Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: rest

Finding true rest

2018.  What a year…

When the last week of the year rolls around, like many people, I become reflective.  My family has had its share of ups and downs, celebrations and heartaches, favorite parts and not-so-favorite parts.  I’m sure you have, too. 

And to cap it all off, we’ve just survived the “Holiday Season”.  The hustle and bustle of church events, school events, family events, and weather events have finally come to close.  Unless you have significant New Year’s Eve plans (we intentionally never do), then this last week of the year is a great time to find something we’ve all been looking for…rest.

We need rest.  Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually – we need a break from time to time.  We need to stop the normal ebb and flow of our lives so we can recover and collect our strength.  A space to breathe and relax.  A moment to stretch out.  A place to regroup.

We know we need this, but we don’t often give ourselves permission to take this kind of time.  Perhaps it’s because we believe that “true rest” will only be found in a fancy vacation to the beach, the mountains, or any place that isn’t home.  However, when we are at home, we look for rest when we escape into a hobby, our phones, the TV, food, or something else – and to some degree, we’re successful.  But those things are not nearly as satisfying as we would like.

We want…we crave…a deeper rest.  But where to find it?  

The rest we are looking for isn’t found in an event, a location, or a schedule.  Instead, the fulfillment of our need for rest is found in Jesus.  While that might sound like a cop-out, “Sunday school” answer, Jesus actually made the offer:

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

If 2018 didn’t have moments that left you feeling weary and burdened, then I suppose you can just keep moving along.  However, in our honest reflections on this past year, we do find weeks and seasons that left us feeling ragged.

Jesus’ offer isn’t for relaxation from busyness, instead, He offers rest for your soul.  Core-deep, soul-level rest.  That is what a relationship with Jesus does for us.  First, when we trust Him for eternal life, He gives us rest from the burden of sin.  Second, in our continuing relationship with Jesus, we can learn from Him – how life is to be viewed, handled, and recovered from.

If I have a New Year’s Resolution about my relationship with Jesus in 2019, I think it should be that when I feel tired…instead of escaping to my phone, the TV, or something else, that I make the choice to go to Jesus. 

I encourage you to do the same.  Take Him up on His offer.  Jesus says that being a disciple (taking up His yoke) and learning from Him is easy and He won’t overburden us.  As complicated as life can be, discipleship simply means walking with Jesus in the real world and having Him teach us moment by moment how to live life His way.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Making the effort, but struggling in weakness

Christ, the Greater Messenger, has invited us to partner with Him now.  The reward for doing so is entering God’s rest, which is the administration of His future kingdom.  The author of Hebrews is using the example of the Israelites leaving Egypt and their opportunity to participate in the administration of the future county of Israel as a parallel to our own lives:

Hebrews 4:9-11
A Sabbath rest remains, therefore, for God’s people.  For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His.  Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.

Notice that the author is stressing our need to make every effort to enter that rest; as such, he is clearly not taking about Jesus’ offer of eternal salvation from the penalty of our sins.  If the rest discussed here were simply heaven, we wouldn’t have to work for it, because eternal life is an unearned gift (John 3:16; John 10:25; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17).  Effort, however, is needed if we are going to be partners with Jesus and His administration of the universe.  Our efforts now do not affect “where” we will spend eternity, but our efforts now will effect “what” we will be doing in eternity future.

Since the Israelites’ example and Jesus’ superior message are available in Scripture, this is the place we should be looking to see what we must do NOW in order to enter into the future kingdom participation LATER.  However, when we look through Scripture, we discover:

Hebrews 4:12-13
For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.  No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.

Since an account for my life will be given, all my times of having a sinful, unbelieving heart will be known…and I remember how God dealt with the Israelites for the unbelief (they missed out on participating in the establishment of the kingdom of Israel!)  What am I going to do, then?  Given my mistakes, sins, and all the times I act selfishly…How can I ever be considered qualified to partner with God in the future?

Hebrews 4:14-15
Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens – Jesus the Son of God – let us hold fast to the confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.

This tells me that Christ is on my side, as my brother in the family and the bridge for my relationship between me and God the Father.  I am not alone in my struggles!  Even greater still, we are told:

Hebrews 4:16
Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.

In all honesty, my human mind would not expect this.  We are so weak…so very, very weak.  We do not deserve the first, second, or any chance to partner with God.  And once again, our God blows away our expectations with His mercy and grace.

Jesus is here to sympathize with our weaknesses and to help us in our time of need, so that we can make every effort to enter that rest.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Taking time

The writer of Ecclesiastes made some rather astute observations about life.  Some of them will ring familiar, but as you go through them...I encourage you to read slowly and identify which ones apply to your current circumstances:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven:

a time to give birth and a time to die;

a time to plant and a time to uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to tear down and a time to build;
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.

My favorite line out of the list is a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones.  As much fun as it is to go throw rocks sometimes...this dichotomy likely refers to the ancient custom of destroying a farmer's field by throwing many stones on it, whereas the gathering of stones describes the clearing of stones from a field to get it ready to plant.

There are many seasons to a life, and we spend most of our time living in between the polar opposites listed above.  I've been kicking the idea around for a while, and I think it's time for me to take a short break from writing.  I did this in August last year, and it was a good respite for me and my family.  

I'm going to take three weeks to rest, study, and lean into God.  I want to gather stones so I can be prepared for future growth.  Let's just say...it's time.

See you September 14th.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Read and rest

When life goes sideways, our full attention is often required to persevere and get back on track.  If it will take some length of time to get through the trial, then we will eventually find ourselves seeking some sort of “rest”.  We yearn for peaceful sleep, a clear mind, or a calm conscious.

There is a place for study, deep thinking, and mental stretching as we attempt to think God’s thoughts after Him while we read the Scriptures…but it is also good for us to simply read His Word and rest in it.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to dive into Psalm 27…but for right now, and as many times as you can this week…just read it entirely and allow David’s words to strengthen your own relationship with God.

Psalm 27
The Lord is my light and my salvation –
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life –
of whom should I be afraid?
When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,
my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.
Though an army deploy against me,
my heart is not afraid;
though war break out against me,
still I am confident. 

I have asked one thing from the Lord;
it is what I desire:
to dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
gazing on the beauty of the Lord
and seeking Him in His temple.
For He will conceal me in His shelter
in the day of adversity;
He will hide me under the cover of His tent;
Then my head will be high above my enemies around me;
I will offer sacrifices in His tent with shouts of joy.
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Lord, hear my voice when I call;
be gracious to me and answer me.
In Your behalf my heart says, “Seek My face.”
Lord, I will seek Your face.
Do not hide Your face from me;
do not turn Your servant away in anger.
You have been my help;
do not leave me or abandon me,
God of my salvation.
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord cares for me.

Because of my adversaries,
show me Your way, Lord.
and lead me on a level path.
Do not give me over to the will of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing violence.

I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be courageous and let your heart be strong.
Wait for the Lord.

Read slowly, breathe, and rest.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Pleasing others, for their good

Think of a major accomplishment in your life.  To get there, you had to work hard.  Perhaps you worked for a long time, even years.  Significant progress was made, and you know – more than anyone else – how much effort and time and worry and late nights went into finally “arriving.”

Maybe your mountain is a promotion or tenure.  Maybe it’s a high school or college degree.  Maybe it’s the applause of your peers, the community, or even your family.  We strive and work toward many noble goals in this life – financial freedom, career advancement, raising a family, business success, doing adult-things and doing them well.

Whenever we get to the point where we feel like “we’ve arrived”, there’s a seemingly innocent urge that sneaks into our minds.  While we relish the moment and reflect on the work that got us there, there is also a subtle tug to coast (just a little) and take it easy.

Now, don’t misunderstand me…rest is good.  Rest is Biblical.  God rested after six days of creation.  However, when rest is complete, we will have to make a choice – will we allow our rest to become self-indulgent, or will we face the difficult question of what to do next?

As Paul was finishing up his letter to the believers in Rome, he touched on several practical issues.  He approached these issues from two sides –  from those believers who had already arrived at maturity and those who had not yet matured.  We find that kind of mixed company in the church today also.  Here, Paul talks about the responsibility of those who have developed a strong relationship with God:

Romans 15:1-2
Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.  Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up.  For even the Messiah did not please Himself.

When we have a mature, developed relationship with God, it is not time to be self-centered.  God doesn’t want us to sit around being full of ourselves.  Rather, He wants us to leverage our development in a way that pleases our neighbor

And this kind of pleasing isn’t about just making them feel happy, either.  We are to purposely act for their good, encouraging them and building them up so they can experience and live out the same kind of relationship we have with the Father.

Honestly, even for someone who has walked with God for a long time – developing others is hard.  Building up a fellow believer can be really messy sometimes, it’s not a give-advice-once-and-be-done kind of thing.  In case we have any question as to what that looks like, Paul says that the model for the mature believer to follow is Christ’s example.  Jesus found motivation to continue on, complete His mission, and please His Father by looking ahead to the mission’s end result.

A few verses later, Paul points his audience toward the end result of building up their fellow believers:

Romans 15:5-6
Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you agreement with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a unified mind and voice.

That’s the goal here, humanity’s created purpose – to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and for us to do so with a unified mind and voice.  We who are strong and mature are to bear with those who haven’t made it yet.  Not just to tolerate them, either.  After we build them up to maturity, together we can all give God the glory He deserves.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Finding rest

The world can be rough place.  We liken our struggles to living in a jungle, or going rounds in a boxing match, or constantly playing a part on stage.  At times the difficulties seem so insurmountable that we have to remind ourselves to breathe.  And no matter how independent we say we are, dealing with life is always more difficult when we try going at it alone.

As we look at Paul’s prayer for Philemon, look closely for the characteristics of Philemon’s relationships with others:

Philemon 4-6
I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.

I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.

After praying about the out-workings of his faith, Paul continues with how Philemon demonstrates his love toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints:

Philemon 7
For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

Paul commends Philemon for being a person whose presence invites people to rest.  The Greek word for refreshed means to cause or permit someone to cease from any movement or labor, in order for them to recover and collect their strength.

The believers who met in Philemon’s house didn’t have to work to earn his love.  Philemon’s manner and attitude allowed them to relax and regain strength.  The ancient world didn’t really view being a Christ-follower as a good thing, so you can imagine that the first century believers dealt with constant social, business, and family pressures because they chose to trust Jesus for eternal life.

What’s also interesting is that Jesus used the same Greek word when He gave an open offer to the crowd in front of Him:

Matthew 11:28-29
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.

I’m certain that Philemon was able to generously act this way because he took Jesus up on His offer and found rest in his own relationship with his Savior.  As he had experienced rest and refreshment, Philemon was then able to provide a similar environment to others.

We, too, need brothers and sisters in our church families that can provide a safe place for us to rest.  We need a place and time to cease activity and gather our strength for the next round that life will throw our way. 

I think it is also important that we show love to other believers the same way that Philemon did and provide a place of refreshment.  However, we won’t be able to do so until we take Jesus up on His offer to find our rest in Him.  So we have a couple of hard questions we need to ask ourselves: 

Where do we go when we’re tired and worn down? 
Do we escape into a hobby, our phones, TV, food, or something else? 
How quickly do we turn to Jesus for rest?
Do we trust that Jesus’ rest will satisfy and refresh us?

Are we willing to offer a place of rest and refreshment to other believers?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Providing relief

“I need a break.”

How many times have we walked into our home or sat at our desk…and muttered that phrase?

We recognize the value of getting even a few moments away from our normal daily activities and responsibilities.  In sports we see this concept clearly.  Backups – second and third string players – have an important role on the team.  A baseball team will pull the starter and bring in a relief pitcher to close out the final innings.  This isn’t usually a commentary on the starting pitcher, but a strategic choice to rest the starter to ensure that he will be recovered and ready for his next game.  A backup running back may only get seven scattered carries a game, but the carries are timed so that the starter can catch his breath off the field.  On any team, when a starter gets injured, the common phrase uttered is “Next man up!”, and the backup is expected to step in and fill the starter’s role for as long as needed until the starter has recovered from his injury.

We see this in business as well.  Before a manager goes on vacation or to a conference, she will delegate her responsibilities to those who have been prepared to “hold the fort down” and keep the department running.  They aren’t expected to perform the manager’s job forever, but just until she returns.  This same concept is also necessary, but not seemingly practiced as much, within the church leadership.  Some lead pastors never take a Sunday off, and most do not take all the vacation time allotted by the church.

As Paul closes out his letter to Titus, he gives the following instructions:

Titus 3:12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decide to winter there.

There are several things worth noting here:

First, Paul was training others to step in and lead so that Titus could have a break.  Paul had other trusted associates and people he had mentored who could step in and lead for a little while.  Titus needed a “season” to rest.  Even if it is just the boat ride from Crete to Nicopolis, Titus would have a break from the day-to-day pressures and responsibility of leading an island full of churches.

Second, Titus’ rest wouldn’t be just lying on a beach without having responsibility, but would be found in facetime with Paul.  Titus would be poured into instead of constantly being poured out of.  He would continue to work for God both with Paul and in other missionary assignments (2 Timothy 4:10).  However, ancient writings tell of him returning to Crete, finishing his life’s work among these people that he loved.

Third, Paul wanted Titus to make this trip away from Crete a priority.  Paul specifically stated do your best to come to me at Nicopolis – the Greek phase for do your best means to be eager to do something or to make every effort to do a task.  Getting a break was to be part of Titus’ mission.

If you are in ministry, when was the last time you had a break?  Are you training others to lead and allowing them to relief-pitch for you?

If you are not in ministry, how can you help your pastor?  Look for ways to take the pressure off of him for a little while.  Volunteer to handle something he normally would do but doesn’t necessarily have to, cook his family dinner one night, and definitely encourage him to take a vacation that includes a Sunday away.

Keep Pressing,
Ken