Rest for the Weary

I have nothing to offer you today. Seriously.

I sat at my computer several times over the last few days praying for divine inspiration to share with you. What do they need, Lord? What do you want to speak through me?

Several times I felt I had a direction, and my fingers began to move across the keyboard. They stopped moving after about the second paragraph. Going nowhere.

I have to admit it’s been frustrating. And I’m not used to it. I prefer when God weaves a message together nice and early in advance of my deadlines. Not so this week. Like I said, frustrating.

I have a feeling He’s trying to teach me something. After all, Jesus has been speaking one word into my life for several weeks now.


I don’t believe He’s telling me I need to take a vacation, although Scripture clearly points to the need for Sabbath rest. I’m talking about resting in Him.

I think it’s one of those things we talk about but usually don’t know how to do. I’ll admit, it’s my nature to struggle with this one.

But God promises in Isaiah 46:4,

“I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Yet very often we fall short of experiencing that promise. Instead, we find ourselves striving so hard we’re exhausted. And frustrated.

Like when I tried to will a blog into existence. Or should I say, when I tried to get God to give it to me in my timing instead of His.

I’ve discovered that when I try to force my will on God, I always end up weary.

God wants to carry us, dear one, but sometimes we’re so busy trying to make things happen that we don’t allow Him room to move. Our self-sufficiency blocks the flow of His power.

You and I need to learn to rest in Jesus.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Jesus always keeps His promises, beloved. He kept this one to me today.

You see, I’ve also discovered firsthand that He sends us what we need if we will open our hearts to receive it. And He’s always right on time, even if it is Tuesday evening and later than I would like. So when my girlfriend called late this afternoon to share something with me, I didn’t tell her I couldn’t talk because I had to write my blog. Instead, I listened. And we talked. And then we prayed.

And prayer has a way of releasing things.

Phone in hand, I moved to my knees on my living room floor and for a few moments stopped thinking about my own frustration. I let the Lord lead us in prayer for a dear sister and friend who is struggling under the weight of oppression. We wept together in intercession for several people God placed on our hearts to lift before the throne. Precious minutes turned to half an hour.

And Christ met us there. I can say that with certainty because He promises He will.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

As we finished our time together, my friend prayed for me on the phone, asking the Father to provide what I needed. And God spoke. Just write from where you are.

So I started typing without a direction in mind, without a Scripture to anchor the teaching. I have nothing to offer you today. I just trusted He’d take me somewhere. Apparently, He did, because I seem to still be typing.

Come to think of it, isn’t that what faith is supposed to look like? At least, that’s how it began when God first called Abraham.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

God asked Abraham to leave behind everything he knew and follow Him to a land he’d never seen. He had nothing but a promise to hold onto, “I will show you.”

Faith looks pretty similar in the New Testament as well.  Jesus didn’t tell the disciples where they were going in advance. He simply said, “Follow me.”

Dear one, faith isn’t about working hard, or having the answers up front before we trust God. It’s about drawing near to Jesus and trusting Him to lead you into the unknown, beyond the boundaries of what you have planned.

That’s a pretty scary place for most of us. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Because the Lord who promised to lead and carry you means to “prosper you and not to harm you” (Jeremiah 29:11). He intends to lead you into a beautiful future.

It’s only scary if you don’t believe.

Unexpected Pleasures

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11

My life changed dramatically a week ago. Our family brought home an eight-week-old miniature Aussie puppy.

We already had a seven-year-old Australian Shepherd that we adore. Now Annie has a tumbling ball of fur named Jack for a playmate—whether she wants one or not.

At first she appeared less than enthusiastic about his arrival. He would snuggle into her for a nap, and she would abruptly move to another part of the room.

Now Annie has discovered what many of us do when we’re willing to open our hearts to unwanted interruptions in our comfortable lives. In God’s hands, things we once viewed as intolerable inconveniences have the potential to become our greatest blessings.

The two have become inseparable. Change can really be good.

Our house has become decidedly less quiet since Jack’s arrival, mostly due to all the laughter. He continually entertains us, enthralling us with his puppy antics. I wonder if Jack realizes how funny he is. He has single-handedly redefined the word “adorable.” I think Webster should put his picture in the dictionary.

He may be cute, but he’s only still when he’s sleeping. He loves to explore, leap and pounce on anything that moves, or anything that doesn’t move, for that matter. Nothing is off limits to his paws or his curious little mouth. At least, he doesn’t believe it should be.

That’s where I come in. Someone needs to give Jack direction to save him from himself.

Left on his own, Jack would have already choked on mulch and various small stones, broken some bones leaping from surfaces that are much too high, electrocuted himself chewing through my computer charging cord, and possibly drowned in our pool. Not to mention the many times I’ve rescued him from Annie when he insisted on taking her favorite toy.

Yes, limits and direction provide safety. That’s why our loving heavenly Father provides them.

. . . what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?  Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Did you catch that last part? God has provided commands and decrees for your own good.

With the same tender love that leads me to set boundaries for Jack, God has established boundaries for you and me. His limits don’t take from us or cause us harm. No, God has outlined limits to keep us safe.

We just don’t always see it that way. Jack doesn’t either.

For instance, he wasn’t fond of his crate when he first came home with us. He had enjoyed bounding around the house all day and did not agree with our decision to place him in a crate to sleep that night. He hardly noticed the nice, soft bed for him to snuggle into or his toys to keep him entertained. His eyes focused on the bars keeping him from “possibility.”

So he whined. And I wondered why we ever decided to get a puppy.

A funny thing happened on the second night. My husband lay down on the floor next to Jack’s crate after he put him in, and Jack discovered something. He didn’t really want the intriguing things that called to him from beyond the bars. What he had really been after was companionship. He snuggled into the corner of his crate nearest Steve, lay down his tiny head, and fell asleep in about a minute.

The joy Jack found in my husband’s nearness outweighed the lure of what enticed him from beyond the boundaries we had set for him. Perhaps if we learned to enjoy God’s nearness a bit more we wouldn’t grumble so much over His restrictions. After all, they help keep us in a prime position to experience Him fully.

Jack has now discovered the crate isn’t really the enemy he thought it was. It offers something that he doesn’t have when he’s outside its boundaries. Security. He doesn’t need to worry about every little sound or movement; he’s safe inside. Last night when I put him to bed, he didn’t even wine. He drifted off in peaceful sleep and slept for seven straight hours.

Isn’t it funny how things we think we’ll hate can end up being our favorites? Something we fear can become our security. Something we view as a nuisance can turn into our comfort and joy.

Perhaps we should open up our hearts to trust God for His best. Our emotions tend to lead us astray anyway. Just ask Annie and Jack. Their renewed thinking opened them up to tremendous blessing.

Yours will too.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2

Sounds like a good plan to me.

The Way of Death

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12

Logic. It’s one of our worst enemies—at least it’s one of mine. I’ve always been a person who needs to understand things. It helped me in school and produced straight A’s on my report cards, but it often works against me when I need to trust. My analytical mind sets to work and robs me of peace.

Can you relate? Have you ever tossed and turned in the night working through all angles of a scenario, looking for that light bulb moment when it all becomes clear? Perhaps you think, “If I can just figure it out I can fix it, or at least I’ll be able to rest.”

That might be true in the world, but that doesn’t apply to God’s agenda. Isaiah 55:9 explains why.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God’s thoughts and ways are beyond our ability to understand. If we spend our time trying to, we’ll end up frustrated. There’s only so high our thoughts can ascend. Once we reach that plateau, we’re left with trusting the unseen as our only recourse, and most of us aren’t very comfortable there. We don’t like that dark area where we can’t understand or make sense of our circumstances. Logic tells us things shouldn’t be happening this way, so we find ourselves robbed of peace.

Curiously, we pursue logic in search of that elusive peace, but we won’t find it there. Consider our opening Scripture,

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

Death, not peace, lies at the end of the road traveled by logic. In God’s economy, it’s our enemy, not our friend.

So what do we do? We allow God to renew our minds. Praise Jesus that through salvation, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Dear one, peace comes when we learn to release what we don’t understand, and trust what we know of God. What do we know of Him?

  •   He’s good. “may your saints rejoice in your goodness.” 2 Chronicles 6:41
  •   He’s loving. “He is my loving God and my fortress.”  Psalm 144:2
  •   He’s for us. I know the plans I have for you . . . to prosper you.” Jeremiah 29:11

Here’s the best part.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”1 Corinthians 2:9

If you can think it, you’re limiting what God wants to do for you.

Ask God to let that settle on you . . . Give it a moment to sink in. The best plan that you could come up with for yourself—your best case scenario— is less than what God desires to do for you.

Beloved, if God gave you the desire of your heart in the way you think He should do it, He would be robbing you of a blessing.

Your God loves you too much to allow you to settle for less than. He wants to give you everything He’s planned for you.

So the next time you find yourself stumbling in the darkness, try practicing gratitude. Know that the blackness you see is merely the result of your limited ability to understand, but there is something waiting for you just beyond the horizon. Something you can’t yet see. Something wonderful. Something perfect for you.

Don’t let logic rob you of your blessing, dear one. Choose to trust God for His very best. When He finally leads you to it, you will likely surrender to worship, because it has blown your mind.

But of course it has. It was designed for you by the One who made you. He alone knows what you really need.

Green Grass & Muddy Waters

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram . . . 2 Kings 5:1

Have you ever looked at someone’s life and felt that twinge of envy because they appeared to have everything you desire? If you lived in Naaman’s day, you might have felt that way about him. Scripture labels him a great man, the highly regarded commander of the King’s army. He had everything. In fact, he had more than he wanted.  

. . . He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

The grass isn’t always as green as it appears in someone else’s yard.

I imagine the acclaim Naaman earned paled in comparison to his problem. I mean, that’s our nature, isn’t it? One struggle has the power to overshadow ten wonderful blessings. And Naaman’s problem was huge; it would literally destroy him. Thank goodness there’s always hope in the God of Israel.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:2-3

A young slave girl planted a seed of hope in the heart of a pagan army commander, and desperation led him to believe. That’s often how it works, isn’t it? We’ll cry out to God in desperation, but only when we’ve exhausted all other options. Naaman had nowhere else to turn, so he turned to the God of Israel.

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

 But Naaman went away angry. (Verses 9-11)

What just happened? What aroused the anger in Naaman’s heart? Let’s take a moment to slip our feet into his army boots. I’ll warn you, you may discover they fit a little too comfortably.

Imagine you are Naaman, commander of the king’s army, pulling up to Elisha’s house with your entourage. You leave the glistening horses and chariots and walk to the door, expecting your host will be delighted by the honor of your visit. But your host doesn’t even bother to come to the door. Instead he sends a messenger with some ridiculous instructions to bathe seven times in the muddy Jordan River. As if that would work!

Can you see why Naaman was so upset? I hope so, because right here is where you and I tend to look most like him. Unmet expectations can send us reeling, causing us to reject God’s instructions and miss His blessing. Naaman believed he deserved better from Elisha. He thought his actions should’ve demonstrated more respect. What’s more, he believed he deserved better than the Jordan from God.

. . . “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. (verses 11-12)

Notice the two parts of Naaman’s complaint. First, he didn’t like the manner in which God chose to offer healing. He wanted the grand miracle, a powerful spectacle befitting his position. He didn’t want to have to do anything; He just wanted a few magic words and a wave of the hand so he could be miraculously cured.

If we’re going to be honest, isn’t that what we all want? When difficulty comes, we want God to wave His magic wand and cure it as we bask in the glow of glory. And when God doesn’t choose to fix it the way we would choose, we turn and walk away in a rage just like Naaman. But when we do, dear one, we may just be leaving our miracle on the table.

You see, God calls us to trust Him.  And very often that means giving us instruction and watching to see whether we’ll exercise the faith to obey. If we allow our disappointment over the means to override our faith, we’ll miss seeing Him work altogether.

That brings us to Naaman’s second complaint. If God was going to make him bathe in a river, couldn’t He have chosen a cleaner one? Obeying this command would mean lowering his standards. Not only did God opt not to give him the grand gesture, he was going to have to get his hands dirty. No thanks; he’d rather deal with the leprosy.

Seriously? Pride can cause us to make some pretty foolish choices. Wasn’t ridding himself of his flesh eating disease worth a few dips in dirty water?

What is God asking you to do, dear one, that pride says is beneath you? Will you take a chance on trusting Him so you can see Him display His power?

Naaman finally came around and received his healing from the Lord. Thankfully, his servants showed him his folly and convinced him he had nothing to lose.

“My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. (verses 13-14)

Naaman chose the road of humility and finally got his miracle. Can you imagine the joy that overtook him as he stood in those muddy waters and watched his decayed flesh restore itself to skin like a young boy’s?

Obedience is always worth it, dear one. What miracle waits to be displayed in your life? Perhaps it’s time to trust God and follow His instructions. Sure, you might get your feet a little muddy, but when you see His arm of power move, I don’t think you’ll care.


The God of Miracles

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.  Habakkuk 3:2

Do you ever think it would be easier to trust God if you lived in the days of parting seas and pillars of cloud and fire? You may rationalize that if you saw walls of water piling up and witnessed God destroying your enemies before your eyes you would never struggle with trusting Him.

That’s what the Israelites thought too. After experiencing His miraculous deliverance from Egypt and witnessing His awesome deeds on their behalf, they stood before Him at Mt. Sinai and proclaimed,

“Everything the LORD has said we will do.”  Exodus 24:3

Well, I believe they at least had good intentions, but intentions aren’t what God was looking for. Let’s join them for a moment on their journey to their Promised Land.

Imagine what it would be like to watch your daily bread fall from the sky and pile up on the surface of the ground. Each day God proved His faithfulness by providing His people with food while they lived in the desert. The Israelites would awaken to a blanket of white glistening beneath the morning dew. God instructed them through Moses to gather just enough to provide for their families for the day.

 “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” Exodus 16:19

You might suppose that seeing God’s power displayed for them again as He fed them with manna from heaven led to their wholehearted obedience, right? One would think so, but . . .

. . .  some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.  Exodus 16:20

So much for the idea of witnessing God’s great deeds helping us trust Him more. No matter what they saw with their eyes, their hearts still rebelled.

God gave another opportunity to trust Him when the Sabbath came. He instructed the people to gather twice what they needed on the sixth day so they would have enough for the Sabbath because no manna would fall that day.

I bet that instruction raised some eyebrows. They had already discovered firsthand that the manna wouldn’t keep overnight, and I imagine they didn’t have much interest in eating stinking maggots. But for those who trusted, God showed His might once again.

So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.  Exodus 16:24

Imagine that.  Even food will spoil or keep from spoiling in obedience to the Word of the Lord. If only man—the crowning glory of God’s creation—would be that cooperative. He told them,

“Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”  Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.” Exodus 16:26-27

And I’ll bet they were surprised.

No wonder anger kindled within God’s heart toward His covenant people. He chose them to be His own and bear His Name. He selected them out of all the nations of the earth to walk with Him and follow Him to a place of blessing He had prepared just for them.  He performed miracles in their midst. Yet over and over, even when they saw His mighty power poured out on their behalf, they refused to trust. They didn’t obey, and no matter what God did, it was never enough.

“But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”   Numbers 11:6

You see, God’s people had a heart condition. No matter how many times they saw His arm of power move, they still grumbled. They still disobeyed, refusing to trust Him, and insisted on their own way. Dear one, even with all that they saw Him do, they continued to lose the battle against the pull of sin within their hearts.

But God knew they would struggle. So He had a plan in place before Creation itself sprang forth from His mouth. He would perform the miracle of miracles. He would offer His Son on a cross and provide a way for mankind to exchange his wayward nature for that of God’s.

We will spend the next few weeks exploring the miraculous together through Scripture. Psalm 77:14 rings as true today as it did when the Israelites crossed through the Red Sea on dry ground,

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.

My heart echoes Habakkuk’s cry in our opening Scripture. God stands ready to reveal His mighty deeds in our days. But we just might miss the miracles if we keep our gaze fixed on our outward circumstances. You see, the cross shifted the focus of God’s wonders from the external to the internal. Now, He works the greatest wonder of all; He’s changing the human heart.

You are the miracle He seeks to reveal now, dear one.  Will you allow Him to display His power in you?