Recently, I was reading Isaiah 54. I wrote in my journal some phrases and words that caught my attention: “Sing . . . do not hold back. . . fear not. . . the Lord has called you. . . His steadfast love shall not depart from you.”
Sing. Do not hold back. Fear not.
Sounds like being “set free” to me!
In Isaiah 54:2, the phrase “Do not hold back” includes the concept of increasing one’s capacity. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” I was intrigued. What did this mean?
I checked Matthew Henry’s Commentary. He states, “The death of Christ is the life of the Church and of all that truly belong to it; and therefore, very fitly, after the prophet had foretold the sufferings of Christ (in Isaiah 53), he foretells the flourishing of the Church, which is part of His glory.”
Isaiah 54 gives reference to the Church, into which Gentiles were to be admitted. The God of Israel would now be called the God of the whole earth!
Do not hold back. Enlarge your heart. Share the gospel unashamedly. Share love with everybody always. Do not hold back.
If you need help with this mandate, as I do, look to Jesus. He will set you free!
Jesus declares, “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). We must point others to Jesus, the source of true freedom.
Jesus gives all people this invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29).
We are invited on a journey in which Jesus journeys with us as our Shepherd (see Psalm 23). We discover that we are cared for and that we can receive His love. We find ourselves set free from want. Set free from fear. Set free to love.
Listen to this. “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:” (1John 3:18–19).
Jesus can set us free to love and we can find our hearts set at rest in His presence.
I have Jesus. I have been set free. My heart is set at rest in His presence.
I wish the same for you.
BE PREPARED TO STOP
Imagine you’re riding a bicycle on a beautiful mountain back-road. You’re coming down a steep hill, going about 35 miles an hour, and you see that there’s a stop sign right at the bottom. What would happen if you waited until you reached the stop sign to slam on the brakes? Well, the best-case scenario (the one with no cross-traffic) would have you skidding to a stop somewhere in the middle of the intersection, or beyond it.
Sometimes I feel like that’s the way I live my life. I’m careening wildly downhill all week, going faster and faster, right up until the time when I jam on the brakes and slide into my seat at church just before the worship team starts. Or, let’s just be honest, sometime after they’ve started. When I’m on my bicycle, it’s easy to see that I have to start braking in advance. And the faster I’m going, the earlier I need to start. But what about my Sunday? It takes preparation to be ready to stop.
The Hebrew people referred to the day before the Sabbath day as the Day of Preparation. It is mentioned in all four gospels (Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31). On this day, they prepared their food for the next day, bathed and purified themselves, dressed in festive apparel, set their tables, and lit their lamps. They even had a signal to begin. The priests would blow trumpets six times at intervals at 3 pm (ISBE, vol. II, p.798).
The roots of these practices go all the way back to the book of Exodus when God was providing manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. On the day before the Sabbath the people were told to gather twice as much, and “bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” Exodus 16:23. There would be no manna falling from the sky to be gathered and prepared on the Sabbath. Later, in Deuteronomy 5:14, the Lord clarified that the Sabbath applied to everyone – male, female, adults, children, servants, and sojourners. You couldn’t rest while others took over for you. The preparations had to be done in advance.
The heart-attitude God seeks is the affirmation that He is most important, not us or our work. “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken…” Isaiah 58.13-14.
So, what can we do to ensure that we are able to stop and delight in God? No one is going to be blowing any trumpets for us on Saturday afternoon. But perhaps there are other practical means you have discovered to help slow yourself and your family down before Sunday morning. I’ve found some ideas, but I’d rather hear yours. Would you share them with each other in the comments below?
No Rights Yet Recognizes Authority
“No rights, recognizes authority, works hard, and doesn’t expect recognition.” 
What a list! These are phrases from Jon Byler’s book, The Heart of Christian Leadership, describing the characteristics of a servant. As I read those phrases, I felt a sense of conviction. Do I really understand what servant leadership is?
In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus made a clear distinction between the world’s view of leadership and His requirements for leadership: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, whoever wants to be first, must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And just like that, Jesus took the words “great” and “first” and placed them in the same category as slave and servant!
Jesus wanted to make sure His followers were clear that whoever wanted to rule, must understand that a servant mentality was required, not an “I’m the boss” mentality. The world’s leadership view must be set aside completely and replaced with His view. And that brings me back to Jon Byler’s book. Out of the four characteristics, two stood out in my mind: recognizes authority and has no rights. Two characteristics that test the strings of love and obedience in the body of Christ.
A servant is under authority and recognizes that the position held is solely for the purpose of carrying out his master’s will. A servant’s plans are not his own; his ideas and efforts are strictly aligned with his master’s. Having a servant’s heart in leadership is recognizing that we, too, are under our Heavenly Father’s authority and under church leadership authority. A servant’s heart has a well-defined sense of submission to: His word, His kingdom and His will. Why? Simply because the authority is recognized as belonging to God first. If His word is truly our authority, the rest is viable.
Yet, we struggle. Just like the disciples struggled and became indignant when the mother of Zebedee’s sons asked Jesus for high positions in His kingdom for her sons.
Our all-knowing Savior made it simple for them and for us: if we wish to lead and be “great” or “first” we must become a servant. A servant, a slave. He used an image so powerful that there was no question what it meant: submission. That simple truth opens the path to servant leadership. Selfless work becomes the norm as the only desire is to do the Master’s will.
If authority is a struggle in leadership, we must ask the difficult question: whose authority are we really under and whose desire are we seeking?
“A servant doesn’t demand his rights, he has none.” 
When I read this particular characteristic, I had to truly meditate on this. In our culture, from childhood it is ingrained in us that we have rights. We have a right to free speech, a right to worship, a right to bear arms, a right to assemble, a right to vote and so on. That is why when we grasp Jesus’ standard of servant leadership, setting rights aside truthfully poses a heart challenge.
But Jesus’ words place the focus back on the essence of service, “He came not to be served but to serve.” Matthew 20:28. Our Savior laid aside His glory, hHs privilege, and His throne to serve humanity. A servant leader will have to come to terms with the reality that if Jesus gave up His rights for us, we too, will be called to relinquish our rights. There will be moments as servant leaders that we may have to give up our right to defend our point for the sake of peace. We will be called to let love triumph over the right to prove our idea or plan is best. In the name of unity, we will be called to forsake our right to an opinion.
Servant leaders look to Christ for perception; only then can we surrender our rights.
And that’s because rights take on another meaning under the light of Christ’s servanthood: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away.” Isaiah 53:7-8.
We enjoy the gift of salvation, purpose, and a living hope because Jesus willingly set aside His rights for us and humbly submitted to His Father’s will.
Do I really understand what servant leadership is? I’m learning! And every day I am given a new opportunity to love, to submit, and to obey.
 John Byler, The Heart of Christian Leadership, LeadersServe, 2010
#Fail: Now What?
“This is my story. This is my song,” are lines from the hymn “Blessed Assurance.”
Peter’s #Fail Story
Remember Peter, before Jesus’ arrest? Jesus had said, “Satan has asked permission to sift you as wheat. I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned, strengthen the others.” (See Luke 22:14–33.)
Peter’s reaction? “I’ll never deny you. I’ll go with you unto death.”
Jesus knew better. Within hours, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, let alone admitting to loving this man he’d trailed for three years. Peter, and the other disciples with him, failed. Feared. Fled. They locked themselves away, where one night, Peter said, brilliantly, “Let’s go fishing” (John 21:1–13).
Fishing? Didn’t they leave those nets to follow Jesus?
Right. That life segment ended badly. Plan B became Plan A, and off they trundled, shaking out their nets and casting them into the waters. One long dark night in a rocking boat…these former fishermen fished. All night. And they caught nothing.
Plan B. #Fail. Plan A. #Fail. Now what?
When the sun rose, silhouetted in the shadows stood a man. “Haven’t you any fish?”
Busted. More #Fail.
But wait. At the man’s command, the washed-up fishermen again threw in their nets, hauling in such a huge mess of fish it made history. There on the beach, Jesus invited Peter and company to breakfast—into relationship, into forgiveness, into calling.
It’s there that Peter’s song and story changed.
Unless we know the backstory, his future successes—thousands of people added to the Church, passion, death threats, courage, conversion—seem overwhelming and unattainable. Only the superstars, the #Success people, experience such astounding triumph. Not true.
Peter’s accomplishments are most meaningful in the context of his greatest failure.
The “if-onlys” of failure riddle all of our lives. If only I hadn’t made that mistake, failed in that relationship, dropped that ball, betrayed that person. If only.
Failure became part of Peter’s story—the part that gave him credibility to “strengthen the others.” Without failure, forgiveness is not applicable. What’s to forgive? Resurrection means nothing. Breakfast on the beach, that miracle of sustenance and provision, is just a nice picnic.
Without the #Fail, who could relate to Peter? But because of it, others witnessed the power of Christ in and through him. Transformed from someone who feared, failed, fled—into someone inviting people to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
#Fail. It’s a great common denominator among all who dress in skin and bones. But when failure leads to forgiveness, to a turning point over a charcoal fire at sunrise, when we deserve nothing—our stories offer others hope.
What’s your story, your song, your past imperfections, your present forgiveness? Where have you failed, been found, been forgiven?
“I have prayed for you”—not that you will not fail. Because you will. “I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned, strengthen the others.”
#Fail. #Success. The ultimate turnaround.
Turns out, we are super qualified. And that story will sing.
This article was adapted from the original published in Indeed magazine, March/April 2018. © 2018 Jane Rubietta. All rights reserved.
Jane Rubietta loves words and the Word. She is a Master Instructor and coach, speaks internationally, and is the author of 20 books. Her newest release is her debut novel, The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis. See JaneRubietta.com for more information.