galatians 2:20

                  ii.     Romans 12:2 

                  iii.    1 Corinthians 2:16 

                  iv.    Colossians 3:2-3 

                  v.      Philippians 2:5

                  vi.    Philippians 4:8

                  vii.   Matthew 6:22-23 ➔ Matthew 6:24 ➔ Matthew 6:25+        

6.      Psalm 119: 33-40

         a.      Is knowing enough? (v. 32) 

         b.      Knowing versus heart-felt understanding (v.34) 

         c.      Living versus knowing/understanding (v.35) 

         d.      Wanting to want to obey, as compared to other distractions (vv. 36-37) 

         e.      Prayer for grace and strength and a renewed heart (vv. 38-40). 

         f.      Assessment of progress: cycling back through the second set of four verses.

                  i.      What am I choosing to pay attention to, that is a distraction from my relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

                  ii.     When am I substituting attention to “worthless things” rather than worshipful things?

7.      The Luke 14 Challenge1

         a.      The demands of discipleship (vv.26-27)

         b.      The decision of discipleship (vv.28-32)

         c.      The distinct nature of disciples (vv.33-35) 

         d.      Worthless and wasteful, or, worthy and worshipful                  

8.      Conclusion: Awareness and mindfulness are choices (Insert the words “Biblically Informed” ahead of each step).

         a.      Absorption ➔ Attention ➔ Alertness ➔ Awareness ➔ Accessing ➔ Acting ➔ Accountability

         b.      Memorization ➔ Meditation ➔ Mindfulness

         c.      1 Peter 1:13 

         d.      John 10:10

 The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction.2

See “How to Hate your Wife,”
John MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ (Crossway, 1991), p. 157


Meaning in Life: It’s All Worship

March 27, 2016

Here’s a thought …. or thought-provoker:
It seem that for a follower of Christ, the purpose in life is to glorify God. In other words, to lead a life of worship. That includes our obedience, and our obedience includes our love of God and love of others.
This all starts by trusting Christ both as Savior and as the sovereign Lord (King) of one’s life, through the hearing, accepting and believing of the Gospel.
This is just a way of thinking about all of this. Not a perfect way, or even the best way, but for me at least a helpful basic “model.”

Trust Obey WORSHIP We begin our worship when we trust Christ as King and Savior (John 1:12-13). Our worship grows as we grow in faith and love of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
But at the end of the day (or more accurately, for eternity), it’s all worship.

Reality is Depressing, and Depression is Reality

March 27, 2016

Reality is Depressing, and Depression is Reality.

Psalm 119:25-32 (Daleth)

  • Introduction:
    • Physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain:
      • “Pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts to us in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (1)
      • Emotional pain can be worse than physical pain.
      • Spiritual pain: existential loneliness, dread or shame; loss of identity.
    • Meaning in life, depression and Ecclesiastes 3:18
      • Sorting out the good and avoiding the truth (defense theory).
      • Problem solving and accepting responsibility (control theory).
    • Compare: a more accurate perception of reality (depressive realism).
  • Last Week: Hints and Helps with Memorizing Scripture
    • Read the passage over several times before starting to memorize it.
    • Repeat the passage every day.
    • Study the passage and ask questions the passage think about:
      • Its application to life.
      • How it helps to get to know God and understand my purpose.
    • Write it out longhand, and print it onto index cards that you can carry with you.
    • Learn one verse at a time.
    • Teach the passage to someone else.
    • Develop pictures to visualize the passage and its story.
    • Say it out loud, or develop it into a song, and use hand motions.
    • Record it and play it back.
    • Practice it with someone who will encourage you and hold you accountable.
  • Today’s Storer-Uppers!
  • Thinking about the reality of depression.
    • Proverbs 18:14
    • Isaiah 57:15
    • Isaiah 66:1-2
    • Psalm 34:17-18
  • The Passion of Christ: Physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain.
    • Man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3-12)
    • Soul grieved to the point of death in the “olive press” (Matthew 26:37-38)
    • Forsakenness, spiritual agony (Psalm 22; Matthew 27:45-50)
    • The full weight sin (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
  • Psalm 119:25-32
    • Why am I so depressed? (vv. 25-29)
    • Turning it over. (v. 30-31)
    • Back in the game (v. 32)
  • Thinking about converting from a philosophy of “self-esteem” based on trusting ourselves, to self acceptance based on trust in God and His power, plans, love and forgiveness (Jeremiah 29:11 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 1 Peter 1:6-7 Hebrews 13:5).
  • He is Risen!

 1. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (1940; repr., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), p. 91.

The Bible as Sin-Guard

March 20, 2016

The Bible as Sin-Guard

… according to the Bible [ESV]

    • Biblical call to guard our hearts
      • Proverbs 4:20-26: 20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
    • God’s Word works to … Define sin
      • Matthew 5:28 : But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
      • James 1:12-14: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
      • Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
    • God’s Word works to … Explain the idolatry of sin
      • Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
      • 1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[a]–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
    • God’s Word works to … Remind us of our accountability for sin
      • Romans 14:12: So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
      • 2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
    • God’s Word works to … Celebrate Christ’s victory over sin
      • Romans 8:9: You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
      • 2 Corinthians 6:14-18: Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
      • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
      • 2 Corinthians 7:1: Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body[a] and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
      • Hebrews 2:18: For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
    • God’s Word works to … Call us into battle against sin
      • 1 Corinthians 10:14: Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
      • 1 Corinthians 11:31: But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.
      • 1 Thessalonians 5:22: Abstain from every form of evil.
      • 1 Peter 2:11: Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
    • God’s Word works to … Arm us against sin
      • Psalm 1:1-2: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
      • Ephesians 6:17: and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
      • 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
    • God’s Word works to … Take away our excuses
      • 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
      • Galatians 6:7: Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
    • God’s Word works to … Remind us of our true loyalty
      • Ecclesiastes 8:4: For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?”
      • John 14:15: If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
      • Romans 13:14: But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
    • God’s Word works to … Help us deal with our sin
      • Proverbs 24:16: for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
      • James 5:16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
      • Hebrews 4:15-16: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.