life change: slowing down

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

I have worked in an environment for years, even decades in which you have no other option but to move fast, especially at times, and to keep moving. And within a time frame when I could do that. And I have always believed in hard work, and that doing that is a part of living with a whole heart: one’s heart completely into something, hopefully in serving the Lord.

Lately that’s changed, and with getting older, and actually slowing down just a bit a few years back as our team leader then encouraged me to do, as of yesterday, I am on a life change. Challenging for me, but I think necessary, and I’m already getting a glimpse of it being good. And encouragement from at least one other, so far.

My job has high demands and pressure, and the option of doing plenty of extra things during specific intervals in time. I still intend to work that way. But slowing down means I won’t be able to get to as many things as I did before. And for me, that’s hard.

What prompted this change is actually a current change in our work schedule, which allows little time for much of anything else during the actual days we’re working, except to work, eat, and sleep. It has its good points with the time off, though I’m not a fan of it, myself. So I was wondering if this change is actually a rebellious reaction to it, that a little bit of that, at least, might be in me.

Actually, it seems like my life is on a theme of the Lord wanting to slow me down. Recently I didn’t see a flashing light in a school area, so that even though I wasn’t exceeding what I think* is the normal speed limit, I was picked up, and cited, since the lower speed limit was then in effect. So I’ve been driving slower ever since, yes, on the right hand side when I have to. So the thought of slowing down at work, which actually correlates with helping preserve my health seems to fall in line with that.

Just the same, although I had stated this new change at work, and was beginning to do it, I felt strange, out of place, and just couldn’t tie what I was doing to putting my whole heart into it. Until the above passage came to mind, which I began to repeat again and again.

Every bit of that passage is so important for me in this, for us all in life, actually. Yes, I’m weary and burdened. Yes, I need to come to the Lord for rest. He is gentle and humble in heart, so humble to work with the likes of me. And oh yes, I need that rest, for sure. And the thought that his yoke is easy and his burden light, and that he’s right alongside us in this. Wow. Wonderful. And just exactly what I need. So that, yes, I continue to serve God with my whole heart, of course not that I ever did that perfectly. But in a new, deeper way, which is actually more in line with God’s will in that it’s more oriented to Jesus, and less to myself.

So this is a new path I’m on as of yesterday. Soon after I embarked on it, I was tempted to go back for good reason, but stayed the course. And then, blessedly, the Matthew 11 passage came to mind. Something I intend to follow and grow in, in and through Jesus.

*Actually I just found out that I was 10 mph over the normal speed limit, and therefore 20 over with the flashing light. But the officer did reduce it to 10 mph over, so that my fine wasn’t as high. All the more reason to slow down. (3/10/2018)

 

the beauty and brokenness of life

We see everywhere both the wonder and brokenness of life. There is something wonderful about our world, even about us. And yet there’s something broken as well, that needs fixed. Beauty and brokenness all around us, yes, even in our midst, and within us.

We can get so used to it, that we live in it without much complaint, but bearing its weight. This reminds me of Jesus’s healing of a woman:

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

Luke 13:10-17

And it also reminds me of the prayer the Lord taught us to pray, this part:

Our Father in heaven…
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:9-10

So we live in a beautiful, yet broken world. And the promise in Jesus is both for the present and the future: this present existence, and the life to come. So that we want to pray and work against the brokenness present now, especially the worst of it. I think of slave trade, ongoing injustice against African Americans and against other people in other places, abortion, etc., etc. There are hands on practical ways in which we can help. And of course the ultimate answer is in Jesus, and God’s good news in him.

May God help us see where this healing can take take place now and what place we can have in that, and may we hold on to the hope of the ultimate healing to come, when heaven and earth become one at Jesus’s return, in and through Jesus.

the invitiation to the Sabbath rest in Jesus

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11

Recently on Discover the Word, Elisa Morgan helped me see the possible connection in the above passage between Jesus’s relationship with the Father and our relationship with Jesus. You have to sort of read between the lines and gather it in, but actually it is clear when one reads all of the gospel accounts, particularly the gospel according to John.

I love the fact that just as Jesus, the Son was completely dependent on the Father, even while being deserving of equal honor with his Father (John 5:23), so we too are to be and actually completely are dependent on the Son (John 15).

In the passage quoted above from Matthew 11, Jesus is alongside us, pulling the weight himself, thus making it light to us. And yet we’re alongside with him in God’s work. Amazing.

Of course it’s an invitation in the first place. An invitation to everyone who is weary and burdened to find rest. And in that rest we somehow find the work we’re to do. Instead of trying to rest one day out of seven, which actually is a good thing, and I think we do well to try to practice that insofar as that’s possible, this is the Sabbath rest scripture speaks of (Hebrews 4). Something I want to understand and learn to live in better. Of course in and through Jesus.

Where is Jesus?

Sometimes we simply need to get away from it all, to be free of the pressing duties and even the concerns of life. To simply relax and enjoy, to be at peace. In that to seek the Lord indeed. But to have some amusement and fun, now there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that.

During Jesus’s busy time of ministry, he had times when he would want to simply get away with his disciples and rest, although he couldn’t escape the people. He was known to get up early at least some mornings and get away to have communion in prayer with his Father. Yes, we need times like that. We need a certain kind of stillness and solitude.

But more often than not, we’ll find Jesus, and God in him in the pressing duties of everyday life, and in the difficult things which come our way. We can grow weary and tired over that, and we do need some breaks now and then. But more often than not, that’s where we’ll find Jesus, and God in him at work.

And so while we need to take care of ourselves, we also need to look for Jesus. Where is Jesus? What would God be doing in and through Jesus today, even through us who are in Jesus, in whatever humble way we can serve, even if only by being present?

the presentation of ourselves to God in and through Christ

I like the thought in today’s prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, the petition to God that Christ himself would present us to the Father “with pure and clean hearts.” Along with that is a text for today, which also speaks of our presentation to God in and through Christ:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Romans 12:1-5

The NRSV uses the world “present,” instead of “offer,” and what is going on here includes both. We offer ourselves to God, it being sacrificial in nature. And it is indeed a presentation of ourselves to God. Certainly at its core, God does the work in and through Christ. There is nothing we can do at all. But in that work of God, we are active, not passive. We respond to God’s grace in Christ, and present ourselves, our bodies to him “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” itself being our “true and proper worship.” And as such, we are members in Christ of each other. We are in this together, each having our part to play to help each other fulfill the goal of our presentation to God through Christ: in love seeking to be holy, set apart to him as no less than a living sacrifice to his glory.

 

work

There is no doubt that the life to which we are called in Christ is a life of rest. God’s promise in Christ is a rest from our own works so that we might enter,  through Christ’s finished work in his death on the cross into the very works of God, or more humbly put, into God’s work.

So this rest does not mean no activity but a new activity. And we’re referring now to this present life, not to the life to come when we will rest from all our labor here, even as our works follow us there. The great Apostle Paul said that he worked harder than the other apostles, but that it was not him, but God’s grace at work in him.

As followers of Christ we are indeed in the yoke with him in what might be called restful service or work. It is a work which fully engages us, to which in love for God and for others we are fully given. Even with all of our limitations, weakness and shortcomings in this life. God in his grace through Jesus is at work in us both to will and do what pleases him.

And so we are indeed compelled to a life of service in the good works God has for us in Christ.

weakness and brokenness and God’s work

Last evening we had a wonderful celebration of God’s faithfulness for 75 years in the work of RBC Ministries at Frederick Meijer Gardens. Once again we got to hear the wonderful story of “Doc DeHaan,” M. R. DeHaan, and how God brought life out of near death, and blessing out of failure. It is a most encouraging story, reminding us that weakness and brokenness are necessary, or at least seem to me to be necessary prerequisites to God’s work. The theme was “Psalms 40:3 – Many will see what He has done and BE AMAZED, they will put their trust in the Lord.”

I wish I could recall the name of the lady who shared what God is doing in the present, but truly amazing stories of how God is using his word through RBC Ministries to bring people to Christ who sometimes are on the brink of destruction.

And I love the vision God has given to Rick DeHaan and others for the future. Rick shared on that, and it is indeed interesting even if a bit troubling for the likes of us who work in the printing part for “Our Daily Bread,” etc. “The Times They (certainly) Are a-Changin.” Rick is a most humble man, son of Richard DeHaan and grandson of M. R. DeHaan. One whom God has now set apart to lead the work.

My favorite part was when Rick’s brother, Mart DeHaan, former president, and still very active in the ministry, shared the story of the past, it’s beginnings. How M. R. DeHaan had two serious heart attacks, reacted badly to the medication, committed his life to the Lord, and came out of the hospital a different man. But after divisions at two churches he started, the last being Calvary Undenominational Church, he thought his ministry days were over. But God used his wonderful teaching gift on the radio beginning in 1938 on CKLW in Windsor, Ontario. From that began what today is a world-wide ministry committed to sharing God’s life changing wisdom for everyone in the world. It was interesting to to hear of Richard’s story, the father of Mart and Rick, whom I had the pleasure of meeting before the Lord took him home. The sharp divide between his father M. R. and himself over a TV ministry he wanted to take on, and how Richard came to know God in a new way in his brokenness in Florida over two years before reconciliation and the launch of “Day of Discovery.”

Both Rick and Mart model well what is needed for God’s work. Being cast on God with all humility and weakness, faithful in and through God’s faithfulness in Christ. I realize I fit right in. I am broken as well and live usually in perpetual weakness of one sort or another. God is good and amazing in his work of love, including us as co-workers with him in and through Jesus by the Spirit together for the world.

finding one’s niche

We all have our place in the world, in Christ in the body of Christ and in mission. It is a community effort to be sure, but it is made up of individuals in community.

Finding one’s niche means we each have something to do, something to contribute. Sometimes I wish I could contribute in this and that way. I wish I was studied in this or that, or could do some of the same kinds of work I see others doing. Even just in contributing along the same lines.

But I find that we do well to see what’s put in front of us, how the Lord has been leading us, what he’s given us to do, and then doing that. However humble it might be.

We each have our part from God in Christ by the Spirit, and we do this as part of the whole, the community in Christ. Together in him for the world.

learning a deeper rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I’m on vacation right now, and have appreciated some significant rest both in body and in spirit. Some things are happening which have brought me back down to earth a bit, and I know the daily grind is about to resume all too soon.

But through that and a cartoon someone shared on Facebook, I’ve been reminded of my need to learn a deeper rest, day after day, no matter what.

I say learn. Jesus’ call is to all the weary and burdened to come to him with the promise that he will give the one who does so, rest. And then he tells us to take his yoke upon us and learn from him. The result will be rest for our souls.

We probably dislike the idea of having to learn this. Or it seems counterintuitive. After all, shouldn’t rest be simply an experience one receives. We certainly can’t make this “soul” rest happen ourselves. And yet the call from Jesus is to learn his way in and with him. With the idea that he will be right beside us, actually carrying most of the load. And that in doing this, we will find that rest.

I want relief, or this or that answer to whatever problem I’m facing. Instead, I’m invited to come to Jesus and learn from him, with the promise of rest.

It is what it is. There’s no formula to arrive to this. We need to take the words of Jesus at face value, as they are. Simple as that. What is implied here is a process. Not to say there won’t be breakthroughs along the way, because there most surely will. But by and large this ends up being a process. One in which we’ll see improvement in change over time.

We need to learn this rest in our relationship with the Lord, and we need to share this rest with others. First in the difference it makes in our lives. And then sharing in word how this is happening. “Show and tell.”

And so the Lord helps us, that we might actually work with him. May we take up the Lord’s invitation and learn to live more and more in that rest, along with others in Jesus, in and for the world.

by faith

We note in scripture that the witnesses who could attest to the reality of faith, were active in that faith. They did good as well as mighty works. Faith is often equated with belief. But true biblical faith cannot stop at belief to be genuine. In fact just as basic as belief is trust in a personal sense. We trust the God who gives us his promises in and through Jesus. And by those promises we live our lives, indeed a new life. Because that is what those promises involve, and what God gives, or moves us toward through their fulfillment.

Promises as in scriptural passages are indeed important.  But I want to look at promises in terms of the entire Story of scripture. I am not promised something to help me along in my own self-centered version of life. But I am given God’s promises in Jesus to be reoriented into no less than a completely new life. A life of following Jesus together with others as witnesses of the reality of faith, and the reality which makes that faith possible.

Yes, indeed faith is a matter of trust in God, though the point of Hebrews 11 seems to be a life lived, and acts done in that life. One finds themselves in no less than God’s work and working. And that indeed one’s entire life is changed, or that such faith tends toward, and indeed is intended to move us in that direction.

And again amazingly enough we find that we are involved and indeed in the flow, in fact even doing–the very work and works of God. I do ministry at a nursing home, as well as other ministry from time to time. I know that if it’s my work, no matter how well done, people will receive no benefit from God. The only kind of work I want to do is that which benefits people through God. But if I’m involved in the working of God, not dependent on me, that is what makes the difference! Then people will benefit, and I as well.

So by faith we carry on. Wanting to live faithfully and well according to God’s promises in Jesus and in following Jesus. That indeed our lives may be a blessing to others. Together in Jesus for the world.