SABBATH REST

We enjoy camping.  While our method of camping is certainly not “roughing it”, we do enjoy the retreat into the RV and the varied scenery that we encounter in different campgrounds that we have visited across the U.S. 

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Mississinewa River, Indiana Standing along the shore looking at the 7 pillars of the Miami Nation of Indians near Peru, Indiana

Camping, getting away from the hectic schedule even we retired people have, is a marvelous way to unwind and just relax, contemplate your relationship with the Lord and with the various people in your family, church, work, etc.  And we do just that, but for the vast majority of the time, we relax.  We rest.  We just sit and look at the beautiful scenery, or we walk and get closer to it. 

Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho

There usually is no schedule and nothing that would require our attention if we didn’t want to pay attention to it.  And, at least after the campground deadline for “quiet time”, there is the solitude that comes from being in God’s creation, simply soaking in the silence and then the sounds of the evening. Rest for the mind, rest for the body, and rest for the soul.

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Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

God knows that we need rest – He made us and knows us intimately.  He knows that nonstop work is harmful to us, just about as harmful to us as nonstop idleness.  He commanded that we stop work and rest on the 7th day, the Sabbath, the day that He declared to be holy unto the Lord. 

In giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, God said:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Exodus 20:8-11

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River in Yellowstone National Park

In the Garden of Eden things were wonderful – Adam and Eve were not subject to the difficulties that sin introduced into the world.  However, once they were banished from the Garden and subject to sin, God had to set out commandments so that His people would know His moral law. 

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.”

Psalm 19:7-9

Consider what the Psalmist says about keeping the law of the Lord.  The soul is revived, the simple become wise, the heart rejoices, the eyes are enlightened, not to mention that the fear (reverence and awe) of the Lord endures forever, and His rules are true and righteous. 

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Badlands National Park, Interior, South Dakota

Needless to say, these commandments are not just for the Old Testament folks!  While the New Testament Christians are not “under the law”, the commandments reflect how our God wants us to live, and we are told of the benefits of following the commands of our God.  Surely, we must obey them even in the 21st century. 

[I realize that there are many in service professions that must work on the weekend, and that includes the day called the “Sabbath” or for the Christian on Sunday, the first day of the week;  but for those folks, there should be another day on which they look to their Savior dedicating their time and energy to Him.]

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Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

God understands that we need that time to recalibrate our lives and to refocus so that we are looking to God as the source of life and all that it has to offer.  Contrary to our world’s culture and Hollywood, we are not the center of the universe, God is.  He is due our reverence, loyalty and love.

Rest is not only a subject of the commandments — Jesus had some poignant words about rest as well.  In one of the most beautiful passages in Matthew, Jesus says:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Rest for your souls.  That, my Beloved, is what our culture is longing for and which they will not find in materialism, philosophies, or any place other than God.  Don’t be deceived by anything that promises joy, comfort and rest without reliance on God, the Father Almighty.  It is in His arms that rest and relief from sin can be achieved.  He is the author of rest and it is only through Him that it can be received.

Father, I praise Your Name for the rest that comes only from You through Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer.  For those who seek this rest, I pray that You would grant them Your Spirit to show them the way, through Christ our Lord, I pray.

ARE YOU YOKED?

 

Although Jesus is not here physically right now to teach us, we are not left to wonder what He said while on this planet.  We have His words recorded in Scripture.  One of His commands is found in Matthew 11:29: 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””

Matthew 11:29-30 ESV

We in the modernized world are not necessarily familiar with a yoke or being yoked together.  The yoke was the symbol of hard work. Yokes were used to control working animals, and sometimes they were put on the necks of slaves or prisoners.  A yoke could be made for one animal pulling a plow or threshing board alone, but it was often made to link two animals together as they worked.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a yoke as a crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen, mules, or other draft animals working in a team.

yoke

 

You will recall that, prior to His ministry, Jesus was raised with, and presumably worked alongside, His step-father Joseph who, being a good Jewish parent, would have been responsible for teaching his son a trade.  While Scripture does not say that Joseph was a carpenter, we can presume that this was what Joseph did since Scripture says that Jesus did this type work. See Mark 6:3 [ESV] where we read:

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? 

Furthermore, it does not stretch the imagination to think that Joseph, and likewise Jesus, made yokes to be used on the animals in the area.  They would most certainly have been familiar with the needs of the farmers and would have taken care to make the yoke strong while at the same time making it smooth so that it would not hurt or injure the animal that was going to be lashed to it.     

When the farmer wanted to train a young ox to pull a plow, he did not put the young animal in a single yoke attached to the plow.  The animal would not know where to go and it would not understand the direction of the farmer.  Nor would he put two untrained animals in the same yoke – they likely would be unmanageable and the field might be ruined. 

Rather, the farmer would yoke the young ox together with an old, experienced ox. The older ox would have had long experience serving the farmer and he would know the voice of his master, obeying the directives being given.  The young ox could feel the authority of the older animal through the yoke that bound them together, and the young ox could, thereby, also learn to obey the commands of the master.

Because He knows His children, He has made the yoke to be the exact size and strength that will be needed for each of us; no man’s yoke is too hurtful or punishing.  And, Jesus is further saying that He is yoked together with us.  He is able to teach us through the yoke.  We cannot go anywhere without Him.  He guides us because we are together with Him.  He prevents us from going astray by nudging us back into the right way.  And, He is ready to keep us from falling because He is yoked to us and His strength will carry us when we cannot do so on our own. 

The believer is working in tandem with Christ in service to our Father, and this is something that only happens in a life of faith.  Being yoked with Christ means being a disciple of Christ and having the mind of obedience that He had. 

The obedient life does not equate to lying on a bed of roses.  No “prosperity gospel” here! Rather, the life to which you are called as a disciple yoked to Jesus may mean missions in a far country; it may mean reaching out to the neighbor beside you.  It may require you to take steps of mercy toward someone who has hurt you in the past, or it may mean an illness, loneliness or some other hard situation to endure. 

When your yoke is difficult, remember Jesus endured humiliation, torture and death on the cross.  He experienced unimaginable horrors not because He deserved them but because we deserved them.  He felt the pain of sin and rejection by God because that is what we would have experienced if it were not for His sacrifice.  But that is not the end of the story, praise the Lord!

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. … But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:20, 23 ESV

Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and lives, today, in Heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  Because He lives, we too shall live.  He is the Victor over death and hell.  He has endured so that He could save His people.  This is the One who is yoked with you.  He is able to do all that we need to bring us to God as His children

We often try to serve God in our own strength by doing things our way. On our own we don’t know how to do God’s work.  Rather, we need to learn God’s ways somehow and we can do so by being yoked together with His Son, Jesus Christ.  He will teach us what it means to obey our Master through the direction that the yoke can give to us.  

When we obey Him, the yoke will be easy and the load light.  Then, our soul will be able to rest even while we work for God.

Father, when I try to run off on my own to do what I think is “your work”, please let me feel the pull of the yoke of Jesus Christ to bring me back to Your will.  Enable me to serve You in the power of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit and in accordance with Your direction and Your will.

CONTENTMENT – A BIBLICAL POSTURE!

We see something on television about a new product that makes us consider whether our older version of the same thing is still a viable alternative for use. Or, we see something that our neighbor has purchased and it appears to be better than what we have so we want to “upgrade”, shall we say!

 

You know the feeling … that discontent with what we have or with what we are doing?

 

We compare ourselves with others and, somehow, we way too often come up lacking.

  • If only I had that job instead of this one…
  • If only my hair would …
  • If only I had received that promotion …
  • If only I had that house, or car, or dress, instead of this one …
  • If only I was as slender as that lady …
  • If only my children were like theirs …
  • If only …

 

Our canine daughters, Cuddles and Snickers, illustrate this discontent quite often when they both vie for the same toy even though the toy box is filled with other playthings, sometimes even a duplicate of that which they are fighting over.

 

Cuddles and Snickers tug of war
This is mine! Get your own!

 

Don’t misunderstand me, there are times when people are mistreated and abused and there is a legitimate reason for the hurt that is felt. We must work to resolve those issues and/or injustices.

 

I am referring to discontent that is also known as covetousness. I can hear the voices now. “I know that the tenth commandment is ‘Thou Shall Not Covet’!  I don’t do that!”

 

Really?

 

That was my first response when I was reading an article entitled “Thou Shall Not Covet” by Jason Helopoulos in the June 2015 Tabletalk magazine from Ligonier Ministries.   His words were convicting in the first order. In speaking of the reason that coveting is so harmful, he states:

Coveting pulls the heart down into the pit of self-seeking and the muck and mire of envy, slander, adultery, pride, dishonor, murder, thievery, and idolatry. It has rightly been said that when we break any of the first nine commandments, we also break the tenth commandment.

 

For us to combat covetousness, first we need to follow Jesus’ commands in Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

As a youth, I sang a song  that said something like this:  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”  When our eyes are on the Lord and His gracious gifts to us, the things of earth will begin to dim in our eyes.

 

Second, we need to follow the example of Paul:

I have learned in whatever situation to be content.

Philippians 4:11b.

 

Contentment is not something we can buy, fight for or grab – it is something in which we should rest. God is sovereign and He, therefore, knows exactly what we need and His grace is sufficient for every trial.   Quoting Rev. Helopoulos again:

If God thought it was good for us to have more, he would give us more. Every Christian rightly seeks to maintain this mind-set. And when this is the case, what joy contentment brings to the Christian life.

 

Third, we should be thankful. Thankfulness forms a hedge around us enabling us to focus on God rather than on the transient things that form our world.   It is hard to be thankful when you are coveting that which others have. Likewise, it is hard to be discontented when you are thankful for the blessings provided by our Sovereign God.

 

As a result of polio, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis (twisting of the spine) when I was 6 years old. When I was 9 years of age, I was put into a body cast and then had surgery to try to stop the twisting that would otherwise have taken my life by age 25.  Although I was in the body cast for over a year, I didn’t miss any school because I had a home-bound teacher from the Chicago school system.

Linda on hospital cart revised
This was me in the body cast. It began behind my head and then it encompassed my body all the way down to my hips and then to my left knee.   I could not raise my head, even to read a book or see television.  That is why I wore prism glasses so I could look through them and see what was in the room, rather than just the ceiling.

 

Rather than being thankful for the healing that was going on in my body, I was crying one day when she came into my room .  Rather than giving me a shoulder to cry on, she demanded “What’s wrong with you!” My response was a feeble, “Because I’m in a body cast!” She then taught me a lesson that I have not forgotten over the 55 years since she spoke these words:

“You are crying over a temporary thing. A child down the street has brittle bones and there is no cure … she breaks a bone when she turns in bed and she is constantly in excruciating pain. Now, what is wrong with spending some time in bed … you have a determined end to your procedure, she does not! So I ask you again, ‘Why are you crying?’”

 

Although I could not articulate it then, through the decades since she said those words, I have found them to be true … when you are hurting, when there are problems and difficulties that are overwhelming, just open your eyes and look around and you will find others who have problems far more difficult than your own. This will put your burdens in perspective.

 

While it is tempting to keep your eyes on your own pain and problems, engaging in self-pity is never productive. Step back from the situation. Don’t become discontented. Rather, look to the Lord, rest in God’s unfailing grace and give Him thanks for His loving hand that encompasses you even when you are not aware of it and problems abound. Psalm 139 states that God knows our every move, word and action. And, nowhere in scripture are these verses revoked.

 

When things are difficult, when pain has set in and when your world is in a cataclysmic nose-dive, you can trust that your Lord has you in His hands and that God knows exactly what is going on.   I don’t mean that he will immediately fix whatever the situation is, but you can rest assured that His grace and comfort will be poured out to help you through the trial.

 

Discontentment – while it often is a reality, it is always sin. I must acknowledge that it is a sin and then repent, look to my Lord and give Him thanks for the salvation that He provides to me. Indeed, even the breath that I breathe is a gift from Him.  No matter how difficult our life is on this earth, it is for a short time – eternal life granted by our Lord is for, well, eternity!

 

Now, what about you?

 

Discontented? Confess, repent and allow His comfort to encompass you. Praise His Name and be thankful. Discontentment will vanish, and you will be able to live life to the fullest in His grace and love.

 

Father, forgive me for whining and crying about my circumstances when You have them in your control and your grace and mercy has lifted me above my circumstances.  Forgive me when I sink in the muck and mire of discontentment rather than realizing that You have already lifted me into your Courts through Christ my Lord and Savior.  May I praise your Name today.

REST – GET IT WHERE YOU CAN!

We were out to eat last weekend when a family passed us on their way to the restaurant table … a young child was asleep on his Daddy’s shoulder. What caught my attention was this sleeping child’s hand that was hanging over the man’s arm – the child was so sound asleep, his hand was absolutely limp so that it waved and wobbled with each step the man took.

Think about the last time you have really watched a child sleep. They seem to be able to sleep almost anywhere, with no trouble. Asleep at the porch table … I guess the food was not brought fast enough!

Child fell asleep waiting for lunch!
Child fell asleep waiting for lunch!

 

Then again, swinging and bouncing can sometimes lead to a tired child; touching the carpet with your tip‐toes can be hard for a little guy!

Swinging and bouncing can be exhausting!
Swinging and bouncing can be exhausting!

Think about being asleep with all sorts of commotion going on around you.

Asleep sitting up!
Asleep sitting up!

We have all seen little ones who are asleep in the car seat or carrier. A common sight often as infants are being carried through the store, swinging on Mom’s arm.

When we see these little ones we want to pray for their future, that they would know the Lord and for all the dreams, hopes and aspirations that come with new life.

 

Sleeping newborn.
Sleeping newborn.

 

Then there is the sleep of a child in the arms of one who loves him/her.  We love the times that our children and grandchildren have climbed up into waiting arms and cuddled, secure in the embrace of a parent/grandparent who loves them, who will defend them, and care for them even when they are asleep and dreaming their wonderful infant dreams.

Grandfather and infant grandson resting together!
Grandfather and infant grandson resting together!

 

 

Grandmother holding sleeping grandson.
Grandmother holding sleeping grandson.

While we know that sleep is mandatory, that it is something that we must have for us to be healthy, often we adults simply do not get enough of it. Unfortunately, the pace of our world with jobs, housework, family, church, social obligations and who knows what else [you fill in the blank], creates such a frenetic atmosphere that we as adults simply cannot rest, relax … or sleep.

But sleep does not elude us just because of our calendars. Sometimes we have physical issues such as pain from an injury or surgery. Then too there are the psychological, emotional and spiritual issues that claim our night hours. It might be that we have worries about finances or health of ourselves, family or friends. There could be concern about employment security, about financing retirement, or about obtaining that first job in a market where jobs are truly scarce.   Perhaps it is concern about words spoken that should not have been; deeds that we knew should be done but which were not; attitudes that colored our views of people and conversations which were unkind, at best.  And aging, for some reason, seems to rob us of sleep so that it is harder to fall and stay asleep than it was years earlier.

Just as we cuddle our grandchildren, Scripture teaches that God longs for us to come to Him with outstretched arms.

God says in Isaiah 49:15 [NIV]:

 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

 

Again, in Isaiah 66:13 [NIV], the Prophet records God as saying:

 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort  you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

 

 

David knew of this longing. Psalm 139 is an incredibly beautiful song talking of God’s love and His care for His children. I urge you to read the entire Psalm, but verses 8 through 10 [ESV] describe the omnipresence of God’s love and care:

If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

 

 

Hundreds of years after Psalm 139 was written, Jesus said:

 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 [ESV]

 

 

As Christians, the closeness that we have with God is described by Paul in Romans 8:15:

 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [ESV]

 

 

Where can you get rest? Ultimately, true rest is only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who has, through His death and resurrection, secured our ability to call out to God, “Abba Father”.

Believe in Him, then rest in Him, Beloved. He will hold you through all your difficulties, and He will never let you go!

So, where do you find your rest?

SECURITY – WHERE DO YOU FIND IT?

Remembering a childhood over half a century ago (okay, I am legitimately old at least in my children’s opinion), we could ride bikes throughout the city without fear.  No mobile phone, no texting, no lunch!

We find Mayberry’s Andy and Opie humorous and we remember when life was like “Leave it to Beaver” – generally carefree and congenial.  But that was then, not now.  Security seems to be something that we long for and search after more these days than ever before.  For good reason, some would argue … more violent crimes; more terrorist activity; more drug related crimes; more … and the list could go on ad nauseum.

I don’t know if there is actually “more” of these activities than in the past, but I do know that these events are more readily visible now.  We have our cell phones and ipods with built in cameras that take video of offending activity as it occurs – no matter where in the world it is taking place.  Yes, it seems that there is more reason for security measures than in the past.

Cuddles asleep on heart pillow
Cuddles asleep on heart pillow

We can have guard dogs to attack anyone trying to get into our home.  (Okay, Cuddles is hardly the sterling example of a guard dog as she is reclining on her heart pillow, but if there was an intruder ….!)

We can hire security firms to put locks and sensors on the doors and windows of the house.  We put our valuables in safe deposit boxes.  We put our money at the bank. We go to the doctor even though we know that the body is aging and that there is a limit to what medicine can do.

In Matthew 6:19, Jesus tells us that we should not focus on gathering treasures here on earth where they are only temporary.  Rather, we should lay up treasures in heaven. In short, eternal treasures trump earthly ones every time! In verse 25 Jesus says that we should not be anxious about our life—what we should eat or drink or about what we should wear.

In giving these illustrations, Jesus has covered the waterfront of necessities – food, drink, and clothing.  He then says that God knows we need such things. If we are not to be anxious over necessities, we certainly should not be anxious over the frivolous add-ons that take up so much of our attention.

Our job is to focus on putting our treasures in the kingdom of God.  We are to seek His kingdom and His righteousness … and the rest will be added to us from God.  Matthew 6:25-34.

The writer of Proverbs says “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”  (Proverbs 12:25)  I suggest that many of us can verify the truth of this statement!

Paul says: “[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7.  If we do this, verse 6 promises that we will the peace of God guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This doesn’t mean that we ignore what we need or what situation or circumstance faces us; we just are not to stress over it.

Do we want security?  I suggest that we rest in God’s arms.  Lose the anxiety and worry; the fret and cares.  Hand them to God through prayer and then let Him exchange your cares for His peace.  Focus on His kingdom, rather than this world.

Snickers asleep on Daddy's lap.
Snickers asleep on Daddy’s lap.

I realize that no analogy is foolproof and I don’t want this to be misunderstood – but when I visualize resting in God’s arms, I can’t help but see it illustrated in our canine children.  Snickers falls asleep, and snores, when laying on my husband’s lap – tummy fully exposed and head dropped back with eyes virtually glued shut.  Vulnerable? Yes.  Relaxed?  Yes.  Scared?  No.  She is secure in the arms of one who loves her and will care for her.

So, the question is — do you trust in things of this world, or in the God who created this world?

Where do you find your security?