Save Me, Son of David

Save Me, Son of David

Holy Week 2022

It is Sunday of the Holy Week. Palm Sunday. Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem.

Sunday is coming.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:1-11

The time has come for Jesus to do what the Father has planned for him to do before the foundation of the world. It all begins with the king entering Jerusalem. The town is significant. At that time, Jerusalem was the epicenter of Jewish worship. It was here where sacrifices were brought before God in the temple which was the place where God met with his people. Both of which were meant to point to King Jesus. In him we find the place where man meets with God and the ultimate sacrifice that the killing of bulls and goats foreshadowed. In a few days there would be one final sacrifice in Jerusalem.

The king enters with much pomp and circumstance. The crowd goes wild! No, this is not what we would expect. Things work differently in the Kingdom of God. Christ’s entrance exudes humility and involves an animal not fit for a king, a donkey. An animal that he knew would be exactly where he would need it to be at the very minute he needed it. An animal that was part of the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Messiah over 500 years before this moment (Zechariah 9:9). All is happening as God has ordained it.

Some understand the significance of this moment. “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Hosanna means, ‘save us.” Save us, Son of David. Their words reveal they understand what Jesus is declaring with this entrance into Jerusalem: I am the Messiah you have been waiting for. He was here to save them, but maybe not in the way they thought. No armies, battles, or overthrowing of political rulers. This is a spiritual rescue.

Others were baffled and wondered who this man was.

What riches we find here in this short passage:

  • God is Trustworthy: What he says will happen will happen just as he says it will happen
  • God is Faithful and full of Love: His people need saving and he will provide the sacrifice
  • God is Providential: He is purposefully over all things (even details like the donkey)
  • Christ is the Messiah, the Son of David, the King
  • Christ is a humble, obedient servant

How shall we respond?

  • Lord, I can trust you today with what is hard to trust you with because you always keep your word.
  • I praise you Lord for the faithfulness you have shown me in Christ. What grace!
  • Lord, I need help to not lean on my own understanding when life doesn’t make sense. Help me walk in faith as you build your kingdom. Everything is going perfectly according to your plan.
  • Help me to humbly serve you and others as Jesus has served me.
  • I see my sin again today and turn to Jesus, and cry out: Save me, Son of David. Lord keep me from turning from Jesus and going my own way. Apart from Christ I have no good.
Go, Send, or Disobey

Go, Send, or Disobey

Missions What I Learned Last Sunday

Two words sum up Brooks Buser’s (the keynote speaker at the Ridgeview Conference for Global Missions) call to action. Go. Send.

Go
Two weeks. Two weeks after the gospel was shared to an unreached people group Brooks and his team had been working with, he was woken up in the middle of the night by several brand new Christians. What did they want so urgently in the middle of the night? They wanted to know when it was time for them to go. Where did they want to go? They wanted to spread the gospel to other tribes around them that had not yet heard the gospel. They knew Jesus called them to go spread the best news ever. We too are called to live out the great commission. This means some of us will go. Must go. May we let the urgency and obedience of these men sink into our hearts.

Send
Many of us won’t go but we are still called to live out the great commission in sending. What does this practically look like? Brooks gave three ways we can be faithful senders:

  1. Raise your kids with an understanding of missions. Pray you will be a parent whose children will go. What a challenge for me personally. Maybe you start reading missionary biographies, involve your kids in supporting and engaging missionaries, and make it a point to study together what the Bible says about missions. Let’s pray that if the Lord wills, our kids would go and that no one (including us) would hinder them.
  2. Live in a way that the great commission affects your life every day. That could mean owning an older car or living in a smaller home to free up more resources for support. Maybe Monday becomes “missionary Monday ” where your family intentionally prays for the missionaries you support and reaches out to connect with them. It also means that we welcome visiting missionaries with Christain hospitality and send them off in a manner worthy of the Lord (3 John 6, 8).
  3. Be a faithful church member. Faithful and engaged church members are good senders. Commit to your church. Pour yourself into your church and make it a point to invest your time, energy, and talents into your local body.

The time is now for us to go and to send. But so many of us don’t go. Why? Brooks closed the conference with three obstacles that keep us from missions:

  1. Authority: We live as if we have no Lord even though all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ. He gave his life for ours. He gets to say what we do and how we spend our lives for him. We must lay our lives down in humble obedience.
  2. Cost: The cost seems too high when we have other things we love more than Christ. If we hold anything tighter than we hold on to Christ, it’s too hard for us to give it up for him. This could be anything from comfort, hobbies, children, safety, money, retirement, status, health, and the list goes on etc.
  3. No Action: Many of us hear the gospel and yet it never changes the way we live. Christ calls us to radical obedience and a complete transformation of our lives. This is fueled by the grace and mercy we have received from him and through him.

We prefer to hold on to rubbish instead of Christ and his surpassing worth.

Will you go? If so, seek the Lord and set Him always before you and you will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8). Talk to the elders at your church as it is the local church that confirms and sends out faithful members to the nations. The only thing you risk losing is rubbish.

Discipleship in Missions

Discipleship in Missions

Missions What I Learned Last Sunday

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. -Matthew 28:19–20

Discipleship is part of the Great Commission and thus is a large part of missions. Michael & Debbie Bannon from World Venture held a breakout session where they shared their experience of disciple-making in a variety of overseas contexts. Lyubov Zheleva, with Josiah Venture, also joined us at the missions conference, and discipling is also a large part of her role in reaching the youth of Bulgaria.

The Bannon’s mentioned three areas they see as crucial elements of discipleship:

Time: Making disciples isn’t an overnight process. It may require long evenings, many hours of listening ears, and Christ-like compassion. It is an investment into the soul of another for the sake of Christ. Expect it to take time and much patience.

The Word: Discipleship, very simply, is helping someone know and love Christ. We know Christ through the Word where He is revealed. Thus, discipleship must include spending time in God’s Word together, studying, and asking questions.

Prayer: It is the Lord who brings fruit. We can do nothing without his help. Pray together with those whom you are discipling. Show them the reliance and relationship we have with God through prayer. Pray alone for those you disciple. The church was also huge in helping Debbie pray for women she was trying to reach for Christ. They asked the church to pray daily for these women and sent them monthly calendars with prayers for each day.

It was encouraging and a great reminder to me that discipleship in missions and discipleship in our own lives is very much the same. It takes time, God’s Word, and much prayer. I would also add that it takes hospitality. I could see this trait in both the Bannon’s and Lyubov. This hospitality I’m referring to is not limited to when you open up your home. Discipleship requires hospitality where you have a posture that welcomes people into all of your life with open arms. This is the posture of Christ. We move towards people with open arms as he moves towards us.

A passion of our church is to make disciples here and help missionaries do the same afar – and we believe that this is in obedience to God’s Word. I pray this encourages us in our local disciple-making and spurs us on to pray for the missionaries we support as they labor to make disciples among the nations.

A Blessed Progression

A Blessed Progression

What I Learned Last Sunday

It’s been a wonderful six weeks slowly digesting the Beatitudes one by one (Note: the Beatitudes are the verses at the beginning of Matthew 5 that start with “Blessed are the”). If you were asked seven weeks ago to describe what a Christain looks like, would your answer have included the words poor, mournful, meek, hungry, merciful, pure, peacemakers, persecuted? 

Let’s review what blessed means. These are the people who enjoy the benefits of being favored by God and thus find themselves extremely blessed. There is no better place to be and there is no greater joy to be found.

If you want to be #blessed, look no further than Matthew 5:2-12. 

  • Poor in Spirit: Empty hands. These people know their spiritual poverty and their great need for Christ
  • Mournful: Those with Godly sorrow who find themselves broken for their own sin and the sin around them.
  • Meek: Having quiet confidence in Christ. This meekness invades how you see God, others, and yourself. 
  • Hungry: Christ’s followers have an appetite for the Lord and His righteousness over all other desires
  • Merciful: Knowing the great mercy they have and continue to receive in Christ and the type of people who are glad to pour out mercy on others.
  • Pure in Heart: The longings of the heart of a person who sets his eyes on Christ
  • Peacemakers: Actively working to bring peace relationally and through sharing the gospel of peace with others.

This brings us to the final beatitude (Matthew 5:11-12). Pastor Mike preached last Sunday that all of these beatitudes are a progression leading up to persecution. The world does not like those who exhibit the qualities Jesus describes here. These things stand out, shine light, and look weird to others. Thus, be prepared that you will be persecuted and reviled. Living out these beatitudes will inevitably invite persecution. Do you see the connection now? I do!

But where is the hope and joy in the promise of being slandered, rejected, and ill-treated? Jesus commands us here to rejoice and be glad. If we are only looking at this world, then there isn’t much joy. But this verse points us to look elsewhere. To heaven. To eternity. As we incur this evil against us we can be assured that eternity is coming and here we will find a great reward for all we have endured for the sake of following Jesus. It is all worth it. Bring it on. Following Christ is worth everything it costs. Rejoice and be glad you are found in him, worthy to suffer as he did and keep your eyes fixed on eternity. 

Join me in praying as we close out the beatitudes:

Oh Father, I see that I’m supposed to manifest these characteristics. They are beautiful because they all reflect you. I see where I fall short and I humbly ask your forgiveness and know in Christ you grant this great mercy. Father, grow me in these beatitudes. I feel that I am unlike them all yet I long to bear this fruit for the sake of the name of Christ. Do this miracle in my heart Lord. Strengthen me when persecution comes and help me to cling to Christ and the eternity he secured on my behalf. All of my hope for any blessing from you is in Christ. To Him be the glory.

Total Inability & the Sweetness of the Gospel

Total Inability & the Sweetness of the Gospel

Word in Season

You tell someone you are a Christian and they in return ask you, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” How do you answer?

You ask someone if they are a Christian and they reply, “Well, I try really hard so I think so.” How do you answer?

I’ve been mulling over these two interactions in my brain for a while and I’ve come to the conclusion that I would start in the same place with the same concept: Inability.

in·a·bil·i·ty (/ˌinəˈbilədē/) noun, 1. the state of being unable to do something.

Most who hear this word tend to put a negative connotation along with it. When was the last time you told someone about your inabilities? Yet with the kingdom of God, inability equals supreme blessedness, happiness (Matthew 5:3).

Being a Christian means that I see my sins and my inability to pay for my sins. I’m unable to save myself from the judgement of a just God. I deserve eternal punishment and there is no way out. The paradox is that it is only when we see this inability that the gospel becomes glorious.

John Murray, a Scottish theologian, explains it in this way: “The only gospel there is is a gospel which rests upon the assumption of total inability. It is this truth that lays the basis for the glory of the gospel of grace.”

How dull grace becomes if you or I can achieve it ourselves. The grace offered to us in Christ only becomes amazing when we see how completely helpless we are.

This means that ability is the antithesis to the gospel. Murray continues, “The doctrine of ability makes men self-sufficient and that is the contradiction of the gospel and makes them immune to its appeal.” The doctrine of ability is most clearly seen in the Pharisees all over the gospels. The keeping of laws, the self justification, establishing their own righteousness, (Romans 10:3) and yet their utter blindness to who Jesus was. They were immune to the appeal of the gospel because they had already figured this righteousness thing out on their own.

Not only is inability important as we receive this saving grace, inability is part of our continued walk with Christ as His Spirit sanctifies us. Am I able on my own to say no to the things God asks me to, to persevere in this marathon life of a believer, to love like He has loved me, to give thanks in suffering, to die to myself daily, to speak kind words, to forebear with others as he has done so with me, to cast of idols…and on? If you have lived one day you know the answer to this question is an emphatic, “no!” I am fully dependent on the Lord to keep me, work in me, and to conform me to the image of Jesus.

As believers we can become immune to the gospel as self-sufficiency grows in our hearts. We want immunity to a lot of things, but the gospel most certainly isn’t one of them. The Lord was gracious recently in my own life to reveal how dependent I was becoming on myself. I want to end each day astonished that the Lord kept me following Him for another day. I see what my flesh is capable of if left to myself. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord who is the only one that can save me from this path of death! (Romans 7:24-25).

Being a Christian is about seeing my neediness time and time again and turning to Jesus with great dependence on Him and what He accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection.

Being a Christian is about us decreasing and Christ increasing (John 3:20).

Being a Christian is less about how hard we try and more about who we trust.

Being a Christian means that I am unable and Christ is the one who is able.

Being a Christian means that with man it is impossible but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

“I’ll make up for it” becomes “Jesus paid for it.”
“I’ll try harder” becomes “Help me Jesus.”
“I can do it” becomes “Jesus did it.”

Do you want supreme happiness? This is what Jesus promises for those who are poor in spirit. The helpless, unable, powerless, inadequate, weak people who turn to Christ day in and day out are supremely happy. Why? Because we become free from trying to produce something ourselves that is impossible to produce. What sheer joy to release this burden onto Christ! Our inability becomes the pathway for our boasting all the more in Jesus.

May our hearts beat the drum of inability in our own lives and to others around us.

Water in the Desert

Water in the Desert

Word in Season

School is starting up. The college kids are back in town. New ideas, new hopes, new activities, new friends, new teachers, new schedules. Although it’s not January 1st, it still somewhat feels like a new year and a fresh start.

This time last year I was full of hope for this season that is upon us now. I had just celebrated my birthday with my church home group, took a little hiking trip with my kids, and sent my youngest off to kindergarten. Then, I was thrust into what I can now see was a desert. Hot, dry, stifling. An oppressive heat that is ready to kill all that tries to set up home there. My child got sick. Really, really sick. The type of sickness that sends you to specialty hospitals in a hurry. This time last year I was watching my child sleep in an ICU bed and writing notes so I was prepared for rounds the next day when a dozen or so doctors would flood the room and discuss what to do next. It was just the beginning and I’m not yet sure there will be an official end.

I should be parched, dried up, and left for dead. And yet somehow over this past year, I’ve been nourished. Sustenance where there should be starvation.

There is only one who can bring life from what should be dead. This is what he does. This is what he promises. He brings growth and life from barren and lifeless places. The Lord gives water in the desert. How does he do this? He speaks. His Words bring life.

Psalm 1 says blessed (happy) is the one who finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates on it. This person is like a “tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3 Delighting in the Word of God waters our souls in such a way it doesn’t matter what is happening around us, we will prosper. I have been blessed to watch him do this in my own life this past year in so many ways. What grace He has showered into my own desert.

A Psalm I had memorized became my sustenance as I found myself sitting in the hospital next to my child. The chaos of sickness, unknowns, and suffering was watered by these sweet words of Psalm 131. I remember reciting over and over again these three verses, thinking and praying: “Lord, I’m not going to think great thoughts right now or really any thoughts. I don’t know what is going on at this moment or the next. I’m not even going to go there Lord. What I will do, however, is to rest in the presence and comfort of the Lord. Like a child who has everything they need, content in the lap of their father.” Nourishment.

There were many believers who helped me bear these burdens yet I felt like I couldn’t adequately describe what I had experienced and was still experiencing. They weren’t there in the hospital or in my house or there after the kids were put to bed when I tried to process another day. I felt alone in the desert, isolated. The Lord spoke again through another Psalm. This time, Psalm 31:7, “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love because you have seen my affliction and you have known the distress of my soul.” My desire for someone to intimately know and be present in this desert was fulfilled, in Him. What a gift it is to be known and seen like this! Sustenance

I felt inadequate and overwhelmed about navigating this new world of insurance, medications, and hospital policies. James reminded me that if I lacked wisdom, that I should ask God who promises to not look down in irritation at this request but delights to give generously and He did just that (James 1:5). Strength.

I needed to find the right people to help me. Advocates on the inside of the insurance companies, hospital organizations, and drug companies to help me do things out of process that were necessary to care for my child. I was comforted that it is the Lord who controls the hearts of men, even the “kings” of the companies I was appealing to (Proverbs 21:1). He was in charge of this and I could ask and trust Him to do it. He provided so many people with hearts soft towards helping me: Megan, Morgan, Brittany, Abby, Stacy, Rachel, Nancy just to name a few. Grace.

My experience is not unique to me. We see many in the Bible in similar situations where they find themselves in the wilderness of life. David went through many wilderness experiences and all throughout the Psalms we see him clinging to God’s Word and trusting in him and in turn the Lord sustaining him. Job was ultimately comforted by God’s Words to him (not necessarily his friends’ words) in the midst of his great suffering. Habakkuk too was comforted by God’s Words (not his own thoughts) even knowing he was on the brink of experiencing great suffering. Jesus entered the wilderness and triumphed over temptation with the Words of God.

Let us also remember and be warned that the wilderness doesn’t guarantee that we will find nourishment in the Lord. The Israelites had 40 years in the wilderness, yet it became a place of great rebellion and death because they decided not to trust or delight in the Words of the Lord.

By God’s grace, I was nourished by His Word because I had been feasting on His Word for years. Day in, day out. Sunday after Sunday. Little by little.

There is little time to feast in the desert. In the desert you live off your reserves.

I had been feasting on God’s Word through my own time with him in the mornings but also through other very important means of God’s grace. Things like church where we go through books of the Bible verse by verse. Sunday school, where we do the same. Bible studies where we open the Word and wrestle to know Christ more. Home group where we discuss and apply the scripture preached on that Sunday morning.

In this season of new hopes, new plans, and maybe even fresh starts I want to encourage you to make it a priority to delight in the law of the Lord. Make space on your calendar for these things that will encourage and help you do this.

Make attending church a priority.
Commit to a Sunday school class, home group, or a Bible study.
Make his Word your delight and joy now so it will one day water you in your own desert that life inevitably brings.

Click here to see all of the ways you can feast on God’s Word at Ridgeview this fall.

Agents of Grace

Agents of Grace

What I Learned Last Sunday

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:1-7

In our natural state we resist the idea of grace. We like to have a hand in things, to be in control, independent, capable, and we certainly do not want charity. However, as Burt Newman mentioned in his sermon last Sunday, this is all Jesus is offering: Grace. Charity. Free, unearned favor. We resist it, but you won’t find any sweeter news than this. Grace not only saves us but also transforms us into agents of grace.

When Paul is urging believers to love unbelievers, the reason he gives for why they can do that is because they were saved by grace. Burt helped us understand the argument Paul presents and it goes something like this: love unbelievers because you were just like them. But God saved you, not because you were awesome or did anything awesome, but because he is full of mercy. Furthermore, his Spirit has transformed you so that through Jesus you are heirs of God, and as heirs of God, you should be agents of grace that love unbelievers.

What did I learn last Sunday? I learned that I know that I am saved by grace, but I so often act as if I was saved by my works. Like the believers Paul was writing to, I need to be reminded. Grace takes away all pride. It is unbelievable that the Lord has chosen to open my eyes to understand the gospel. I see many I love blinded in darkness yet my eyes are open, for no reason other than his grace. This humbles me and transforms how I see, speak, and relate to others. My heart overflows with patience when I see my neighbor in light of the great grace I’ve been given. Because I’ve been shown grace, I now have become an agent of grace. Not by my own will or doing, but by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, changing me to see these precious truths.

Resolved, to daily set my mind on the grace that has saved me.

Open our eyes Lord, to a deeper understanding of this justifying grace and transform us into agents of grace so that others may glorify your name.

While You Were Waiting

While You Were Waiting

Word in Season

In the mid 90’s a movie came out called, “While You Were Sleeping.” It is a classic romantic comedy in which Sandra Bullock saves her secret crush from a train accident.  While he is in a coma, she is mistaken as his fiancé, goes along with it, meets and befriends his family, falls in love with his brother, and so on. The point being, as this man lies in a coma, incapacitated, at a time where his life should be at a stand still, he wakes up to find that everything has changed. Everything changed while he was sleeping.

The Christian life is one of waiting. We wait for answers to prayers, we wait for this season of suffering to end, we wait for our newborn to sleep through the night, we wait for that family member to come to Christ, we wait as we are being sanctified, we wait for an acceptance letter to college, we wait for a job offer, we wait for a spouse, we wait for relationships to reconcile, we wait for grief to lessen, we wait to see the fruit of our labor, we wait for a pandemic to end. Most importantly, we wait for Christ’s return when we will be free of this broken world and at home with the Lord!  We wait.

Certainly, all of this is by the Lord’s design, but why? Why has God designed things this way and what is he doing while we are waiting? 

The Israelites and their 40 years of waiting to enter the promised land provides great insight into some of God’s purposes in our own waiting. What was God doing while they were waiting? Deuteronomy 8:2-3 tells us. 

  • Squashing Pride (Deut 8:2): The Israelites needed to wait because they were a hard hearted prideful people. God tried to reveal this to them as he purposely ordained this period of waiting. Waiting exposes the self-sufficiency that resides in our hearts. As we wait, we have an opportunity to search our hearts to see where pride and self-sufficiency has taken root. The squashing of our pride develops the sweet aroma of those who are poor in spirit. Waiting reminds us we are solely dependent on the all-sufficient Lord. 
  • Testing Faith (Deut 8:2): It was in these 40 years of waiting the Lord was testing the faith of the Israelites. Were they going to obey him even when he was asking them to wander in circles in the wilderness, year after year? It is easy to obey and trust God when everything is going our way, in the timeline we want, with the answers we want and when we want them. Faith by definition is the conviction of things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). Will we obey when we aren’t getting the answer we want? God is working to grow our faith in him when he asks us to wait. Do you ever wonder how that godly man or woman has so much faith? Ask them, and I’m certain you will find that the Lord has built that faith in them over years of waiting. Waiting provides our faith an opportunity to strengthen its roots and it can steady our foundation. 
  • Revealing God’s Character (Deut 8:3): God wanted the Israelites to learn something very specific about him as they were waiting. He was trying to show them that he was what they needed more than anything else. You find life in me, look to me, listen to me, trust me. As we wait we have an opportunity to ponder the God we wait on. We wait on a God who never sleeps, who is purposely working, who is good, loving, faithful, just, and abounding in steadfast love towards his children. Maybe in your waiting God is trying to teach you something about who he is, an aspect of his character that your heart needs to learn. Waiting draws our eyes to the one we are waiting on. As we are forced to turn to him, we come to know him more.
  • Deepens Worship: I’m not sure we see the Israelites in the wilderness learn this valuable lesson, but I have seen it in my own life. There is something sweet about worshipping God when he has taken us into the wilderness of waiting. We are singing not because all is right in our life, but we are singing because God is God and he deserves all of our worship. It’s unclouded, pure, almost childlike. It is a delightful paradox that God uses this waiting to grow our hearts in worship of him. 

Everything can change while we are waiting, but quite often we are in a coma, missing all the Lord is doing. We don’t naturally have eyes that see and hearts that are teachable. Help us Lord! It is only in turning to him that we start to see what God is trying to do while we are waiting. Turn to him, seek him out in prayer, through his word, and ask a trusted Christian friend to help you seek God in the waiting. God can change so much in our lives while we are waiting.

Poem for the Suffering

Poem for the Suffering

Word in Season

Author’s Note: The thoughts below come from the struggle we face when we watch someone we love suffer. This poem is meant to explore the tension between wanting to take the suffering away yet at the same time recognizing that the Lord loves them too. In his love, he works for their good and his glory in the midst of the very sufferings we long to take away.

I would take this from you if I could, I’ve often told you the same.
I’d gladly swap you places and this would be finished as quickly as it came.
No more tear stained pillows or wondering when it all will end.
That would all be gone in an instant if I could take this from you sweet friend.

I’d take this from you if I could, the heartache, isolation, and hard days to come.
That distant look in your eyes as you know this season is far from done.
The why’s, how can this make sense, and what does this all mean?
That would all be gone in an instant if I could just intervene.

I’d take this from you if I could but you know I really can’t.
I’m not even sure this is a prayer I want the Lord to grant.
You see his ways are higher and even in this suffering he is good,
You would miss all that in an instant if I took it away so I really don’t think I should.

I wouldn’t take this from you because the Lord works mightily when you are weak.
To build your faith, draw you to him, and reveal places in your heart he wants to tweak.
If we are happy and able to do it on our own we have no need for him,
And this is what I want most for you, to cling to Jesus with life and limb.

How can I wish to take from you what may be a great means of his grace?
You may not know the why or how but you’ll know deeper the one who took our place.
He’s been through every suffering and warns we must follow him there,
To know him more and grow in love, in his sufferings we must share.

I wouldn’t take this from you if I could, but I will stay by your side.
I’ll bear these burdens with you that you must walk, you’ll have a friend who won’t hide.
I’ll sit in silence without a word just so you know someone is present,
Other days I’ll be sure to read you the Word to remind you of the one who is omnipresent.

I won’t take this from you if I could because the Lord uses these things for his glory.
But I’ll pray and pray you trust when he says that your sufferings are part of his story.
May this darkness release your tight grip on this world and point your eyes to our true home.
Someday this will all end and we will spend eternity in a place where we will no longer groan.

I want this to end, yes of course I do and I pray the Lord will bring relief.
May you emerge to find that because of this he has greatly increased your belief.
Yes, I’ll pray for him to take it away AND for him to refine you through this fire.
Ultimately, may his will be done and his kingdom come however he may purpose and desire.

Rest for the People of God, Part 3

Rest for the People of God, Part 3

Word in Season

This is part 3 of a series of posts on biblical rest. See part 1 here and part 2 here.

After two posts on sorting through how the Bible presents rest, we are ready to respond. Side note: Theology is important because you cannot rightly apply the Bible if you don’t know what it says. That is another blog post for another time. Back to application. The rest for our soul, our eternal redemption that is secure in the unchangeable hands of our Savior, must enter into our work and our rest. More specifically, Christ himself must enter our work and our rest.

Christ enters into our work. Christ has redeemed us and enters into our work, telling us that all of our labors can be used to bring him glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). He brings purpose to our work because these are works he prepared for us to do, for him (Ephesians 2:10). Our work doesn’t provide our value, identity, or salvation. All of this is secure in Christ. We aren’t saved on our ability to climb the corporate ladder, maintain a certain GPA, our athletic prowess, homemaking abilities, or how great our kids turn out.  

Restlessness, anxiety, anger, needing to control outcomes, incessant busyness are indicators that we, instead of Christ, are at the center of our work. When we labor like this, we are saying that Christ’s work isn’t enough, there is more to do. We must cease from striving, cease from our works, sit at the foot of the cross, and rest with our eyes on Christ. We labor from a place of rest. One type of work brings slavery and the other brings freedom. 

Here are some helpful questions to ponder as we think about our labor:

  • Are my emotions controlled by how my “work” went that day? What is it I’m seeking for from my work that is controlling me and my emotions? Joy, pleasure, success, identity? 
  • Whose standard am I trying to achieve? My own, my peers, my children? Who do I need to accept me and tell me, “well done”?
  • What am I trying to accomplish and what happens to my world if I don’t accomplish it? Who’s performance matters?

Christ enters into our rest. The Lord knows we need rest. There was a practical point to the Sabbath as well. We aren’t God and we need rest. Christ enters into our rest just as he enters into our labor. We can rest for the glory of God. We don’t hide from him in our rest, we bring him into those times of rest. When we neglect to bring Christ into our times of rest, this is when we find ourselves not rested at all. It is funny how much work it is to rest well. Self-indulgent rest leaves us exhausted. 

What are some signs we aren’t resting well? 

  • Feeling guilty for resting or feeling like we need to sneak rest
  • When rest seems separate from your life as a Christian. We don’t think about Christ when we rest, it is an escape from Christ and his work. 
  • Feeling like you have to hide from God when you are resting
  • Rest that is primarily self-indulgent

Bringing Christ into our rest in the here and now is practice for the coming eternal rest where we will dwell with Christ forever. 

What small steps will you take this week to rest in Christ as you labor and as you rest? 

  • Ask. Ask God to show you where you are striving apart from him. Seeing where we aren’t trusting Christ is good and necessary. We can’t fight what we don’t see. 
  • Repent. Repentance helps us to rest. Turning from our sin to Christ in and of itself is restful. 
  • Trust. Trust that Jesus died for sinners like you and me. He forgives and provides the grace to help us grow in this area. Seeking refuge in the forgiveness, mercy, and grace from our gentle Savior is the foundation of all true rest. 
  • Act. Is there a small change that can help you rest better in Christ? I write this from a place of great neediness and desire to grow in this area. I’m slowly learning to bring Christ into my labor and times of physical rest in small, simple ways. 
    • Saturday mornings I try to sleep in. I now thank the Lord for the opportunity to sleep a little extra and it helps me not only enjoy that refreshment with Christ but also recognize that it is a gift from him. I am aware of my tendency to hide from Christ in my rest. 
    • I am learning to recognize signs of anxious toil in myself. Acknowledging before the Lord that this is placing trust in myself instead of Christ has been a huge step forward in freeing me to rest in Christ as I work. This freedom has even had a positive impact on my physical energy levels. 

I’m thankful we have a Savior who says his yoke is light. I’m thankful the cross penetrates into all areas of our lives. I’m thankful our salvation is complete in Jesus. Lord, help us rest. 

Note: These series of posts were greatly influenced by a podcast from CCEF on Rest. I encourage you to take a listen here: https://www.ccef.org/podcast/rest/

See part 1 here and part 2 here.