Strength and Dignity

REST

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Here we are, just 10 days until Christmas Day and most will agree they feel far from rested. The hustle and bustle of the season is nearly impossible to avoid. Programs, presents and parties can leave the days of December with little time for much else. My man has studied deeply the topic of rest and emphasized often the importance of rhythm in life. The continual problem I find is that life can be much like tall, awkward, pubescent boys at junior high dances … rhythm impossibility! However, when we take a look to the very beginning of time we will see a God-established rhythm of rest. Not only did God establish such rhythm; He exemplified it.

“So the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts (inhabitants). And by the seventh day God completed His work, which He had done, and He rested (ceased) on the seventh day from all His work, which He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it [as His own, that is, set it apart as holy from other days], because in it He rested from all His work which He had created and done.”
Genesis 2:2-3

God’s rest on the 7th day of creation was not as much about completion as it was preparation. It’s abundantly clear there was much more work to be done, but yet there was still a pause. That Holy pause allowed for pleasure to fall over what had been accomplished up until that point. The Holy pause also allowed for preparation for what would come next.

Without the Holy pause, God might have entered the Garden of Eden a bit differently after the whole “apple-eating incident”. You know, that first sin that broke His relationship with the ones He had created? Can you imagine? God created the universe only to be hurled into the fall of the man He just gave life to.

My thoughts wander to those depleted mom moments that arrive on the wings of exhaustion. Maybe the kitchen has been ordered and cleaned, I step away for just moments, and upon my return to my pristine kitchendom I now find complete disaster. As I struggle to pull myself together from the horror before my eyes, my foot falls into dog poop left by our beloved family pet. Monster mommy then makes an appearance, and she is not a calm, rational being.

The day His relationship with creation crumbled, God did not approach the Garden of Eden in a depleted state, whirling about in frustration or anger. No monster mommy moment for Him. God’s approach was to pursue His children, whom He deeply loved, with a heart that was gentle and a plan to restore and clean up the mess they had created.

Ever feel in desperate need of rest, but simply no time for it? We can find our lives in the unhealthy rhythm of jumping from one thing to the next; allowing ourselves to be drug into the never-ending quest to have it all done. That rhythm will inevitably lead us to places that resemble my monster mommy. So then, how does one find time to rest? The answer for most is it must be scheduled. There needs to be a commitment to make rest happen or it never will. Completion will not arrive in our lifetime on earth. There will always be just “one more thing” looming in the distance that needs to be done. Until that heavenly rest comes, what does earthly rest look like?

I think maybe earthly rest looks a lot like “Silent Night”.

Silent Night, Holy Night!

…all is calm, all is bright
…round yon virgin, mother and Child
…Holy Infant so tender and mild
…sleep in heavenly peace
…sleep in heavenly peace

These lyrics carry my soul to stillness; a vision of Christmas Eve service, the sanctuary of the church I grew up in, circled around the pews, holding a candle and singing…

Thinking on the calm that is spoken of in this beloved Christmas carol; Mary with her baby Jesus. It is so calm; they sleep with a heavenly peace. If you’ve every held a sleeping infant you know the peace that accompanies the moment; it is nothing less than heavenly. It’s a peace like no other. This is a peace that must be chosen. Only happening for as long as it’s allowed.

When will you take the Holy pause you need? When will you rest your soul?

Go get your calendar. I think you need to make an appointment.

 

Beginning

beginning

In the beginning, God created. These are the first words of the Bible. Within these 5 words a beginning is realized A beginning in which God preexisted being supreme over beginnings. The first action word of Scripture is created. Created: the action of taking nothing and making something, and that’s exactly what God did.

One of the entries in Webster’s Dictionary to define the word create is: to produce through imaginative skill

As a highly unimaginative, non-crafty type person, this definition of create finds me lacking. Now and again I get these crazy ideas to make something. Not like peanut butter and jelly kind of make something, but a real DIY kind of project. Setting out with Pinterest-like aspirations, and possibly even with step-by-step instructions; yet still, in only a matter of minutes I find myself sitting smack dab in the middle of a DIY nightmare! I really wish I could find some pictures to show you. Crackle paint. Sponge paint. No-sew curtains. Hair bows. What about a simple little round floral bouquet? It seemed to me all that would necessary for this project would be a green foam ball, some artificial flowers and hot glue. Hot glue, this is where things can get really messy for me. I haven’t quite mastered the glue gun. Attempting to clean excess glue from areas where I have been a bit trigger happy on a project I inevitably burn myself, forgetting the reason it’s called a HOT glue gun! If there were a requirement to be a licensed glue gun carrier, I would not be able to obtain such a license.

But seriously, look around you. God is the best DIY-er of all time!! He is creativity at it’s finest. He didn’t search Google for how to create the heavens and earth, day and night, man and woman, etc. All God did was open His mouth, commanding into existence the most beautiful world ever imagined. It was absolute perfection. Created with the perfect plan for life and love.

God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good and He validated it completely. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.”
Genesis 1:31

This perfect existence would indeed be brief, but for a short time it was truly heaven on earth! Heaven and nature were singing for sure!

Sometimes we need to let our gaze fall back to this beginning. Beginnings refresh, delivering a new start. Like when I mess up at one of those directed painting classes, and completely start over half way through the class. Covering the canvas up with one solid color and beginning again on a clean slate. It empowers me, making me feel determined that I can get it right this time. Have you ever tried that infamous reboot of your computer? That’s a new start.

One day there will be a reboot of this world. It will come by way of a new heaven and a new earth.

2 Peter 3:12-14
[while you earnestly] look for and await the coming of the day of God. For on this day the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the [material] elements will melt with intense heat! But in accordance with His promise we expectantly await new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
So, beloved, since you are looking forward to these things, be diligent and make every effort to be found by Him [at His return] spotless and blameless, in peace [that is, inwardly calm with a sense of spiritual well-being and confidence, having lived a life of obedience to Him].

SPOTLESS…BLAMELESS…in PEACE

Living a life of obedience to Him that is accompanied with inward calm and a spiritual sense of well-being and confidence will require many new beginnings. God freely offers them for sure, for He was the Creator of them…from the very beginning. It’s Monday, December 5th, and 20 days until the birthday of our King! What is the new beginning you find yourself in need of? No better time to reboot! Go to your Father God and ask Him, He’s the expert!

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Revelation 21:5-7

 

Redemption

As I think about the story of Rahab, I can’t help but marvel at the wondrous work of redemption that was accomplished in her story. We are told that Rahab was a prostitute. This label assigned to her multiple times, not being hidden within the pages of God’s Word.

“And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.” Joshua 6:17

“But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.” Joshua 6:25

“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Hebrews 11:31

“And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” James 2:25

Give the girl a break, right? We get the picture, she had an occupation, being what she DID, not who she WAS. I can relate, can you? Have you been in a place such as this? It’s a place where you are perceived but not really “known”. A place where something or someone identifies you completely, yet only makes up a small part of who you really are.

But…alas, there is a redeeming verse for Rahab. In a passage that literally delivers hope we once again find Rahab’s name, giving her a new and beautiful identity that few carry.

“…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.” Matthew 1:5-6

Rahab is one of 5 woman mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. Her name falls amongst the line of King Jesus, one of His Great-Grandmas. I call that a redeeming work! When God cast His gaze toward the battle of Jericho, He set His affection on a young lady named Rahab, and had wrote her into the greatest love story of all! As Rahab dropped that red cord from her window, not only would it bring rescue it would redeem and RENAME!

red-thread

Our all-knowing God knew that one day red would drop once again. This time it would not drop from a window, but from His One and only Son. This would become our renaming, redeeming rescue.

cross-red-scarf

This is who God is. He is all about redemption. It is the reason for this beautiful season. His deep desire to redeem His children from sin and death led Him to choose an offer of redemption. This redemption would be accomplished through a work that required the ultimate sacrifice, one that began with a baby boy. In the process of bringing Him into the world He chose to use some of the “least of these”, redeeming all along the way.

If you believe and follow Jesus you can’t separate who you are from the redeeming love of Jesus. You’re in the genealogy as well.

He calls us brothers:

Hebrews 2:11
“ For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,”

Brothers…of whom He is the Firstborn:

Romans 8:29
“For those whom He foreknew [and loved and chose beforehand], He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son [and ultimately share in His complete sanctification], so that He would be the firstborn [the most beloved and honored] among many believers.”

Being in the sibling group, we are fellow heirs:

Romans 8:16-17
“The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory.”

Now, if that is not redemption, what is?

Mark 3:31-35

“Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called for Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Look! Your mother and Your brothers are outside asking for You.” And He replied, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” Looking at those who were sitting in a circle around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God [by believing in Me, and following Me], he is My brother and sister and mother.”

BELIEVE…
FOLLOW…
Look up redeemed one…
there should be a star to guide you…
it’s your brother and King…JESUS!

Welcome

I enjoy hosting people and parties. Opening my home to food, friends, and fellowship brings me great joy, yet sometimes the preparation can rob the “welcome” from my heart. When I think of “welcome”, I think of openness. Openness of home as well as openness of heart. Other distractions can so easily creep in and close my heart off to the true joy of hospitality. Evidence of this is reveled in overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety and irritability.

To be hospitable is not defined by gourmet food, dazzling décor, or a tidy home. Being hospitable is opening my heart and home as a place of welcome, where the focus is on who I am welcoming, and preparing for.

As we enter into the season of advent, we can forget to place the welcome mat out for our Savior. Christmas lists leave Him out; calendars don’t even pencil Him in.

What needs to change for you to have the welcome mat out for the Savior?
• One less party
• One less gift
• One less decoration
• One less hour at the mall
• One less Christmas card sent! (What if you skipped them all together…gasp)

Let me make a shift to the story of Rahab. Rahab lived in the city of Jericho, which was fortified with great walls. Rahab’s home was actually right within the outer wall of the city. Her place of residence was strategic to her occupation of welcoming men, for she was a prostitute. Rahab’s typical welcome was to that which robbed her, until the day she welcomed 2 spies from the Israelite army.

After wandering in the desert for 40 years, God’s chosen people, the Israelites were entering into the land God had promised them. Part of this Promised Land included the city of Jericho. These particular Israelite men were sent into Jericho on a reconnaissance mission to spy out the city and prepare for its siege. As mentioned, Rahab welcomed these men into her home. She quickly gained an understanding of who they were and offered them protection, hiding them from the soldiers of Jericho. This offer of sanctuary soon became her salvation.

Rahab was aware God Almighty had been leading the Israelites. She heard testimony of the miraculous conquests that had carried them to this point. Believing Jericho would soon be delivered into the hands of the Israelites by God Almighty, gave Rahab the courage to extend a welcome that would soon become her rescue. The protective welcome birthed into a plan for her own protection. The Israelite men explained to Rahab to place a scarlet chord out the window to identify her home as the one home that would remain unharmed when the battle for Jericho ensued.

The Israelites did indeed conquer the city of Jericho, and Rahab’s red chord hung vividly from her window, providing salvation for her and those in her family.

When Rahab changed the welcome of her heart it resulted in redeeming rescue.

Hebrews 11:30-31
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

On this, the first day of advent, I leave you with lyrics from the beloved Christmas Carol Joy to the World and a challenge to prepare room and lay out the welcome mat for Jesus:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

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