Archive for February, 2015

This week we celebrate the goodness of God through sharing.  We worship a God of abundance … God who gives His grace bountifully.  Jesus gave His life on the cross for us so we can have eternal life.  God gave us the Holy Spirit to be with us.  God gives us spiritual gifts so we can serve.  God gives us love.

We can give in many ways – through gifts of our time, talents and treasure.  We can give to help the poor, to free the oppressed,  to assist our family, to sustain  fellow believers, to support the church, to give back to our community.   In all cases, we are called to give gladly and from our heart –give as an act that gives glory to God.   Sharing and giving that is done as an act of worship and is based on the love of God is giving that results in joy for us and those we serve.


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The Sabbath and Rest

When we talk about resting from a Christian perspective, we are not just talking about taking time to relax and pamper ourselves .   Mark 2:27 reminds us that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” – the Sabbath is a gift to us from God.   The fourth commandment instructs us to remember the Sabbath day.  We are called to provide time to rest and praise God not because God needs our praise, but because we benefit from  a  God-centered mindset as we prepare our hearts for the week ahead.  When observe the gift of the Sabbath we refocus and can go about our daily work with a God-centered spirit.  The Sabbath is the Lord’s day – a day of joy and celebration.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.


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The Yoke of Jesus

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus offers us rest.  He asks us to turn over our burdens and be yoked to Him.  He asks us to stop trying to take on all of life’s problems on our own.

We do not live a life of total independence and are all yoked to something.  Who or what are you yoked to now?  Your responsibilities?  Your work?  Your friends and family? Your past?  Your guilt?

What kind of rest do you need?  Physical rest?  Rest from fears and doubts? Spiritual rest?  Rest from worry?  Rest from trying so hard to be in control? Rest from frustration and failure?

Jesus asks us to take off the yoke of the world and replace it with His yoke.  He offers that when we do this He will be with us to help cope with life’s burdens.  When we put on Jesus’  yoke we will have His love and energy to help our families, friends and neighbors, His peace to cope with problems, His mercy and grace to overcome our shortcomings, and we will have the stamina to do the work He has called us to do.

Jesus offers us real rest – rest for our souls – a rest that is reflected in our lives as disciples of Christ.

Yoke of Jesus

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Making our time count

“I speak to God:  I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time.  Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done — yesterday…I just want time to do my one life well. “ – Ann Voskamp [One Thousand Gifts]

Enough time…the more we hurry it seems the less time we have.  But time is a constant – and each one of us only has so much time.  The real success of our lives lies in figuring out how to make the time we have here on this beautiful Earth one of joy and hope in our Lord; how we make the time we have count.  Making our time count involves leaving quiet, contemplative time in our lives that allows God to comfort us and guide us. Make your time count.

one thousand gifts

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As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”   “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”   — Luke 10:38-42

This familiar story of Martha and Mary reminds us that we make important choices about how to spend our time every single day.  In fact, our life is defined by the daily choices we make. Jesus wants us to make the right choices, and He is very clear throughout Scripture that the right choice means taking time to remember, thank and worship our God — above everything else we do. That choice will give us the strength and stamina for all else life brings.  Is it the choice we make daily?  Or do we allow other important things to take up more of our time than God? Do we choose to take the time to rest in the arms of our Lord or do we choose to be harried and busy?

Jesus is all you need

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Room for Christ

Our study this week is “Celebrating through Rest” and this quote from Billy Graham seemed very pertinent to the study, for our busyness can be a great distraction:

“One response was given by the innkeeper when Mary and Joseph wanted to find a room where the Child could be born. The innkeeper was not hostile; he was not opposed to them, but his inn was crowded; his hands were full; his mind was preoccupied. This is the answer that millions are giving today. Like a Bethlehem innkeeper, they cannot find room for Christ. All the accommodations in their hearts are already taken up by other crowding interests. Their response is not atheism. It is not defiance. It is preoccupation and the feeling of being able to get on reasonably well without Christianity.”   Billy Graham

What can we do to encourage those close to us to take time to make room for their loving and faithful God amid the busyness of their lives?

making room for christ

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The Discipline of Rest

We are busy!  We can be busy with many things – work, family, keeping healthy, volunteering and even vacationing!  Much of our busyness isn’t just for ourselves – we get super busy doing for others. While we complain a lot about how busy we are, we often derive some satisfaction from our busyness.  In some way we feel it demonstrates our worth to society.  We live in a culture where we feel guilty when we relax and don’t have something we are supposed to be doing.   Certainly God does not intend for us to be lazy!  So what is so wrong with being busy?

When God created the world He rested (Genesis 2:1-2).  In Deuteronomy 5:12-15 God instructs the Israelites to observe the Sabbath day  as a day to remember that their powerful and mighty God saved them from slavery in Egypt.  In Leviticus 23:28-29 God commands His people to rest on the Day of Atonement and even threatens that those who do not must be cut off from their people.

In our busy lives we think that it is our effort, not God’s that provides. This sets us apart from God.  Our work can become a substitute for God’s work.  We take on the heavy burden of having to do it all.  God, however, wants His people to remember that God is the source of all – and by taking the time to rest we trust that God supplies every need in all areas of our life.  When we agree to rest, we show that we trust that He will provide.  When we rest we have some time in our life to reflect on God and talk with Him.

This Sunday observe the Sabbath.  Take the time to focus on God and offer thanksgiving for all you have.  Spend time enjoying family and friends instead of working at entertaining them. Seek some quiet time to see what God would have you focus on in the coming week.  See what a difference this God-focused rest can make in your  week ahead.


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Confessing our sins can be a challenge – when we confess we are vulnerable; we are proud and often reluctant to admit our own errors; we often fear the change required to repent from our sins.  Richard Foster states:  “Confession is a difficult discipline for us because we all too often view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin. We cannot bear to reveal our failures and shortcomings to others. We imagine that we are the only ones who have not stepped on to the high road to heaven. Therefore, we hide ourselves from one another and live in veiled lies and hypocrisy.

The sins we try to hide from, however,  are usually the ones that have the most power over us. Our hiding prevents us from trusting relationships with God and with each other.  We need to be honest, both individually and as a Christian community, and acknowledge that we are all sinners.  Confessing allows us to better understand our God and connect with Him and with one another.  Through confession, we can respond to God’s abundant love and forgiveness and we can be a trusting discipleship community where we walk together in our journey with Jesus.  Confession is a means of healing and can transform our spirit.  Through confession we can replace guilt with forgiveness, can recognize our sin and turn from it.  Through confession we can experience the grace of God and build up each other.  By recognizing areas of sin in our lives we can build relationships of trust that allow us to work together as disciples to repent and change.

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence  or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous; in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.


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Throughout Scripture, Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to be a servant.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus models servant hood that is full of humility, love and devotion to God.  John 13:1-17, where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples is probably the most common passage demonstrating the importance of service .  The discipline of service is not only about taking part in organized service activities, but is a way of transforming our lives to be a servant in all the events of life. Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, states that “Service is not a code of ethics, but a way of living.”  Foster suggests the following acts of services that we can make a part of our daily life to cultivate the discipline of service:

  • The service of hiddenness-doing that which remains unknown to others.
  • The service of small things-simple assistance of another in what we identify as external matters.
  • The service of guarding the reputation of others-promoting love, protecting words (Titus 3:2).
  • The service of allowing others to serve us– It is an act of submission and service to let others serve us (note Peter and Jesus discussion in John 13 about being washed).
  • The service of common courtesy toward one another – The service of ungrudging hospitality (1 Peter 4:9).  There is a desperate need today for Christians who will open their homes to one another.
  • The service of listening intently to another – “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. The most important requirements are compassion and patience. We do not have to have the correct answers to listen well. In fact, often the correct answers are a hindrance to listening, for we become more anxious to give the answer than to hear. -Foster
  • The service of bearing each other’s burden(Galatians 6:2). – True service builds community. It draws, binds, builds and heals.
  • The service of bringing a word from God to another – Speaking truth in love to those around you. (Ephesians 4:15)

To cultivate the discipline of service, a starting point is to ask the simple question:  “What does service look like in my daily life?”  As we think about this question we will begin to see more people we can serve and see opportunities where we can glorify God by helping others.


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The Discipline of Fellowship

One of the most prominent features of the early church was Christian Fellowship.  Christians are intended to do things together.  We assemble together for worship and we spend time together in study, prayer and song.   As we meet together in fellowship, we get to know each other, we strengthen each other and we care for each other. Our faith is strengthened through fellowship.  Fellowship allows us to break down our cultural and natural inclination for self-centeredness and allows us to form meaningful and trusting relationships with other Christians.  We learn to build each other up and to disciple each other.  The Biblical calls us to fellowship:

  • To care for one another [1 Corinthians 12:26: If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.]
  • To teach and admonish one another [Colossians 3:16: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.]
  • To serve one another in love [Galatians 5:13: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.]
  • To pray for one another [James 5:16: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.]
  • To restore one another [James 5:19-20: My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truthand someone should bring that person back,  remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.]
  • To be hospitable to one another [1 Peter 4:9: Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.]

God is a relational God and He wants us to form a relationship with Him and with each other.  Through the discipline of fellowship, we experience God  together so we can look beyond just ourselves and grow in grace and godliness as the disciples Christ call us to be.  Every time we gather together we have an opportunity to experience the fellowship God intended for us to enjoy.


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