Entering God’s Rest

The best analogy I’ve heard about entering God’s rest is from Graham Cooke, one of my favorite teachers. This is my (admittedly poor) paraphrase of his vision/dream.

Orcs were chasing me. I ran up mountains and through forests, and was nearing total exhaustion. They would catch me soon, and my one sword would not be enough. I was running across a grassy plain, about to collapse, when I saw a tent in front of me and ran inside. It was strangely peaceful. There was a fire pit of burning coals in the center, from which I could sense the presence of the Lord. I turned to see my pursuers running full speed, close to the tent. Unable to run any further, I drew my sword.

Gently and softly from the fire behind me, I heard the Lord say, “You won’t need that.”

The orcs ran right past the tent as if they couldn’t see it. In fact, when they moved onto the space the tent occupied, they didn’t come inside but instantly appeared on the other side, as if in their dimension the tent wasn’t even there! They were shouting angrily at each other for losing their prey (me) who was there just a moment ago. In the middle of a grassy open plain, where could he have gone? And they loudly and with much cursing blamed each other.

Meanwhile, I heard the Lord, softly chuckling from the fire. He was laughing at them!

Where was I? Safe, yes, totally, but where was I? I was in the Lord’s rest.

From Graham Cooke’s vision on The Way of the Warrior Series CD series. (You can get your own copy here , and Graham’s general website is here. Very much worth a browse. BTW, these are not affiliate links. I get no commission if you click them or buy from Graham. This is an honest recommendation.)

So what exactly is God’s rest?

God’s Rest “rest,” in Hebrews 3 and 4, doesn’t mean physical rest or sleep. It’s the opposite of being anxious. It’s the opposite of being fearful.

It’s that place of quiet confidence, believing the Lord would do what he said. Believing his presence in my life is enough. A place without striving. An spiritual eye in my very real hurricane of life.

Hebrews 3:19, talking about those Moses recused from Egypt, says they were not able to enter God’s rest because of their unbelief. Earlier in chapter 3 the writer quotes Psalm 95, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion,” and “So I (God) declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest’ ”. Then he says in 3:19, “So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”

Entering God’s rest doesn’t change the circumstances around us, but it changes the power those circumstances have over us. Our fear gives them power. When we’re not afraid of them, because we’re in God’s rest, they have no power over us. We can think clearly and act from the wisdom of the Spirit.

Today’s Action Step: When things are crazy around me, I will enter God’s rest by choosing to believe him over the fear my circumstances are trying to inspire.

I’m learning to enter his rest more and more. What are your experiences with God’s rest? How do you personally enter it? Tell us in the comments; we’re looking forward to learning from you. And please share on social media if you think this would benefit someone else.

Judgement vs Discernment

We hear all the time, “Don’t judge!” But, on the other hand, we’re supposed to promote righteousness, aren’t we? And not condone sinful lifestyles, right? So how do we do one without the other? It turns out one is Judgement and the other is Discernment. There’s a difference.

When the Bible says “Don’t judge or you too will be judged” (Mathew 7:1), it’s talking about condemnation, “to condemn like in a courtroom.” There’s a legal aspect to it. So you could read the verse like “Don’t condemn or you will be condemned.” That’s judgement.

Discernment is a whole different matter. We’re supposed to discern (or “tell the difference between”) right from wrong, righteousness from sin, the fruit of theSpirit from the works of the flesh. We’re supposed to call righteousness “righteousness” and sin “sin”, and not sugar-coat it. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

But with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can correctly discern behavior without condemning the person, like Jesus did. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but he also told her “go and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). He ate with the tax collector’s (national traitors), but did not mince words about their sinful lifestyle (Matthew 9:9-13 and Luke 19:1-10). When Jesus says “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9), he’s overtly implying that it wasn’t there before. Strong words but put without condemnation.

He also ate with Pharisees, the religious people, and similarly did not mince words about their sinful lifestyle (Luke 14:7-24, Luke 7:37-47). He treated everyone the same. He lovingly accepted them, but still told the truth about their behavior. The tax collectors and prostitutes were teachable and accepted him and his correction. The religious Pharisees were not and did not.

When people say “don’t judge me”, what they really mean is “don’t discern my lifestyle as wrong.” They are under the deception that discerning their actions as wrong is equivalent to condemning them personally. Unfortunately, this lie’s gotten some traction from some of us who act out of religion rather than out of the Spirit.

But we are not what we do. Calling out a sinful lifestyle as self-destructive is actually very loving, as long we do it in a loving way. The media loves to run with Christians calling out sinful lifestyles in unloving, condemning ways, which furthers the deception. Let’s stop giving them ammunition.

We, as the people of God, need to be very careful that we speak the truth in love, loving the sinner while hating the sin, like Jesus did.

I think one of the easiest ways to do this is to just simply say, “I’m not condemning you, I”ll still be your friend. But I wouldn’t be a good friend if I condoned something that’s hurting you.” Often people will still disagree with me about their lifestyle, but they respond positively to the respect I give them as a person. And it gives room for the Holy Spirit to work.

How about you? What tricks and tips have you found to be discerning without being condemning? Share them with us in the comments. And if you think this would bless someone else, please share it on Facebook or your favorite social media. The share buttons below will take you right there.

We Stand with Israel

We hope you will forgive the urgency we feel this week to deviate from our normal blog emphasis on our identity and destiny in Christ and post instead an article in solidarity with Israel. We are not Jewish by any stretch, but the Jews are the people of God. We stand with Israel.

There’s a false teaching going around called “Replacement Theology” that says the Church has replaced Israel. This teaching says Israel blew it one too many times and now God’s people are the Christian Church. That does not mesh with what I know to be the character of God who is always into, and actively pursuing, restoration.

It also does not mesh with Bible. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 11:1, speaking of Israel, “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means!”

He says again in Romans 11:25, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in.” Did you hear that? We as Gentiles owe our salvation to Israel’s temporary hardening. That really humbles me.

There are many, many more passages I could quote, but I think this one is the most timely: “Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed, and whoever curses Israel will be cursed.” (Numbers 24:9) That’s pretty self-explanatory. Israel is the apple of God’s eye, and we’d do well to not mess with her.

Yet there are 72 nations meeting in Paris to divide Israel in a so-called “two state solution.” I don’t have space to go into all the details, explanations, and the history here, and I suspect this audience knows it all pretty well.

I firmly believe we as Christians must oppose this. Again – Bible – God gave the land to Israel forever (Isaiah 60:21 and many other passages).

God will protect Israel. What these 72 nations are really doing is cursing themselves. 72 nations is a lot of the world! A whole chunk of the world could get cursed here in one fell swoop.

Maybe I’m not deviating all that much from our usual topic of identity and destiny. There is (in my humble opinion) a very strong argument that the reason the United States exists is to stand with Israel. If we as Americans turn our back on Israel, America would no longer have a reason to exist in the world.

Will you join Janet and me in praying for Israel, the peace of Jerusalem, and that this meeting in Paris comes to nothing? Share with us in the comments your thoughts and prayers for Israel, and please share this on social media. Let’s have a prayer in the comments this week.

Don’t Give Up. Surrender!

“What?!? That title doesn’t even make sense. Give Up and Surrender are the same thing!”

Are they?

According to Google:
Surrender” means “cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.”
Give up” means “cease making an effort; resign oneself to failure.”

Surrender and giving up are two very different things.

God does not want us to give up on the dreams he’s called us to. He gave us those things that make our heart leap. Don’t stop your effort, don’t resign to failure, no matter how impossible it seems.

Even if it’s a situation you find yourself in that you don’t want to be in.

An unhappy marriage? Even if the original marriage was a “mistake” and God didn’t call you to marry that person, if you’re currently married, God is calling you to stay married. Don’t give up with a divorce.

An unplanned pregnancy? God is calling you to be a parent (or maybe adopt out). Don’t give up with an abortion.

A life that doesn’t feel worth living? God is calling you to keep living – he has a plan for you. Don’t give up with suicide.

A fatal illness? God is a healer, often in this life, and always in the next. God is calling you to walk a difficult road, displaying faith through weakness to everyone around you. You are inspiring them to keep going.

God will meet you on the journey. Never give up.

Here’s a game I often play with myself to keep going when I feel despair or hopelessness. If I knew this crazy thing was actually going to work, what’s the next step I would be taking right now? What would I be doing? And then I do that.

Doing the next right thing allows God to move on our behalf. But if we give up and do nothing, we tie his hands. “Cast your bread upon the waters for you will find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

God does want us to surrender, however. God is not our enemy or opponent, but we often treat him that way. We often resist him by trying to do it our way in our own strength.

So how do we surrender to him? What does that look like? It looks like partnering with him. He’s our “business partner,” whether it’s an actual business, a marriage, parenting, or whatever. We talk it through with him. Often. Who ever heard of business partners never discussing the business?

A good litmus test that we’re surrendered to God in an area is that we’re not anxious or stressed about the outcome. We are doing our part – we keep doing the next right thing – but we trust he’s going to do his part and make it work. Eventually.

And if it’s not working, then we trust he’s teaching us something. We talk it through with him, and keep doing the (possibly adjusted) next right thing until it works.

So what about you? What do you think? Does this resonate? Leave us a comment or shoot us an email. Tell us your story. And please, if you think this would bless others, share it on Facebook or your favorite social media. We look forward to hearing from you!

Living Strategically -- Hand Holding Compass

Living Strategically

HeadShot Dave 100x100What does living strategically mean? So often we just drift through life doing what we must. Go to work. Pay the bills. Put out the fires. Fix the car. Clean the house. Don’t get me wrong, those are good things that all have to get done. And we shouldn’t complain about them. We should do them cheerfully with a good attitude, serving our families as godly servants.

But our calling is bigger than that. So if that’s all we do, we’re missing it. We’ve let winning the battle keep us from winning the war. The military gets this, and uses two special words to describe it.

“Tactical” has to do with winning the immediate battle we find ourselves engaged in today.

“Strategic” has to do with winning the war – the big, long-term picture.

While tactical is important, the military understands that strategic is more important. Winning a battle does you no good if you lose the war. In fact, sometimes because of limited time, money, and energy, you have to decide which battles to let go and lose so that you have enough resources left to win the war.

So how do we go from living tactically (aimlessly drifting day-to-day) to living strategically (focused on God’s calling)? Do what the military does – have a plan. Make a life plan. Your life plan helps you say “no” to the good so you can say “yes” to the best.

There’s an excellent book I highly recommend called Living Forward, by Micheal Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy (both obviously Christians). It’s a quick and easy read. Although it’s secular per se, it’s got Kingdom of God principles woven all through it. (BTW, I’m not an affiliate. I get no commission or compensation or any other benefit if you click the above link or buy their book. This is an objective recommendation.)

Janet and I went through it last year. We had an “offsite” at a local bed & breakfast in December 2015 for a few days. We each have an individual plan, and we have one together. Having a life plan has helped us make strategic decisions toward the calling on our life we otherwise would’ve missed.

For example, I recently took a new assignment with my company that doubled my commute. At first, this seemed like a obvious no-brainer “no”. But I’d been having trouble finding time to work on our website (this blog). I’d get home at 5:30 or 6:00 with a couple hours of website work to do. But with engaging with family, church, and our crisis-pregnancy center volunteer activities, it just wasn’t getting done. I was winning the daily battles but losing the long-term war over my calling. I was living tactically.

However, God provided a vanpool to the new job location, and I could inexpensively tether my laptop to my iPhone. That gives me 2+ hours a day in the commuter van to work on the website. I still get home at the same 5:30 or 6:00, but the website work is done. So I doubled my commute and got more margin in my life! We could not have made this very positive, but counter-intuitive, decision without our life plan clarifying the direction in which we feel God’s calling leading our life. That’s living strategically.

Going through this exercise is a few of the most productive hours you’ll spend this year, because it focuses all the other hours on what God’s calling you do to in your life. I highly recommend it.

So how about you? Are you living tactically or living strategically? What has your journey been from one to the other? Your story can help a lot of us. Please share it with us in the comments. And share this post on Facebook (or your favorite social outlet) if you think it would bless others.