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Posts Tagged ‘rest’

Rest is a practical need and a divine gift.  The pace of life seemingly screams “hurry”, “speed up”, “get ‘er done”, “go, go, GO!”  In such an environment it is not surprising so many suffer the consequences of such a hectic pace – disconnectedness, shallowness in relationships, anxieties, high blood pressure, and a plethora of other maladies related to living life too fast.

Admittedly, I am a busy person who often struggles to slow down.  The fact that I have not posted in several months is an example of this busyness.  Between work, family travel, and essential chores in the limited time when I am home, I find making time to rest and then blog hard to come by.  Yet, the Spirit inside me whispers, “Rest, my son.”  “Come spend time with me in holy quiet.”  When I slow down and obey, what a blessing I receive.

As my first post in almost 3 months, the point is short and simple.  Rest is good for the soul and worth carving out the time to do.  God modeled it in His act of creation when He rested on the 7th day.  He inscribed it into the Law He gave Moses on Mount Sinai.  The Jewish people practice it with religious devotion.  Jesus affirmed the importance of the Sabbath rest, although He made it clear that the Sabbath was created FOR mankind.  It is a divine blessing to be received with thankfulness.

As I think about the divine nature of rest, I realize that slowing down, ceasing strenuous activity, and letting our mind and body recover is the visible manifestation of rest, but it is not the whole or necessarily the most important part.  The divine rest God calls us to is about connecting with Him.  This rest will align body, soul, AND spirit with God and His renewing life.  The rest God desires us to experience is not empty, but rather full of communion with Him.

For me it begins in the early morning quiet.  Inviting Him in to speak to the deepest part of me.  Listening for His still, small voice.  He is there and He is not silent.  It’s just that He seldom shouts.  He desires that we intentionally seek Him and spend time with Him.  My experience is that He blesses me with peace and renewed strength when I quietly read and meditate on His Word.  Often He will nudge my heart to pray for someone during this time.  A blessed morning quiet time is rest that establishes the foundation for the day.

The verse that is running through my mind is a familiar one.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’   Psalm 23:1-6

I pray that wherever you are, today you will experience rest that refreshes your soul and draws you close to Him Who loves you more than you can imagine.

Blessings!

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I saw a very familiar scripture in an entirely new way the other day.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say I saw it with an entirely new emphasis.  Matthew 11:28-30 is one of my favorites.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Whenever I read this previously my focus had been on gaining rest or help with the challenges and burdens of life.  I had always skimmed over the “take my yoke” part, accepting that this meant to be a believer.

Well, that changed last Friday.  I was worshipping the Lord and seeking His guidance for a word of exhortation I was to give.  As I sensed the Lord calling me to a place of holy listening, I became aware of a song playing that simply repeated this scripture.  Somehow it seemed like the volume increased whenever the yoke was mentioned.  As I prayed and pondered several thoughts came together which I share with you today.

First off, what is a yoke?  For many today the agrarian imagery that Jesus used may not be as familiar as it was to His 1st century listeners.  A yoke is a type of harness used to hitch a beast of burden to a load of some sort.  The burden could be a cart, something with wheels, or it might be a plow or harrow – devices used in breaking up ground.  In addition to connecting to a load the yoke connected a pair or team of oxen or similar to one another so they would pull as a team.  Finally the yoke provided a means for a driver to guide and direct the beast or team of beasts.

This scripture has a progression to it.  It begins with coming to Jesus.  For most of us this occurs when we get to the end of ourselves, a condition usually resulting in being weary and burdened.  When we come to Jesus He immediately gives us a measure of tangible rest and peace.  I remember this well and it was such a wonderful place to be, standing in stark contrast to the turmoil and difficulties of striving to do life in my own strength.  Today, I can look back and say that this was merely an initial deposit.  God has so much more in mind for each of His children if we but dive deeper into Him.  Hence the progression continues.

The next step is a big one – Take My Yoke upon you.  This is an invitation into the deepest, most amazing, most fulfilling journey this life offers.  However Jesus leaves the decision up to us whether to slip ourselves into the yoke.  As the description of a yoke above mentions this yoke will harness us to the work Jesus has planned for us.  In some instances it will connect us with others pulling in the same direction, lifting the same load.  It also provides a means for Jesus to lead and direct us.  All of these things play out in taking Jesus’ yoke upon us.

One of the greatest benefits of wearing Jesus’ yoke is that we become pupils of the Master.  Jesus says, “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…”  There are many, many things He will teach us and I am convinced that for each one of us He knows us well enough to teach us in exactly the manner we need for exactly the work He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).  But this scripture points to a universal “learning” when Jesus alludes to two of His character traits that we are to emulate – gentle and humble in heart.  Being fitted into Jesus’ harness will cultivate gentleness and humility that blesses those the Lord sends us to and opens doors to being Jesus’ hands and feet.

As we willingly wear the yoke we will find the character of Jesus being created in us.  By His Holy Spirit we are transformed into the faith-filled followers we were created to be.  And the rest we were given when we first came to Him becomes a soul-satisfying, deep and abiding “rest for your souls”.  It is as different in scale as a spring rain is from a raging hurricane.

It is at this point that we realize the Lord has given us work which we have accomplished without fanfare and seemingly without extraordinary effort on our part.  Yet these things are well beyond what we could have envisioned from the outset.  Following the Lord, doing the work He gives us – making disciples, caring for the hurting and sorrowful, meeting the needs of those in want, encouraging the fainthearted, preaching the Word, living a life that rejects sin, but embraces the sinner with Christ’s love – these tasks, these burdens become lightly carried, yet effectively accomplished.

This scripture offers us rest, but it offers so much more.  Life as a Jesus-follower is a life of growth and constant transformation.  Where He will take us is beyond our comprehension, but it is also good beyond comparison.

Be blessed today and allow the Lord to bless through you as you take on His yoke and live.

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I am still learning how to live the life Jesus saved me into.  I’ve been His disciple for over 30 years.  Now I won’t argue that sometimes I can be a slow learner, but I believe it is more than that.  The forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of our souls from death to life takes place in but a moment when we repent, turn to Him and accept Him as our Savior and Lord.  But the process of sanctification takes a lifetime.  Standing still…remaining the same is really not a viable option.  It is well to remember this and to use the gifts He has provided to help us on our way.

When we become His, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  God comes to live in us in the form of the third person of the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit is our counselor, out helper, our advocate (John 14:15-21, 16:7-15).  The Holy Spirit is not an “it”, but rather a real and distinct person of the Godhead intimately connected to the Father and Jesus.  Looking at Jesus in the bible we observe a wise, loving teacher who also healed, delivered, and ministered in whatever way He determined was needed.  The Holy Spirit living inside the believer will do much the same to and through us.

However the Holy Spirit is gentle.  He will not force us to do what we do not will to do.  This is vitally important.  Even though Jesus saves us, He does not ruler as a dictator.  It is a day-by-day, step-by-step process of our relinquishing control to Him.  His Spirit, the Holy Spirit living inside us, will gently lead us into truth and right action. But we have the ability to choose to take the step He leads us to or not.  Jesus talked about this as dying to self and taking up our cross and dying daily.

It is a longer topic that we won’t dig too deeply into today, but a person’s willful defiance of the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in three negative outcomes – grieving the Holy Spirit, quenching the Holy Spirit, and blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.  I love the Lord and I do not want to offend the One Who paid such a dear price to redeem me, so I don’t ever want to do any of these.  However being truthful I know on a handful of occasions I have failed to obey and grieved the Holy Spirit.  It pains me to remember these times, but God is gracious.  He brought me through each of those with a greater love and determination to follow Him.  Suffice it to say my experience is a little like Peter’s.  Peter denied knowing Jesus to save his own skin and then realized he had done exactly what Jesus predicted.  He was broken and for a time his relationship with the Lord was strained.  This conviction though resulted Jesus’ restoration of Peter which brought him to a place of greater devotion and commitment.  Because of God’s grace this is possible for us as well.

This morning as I think of the other “helps” the Lord provides, I realize they are all subordinate to the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, but it takes the Holy Spirit to make it come alive and apply it to our lives.  The Church is the body of Christ, but it takes the Holy Spirit to guide the leadership and connect the members so that the body moves in fluid, God-directed motion.  I have learned that rest and quiet time with the Lord is an essential ingredient in godly growth.  If we are not careful are lives can become frantic activity followed by a crash.  Our lives must have a balance that includes quality time, time when we are mentally sharp and spiritually receptive, to just sit in the Lord’s presence.  In these time the Holy Spirit will often make the connections of God’s Word to our life.

That is what I felt the Lord put on my heart to share today.

I also intended to share pics of Jerusalem with you during this Holy Week.  As we discussed yesterday on Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  He drove the money-changers and animal sellers from the Temple court yard.  Obviously the Temple is no longer there, but I have pictures of the wailing wall and the remnants of the Temple Mount that are now part of Dome of the Rock structure.

View from inside the Jewish Quarter toward the south end of the Mount Moriah with was also the Temple Mount

View from inside the Jewish Quarter toward the south end of Mount Moriah with was also the Temple Mount

Mount of Olives in the background and the south end of the Temple Mount on the left side.  The city of David goes down the south side of the Temple Mount below where the Temple stood.

Mount of Olives in the background and the south end of the Temple Mount on the left side. The city of David goes down the south side of the Temple Mount below where the Temple stood.

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This is the southwest corner of what was the Temple wall.  It was torn down by the Romans around 70 AD fulfilling Jesus prophecy.  Later parts of it was rebuilt as fortification through he Crusades era.

This is the southeast corner of what was the Temple wall. It was torn down by the Romans around 70 AD fulfilling Jesus prophecy. Later parts of it was rebuilt as fortification through the Crusades era.

Wailing wall which is actually a portion of the old Temple was that has been rebuilt as part of the Muslim Dome of the Rock structure.  Women side on the right and men on the left.

Wailing wall which is actually a portion of the old Temple was that has been rebuilt as part of the Muslim Dome of the Rock structure. Women side on the right and men on the left.

View of the men's side of the Wailing Wall.  People utter prayers, write them on pieces of paper, and then stick them into cracks in the wall.  We even found some around on the south side of the wall.

View of the men’s side of the Wailing Wall. People utter prayers, write them on pieces of paper, and then stick them into cracks in the wall. We even found some around on the south side of the wall.

View of the courtyard in front of the Wailing Wall.

View of the courtyard in front of the Wailing Wall.

Typical street scene in the Old City.  The Old City is inside the walls and it is divided into four quarters - the Jewish, Armenian, Catholic, and Muslim.

Typical street scene in the Old City. The Old City is inside the walls and it is divided into four quarters – the Jewish, Armenian, Catholic, and Muslim.

South wall of the Temple Mount.  My understanding is that it was torn down by the Romans, but later rebuilt as protection.  It now surrounds the Muslim Dome of the Rock and a couple of mosques.

South wall of the Temple Mount. My understanding is that it was torn down by the Romans, but later rebuilt as protection. It now surrounds the Muslim Dome of the Rock and a couple of mosques.

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This is the southeast corner of the Temple Mount wall.  Because the mount is falling away at this point this would be a high point, if not the highest point of the Temple.  The story of Satan taking Jesus to the high point and saying throw yourself down from here could have taken place at the top of this wall.

This is the southeast corner of the Temple Mount wall. Because the mount is falling away at this point this would be a high point, if not the highest point of the Temple. The story of Satan taking Jesus to the high point and saying throw yourself down from here could have taken place at the top of this wall.

 

Rubble uncovered from when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

Rubble uncovered from when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and are edified by the blog.  Be blessed today and be the Lord’s blessing to someone today.

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Florence, Italy is a beautiful and historic city.  We visited on day 3 of our Mediterranean vacation.  Aside from the stifling heat and crowded conditions I was enthralled by the architecture, culture, and food. One of the highlights was entering the Duomo which is one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Admittedly the day was one of hustle and hurry from place to place as we tried to cram as much as possible into the day. One of the main reasons I enjoyed the Duomo is because we were able to slow down and just sit quietly for several minutes.

I have studied only a little of the history, but I understand that the Medici family was particularly powerful and influential in supporting / leading the development of much of the most beautiful of what we see in Florence. Not everything about the Medici family was magnanimous though. In fact a lot of the stories were anything but flattering. However their efforts were used to create the beautiful place Christin and I were able to sit.

Gazing upon the frescos and sculptures my mind rested upon the God who gives wonderful gifts and talents to man. A thought struck me that persists – the art in Florence and specifically within the churches was sometimes helpful to me in my meditation upon God. But at other times it was distracting by degrees. So the question arises – what is the true value of art?

It seems to me that the highest purpose of art is to speak to the deepest parts of our consciousness and point us to God. Admittedly I begin from a standpoint of knowing that God exists and that He wants to be involved in our lives. While He chooses to remain out-of-sight for the most part, it is not because He doesn’t want to be known. On the contrary He desires a relationship with us, but He wants that relationship to be one of faith rather than sight. So when I think of the highest purpose of art I see that it is to draw us into an acknowledgement of the one who gives gifts to people and creates beauty in this world. For many people art speaks more eloquently to the spiritual part of them than rhetoric ever could.

Another purpose of art I believe is to stretch us, to see things that we might overlook otherwise. I know the few moments in the Duomo made me realize I had allowed some of the negative “press” about the Medici family to cloud my perspective of Florence and this powerful family. That is not to condone things they may or may not have done, but it does mean I can look upon them as I do every man and acknowledge, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Hopefully their religious acts did not get in the way of meeting the savior personally. Jesus was able to stretch me as I sat on a little bench against one of the cool, stone walls gazing upon the grandeur of the place. My hope is He did that for the Medici family and for the hundreds and thousands who have passed through this beautiful city as well.

As we leave Florence I am stirred by the many generations that have gone on before me who have sought to honor God in their day and in their way. I pray that you and I may leave a lasting legacy, perhaps not with stones and blocks, frescos and sculptures, but with good deeds done and faithful obedience to the One who has called us to Himself.

Have a blessed day today and always!

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