We'll take up the study of fear again tomorrow. But today I want to slip in a conversation about deliberately planning for a good day.
I am a dreamer in the literal sense. I can't remember when I've ever slept through the night without a conscious awareness of my dreams. Scientists would say that I am a lucid dreamer.
An occasional recurring dream of mine is to leave the house in the morning unknowingly wearing everything but my pants. Convinced that I am fully dressed I will begin to walk through a crowd of people, only to realize that something's missing. Hoping no one will notice, I wonder to myself, "How could I have left the house so unprepared?"
Preparation is an important key to success. If athletes avoid pre-game preparation, the stress of the game can damage their bodies. For all the rest of us, avoiding pre-day preparation can result in the stress of the day damaging more than just our bodies.
A man on medication for chronic pain wouldn't leave the house without first taking his morning pills. A professional woman wouldn't leave the house without first making sure her wardrobe, hair, and makeup were all in order. A contractor wouldn't leave the house without first gathering up everything he needed to take to the jobsite. Why are we so quick to leave the house without first checking in with God?
I bring up this subject not because we should check in with God as a part of our religious obligation. No. First thing in the morning, I don't roll over and give Sherrel a hug and tell her I love her because I'm obligated. I do it because I need to; it's essential to my pre-day preparation.
To check in with God first thing in the morning is even more essential to my pre-day preparation. But it was also essential before I ever started doing it; I just didn't know any better.
Forget all the "should" stuff when it comes to God. Statements like "I should read the Bible more" or "I should spend more time praying" have no value whatsoever. My intention is to help you move out of the world of good intentions.
If you have a tendency to wonder what life would be like if you actually "did" what you "should," then I say to you, "Stop it!" Stop frustrating yourself. Take enough of a bite out of what you "should do" to at least see if you've been missing anything. And if you see enough value in anything you've been missing, you'll pursue it.
"Oh, taste and see that the LORD [is] good… (Psalm 34:8a NKJV)" is not an obligatory statement; it's a challenge. Take a big bite out of God. I'm not trying to be weird; I'm just paraphrasing John 6:48-58.
When our eyes first open, we need to establish some things with God, because the assault against us begins early. I'm so thankful God has given us sleep, so we can have a break from yesterday's garbage. Don't you remember those times of such extreme distress and trauma that the days all ran together without a break. That, in my opinion, is a living hell.
We can't stop the attacks from forming against us, but we can stop their damage (see Isaiah 54:17). And while it's hard to acknowledge, we suffer so much unnecessary damage because we are simply unprepared for the day.
The primary unit God has used to organize our lives is the day. All the other units of measurement don't have such a definite beginning and end. Each day is separated by a period of vulnerability we call sleep.Each day has its purpose.
According to Lamentations 3:22-23, God's mercies and compassions are new each and every morning. We essentially have the opportunity for a fresh start every morning. We do not have to drag yesterday's junk into today. But we will, unless we are intentional about appropriating God's grace into today.
If we just rush out the door, knowing in the back of our mind that God is available upon request, then we are setting ourselves up to be aggravated all day long. A day can become so quickly out of control that by the time we realize we need God's help we've lost the appetite to receive it. And so we just endure until we can start over again tomorrow.
So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted (Exodus 16:21 NKJV).
In the wilderness, the Israelites had one chance for food every day. What they didn't gather melted. And what they gathered and tried to store overnight rotted (except over the Sabbath). God's provision for the entire day came in the morning. If they didn't gather it first thing in the morning, they went hungry until the next day.
I'm not saying God's provision is only available first thing in the morning. I am saying that if we mess around too long without God's help, we can become so weakened by our circumstances that we no longer have the presence of mind to appropriate His help.
What does checking in with God first thing in the morning look like? There is no formula. One component is time. Another component is attention. David said it very well:
My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; In the morning I will direct [it] to You, And I will look up (Psalm 5:3 NKJV).
If you don't know where to start, think about an area of vulnerability in your life. What trips you up on a regular basis? Meet your day by declaring God's promises in this area to both your human nature and to the demonic realm (see James 4:7). If, for example, you worry about money, put together a list of God's promises regarding money such as: Deuteronomy 8:18, Isaiah 48:17, Joshua 1:5, Psalm 103:1-5, 2 Corinthians 9:8. Memorize the list; make it a list of your own words.
Right after the alarm goes off and before you hear or say anything else, declare these promises out loud. (If there are others in your home that you don't want to disturb, you can declare them silently.) And then thank God for both what He does and who He is. Do the same thing while you're eating breakfast, while you're driving to work, and at every other opportunity you have until you hit the day.
Remember, this is just a start—something you can do in less than five minutes. But when you begin to see results you will increase both your time and your intensity. Let us know what you experience. After you have a chance to get your feet wet, we'll go into more detail on the practical application.