First Came Rest

God seems to be teaching me about rest just lately. Today my pastor was talking at church about something Jesus said. I’ve just looked this up and it’s not the wording I’m used to, but I like it: “Come to Me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept My teachings and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives” (Matthew 11:28-29). First it struck me that in Jesus’ order of things, resting and being refreshed comes before learning; then I got to thinking it’s always been like that … ever since the beginning.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (Genesis 2:2-3). God didn’t launch straight into giving Adam instructions on how to take care of the garden. First came rest, for God and all of His creation; then came the learning.

If you’re tired, maybe the best thing you can do right now is to put on your slippers and make yourself a hot drink, or turn on the electric blanket and lie down enjoying the warmth. The learning can wait for a little while; just take that time, and let the Lord refresh you from your weariness.

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31 Jesus-Benefits: Our Refreshing

“Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water” (John 4:6-7).

Day 11 of Write31Days and yesterday, we zoomed in on Jesus’ birth. Now here’s something He exemplified for us throughout His earthly ministry:

Finding refreshing in helping others.

Just for a minute, think of that well in the verses above as a Christian conference centre. There’s someone leading the worship, a speaker who’s helped and counselled for a while … Jesus comes in, worn-out after some time in ministry and in need of refreshment, but He plonks Himself down next to the most needy person in the room. They talk and as they do, the colour returns to His cheeks. He ends up revitalised, ready to go out again into the world He’s just drawn aside from.

As His followers, it’s the same for us. When we go somewhere to be ministered to, we may find we’re also ministering to others.

“Meanwhile His disciples urged Him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’

“But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about’” (John 4:31-32).

Refreshing

“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).

 

This verse has always spurred me on towards doing good.  It’s a great reminder that when you give to others, far from losing out (as the world would have you believe), you actually gain from it.  When you refresh others, you’ll be refreshed yourself.

 

I don’t know how that refreshing will look for you, but personally, God has met my financial needs; He’s put just the right people in my life at just the times I’ve needed their encouragement …  I know I’ve mentioned Kelly before on the blog (a songwriter in the US):  We’re not in-touch so much now, but 2006 was a very difficult year, and the words to her songs a real Godsend (my favourites aren’t on YouTube, sadly).

 

Can you see God in the middle of your difficulty?  My prayer is that you’ll look back one day and see how He supported you, and if you’re going through a hard season at the moment, this is a place where you’re free to comment if you want to.  I’m happy to chat.

Our Calling

This is part 4 of the Christmas story.  If you’ve missed any, you can read the rest here.

 

One main character I haven’t written about yet is Joseph.  Mary told him about the pregnancy and he was distraught.  The obvious conclusion was that she’d been with another man, which would have caused a real scandal.  Joseph cared deeply about Mary’s reputation.  Being legally bound to her, he considered divorcing her quietly, presumably to allow her to marry the father of her child, but an angel visited him in a dream and explained things.  “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).  Joseph received direction from God in several dreams, and as my pastor pointed out, God also provided the means for him to follow these instructions.  The Magi came with gold, frankincense and myrrh when, unbeknown to Joseph, he was just about to take his family to Egypt for quite some time and would have needed those gifts to finance their trip.

The Christmas song that’s touched me most this year is “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card.  It’s a prayer that Joseph might have prayed:

“Father, show me where I fit into this plan of Yours;

“How can a man be father to the Son of God?

“LORD, for all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter;

“How can I raise a King, how can I raise a King?”

I’m certain we aren’t all called to father the Son of God, but at times, our callings will overwhelm us all, and what’s overwhelming to one person will seem small and insignificant to someone else.  We can’t rely on other people to get us through when we’re weak and seem to have reached the end of ourselves, but there is One we can rely on.  “I can do all things through Christ, because He gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  Sometimes He puts other people in our lives to share our problems and help us, but when those people aren’t there, He always is.

Has the run-up to this Christmas week left you sapped of strength?  It’s not too late to ask God for refreshment.  “But the people who trust the Lord will become strong again.  They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired” (Isaiah 40:31).

A-Z: Yes!

I expect at some point you’ve read or heard somebody say something and you’ve thought:  “Yes!  I really needed to hear that.”  I’ve had a couple of those yes-moments in the last few days, and here’s the one from today.  It’s a post from Holley about recharging the batteries and God’s power going out from you.  I’ve mentioned Holley on the blog before.  I like her posts.  They tend to be short, and some (like this one) are so impactful; I’d really recommend you read it.

Invigorating Oil

I opened my E-mails this morning to read the devotional I start the day with.  It was about reading Scripture with fresh eyes, and it asked me to read a familiar passage from the Bible in a new translation, as if I was reading God’s love-letter for the very first time.

 

I didn’t want to put it off for later, so I went online and looked at Psalm 23.  In the Amplified Bible, there’s a footnote at the end about verse 5, where it says God anoints the Psalmist’s head with oil.  I knew it was the custom when somebody visited to pour oil on their head, to make them welcome, so when I read that verse, I’ll usually think how good it is that I’m welcomed by God, but today I learnt something new.  In hot climates, the footnote said, people’s bodies were anointed with oil to protect them from excessive perspiration and, mixed with perfume, it gave a refreshing, invigorating sensation.  Athletes poured oil on their bodies before they ran a race, to better fit them for action and so, in the same way, God anoints us with His Holy Spirit.

 

So now, when I read Psalm 23:5, I can remember not only that God welcomes me, but also that He refreshes me and renews my strength.

 

Have you let God invigorate you lately?

“Unglued” Update

“Faith Without Borders” people, have you noticed we’re a teeny bit behind schedule?  We haven’t abandoned ship; Jess’s chapter 4 post is up now if you want to take a look, but I just thought I’d write and say would you keep us in your prayers?  I don’t know how Jess finds the time to do all that she does.  We really want to be there for you all and study this book together, so would you pray there’ll be time in the busyness for that, and also for our rest and our journeys with God?  We need Him to refresh us before we can refresh others.

 

Thank you for your prayers and please stick with us.  The group’s open till 2 December, so plenty of time to get through the book.

Ancient Paths

It was a Monday in the run-up to Easter 2011.  Over the next 4 weeks, I would hear a friend of mine do a series of Lent talks.  She must have felt overwhelmed at being asked to address people from every church in town.  This particular night, we chatted over plastic cups of tea until it was time to start.  She spoke about the beginnings of the NHS, intertwining it with verses from the Bible and a plea for us to act justly and treat others with compassion.  Near the end, she read a verse I’d never noticed before:

 

“This is what the Lord says:  ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’” – Jeremiah 6:16.  It didn’t seem to tie up with anything she’d said, but it stood out a mile for me.  I knew it was a God-moment, but I didn’t know what it meant.  It’s not a verse you hear often, but I’ve heard it 2 or 3 times since then, and every time I’ve wondered:  What are these ancient paths?

 

Well, today I got my answer.  I had the radio on, and Jarrod Cooper was talking about the times when God’s met with us in the past.  He said to think of those encounters with God not just as memories, but as wells of water we can drink from.  “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” – Isaiah 12:3.  I did as Jarrod suggested and thought of a time when I felt very close to God, and as I thought back to it, I felt such peace.  He encouraged us that on those days when we feel dry and stale, we don’t have to be thirsty because there are wells within us that we can go to for refreshment.  These are the ancient paths.

 

There may be people who struggle with the concept of looking back to the past for our sustenance.  Shouldn’t we focus on the future?  I asked that question too, but I’m discovering it’s all through the Bible.  A verse Jarrod quoted was Psalm 42:6:  “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You”, and I thought of Habakkuk’s prayer to God:  “I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.  Renew them in our day, in our time make them known” – Habakkuk 3:2.  He wanted God to do something new, but he never forgot what God had done in the past.

 

If you’re reading this, are you nodding your head in agreement, or shaking it in confusion?  Maybe you’ve never had a time when you’ve felt that connection between you and God.  If that’s the case, I would really encourage you to let Jesus into your life – Jesus who died to make that connection possible.