A Special Rest

Hebrews 4:6-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts.”[a]

Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest[b] still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Rest.

It’s almost become a cuss word in the American culture.

“Take a day off? Are you kidding me? ! I have WAY too much to do! There’s so much work and so little time!”

From the beginning of creation, God made a way for His people to rest from their labor. As a good Father does, He led by example. God didn’t need to rest on the 7th day, (He’s all sufficient in Himself!) but He knew that we would need rest for our body and soul.

Earthly rest.

Before the foundations of the earth God also made another type of rest. Scripture refers to it as a “special rest.” When our earthly bodies cease to exist and we move into our heavenly home, we will enter eternal rest as we worship God all day and all night, forever and ever.

Eternal rest.

But what about today? Why does this earthly rest elude us? The writers of Hebrews give us the clue, which unlocks the mystery: the word of God exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Failure to rest on the 7th day exposes our disobedience. Our actions speak what our heart believes:

“I’m more than able than you, the Creator of the universe, to work 7 days straight.”

“I don’t trust that you will provide all my needs (and my wants), so I have to get my hours in to pay the bills.”

“I don’t love you with all my heart. I love others more, so I refuse to say “no” to what what they ask or expect of me.”

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, exhausted, or over worked, I encourage you to be still. Know God. Ask the Lord to cut between your soul & spirit to expose your innermost thoughts and desires. Then confess, repent, be forgiven and enter in to His perfect rest. IMG_2397 copy

Matthew 11:28-30 New Living Translation (NLT)

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

 

 

 

Something New

Isaiah 43:19 

For I am about to do something new.

See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.

I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

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It’s a new year.

As the world makes resolutions to change old habits, I’ve been waiting in the wasteland for God to do something new. I don’t quite see “it” yet, but my spirit knows that He’s making a pathway through the wilderness. As I continue to seek His will for my life, my corrective lenses are beginning to focus on His Kingdom, instead of my own. Perhaps that’s just “it.” Perhaps the key element in seeing what He’s already begun is just a slight shift of focus away from the old things. Perhaps simply looking up changes my sight.

Psalm 121:1-2

I look up to the mountains—

does my help come from there? 

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth!

I didn’t deny or neglect the wasteland, however. Instead, I chose to trust God and go THROUGH it with Him. It was barren. It was hot. I felt isolated. I felt abandoned. I longed for refreshing. I lacked patience. I was angry. I expressed grief. Some judged me. Others accused me. But I discovered a powerful truth that has become a rock on which I stand:

Jesus was with me.

And He is with me still.

When I was thirsty, He gave me a drink.

When I was afraid, He protected me.

When I felt alone, He comforted me.
Without the wilderness, I wouldn’t have known Him in a deeper way.

Without the wasteland, I wouldn’t have known the need for the river.

Without going back to the old things, I wouldn’t be looking forward to something new!

This week, after following the advice of a friend, I decided to change our internet provider. Somewhat begrudgingly I chose to go with something new, which meant I was also going to have to get rid of the old. New email addresses had to be created. Passwords had to be updated. Promotions had to be surveyed. Phone calls had to be made. Appointments had to be scheduled. A technician had to make a house call. Cable jacks had to be installed. Chords had to be unplugged and re-routed. Furniture had to be moved. New Wi-Fi passwords had to be entered. Old passwords had to be deleted. Services had to be installed. Services had to be cancelled. And of course, bills had to be paid.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely.

It wasn’t open-heart surgery. None of it was hard to do. But it did take time, talent and treasure to get it done.

By embracing the new, rivers were created in the wasteland: no more buffering, no more loading, no more re-setting the router, no more lost signals!!!!

Newer. Faster. Cheaper.

Of course it was all worth it.

And so it is in the Kingdom of God. He exchanges death for life. Bondage for freedom. Beauty for ashes. Strength for fear. Gladness for mourning. Peace for despair.

Old for new.

Are you in a wilderness, my friend? Ask the Lord to show you where He is. And chose to stay with Him for as long as it takes to see Him create rivers in the dry wasteland.

It’ll be worth it.

Philippians 1:6

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

IF your gift is…

Romans 12:3-9

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.[b] Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

A dozen years ago, I was fired from serving— at church. Technically, I was told to take a mandatory sabbatical from my volunteer position in children’s ministry, but it felt like I was fired.

In the weeks and months that followed I became an offended, angry and bitter woman who acted more like a child than a leader of children. I began gossiping about the staff members who dismissed me. I pointed out every weakness in them in order to convince myself (& others) of my superiority and subsequent righteousness over them. And when I prayed (ranted) to God, I believed that the blame rested entirely on their shoulders- and that they should be punished.

But, as the months turned into a year, my heart began to soften and I was finally able to listen to God.

I forgave.

I repented.

And I realized that I needed to be fired.

The truth is, my motivation for serving was completely wrong. Sure, I was doing what church leaders told me to do:

“Don’t be a consumer Christian- SERVE”

“Find a ministry that has a need and fill it!”

“Its not about you, its about doing for others.”

I was using the talents God gave me to lead children’s worship. I was faithful to show up for meetings and practices. I trained other volunteers. I served almost every weekend…. during all 4 services. I enthusiastically sang and danced right up to my 40th week of pregnancy- and I only took a few weeks off after giving birth!

But I wasn’t worshipping God.

I was worshipping service.

IMG_4321I was offering “sacrifices” on the altar of ministry, but I didn’t love the One who sacrificed everything for me.

I read the bible occasionally.

I prayed even less.

I was neglecting areas of my relationships with my husband and our children.

I wasn’t submitted to other parts of the body of Christ.

So God allowed me to be fired to re-order my life:

  • Love God.
  • Love others (as I love myself).
  • Make disciples.

My fellow disciple, let this be a warning to you: don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourself.

Are you loving God?

(If not, take a mandatory sabbatical and begin worshipping Him alone)

Are you really loving others?

Then use the gifts He has graciously given you:

(out of your fear of God– not man)

IF your gift is serving others- do it!

IF it’s prophesying, deliver it!

IF it’s teaching – preach it!

IF it’s encouraging, speak it!

IF it’s finances – give it!

IF it’s leading – do it!

IF it’s kindness – release it!

“Don’t be Afraid, Mary”

Luke 1:30-31, 34-35

30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 

Matthew 1:18-21

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

An angel did not appear to me while I was engaged, but I have heard the Holy Spirit speak a few promises about our lives together since our marriage took place. Unfortunately, I haven’t always exercised patience and self-control in waiting for that information to be communicated to my husband!

I wonder if Mary had a conversation with Joseph after she heard God’s promise from Gabriel:IMG_1067.JPG

“Joseph, I’m pregnant!”

(silence)

“The Holy Spirit did it.”

“What the what?!?”

“I’m going to give birth to the Son of God.”

“Um…what?!?”

“Joseph- its true! An angel told me…don’t you believe me?”

“Mary, that’s impossible.”

I wonder if Mary felt abandoned and afraid for her future. I wonder if Joseph felt angry and afraid of the scandal. Regardless, being a good man, Joseph broke the engagement quickly and went home. Then, an angel appeared to him in a dream and confirmed the same promise Mary heard – with a few more details. He was to take her as his wife, and name the child she carried, Jesus.

  • Mary heard from God.
  • Joseph heard from God.
  • They obeyed.
  • God fulfilled His promise.

Why don’t I realize that God will do the same for me?

I am afraid.

I don’t trust God, I trust in my current circumstances.

I don’t believe God, I believe the lie of the enemy that says; “it’s impossible.”

I don’t fear God, I fear my husband not hearing and obeying (how self-righteous am I?)

But….. I don’t have to be afraid!

  • I can choose to surrender my soul (mind, will & emotions) to my Father in Heaven.
  • I can choose to trust Him.
  • I can choose to fear Him alone.
  • I can choose to believe in Him.
  • I can choose to declare; “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

And that obedience will give birth to the miraculous:

  • I will know that HE loves me.
  • I will know that HE is trustworthy.
  • I will know that HE is faithful.
  • I will know that HE will cause all things to work together for good.
  • I will know that HE will fulfill His promises for our marriage.

Master Yoda?

Deuteronomy 13:4, 6-8

Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.

“Suppose someone secretly entices you—even your brother, your son or daughter, your beloved wife, or your closest friend—and says, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known. They might suggest that you worship the gods of peoples who live nearby or who come from the ends of the earth. But do not give in or listen. Have no pity, and do not spare or protect them.

In Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker, having had prophetic dreams about his wife, Padme’s death, vows NOT to let the visions come true. Arguing with a Jedi Master, he eventually asks (begrudgingly):

“What must I do, Master Yoda?” IMG_1052.JPG

In which the tiny green warrior replies: “Train yourself to let go……of everything you fear to lose.”

Ironically, its Anakin’s pride, which leads to his wife’s death in childbirth, just as the prophecy foretold.

What relationships do you fear to lose?

Your brother or sister, son or daughter, beloved wife or husband, or your closest friend?

Hopefully, none of these people would intentionally try to entice you to “go worship other gods,” but don’t underestimate the power of the dark side which strives to convince your soul to love people more than you love God.

I’ve been guilty of fearing man, not God. I’ve “worshipped” my desire for peace and security and love from my husband instead of trusting God to fulfill my every need. I’ve “worshipped” my children, wanting desperately for them not to be mad at me, instead of enforcing discipline when they’ve disobeyed. I’ve “worshipped” the acceptance and approval of friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord instead of boldly saying “No. I’m going to obey what God has told me to do, not what you think is best for me.”

During this season of life, I’ve experienced times of intense loneliness and feelings of isolation. Each and every time I’ve come to my secret place to grieve, the Holy Spirit has reminded me that I’m holding on to people, more than I’m clinging to God. Through this process of continual revelation & repentance, I have come to see that my Master is training me to let go of everything I fear to lose……

May the force (who sent His only Son to die for your sins) be with you (as you seek to love Him, fear Him, obeying His commands, listen to His voice, and cling to Him).

When you see Me

John 12:44-46

44 Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. 45 For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.

As a child, did you ever awaken in the middle of the night after a bad dream and cry out “daddy…daddy I NEED you!?”

Why do we choose to remain alone in the dark when we become adults? Why do we stop crying out to our Father for help?

We refuse to humble ourselves and pray.

2 Chronicles 7:14

14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

Despite the fact that I realize prayer can eclipse the darkness around- and in me, it’s still not always my first weapon of choice. Instead, I often rely on my superior intellect and abilities to light my candle so that I can find the fastest, easiest way out of the dark.

Case in point:

IMG_0218As our family boarded an Airbus A321 during the wee morning hours last Saturday to travel to our vacation destination, I was once again consumed with worry. “What if there’s another terrorist attack? What if the pilot has mental illness and crashes the plane? What if we hit unexpected turbulence and fall from the sky? What will I do? How will I comfort our children?”

As I tried to rationalize these fears with statistics (you know the one about being more likely to die in a car accident that on an airplane?) I heard the Holy Spirit whisper “I am with you….”

Would I trust Him, or myself?

Thankfully, I chose Him.

But just to make sure that He was on that plane, this daughter cried out “daddy, daddy…I NEED you- please show me where you are!” When I looked towards the center aisle I saw Him (not physically, but in the Spirit) sitting on the floor, with the biggest grin, shouting “this is gonna be FuuuuUN!” I chuckled after I noticed the fighter pilot glasses He was wearing and control yoke He was holding to fly the plane (He looked a bit like Snoopy, aboard his red doghouse!!!).

IMG_0226As we flew south like birds for winter, the light of the sun began to rise and penetrate the darkness inside the aircraft. Simultaneously, the light of the Son began to rise and penetrate the darkness inside my soul. And once again, I was able to know that HE is God, that HE is in control, that HE holds the keys to death and the grave…. and when its time for me to die physically, HE will be with me- and then, then I will spend all of eternity praising the One who sent Him!