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.

 

 

 

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Have Some Breakfast

John 21:1-17

21 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.

Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

I am no stranger to burn out. In fact, almost annually I find myself in the same unending cycle of serving, serving, serving, with no hope of ever finding rest. If the cycle continues for too long, my body eventually refuses to perform at its optimum level by succumbing to infection or exhaustion. My emotions also tend to become unstable, ranging from overwhelming anger to intense sadness. The most damaging symptom of burn out for me however, is a spiritual disconnect. Although my mind knows I should be still before God, my heart struggles to engage with Him. Reading The Word becomes a chore, my prayers sound rote and my worship feels superficial.

My knee jerk reaction to all of these symptoms is to eliminate EVERYTHING on my schedule–immediately! Although this way of quickly controlling the situation does provide me with more free time, it rarely compels me to allow the Holy Spirit the opportunity to reveal the reason why I continue in this destructive cycle of performance.

All of us have a deep desire to be known- and loved. It was birthed in us by our Creator and was designed to be satisfied by Him alone. The unfortunate thing is, we sinners often look to other people to fill us with a sense of purpose, worthiness, acceptance and love. And since all have sinned and fallen short, others can never satisfy the need we have for our soul to be filled up by our Lord. Thus, we are left feeling disappointed, empty, unappreciated and unloved.

“If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a door-mat.”

Oswald Chambers

How then do we love, care for and feed God’s sheep without becoming exhausted?IMG_4033

We must love Jesus Christ personally and passionately BEFORE we serve humanity.

How do we do that?

Every day we must put our tunic on, jump out of the boat and swim to shore. We must allow the Holy Spirit to nourish our soul by sitting and having some breakfast with Our Savior (and it can’t be a bowl of artificial colors and flavors – we can’t live healthy lives on that! We need life giving sustenance to keep us going; eggs, bacon, waffles, fruit and Starbucks coffee!!!).

And…..

At the beginning of every fishing season we must ask God, “what do I need to eliminate from my schedule so that I can have breakfast with you every day? What, or who do I need to say “no” to so that YOU are once again the priority in my life?” Once He answers, we must be willing to drop our nets and trust that He will provide others to pull in the fish while we are away.

Idols

Ezekiel 6

 Again a message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, turn and face the mountains of Israel and prophesy against them. Proclaim this message from the Sovereign Lord against the mountains of Israel. This is what the Sovereign Lord says to the mountains and hills and to the ravines and valleys: I am about to bring war upon you, and I will smash your pagan shrines. All your altars will be demolished, and your places of worship will be destroyed. I will kill your people in front of your idols.[a] I will lay your corpses in front of your idols and scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you live there will be desolation, and I will destroy your pagan shrines. Your altars will be demolished, your idols will be smashed, your places of worship will be torn down, and all the religious objects you have made will be destroyed. The place will be littered with corpses, and you will know that I alone am the Lord.

“But I will let a few of my people escape destruction, and they will be scattered among the nations of the world. Then when they are exiled among the nations, they will remember me. They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts and lustful eyes that long for their idols. Then at last they will hate themselves for all their detestable sins. 10 They will know that I alone am the Lord and that I was serious when I said I would bring this calamity on them.

11 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Clap your hands in horror, and stamp your feet. Cry out because of all the detestable sins the people of Israel have committed. Now they are going to die from war and famine and disease. 12 Disease will strike down those who are far away in exile. War will destroy those who are nearby. And anyone who survives will be killed by famine. So at last I will spend my fury on them. 13 They will know that I am the Lord when their dead lie scattered among their idols and altars on every hill and mountain and under every green tree and every great shade tree—the places where they offered sacrifices to their idols. 14 I will crush them and make their cities desolate from the wilderness in the south to Riblah[b] in the north. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

 

IMG_2963At a glance, some of the Old Testament seems to portray only an angry, vengeful God. Upon further examination, however, and through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, these passages about God’s judgment illuminate His fierce love for His people. Our God is a jealous God. He created us for Himself. Therefore, He has every right to be angry when we turn our back on Him and devote our lives to the worship of idols.

The idols of today may look different than the carved images referenced in the book of Ezekiel. The heart behind them, however is still the same: rebellion against God through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.

At a glance, my life may seem to portray only a perfectly devoted follower of Christ. Upon further examination, however, and through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, one would see that I too can be guilty of worshipping idols.

Each day I have a lengthy list of things to do as a:

Wife

Mother

Home-school Teacher

Marriage Mentor & Teacher

If I’m not submitted to the Lord in them, they will quickly become all consuming, and I will take ownership of every one. Refusing to acknowledge that GOD is the One who placed me in these roles for His purposes and His glory alone will confirm that my soul is worshipping these areas of service- or the people in whom I serve.

So, how do I continue to uncover any hidden idols in my heart?

1)   Read God’s Word

2)   Pray; asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any pagan shrines

Once God has identified the idols, I then have the choice to:

a)   Continue worshipping them

This option will lead to death… not necessarily a physical death, but an emotional and/or spiritual death will occur in my relationship with God -and others. Left abandoned for too long, those relationships will begin to rot away until there is nothing but an empty life “littered with corpses…..”

b)   Clap my hands in horror, stamp my feet and cry out to God to forgive me for these detestable sins!

This option will lead to life and freedom. God will destroy every shrine, and I will escape the destruction that was planned for me. And once again, I will know that HE alone is the Lord and HE alone is worthy of all honor and glory and praise.

HELP!

Isaiah 43:14-28

14 This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sakes I will send an army against Babylon,
    forcing the Babylonians[a] to flee in those ships they are so proud of.

15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,
    Israel’s Creator and King.

16 I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters,
    making a dry path through the sea.

17 I called forth the mighty army of Egypt
    with all its chariots and horses.
I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned,
    their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick.

18 “But forget all that—
    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.

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.

20 The wild animals in the fields will thank me,
    the jackals and owls, too,
    for giving them water in the desert.
Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland
    so my chosen people can be refreshed.

21 I have made Israel for myself,
    and they will someday honor me before the whole world.

22 “But, dear family of Jacob, you refuse to ask for my help.
    You have grown tired of me, O Israel!

23 You have not brought me sheep or goats for burnt offerings.
    You have not honored me with sacrifices,
though I have not burdened and wearied you
    with requests for grain offerings and frankincense.

24 You have not brought me fragrant calamus
    or pleased me with the fat from sacrifices.
Instead, you have burdened me with your sins
    and wearied me with your faults.

25 “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake
    and will never think of them again.

26 Let us review the situation together,
    and you can present your case to prove your innocence.

27 From the very beginning, your first ancestor sinned against me;
    all your leaders broke my laws.

28 That is why I have disgraced your priests;
    I have decreed complete destruction[b] for Jacob
    and shame for Israel.

When the river of life’s circumstances begins to rise over its banks IMG_2704and the fire of oppression threatens to burn me, I instinctively want to save myself from drowning and being consumed by the flames.

But my instincts lie…..for they are motived by the selfish desires within me.

Instead of choosing to bring God my burnt offerings and sacrifices I wear myself out doggy paddling in the river, clinging to every stray log that floats by to keep myself from going under. I grab my fire extinguisher and attack the flames, while simultaneously freaking out because the things I hold so dear are being destroyed!

How many times have I made God weary with all my faults, instead of trusting Him and His promises?

 

Isaiah 43:1-4

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
    O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine.

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.

For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
    I gave Ethiopia[a] and Seba in your place.

Others were given in exchange for you.
    I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
    You are honored, and I love you.

According to the prophet Isaiah, I need to listen to the Lord so I can know:

 

-God created me

 

-He has called me by name

 

-I do NOT need to be afraid!

 

-I am His

 

-I am precious to Him

 

-I am honored by Him

 

-He LOVES me!!!

 

And I need to trust that:

 

He will be with me (in every river of difficulty and every fire of oppression)

 

He will make rivers in the dry wasteland of my soul

 

He will refresh me

 

But in order to know Him and trust Him, I must be still…& ask Him for HELP!

 

Psalm 46:10

10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
  I will be honored by every nation.
 I will be honored throughout the world.”

http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/songdetail.aspx?iid=2013616

The Blessings of the Locusts

Joel 2:12-14, 25-26

12 That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. 13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish. 14 Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.

25 The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost
to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you. 26 Once again you will have all the food you want, and you will praise the Lord your God,
who does these miracles for you.

I have encountered multiple armies of locusts in the field of my life, my marriage and my parenting. Some of them destroyed only a portion of the crops and some have stripped every sprig of growth, leaving nothing but bare soil. Some of the locusts swarmed me, leaving me feeling completely overwhelmed and helpless. Some of them hopped all over me, becoming a pesky nuisance that distracted me and caused me to live in constant fear, not knowing what direction they would come to pounce on me again. Some stripped away everything of value to me, leaving me feeling absolutely hopeless about my future. And some cut my soul so deeply that death seemed to be the only possible relief. Some of those locusts invaded my field as result of my sin….and some trespassed on my land because of someone else’s.

At times I have yelled violently, shaking my fists at the enemy for sending these vicious attacks, but only recently have I realized that the enemy can do nothing without God allowing him to. Every army of locusts that are dispatched to my field MUST be given permission to destroy by the Creator of the universe. Nothing, absolutely nothing in this life happens to me without passing through the hand of God Almighty first.

It’s an earth shaking revelation to know that God has allowed, or even sent destroying armies of locusts to obliterate almost every living thing in my field. But, I am slowly beginning to understand that every trial, every heartbreak, every loss, every triumph, every devastation, every abundant harvest is from Him and FOR Him. And, every locust sent is for my ultimate good because it draws me closer to Himself and causes another area of my flesh to die so that I can grow to be more like His Son. He endured every swarming, hopping, stripping and cutting locust on my behalf, so that I may have life to the full……. and if that weren’t enough, He promises to restore what was lost to the locusts, as I return to Him and repent.

Lord, I praise you for the blessings of the locusts in my life. You are loving, you are righteous, you are healer, you are deliverer, you are redeemer, you are restorer and you work ALL things for my good.

Take the Garbage Out!

1 John 3

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.

Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life[a] is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers[b] does not belong to God.

One of my favorite poems by Shel Silverstein tells the story of a little girl who continually refuses to obey her daddy – and take out the trash. Eventually, the pile of rubbish becomes so high that it begins to negatively affect her relationships with others, so Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout finally decides to take the garbage out! Unfortunately, however, because of her constant procrastination, the pile is so high that she is no longer able.

Over the years, Doug and I have witnessed many sons and daughters continually refuse to obey their Daddy- and take out the trash. As a result, their rotten, stinky, filthy sins begin to pile up. When the weight of the pile begins to destroy their marriage, one of them will eventually become exasperated and announce: “I’m done.” In an attempt to clean up the mess, they will relent, as Sarah did, and try to muster up the strength to empty the trash on their own. Sadly, in most cases, they become so overwhelmed with the magnitude of the pile they just ignore it and walk away..…

When I got married I had a dumpster full of trash. As I continued to break God’s law the pile got larger and it too began to negatively affect my relationship with my husband. Several years went by until I finally said “OK, I’ll take the garbage out!” But, just like Sarah, I was overwhelmed and completely unable….

That is, until I realized that…..

1) even if my pile of sins reaches the sky, when I confess, God is always faithful to forgive me.

2) His Spirit will patiently help me remove each and every piece of rotten, stinky, filthy trash from my life through the power of His Word.

3) He will provide others in the Body of Christ to pray for, encourage and hold me accountable to continue to take the garbage out!

1 John 1:5-10

This is the message we heard from Jesus[a] and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.