Resting Place

Lost and nowhere to be found in the middle of the woods. You are all alone, miles and miles away from any communication to the outside world. As the hour draws near, it starts to get dark outside, and it starts to rain. You find yourself searching for shelter to get out of the rain and rest for the night. Finally, you find a cave, a resting place.

This short story is an analogy for how we walk through life. Humans walk around looking for something significant. Everybody wants to be seen as valuable in society. People attempt to do this through their work, families, health, achievements, etc. It is exhausting, to see how much weight is put on finding value in life. Everybody wanders around to find something that will put their minds and hearts at peace.

From the time of the Fall till today, God recognizes that sense of belonging and value that individuals seek. Humans were always supposed to live with God in the garden until Adam and Eve sinned against God. They are left with a void inside themselves because of sin. People are left leading a life without a shepherd that they need (Jeremiah 50:6). Now, everybody attempts to fill that void with material goods, achievements, families, relationships, school, advancements, etc. People are running themselves exhausted because they are not rooted in the Lord.

What happens when people get to this point of exhaustion?

What does God do to help with this?

Why is being rooted in the Lord do for us?

Back to the story told from earlier, you find yourself lost, stranded, and stuck in the rain in the middle of nowhere…you are to that point of exhaustion and need a resting place. This is what happens in life, and how people find themselves in life. They get to a point where they can’t handle it anymore, and they want to give up or find some type of answer for why everything is falling apart in their world.

God knows that everyone can’t do this alone, and that is why He wants us to see Him as our resting place. Psalm 62:5-7 says, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge”. When we are to that point of exhaustion, to the point of giving up, God gives us that cave every time. He always provides a resting place in Him.

Throughout all of the Gospels, Jesus tells all the people, to allow Him to take their burdens and rest in Him (Matthew 11:29). Jesus came to give us rest from all of our labors. He came, so that way, the burden of sin would no longer leaving us to feel lost and broken.

The longing and value that everybody is attempting to find on their own are found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul says, ” Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”. Everything that you are searching for is in Christ Jesus. He is the resting place that we are all longing for. He provides that cave for us every time we need it!

Our Peace

Our world has changed over the past few months. Currently, we are dealing with social and racial issues that are splitting the country apart. COVID-19 has changed the economic, physical, and emotional tides of the country. Each day, in the United States, we hear on the news about everything that is going wrong in the world around us.

Many of our families live in fear and dismay over the COVID-19 pandemic and all the other concerns going on. Each one of us is shaken and made to rely on something in their lives for hope and peace.

During all the uncertainty, I keep listening to Christians and Non-Christians’ uncertainty of what the future could be. Each one of us depends on some type of faith. I believe that during all this time, that Christians should portray a peace that passes understanding.

Ephesians 2:14 is our verse today. It says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”. Paul is speaking to the Ephesian church and is addressing the disagreements within the church. He addresses this issue by saying that, Jesus is our only true peace, and He is the only thing that can solve all their issues going on. Also, in Christ Jesus, we are made brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, as brothers and sisters, we must represent the sacrifice that Christ has made for us and rally together around that.

How does this disagreement that the church in Ephesians helps us understand peace?

Dictionary.com defines peace as “a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations:”. As stated above, we can see that we are far from peace in this country and world. There is only one way to obtain true peace, by putting your hope and faith in Christ Jesus for your salvation. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you that in me you have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world”. Our peace is found in Jesus!

Each day we fight, disagree, backstab, and worry all out of the fear of the future. We are looking for some type of utopian society. Because of sin, that isn’t possible, but with Christ, we do have a peace that will surpass all understanding. See Jesus paid for our sin on a cross to provide us the peace in our hearts that we yearn for. The peace that Jesus provides, is the understanding that we have a Savior and God, who loves us so much that the Father sacrificed the Son to pay for all the sin in our lives so that we can live with Christ in eternity.

In the current season of life that we are all living, Christians need to unify under one banner, the cross of Jesus Christ. I encourage each of you to keep your hope in Jesus Christ. Life isn’t easy and there will always be some amount of uncertainty. However, when we are able to band together as believers, we gifted with the Holy Spirit that strengthens us. In Galatians 3:28, Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There is no distinction that Jesus makes.

Our peace is stronger together as Christians. I encourage you, now is the time to reach out to Christians and Non-Christians, that you know you disagree with on topics. Pray with them, share the Gospel with non-Christians and Christians alike, share a meal together, and overall be together and unify under Christ Jesus, who provides a peace that passes all understanding.

In Jesus’ Name We Pray

Have you ever thought of prayers that close with “In Jesus’ Name We Pray, Amen”?  Maybe you close your own prayers that way.

I have to confess that sometimes thoughtful traditions become habits, and there are times that I miss the meaning in the moment of routine. When I stop and really think of these words at the end of my prayer, it’s an awesome reminder that:

          • God is in control
          • Jesus has the power, not us
          • To him be the glory
          • We want our heart and will to be aligned to the Father’s
          • Jesus is our intercessor
          • His name is above all names

When we truly believe in the power that Jesus’ name carries, we call on Him and know he is able. He is able to comfort. He is able to heal. He is able to meet us where we are. He is able to forgive. He is able to change us. He is all powerful, and his name is above all other names. Philippians 2:9-10 tells us:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

So Jesus’ name is above any other name, and there is POWER in his name! The New Testament is filled with examples of disciples praying and doing miracles in Jesus’ name, with faith, and then times when they weren’t. The results were very different. John 14:14, John 16:23-24, 1 John 5:13-15, Acts 19:13-16

This is an awesome encouragement for me to slow down and think about what I’m saying and what’s truly in my heart. What am I really asking for? What are my motives? Do I believe God will answer my prayer? Am I requesting Jesus’ power, by calling on his name?

As we are called to be more Christ-like, studying who he is will help us identify areas of growth. These daily attributes and names of God are amazing!

Jesus was named with the Hebrew origin meaning Jehovah / Yahweh Saves, or God Rescues. This name, chosen by God, is over every other name. And we have access to his power by calling on his name – wow! And when we call on his name, we are declaring that the power is his. The glory is His. None of it is ours! 

Do you have a situation that needs the power of Jesus to intervene? Approach God in faith, knowing and believing that Jesus’ name is above all. Say his name out loud!

Man of Sorrows

Most of us are familiar with the Disney classic Aladdin and the legend of a genie in a magic lamp granting 3 wishes to the person who finds and rubs it, especially with the recent remake and also the emergence of Disney Plus. If there were such a lamp and you were lucky enough to find it, what would you do if you had that much power? Even if you would use that power for something good to change the world and mankind, would it be the first thing you would do with your power? Would you ever even think of helping someone who had directly disobeyed you which hurt you deeply? Much like the fortunate person to find a lamp with a magic genie like Aladdin, God has all power. We know from Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve brought sin into the world by eating from the tree God told them not to and thus directly going against His one direction, God not only immediately provided for them through skins to clothe them (Genesis 3:21) when they realized they were naked only because of their sin, but He also immediately promised a Savior in Genesis 1:15 to help mankind defeat Satan and death and bring us back to Him.

Let me pose another question…..if you made a decision to help save someone who directly hurt you, would you be willing to go through much hardship and pain to do so if you could get the same result without it? God chose to save us and to take the pain upon His Son Jesus. He also chose to do so in the most humbling way possible. Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells us Jesus was a “man of sorrows” in Isaiah 53:3 who was despised and rejected.

Jesus came in to this world the son of a carpenter and young virgin, not a king and queen. Jesus and His family were rejected from the beginning, there was no room at the inn so he was born in a stable, not a castle, and placed in a manger, not a bed. As He became a man, we know nothing about His earthly home leading us to believe it couldn’t have been much. From Scriptures, we know He became hungry and thirsty. He felt the pain of losing a friend in Lazarus and cried. He was rejected by those in His own hometown. He was betrayed and given to the authorities to be killed by one of his 12 closest friends and followers, Judas. The remaining 11 then ran, abandoned Him, and hid when He was captured. One of His other closest friends and followers, Peter, denied he even knew Him. Then, despite seeing His mighty works and raising others from the dead, another of His closest friends, Thomas, refused to believe He was raised and had done what He said He would. In all of this, we have not even mentioned yet He was beaten and tortured to the brink of death and then was executed in one of the most gruesome and painful ways our world has ever known. No doubt He was a “man of sorrows.”

When we have a bad day, week, month, or are in some of the deepest valleys and toughest, most painful seasons of our life, we must remember we have a God and Savior who empathizes, knows, and cares about what we are experiencing because He experienced some form of the same pain. He didn’t have to, but He did. If we think we don’t deserve what we are going through, we can remember Jesus definitely didn’t deserve what He went through…all for us nonetheless. If we now think about the honor, power, and glory of Jesus, we might picture Him on a throne sitting at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, but we can be thankful while He was on this Earth…He was a “man of sorrows”…all for you and for me…so that our pain could be temporary and not eternal.

Kinsman-Redeemer

 

Ruth 3:9 “He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer”.

Who has been a redeemer in your life? Who has taken you out of the darkness? Who has cared for you above all else?

On my worst days, I find myself thinking that I am all alone. In college, I struggled with a high amount of anxiety and depression. I kept seeking and attempting to find something that wasn’t there. I turned to the emptiness of sin to find satisfaction and meaning in my life. At this time, I didn’t depend on God, and I wasn’t searching for Him at all. I had a relationship with God, but I was fighting Him every step of the way.

I asked myself the question above, “Who can redeem me from this place that I am in”? I knew that God was always there for me and cared for me no matter what happened, but at the end of the day, I didn’t think He should. I thought that He shouldn’t love someone like me. I wasn’t good enough to be loved and cared for by a Savior.

Sin is rooted deeply into all of our lives. Our flesh gives into sin naturally. However, there is One thing that can redeem us and save us from this…our kinsman-redeemer Jesus. In the story of Ruth, Ruth’s husband passed away and she was left with her mother-in-law, Naomi. In this time, it was extremely difficult for women to survive without a male family member. The one way one would be able to survive, and flourish was through a kinsman-redeemer. The kinsman redeemer would restore the rights and freedom to oneself. Ruth found herself in one of the worst situations, but then God redeemed her through her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz. Even in our worst situations we can be redeemed.

No matter how we got into a terrible situation, through our own sin or external circumstances, Jesus, our kinsman-redeemer, redeems all of it. For me it was my direct sin and anxiety that brought me to depend on Him. Ruth, however, was given a kinsman-redeemer, Boaz. Jesus paid the ransom that we may be with Him forever!

Home

Today’s Verses:

Psalm 84:3-4 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King, and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Psalm 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

Home

What do you think of when you think of home? Is it the current house you have been in now for our “stay at home” order? Do you think back to your hometown? What does home look like when you think of Jesus? Do you consider the visible church a home? What about your heart?

For me, I have thought of all these places in the last week.  Growing up, we attended church on occasion.  (North Darien Bible Church – very old photo)It was a safe place to be, and it allowed me to interact with others. Be around people that weren’t fighting.  We never went as a whole family though.  I went to my first Christian camp!  (Circle C Ranch)  Still, what was going on at home and what I heard at church were two different things. (thank you for my memory lane moment) Do you remember the church you grew up in? Is it the same one you still attend?

Thirty-plus years later and in our house now, we have been together daily without the distractions of the worldly race for over a month.  When asked how we are doing, I will say that “I’m trusting in God and His purpose for this time”. Honestly, 90% of the time has been great to be together so much.  The other 10% I’m still dealing with my selfishness and parenting skills. Most of the time has been a blessing.  Devotionals, meals, prayers, life lessons and skills are being discussed and shared. With the fair share of prayers for grace in our parenting.

Together as we grow closer to God through this pandemic I pray we remember the plans Jesus has through this time.

Ephesians 2:10 
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Proverbs 16:9 
9We plan the way we want to live, but only GOD makes us able to live it.

Just this last week at our small group, we discussed devotionals being implemented and shared, family members listening to multiple services in a day, children talking with their parents about getting baptized. Impressive work that God had already planned.

This time has allowed me to notice how much I miss the face-to-face fellowship and praise.  For some reason, my singing doesn’t sound the same?  God is giving us this time home to truly make our houses the church for ourselves and family. In the Bible, the church is always a reference to people, not a place. The church is a body of believers that live out the Gospel in their words and actions. Are we doing that? The church is at its best when people inside the building take Jesus’ message outside the building and serve those they meet. It’s incredible to see how God provides a platform that allowed over 25K watch Easter service.  Amen!

Lastly, think of home and its connection to our Lord, its not a town, house, or building we attend.  The home I pray for is in our hearts.

Has the Lord found a home in your heart?  Jesus left his home in Heaven to make a home in our hearts.  This was Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesians 3, will it be yours today.

Dear Heavenly Father,

1For this reason, I bow my knees and pray to You. 15 It is from You that every family in heaven and on earth has its name. 16 I pray that because of the riches of His shining-greatness, He will make you strong with power in your hearts through the Holy Spirit. 17 I pray that Christ may live in your hearts by faith. I pray that you will be filled with love. 18 I pray that you will be able to understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep His love is. 19 I pray that you will know the love of Christ. His love goes beyond anything we can understand. I pray that you will be filled with God Himself. Amen 

See you at home.

Hiding Place

You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for your word. Psalm 119:114

Hiding place.

In times of hiding, we may experience confusion, fear, doubt, sorrow, anger, loneliness, and so many other emotions. David provides us an awesome example of praising God while he is being protected and waiting.

As as our hearts are on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, I have to wonder about Saturday. Where were all of his followers? Some scattered? Some together? Hiding? What emotions were they experiencing? Were they recounting Jesus’s words of his resurrection? Fearful of what may happen to them next? Mark 16tells us that they had unbelief. Were they confused that Jesus didn’t perform a miracle on the cross and remove himself? Angry at Judas, or even themselves? Luke records that they were all together after the crucifixion. I picture them sitting around a table, in a secret back room, recounting and piecing together his every word and having some “ah ha” moments.

I’m guessing that their hearts and minds were swirling, likely feeling a need for protection and their souls to be comforted, unsure of what to think or do next.

Do you long for your heart to be comforted and are you seeking protection right now? Are you experiencing some of those same emotions during this time of quarantining? From David, to the disciples of Christ, to us today, we all long for the perfect Hiding Place. And God is a great provider!

This Easter will be different for most of us. The church building will be empty – but we can still celebrate that the tomb is empty! Jesus defeated the grave and He is alive! With hearts full and in our homes of protection, we can cheer, sing, and praise the victory over death!

As we “shelter in place” this weekend (and beyond), let’s do it with grateful hearts like David, praising God for who He is. Our protector, our hiding place, our shield. There’s no place I’d rather be than hidden by the Lord.

Echoing Jon’s invitation yesterday, if you don’t have a home church with online services available, please join us this Easter. Gather your household together around your computer and let the miracle of Jesus bring you grace, healing, and peace.  https://www.eastviewonline.church/live-stream

Happy Easter to each of you!

Foundation

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, with Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 3:11

Jesus as our foundation.  This is one of my favorite analogies of who Christ is. Paul goes from planting and being God’s field to the foundation of God’s building(v.9).

I’ve never been a mason.  One summer I in my late teens I helped a family friend put up a new chimney. (I was mainly the person who would carry the bricks and mortar up and down the ladder) When the opportunity arose for me to help with the bricks I often went too fast wanting to get done quicker and thinking about the way I was going to be using the money.  The gentleman I worked with quickly put me in my place about taking my time and the importance of lining up of the bricks.  The importance of the cornerstone. 

This brings me to today, our verse about Jesus being our foundation.  In order to capture more wisdom of this verse, I listened to the sermon called The Judgement of the Believers Work by John MacArthur which helped me to connect all the parts of this section that includes verses 1 Corinthians 3:10-17.

I’ve challenged myself this last week with the question if Jesus is my cornerstone, how am I building the rest of my building?

Back in 2017, BJ wrote specifically about Jesus being our Cornerstone.

 

Our life should be built only on Him.  As the builder who gets to lay bricks every day I have to remember that one day I will be face to face with Jesus and he will look at my building and have a final judgment. Just looking one verse ahead tells me,

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth on it. But let every man take heed how he buildeth upon it.”

Do I just rush into the day without being in His Word? Do I find weak substitutes in my own desires? What are my motives behind my daily actions and words?  We all believe that Jesus is our foundation.  His Living Word, the Bible, provides us deep footings to align our life.  What kind of building are you building today?

MacArthur said, ” Some people are trying to build their lives on morality, and ethics, and good deeds, and all of these things. But the only foundation for a life and the only foundation for corporate life, which is the church, is Jesus Christ. If that foundation goes, everything falls. ” 

For many years of my life, I didn’t even know my foundation.  Through other believers, friends, family, bible journal writers, and the people of the Church,  you helped point me back to our foundation, Jesus.  He is our foundation, the cornerstone of what each day of our life should be lived on.  I have misplaced some bricks, I’ve placed bricks too fast, I replaced bricks with idols, I laid bricks just to try to impress others.  Every brick I lay should be for Jesus. He is our foundation.  When that final judgment comes God is going to judge our motives,  conduct, and service.  Did I use the gifts He provided me to build upon His foundation His glory or for my own?

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Dear Jesus,

You are our foundation. You have given us your Living Word and it all points to you.  Father, help me to build my life around your foundation and while laying every brick I point it all back to you.  Jesus please help guide and direct us to use the gifts you have provided to us in order to be the hands of feet of You. We love you! Thank you for being our foundation.  Amen

Suffering

Today we explore suffering. Jesus was called the Man of Sorrow and also known as one Familiar with Suffering. It was even foretold in Isaiah 53 that he would be despised, rejected, not esteemed. He would suffer. GREATLY. God perfectly designed Jesus to be fully human and experience all the highs and lows of the physical life. Some of those lows are recounted in John 11:35 when Jesus wept over his friend Lazarus’ death, and in Luke 19:41 when he wept over the city of Jerusalem. A vivid moment of sorrow is in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus is disappointed that the disciples couldn’t stay awake, all the while he is praying and asking his Father to “take the cup from me” if it be His will. He knew the suffering that was going to begin, and he reveals his human emotions, completely aware of what the cross would entail.

Jesus, being fully God, also knew that Lazarus would come back to life, yet he still wept. He also knew the victory he would have over death, defeating the grave, yet he was still sorrowful and troubled. I love how God revealed his heart to us, showing us the full range of emotion. We are created in his image and the sorrow we experience is real.

Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate physical suffering, and then he experienced the greatest spiritual suffering when he took on the sins of the entire world and was separated from his Father. He did this for us – so we could be with him forever. Our sin separated him from the Father, and Jesus experienced the loss (Mark 15:34).

Nothing in my life comes close to that level of suffering. It’s hard to even call my experiences “suffering” when thinking of the true suffering that Jesus endured.

When I reflect on the more difficult seasons in my life, even now in hindsight, I have to admit that I wouldn’t choose them. While I have complete faith that God’s perfect will prevails and He will use any suffering I have experienced, I can’t say I’m to the point where I count it all joy, or even pray for tribulations and suffering. I’m so inspired by those that do, and face it so bravely. As God continues to sanctify me, I have confidence that one day I will genuinely rejoice in the scary medical diagnoses, challenging family dynamics, major marital strains, and unexpected deaths.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4

In searching my own heart, I find that I don’t like the lack of control and the unknown that comes with suffering (in addition to the actual suffering part). Sounds pretty obvious, right?

You may have picked up in past posts that I dabble in running. The past 25 years, there have been seasons of running for fun, running for health reasons, running socially, or running to reach goals. Each season is different and I’ve enjoyed all of them (and the dry spells). Running to reach goals includes an amount of physical suffering. Runners sometimes call this the pain cave, this place where you are intentionally positioning your body to suffer. And you don’t choose to run hard workouts so the pain lessons or it gets easier, runners choose this so they can endure the suffering longer. This chosen “suffering” is controlled and calculated. There’s an end to it, and you know there will be gains. Runners embrace this suffering in order to achieve goals. This hit me right between the eyes when trying to overlay this chosen suffering to unwanted suffering. Are there certain hard things in your life you’re able to choose, and other hard things you wish you could end?

I love how we are challenged to truly rejoice in suffering! How amazing to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we choose hard things on this earth! And let’s be honest, any of my suffering is so much different than the true suffering of Christ. God hasn’t given me a calling that lands me in jail, I haven’t been beaten or persecuted for my faith. My experiences can hardly be called suffering or compared to Jesus’s suffering.

So what about you? Where does this topic land on you? Are you praying for trials and rejoicing in suffering? If not, what do you think is holding you back? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Celebrating THE Baby

Three weeks after Christmas, on a day we were putting away some Christmas decorations, our family was studying Hebrews 8. As I was listening to the verses being read, I was overcome with joy of the Good News being described. At the conclusion of the chapter, I shouted HALLELUJAH!, leading to a surprised and puzzled six year old.

This chapter describes Jesus as the new, better, eternal covenant for God’s people! Hallelujah – to God be praised!! As best I could, I explained to my son why this is amazing news for us. God is so merciful!

When we look at Luke 2, our passage for today’s journal entry focuses on Jesus as a baby. He’s born in Bethlehem and the very next thing is the angel and heavenly hosts appear to the shepherds, share the news, and proclaim Glory to God! The shepherds went and found baby Jesus and then they shared this with others and praised God!

Christmas is a season that draws our hearts to the Lord and closer to one another, and is an opportunity to celebrate the Good News of who Jesus is, and how he came to save us. In general, babies represent hope for the future, newness and freshness, the miracle of life. And Jesus as a baby brings us so much more than that. Each year I’m challenged to keep Christmas in our hearts a bit longer, and not let the excitement of the good news be put away when the nativity is carefully packaged back up, when we take down the tree, and all the celebrations are over.

I love the example that the angels and shepherds gave us at the birth of Jesus – they wasted no time in telling others and praising the Lord!  In a few months we will celebrate and remember this perfect and complete gift from God, as Jesus becomes our sacrifice and then defeats the grave. Between now and then, will you join me in keeping the excitement and gratitude of this gift alive? What are some practical ways we can continue to share and worship like the angels and shepherds did? I’d love some ideas from others!