What I’m Learning about God’s Rest

I’ve been sharing all year my journey of discovering how to honor the Sabbath and enter into God’s rest. Not that those are both the same thing, but they are related.

True rest, God’s rest, is not the absence of work. Regarding the Sabbath, Jesus told the Pharisees, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17).

So it’s not a legalistic thing. I used to hate talking about the Sabbath because I thought it was. I thought if I wasn’t bored all day that I wasn’t honoring the Sabbath. Not true.

God’s rest is not the absence of work. God’s rest is doing the right work, the stuff God has for you. Jesus did only what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19).

And it’s not just doing the right work. You can do the right work and still choose to be stressed out over it. God’s rest is also trusting him for its success. That takes the pressure off! That doesn’t mean we do a sloppy job, we still pursue excellence and do the best we can. But we’re not stressing over the success because it doesn’t depend on us. That is so totally freeing!

There’s a huge difference between pursuing excellence and pursuing perfectionism. I know from experience there’s no rest in pursuing perfectionism. And I bet you do, too.

This is fast becoming one of my favorite verses:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. – Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

The unforced rhythms of grace. I love that!

So here’s what God’s been teaching me about entering into his rest and learning the unforced rhythms of grace in my life.

I’m keeping the Sabbath by not using it to do any recurring tasks. Like our weekly blog. Like paying bills. I can do one-off tasks, things that need doing around the house or on the website. But I’ve been intentionally avoiding recurring tasks.

And it’s been wonderful! I’ve been feeling refreshed instead of exhausted. After finishing any one-off tasks I’ve had to do Sunday, I’ve had time to do things that feed my soul. Like reading for a couple hours in the evening with Janet. We both read different things, but being together and just reading is tremendously refreshing. And I feel God smile.

This is just personally what God’s been teaching me. I’m not recommending it for anybody else. And I know I’ve more to learn.

What are you learning? What is God teaching you about entering into the unforced rhythms of grace? We’d love to hear from you, and what you’re learning will bless the rest of our community. So please leave a comment and share on social media if you think this would bless someone else.

Why Denominations Are a Good Thing

“Silly Catholics, don’t they know he’s not on that cross anymore?” I smugly thought to myself, when I noticed the crucifix up on the wall. I had just gotten to the room that would be my home for the next week. About 2005 or so, I took time off from work and went to a monastery to fast and pray for a week. It was an incredible time of closeness to God, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I had just gotten to my room, noticed the crucifix on the wall, and my protestant pride was showing. You see, we protestants use empty crosses, to emphasize Jesus’ resurrection. I thought my theological superiority was a no-brainer, but the Holy Spirit rebuked me sharply with three words.

“Don’t do that,” he said in my thoughts in his loving, but firm, way. He wasn’t being mean or anything, but he wasn’t going to stand for it. Over the years I’ve learned to discern the Holy Spirit’s voice, and this was definitely him.

I was shocked. “What are you talking about, Lord?”

Then the Holy Spirit gave me a download about denominations. The movie The Passion of the Christ had just come out. I loved that movie for a couple reasons. First, Hollywood refused to make it, and Mel Gibson had to go to Italy to make it with the Italian film industry. But most of all, I knew several back-slidden Christians who re-dedicated their lives to the Lord directly because of that movie, watching what Jesus went through for them. And it was an incredibly well-done, historically and spiritually accurate movie, IMHO.

The Holy Spirit told me, “Protestants could not have made that movie. You do not understand my suffering at the level that the Catholics do. Yes, you understand it, but I have given the Catholics a much deeper understanding of it than I’ve given Protestants. In the same way, I’ve given Protestants a deeper understanding of my resurrection than I’ve given to Catholics. They understand the resurrection too, but I’ve given you Protestants a deeper understanding of it.

“You see, Dave, I’m infinite. I am too big to be completely understood by any single group of finite human beings. So I’ve revealed different parts of myself more deeply to different denominations. You need to spend your time learning from each other, from the things they understand about me that you do not, rather than bickering with each other about what you understand that they do not.”

Wow. That rocked my world. I repented for my judgements in my heart toward Catholics, and even toward other Protestant denominations I have differences with.

Since then, regardless of what theological differences I have with certain groups, when I’m with them, I try to find what they understand about God that I don’t. And learn from them. I’m coming to appreciate crucifixes.

Now certainly there are a certain set of core beliefs, “the main and plain,” that you really can’t call yourself “Christian” without adhering to. Janet and my list is at the bottom of our About Us page. I’m taking it granted here we all agree on those basic tenants of Christianity.

But beyond that, I don’t think theological differences are necessarily a bad thing, as long as they don’t cause us to judge or break fellowship with each other. We can agree to disagree about certain things and that’s ok. But if we’re going to fellowship with each other side-by-side in heaven, why can’t we do so now?

One thing we love about volunteering at our local pro-life crisis pregnancy center is all the different people from all different denominations coming together in unity around a common mission—saving and transforming lives. It’s a reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

What do you think? Have you had experiences where other denominations blessed you when you weren’t expecting it? We’d love to hear that story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share if you think this would bless someone else.

How to Talk to Your Heart

We often have this false idea in the Western world that the battle’s all in the mind, that it’s all about how we think. If that were true, why do people smoke, do drugs, drink excessively, eat excessively, and do all sorts of things they know is bad for them? There must be something else going on.

The problems in our mind often lead to bad fruit, but the root of our problems is often not in our mind at all, but in our heart.

So often in the church we minister to people’s behavior, because that’s the low-hanging, bad fruit. It’s visible. It’s obvious. It’s clearly a problem. But that just leads to sin management, not real transformation. We have to minister to the root.

The root is often at the heart. In Western culture, in our arrogance, we’ve exalted our intellect at the expense of our heart. Yes, our thoughts are important, and we want to develop the skill of taking every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). There is a battle in the mind for sure. But that’s the effect, not the cause. The foundational battle is in the heart, and often it shapes our behavior and our thinking more than our mind does.

Jesus agrees with me. He says in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

You catch that? Those are all behavioral problems he just mentioned, and he didn’t say they came from bad theology or wrong thinking. They come from the heart. The bad theology and wrong thinking is just our brain rationalizing what’s already in our heart.

And again, Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Jesus thought the heart was pretty important.

Ever have a mile’s worth of negative reaction over an inch of offense? Ever been like, “Where’d that come from?” And then we’re all embarrassed and ashamed because we reacted so strongly when we know that strong of a reaction wasn’t merited? I’ve done that, been there, got the tee-shirt. That’s a clue there’s a heart issue going on.

Often when we’re hurting, or addressing bad fruit in our lives, the most important conversation we can have is with our heart. We have so played-down our hearts and dishonored our hearts, while they are so wounded. A good way to start healing is to honor our heart by learning to listen to it.

So how do you talk to your heart? It may look different for you, but this is how I do it. I ask these four questions:

  1. Heart, why are you hurting, what wounded you?
  2. Heart, how did that make you feel?
  3. Heart, what did you come to believe? About yourself? Others? God?
  4. Ok, Heart, then what did you vow to protect yourself?

I put my hand over my heart, just because it helps me focus. Then I say (preferably out loud if I’m in a safe space like my car or some other private place), “Heart, why are you afraid?” or “Heart, why are you hurting?” And then I listen.

This is listening, so you have to protect the quiet. My brain, always trying to help, jumps in with all sorts of answers, “because of this,” or “because of that.” I have to tell my brain, “Shut up, I’m not talking to you.” Then I go back to quiet, listening to my heart.

Sometimes answers are immediate, but sometimes I have to wait anywhere between a few minutes or a few days. Sometimes even a few weeks, but I keep asking. It’s not that my heart’s not answering, it’s that I’m hard-of-heart-hearing. Sometimes it’s hard for me to hear my heart. For some of us, this is a completely foreign concept.

To talk to our heart, we have to unlearn a bunch of stuff we’ve learned. Like, “all meaning can be expressed in words.” Not! Our heart learned to talk a long time before our brain did. And when our heart learned to talk, we didn’t have verbal language yet. That’s why 90% of all communication is non-verbal. It’s heart-speak.

So our heart doesn’t always talk in words. Sometimes a memory will pop up. Your heart is telling you the answer is because “this” happened.

Our brain can help if we train it to. For example, I’ve dealt at various times with different levels of self-hatred. I had a very good Christian childhood and my parents loved me. And my siblings, two brothers 10 years older than me, also loved me and were very good to me. I had no trauma growing up. But because of a deep-rooted self-hatred I didn’t even know was there, I made some poor choices in my life because I didn’t think I deserved any better. So I recently was trying to figure out where that came from.

So I asked my heart, “Heart, what’s your wound?” Crickets. I was having trouble hearing my heart. That’s not a question it necessarily wants to answer, and hearing your heart is hard anyway. So I let my brain help, giving my heart a multiple-choice question instead of an essay question.

“I was bullied.” Nothing. Nope that’s not it.

“My parents weren’t proud of me.” Nothing. I know that’s not true, that lie has no power over me.

“I was a mistake.” Sudden strong emotion! Where’d that come from? I had to fight back an audible cry in the car. Bingo! That’s the wound. My two brothers were 10 years older than me, and I thought I was a mistake.

Now I was onto something. So I probed deeper, and now the answers came quickly. “Heart, how did that make you feel?” Unloved.

“Heart, what did you come to believe?” No one will love me.

“Heart, what did you vow to protect yourself?” I will make everyone happy so they love me.

That explains so much! My mom told me as a baby I’d cackle or coo or do whatever made the person holding me smile.

My dad told me, as a 2-year old, they only had to tell me once to not touch the expensive figurines on the coffee table, and I wouldn’t. He said he’d never seen another child like me.

These sound like good things, but they were a child trying to earn love because he believed a foundational lie. It lead to some bad choices later on.

Since I’ve learned what the wound was, what the foundational lie was, it’s been much easier to deal with. Now when I have thoughts of self-hatred, I call out the lie and replace it with God’s truth. “No, I’m not a mistake. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (That’s Psalm 139:14, BTW. If you struggle with self-hatred, internalize Psalm 139. It’s the anti-self-hatred psalm.)

So what about you? Talk to your heart lately? Do you need to? Try this out and let us know how it goes in comments or shoot us email. We’d really love to hear from you. And please share this if you think it would help someone else.

How to Make Our Churches the Safest Places on Earth without Compromising

At 17, Jennifer was the poster child of a Christian teen-ager. She was the model for her church youth group. As the Pastor’s daughter in a conservative church body, she lead the meeting many times. She was also secretly pregnant, a fact she couldn’t hide much longer.

Everyone looked up to her. On the outside, she was the perfect, evangelical Christian teen. Everyone wanted their kid to be just like Jennifer. She knew all the right New Testament answers, always knowing what to say and how to act.

On the inside, though, she was crumbling under the pressure. She longed for her daddy to be proud of her, and though he said it many times, her wounded heart didn’t hear it. She couldn’t articulate it, but her spirit felt dirty from being molested by a neighbor when she was 5, something no one, not even her, knew happened. The repressed memory hid the trauma, invoked as a defense mechanism by a child to survive.

In one world, she struggled to be good enough, desperately hoping the good she did would overpower how dirty she felt inside. In another world, she traded sex to hear a boy say he loved her, trusting the wrong messiah to make everything safe and ok. And for a few precious moments when they were alone it would work. Or at least it briefly felt like it did.

When she missed her period, and the home pregnancy test showed a “+”, she realized those two worlds were about to collide, and she felt crushed in the middle. Her perfect world of pretend at church was about to come crashing down in a fiery ball of reality. The disappointment of her family. The damage to her father’s reputation as a pastor. The disapproving glances from former friends and elders at church who would be barely polite behind thin smiles. The overwhelming shame. She felt the crushing weight of it all before it happened. There was no escape. Or was there?

This is the profile of the clients we see at our local crisis pregnancy center who break my heart the most. Pro-life clients for whom the shame, scorn, and rejection they would face at church is worse than having an abortion.

Think it doesn’t happen? I personally know a pastor’s daughter who, when she made her secret abortion public and repented, was told by her mentor, “If you ever come back to this church again, my foot will be the one holding the door closed the hardest.” This breaks my heart. Does it break yours?

Of the one in four women in the US who have had an abortion, 70% identify as Christians and regular church attenders.

It’s been said the church is the only army who shoots its own wounded.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I am not down on the church. I love the Body of Christ. This website exists because we’re passionate about seeing the Body of Christ walking in healing and wholeness and the fullness of our true identity.

And yes, holiness and purity are important. It’s hard to have intimacy with Jesus for long without them. I wrote a book on the subject (True Self: Sexual Integrity out of Intimacy with Jesus).

But it has to be ok to be wounded in church. If a fallen believer can’t go to church, where can they go?

Churches should be the safest places on the planet for someone experiencing a crisis. And many churches are. But some are far from it.

Jesus accepted the woman caught in adultery, prostitutes, tax collectors, what that culture considered the worst of the worst. But I’m no better. I’m the worst of the worst. We all are. We all need a Savior. So why can’t we have Jesus’ compassion for those looking for one?

Ok, I get that we don’t expect people to check their sin at the door. But if someone’s living a blatantly sinful life style, how long do we wait before addressing the sin in their life?

Honestly, I’ve no idea. That’s not my problem. That’s the Pastor’s problem. He gets to deal with that according to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit for that person. My problem is making sure I love them the way Jesus loves me. Maybe the Holy Spirit will prompt me to say something to them about their lifestyle, at some point. But it’ll most likely be after we have a relationship, and in a way that convicts not condemns, leaving them feeling accepted and loved, not rejected.

I know we can do this. That’s the church’s job, after all, to love as we’ve been loved. To be Jesus’ loving arms of acceptance and forgiveness.

So how do we do this? Can the Church really be the safest place on earth without compromising? Yes we can. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit in us to make us into all we are called to be.

So here’s how. We decide to be safe. The church will be the safest place on earth when we decide to be the safest people on earth. This decision affirms some obvious truths we so often forget.

Action Step: I decide the following:

  • Acknowledging my judgement of others often reflects my own fear, and
  • Acknowledging this is not my church, this God’s church, I will not reject who he brings in.
  • I decide to let the pastor deal with the person’s lifestyle and sin, That’s the Pastor’s job, not mine.
  • I decide to love them as they are, like Jesus loves us. That’s my job.
  • I decide to speak life into their lives, when prompted by the Holy Spirit. I pledge to do so lovingly, wrapped in encouragement and acceptance.

What do you think? Will you make this decision to be a safe person with me? Would this make a difference in the world?

Have you experienced Jesus’ loving forgiveness through your local church? On the giving or the receiving end? Or not? Tell us about it in the comments, and please share if you think this post would inspire someone else.

Photo by Biegun Wschodni on Unsplash

3 Things to Defeat Being Overlooked

We are honored to have a special guest post by Eric Gale. Eric is a follower of Jesus, husband, and father of 3 daughters. Additionally, he is 3rd-degree black belt and sensei in Tai Chuan Do Karate. You can find him at FaceYourGoliaths.com where he will help you slay the Goliaths in life. He is also a huge fan of Star Wars and blogs about using Star Wars to share your faith at TheChristianJedi.com. I also highly recommend downloading Eric’s free ebook, “Releasing Your Inner Daivd,” available here.

Have you ever felt like David, who was considered the least of his brothers?

We know that the prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s house in Bethlehem to anoint King Saul’s successor.

Jesse trotted out Eliab but Samuel was told not to consider Eliab’s height or appearance. Then Jesse brought out his next six sons and none of them were picked. When asked if he had another son, Jesse mentioned that indeed there was one more, the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.

Do you feel like someone that is overlooked?

When David was brought to Samuel, the LORD told Samuel that David was the one. How do you think David felt after seven of his brothers had been brought out to Samuel before his father remembered him?

How humiliating for David!

He was overlooked because he was the youngest and had been out doing his job, tending sheep (not a glamorous job).

During his time tending sheep, David was being prepared for what God had in store for him.

While shepherding, David would kill both lions and bears with his sling. David also had time to be alone with God in prayer and in singing. He even was called up to sing and soothe Saul.

Sometime later, David was going about his normal life when Jesse instructed him to go bring bread to his eldest brothers and cheese to their commander. This was the normal errand for the youngest son.

David was not old enough or big enough to be sent off to war. His brothers were. David was left at home.

When David arrived at the front lines, he heard Goliath’s taunt and can’t believe what he hears and that no one is doing anything about it.

His eldest brother Eliab “burned with anger” when he heard David talking with the men and berates David.

David would not have any of Goliath’s blasphemy and mockery.

David was the only man in the army willing to fight Goliath and word was reported to Saul.

Saul heard about David’s training in the wilderness and wanted to fit him with the king’s armor. That did not work so Saul had David go out and fight Goliath with what David was used to.

David’s time as a shepherd allowed him time to get to know God and to practice with his sling.

The fight that was to transpire between David and Goliath was one that David gave completely over to God. He trusted the LORD to show up and defeat Goliath but he still was willing to do his part.

David’s faith in the LORD and his ability with the sling made short work of this hulk of a man.

3 Lessons Learned

1) God can and will use your abilities and past to give you a future when you do His work.

David’s time as a shepherd allowed him time to work with his sling and to build up courage against lions and bears. David also was able to spend alone time with God and get to know Him better.

2) Your family may not always support you.

We see this in how David was overlooked by his father when Samuel came to Bethlehem. We also see it in how Eliab treated David, with contempt.

3) Others may try to get you to do things their way and not the way you know.

David knew how the LORD had gifted him and told the king that he could not use the king’s armor. We are all gifted and need to use our gifts in the way God intends. We need to be mindful of when people in our lives tell us we need to do things a certain way since that is how they did it. Times and giftings do change.

The LORD Will Triumph

Remember that every battle is the LORD’s and His victory is assured.

As believers, we are part of the body of Christ. We are each gifted in a unique way and need to function the way God has made us.