Enjoy God’s Good Gifts
“How is it with your soul?” I have not had the courage to ask this question of others, but it does come to mind as I see the hurried and worried expressions on people’s faces and in their posture. We live in a culture of information overload and 24-7 connectivity, and we are exhausted. Depleted. Numb.
As God’s representatives in this world, we must resist “third soil” culture. If you are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower, the third kind of soil was full of thorns that choked the growing plants and made them unfruitful. The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth are cited as thorns in one’s life (see Matthew 13:1-23).
So, perhaps another question must be asked, “How is it with your soil?” What is taking up space in my life that is hindering the fruitfulness of the gospel and my witness to the world? Jon Tyson, in his book Beautiful Resistance, wonders if perhaps this is why the church lacks credibility in our world. “Maybe we are just too tired to model agape love, too scheduled to show compassion, too distracted to pray, too much like the exhausted culture around us” (pg. 49).
I have good news for us all: Jesus offers the invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take me 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). We are all yoked to something. We are yoked to the pace of our culture, or we are yoked to Him (Tyson, pg. 48). There is another way to live. God extends an invitation to 24-6 living. Take a day to rest—Sabbath. This is God’s gift to an exhausted human race.
When I was a child, Sundays—what I was taught as Sabbath—were less than pleasurable. In fact, I thought they were boring. My focus was on all the things I couldn’t do on that day. I did not see Sabbath as a good gift from God.
Now, as an adult seeking respite from a loud, busy world, I embrace this good gift! God invites me to receive whatever will restore my soul and de-thorn my soil. On some Sabbaths, I enjoy a luxurious nap. At other times, I take a leisurely walk, taking photos of what catches my eye in nature, enjoying simply being with Him. I’m invited to feast on beauty in nature or art or literature. I’m invited to linger over a good book or around a table, feasting on friendships and good food. I love this word picture: “On the Sabbath, we are reminded that Christians are called to order desserts and laugh till it hurts” (Tyson, pg. 57). Not all Sabbaths occur on Sunday, but I am better equipped to represent Him well when I receive His invitation to 24-6 living.
Receive from God what will restore your soul. Ask Him to help you remove thorns from your soil. Delight in the goodness of God. Find rest.
Rest, Uproot, Reveal
If you’re like me, you’re getting tired of hearing about COVID-19 and are eagerly awaiting a day when we can return to a more normal life. Yet through this unusual time, God has been teaching me some things that transcend the restrictions this virus has limited us to.
Early in the pandemic I quickly learned that to maintain a healthy outlook I needed to develop some new rhythms in my life. One of those new rhythms is participating a few times a week in a Zoom prayer call open to our district’s official workers. Through these calls, the Lord has inspired several thoughts I’ve been meditating upon that I’d like to share with you.
REST – The first thought is about the benefits of resting in Him. At the beginning of many of our calls, we are given several minutes just to quietly enter a place of rest. One day as I sought to draw near to the Lord I felt distracted, so I asked Him to help me. Soon I began picturing myself as a little girl, sitting on my Father’s lap. My head was resting on His chest and I soon realized that my ear was over His heart. What would it be like, I wondered? How would it change my life, if I took the time more often to rest on my Abba’s lap, my head on His chest and my ear next to His heart? What would I hear? I want every area of my life—my interactions with my family and others, my work as a missions mobilizer, my recreation—to be led by what my listening ear hears from my Abba’s heart, during times of rest as well as during the noise of the day’s activities.
UPROOT – For many of us the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic have been like an uprooting. We must think twice about whether we should go somewhere and about the best ways to interact with people. The topic of our prayer call one day was “uproot.” I didn’t know that the day before, when my husband pruned and uprooted parts of a terribly overgrown forsythia bush in our yard, that the Lord was preparing me for that topic.
At first, I chafed at the idea of uprooting. I didn’t want to think about it. That day I was not happy that I couldn’t spend time with my grandchildren or that, for their sake, I was restraining myself from hugging them the rare times we were together. Although I have always worked from home in my role as a district missions mobilizer, I was surprised at the number of times I was kept from meeting with people face-to-face. I didn’t like some of the uprooting that was taking place in my life, the uprooting of my freedom to do things the way I liked.
Then as I prayed the Lord reminded me of the forsythia bush. How much more beautiful it is now that the dead and overgrown parts have been uprooted! I anticipate healthy growth to be the norm in its future. I realized that there might be some areas that had become overgrown, sapping the life out of my ministry; I needed to make the call to have them removed. The pandemic forced me to find new ways to do some things that have been surprise blessings, and I anticipate healthy growth to take place because of it.
REVEAL – A verse that was shared on one of our prayer calls captured my attention: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I’” (Isaiah 65:1). Our God longs to reveal Himself to the lost! In this verse I can almost picture Him jumping up and down waving His arms saying, “Look! Here I am!” For those who have never even heard the name of Jesus and for those who are obstinately running from Jesus, for those who are not asking for Him or seeking to find Him, He makes a way! He sent Jesus “. . . to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
May the Lord reveal to us the ways that we can point others to Him—in spite of, or even because of, the restrictions we are experiencing. May we persevere in prayer for the lost, whether intimate family members or peoples of distant lands. May we give generously so that people who have no access to the gospel receive it. And may we mobilize others to do the same.
Connected to Jesus – A Quiet Strength, Part 2
“My faith has found a resting place” serves as the opening declaration in one of Eliza Edmunds Hewitt’s most-loved hymns. What was the resting place Eliza found for her faith? A Person. The ever-living One. Jesus.
“My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Ever-living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.”
Again, we find inspiration in the life of a woman who found a quiet strength in Jesus. At rest. Connected to Jesus. Rooted.
Eliza Edmunds Hewitt was born in Philadelphia on June 28, 1851. She was educated in the public schools. After graduation from high school, Eliza became a teacher. However, a severe spinal malady early in her career required many years of convalescence. During her time as a shut-in, Eliza, feeling a need to be useful to her church, began writing poems for the primary department. Some of her poems were discovered by Professor John R. Sweney. He set a few of them to music. Sweney and William J. Kirkpatrick published her first hymns. Eliza was a close friend of Fanny Crosby and the two often met to have fellowship and talk about hymns.
It is no surprise that the same woman who penned the words to “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” is also the author of the hymn “More About Jesus.”
More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of his saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.
We remember Eliza Hewitt today because of those hymns. Had she never been bed-ridden, she might not have written them.
A contemporary musician, Audrey Assad, shares a similar declaration in her song, “Restless”
“I’m restless…’til I rest in you.” video
When I contemplate restlessness, I am reminded of the tragic declaration God made over Cain’s life: “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:12)
“After that, Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” (Genesis 4:16) What a tragedy! Leaving the presence of God. Disconnected.
This is not the life God has intended for us. Instead, God invites us to find life and connectedness in Christ. Accept the invitation.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6-7