A Time for Rest and Joy

A Time for Rest and Joy

Recently, God nudged my heart to pursue a greater level of consistent rest and joy and bring a healthier balance to committed service. As a retiree, I have the freedom to pack into my self-imposed schedule whatever I desire. Because I enjoy so many things, I tend to fill my time to the brim. Or perhaps over-pack would be more accurate! But I sense I am on the cusp of change.

Cusp refers to “a point of transition between two different states or a pointed end when two curves meet. With many curves to my life and ministry, I’m uncertain to the exact “cusp” ahead. But I need an opportunity to refresh. So, Lord, whatever Your plan, bring it on!

From the beginning, God created work for humanity and humanity for work.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Genesis 2:15

I look out my window and laugh as I watch a man walking his dog. Or rather a dog dragging a man through knee-deep snow while chasing a rabbit.

Sometimes my work bares resemblance. I too feel like I’m being dragged into knee-deep pursuits against my will. I wonder if God looks at the pace of my life and laughs. More probably, He shakes His head knowing His plan is better than that.

Rest

I find it interesting that God made Adam at the very end of the sixth day of creation. I’m reminded again that Adam’s first full day was one of rest. Timing perfectly orchestrated!

God planned Adam’s work to be so significant that he needed rest before plunging in. God repeats the pattern again and again for many other people.

  • God removed Moses from the busy affluence of Pharoah’s palace, giving him a forty-year “rest” in the wilderness as a shepherd before his ministry began.
  • The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days before He began His earthly ministry.
  • After his conversion, Paul spent several years in Arabia before embarking on his ministry as apostle, writing the majority of the New Testament.

None of these illustrations would fit snuggly into our definition of “restful.” Even in rest, work was accomplished. But on the cusp of something new, God drew His chosen leaders aside for “rest” — away from the influence of crowds and earthly demands. Rest realigns our souls with God.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says, “only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15

Return

God designs the prime motivation of rest to turn, or “return,” our hearts and focus back to Him. When we quiet the chatter of “have to, must do, should do,” we find strength.

The word for strength, in Hebrew, also means “force, valor, victory.” In rest, God brings increased power and strength. He also amplifies our “valor,” or “courage in the face of danger or battle.” To ensure victory in the season ahead, He calls us to rest.

But we, like Israel, don’t always accept His loving invitation.

” … But you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15

I’m not sure what Israel used for an excuse. I know mine. “I must finish _____.” “Let me do _____ first.” “Wait until it’s a little less busy.” “Rest might cost me financially.”

On and on my list of excuses roll. I clearly understand the pressures to work, but only vaguely comprehend the significance of rest.

Rest proves God’s Presence goes with us.

“And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14

God gifts us with rest! Despite the insomnia which plagues our culture, God promises,

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Psalm 4:8

Another passage resonates with many of us,

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”
Psalm 23:1,2

Perhaps, our restlessness exposes our need for God’s Presence more than we realize. Will we listen?

Joy

If I find rest difficult, what about joy? At first glance, most people who know me would consider me quite joyful. I enjoy every aspect of my life. My faith, family, work, and ministry all bring me joy. And yet God welcomes me into deeper levels of both rest and joy.

I shared God’s prompting with a close friend. She laughed at me! Yes, laughed! Then she pointed to Jesus’ parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-28. The master gave one servant five talents, who quickly went out and earned five more. The master also gave another servant two talents, who faithfully went out and earned two more. Then a wasteful servant, who was given one talent, buried it in the dirt.

My friend asked, “What was the response of the master to the first two servants?”

I quickly responded,

Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Matthew 25:21

“And?” she questioned. Hesitantly, I responded,

“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
Matthew 25:21

“And?” she asked again. My blank look invited her to complete the passage.

And

I remembered how the master gave each person talents. He rewarded their good work with more responsibility. But I forgot there was more. He invited them, as He is inviting us all, into the best part.

Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Matthew 25:21

What? How could I miss something so significant?

Other Bibles versions say, “the joy of the Lord!” How much joy does God have? Everything about Him, including His joy, is immeasurably more than we could ever think or imagine.

Do we consider God to be such a cruel task master, that He would deprive us of joy? Is that why it is easier to work “for” Him than “rest” in Him, experiencing His unlimited “joy?”

I don’t comprehend, even in a limited way, the exceedingly great joy God has for us — not just later in Heaven, but for us now.

Strength

Nehemiah refused to allow his people to become stuck in a rut of mourning or weeping. God gifts us with joy!

” … This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10

This Hebrew word translated “strength” means “a place or means of safety and protection.”

Both rest and joy come from God, originate with Him, and flow out of Him. Even amidst seasons of grief and loss, God offers us His gift of rest and joy. This combination becomes our strength, protection, power, courage, and victory.

God prepares us today for the unseen tomorrows. Through rest and joy, He builds in us everything we will need beyond the cusp of transitions ahead.

I resolve to not follow the example of yesterday by committing myself to a season of God’s rest and joy. Whether that season is forty years, forty days, or forty hours, I trust Him to do through and for me what He knows I need.

My friend acknowledged that God was speaking to her in a similar way. Would anyone else like to join us for a little more rest and joy?

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Birthing the New: Change, Transition, Beginning

Birthing the New: Change, Transition, Beginning

As a mother of five sons, I have had some practice in “birthing the new.” Birthing can happen in many ways, however. Have you birthed a business venture, a ministry, published a work or started a career? Each of these also contains processes similar to birthing.

I have had a new book, or should I say, a series of books, almost ready to reach full term. Pregnancy can present challenges, but pregnancy isn’t an end in itself. The goal or the new thing about to be released is the ultimate purpose. Every pregnancy is unique to itself yet contains similarities to others. Each birth both predictable and unpredictable.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them and
make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.”
Isaiah 42:16

Count them! Five times God says “I will!” I am the blind one; He is the “I will”. Are you pregnant with a new ministry, industry or purpose? Or are you in the birthing process right now?

Unfamiliar Paths

Sometimes pregnancy can be unexpected and unplanned. I remember well, my mother coming home from town crying a torrent of tears. She was pregnant “again!” This was not her plan, desire or longing. Her present children were all in school and she was enjoying some independence. But this child to come would be the cream of the crop. He would become the adoration of her heart and fulfillment of voids she didn’t realize she possessed.

What unfamiliar paths does God have you walking down?

It seems every year God drags me into unfamiliar terrain. I both love it and dread it! It can be intimidating and daunting, to say the least. “Just own it” has become my new motto. One of my present “paths” is attempting to write and publish my next book. It is giant leap from anything I have ever done.

Talk about “unfamiliar paths”; every one of the processes involved contains new, even fearful elements of a journey I never asked to take or ever anticipated travelling.

Mine, it turns out, is an adventure of joy!  But like most unfamiliar places, this pathway

exposed deep insecurities,
revealed hidden fears,
demanded new levels of submission to God,
required more time than anticipated,
and has been a refiner’s fire of cleansing and healing
that I didn’t even know I needed.

Giving Birth

Five times God said, “I will.” Five times in the natural I gave birth as I co-operated with His desire to bring forth something new in my life. Each birth embodied a promise fulfilled and a promise to be revealed.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain
because her time has come;
but when her baby is born
she forgets the anguish because of her joy
that a child is born into the world.”
John 16:21

Birthing brings unavoidable pain; a pain that seems impossibly more than one can endure.  Unfortunately, there is no birthing without first going through the process of labor. “Labor” defines it well! In the final moments before delivery, a woman goes through what is called transition — where she expends every once of energy, endures beyond what she thought possible and draws from a deep well of fortitude she never knew existed.

There is no shrinking back, tagging out or throwing in the towel. Pain marks this life-giving struggle. Selfless love propels her through the temporary transition phase to ultimate joy. With that indescribable joy, she finally sees what has been hidden, carried, nurtured, and labored for.

Birthing the new cannot be fully explained, only experienced!

God Births

Just in case you male readers are getting a little squeamish with all this feminine birthing stuff, relax. God is into birthing too! He is birthing forth amazing things in the lives of all of us — corporate and individual.

A multitude of people have been pregnant and holding on to God dreams for many years. They have surrendered to the process of humility, struggled through training and development, fostered destinies and withstood the season of transition. Like a baby’s first cry, freedom shouts, “The new has arrived! Make way!” The umbilical cord has been cut; a new independent life begins to grow outside the protection of the “womb.”

In the previous stage, everything was provided. Not now! At least not in the same way. The Source always is and always will be God — never of our own efforts, ingenuity, or skill.

I see God birthing in this season like never before. He is releasing spiritual gifts in unprecedented proportions. New ministries are springing up with maturity and vitality. Communities and cities are being changed.  Spiritual landscapes redefined!

“So Christ himself gave the apostles,
the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
to equip his people for works of service, 

so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Ephesians 4:11-12

Birthing the New

Pride has no claim to either the gift or the work being birthed in this season. We receive God’s gifts as evidence of His unmerited blessing and favor. The Giver asks only that we use His gifts wisely for the encouragement and benefit of others.

Like any true gift, it is ours — freely given and freely received.  If we choose to misuse or neglect it, it is still ours! Luke 19 makes it clear that gifts come with responsibility, however.

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
  Isaiah 43:19

Babies arrive without instruction manuals. As much as we plan and prepare, unexpected surprises accompany birthing the new. The “I Will” makes a way, providing all that is needed.

“Take courage,” Jesus told his disciples who were losing the stormy battle. (Matthew 14:27) Remember God is always the I WILL. He never leaves you nor forsakes you.

He says, “I WILL be
on the ground beside you while you crawl,
the hand lifting you up when you stumble,
the ONE at the finish line cheering you on,
the gentle arm of encouragement,
the whatever you need in the moment
…I WILL

You aren’t alone! God accompanies you every step of the way. No matter what the processes you are in or the pathways ahead, you are guaranteed to experience Him in ways you would never have known otherwise.

In birthing the new, with a sense of peace and joy, we both look back and gaze ahead. We are confident not in ourselves but in God alone. He is leading, empowering, directing, and holding us fast.

Many more pains and joys of birthing the new are ahead for each of us. Hold to His sovereign hand.

Transition of Seasons – Embrace the Change

Transition of Seasons – Embrace the Change

September’s dawn hesitates with each new morning, weary perhaps from the busyness of summer’s unceasing activity. The long daylight hours are filled with a multitude of treasured moments to remember throughout winter’s dark freeze. Cooler nights and shortened days herald the transition of seasons and prepare us to embrace the change.

Our summer certainly was filled! A June wedding, God’s gift of a fresh start, in Nevada and our own 46th anniversary of life together. A jam-packed family camping adventure with hiking, fishing, biking, boating, lounging, campfires, games, and giggles topped July’s memory making attempt. Mid August brought the completion of internship closing the chapter of Master’s Commission training. We laughed with friends marking birthdays from the north and south. Many moments captured forever in our grateful hearts!

Season of Change

As I consider personal transitions, the most dramatic came with marriage: single to united, independent to interdependent, under my father’s protective wing to another man’s, enjoying the benefits of my childhood home to making our own. Marriage brought a lot of change, that continues to this day.

Transition of Seasons

Seasons predictably come and go! Here in the northern hemisphere, the transitions may come subtly but the changes can be drastic!

The church that began with the apostles over two thousand years ago has seen major transitional changes, as well. Each change acutely different from the one before; each sparked by a fresh dawn of revival, while restoring an element of something lost.

With the Reformation and Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door in Wittenberg in 1517 came an awareness that salvation is by grace, and grace alone. It cannot be bought, earned, or waggled into.

Luther - Wittenberg - 95 Theses

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

not by works, so that no one can boast”
Ephesians 2:8-9

The price of redemption paid in full!  Jesus death and resurrection is forever enough! Nothing added and nothing taken away!  This cosmic event bridged the great, dark chasm between God and humanity. Now that’s enough to make one dance, leap and shout with joy!

However, it didn’t take the church long to grow lethargic. Another transition was needed to stir up the greying coals of revival.

The Great Commission

Prayer is always the unseen channel of fresh fire. It would take Edwards, Wesley, Whitefield and others to again stir the church reviving and awakening the desire for evangelism. The church jolted to action! God’s grace is for all!

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

Go into all the world!

For the first time since the evangelistic wave of the apostles, “go” was back in the “go”-spel! The church took seriously the commission to bring the Good News to all peoples!

But how does one effectively go without the tangible Presence of the Lord?

Preparing for Change

There were many forerunners to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street in 1906: D. L. Moody, Maria Woodworth Etter, Charles Parham, Evan Roberts and more. But Azusa Street became the fault line of the greatest quake of change in the church since the original Pentecost of the Book of Acts.

The outpouring! The Holy Spirit moved to the forefront with restoration of signs, wonder and miracles:

“These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe:
They will cast out demons in my name,
and they will speak in new languages.
They will be able to handle snakes with safety,
and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them.
They will be able to place their hands on the sick,
and they will be healed.”
Mark 16:17-18

Miracles, signs and wonders will follow them who believe!

Every shaking of revival transforms those willing to change. Recoil or embrace? With each restoration of truth, fearless, faith-filled, hungry, even desperate, God seekers step from the familiar and welcome the inexplicable grace of God’s open hand.

The Father’s Heart

The most current transitional change broke forth with fresh awareness of the goodness of God, a revelation of the Father’s heart. With impeccable timing, it broke into an environment plagued by fatherlessness.

The Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century quotes deaths through wars and oppressions alone totalled more that 188,000,000. The twentieth century became marked as the most lethal in mankind’s history. Each death represents families broken. Millions of fathers snuffed out, removed forever!

God’s heart most certainly must have wept over man’s ability to annihilate and destroy! Great grace flooded over chaos with a tsunami wave of His open heart of love through the Toronto Blessing. The impact continues worldwide!

God is good!

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100:5

While the outpouring of Holy Spirit at Azusa Street created more denominational divides than any other movement, the revelation of the love of The Father has drawn denominations together like no other.

Change is Coming

As distinct as the shift from summer to fall, I feel another change coming. It is an exciting time! The church is rising and growing at unprecedented rates secure in restored revelation:

  • Salvation through grace and grace alone
  • The gospel for all peoples
  • Filled with the Holy Spirit
  • Radically loved by The Father

Wait! Pardon me for mentioning it, but my Bible neither starts nor ends here! There is more!

The first act of God in Genesis was to prepare a garden for the union of a special couple, Adam and Eve. It was a place of constant fellowship between God and man, filled with peace, joy and unbridled communion.

The last act of God in Revelation is presenting the bride to The Bridegroom. Can you imagine that wonderful day?

The bride is getting ready for the Bridegroom!

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.”
Revelation 19:7

Every season of change for the church, every transitional wave of blessing and revelation, is for one purpose! The bride prepares for the Bridegroom!

Pulled close by His grace, the global church rises with arms reaching all. She is alive in the Spirit, immersed in the Father’s love. She is being slowly transformed into the likeness of The Bridegroom. Christ is coming back for a bride fully representing His heart, His character, His nature, and His glory. He will not be unequally yoked!

“The bride has made herself ready!” There she will stand, a glorious church filled with strength, dignity, purity, and honour.

However, to be ready, she must be willing to embrace change. The same transitions that have occurred corporately are to be approached personally and intentionally as well. Welcome each season with confidence that every change is, in fact, a preparation for the Bridegroom.

Get excited! The wedding day is perhaps closer than we think!