Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Chance to Get Away

Every summer growing up, my brother and I would visit our grandparents at their home in Delaware just outside of Rehoboth Beach.  We'd play in the sand, challenge the waves, and feast on blue crab.  My uncle decided that for her 90th birthday this year he would take her back one last time. 

In a rare moment of camaraderie and cooperation among Banks men, my dad, my brother, and I decided to join them.  It will be an adventure.

This has made me think about the value of rest in the life of the believer.  It is a biblical principle.  Genesis 1 tells us that God rested on the seventh day not because He was tired but so that we would have a template for how our lives should be ordered.  He deemed the idea critical enough to codify it in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8).  

What I mean is, you can work seven days a week if you want but if you set one aside, your life will, if nothing less, function more efficiently.  Machines and organisms work better when they operate according to their design.  God designed you to work and to rest but is it just about being more efficient?

The author of Hebrews picks up on this concept in chapter 4.  In v. 9 he says, "There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God."  He's referring to heaven and, in doing so, inadvertently teaches us something about the nature of rest itself. 

There's a theological concept called, "already/not yet."  Simply put, we have already received the benefits of our salvation but we are yet to fully experience them.  When we cross into eternity, we will feast forever on what we only taste today.

Rest means something different for everyone.  For me it's a couch and a TV but that's not God's idea of rest.  Heaven is often called our final resting place but that doesn't mean all activity will cease.  There will be things for us to do.  Namely, we will spend our time worshiping God.

My point is is that getting alone with the Lord to read His Word and pray, worshiping Him, is a taste of heaven and, thus, just like heaven will be in the future, a time of rest.  

Don't get me wrong.  Hitting the beach or the mountains or whatever refreshes you is wonderful but know that rest is available to you at any time.  It's easier said than done but all you have to do is carve out space to be with God, just you and Him.  He will do you more good than a thousand vacations ever could.

Reading the Word is rest.  Prayer is rest.  It may not feel like it right away.  We come to Christ like we do everything else, with the weight of our respective worlds in tow.  For the first few minutes, your brain will race but give it time.  It will quiet down.  Your soul will still and you will know what it means to be with Jesus.

A word of warning: when you are with the Lord, He will change you.  People will see Christ in you and experience Christ through you.  When you discover how restful time with Jesus is, time with you will be restful to others.  You will become a cup of cold water on a hot day and I genuinely believe that is God's will for all of us.  It will change how you see your life.  Find time to be with Jesus then watch Him use you to be Jesus to someone else.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Daily Opportunities

Over the course of the first year of Faith Bible Church (we turn 8 this September!), our Core Groups (small group ministry) studied the book of Ephesians.  I chose it because it's as thorough a picture of what it's like to, "do," church together as I think you'll find in the Bible.  The result was that a love affair with Ephesians began in my life that has not waned in the years since.

2:10 has intrigued me, honestly, since the first time I read it, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."  What does this mean?

The late Harold Hoehner wrote a commentary on Ephesians, aptly titled, "Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary."  He said that, "workmanship," was used in classical Greek to describe a craftsman who took time and care to construct a crown.  We are literally works of God, new creations in Christ, having been fashioned in the same manner as the universe itself.  God did this for a reason that benefits but is not limited to us.

Much like a cooking class where the ingredients are waiting for your arrival, God has prepared good works for you.  He wants to work through you, with you, and in you. 

Pray for eyes to see what those might be.  Where will you have an opportunity to serve, to encourage?  Where will you have an opportunity to love someone for the sake of Christ or to engage in a spiritual conversation with someone who doesn't believe or who is in need of understanding.  There may also be an opportunity to invite someone to church.

By grace you have been saved through faith.  Pass on the hope that is within you.  God loves you more than words can ever express.  He wants you to see the joy that's found in helping someone else discover that truth.  You'll be surprised to see how God responds when you ask Him to show you what He's been preparing to do through you before the foundation of the world.

Why Pray?

If you look at the books on my shelf and on my electronic devices, there are too many where the bookmark is in the first third.  It's a sickness.  I'll get excited about a book, start reading it, and then another one grabs my attention and I never finish the first. 

One of those is A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller.  I started reading that again this morning.  Miller talks about the importance of believing like a child in one's prayer life.  He says that children instinctively believe their parents want to do them good.  It's only as we get older that we become more cynical.  Quote, "Disappointment and broken promises are the norm instead of hoping and dreaming.  Our childlike faith dies a thousand little deaths." 

Jesus, on the other hand, wants the opposite for us.  He wants us to have the faith of a child.  The gospel message assures us that God isn't mad at us.  His wrath was poured out on the cross and thus, He's free to love us absolutely and unconditionally.  That's a fact that will never change.

If you are like me, you struggle with prayer.  Life has shown us enough disappointments that it can be hard to believe that God does want to give us good things.  Now, we may disagree with His definition of, "good," but the fact is, every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above (James 1:17).

My dream is that, as Christians, prayer will become an ever increasing part of our lives.  Remember that God is waiting to give you what He knows you need.  Look for 15 minutes today where you can get alone with the Lord and pray.