Rest

A lot happens in the sixth chapter of Mark.  Jesus is rejected in his hometown.  He sends the 12 disciples on mission.  John the Baptist is killed.  Jesus feeds the five thousand and walks on water.  

It is a lot.  Kind of like our lives today.  We face seasons that are just a lot.  The disciples had to be exhausted during these days.  These 12 men had a difficult assignment.  They were commissioned by the Lord to travel in pairs, preaching repentance wherever they went.  Many places they visited they were not welcome.  

The 12 men were not allowed to take any sort of provision for their journey.  They were not even allowed to take a bag with them, no food, no money in their pocket, and not even a change of clothes.  They were to rely soley on God’s provision and His strength.  

During their time of ministry, the disciples didn’t even have time to eat.  Jesus knew how the pressures of ministry would affect them.  He knew what it was like to be tired and thirty, weary and worn out.  The disciples had been so busy ministering to others that they neglected their own bodily needs.  

Jesus knew what these men had been through, he recognized their fatigue.  

There was such a swirl of activity around Jesus, with so many people coming and going, that they were unable to even eat a meal.  So Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest a while.”

Mark 6:31 (TPT)

Just as these men were called to work, Jesus also called them to step aside and rest.  The disciples were facing many stresses.  Just read through the entire chapter of Mark 6 and you will get a glimpse of all these men endured.  Is our life any different?  Think of all that you have faced the past week, the past month, and I know what we have all faced the past year!  

We to need to hear Jesus’ words, “Come, let’s take a break”.  Life’s stresses and pressures can take a toll on our bodies as well as on our relationship with Jesus.  We have to take steps to make sure we take a break with Jesus!  We have to find the secluded place (more times than not, I find this alone in my car) and fix our eyes on Jesus.  Sometimes it is just sitting in His presence.  

With so many demands on our lives, it is easy to push Jesus to the side in the busyness we experience every day.  Jesus asks us to take a break and dwell on Him.  Do you have time to spend with Jesus today?  He will give you rest and refresh your soul.

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden?  Come to me.  I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.”  

Matthew 11:28

The First Will Be Last

Many years ago I was a first grade teacher. One of the most exciting weeks for a first grader was to be “student of the week”. That meant, among other privileges, that the person got to be “line leader” every time we left the room. . I remember that person pushing and running to the very front and being so proud every time because they were “first”.

This reminds me of a verse in Matthew 20 that we are reading for today.

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Matthew 20:16

In todays world, most people want to be in a position of authority. They want to be the boss, not the worker. They want to be the head teacher, not the assistent. They want to be the line leader, not the follower or last in line.

Having a position of authority gives a person a feeling that he or she is in control. Authority also makes a person feel superior to others. But, Jesus tells the disciples that the one who wants to be greatest must be the other’s servant or slave.

Regardless of your position in your workplace, home, church, community or who is line leader, you have the ability to serve others with your life. We can use our position in this world to build others up in the love that Jesus Christ has shown us.

In Matthew 20:16, Jesus is not saying that the first will go to the back of the line and the last will go to the front of the line. There is NO first and last. Actually, there is NO line. There is only God. When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior there is no special treatment. The love of God is unconditional, it does not matter if you are first or last in line.

Prepare the Way

For the past few weeks I have been preparing for my daughters’ high school graduation party, which happened this past Saturday.  There was lots of preparation inside and outside of my house that needed to be done.  Thankfully I had the wonderful talents of my mother to assist me in this endeavor.  There was lots of cleaning, planning, and purchasing in order to be prepared for 50+ people coming by to congratulate my daughter on a Saturday afternoon.  

I was relieved after the party.  Everything went well and everyone enjoyed themselves.  And, I was left with a clean, decorated, and newly put together home.  The preparation was hard work, but I got to enjoy the fruits of my labor well after everyone had left.  

In today’s reading, Matthew 3 and 4, we read of John who was sent to prepare the way for Jesus.  

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!”

Matthew 3:3

John the Baptist was a man sent from God.  He was a prophet, a voice crying in the wilderness.  He was aware of his call and he separated himself unto this call of God.  His food and his dress was different.

John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist.  For food he ate locusts and wild honey.

Matthew 3:4

John fasted and prayed and waited on God for all the details of his call and the work ahead of him.  All the people came to him to listen and to obey the message from God.  His message was so powerful and convicting, they did not even consider his strange dress or rough appearance.  They knew he was a man of boldness.

Can you imagine spending your life preparing the way for Jesus?  John the Baptist had one purpose:  to prepare people to know Jesus and God’s Son, the Christ.  John lived his life to let Jesus have the spotlight.

I put so much effort into preparing and planning for my party.  It sure makes me question how much time I spend preparing and planning for Jesus.  

John prepared himself daily by waiting upon God and getting his instructions from Him, so that He could prepare the people for Jesus.  This should be our main focus above all else, to help prepare people to Know Jesus as Lord.  Graduation to Heaven will be the culmination of our lives lived here on earth.  We need to focus on preparing the way for ourselves and all around us every single day!  We don’t know the appointed time for our graduation day to Heaven so we need to prepare daily.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.                      

Matthew 28:19

 

Wear Your Helmet

I remember as a kid riding my bike around the neighborhood and with my dad as he jogged along beside me.  One unfortunate evening, I was trying to be cool and show him how I could ride with no hands.  It did not end well.  I landed in the ER with many stitches in my chin.  Thankfully, I did not sustain any head injuries.  Those were the days when bike helmets did not yet exist.  Nowadays, you can hardly purchase a bike without buying a bike helmet.  Kids automatically know to put on their helmet before getting on their bike, much like we automatically put on our seatbelt when getting in the car.

The head is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body.  This is why we go above and beyond these days to protect it.  Injuries to the skull were even more prevalent in David and Jesus’ time.  A blow to the head during battle could easily be fatal.  So, in our reading for today, Psalm 140, when David says that God covered is head, he meant that God protected his life.

O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle.

Psalm 140:7

This verse reminded me of the helmet of salvation.  Paul tells us of this critical piece of armor in the Book of Ephesians.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Ephesians 6:17

No Roman soldier would ever think of going into battle without his helmet.  Just like no parent today will allow their child to ride their bike without a helmet.  When the soldier put his helmet on he gained a bit of confidence.  It afforded him some protection.  This is what the helmet of salvation does for us believers today.  It gives us confidence to press on in the battle that lies ahead of us.  

In this book of Psalms we read of the evil in Davids day.  Isn’t it the same for us today?  We are surrounded by forces that are more powerful than us.  We are constantly tempted to be anxious or stressed.  We need to put on our helmet every single morning and never take it off.  As we put the helmet on, we are aware of the evil around us.  We pray for God’s protection and deliverance.  And we pray with confidence that God will overcome all evil.

Fear the Lord

When I first read Psalm 128 earlier this week,  the first thing that came to mind was an Instagram post.  You know the one…the one with the family enjoying a perfect day at the beach?  Or, the last day of school pic where all the kids are shown with perfect grades and honors?  Or, the mom whipping up the gourmet dinner and making it look so easy?  Or, (last one) the picture of the remodeled, perfectly decorated house?  These are glimpses into people’s lives that we are exposed to daily, especially if we look at any social media.  They have the opportunity to encourage and motivate us, but they also have the ability to make us feel “less than.”  

Read through Psalm 128 (it’s only 6 verses:)

1Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!  2You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;  you shall be blessed and it shall be well with you.  3Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;  your children will be like olive shoots around your table.  4Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.  5The Lord bless you from Zion!  May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!  6May you see your children’s children!  Peace be upon Israel!

Psalm 128 (ESV)

Wow!  Reading through the Psalm we see the picture of a perfect family.  Kind of like looking at Instagram posts.  This is where reality hits because, none of us have this ideal or perfect family! None of us have a perfect family here on earth, but we will all experience the blessing of an ideal family in heaven.

God may or may not bless you with marriage or children in this life.  But, the promise of Psalm 128 remains – “Blessed are all who fear the Lord.”  God has promised to bless all those who fear him and walk in His ways.  When you long for the same things God longs for, you will see your desires fulfilled.  

This Psalm teaches us that there is a direct relationship between our attitudes and actions and God’s blessing in our life.  God’s blessing is available to everyone, we can choose to welcome it or chase it away.  It all comes down to fearing the Lord.

But, that always confuses me.  What does it actually mean to fear the Lord?  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “fear” as “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger;  anxious concern; or unpleasant alarm”, but it also notes it means “profound reverence and awe, especially toward God.”  

Fear of the Lord means to have a heart that is in awe of who God is, who he has created, and who he has made us to be.  To create lives for ourselves that make God proud.  To accept ourselves and love ourselves the way he made us, because we are made in his image.  Fear of the Lord simply helps us become the best version of ourselves.  

How we live our life matters.  There is a ripple effect that flows outward and touches those around us.  Our attitudes and actions impact our personal lives, our family life, our community and future generations.  Psalm 28 teaches us that the influence of a godly person is great.  God’s blessing flows outward from the individual, to the family, to the church, and to all the people of God.

Praise and Worship

Psalm 116 is a personal song of praise and thanksgiving to God.  It celebrates the writer’s deliverance from a difficult experience that caused him great distress.  We don’t know for sure who the author is, but this Psalm could have been written by any of us.  We can all relate to crying out to God in the midst of a difficult and distressing situation. 

When I first read through this Psalm earlier this week, I was moved to tears.  

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;  he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.  

Psalm 116:1-2

Last Thursday, my husband and I were involved in a freak car accident.  A tire from an animal trailer came loose and catapulted across the road into the front of my SUV.  The firemen who arrived on the scene said they had never seen anything like this.  The tire made a 2 foot indention into the from of my car.  My brother-in-law who is an ER nurse also confirmed that accidents like this don’t usually have a good ending. If the tire would have hit an inch higher it would have gone straight through the windshield of my car with a horrifiic outcome.  It is a miracle we walked away from the scene of this accident with only sore upper bodies from the airbags and seat belts.  Moreover, we walked away with a tremendous feeling of overwhelming gratefulness to God.

The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me;  I was overcome by distress and sorrow.  Then I called on the name of the Lord:  “Lord, save me!”

Psalm 116:3-4

In this Psalm the writer expresses his love for the Lord because God hears and answers His children when they call to Him.  He recalls the many troubles and sorrows he has already encountered and how gracious and compassionate the Lord has been to him.  

As the Psalmist remembers the merciful kindness and patient grace of the Lord towards him.  He then cries out…

What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?

Psalm 116:12

The Psalmist knew that there is nothing we can do to repay the Lord for all His grace and love towards us.  There is no payment or reward that we can offer to God that would pay Him back for all of the wonderful things He has done for us.  

There is nothing we can do except offer Him our sacrifice of praise.  We can pour out our heart of gratitude to Him for our salvation.  We can tell others of the wonders of His grace and mercy.  We can seek to do His will with a willing and obedient heart.  We can let His love flow through us to others.

I am praising God that my husband and I have another day to worship God and tell others that Jesus loves them.  

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.

Psalm 116:18

God’s Creation

Springtime is my favorite season of the year.  I yearn for the flowers to bloom, the trees to bud, the birds to sing, and the grass to green.  The picture above was taken from my back porch over this past weekend.  I sat and marveled at the redness of this cardinal sitting in the pinkness of the tree.  Wow!  God you are colorful and creative!  

Psalm 104 is a marvelous account of God’s creation.  

O Lord, what an amazing variety of all you have created!  Wild and wonderful is this world you have made, while wisdom was there at your side.  This world is full of so many creatures, yet each belongs to you!

Psalm 104:24

The word “wisdom” in the verse above comes from the Hebrew word –chokmah – meaning to describe skillful craftsmanship.  God’s handiwork in nature proclaims His presence and makes us want to praise Him.  

When we see creation as the psalmist who wrote Psalm 104, we will better know and appreciate the greatness of God.  We can all benefit from taking time to sit in the presence of God in His creation.  There we can relax in quiet and ponder the wonders of our God.

Psalm 104 begins and ends with the words:  “Praise the Lord” (vs 1 & 35).  From the red Cardinal sitting in the bursting pink Redbud tree to the oceans, the mountains, and the stars in the sky, our Creator’s artistry is all around us.  May we take it all in today and PRAISE Him for it!

Praise for the Date Palm

I know I am on vacation when I am surrounded by Palm Trees.  My idea of a vacation is sitting around a pool or on the beach relaxing with family.  My Mom and Dad have had a home in Florida for the past 18 years of which I have had the blessing of visiting at least once every year.  When I am there, I picture myself sitting around their small community  pool where the palm trees are all around us.  There are around 12 different varieties of palm trees in Florida, and NOT one of them is the Palm tree mentioned in todays reading of Psalm 92.

In Psalm 92, David speaks of thankfulness.  We all have days when we can thank God endlessly for the gifts and blessings in our lives.  But, then there are other days when we are rushed and stressed and are too overwhelmed to see beyond the burdens of life.  These are the days we need to most read a Psalm like this one to remind us of how much God loves us.

In verse 12 of the 92nd Psalm we learn of the Date Palm tree.  This palm is famous for its beauty.  This tree can grow to 90 feet tall.  It is said to be the most useful tree on earth.  There are desert places that would be uninhabitable if it were not for the date palm.  It can grow where no other useful plant will grow.  The date palm tree is a tree of the desert.  It sinks its roots down deep to draw up the scarce water from down deep in the earth.

The date palm is a long lived tree.  It can still bear fruit when it is  more than 100 years old.  This beautiful and useful palm tree symbolizes the beauty and usefulness of believers who have heir roots in God. 

Yes!  Look how you’ve made all your devoted lovers to flourish like palm trees, each one growing in victory, standing with strength!

Psalm 92:12

This Psalm ends with such a positive and exciting verse.

Even in their old age they will stay fresh, bearing luscious fruit and abiding faithfully.

Psalm 92:14

As I have rolled passed the half century mark in my life, this verse gives me such hope and life.  Just like the Date Palm tree, I want to continue to produce fruit until the end of my days.  I want to flourish, continue to grow deep roots, and be productive all of the days of my life.  

May His Face Shine Upon You

“Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine on us [in favor and approval], and we shall be saved.”
Pslam 80:19 (AMP)

Psalm 80 is a cry to the Lord for His restoration. It was a time of tribulation and distress. God’s chosen people, Israel had turned away from Him. This chapter in the book of Psalms is a cry out to the Lord God Almighty for restoration and revival.

There are 3 instances in this chapter where the people call on God for restoration:
Verse 3 – Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine on us [with favor and approval], and we will be saved.
Verse 7 – Restore us, O God of hosts; And cause Your face to shine on us [with favor and approval], and we will be saved.
Verse 19 – Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine on us [in favor and approval], and we shall be saved.

Do you see the pattern here? The people were desperately looking for restoration. When you seek the Lord, if your cry is from your heart, the light of Jesus will shine upon you. Jesus is the true light that gives light to everyone.

In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men.
John 1:4

In this season, we also may be looking for restoration, freedom, and/or forgiveness. We may be looking for healing. And behold, tomorrow is Easter. We are reminded of how God raised His Son from the dead so that we may have life. If we turn from our sinful ways and seek Him, He will forgive us and give us a new life. Jesus assures us in His Word.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
John 10:10

May His Face Shine Upon You this Easter Weekend.  Bless You.

 

 

 

 

He Carries Our Burdens

 

What a glorious God! He gives us salvation over and over, then daily he carries our burdens! Pause in his presence
Psalm 68:19 (TPT)

Each Monday of the week that I am assigned to write my Bible Journal Post, I read the Bible verse(s) assigned to me. I try to reflect, pray and research the verse before I begin writing later in the week for my Saturday post.  To be honest, some weeks it is a mad dash to read and post all in the same evening before the Sat am deadline!
This week in my preparation to write on Psalm 68, the same story kept popping up. This is a story of a very religious man that has been passed down with no author that I have found.

This is how the story goes…

Once there was a man who was caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted god to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a canoe and said, “Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to god and I’m sure he will save me”
A short time later a police boat came by. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”
A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”
All this time the floodwaters continued to rise until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived in Heaven he demanded and audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.” “Yes” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter. But you never got in.”

We face so much stress and trials in our daily life. God is ready and waiting every moment for us to reach out to him in our daily situations.

Psalm 68 is a Psalm of praise, celebration, and unleashed joy in the lives of God’s people because of the victory he gives us. God daily is there to bear or carry our burdens. But, do we allow Him to carry them? Or do we, as the man in the story above, keep waiting for what we think will be a better or different rescue from our situation?

God is waiting on us to cast our anxieties and burdens on Him. We have to be willing to give them to Him (over and over).

“Cast all your anxiety on him (God) because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

Don’t miss the gift He is waiting to give you. Don’t pass up what is right in front of you.  God is waiting to be our rescue!