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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

OVERFLOWING WITH THANKSGIVING

 
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’” 
John 7:37-39


The last year and a half has been a time of loss and grief for us. We are coming up on the season of Thanksgiving, and it is a struggle for us to imagine what we might be thankful for. By the Grace of God, our hearts are enlarged to see the greater picture and bow before our great and loving God to say thank you again every day for the beautiful things that He has done for us. Let us consider a lesson from the Gospels that shows the power of gratitude in an unlikely soul.

Jesus says that those who believe in Him will have rivers of living water flowing from their hearts. When we come to Jesus and drink the living water that He offers, the living water can flow from us to others. So my question is, what flows from your heart and life?  Can others see what’s flowing from our hearts?  This week many of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving. It is the time of the year when we pause, meditate, and give thanks for what we have.  I know this year and last year have been challenging for many of us. It might be a little more challenging to be thankful due to our losses and trials.  Indeed, this year has been rough!   Yet despite what’s negative in our lives, God wants us to overflow with thankfulness or thanksgiving, even in a rough year like this. Listen to Paul’s words.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

How can one be thankful, even amid trials and sorrows?  How can one overflow with thanksgiving? Let’s read God’s Word in the Gospel of Luke 17:11-19.  Let’s consider Jesus’ teaching for a little help with thanksgiving that overflows.
“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ 14 When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19 And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’”


 I.   GRATEFUL HEARTS THAT OVERFLOW WITH THANKSGIVING:
“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’”  (Luke 17:11-13)

  • The Condition and Cry of Ten Lepers:
When Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He entered a village where ten lepers met Him, though they stood far away because the Law of Moses commanded it. Hear what the Law said regarding those who had leprosy.  
“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip  and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.’”  (Leviticus 13:45-46)

This reminds me of those who test positive for COVID.  I’ve been there.  We must stay far away. Limit any interaction with others and remain in quarantine for 14 days.  
    • Imagine living that way, not for 14 days but in life?  
    • Imagine not allowing anyone to come near you for years or the rest of your life?  
    • Imagine living alone, separated from society and technology while you’re leprous?  
    • How terrible it is to be cut off from the world!  

We must understand that those who had leprosy did not have a normal life like yours and mine.  

Going back to our story.  The ten lepers were standing at a distance because the Law commanded it. And though they were obeying the Law, they still cried out to Jesus, yelling.  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” These ten acknowledged that Jesus had the power to change their lives.  They did not regard Jesus as just another teacher.  They did not see Jesus as just a rabbi, teaching good things about God. They acknowledged that Jesus had the power to heal them. Thus they cried out to Him with loud voices as they stood at a far distance from Jesus. They knew the Master would have mercy on them!  Master, have mercy on us!

  • Healing:
“When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.’”  (Luke 17:14)

It is strange what Jesus said and did.  Why?  Because He told these ten lepers to go and show themselves to the priests. Why must they show themselves to the priests?  Because they had been healed from their leprosy, and the priests had to verify their cleanness to be allowed back into society.  When  Jesus commanded these lepers to go and see the priests, they still had the skin condition, and it did not make any sense. But these ten lepers did what Jesus commanded.  They are on their way to see the priests in whatever city they might be found and, as they were going, they were cleansed.  We find some powerful words in verse 14.  
“And as they went they were cleansed.” 

  • Jesus Asked An Important Question:
“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, 'Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  (Luke 17:15-18)

Notice that in verses 15-16, one of the ten lepers turned back to praise God with a loud voice and fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks to Him when he saw he was healed from his leprosy.  This grateful leper was on the ground thanking Jesus!  I can only imagine the gratitude of this leper’s heart and the praises he was offering to God!  This man had just gotten his life back!  
    • He was destined to die, but Jesus gave him life. 
    • He was destined to remain an outcast, but Jesus restored him to society. 
    • He was destined to be alone, but Jesus brought him back into society.   

What a beautiful picture of gratitude in this man’s heart!  It moves us deeply! 

But Jesus asked a critical question in verse 17
“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” 

Where is everyone else? Verse 18 gives us the answer.
“Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
    • Didn’t any of the other nine lepers return to give God the glory except this foreigner?  
    • Would no one else come back and give thanks to God? 
    • Was no one else going to come back to praise God? 
    • Why didn’t all ten of them return?

Let’s pause for a moment and think about what happened.  
    • Do you think that if we were to ask the other nine lepers if they were grateful for being healed, they would say that they truly were grateful?  
    • Could you believe that they were overflowing with gratitude now that they no longer had this terrible skin disease? 
    • Do you think they would admit they were thankful for what Jesus did? 

Yes! Of course, they would!  Sadly, they did not express it!  
    • They did not come back to thank Jesus and let Him know how grateful they were.  
    • They did not praise God for being healed of such a terrible disease.  

You see, this is what Jesus was pointing out as their main problem. We may think in our hearts that we are grateful to God, but if we do not express our thankfulness, we are not thankful at all.  Instead, we show ourselves ungrateful. That is exactly what’s happening here in this story.  And though the other nine lepers might have been grateful for Jesus healing them, they did not thank Him, nor did they draw close to Him with thankful hearts.  They did not praise God or surrender completely to Him.  

  • The Result:
“And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19)

One of the ten lepers returned to Jesus, and it would be life-changing.  In verse 19, Jesus told this one leper who returned to thank Him, 
“Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you” (CSB).  

Another Bible translation says, 
“Your faith has made you well.” 

But notice that the Greek literally is,
“Your faith has saved you.” 

I believe this is the correct translation.  Why?  Because one out of ten lepers who were healed came back to Jesus and was saved.  This one-man experienced something much greater than what the other nine did.  And though all ten were healed, only one experienced much more because he came back to thank Jesus with a grateful heart.   


CONCLUSION:

So What Is Jesus Teaching Us?

Jesus is teaching us that it is not enough to feel grateful. It was not enough for the ten lepers to feel how great it was to be healed.  It was not enough to just believe they were thankful. Jesus is teaching us that gratitude or thankfulness must be expressed, not merely felt.

We must tell others that we are thankful for them. We must tell others that we are grateful for having them in our lives and what they mean to us.  Have you noticed how the apostle Paul started almost every letter he wrote in the scriptures?
 “I give thanks to my God always for you…”  (1 Corinthians 1:4). 

Paul was not hesitant to tell others how thankful he was to the Lord for them, the brethren.  Thinking it was not enough. Feeling it was not enough.  Paul always expressed his thankfulness or gratitude to others.  How will others know we are thankful for them if we fail to express our gratitude and appreciation?  Sadly, they will never know.   Our lack of words will express our lack of gratitude or appreciation.   You see, God’s children must overflow with thankfulness, and that means we must express it in words to others.

We must express our gratitude and thankfulness to our Lord for all He does, has done, and will do in our lives.  We must be grateful to God, and we must express such gratitude to Him!  It is disturbing to me that only one out of ten lepers returned to Jesus to thank Him.  It is hard to fathom how only one came back to Jesus with a grateful heart considering what He did for them!  Don’t you think that after being sick, cast away from society, and then being healed by Jesus would have made these ten lepers overflow with thanksgiving and grateful hearts?  

Only when we realize our desperate condition will we appreciate and express our gratitude to God.  We must see ourselves as the lepers in this storyWe Christians were once cut off from God, living alone, and destined for death. But because of God’s goodness and mercy (Grace), He sent Jesus to free us from our sins.  So, what will we do next?  What we do next is everything, according to Jesus. Ten are healed, but only one is saved. We can be healed, but we are missing out when we refuse to return to Jesus, expressing our sincere gratitude and praises to Him.  

It is so easy to fall into this trap and take what Jesus has done for us for granted! God has given us many reasons and memorials so that we might not forget, but continue to be grateful every day for what Jesus did for us. Our lack of gratitude keeps us from having a relationship with God.  

In Luke 17:19, Jesus said,
“Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” 

Jesus declared that this one leper returned with a thankful heart to express his faith.  How was his faith expressed? This leper expressed his faith when he returned to Jesus with a grateful heart that overflowed with thanksgiving.  The faith of the other nine was shallow and superficial.  And though they got what they wanted from Jesus, they missed out on so much more.  They missed out on worshiping God and praising Him.  However, the returning leper came back glorifying and praising God because he truly loved and believed in Jesus.  What a contrast!  

Grateful hearts overflow with thanksgiving because they acknowledge they’re not worthy of such blessings.  Ungrateful hearts show a lack of salvation.   Hearts that overflow with thanksgiving express their gratitude by the way they live.  They express their gratitude by the way they worship God, and they do it daily.  Saving faith is an expression of giving thanks to God.  
Even amid so much grief and trials, there is so much for which we must be thankful to God in our lives! 

We must be grateful and overflow with thanksgiving until our last breath for what Jesus did for us.  We were destined to death, but because of what Jesus did, we now have the hope of eternal life.  Thus we must be grateful every day of our lives to Him and praise Him. Jesus gave us our life back!!  

May we thank Him for what He did for us, giving us our lives back, with every breath we take.  May we always be thankful for His steadfast love and for not abandoning us.  May we always have a heart of gratitude and never take the innumerable blessings we have through Christ Jesus for granted. 

I commend to you the words of the song “Thank you, Lord!”  It is a touching way for us to express our gratitude to God.  I hope you find it useful for your own expression of gratitude or thanksgiving.


For all that You’ve done, I will thank You, 
For all that You’re going to do. 
For all that You’ve promised and all that You are 
Is all that has carried me thru, Jesus, I thank You!

Chorus: 

And I thank You, thank You, Lord, 
And I thank You, thank You, Lord! 
Thank you for loving and setting me free. 
Thank You for giving Your life just for me.
How I thank You, 
Jesus, I thank You, 
Gratefully thank You. 
Thank You.



Luci


Monday, October 18, 2021

THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD



“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 
Luke 19:10


The greatest life-saving medicine this world has ever known would help very few people if they had never heard of it. God, our Creator, has watched humanity self-destruct since the beginning of time and has cared about each and every one, knowing the end from the beginning. We know that the Son of God came to seek and save every lost sheep, every lost soul. We have a great example of how Jesus saw His work in the simple conversation He had with a Samaritan woman whom He met when their paths crossed at a well. His efforts to reach her are a lesson for us today about how to reach out to a stranger and coax him into seeing what life can be.

Jesus, our Savior, came to earth to seek and save the lost.  Jesus, who is the Christ, came down to earth and lived among us as a man to bring the good news of joy to all people.
"And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord"  (Luke 2:10-11).  

Jesus’ good news must be spread all over by the preaching of the Gospel.
"For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'  14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'"  (Romans 10-13-15).  

His salvation must be proclaimed to the whole world.  Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”’  (Mark 16:15-16).  


God wants all Christians to speak of His salvation from day to day to all the people because He loves the souls of man.  We must tell sinners God’s plan of salvation to save them.  We must tell them what Jesus did for us to redeem us.  Christ, our Savior, came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).  Salvation is only possible through Christ the Savior.   

Because Jesus fought the fight by His death and endless life and because salvation is in Christ, we can sing triumphing over the tomb.  Jesus’ salvation produces great joy.    

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”  (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)


The angels rejoice in heaven over one sinner who repents. All people of all nations who heed the Gospel of Salvation and come to Christ can rejoice. They can rejoice because salvation in Christ gives us a song of victory.

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:  ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’  55 ‘O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?’  56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’”  (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)


The heart of the Gospel of salvation is Jesus Christ.  We who have been tested or redeemed must proclaim the good news of Salvation in Christ. To evangelize is to proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ. According to the Scriptures, salvation is found in Christ and following His way, not in any other religion or system.  Knowing all that Jesus our Savior did for us, we are compelled to proclaim and deliver God’s Message of salvation to this sinful world.  We must tell the world that  “Jesus Saves!”


I.   THE WOMAN AT THE WELL AND EVANGELISM:  

“Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why are you talking with her?’ 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.  31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ 32 But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ 33 So the disciples said to one another,’ Has anyone brought him something to eat?’ 34 Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’”  (John 4:27-34)


In my previous study, “The Living Water,”  the apostle John narrates Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus engaged in a conversation with her about the living water.  He revealed to her that He was the foretold Messiah, the Christ they had been waiting for for a long time.  Jesus exposed this woman’s sin to make her aware of her spiritual blindness.  Jesus’ purpose for doing this was to help her see that she needed the living water He was offering.  That living water would lead her to eternal life.

  • True Satisfaction:  (John 4:27-34)

While Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman, the disciples returned from the city since they had gone to buy food (John 4:8). They were astounded to see Jesus talking to this Samaritan woman. They did not question Jesus, but I’m pretty sure they wanted to know what had happened in their absence. The Samaritan woman left her water jar, in her excitement, and went into the city to tell the people to come and see a man who might be the Christ. You see, this woman went from spiritual darkness and blindness to see with eyes wide open what Jesus was offering. She saw the light and could not wait to share the good news of Jesus with the people in the city.  That’s remarkable!

Our story leaves the woman here and focuses on the apostles’ training. 

They approached Jesus, urging Him to eat with them.  Remember, they went to the city to find food for lunch.  Our chapter in John 4 starts with Jesus being weary from His journey to Samaria. Because He was tired from His journey, the apostles asked Jesus to eat to recover from the journey. But Jesus responds to them, saying, 

“I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 


Notice that Jesus used the same type of language He used with the Samaritan woman.  He did this to engage their spiritual hearts and minds. The apostles simply asked if anyone had brought Jesus food to eat.  But Jesus responded by saying that they didn’t know anything about His food.  He explained, 
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” 

Jesus’ work, as we have seen throughout this Gospel, is to offer eternal life. Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but to save the world and offer us eternal life. He is the Light that came into this world’s darkness to give sight to the blind so that they would not perish.  

Jesus used the same words that He quoted to Satan when he tempted Him in the wilderness.   

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  


Jesus' satisfaction is doing the works of His Father in heaven.  Jesus’ works are God’s works. His true satisfaction was doing the will of the Father.  His food was doing what God called Him to do. Jesus found true and great satisfaction in teaching the Samaritan woman.  To Jesus, teaching this woman the will of the Father was greater than any food the disciples could offer. Jesus was so focused and engaged with the woman’s spiritual well-being that He did not care about anything else. He was trying to teach His disciples something with this response. Jesus very well could have eaten a bite to avoid the discussion.  But He wanted His disciples to learn something.  He wanted to direct the disciples’ hearts to higher, spiritual matters.  To Jesus, serving God and doing His will was a much greater priority than any physical demand.

The work of God can sustain God’s true disciples.  Marriage, food, and wealth will not sustain us. Nothing this world can offer us will bring us true satisfaction except doing the work of God. Doing God’s work is what upholds our life. When God is our satisfaction, we will live by every word from the mouth of God instead of bread alone.  Jesus’ words reveal this truth.  Our joy must be to do the will of the Father. As the psalmist declares,

“I have come to do God’s will” (cf. Psalm 40:8). 


God’s purpose for us here on earth is to do His will with joy.  When we do God’s will, we are doing His work. Jesus declared that thought in verse 34
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”  

Jesus was indeed focused on accomplishing and completing God’s work. We, His disciples, must also continue and complete the work of the Lord. Christ is the head, and we are the body and all members of that body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12). The truly satisfying life is to live in complete submission to the Father.  Sadly, our food is often nothing but junk food: 
  1. Entertainment.
  2. Worldly pleasures.
  3. Popularity.
  4. Wealth.
  5. Success, and 
  6. Anything else physical and worldly. 

They are empty and cannot satisfy and sustain us.  God has saved us to serve Him and be conformed to His will.  


II.   BEHOLD THE HARVEST!  

"Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.'"  (John 4:35-38)


  • True Urgency:  

In John 4:35-38, Jesus is stressing to His disciples the urgency of their work.  Usually, when a seed is planted, it takes months before the harvest is ready for reaping. They had a saying at that time, “Four months and then comes the harvest.” But this is not the case here. When Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest,” it was not just a theoretical metaphor. The woman’s proclamation to the city was compelling the people to leave the town and come to Jesus (John 4:30).   Imagine such a large group of people leaving the town and coming to Jesus and the disciples! Jesus was telling the disciples: 

  1. Look and see that the fields are white for harvest. 
  2. They are coming now.  
  3. The time is now. 
  4. The harvest is ready now! 

This was the food Jesus was talking about: doing God’s will.  God’s will was to teach these Samaritans His Word so they could have eternal life. John 4:36-38 describes what is happening.   

“Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”


Although the disciples did not do the sowing, they would be reaping as the crowd came to Jesus. Jesus and the woman had done the sowing! Their work led to the reaping.

Can you grasp the excitement in Jesus’ words?  Jesus was trying to teach His disciples something extremely important.  This crucial teaching began with the disciples wanting to know why Jesus was talking to this woman. Jesus stressed the urgency of doing His work to His disciples, especially sowing and reaping with the Word of God. Indeed, His disciples would’ve never done that.  Why?  Because she would have been ignored by most of the Jewish rabbis because of her low social status. But with Jesus, it was different because His food was saving souls. Thus, Jesus’ disciples must also have the same urgency and intensity to save souls. Let us go back to John 3:17

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”


So, what is the reason for Jesus coming?  The Father gave the Son to save us. Saving people’s souls can only happen when we talk to them about the good news of salvation.  It cannot be communicated any other way!  Somehow, we have been deceived, thinking that by just living good moral lives, people will see our lives and come to Jesus, that is, become Christians.  Only when we tell people the reason for our good works and holy living will they glorify God.  But if we remain silent, though we are doing good works, people will never know that we are Jesus’ disciples and the reason for our holy living.  We must open our mouths and proclaim the saving Gospel!  Jesus’ disciples could never have saved this woman from her sins by ignoring her and keeping silent.  Thus we must plant the seed of God’s Word in people’s hearts.  

  • True Work:

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’”  (John 4:39-42)


Here there is a very stark change of direction.  Why?  Because Jesus’ disciples don’t seem to understand why Jesus was talking to the woman and also because the woman was talking to the whole town about the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ that she had found.  This woman went into the city proclaiming that she had found a man at the well who knew her life story.  Pay attention to verse 39
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.'” (John 4:39

Because of this woman’s testimony, the people in her town believed in Jesus.  She was indeed the catalyst for this crowd of people coming to Jesus.  It is remarkable what this woman did!  Do you suppose this woman knew everything about the Law of Moses? Did she know enough about the Messiah, the Christ, to tell the people about Him?  Although she was not a Bible scholar, she plainly told the people to come and see this man.  
“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”  (John 4:29)  

Obviously, anybody can do that.  Any of us can say, 
“Come and see the place where I worship the Lord.”  

We can say, 
“Come and listen to a Bible lesson online.”  
  1. We can ask people to come and visit with us for a Gospel meeting or lectureship.
  2. Any of us can easily tell people about Jesus and how much He has transformed our lives.  
  3. We can ask them to come and experience the same.  
  4. We can tell them about the new birth that Jesus is offering.  

However, we must not underestimate what we can do because it is the power of God and the Gospel that saves us. We are simply inviting people to come and see for themselves.

When our satisfaction and sustenance is doing the will of the Father, the calling of people to come and see will be a natural extension of our lives.  When our joy and purpose in life is doing God’s will, we will have an urgency to tell people to come to Jesus and share the good news, the Gospel, to save their souls.  People, we must lift up our eyes and focus on what must be our highest priority in life!  

  1. We must penetrate their physical and materialistic way of thinking so that they may see their need for a Savior. 
  2. We must use our conversations to compel people to think about life after death, their eternal destiny, and spiritual things.  
  3. We must warn them about the consequences of following the physical things of this world, forsaking the eternal ones. 
  4. We must be ready to ask people questions about what they believe happens after death.  
  5. We must ask people if they believe in the existence of God. 
  6. We must ask people their purpose in life.  
  7. We must ask people everything with an eternal impact to compel them to think beyond the now and break free of their spiritual blindness.


Many more Samaritans also came to believe Jesus as He stayed in Samaria for two days. John, at the end of this chapter, recorded an important truthThe Samaritans acknowledged that Jesus was the Savior of the world. Jesus was not the Savior for the Jews only. He was not a Jewish Messiah. He is the Savior of the world! He came to save every person and every soul regardless of heritage and background.  The theme of universal redemption continues to be a key theme for John in this Gospel.

CONCLUSION:

When we do the will of God, we find the secret to true satisfaction.  Jesus told the woman at the well that the water He offers will cause us to never thirst again. Jesus taught His disciples that He had food they did not know about because the food that sustained Him was doing the Father’s will. Jesus wants the living water He offers to continue flowing from Him through us to the rest of the world.  Since we are God’s recipients of Grace and recognize His will to save the world, that must compel us to tell the world the good news, the Gospel, to save them.  He wants us, His disciples, to tell others to come and see the changed life we have found in Him.  We Christians are the light of the world, shining in the darkness, striving to open the eyes of the blind.  Let us not turn off our light. Let us not hide our light. Jesus is the Light that has come into the darkness of the world to save sinners and give them the hope of eternity!

Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10).  Jesus savesThus we the redeemed must proclaim salvation to every land, for we have heard the joyful sound.  These glad tidings of joy are the good news that a Savior was born to save the world from sin.  However, this good news must be spread all over by the preaching of the Gospel.  There is power in the Gospel to save people from sin!  (Rom. 10:13-15; Mk. 16:15-16).  Salvation must be proclaimed and heard by sinners far and wide because Christ came to save them (1 Tim. 1:15). 

The good news among all nations is that Jesus saves!  (Psa. 96:2-3).  There is freedom from the bondage of sin through Jesus, the Savior of the world (Gal. 5:1).  Salvation is possible because of what the Savior of the world did for us.  Thus, we can sing in triumph because of salvation in Christ (Acts 4:12).  Salvation produces great rejoicing.  The angels rejoice in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:1-7).  All those who come to Christ can rejoice (Phil 4:4).  Salvation gives us a song of victory! (1 Cor. 15:54-57).  Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!

Jesus Christ is the heart of the Gospel of salvation.  Therefore, we must evangelize or proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ to sinners.  Salvation is found in Christ and His Way alone, not another religion or system.  We, Christians, must deliver the Gospel Message to this sinful world.  We must tell them that Jesus saves!

May we sow the seed of God's kingdom, His Word, in the souls of those who are lost in darkness because of sin.  May we sow the seed, water it, and let God give the increase.  May we in God's kingdom grow in faith and knowledge and contribute to the growth of His kingdom.  May all people be like the Samaritans who developed a genuine faith in Jesus.  May we also be like the Samaritan woman sharing our faith with the lost, bringing them to Christ, the Owner of the vineyard. May we pray for the harvest that He send forth laborers into His harvest to yield a great and mighty harvest of souls for His glory.  May we understand that the Savior of the world is here among us to heal those who are woefully ill because of sin and is gently seeking those who are lost to restore them to the flock.  May we approach those He brings into our path in the same graceful manner as He did with gentleness, humility, and a servant's heart.

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.  39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.’ 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’”
(John 4:35-42)

I hope the following song may compel us to spread the tidings, the good news,  to every soul regardless of race, nationality, or tongue.  We must bear the good news, the Gospel, to every land because Jesus saves.  Let us compel ourselves to tell sinners from all over, both far and wide, that Jesus saves.  Let us shout salvation full and free.  Highest hills and deepest caves; This our song of victory:  Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Jesus Saves!

We have heard the joyful sound 
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land,
Climb the steeps and cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command;
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Waft it on the rolling tide:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves! 
Tell to sinners far and wide:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing, ye islands of the sea;
Echo back, ye ocean caves;
Earth shall keep her jubilee:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing above the battle strife:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing it softly through the gloom,
When the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Give the winds a mighty voice:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free,
Highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!



Luci



Wednesday, September 29, 2021

“THERE’S A RAINBOW IN THE CLOUD”

“This is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you…I do set My bow in the clouds. 
Genesis 9:12-13


Noah and his family endured over a year of the storms that battered the ark. Although they were safely inside, they could only imagine the destruction that God poured out on the earth, destroying all of the world and its inhabitants, the world that they had spent their lives in. When finally God’s wrath was satisfied, and the family stepped into the new world, God smiled on them by placing a bow in the clouds with the promise that He would never destroy the earth again with such a flood. For thousands of years now, the rainbow has been a symbol of God’s grace and peace.

Our lovely song, “There’s A Rainbow in the Cloud,” expresses how God sets His bow in the cloud in His children’s lives.  Singing songs of praise comforts me when my heart is distressed because the songs compel me to look to God for strength and peace.  God’s children can confidently look for God’s rainbow amid life’s toils and tears.  Our Gracious God has promised His children He will hear our prayers when we cry to Him.  He will give us peace and make us smile, even in our moments of anguish (Psalm 39:12).  God’s rainbow reminds us that we lack nothing because our LORD is the Shepherd who will lead us safely into green pastures and beside the still waters.  But, we, His children, must trust Him (Psalm 23:1-2).  Since our Shepherd LORD leads us to peace and tranquility, we can live without the spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7).

God has given His children the assurance of a rainbow in the cloud when our nights are dark with worry, when they grow long and dreary, and no friend seems to be near.  The darkness of night represents loneliness (Ps. 6-6-7).  Indeed, our journey here on earth is often dreary and full of trouble because we are flesh (Job 14:1).  Yet, the rainbow reminds us that God is near to comfort us even when no friend seems near (Matt. 5:4).  

We can look for God’s rainbow amid life’s seasons: 
  1. Storm and rain.
  2. Fields of golden grain.
  3. Winter’s cold and pain.
  4. Summer’s harvest grain.  

And though our loving and merciful God gives us rain, we often think of it as a time of sadness and gloom (Jeremiah 10:13).  Winter also represents cold and pain, and it’s often thought of as a time of hardship (Song of Solomon 2:11).

Despite our seasons of life, the rainbow reminds us that there will be summer's harvest gain after the winter and the rain are gone (Acts 14:17).  

Indeed, we can look for the rainbow during our storms of life.  In the Bible, the storms often represent various trials and tribulations that God’s children experience in life (Acts 14:21-22).  However, the rainbow reminds us that there will be better days, days of joy, when life’s storms pass by (Ps. 30:5).  We must trust in God’s promises!  Since we trust in God’s promises, we look forward to being in that city fair to receive the crown of life as our reward (2 Tim. 4:6-8). 


CONCLUSION:

The chorus stresses the need for God’s children to keep on pressing on, looking for the rainbow that shines in the cloud to help us run life’s race victoriously and receive our crown.  Despite life’s troubles, toils and tears, we must keep looking to heaven to see God’s rainbow in the cloud.

I hope this beautiful hymn may stir your soul the way it stirred mine.

As I journey here mid the toil and tears,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
He will safely lead, I must have no fear,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.

When the way seems dark and the night grows long,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
When my way grows drear and no friend seems near,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.

After storm and rain, fields of golden grain,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
Winter’s cold and pain, summer’s harvest gain,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.

When the storms all pass, comes a brighter day,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
In that city fair there’s a crown to wear,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.

Chorus, 

There’s a rainbow that is shining,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
When life’s race is run, and the victory’s won,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.



Luci


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

REST A WHILE

"Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, 'Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.' For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.'" 
Mark 6:30-32


After Jesus had sent the twelve apostles to fulfill the task He had sent them to do in Mark 6:7, they returned to Jesus to give Him a report of their good works and teachings.  Afterward, Jesus encouraged the apostles to join Him to rest for a while when they could be alone.  It looks like their work in the cities of Galilee was highly successful because of the crowds of people who were coming to them at this time. As a result of their hard work, they became swamped and didn't even have time to eat!  They were overwhelmed by the people who sought healing and teaching.  Jesus and the apostles proposed to get some rest departing by boat to be alone.

As I read Mark 6:30-32, I acknowledge that it is suitable for Christ’s followers to take brief periods of rest from their hard and constant labor in His kingdom. It is wise and good to rest periodically and get away from the rapid pace of life. But to do this, we must say “no” to certain requests and opportunities to serve. It is indeed not wrong to do this!  Of course, it may not be good to rest too much, but it is not wise to labor without pausing to rest and reflect.  When we rest too much, it is poor stewardship and can lead us into the snares of sin.  Labor without rest can lead us to “burn out” and discouragement. Jesus encouraged His apostles to rest a while. It does not mean resting for an extended period. Jesus wanted the apostles to rest for a while and then get back to work.

We Christians must seek proper balance in this area.  Such balance will be different for each Christian. Let me explain myself.  Some require less sleep than others and can work diligently in God's kingdom with little rest. They can stay focused for long periods of time without becoming burned out and discouraged.  Others, however, require more frequent periods of rest to remain positive and focused. And although God has blessed each of us His servants in different ways (cf. Matt. 25:15), it is not our job to judge our brother or sister concerning the amount of rest and relaxation he or she may or may not require (cf. Rom. 14:10-13).  It is our job to encourage one another to live faithfully to the best of our ability, and of course, that will include resting and recharging as needed. A servant who rests all the time is not of any use to the Master and His kingdom. Likewise, a servant who is always working hard to the point of neglecting himself or his family will certainly not maximize his potential for the Lord.

I have taken a break from social media, especially Facebook, to avoid burnoutFacebook is a toxic bowl of depression!  There is so much noise, whining, and negativity on this platform that one finds it necessary to take a break from all these disturbances that don’t edify our souls.  The layers of distraction have left me vulnerable.  Because I didn’t take time to rest and be refreshed, my trials (persecution, death, sorrow, and sickness) have weakened me.  I realized that I must take a break to be more effective in God’s kingdom.  I can't be of any use for our Lord when I am mentally, emotionally, and spiritually burned out.  A servant of Christ who is always working hard and is not resting at some point in his life runs the risk of neglecting himself, his family and will undoubtedly fail to maximize his potential for the Lord.  I want to be a useful and productive worker for the Lord.  And though we must slog through the mud and garbage of everyday battles, we must find rest to be re-energized and work with new vigor, especially in God’s kingdom.  The rest has indeed been good for me!

I’m so grateful to God for strengthening me when I am weak.  I am also thankful to my husband, children, friends, and church family for their steadfast love and encouragement amid my trials.  To God be the glory!


I.   JESUS AND THE DISCIPLES SOUGHT TO REST FOR A WHILE:

In the context of Mark 6, it is possible that the disciples were not resting from their physical labors and travels. Perhaps, the news of John the baptizer's death (cf. Matt. 14:13) stirred up enough excitement (as Herod had initially feared).  It is also likely that John's disciples delivered the message to Jesus, expecting Him to do something about John's unfair death. The people knew that John was Jesus’ friend and that He intended to set up a kingdom. They also believed (erroneously) that this would involve overthrowing Herod. They wanted to force Jesus to be their physical king, hoping to obtain revenge.  But Jesus did not intend to establish a physical kingdom. This was a good time to be alone and find rest from their labors, mourn John's death, and calm the disciples.

Let us consider another occasion when Jesus sought a break from His work.
“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.  Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”  (John 6:1, 2, 15

We often push ourselves beyond our limits, and we become weary. Our work and accomplishments define us.  We fill our plate with unnecessary work and achievements until we forget who is in charge of our lives.  Of course, God is in charge, not us.  We busy ourselves so much that we forget to stop and use our time to focus on God.  Our need to accomplish unnecessary tasks often leads to a misuse of time.  We get so busy in our daily routine that our busyness prevents us from resting.  In our busyness, we forget that quiet living leads to peace in Christ.  Being still in God’s presence leads us to spend more time with Him to be more fruitful to Him as we connect with Him.  Busyness isn’t a virtue; it’s often a vice. Of course, God has told us, 
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”  (Ps. 127:2)

Our God is not impressed by busyness, for He is moved by love.  Because He loves us, He has promised us rest in Him at the end of all our work.  But He wants us to depend on Him for everything so that we may rest well. Really well!  Sadly, the god of this world is the author of a system where busyness is a status symbol, not the true God.

Today most of us are cluttered.  We seem to be drowning in unfruitful activities such as social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on ), entertainment, and pop culture.  We want more and more earthly pleasures without reservations.  The bombardment is constant!  A life of constant connectedness through the Internet, especially Facebook or other social media,  does not give us a healthy sense of security, relaxation, peace, and joy.  Living in the fullness of Christ helps us find the life that Jesus speaks of in John's writingsThus, we must turn off our computers, phones, IPads, tablets, Androids, and iPhones. We will sincerely regret spending too much time with such things if we spend too little time with God and those God has put in front of us. Our useless connectedness leaves us no time to live a life that glorifies God.  Because of this, we find ourselves cluttered by layers of distraction that do not satisfy us.  It is indeed a spirit that lives at a fast and frantic pace! 


II.   GOD RESTED AFTER HE CREATED THE UNIVERSE:
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”  (Genesis 2:2-3)

The Bible tells us that God took time for rest.  What does it mean that God rested on the seventh day?  What does rest mean to you?  For many, rest can mean watching TV, reading, camping, and napping.  When God rested, He didn’t load up His SUV and go camping or kick back in His La-z-boy to watch “Touched By An Angel.”  God rested!  His concept of rest is different. When God rested, He “ceased His creative activity.” He didn’t work.  He focused on what He had accomplished. God focused on His new creation, especially on a man named Adam and a woman named Eve.  

In Exodus 31:17, we read,
“It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”

When God stopped all activity,  He ceased His work and was refreshed!  I love the word “refreshed” in our context! God was “refreshed!”  Since God thought it necessary to be refreshed by stopping and enjoying the creativity of His Creation, we are compelled to follow His example.  We, too, can be refreshed!  Don’t you think so?  

The dictionary defines “refreshed” as “to renew the well-being or vigor of oneself.” We can “renew” ourselves or, in other words, we can become “like new” again through rest.  

In Exodus 23:12, we read,
“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.”

The word translated “refreshed” also means “breathe.” The Sabbath in the Old Testament was a God-given opportunity to catch one’s breath during a weekly work routine.  

  • The Need For Rest And Refreshment:
We need rest and refreshment.  In Genesis 2:2-3, we find three essential words or concepts: 
  1. “work.” 
  2. “rested.”  
  3. “blessed.” 
  4. ”made holy.”  

We find the word “work” three times in this passage. The word “work” is mainly used for human work.  Many Bible scholars suggest the word “work” deliberately implies that man should stop his daily work on the seventh day.  And since God “rested,” they indicate that the word must mean “to cease,” “to desist from work” (Shabbat, “to rest”). The word "rest " does not refer to remedying exhaustion after a tiring week of work. Instead, it describes the enjoyment of accomplishment, the celebration of completion.  If God rested in Genesis 2:1-3 after His work was complete, why can’t we?

  • God Rested Because He Completed The Job:
God rested when He had performed the most important job, Creation.  He created everything and completed the job in six days. For Him, it was presumably easy. There is nothing God cannot do within the realm of logic.  In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was a day of rest after six days of work (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11).  Since the Jews began their days at sunset instead of sunrise, the seventh day began at sunset on Friday and ended on Saturday evening.  So, “the Sabbath” mainly refers to Saturday in the Bible.  Although the Jews were commanded to observe the Sabbath Day in the Old Testament, we wonder if Christians who live under the New Testament (Heb. 8:7-13; cf. Jer. 31:31-34) are commanded to keep the Sabbath?  Does “the Sabbath” still take place on Saturdays…or is it now on Sundays since that is the day when Christians go to church?  In truth, there is no parallel between the Sabbath rest of the Old Testament and the New Testament practice of assembling on the first day of the week to take the Lord’s Supper.

In Genesis 2:1-3, we see the first mention of the Sabbath Day in the Old Testament.  However, there is no further mention of it from Genesis 2:4 all the way to Exodus 15.  There is no mention of God’s righteous men throughout Genesis (Adam, Abel, Enoch, Lot, Noah Melchizedek, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, etc.) observing the Sabbath Day as holy or a day of rest.  Some might ask about Genesis 2:3 of God blessing the seventh day and making it holy because He rested on that day.   Indeed, God blessed the seventh day right after Creation. We learn from the book of Hebrews that all the worship authorized in the Old Testament Law was but a shadow or type of the New Testament life and worship under Jesus Christ. The New fulfills and replaces the Old.

   
III.   RESTING WITH PURPOSE:

It might sound antithetical to call resting a discipline.  After all, resting demands that we stop doing things.  So, how can we be disciplined at not doing anything?  It is normal for us to live our lives filled with crowds of people, lots of noise, and a never-ending routine of busyness in our Western culture. Rest is the least familiar spiritual discipline we are acquainted with or practice, but we need the discipline of rest very much to survive.  

  • Pauses Are Necessary:
God rested after He had completed the job of Creation, and we must too. God did not need a day off. He does not get tired or run down. However, we humans are finite creatures with finite energy stores. We need to eat, drink and sleep. And though God does not get tired, depressed or discouraged, He took time, even placing a night between each day of His marvelous work, to stand back and look at His work. On the seventh day, he rested and declared it Holy.

Jesus understood the importance of rest.  We find in the Gospels that Jesus went off by Himself several times to be away from people.
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”'  (Mark 6:31)

  • Pauses Allow us to See What We Have Already Done:
We often overwhelm ourselves with never-ending to-do lists.  We feel like we are never done, failing to stop and appreciate what we have done or what others have done for us. But when we pause, we can stop and appreciate what we have done or has been done for us.  The most excellent rest we have is the one we have In Jesus Christ. 
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  (Colossians 3:16)

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Corinthians 1:4)
 
  • Rest Helps us to Focus on God:
Isaiah 58:13-14 says, 
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.”

When our focus is God, we find delight in Him. The essay called Hebrews in the New Testament compares this rest to our heavenly rest toward which we strive to enter even as the Ancient Israelites pressed forward to enter the Canaan rest when they had escaped the slavery of Egypt.

Hebrews 4:9-11 tells us,
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”

Psalm 62:5, 
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him.”

  • When We Focus on God, We Put Our Works and Lives Into Perspective:
God created the universe, not us.  We like to think that we are extremely irreplaceable in what we do. This way of thinking puts our life into perspective as to what we do.  And although the world thinks this way, God does not because He finds us essentialHe has given us important roles to fill in our homes, friends, and the church. What we do in those areas is far more important than anything else. 
  1. It is far more important and everlasting that our children,  friends, and coworkers hear and see the Gospel lived out in our lives than anything else.
  2. It is far more important that we demonstrate our faith to others for them to take us seriously.  

When we focus on God, we can see what He has done for us and what we do for Him.  What has God done? Just take a look around you and notice the world God created and everything in it. He sent His beloved Son to save the world from sin and His wrath.  We can find rest in Christ Jesus. We can be made holy just like the Sabbath. The author of Hebrews says,
“For both He who sanctifies [Jesus] and those who are sanctified [Us] are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”  (Hebrews 2:11)

When we learn to master this restfulness through God, we start to act in a way that brings honor to Christ, our Lord and Savior.
"But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect."  (1 Peter 3:15)

  • Resting is Trusting God:
When we trust God, it is easier to bear life’s demands and busyness.   Trusting God allows us to know our limitsRest makes us aware that everything is not in our hands or that we are in control. Allowing ourselves to live within our limits helps us to see God working in our lives despite our efforts.  It also allows us to acknowledge that God will take care of us. 

  • Resting is Imitating Our Lord And Doing His Will:
When we rest, we imitate God. No matter how busy and how hard we work, we are not busier than God.  God will always have abundant work for us to do, no matter how much work we think we are doing.  Even at the very beginning, the very unfolding of history, we see a very active God setting aside time to rest from His creative work (Genesis 1-2).  

When we pause or rest, we make more time for listening to God and strip away unnecessary layers of distraction that must go away.  Resting allows us to be still in God’s presence in prayer and worship.  
"But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray"  (Luke 5:16).

If our Lord Jesus had to retreat from all earthly distractions to call on God, where do we stand? Are we making time to pray, study God's Word and meditate on it so that we may be strengthened and gain wisdom to save us from the dominion of darkness?  I am afraid many of us don't! 

When we fail to retreat from our unnecessary busyness, our activities become a stumbling block. If our Lord Jesus found it necessary and vital, how much more is it necessary for us?  How will we be grounded in His Word and learn how to teach the lost if we don't take the time needed for study and prayer?  Of course, that will demand resting and being still in God’s presence.  Jesus provides us with the greatest example of this rhythm of purposeful rest during His time of earthly ministry. He would often go to be alone and pray in silence and solitude All layers of earthly distractions must go away!
"It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God"  (Luke 6:12).

We must go against the grain of constant clamor!  The noise of this life can only make us miss the purpose God wants for us!

We must make time for God and His kingdom.  What that means is that we must choose to have days with "nothing" on our plate.  Nothing does not mean being free from basic daily tasks, but it can simply look like not adding extra activities, extra busyness for a while.  Let us not fill up our life with unnecessary layers that prevent us from being in the presence of God through prayer and Bible study. 

So, let us not jump-pack our days to feel good about ourselves.  A full schedule does not necessarily have a purpose in life.  God already has a great purpose for us, and that is to do His will and further His kingdom for His sake.
"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven"  (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

God is the Author of time.  He gives it to us to do His will and do everything He sets before us in each designated season of our livesEach season will demand time well spent to be still in His presence. Let us make the best use of the time granted to us here on earth! Otherwise, we will never know what we must do with that time of life that God has given us.

During each season of our life, God will give us abundant life to do His will.  Thus we must not fill up all of our time with distractions and busyness because we are afraid that maybe God has planned more for us.  It is His will that we walk our path of faith here on earth pleasing Him.  He has only our good in mind, for He is a flawless and unselfish God.
"Who shows loving kindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The Lord of hosts is His name"  (Jeremiah 32:18).

Our earthly and futile busyness will bear no good fruit to God's Glory.  Take Heed!
"The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh"  (Ecclesiastes 4:5).

CONCLUSION:

Our world considers busyness a virtue. Our people believe that the more we do, the more excellent value we hold. Do you find yourself running around with a to-do list with more tasks than you have time? Do you ever find yourself bragging (or complaining) about how busy you are? Are your conversations with others about who is busier? Some even get offended at those who rest and relax for a short period of time. Be honest.  Rest. Yes, that’s it. Rest.  Think about it.

Life’s demands and busyness drain us and may eventually make us crash. That’s why it is vital to take time to rest and be in the presence of God through prayer and Bible study.  In the same way, we must take time to reevaluate what we are doing and how we are doing it.  We must step back and make changes.   God did not create us to fill every moment with something futileHe designed us to work hard and to work well to bear abundant fruit to His glory.  He also designed us to make time for meaningful and purposeful rest regularly.  So, we must find time to rest, turn off our computers, phones, TVs, and truly break from any type of work or busyness to be refreshed.  It will be wise to use that time to draw closer to God, reading and studying our Bible to enjoy His presence,  and spend precious time with those God has entrusted to us:  our home and our church family.  It will be a tremendous blessing!  

 In my walk with God, I have learned that life is more than endless moments of consuming work, stressful problems, and chaotic busyness.  The god of this world is a taskmaster who demands constant busyness.  As I look around me, I see many people getting very little rest or refreshment because they are too busy working too hard to gain earthly goals, not God’s goals. Sadly, their busyness gets in the way of connecting and developing a relationship with their Creator, God.  We forget God’s purpose for us.  He has designed us to find rest in HimAnd that must be our longing!  When we fail to rest and be still in God’s presence, we start to feel all sorts of sickness, anxieties, and weariness.  Did you know that the busier we are, the more we rely on ourselves and our strength rather than God’s?  Resting reminds us of our need for Christ.  It takes us back to the source of our strength to live the life God has called us to.

Although it is good to be busy, especially laboring hard and steadfastly for the Lord, we Christians must take brief periods of rest and get away from the rapid pace of life.  Thus it is necessary and not wrong to say “no” and pause from our opportunities to serve.  You see, Jesus encouraged the apostles to rest a while after they had fulfilled the mission on which He had sent them (cf. Mark6:7ff). They returned to Jesus with a good report of their good works and teachings.  Jesus then encouraged them to come with Him for a period of rest where they could be alone. Their work in the cities of Galilee was highly successful because many were coming to them at this time. But they were so busy that they didn't even have time to eat! The people were overwhelming them with many requests for healing and teaching.  Jesus and the apostles were encouraged to get some rest by departing by boat to be alone.  

In today's world, being still has become a challenge.  In a modern culture where technology seems to have total control of our lives, cell phones, fun apps, computers, social media, TV, and web surfing can be fun.  Sadly, many of these gadgets and distractions take us away from being still in the presence of God.  Let us be still in the presence of God.  We forget that being still in the presence of God brings us direction from God’s Word and breathes life into us.  It helps us not only to speak to God but to listen to Him through His Word.

Social media is one of the greatest distractions of this age.  Our slavery to social media is likely to have a dramatic negative effect on our diligence and productivity. It can become an excuse for not accomplishing anything.  It shows the marks of distraction and dissipation.  Too much social media can give the impression of having done something while neglecting what ought to be done. 
"In all labour there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty."  

Are our online interactions more than idle chatter? Or is our life mastered by the empty blather characteristic of so much social media?  If your online engagement is dragging your soul down to hell, then it would be more profitable for you to cut the cables and cast away the wi-fi than to be up-to-date with all the latest trends and technology even as you descend into the pit. Walk away!  Take a break!

Therefore, let us purpose in our hearts to find time to rest and be still in His presence, whatever season we may be. I assure you your perspective will change.  It will bring you peace, contentment, and great understanding.  And most importantly, it will help you declutter all the unnecessary layers of earthly distraction in your life.  Remember to find the time to rest in Him. Choose to be less busy.  Allow yourself to be refreshed so that you may be encouraged to go back to work in God’s kingdom. It is a rest of encouragement and motivation for the soul.  It is a rest that will stir us to live and undertake our God-given tasks with enthusiasm, vigor, and endurance.  

May we work diligently for the Lord and rest when we need to. May we never forget that there remains "a rest for the people of God"--the glory of heaven (Heb. 4:9), which is a much better rest than anything we can enjoy in this life. May God help us to declutter our souls of distractions that rob us of everlasting life.


Luci