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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Prepare the Way

Matthew 3:1-3 (NLT)
In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.[a]” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’”[b]
 
11 “I baptize with[a] water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.[b]

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. His message was simple: repent. John’s preaching cut through religion and pierced the heart: sin has destroyed your relationship with God. Repent! Be restored to God. John’s ministry tilled the hard soil for the One who would come to sew the seed of salvation.

I am John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed me for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

You are John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed you for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

The church is John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed us for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

John 3:26-30 (NLT)
26 So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

But sometimes sin blocks the way…

In my pride, I can believe that MY ministry is who I am. In a struggle for significance on this earth or a desire to be esteemed by others I can hold on close fisted to the ministry God has appointed and anointed me for. Over a decade ago, I was preparing the way for MY ministry. I had served faithfully in children’s ministry organizing resources, soothing crying toddlers, changing stinky diapers on infants, singing and dancing to kids worship with 6-12 year olds – I did it all. Focusing solely on MY ministry, I neglected my relationship with God, my spouse and our children. My fist was so tightly closed around my role in the church that no one, NO ONE was gonna take it away from me.

But God.

God.

The associate pastor hired a new children’s director who instantly became my superior. She was also one of my best friends. As I struggled to submit to her authority, I simultaneously struggled to hold on closed fisted to MY ministry. Rebellion, chaos and disunity ensued. Eventually I was fired- from my volunteer position.

Angry? Absolutely! And I made sure God and everyone else knew it. I vomited insult after insult about my rights being violated and the evil actions of my fellow ministers in the body of Christ.

But God.

God.

As a loving Father does, when a child finally returns He welcomed me into His everlasting arms and the tension of my closed fists released. He was becoming greater and greater and I was becoming less and less.

DSC_0419During my discipleship journey the Holy Spirit has continually helped me to humbly turn back to God. I’ve learned to be still. I’ve come to know Him. I’ve started obeying His commands. I’ve been washed in His magnificent love for me. I’ve repented. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve forgiven others. I’ve been delivered from evil. I’ve been redeemed from my rebellion. I’ve been restored in my soul. And as I’ve opened my hands to the ministry He’s appointed & anointed me for I have had the privilege of preparing the way for others to meet and know Jesus. He has become greater and greater and I have become less and less!

Dear child of God,

Release the death grip you have on YOUR ministry. Willingly open your closed fists to the Lord. Otherwise, He may need to fire you from your role to save your soul. He loves you. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to worship Him, not your ministry. He wants you to obey His commands so that you may have everlasting and abundant life!

Let go.

Trust God.

He will work all things for your good if you love Him.

Love, Me (& John the Baptist)

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.

Magnificent, Unfailing Love

Numbers 14:17-20

17 “Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’ 19 In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.”

20 Then the Lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested.

Perhaps you have perfect kids.

Yay for you!

Perhaps you have been the perfect parent.

Kudos!

My children are imperfect….and so am I.

Romans 3:23

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

I’ve been training our children for over 16 years. Some days my heart is overflowing with love for them. Some days I wanna deliver a knock out punch to all four! And some days I hang lifelessly against the ropes, bruised and bloody from the fight.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Besides the relationship with my groom, there has been no greater opportunity for me to know the power of the Lord than in my role as mother.

Sadly, I must confess:

I haven’t always been slow to anger.

I haven’t always been filled with unfailing love.

I haven’t always forgiven our children’s sin and rebellion against me.

And sometimes, I’ve excused their guilt:

“Oh, that’s just ‘typical’ growing pains.”

“At least our kids aren’t as bad as so-and-so’s.”

“I did the same stupid thing when I was that age.”

“Ya know what? I’m sick and tired. I don’t wanna deal with them right now!”

IMG_0987The truth is: God knows our children are imperfect. That’s why He sent His Son. God also knows that I am imperfect. That’s why His Son died for me too. And in His magnificent, unfailing love, He has graciously given me the power of His Spirit to draw me into repentance so that I can love Him… and love our children.

This year we’ll have 3 teenager girls residing in our home. I’ve heard it said that these can be “tumultuous” years. Perhaps that’s because its evident that children between the ages of 13-18 seem to be wandering in the desert. Perhaps that’s because their rebellious behavior is more expressive than it was during their primary years. Perhaps that’s because the sins of their parents is greatly affecting their lives. Perhaps that’s because they’re tired of following the leader (Moses) and they’d prefer to grumble and go their own way (Miriam & Aaron). Perhaps that’s because they want to worship the golden calves of the world instead of submitting to the One who beckons them to surrender all to Him.

Whatever the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life, their Heavenly Father will pardon them when they repent. And He will lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey if they trust and follow Him. For He knew them before He created them in my womb. He knows the plans He has for them. After all, they are His children and He loves them far greater than I do.

Sick of IT!

Numbers 11:18-20

18 “And say to the people, ‘Purify yourselves, for tomorrow you will have meat to eat. You were whining, and the Lord heard you when you cried, “Oh, for some meat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will have to eat it. 19 And it won’t be for just a day or two, or for five or ten or even twenty. 20 You will eat it for a whole month until you gag and are sick of it. For you have rejected the Lord, who is here among you, and you have whined to him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

I’m really good at whining. And when I am “sick of it” (whatever IT is) I can cry and cry and cry some more to the Lord- and others.

The current IT has kept me in the desert for several years. The scorching heat and lack of water began when my husband started working for a pharmaceutical company that required frequent travel. Having been through a year of unemployment 5 years ago, we are extremely grateful to have a steady income flowing into our bank account, but the adjustment of being separated has been excruciating at times. And time hasn’t made it easier. It’s just become an uncomfortable routine.

You’d think after a few years of this lifestyle I’d quit whining. Yeah, not so much. My mouth continues to pour out blessings and curses. This is not right.

James 3:10

10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Thank you Lord for this job.

Thank you for a husband that works long, hard hours to provide for our family.

Thank you God for giving me the strength to train & teach our 4 children.

Thank you Father for the travel rewards our entire family benefits from as we explore Your world.

 

GOD. How much longer are we going to have to live like this?!

Why can’t my husband work close to home like other husbands?!

Why do I have to manage the house and kids by myself?!

Oh for some meat. We were better off in Egypt.

 

Uh….no we weren’t.

The truth is: God brought us out of Egypt. Not only did He deliver us financially- He removed us from the bonds of slavery in many areas of our life during that season of unemployment. He proved Himself to be our El-Shaddai, Jehovah-Jireh, Jehovah-Shamah.

Still, my flesh cries out for more. He’s sending manna & quail (enough to make me gag), but I’m anxious to reach the Promised Land. I’m such a stubborn Israelite.

Yet even in my rebellion, He still loves me.

IMG_4461This morning, as I sat down in the tent of meeting I turned to the bookmarked page in our chronological bible and stared at the page. Silently I whined “I’m soooooo sick of reading about Moses and the Israelites.” As the words from Numbers 11 filled my head, my eyes filled with tears and my soul felt the pang of conviction. I didn’t need to ask, but I did anyway, “Lord, I’ve been whining, haven’t, I?”

Without rejection, without condemnation, my Jehovah- Rohi gently rebuked me and called me back into the shelter of His wings (Psalm 91), beckoning me to trust Him, again..….to trust Him in the midst of the scorching heat of the desert.

So with new mercy today, I will.

Isaiah 41:18

18 I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus.
 I will give them fountains of water in the valleys.
 I will fill the desert with pools of water.
 Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.

“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.