Entering God’s Rest – Our First Work

With the times we live in, it seems like everyone is on edge. I’m fairly certain you feel it. Life is fragile and uncertain, but God invites us on different path – to enter His rest.

Jesus knew His limits and adjusted His daily rhythms on a regular basis – and He was God! He lived by the Father’s guidance and found rest – even when (to the disciples anyway) it seemed as if everything was falling apart. If even Jesus was mindful of limits, why do we feel like we can keep relentlessly pushing without slowing down to tend to our souls?
 
We need God to bring us back to His still waters and restore our souls on a regular basis. This needs to be our first work before our earthly work begins. Check out these 5 practices to help you enter His rest.
 

Give yourself space to be quiet.

Most of us are not good at sitting in the quiet, allowing our soul to be vulnerable before ourselves and God. It can be a raw and frankly, uncomfortable place to be. Because we are so wired to solve problems and fix things, we often avoid what’s really going on inside us rather than quieting and allowing ourselves to hear.

In her article Solitude: A Place for Your Soul to Come Out, Ruth Haley Barton points out the importance of creating time and space for being with what’s real… “to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with the questions, feel my anger, attend to my loneliness. This kind of ‘being with what is’ is not the same thing as problem-solving or fixing because not everything can be fixed or solved. Rather, it is to allow God to be with me in the midst of what’s real and to wait for Him to do what is needed.”
 

Enjoy resting in the abiding – rather than the doing.

You can relax in God’s presence. Allow yourself to soak in the security and calm assurance you have in Jesus. He says He loves you, He will never leave you, and says not to be afraid. When the Israelite people were faced with the Red Sea in front of them and no way out, Moses said to them, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13, 14) We can relax in the presence of Abba Father, knowing He in control of all things.

Notice the beauty around you – even in the smallest of things.

God speaks to us on a daily basis. Do we hear Him, see Him? All of creation shouts to the glory and beauty of God. Even the smallest of things can point us to His goodness. God is the Author of everything beautiful in the world – from tender affection to the wonder of delicate spring flowers on a mighty mountain. The cool thing about slowing down to notice is it cultivates gratefulness and wonder in our hearts, drawing us back to Him.

Embrace your limits.

Are you stressed and anxious? Tense and triggered? Our body often signals us in ways we often ignore. Lay these before the Lord and mentally/emotionally detach from the stress. Philippians 4: 6-7 says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Perhaps instead of stretching our limits in every way, we need to embrace them as God-given. Limits keep us grounded, keep us humble, and grows us in wisdom.

Drink in the scriptures.

In Psalm 23, David mentions God’s “rod and staff” and how he finds comfort in them. The good Shepherd guides and directs us through His Word. Find assurance, life-changing truth, and peace through taking in and meditating on His words. We often think in terms of “doing ministry” for Him, but He desires to work in you first. Be still before Him so he can meet you in the stillness – He has ministry to do in your spirit. The Lord is our shepherd – we have all we need in Him (Psalm 23).

Cling to Jesus friends. By entering into His rest first, a solid foundation is built. With His guidance, we find health, wisdom and maturity for all earthly work to follow.
 
Author:
Michelle Marx
Read more from this author on the Michelle Renee Speaks Blog.

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The Bread of Jealousy – You Have a Purpose

 

Barley vs. wheat

While the Jews of Jesus time were capable of making breads of various grains, the two most common grains used were barley and wheat. Barley had a grainier texture and tasted a little bland while the wheat bread was softer and sweeter to the taste. In most cases, people preferred the flavor of the wheat, and would naturally gravitate to its choice over any of the other types, including and especially barley. So, when preparing the grocery list for the family, one might notice the wheat stores were highest in demand all year, so much so that it tended to run out before the next harvest.
 
Here’s where barley comes in to save the day. The barley harvest was generally three weeks earlier than the wheat harvest, and that caused folks to flock the markets looking for the less desirable barley loaves to “make due” until the wheat harvest came in. The barley loaves were meant to keep the belly full, more than pleasing the pallet. The rest of the year, folks would resort to the barley loaves when they were pinching pennies or feeding larger families with children. So, the barley got the nickname “Bread of Jealousy”, always wishing to be loved as much as the wheat.
 

The miracle from His hand

In John 6: 1 – 15 we find the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand. Did you ever notice that when He borrowed the little boy’s lunch it was consisting of 5 small barley loaves? Like I said earlier, sometimes parents would buy the barley to save money and fill the hollow legs of children, while probably – secretly – keeping a stash of wheat for themselves (kind of like your secret supply of chocolate).
In this case there is an entire crowd of Jesus’ children gathering, and remembering the Passover is quickly approaching, He feels the need to feed them. I find it interesting that in all the times Israel complained about God’s provisions for them in the desert, there is no complaint the bread they’re getting is plain barley and not the sweet wheat.
You know the story. He blesses the meal of barley bread and fish and then feeds the entire crowd… to the point the disciples gathered up 12 baskets of leftovers from the barley loaves. And, before you think the leftovers were from finicky eaters who turned their noses up, the Apostle John notes (John 6:12) the crowd was “filled” full… they all ate to being full.

Here’s one thing I find fascinating from this story. God is a master at using, what we would call, the lesser product for His amazing purposes through His wisdom and power.

 
Perhaps you feel like the lesser product, and you can relate to the “Bread of Jealousy” wishing to be loved as much as what you perceive to be the “preferred bread”. Usually, that’s because we simply can’t grasp the beauty of our own unique purpose. If there was no Barley Bread getting families through until the wheat harvest came in, then they would go hungry and Jesus would have had to find another food to make His miracle.
 
Remember, it wasn’t the wheat that received the miracle from His hand…it was the barley. So a note to all of us barley people… let’s let our Father in Heaven remind us that He has real and important purposes for us in mind.
 
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Our Hope in Jesus is Secure

HEBREWS 6:19 says:  This HOPE we have as an anchor of the soul, a HOPE both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.

 

The hope we have in Jesus is that we can run to Him to be our spiritual and eternal refuge—i.e. our salvation, our support, our safe shelter, secure home. Here the Bible calls this hope “an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast”. This is a striking image!
 
The Gospel is more than mere doctrine. Our trust in Jesus realizes for us what an anchor accomplishes for a ship. Since an anchor is fixed and secure, it simply keeps a ship from drifting. This is vital when the storms hit. An anchor keeps a ship fast and secure when wind and waves would sink it or throw it way off course. As long as one’s anchor holds, the ship is safe from any danger.
 

The good news is this: our anchor grips the solid rock—Jesus.

 
I remember singing an old hymn with the following refrain:
 
In times like these you need a Savior, In times like these, you need an Anchor
Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor hold and grips the solid rock
this Rock is Jesus, yes He’s the One. This Rock is Jesus, the only One
I’m very sure, I’m very sure, my anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
 
The latter part of our verse tells of our anchor entering within the veil. This is representative of being anchored in heaven. Because of Jesus we are anchored in heaven – our true home – and Jesus has gone there before us.
 

Abraham’s life teaches us that in some sense, hope is also a decision. Hope was his decision to believe God and His promises more than what he saw as impossible—something he couldn’t do without God’s help.

 
ROMANS 4:18 states When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, DECIDING TO live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
 
Like faith, hope is confidently expecting something we do not see. Abraham could have said, “God you created me and you know I’m too old to father a child.” Remember the scripture…
 
If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently. Romans 8:24—25
 
One final thought about hope. God often teaches by using contrasts. Notice the contrasts He uses relative to hope in these verses:
 
JOB 8:13 That’s what happens to all who forget God — all their hopes come to nothing.
PS 33:18 Behold, the eye of Jehovah is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his lovingkindness.
 
What are you putting your hope in today? Are you placing your trust where there’s a sure foundation? Remember, Jesus is the hope we have as an anchor for our soul, a hope both sure and steadfast, and one that promises an eternal home when our faith and trust is in Him. Trust in Him today. When everything else around you may be shifting and unsure, Jesus is steadfast.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano

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New Year’s Resolutions Worth keeping

I can hear the audible sigh already. New year resolutions – why bother?
 
Here’s the thing… often we trip over them because of our internal baggage. We start out with good intentions, only to end up in self-sabotage.
• We want to be gentler on ourselves, but continue with negative self-talk
We want to start (fill in the blank), but have no plan • We want to change a behavior, but don’t deal with underlying, contributing emotional issues • We want to get out of debt, but don’t really want to do what it takes • We want to take steps towards a goal or a dream, but allow fear to hold us back
 

What if we made our internal lives a priority this year? What if we focused on what we can do to build our character and energize our spirits instead of yearly external resolutions? A rich internal life makes us a better, more mature person. After all, everything trickles down from our inner lives anyway. This is why God makes the “heart” a priority – for all attitudes, behavior and external issues begin there.

To help you jumpstart, consider these four resolution ideas that will help build your inner life – resolutions that may be worth keeping.

1. GROW YOUR ROOTS

We can’t pour from an empty cup, so we need to pay special attention to soul care. Soul care is neither selfish nor complicated, and it’s absolutely essential to our spiritual lives. Remember, if we’re not learning we’re not growing. We must be intentional about building in regular time to commune with the Lord alone.

Colossians 2:6-10 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

There are many ways to grow your spiritual roots, in pursuit of loving and honoring Jesus while becoming mature in the Lord. Consider adopting this one practice – it could change your life:

Embrace Solitude This is very hard from some people, but a necessary part of growing deep roots. Get alone with God and just BE. Rest in His presence. Meditate on a small portion – even just one verse of scripture – and quiet your spirit. Be still. Be silent. Listen. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak and minister to you. Give Jesus your anxious thoughts. Even if you have a bunch of kids (or grands), find time even if it’s 15 minutes a day. Your spirit will be renewed and your roots will grow deeper. This is not about doing – it’s about abiding in His presence.

2. PURSUE MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION

There are so many talking heads out there competing for our attention – so many opinions and so much noise. Our society seems to have gone off the deep end, reinforcing a general lack of respect for one another, common sense restraint and selfishness. This kind of rhetoric only fosters more division and suffering. Generalized statements tend to throw shame and blame around, solving nothing.
 

When was the last time you had a truly respectful, meaningful dialogue with someone? How about your spouse?

Can you do it even if you don’t agree on all points?

This year, we can purpose to really listen without agenda or bias. Seek to understand first. Ask questions and resist going on the defense. Respectful dialogue fosters mutual respect, clarity and reconciliation. As Christians, we need to be the example in this area. Otherwise, how will others know we are different?

James 1:19, 20 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

James 3:2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

3. PRACTICE KINDNESS

Because of God’s gift of kindness to us, we can be free of the bondage of sin and death. Because of His kindness, we can be adopted into His family. One of the fruits of the Spirit is kindness (Galatians 5:22), and practicing this fruit is proof of a transformed life.

Ephesians 1:7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.
 

What are some ways this year you can practice kindness? How can you show kindness to not only those you love, but those you struggle with? How can you practice kindness with yourself?

James 3:13, 17 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom… the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

2 Corinthians 6:6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.

4. START ONE NEW THING

We get busy with our routines, families, service, work and so much more. Often we forget to replenish ourselves and do things that energize us personally. No one can do this for you – only you can make the choice to recharge.

What brings you joy? What energizes your spirit? It could be breathing in the peaceful air of a woodland hike. Perhaps it’s heading to an art gallery or botanical gardens to breathe in beauty. It could be creating something with your hands. Maybe it’s growing in your craft, journaling in the park or simply making a standing coffee date with someone that makes you laugh.

Figure out one good thing that energizes you and schedule it into your life. Don’t feel guilty about doing it either! Everyone needs a recharge and when that happens on a regular basis, everyone benefits.

So, which resolutions will we make a priority this year? If we build our inner lives, it will grow us and impact the world around us in deeper ways. With God’s help, we can focus on what matters in this new year.
 

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4 Things to Do When You Feel Attacked

Let’s face it, life is challenging. Some seasons are worse than others. Approaching the holiday season is no exception.

 
There is a lot of material out there addressing the subject of spiritual warfare, and it can make you head spin trying to sort it all out. Here are just a few quick thoughts for you to chew on.
 

The Enemy of Our Souls Prefers to Attack Us When We’re Tired

Exhaustion makes us vulnerable. Sometimes the attack comes from people you’d normally think you could trust… and at times, least suspect. Just remember, it’s not them alone. The enemy easily works both angles.
  
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
 

Spiritual Attacks Come When We Least Expect Them

Not looking? Watch out. Attacks can come our way during moments when we think we’re feeling pretty good or strong. Like a skilled boxer, the enemy is strategic. He uses a quick jab to surprise us, distract us, knock us off balance and mess with our confidence.

Keep in Mind – It’s His Job

God calls our enemy the “accuser of the brethren”. Don’t allow him the satisfaction of making you feel weak or victimized. Claim your rightful identity in Christ, who defeated him long ago. Let your Heavenly Father use the opportunity to continue making you wise as He toughens you up in the process. At the end of all this, he is a defeated foe and he knows it. The last thing he wants is to see you stand strong in the power of Christ, denying your pride and running the race full on.
 
Revelation 12:10 “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.”
 

Remember, God Has Instilled Himself in You

His wisdom is in you. His strength is in you. He has adopted you into His family and He’s given you a purpose in His kingdom.
 
1 John 4:4 “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
 
It helps to keep things in proper perspective. Take practical care of yourself; it helps to guard against exhaustion. Keep the truth of God’s Word close to you so it feeds your soul and protects your heart. Remember who you really are – a member of God’s family, a precious child of the King, full of His Spirit and resurrection power. When you feel attacked, look to Jesus.
 
Author:
Jon Marx, Lead Pastor of Faith Assembly

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Character Over Control And Comfort

Control.

We all want it. We don’t always get it. Sometimes we get it, then decide we don’t want it.

Sigh.

In my life I’ve come to recognize control as an old familiar acquaintance, continually proving that my sense of having it is simply an illusion.
Just when I think I have it, it’s often yanked from my groping hands and there’s not much I can do about it.
 
When we feel like we are in control, we often feel pretty comfortable with it.
 
You may tell yourself you’ve earned it. You may snatch it away from someone else and justify it. You may hoard it, thinking no one can hurt you. You may sacrifice pieces of your character to have it. You may hide behind it.
You may tell yourself you don’t need help. 
You may think if you’re in control, you’re safe.
 
When we feel out of control, we often feel frantic. 
Why are we afraid to let go of it?
 
We feel weak. We feel uncomfortable. We feel ineffective. We feel frustrated and helpless. We feel exposed.
We wonder if someone else will do it better. We feel like we are floundering, grasping. We wonder what will happen and how we’ll deal with it.
 
Could it be that God is more interested in your character development than your comfort?
Could it be that growth requires being uncomfortable?

It seems sometimes Christians get this notion of the “abundant life” (found in John 10) fleshing out as the perfect life, being in control of all circumstances, a comfortable existence, all our dreams coming true, instant answers to prayer and 100% happiness.

All. Day. Every. Day.

But here’s the hard truth: life is not easy. It wasn’t meant to be. This is not Heaven.

When we pray with control in mind, we treat God like a vending machine. 

He is not a vending machine, a genie in a bottle or a drive through. 

He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Maker of Heaven and Earth. And He wants to see you grow in character, know and trust Him infinitely more than He wants you to feel comfortable.

Consider these wise words…

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  -James 1:2-3
 
Take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.  -Ephesians 4:22-24
 
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  – Romans 5: 1-5
 
We grow when we experience discomfort.
That means letting go of our need to control – and our need to be comfortable all the time.
Want to grow in character? Take some steps of faith.
 
Embrace the uncomfortable, the uncertainty.
Let go of your need to control everything.
Hold things loosely and trust that God has a plan.
Let the pressure and discomfort of growth do good work in you, so you will grow in wisdom, Godly character and tenderness.
 
Author:
Michelle Marx
You can read more of Michelle’s writing here.

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