Tag Archives: rest

It’s all ours!

Imagine inheriting a beautiful estate, fully furnished, in the location of your dreams. The house is massive, full of rooms and treasures. There are outbuildings and what seems to be unending land with fields, trees, water, and paths. It’s all yours.

The caretaker welcomes you to your new home and offers to show you around. He wisely shows you just the places you will need and then leaves you to discover the wonders of the rest on your own. At any time, you can call on him for help or information; but he understands the special pleasure you will have in discovering these things on your own.

Something like that happens when we first enter into the knowledge of grace. We are told the basics, but there will be a lifetime of discovering the wonders and privileges of our relationship with Jesus.

This is the kind of experience I have had as I have learned about grace. I read the Scriptures and pray and more is opened almost every day. I read and listen to people who understand and am in awe of the new treasures I find. Some of the things I could see faintly, but when I looked closely I found them even more wonderful than I had thought. Some of the things I could almost expect as I reasoned through what I already knew, but some were amazing surprises.

You and I are loved by the Lord God Almighty. He has done all that is necessary for us to be with Him forever. He has provided, through our relationship with Him, everything we need for life and godliness. Jesus is our Friend. He is with us and He will never let us go. The rest of our lives will be spent learning more and more about what all of that means. As we learn, we will see more truth and feel more freedom and peace with every new day.

Perhaps it is true that we will never fully understand the grace of God in this world, but we are on our way. We listen and watch and more is revealed all the time. And we don’t have to distort the Scriptures or make up new doctrines or ideas. Instead, we will discover the beauty of the things that were plain all the time, except that we were not able to see them. We didn’t realize they were ours.

The old song says, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before!” I am beginning to understand.

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I am Content

Words of Grace  

 

Over the past several weeks I have shared words of affirmation that proclaim what the Bible says about you and me, even though we often forget or don’t understand these truths. I want to push a little beyond that in these posts to address the emotions and feelings we are supposed to enjoy, even while we struggle with them.  Last week I wrote about being confident even though we don’t feel confident. I mentioned the disconnect between our reality and our emotions.

When the Lord tells us to move in confidence, but we don’t feel confident, what is happening? The flesh is speaking up against the move of the Spirit. The old ways we learned to live apart from the Lord assert themselves against the reality the Spirit has created in our lives. Some people think this is two natures battling within them, but it is simply our emotions slipping into the default mode of what we have lived for so long.

Here’s another one: be content, the Spirit says. You know the verse. Hebrews 13:5, “be content with such things as you have.” Easier said than done, right?

When the Spirit calls me to a certain emotion or attitude, He is not telling me to create that attitude in my heart. He is telling me to live according to the attitude which is already present in my heart. Being content is already a part of me because I am in Christ and Christ is in me. I have all I need in Him. I need nothing more than Him. The Spirit is simply calling me to live in the satisfaction and contentment that are already mine.

The flesh, on the other hand, is never really content. It needs affirmation and never finds real satisfaction. Have you noticed how the things of this world never satisfy? You need a new car, you think. You become so discontent with your old one. More and more your flesh longs for a new one. Then, when you get it, your flesh begins to need something else. It never gets enough.

Understand that the flesh is simply the old way of thinking. It is not you. The flesh is fading away as you learn to walk in the Spirit. But there are many things to unlearn, and a process of transformation that will take some time. The Scripture refers to this process (Romans 12:2, 2 Cor 3:18). It is simply learning to walk according to the Spirit now that we no longer walk according to the flesh (Romans 8).

So you—the you that Jesus knows, the you that will live eternally, the you that is real and complete and right—you are content. There is no other you. But you don’t fully know yourself yet. You are being transformed in your thinking so that you are beginning to conform, in your thinking, to the reality Jesus has given you.

Wow! If that makes sense, you can see how freeing it is. We are becoming who we are. So you and I can say:

 

I am content.

Jesus is enough for me.

He is the source of all blessing and good in my life.

Jesus is with me always.

I am content.

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What to do?

Grace 101

What do you do when God is silent?

Yes, I think there are times when God is silent.  I really don’t think that happens often, but I think it does happen.  So let me put in my caveat first and then talk about God’s silence.

You see, most of the time God is not silent.  We are just not listening.  I wrote about that before.  Sometimes we just need to shut up and listen.  We go to Him with our problems and dump the load on Him, almost as though we expect Him to jump at our command.  In those times, His silence is our own fault.

And sometimes we try to paint God into a corner.  He has to solve our problem in a certain way.  Anything else would be unacceptable or unrecognized.  Maybe healing is what we want, but healing isn’t the only good option.  Maybe that new job or new love seems the best to us, but there is a better one out there.  By telling God what He must do, we set ourselves up for missing His answer.

But there are those times when we pray in submission and come to Him in quietness and we still hear nothing.  In those times we are to wait.  Trust that something is happening.

Sometimes children come to their parents in tears, maybe even screaming, and parents are supposed to help.  But, in order to help, the child has to stop screaming, stop hyperventilating, and simply calm down.  We tell them to “take a deep breath,” and we do nothing until they are ready to receive.  There is great value in that deep breath.  The world gets crazy.  Evil and danger press in, trying to overwhelm us.  Yet, it rarely is what we see; and taking a deep breath, pausing to settle our hearts, changes our perspective.

So, when God is silent, take a deep breath.  Calm your heart.  Yes, there is danger and you are worried.  Yes, you are upset.  Yes, you feel that you need an answer right away.  But you won’t be ready to hear until you settle into the rest He has already given you.

Then you may begin to understand that He has already given you the answer.  You haven’t been able to hear Him because you haven’t accepted the answer He has given.

Or you may see that your request is misguided.  Not wrong.  He knows your heart and your fears.  He understands what you ask, but His best is something different.

And maybe you will see that your heart has been wrong.  You have forgotten that He is God, wise and strong and wonderful.  The best thing that can happen is for you to step back and stop demanding your way.

In all of these, God may simply wait.  Your stress and confusion are stopping you from hearing Him or accepting His answer.  So He waits for you.  In fact, when you don’t hear from Him, ask Him if He is waiting for you.

The point in all of this is that grace allows us to find peace when God is silent.  Trust in His love and His power.  Trust in His wisdom and authority.  Trust that He is able to do what is needed and wise enough to know what is needed.  Believe that He hears your prayer and loves you.  Then rest.

No, it isn’t easy.  The craziness pushes and threatens.  But ask Him for peace, even though you don’t yet have your answer or your miracle.

Ask Him to help you rest in Him.

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Finding Myself

Grace 101

 

I am loved.  Jesus loves me, this I know.  It’s such a simple message, but it shines its light to the very core of our being.  Jesus brings the reality of God to my life.  He tells me who I am.

The One in charge of all things, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, loves me.  There is no why or how, there is just the simple fact of His love.  In relationship with Him, I find myself.  I am someone who is loved.  I am special and valuable and worthy—all because of Him. 

You see, it really doesn’t matter what I think of myself.  Most of us think worse of ourselves than we should, I suppose.  Some think too highly of themselves.  But I will never consider an identity I have chosen for myself to be valid because identity needs confirmation.  Identity is established in relationship.

When I look past others like me because their perspective is too much like my own, and I look past the untouchable ideas of the Universe or Nature or, in some cases, God, because I can’t hear their judgments of me—then I still look for a Person.  That Person is Jesus, God in human flesh.  There is so much about Him that I do not and can not understand, but I know that I can live in relationship with Him.  He accepts me and I discover who I am.

I am who I am in Him.  Chosen, loved, accepted, valued—that’s me! 

The search for identity is fulfilled in relationship with Jesus.  Please notice that I say nothing about religion or faith or performance.  When I see Him as a Person and understand how He sees me as a person, that’s when it all begins.  Religion can give rules and doctrines, but not a relationship.  Many who claim to be His don’t know Him.  That’s what He said would happen. 

But to those who come to Him, to those He gives rest.  “Come unto me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  That’s what He said.  Rest from work?  Hardly.  Rest from spiritual striving?  Sure, but there’s more.  This is rest for our souls.  Rest from the search.  Rest from the unknowing.  Rest from the fear and anxiety of wondering who we really are.  The answer is found in Him.

Please also notice that this answer is not something that can be found outside of Him.  You might discover what He thinks of you, the fact, but it will not satisfy until it is found in Him.  Identity is lived in relationship. 

In Jesus I found myself.  I finally learned the truth about who I am.  Now—if I can but remember—I can live forever in peace.

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The Real Question

Grace 101

 

She is considered the most beautiful by her friends and family.  She wins contests, receives compliments, and turns heads.  Everyone she knows considers her to be the image of beauty.

Yet she knows her flaws.  She looks in the mirror with dissatisfaction.  Perhaps a little surgery will help.  Perhaps some different application of cosmetics.  Perhaps a new workout.  She cannot be satisfied or content.

He has more money than any person could spend in a lifetime, more than any family could spend.  His business success has been legendary and others consider him an example of how it should be done.  Whatever he touches, it seems, turns to gold.

Yet he wants more.  Another business deal.  Another company takeover.  Better investments.  More hours in the office, pushing for success.  Never satisfied; never enough.

These are fundamentally identity problems.  Those who have not reached the pinnacle of what they think will satisfy them often believe that they would be content if they just had enough.  Yet, those who have enough by every standard of measurement are still not satisfied.  Using our accomplishments or attributes to establish identity may work in social relationships, but there is something more.  Most people know this intuitively.  Even as they strive for more, they know it will not satisfy.

Our search for identity compels us to look outside ourselves for definition.  It isn’t enough for us to know who we are to ourselves, we want to know who we are to others.  But, even when the assessment of others is positive, something is lacking.  When I look at my fellow-strugglers, I see others like myself.  Their definition of me is important, but not enough.  I want to know who I am in relation to the universe, the creation, or God.

The real question of the ages is not, “Is there a God?”  The real question is, “Who am I?”  And the question of my identity can only be answered in relation to someone or something bigger than me.

So we have always searched for God.  Not to know Him, but to know ourselves.  And, if our search for God does not reveal our identity, we either give up and resign to our dissatisfaction or we keep looking.

It is obvious that many who claim to have found God have not found themselves.  They continue to strive for more.  They look to their performance or their attributes and are unsatisfied.  In their search for identity, they have missed something.  Some of them decide it isn’t there.  They leave God behind and search in places they have already been or in places of fantasy and imagination.

Our goal is to rest in who we are, but neither religion nor atheism can reveal the answer.  The answer is in a Person.

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Rest

Grace 101

So far we have only looked at three blessings in the gift the believer receives in Jesus: salvation, forgiveness, and righteousness.  I admit that these are big blessings, ones that should be found on top of the box as you sort through the gift.  But the fourth one lies right under these, so obvious that you can’t miss it.  Yet, so many believers never explore the rest of the gift after they find salvation.  So they miss something amazing.

What do you have when you know you are saved and Heaven is yours; and you know that your sins are fully and forever forgiven; and you have as your own the righteousness of Jesus?  Let me tease just a little more: if you understand the first three, the fourth comes naturally.  If you don’t understand or accept the fullness of the first three, you will not find the fourth.

(There really should be a drumroll here.)

If Heaven is secure and your sins are gone and the righteousness of Jesus is yours—then you are finally free to rest.

REST!

No more striving to measure up, to be good enough for Heaven.  No more trying to cover your own sins or make up for the negative things of your life.  No more working to appear righteous in the sight of God.  All those things are yours as part of the gift and you can rest.

Rest in the assurance.

Rest in the accomplishment.

Rest in the promise.

Rest in the love.

Now, I know that some will insist that there is work to be done, that we cannot rest until we have accomplished the purpose God has for our lives.  Bah!  We can rest while we enjoy the work of God in us, through us, and for us.  Rest is not the end of activity, but the end of strife.  Rest is not laziness, but trusting that the essential work is done and the work that is left will be accomplished by His energy and wisdom.  Rest is not ignoring the things that remain, but rest is believing that God does His work and the privilege we have of participating in that work is not a burden.  Rest is joyful activity.

Jesus has given you all you need.  Now rest.  Enjoy the days that remain in this world and look forward to the hope of tomorrow.

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Good Works? pt 2

(We are making the move back to CO and the office, school, church, etc.  Please enjoy these posts from the archives.  You are welcome to comment as usual and I will respond on the other side.)

The question I received asked about Ephesians 2:10, the verse just after a wonderful assurance of God’s grace where Paul says that we were “created for good works.”  Doesn’t God expect us to be out doing good works now that we are saved by Him?

What about good works?

What a great question!  It seems obvious that “good works” are important to the Lord.  No respectable teacher of grace would dismiss the call to good works.  However, there are a few things to understand.

First, the verse you mentioned helps us to understand the order of things.

10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.   Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

“Created in Christ Jesus” is a reference only to those who are believers.  In Christ we are new creation.  So this has nothing to do with becoming saved.  These good works come after salvation and have nothing to do with getting us saved.  You are right about that. Titus 3:5 says much the same thing.  There are many verses that support this.

However, there are at least four more points that should be noted.

1.  The Scriptures speak of two kinds of “good works”.  There are those we perform by human effort; the ones we do.  Then there are those performed by the strength and will of the Lord, whether in us or not.  It will be important to discern the difference as you read.  One is of little value; the other is everything.  I will try to note the difference by referring to “our good works” and “His good works”.  Understand, however, that both may look like they come from us.

Paul seems to separate the two by calling one “works” and the other “grace”, at least when he is teaching about the difference.  Interestingly, he says that it is the works system that is set up against grace.  When Paul thinks of the law, he is thinking of a system of our good works.  He makes a strong case that these works, this human effort or performance, are contrary to grace.  Our works lead us to expect spiritual blessing from God as a wage (Romans 4:4).  Thus, if our good works were counted, our spiritual blessings would no longer be of grace (Romans 11:6), and we would be entitled to our boasting.  So there is a difference between the works we do in the strength of our flesh and the works God does in and through us.

Point 2 is next…

 

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