Peace

Work was only hours away…the little numbers on my bedside digital clock pierced through the darkness, the electronic digits advanced without mercy. A glowing dot on the clock face pulsed with each passing second like a symphony conductor keeping the tempo of time.

As I tried to fall asleep, I could hear the jangle of night sounds emanating from outside of my bedroom window. Periodically cars would drive by, their presence betrayed by the ever-increasing reverberation of their tires as they drew near and then as they faded into the cool night air after the sound of their tires reached its zenith just outside of my bedroom window.

At times these sounds would be supplemented by the “clip-pity-clop” sound of the occasional late night skateboarder as they rolled by on the nearby sidewalk. I thought to myself; Why are so many people awake!? “Doesn’t anyone in this town sleep?

I asked myself; “Where are all these people going and what are they doing awake in the middle of the night? Why aren’t they home asleep?

I considered the possibility for a moment that perhaps they were part of a throng of sleepless zombies; people like me who found sleep elusive.

I wondered if I would soon be joining them.

At long last, after several hours of wakefulness, my eyes became heavy. I sensed I was soon to be enveloped in a blanket of sleep. I felt an inner joy as I became aware of my gradual release from the conscience world. My soft pillow and I merged to become one as I drifted towards peaceful bliss.

Suddenly I was startled awake and wrenched into reality by the raucous barking of my neighbor’s dog!

I was wide awake again.

Oh the frustration!

With all this time on my hands, I found myself thinking once again about work, finances, and waxing philosophically about life.

It seems we have so much to worry about.

The world outside was one filled with ongoing wars and threats of more wars, unstable economics, college bills, debts, health issues, social upheaval, infringements on our ability to speak and worship freely, and the battle of so many contrary ideas that have simply been caught and brought without any real discussion.

Yet there must be a way to find rest in such times. I had to find a way, because I’d come to the realization during my sleepless state of mind that the turmoil of our times were not likely to lessen.

It would be sometime later, while investigating the topics of peace and rest, I found that I wasn’t alone in my sleepless misery on that particular night. After studying the matter I came to the conclusion, at least in the United States, that we’re a driven, over stimulated, and stressed out bunch of people.

In 2016, the American Psychological Association’s annual survey of stress in America had its first statistically significant year-over-year increase in stress levels since it launched its stress measure a decade ago.(11)

In 2015, we were more likely to have experienced extreme stress than in prior times. (a rating of 8,9 or 10 on a 10-point scale). Twenty-four percent of adults reported extreme stress levels, compared to 18 percent in 2014. This represented the highest percentage reporting of extreme stress since 2010. (2)

How are we as a people generally coping with all of this stress?

As you might surmise…we’re not doing a very good job.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 23.5 million people are treated each year for abuse of drugs and alcohol in the United States.(10) Our coping through such means costs our nation dearly at many levels. Translated into dollars, it’s been estimated that our poor coping behavior costs our nation $700 billion dollars a year.(9)

How are we to manage? Where do we turn for a lasting solution? Are we alone in this walk or has someone already shown us a way to experience peace within a world of sustained extreme stress?

It turns out that the problems of extreme stress and the search for peace are not new ones.

Throughout history people have struggled with the pressures of economics, security, and threats of war. Such was the case for ancient Judah.

Between 601-604 BC the Southern Kingdom of Judah found itself in the unenviable position of being under the thumb of King Nebuchadnezzar, the absolute ruler of the Babylonian Empire.

In return for not being squashed and destroyed by the Babylonians, the king exacted a yearly tax, or tribute from his subject states. Such was the case for Judah. If a state failed to pay-up on it’s yearly obligation it was seen as an act of rebellion, and he would send his armies to deal with the recalcitrant country.

During this time the Egyptians and Babylons had been constantly at odds. Judah was often caught in the middle of their power struggles. In 601 BC the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco prevented Nebuchadnezzar from invading Egypt. In due course the leaders in Judah perceived that the Egyptians would ultimately prevail and they made a bet siding with Neco and chose to stop paying its tribute to Nebuchadnezzar.

Things didn’t turn out the way they planned and Nebuchadnezzar didn’t take the news of Judah’s lack of tribute very well. He responded by laying siege to Jerusalem (598-597 BC). When it was over, the Babylonians plundered Jerusalem taking the temple treasures and forcibly deporting many of the Jewish leaders relocating them to Babylon. These were tense, tough times for the people and families that lived in Judah.

Fortunately for most of the population, Nebuchadnezzar allowed them to remain in their homes. The city was basically left intact under an appointed governor by the name of Zedekiah. During this time the people of Judah were under tremendous pressure, living in a volatile place with a great deal of uncertainty and stress.

In times past, when the Kingdom had been under King Solomon, there had been security and certainty. One could plan their future with some degree of confidence. God had blessed Solomon and the people benefited from the resulting peace. But that was then, now under Zedekiah they found themselves in very uncertain times.

Zedekiah didn’t remain faithful or grateful to King Nebuchadnezzar for very long. Things went sour and in 587 B.C. Zedekiah decided to spawn yet another rebellion against the very Babylonian King that had appointed him as governor. Once again, Judah’s faulty decision making was inspired by the Egyptians as they advanced against Babylon, this time under Psammeticus II.

Again Judah bet wrong. The failure of Judah to pay its tribute the second time pushed Nebuchadnezzar over the edge. In 586 B.C. he responded by once again laying siege to Jerusalem. This time he didn’t stop at just laying seige to the city, he sacked it after it surrendered, destroying the entire city and it’s fortifications. He burned the temple, palaces, homes, and deported large portions of the remaining population back to Babylon. (12)

The years rolled by and the Judean captives that had been deported to Babylon had adapted to a relatively secure life, yet it was not a real life of peace for many. They still remembered their past and what it had been like living in Jerusalem and worshiping in the temple that had been the glorious center in the City of David. Their lament over this spiritual separation from their past was evident and expressed from the heart in Psalm 137:1.

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”

By 539 B.C. the Persians under Cyrus had come to power and invaded Babylon under the banner of liberator. In keeping with this theme, Cyrus ordered the restoration of ancient temples while suggesting the possibility of the return of dispersed peoples to their homelands.

In 538 B.C. Cyrus did just that, by issuing an edict allowing the Jews to return to Judah and ordering that the Jerusalem temple be rebuilt. He even contributed some of the funding for this project from his own treasury. (Ezra 1:2-4;6:3-5;2 Chr 36:22-23) In general, most historians painted Cyrus as much more tolerant towards peoples in his empire than his predecessors the Assyrians and Babylonians.

A fellow by the name of Sheshbazzar, who was of a royal Davidic lineage, was appointed governor and entrusted by Cyrus to the return of the silver vessels taken originally from the temple by Nebuchadnezzar. Under his leadership the foundations of the new temple were laid.

By 530 B.C. Cyrus had been killed while fighting in the northeastern areas of his kingdom. His son Cambyses took over briefly before dying in 522 B.C. . His death left Persia in a state of chaos for two years while rivals fought for control of the throne.

Darius I ultimately emerged as the winner and took his place on the throne to rule the Persian Empire.

It was shortly after this time that the Prophet Haggai preached in Jerusalem, during the second year of Darius’s rule, encouraging the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. It was believed that Haggai was an older man by this time and may have remembered Solomon’s Temple in better times. (Hag 2:3) Haggai shared the following to the people:

“‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”” (Haggai 2:9, NIV)

In the aftermath of war, invasion, deportation, hardships that one could only imagine, the people of Judah simply wanted and desired peace. Through Haggai God promised that He alone would grant such peace.

Many theologians believe that Haggai, in speaking of the peace that God promised, was pointing to the future glory of Christ and the eternal peace that Christ would ultimately bring.

Years later, the apostle Paul wrote of peace in his prayer at the conclusion of his letter to the church at Thessolonica:

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, NIV)

God is the author and giver of peace and the one solely capable of giving us real peace. Our God always wants to give us good things, and one of the good things He desires to give us is genuine peace.

Much like the times of Judah, we too face turmoil and unrest. Threats from powers outside of our country and division within our country. We are in a state of constant agitation which makes peace, and subsequent rest problematic.

At this point it might help if we try to better describe what peace actually is and what the these passages tell us about peace.

Much of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the Hebrew word used most commonly for peace was the word “shalom,” which has the sense of “health”, “wholeness”, and “salvation.” It’s not simply the absence of strife, which is the most common view of peace that we hold today.

When the Lord told Haggai that he was going to “grant peace” to the people that had came to restore the temple, he used the Hebrew “Shalom.” He was speaking of a deep underlying peace present even in the most difficult of circumstances.

The people that had come back to restore the temple faced a daunting task. After so many years they could not start the restoration of the temple right away because the place had become completely overgrown. Additionally they needed to build shelters and homes for themselves. Add to the whole problem the lack of resources and other logistical challenges, one could see how they might have become very discouraged.

We’re not much different ourselves today. The Evil One never wants us to have peace. Instead he would rather have us to live in a state of perpetual strife and angst. One could make the case that peace and rest go hand-in-hand. Without peace it impossible to rest; and yet rest is what we often find ourselves seeking in order to have peace.

Paul reminded us that when God grants us peace, it’s a peace for “all times” and in “every way.” God’s peace is not a peace that comes and goes. The author of eternal living peace can only be found in Jesus, the ultimate author peace. The scriptures attest to the degree of peace that’s associated with Jesus.

Recall if you will the scene in the Gospel of Luke:

“One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”” (Luke 8:22–25, NIV)

Imagine the scene. Waves were crashing around the the boat, the disciples were panicked believing that they were in imminent danger of sinking. Through it all what did Jesus do?

He slept.

Only a person totally at peace in the midst of a raging storm could possibly sleep under such circumstances. After Jesus calmed the storm with divine power, He asked them; “Where is your faith”? He did so because he was reminding them of how much God cares for them and that even in the midst of a raging storm, Jesus’s silence as he slept did not equate to a lack of awareness and love for His disciples. We should take solace in this wonderful example of God’s expression of love. He loves us even in the midst of the torrents of the storms of life, and that love translates as peace in the moment.

The truth is, his love is the only love that can give us the peace that will allow us to rest in the midst of the tensions and stresses and challenges that this life can dish up. Someone once said that “the legacy of Christ is not advice about peace, it is peace.”

During the that night in which I had so much trouble sleeping, I pulled out my Bible. It was during that wakeful evening that the Lord impressed upon me though the scriptures that authentic and lasting peace can only come from Him, and that if one accepts this fundamental propositional truth, then rest will come. And it did and continues to do so for me.

Has life got you down? Are you having trouble finding the peace that seems to so allude so many? If so ,I would like to suggest that you take a moment and look at what Jesus has to offer. The Prince of Peace has enough peace to give you and anyone who desires it, the gift of peace and the deep rest that follows. His peace is a lasting peace, in fact he offers it as a gift to each of us. His peace is an eternal peace.

C.S. Lewis shared that God and peace are completely interwoven, they’re one. In the end he concluded that “God can’t give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.”

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(1) https://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
(2) http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/snapshot.aspx
(3) https://www.instapaper.com/read/894555129
(4) http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/september/are-us-christians-really-persecuted.html?start=2
(5) https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/preliminary-semiannual-uniform-crime-report-januaryjune-2016
(6) https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76
(7) https://studentloanhero.com/featured/effects-of-student-loan-debt-us-economy/
(8) https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2016/03/28/u-s-debt-is-heading-toward-20-trillion-where-its-been-where-its-going-and-why/#57a60a197a25
(9) https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics
(10) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-statistics
(11) https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/05/01/stress-negativity-mindfulness/100989170/
(12) Thomas V. Brisco, Holman Bible Atlas, Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998); p158-186

 

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2017

In Pursuit of Stillness

“Be still, and know that I am God;” (Psalm 46:10 a)

There are times I hearken back to the days when I was a child. Summer was the best of times for me. I spent most of it barefoot, playing with my siblings and friends; all the while exploring and inventing imaginary games of adventure and fun. School would be out for the Summer, and other than a few chores, I had no real responsibilities to contend with. My parents wisely recognized the importance of play and unstructured time for kids.

On warm Summer days when it became too hot to play, I would often scamper up an old car tire that we had leaning against a massive trunk of a stately Silver Maple that resided in our backyard.

From the tire, I would reach up to grab hold of the lowest limb, from there I would swing up onto the huge limbs that offered shade from the hot rays of the midday sun. The branches were so big that I could easily lay back comfortably, resting by body much like I was sitting in a large wooden lounge chair.

With it’s branches dressed in shimmering leaves that stirred  gently in response to the touch of the warm afternoon breezes, I would lay nestled securely under the massive canopy of greenery.

The warm summer air would often draw me into a sleepy dreamlike state. It  would be then that I would find myself entranced,  staring upwards as I would lay on my back watching the occasional birds bounding and chirping from one branch to another.

In those moments, all would be well in my world; there were no worries, I found myself awash  in a state of blissful peace.

I believe God originally intended for us to live our lives without the worries and anxieties that we’re routinely faced with today. Sadly, when humanity fell, the Evil One stole from us the security and peace that was once intended.

Since then, we’ve continued to trade God for a world filled with stuff, worries, busyness, and the constant concerns of life. We’re fed a steady diet of news, piped directly to us at every moment of the day. Most of the news is bad. But Evil sells, so we have lots of bad news.

Even as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, one would think I would be able to steer clear of the worry and stresses of this life, but there are times where I manage to allow myself to become gradually sucked into an abyss of worry. I recently heard a pastor share that “tomorrow is God’s realm and not ours.”  What a simple but profound thought.

In reality, worry is a symptom of misplaced trust, or more accurately, lack of trust in the only One for whom any trust should be given. Jesus.

Jesus said that He came so that you and I might live out our lives to the full. (John 10:10) He did not say we should live out our lives in a state of stress and worry.

Admittedly, I toil to live my life to the full. Often I allow the noises and worries of this life to drown out the gentle voice of my Lord. At times, I’m so busy trying to tackle the struggles of this life, that I don’t always savor the moments of fullness that Jesus wants me to have.

I am reminded that I am but an imperfect person, born in an imperfect world. Because we live in this fallen state, I cannot hope to live my current life as fully as I will one day be able to in Heaven. Yet Jesus has given us a little taste of where all of this is going. When He came, He did so to set the stage for his final return.

In the meantime, I need to take the advice of the Psalmist who shared a simple but direct message from our Heavenly Father; “be still and know that I am God.”

While I can’t fully disconnect from our world, that’s not realistic in our current imperfect state;  I can consciously and intentionally elect to carve out part of my day and spend it with Jesus.

The choice is ours to figure out  in terms of when and how. But I know for me it’s been a priority to turn off my connectivity for part of each day, to spend that time in prayer, to read my Bible, to meditate upon Scripture, or consider a devotion.

Furthermore, with God’s help, I have learned that I need to keep on surrendering my burdens to Jesus, (Matthew 11:28 ) because I cannot carry them myself.

But the most important pursuit in my walk with the Lord is to “be still.” Allowing me to hear Him speak to my heart, secure my mind, and bring a divine peace to my soul that only God can provide.

Peace Through Division

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

A sword divides that which it strikes. By its nature it is associated with conflict. We are called to honor God with all of our being, with all that we are. We do so not out of obligation, but from a continuous loving response to His love for us.

As His people, we are called to be holy. This is a reflection of God’s very nature. The Hebrew word for “holy” means that we are to be “set apart,” such that we may serve God in a manner that is consistent with His nature.

It is from the scriptures that we learn of God’s nature, we know this through God’s word which is made known to us through his Spirit which resides within each of us. (Ephesians 6:17) His word has been described as the “sword of the Spirit.”

We are on a journey in this life, however long or short it might be. In this time, God’s word is penetrating and powerful, it will judge our very thoughts, attitudes, and the true motivations of our hearts and minds. (Hebrews 4:12)

It’s only when we respond honestly; to the reality of what God’s word reveals in our hearts, that we grow, that our journey in this life becomes clear, that His peace reigns over any circumstance we may face.

Are you being truly honest with yourself in what God is revealing about you and your life’s choices, your priorities, or how you’re spending your time and resources? Dividing is painful, but more so when we cling to that which we should let go.

To be set apart is to divide ourselves from our old self and to cling to God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. For only then shall we experience a lasting peace that transcends all understanding.

Differing Measures

One of the largest and most powerful warships of its day, and the pride of Gustav II Adolf, the King of Sweden, was launched on August 10, 1628. The “Vasa, named after the ruling Vasa Dynasty, boasted an array of 64 bronze cannons, was crewed by 150 sailors and capable of carrying some 300 soldiers. She was in excess of 200 feet in length with a displacement of over 1,400 tons. With over 13,000 square feet of sail, this 17th century vessel was a force to be reckoned with.

An excited public watched and celebrated along the shores of Strömmen, as the great ship prepared to depart on its maiden voyage. On that particular Sunday morning, the Vasa hosted over a hundred crew members, along with family and guests, which were allowed to join the ship for the first leg of its passage through the Archipelago.

Incredibly, after having been under construction for over two years, the maiden voyage lasted only twenty minutes. The Vasa traveled less than one mile before a gust of wind unexpectedly caused the ship to heel over to its port side. The resulting massive flooding, as water rushed into the open lower gun ports, sank the ship within minutes, taking with it the lives of thirty people.

Subsequent inquests spread the blame for the untimely sinking amid a variety of people and causes, but no one cause or person was identified as the primary reason for the ship’s demise; the inquest concluded that the ship was “inherently unstable.” The actual mechanical reasons that caused the instability of the Vasa would remain entombed with the ship for nearly four hundred years.

In 1961, the remains of the incredibly well preserved Vasa were located and raised, and over a period of several years the ship was restored and ultimately placed in a Swedish museum for others to view and study. Archeologists studying the Vasa identified several factors that might have contributed to the ship’s sinking; including a lack of adequate ballast and a top heavy design. But these factors by themselves did not possess sufficient explanatory power to fully explain Vasa’s hasty demise.

In June of 2012, a major four year study was completed in the hopes of identifying the source of her instability. The study was headed by Vasa Museum’s director of research Fred Hocker. The project set out to document and measure all the timbers used in the construction of the Vasa. Doing so required the team to map some 80,000 separate points on the ship, using advanced digital 3D technology.

To their surprise, after analyzing the data, the project team learned that the ship was actually built in an asymmetric shape.

The ship was built lopsided.

In this case, there were more ship building materials on the port side of the ship, than on the starboard side. If this had been unknown at the time of construction, then the ship would indeed have been highly unstable, and likely to roll to the left side when faced with a strong wind or rough ocean.

But how did such an error, which resulted in this unstable shape, insert itself into the final construction work at the shipyard?

As part of their examination of the Vasa, Hocker and his team had earlier discovered within the ship, four rulers left behind by the original shipbuilders. The significance of this piece of historical evidence had not been fully understood at the time of its discovery. But that would change.

Upon careful examination, it turned out that these rulers were based on two different measurement standards.

The team also determined from historical records that the carpenters who built the Vasa, originated from both Holland and Sweden.

Two of the rulers were in Swedish feet and the others were in Amsterdam feet, which were slightly different in lengths. As the ship was being built, it was speculated that each carpenter used their own measuring standard to cut the timbers used for the ship.

Because no single objective measuring standard was used, the resulting vessel that was built came out lopsided and therefore highly unstable. This final part of the puzzle provided the last explanatory piece of data to close out the mystery behind the mighty Vasa’s demise.

Scientists concluded that the lopsided ship tended to naturally lean to its port side, because it was built based upon two different definitions of how long a “foot” was, and when the gust of wind arose on that fateful day, the ship simply keeled over to its naturally heavy side. Because the ship was not balanced properly, and was considered top heavy, when the water flooded in, it was not able to recover and return to an upright position. Instead it remained on its side and immediately sank.

Thankfully, in today’s world, we generally have agreement on objective standards to determine how long a foot is, how much volume a gallon actually contains, or how hot or cold something might be. Having objective standards allows us to operate in a predictable and safe manner.

But are such objective standards limited only to physical attributes in our lives? What about behavioral standards of conduct that govern how we relate to God and one another? Are there objective standards available for us to live our lives by? If so, what are the consequences of attempting to live outside of God’s ideal for us?

Jesus was once asked by a religious official, with respect to the laws and commandments they lived by, which one was the most important? Jesus responded by citing not one, but two commandments; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30–31)

In his response Jesus looked past the legalistic and religious intent of this official, and responded by summarizing all of the commandments into two simple objective relationship truths.

In essence, these principles state that the most important relationship we could ever have is the one we have with God. We need to give our all to God, our heart, Soul, and Mind. If that relationship is healthy, we will have the foundation to carry out the second great relationship truth, and that would be to love those around us and to love ourselves. Choosing to adopt God’s objective truths about relationships permits us to live our lives fully, as Jesus intended us to do. (John 10:10)

Of course, when we as a people choose to reject God’s truth claims, and substitute our own personal truths, our relationships in this life inevitably become unstable. In the end, by choosing to use a multitude of differing “measurement rulers” to live by, we are left with no objective standard to assess what is healthy in our relationships, no basis in which to grapple with real world issues. Instead we are armed only with a shifting social framework, dictated by the winds of an ever changing public opinion. Frequently God’s “Truth” with a capital “T” becomes lost in the myriad of individual truths, with a lowercase “t.”

No one has to be a sociological expert to recognize that we live in an incredibly unstable society. For the most part, much of our society has accepted, as normative, a variety of unhealthily relationship models that lie outside of what God desired for his creation. Additionally, our news is filled with stories of theft, corruption and embezzlement, along with a seemingly endless list of violent acts that we as humans seem so easily and capable of perpetrating upon one another.

Yet despite all of our poor choices, Jesus still loves us. (Romans 5:8) He knows that true love can only be true, if the object of his love responds willingly and voluntarily to Him and his offer of an eternal relationship. With that relationship, and obedience to God’s objective truths, come peace and purpose in this life. (Proverbs 3:1-2)

God will never force his plan for our eternal salvation upon us. It becomes our choice entirely as to how we will choose to respond to His love for us. Our behaviors are ultimately a product of our choices. Our choices a product of what we believe is true.

In this life we have the choice to either humble ourselves and willingly trust and obey God’s objective truths, or to trade these truths for our own contrived, and often self-serving concepts of truth with predictable results. (John 3:19)

How do I want to live and build my life? Do I want a life built like the Vasa was built, with many differing standards, or will I anchor my life securely in God, resting upon His set of objective principles as revealed in the Scriptures?

The Depth of Love

Recently, I saw a demonstration of the harsh environment of the ocean in a news report. Scientists were showing the effects of water pressure on various objects at depths of fifteen thousand feet. These various everyday objects were taken by a deep sea submarine to the great depths of the ocean. When they were returned to the surface, they did so, crushed to a fraction of their original size. All this owing to the great pressures found at such incredible depths.

This poignant picture caused me to consider the strength of love. Love faces great pressures each day, pressures from the effects of our lives, from the challenges we face, from our choices, and I suppose ultimately from our natural hearts. We naturally do not possess the shielding required to preserve ourselves under these conditions.

Thankfully we have a place we can draw upon to build up the strength, to love ourselves and others, in the face of the many great difficulties and challenges of this life.

I speak of course of the love of Christ.

According to the scriptures, God’s most amazing and eternal love, has been given to each of us who trust Him and have surrendered to Him, “…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”(Rom 5:5)

And this love that He has given us can never be taken from us. “…neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Rom 8:39)

The scriptures tell us that love has many qualities, including the fact that love seeks to trust, to hope, and to persevere.

Life is hard. And sometimes those closest to us are the ones that say or do things that can really challenge us. For the Believer though, we must seek to view those times through the lens of God, utilizing the Love that he has placed in our hearts. With this love we must seek to exhibit His patience to those we love, as He does each day for us. After all, none of us are very far from His Grace. For that we can be thankful.

To love someone deeply, is to not be easily angered when they do unloving things, to not dishonor them, to not keep any record of wrongs, and to remember, that in the end, true love never fails.

Let me conclude by sharing an excerpt from the Apostle Paul, a note about love that he recorded in a letter to the members of an early church, in the city of Corinth in about AD 55. His observations about Love are timeless.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Granting Ourselves Permission

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

Sometimes in life we just need a friend to come along side and give us a word of encouragement.

I recently had the privilege to provide a few words of encouragement this week to a person that the Lord had been putting on my heart.

What a blessing it was to do so!

As part of those words, I shared a passage from Matthew 11:28 in which Jesus reminded me that He is available to each of us, to lay our burdens down at His feet, to receive the rest He is offering us.

Life has a way of tiring us out, and we often grow weary, not necessarily from a big single burden, although that can be the case, but often it is the weariness of carrying a bunch of small burdens.

When we carry those burdens, and if we’re the type of person that finds it hard to ask for help, we soon find ourselves pretty worn out. And worse yet, we start to feel like somehow we don’t measure up, or that we are in some way failing either ourselves or those closest to us, or we feel guilty because we can’t seem to handle whatever burden it is and we think we should be able to handle it.

Soon the joy in our heart is robbed.

If you are one of these people, let me start by sharing that you are perfectly normal. You heard me…perfectly normal.

Do you know why?

Because we are not perfect!

Sometimes we just need someone to take the initiative and give us permission to ask for a chance to rest.
Wait no longer…Jesus gives you that permission. In fact he offers you the rest you need with no guilt! No strings attached…

Do the burdens of life just go away? They can, but mostly they don’t. But if we can rest, He can give us the insight, grace, and strength to go beyond.

The Bible says that we are one in the body of Christ. (Rom 12:4) Meaning that each of us who have received Jesus into our lives are in fact part of Him. A healthy body has parts that work together to keep the whole functioning well.

If you’re weary, remember that Jesus has given you permission to rest with no guilt attached. Ask God to bring a person to mind that could give you some respite to, and then go ask them. Chances are they would be honored to help you.

If you’re the one being approached by another seeking rest, count it a great blessing that you can worship God by filling a practical need.

If God brings a person to your mind that needs rest…show them your love by sending them a note, let them know that they can claim the rest that Jesus offered, and then offer yourself as that person who can help them!

Do you know why rest is so important?

When we are resting, our minds are not cluttered with the many burdens’ we are carrying. That means when God speaks to our hearts, we have a chance of hearing Him. If we can hear Him, He will give you the means to help you release the burden you are carrying.

I wonder how often I have not heard God because I felt guilty, or worried what others might think if I took some time to rest.

So take a moment and rest…be still…“Be still and know that I am God….”(Psalms 46:10)

 

 

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