#Rest Time

It’s time for me to take another blog break. It’s been a very tough winter in which I’ve been fighting bronchitis, sinus issues, 24/7 migraines again, and now I’m in a CFS/ME flare that leaves me feeling wrung out as soon as I get out of bed in the morning. I sleep from 10-12 hours a night, yet that never seems to be enough. Plus, I will be having cataract surgery on both eyes this month and next, and I think that’s a recipe for the perfect pain storm. It seems odd for someone who rests and sleeps so often to say that I need more rest, but that’s my life these days.

One of my favorite Scripture passages is Psalm 23. I’ve seen various versions of the chart below, so I thought I’d include it here in case you haven’t seen it before.

Psalm 23: Phrase by Phrase Meaning

The LORD is my shepherd RELATIONSHIP
I shall not want SUPPLY
He makes me to lie down in green pastures REST
He leads me beside the still waters REFRESHMENT
He restores my soul HEALING
He leads me in the paths of righteousness GUIDANCE
For His name’s sake PURPOSE
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death TESTING
I will fear no evil PROTECTION
For You are with me FAITHFULNESS
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me DISCIPLINE
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies HOPE
You anoint my head with oil CONSECRATION
My cup runs over ABUNDANCE
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life BLESSING
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD SECURITY

I will be back sometime in May with a renewed sense of PEACE, HOPE, and JOY. I appreciate your prayers and will be praying for you too.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am utterly weary as are so many other people in today’s world. Please grant us Your perfect peace, whose minds are stayed on You, because we trust in You forever. For in You, oh Lord, is everlasting strength (Isaiah 26:3-4).

Bleating of the Sheep

Bleating of the Sheep

By Pat Knight

Historically, God’s chosen people displayed a chronic disobedience pattern. Nearly as soon as God communicated a new decree, the Israelites either ignored or blatantly disobeyed His command. Few people took God seriously; fewer still took His laws seriously. The punishment for breaking God’s laws was particularly severe: disease, plagues, capture by enemy forces, and sometimes immediate death. Yet the grave consequences were not sufficient to motivate the Israelites to consistently obey their God.

The prophet, Samuel, relayed God’s instructions to King Saul: “‘Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites were descendants of Esau, named after Esau’s grandson, Amalek. The directions were simple in terms of clarity. King Saul understood explicitly.

God’s edict may seem excessively harsh punishment to us, but God and the Israelites knew the Amalekite people to be ruthless, merciless, and savage. They were predatory, attacking the Israelites during their wilderness walk. From the rear of the traveling camp, the Amalekites stalked and killed the weak and the elderly as they traveled from Egypt. Their treatment of Israel was spontaneous and vicious, causing Moses centuries earlier to prophesy:  “‘When you were weak and worn out, they {Amalekites} met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you a rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!’” (Deuteronomy 25: 18-19).

God had been generously patient with the Amalekites, giving them over five hundred years to change their barbaric ways. Our heavenly Father is the supreme judge, adjudicating wrong and evil. He does not forget!

With thousands of soldiers, King Saul staged an ambush for the Amalekites. Saul was given the opportunity to demonstrate his allegiance to the Lord by obeying the assigned task of eliminating the Amalekite tribe. Instead of wiping out all life, “Saul and the army spared Agag {the Amalekite king), and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good;. These they were unwilling to destroy completely but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed” (1 Samuel 15:9).

God then spoke to the prophet, Samuel, expressing His sorrow that He had ever made Saul king of His people, for Saul refused to follow God’s instructions, relying on his own instincts and greed instead. When Samuel traveled to confront King Saul, he discovered the king had set up a monument in his own honor. From disobedience to false image worshipping, King Saul was puffed up with self-importance. Yet even before Samuel questioned him, Saul offered, “‘I have carried out the Lord’s instructions’” (1 Samuel 15:13). Saul actually believed his actions were justified, but sinning against God is neither wise nor justified.

Samuel retorted, “What then is this bleating of the sheep I hear?
What is this lowing of the cattle I hear?”

1 Samuel 15:14

Saul shifted responsibility, blaming the soldiers for sparing the best animals to use as temple sacrifices for the Lord. Samuel then replied, “‘Enough!’

I can envision the prophet abruptly gesturing with his hand protesting Saul’s weak excuses. Samuel asked King Saul, “‘Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord? (vs. 19). Saul actually felt merit in completing his assigned military orders from God. It appears the details of God’s commands were irrelevant as long as Saul met his own selfish needs. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17).

Our Lord values humility, repentance, and grief for sin. Saul’s heart was full of pride. Chief among the seven things God hates the most is pride, followed next in line by a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16-19). Saul had employed both of the shameful priorities, masterfully disguising his rebellion and disobedience. Samuel replied with this rebuttal to Saul’s actions: “‘To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams’” (1 Samuel 15:22). God removed His Spirit from Saul, dethroned him as king of Israel, and anointed another king in his place.

Upon self-examination, do we discover ourselves to be as shrewd as Saul, crafting insidious excuses for disobeying God? What personal justification do we use when God confronts us with our sin? We have ready access to all of God’s commands in His Living Word, through which He speaks to us. God commands that we love Him and others more highly than ourselves, discouraging our selfish motives.

It is possible that fear of reprisal prevents us from sinning on a regular basis, but we occasionally fall into temptation that is hard to resist. That is when our obedient devotion and love of God is paramount to  empower us to follow His words and His will. He has shown you. O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). It is the most compelling principle of behavior, defining a right relationship of men with Almighty God.

Our Lord loves us beyond measure, demonstrated by the gift of His Son, who died to set us free, creating a sovereign relationship that bridges between finite man and the infinite God. With God’s overwhelming love and attention to every detail in our lives, why would we even consider disobeying Him with the intention of indulging in self-desires? Why do we settle for second best when God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us?” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

We cannot come to God without faith in Him; faith leads to obedience. We want to please our Savior by serving Him. It grieves our Lord when we wander outside the boundaries He has established for us. “‘You are my friends if you do what I command. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you’” (John 15:14-15). It is astounding that human friendship with Almighty God is even possible, deeming it imperative that we not react to His gracious gift with apathy or scorn exhibited by disobedience.

Instead of reacting like King Saul, blaming others for rebellion against God’s commands, let us take personal responsibility for sin, redirecting our energy to serve our Savior as His friends and fellow workers, seeking to consistently pursue His righteousness and faithfulness.

Obedience to God is palpable evidence of our faith. God considers our personal submission to His will so expressive of our love for Him that He accepts full responsibility for the consequence of our obedience. What assurance!

The Healing Power of Forgiven Sin

Sharing from Desiring God today.

The Healing Power of Forgiven Sin

Article by Greg Morse 
Content strategist, 

His body didn’t work.

How long had he been known as “the paralytic”? How long had his legs not obeyed? How long would he be held a prisoner in his own bed?

But the word on the street was that the Messiah was coming. When the paralytic heard of it, he couldn’t help the impulse to do what he had been scared to do for some time: hope.

Story after story testified that Jesus could heal him. He could raise a cripple from his bed, he could resurrect fallen limbs — but would he? These legs? Forsaking caution, the paralytic enlisted his friends to carry him to his only hope.

The house was full. They couldn’t get through the door — but going home was not an option. They climbed to the roof, bore through the ceiling, and his friends lowered him down through the roof. Though many pressed in on the miracle-worker, Jesus, delighting in their faith, called out to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son . . . ”

As the Messiah began to speak, rain began to fall upon the desert; the sun was cresting the horizon; hope, his estranged friend, drew near again. Unknown to even his closest of friends, the years had worn on him. His spirit lay nearly as limp as his legs. But Jesus commanded him to take heart. He knew. In the crowded room, the Messiah himself called him “my son.” Certainly, the healing was about to come.

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). Then came the pause that felt like an eternity to a man with no use of his legs.

Imagine yourself standing there. You just made a way through a roof for your paralyzed friend to get to Jesus. As the Pharisees balk about his authority to forgive sins, you might wonder, “Does he not see him lying here on the bed? Does he not know our purpose for coming all of this way? Is he unable to heal? Would our friend not ‘take heart’ and feel more like ‘his son’ if Jesus healed his broken body as well as forgave his sins? What’s forgiveness when your legs don’t work?”

How often, in our own pain, have we been tempted to wonder the same thing?

Read the rest here.

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

Here is another excellent article from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 6:8).

This mandate in Scripture has shaped my passion for seeking justice in our broken world. The clarity of these words leaves us with no doubt as to how God wants us to spend our time on earth.

Act justly; love mercy; walk humbly with your God. I’ve always focused my primary attention on the acting justly and loving mercy portions of this command. These two seem challenging enough. It’s often overwhelming to navigate how to live out justice and mercy to the world around me.

There are millions of people worldwide experiencing injustice. How can I, a stay-at-home mom, give justice to the oppressed? It’s also so easy to feel personally entitled to mercy and yet deny giving it to others. How do I extend forgiveness to others when my flesh is not ready to release the offense? My own weakness renders me incapable of obedience.

As I’ve wrestled with the weightiness of how to act justly and love mercy, I’ve realized that it’s only possible to obey these commands in light of the gospel when we walk humbly with our God.

Humility is dependence on God. Walking in humility displays our reliance on His strength in our weakness to obey. Our obedience to God’s good commands must come from a place of humility as we rely on Him to accomplish it.

Humility in Acting Justly

Because of sin, we live in an unjust world. We are transgressors of God’s law and the consequence for our rebellion is death. But God sent His Son to live the life we could not live and die the death we should have died. God poured out His just wrath on His Son instead of on us. This great grace should humble us.

As image-bearers of the God of justice (Isa. 30:18) and recipients of our just status in Christ (Rom. 5:1), we reflect His heart to the world when we seek justice for all people.

Seeking justice can be overwhelming, considering the effects of sin in our world:

  • 150 million children are vulnerable in our world today due to fatherlessness and poverty.
  • 45 million image-bearers are living in modern-day slavery.
  • 65 million refugees are currently seeking refuge after fleeing their homes due to war, famine, and persecution.
  • Every year, over 50 million babies are murdered in their mothers’ wombs.

I look at those numbers, and then I look at me. I don’t see any way for me to make a difference. This is what my enemy wants me to think. He wants me to keep my focus on me and my strength so that I’ll believe that I can’t do anything to help. And if I were depending on myself to accomplish justice for the vulnerable, that would be true.

Read the rest here.

Joy’s Grandeur

Joy’s Grandeur

By Pat Knight

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you—
I, whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts”  (Psalm 71:23).

On a second missionary journey, Paul and Silas traveled to Philippi, a leading Roman city where Roman customs were observed and idols worshipped. In Philippi the missionaries were confronted by a demon-possessed slave girl who made her owners wealthy by fortune-telling.

Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, ’In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her” (Acts 16:18). Realizing their lucrative business had evaporated right before their eyes, the girl’s owners seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the public square to the city magistrate, and claimed false charges against them. Mob involvement grew to a fever pitch. Soon the men were stripped, beaten, and thrown into the maximum security cell of the jail.

The men were flogged, a severe form of beating similar to what Christ endured prior to crucifixion. Against bare skin the Romans used a whip fashioned of several leather straps with lead and bone embedded at the ends. Flogging tore open wide gashes of skin. The Jews, by law, restricted the number of lashes to thirty-nine, but the Romans had no limitations. Victims of Roman flogging often didn’t survive the savage punishment.

Following their beating, the two men were led into an inner prison cell where their feet were placed in stocks, serving as added security and extra torture. Physically their bodies were beaten and bloody, but their jubilant hearts could not be broken. Their spirits soared. Paul and Silas knew that all power, joy, and victory reside in Christ alone. They were confident they were serving a faithful God who would intervene on their behalf.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26).

Because their lives were saturated with joy, the missionaries were able to sing spontaneous, resounding praises to God. How many of us, in similar circumstances, find songs of joy on our lips?

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you—I, whom you have delivered. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts” (Psalm 71:23).The men sang while suffering, for they had vision and trust beyond their current situation. Their witness in song that night communicated far more to the other prisoners than any words they could have preached. If joy were dependent on circumstances, Paul and Silas would have cowered due to pain and injustice. But they were assured that God’s protection was sufficient.

In God’s Word, joy is a command, “rejoice always” (Philippians 4:4), and a gift (Galatians 5:22), demonstrating that when God assigns a task to His children, He lavishes them with help and strength necessary to finish His work. “The trouble with too many of us is that we think God called us to be manufacturers when He really called us to be distributors. He alone has the resources to meet human needs; all we can do is receive His riches and share them with others” (Warren Wiersbe). Let us distribute God’s joy wherever He sends us, to whomever crosses our path.

God’s characteristics fill our hearts to overflowing. Any receptacle that overflows quickly spreads its contents into surrounding areas, seeping into cracks, permanently staining, leaking into remote spots to be discovered at a later time. Jesus’ joy is incapable of containment. It must multiply in the lives of believers, who carry it throughout the world.

Overwhelmed with gladness, our hearts cannot be restrained by a dam of negativity. Joy rolls along like a somersaulting downhill snowball, picking up peace, trust, and hope, wrapping them into a spectacular bundle of unmitigated worship. Trudging through uphill trails of adversity, layers of zeal, strength, and courage naturally melt, seeping onto the pathways of life, leaving behind evidence of an intimate relationship with Jesus our Savior. The dispersing love ministers to others, harvested by those who are desperate to know eternal peace and comfort.

Jesus provides inside-out rejoicing by filling our hearts with a deluge of enthusiasm. In addition, He clothes us with joy. “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy that my heart may sing praises and not be silent. Lord, my God, I will praise you forever” (Psalm 30:11-12). Sackcloth, a symbol of mourning, is replaced by songs of exuberant praise. From the riches of heaven’s own wardrobe room, swishing, elegant robes of rejoicing define us externally as the light of Christ’s joy engulfs our hearts, offering supernatural encouragement. Jesus said, “If you obey my command, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remained in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11).

Joy has the potential to leap boundaries. Those who know Jesus personally acknowledge the splendor of His majesty, initiating a reaction that can best be described as dynamic, triumphant joy forevermore. “My heart leaps for joy and with my song I praise him” (Psalm 28:7). When was the last time you spiritually leaped for joy, demonstrating the thrill of victory with eternal consequences?

When Paul and Silas rejoiced in prayer and song, they weren’t aware of the exceeding great plan God had devised: “The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34). Joy is the consistent result of trusting in Jesus.

Joy divided is multiplied. “To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with” (Mark Twain). Joy is contagious. Let us be carriers, proliferating its impact throughout the world.

Is it true that everything happens for a reason?

Another great one from the GotQuestions? site.

Question: “Is it true that everything happens for a reason?”

Answer: Does everything happen for a reason? The short answer is “yes”; because God is sovereign, there are no random, out-of-control happenings. God’s purposes may be hidden from us, but we can be assured that every event has a reason behind it.

There was a reason for the blindness of the man in John 9, although the disciples misidentified the reason (John 9:1–3). There was a reason for Joseph’s mistreatment, although his brothers’ purpose in what they did to him was very different from God’s purpose in allowing it (Genesis 50:20). There was a reason for Jesus’ death—the authorities in Jerusalem had their reasons, based on evil intent, and God had His, based on righteousness. God’s sovereignty extends even to the lowliest of creatures: “Not one [sparrow] falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matthew 10:29, NET).

Several factors help us know that everything happens for a reason: the law of cause and effect, the doctrine of original sin, and the providence of God. All these demonstrate that everything does happen for a reason, not just by happenstance or by random chance.

Read the rest here.

How to Seek the Holy Spirit

Today’s great post is from the Desiring God blog.

How to Seek the Holy Spirit

Bethlehem 2018 Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders | Minneapolis

By John Piper

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial
when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ,
you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

1 Peter 4:12–14

December 6 last year at 6:45 in the morning, I was sitting in my chair in our living room. It was still dark outside, and my one reading light was on beside the chair. My iPad was open to my daily Bible reading portion. I had just spent my 36 minutes on the treadmill in the attic, showered, made myself a cup of hot tea, and settled in to enjoy a time of fellowship with the Lord Jesus over his word.

Read the rest here.