Rest is a Mindset

peace-of-mind

It doesn’t take a nap to rest. We don’t have to be stationary to be revived. Some of my greatest moments of rest are while I’m working out, or washing windows while plugged into a sweet podcast, reading a good book, or The Good Book. I can rest while helping others or running a class of 30 high school kids or playing with my own children. Truth is, we can rest anywhere. Rest has nothing to do with activity, and everything to do with thought. While physical rest is important, mental rest is what our bodies thrive on.

Focus on Others

Perhaps the greatest drain on our lives is worrying about things, anything, everything. Most of the time we are worried about ourselves.

 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:4 ESV

Focus on Heaven

Life from the perspective of eternity radically changes a lot. Temporary circumstances don’t carry quite as much weight when we realize that our life never really ends. Every soul is eternal. Life spans aren’t an average of 75 years, they’re forever. Even our most difficult trials are but a blink of an eye in light of the glory to come.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:1-2 ESV

Focus on Mission

For the follower of Jesus, we have one mission, to love and lead. Jesus demonstrated what sincere godly love looks like. Then he asked us to do the same and to lead others into a relationship with Him.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:30-31 ESV

Focus on Identity

In Christ, we’re all a new creation. We have received acceptance and unconditional love. We all screw up but that can never change who we are…we are His. A lot of stress comes from trying to prove ourselves or earn love and acceptance from family, friends, or coworkers. But we already have love and acceptance from a far greater source.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Brothers and sisters, may you find rest in what He’s done, Who He is, and who you now are. You are free, loved, and accepted. You have a purpose and value. There is meaning to your life, a life that lasts forever.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

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The War of More

It doesn’t seem to matter what store we are in, my kids ask for something. They don’t even need to know what it is for them to beg and plead for it. It’s frustrating. Very very frustrating. I’m sure I did it as a child. In fact, I remember wanting to go to the stores with my grandma because I knew she’d get me something. My kids are the same way. As are the rest. Because humans are that way. Young and old, we want stuff. Most of which we don’t need. But stuff is fun, attractive, and entertaining.

I can’t despise my kids’ desires for things, because I have it too. Anyone that says they don’t is not being honest. I told my wife on the way home one day, “I don’t blame our kids for wanting new toys, because I have a list of things in my mind that would be fun to have.” The difference between being an adult and a child is that you have to get those things yourself and money is not always available. Also, you’ve learned to live without and the difference between need and want. While indulging still occasionally takes place, maturity overcomes most whims.

I had a serious talk with my children (one of many) about wanting things. I tried to explain that it’s a perfectly natural emotion, but it needs to be managed by wisdom. I also said that they wouldn’t be getting anything new until they were content and grateful for what they already had (which is a ton). They tried to ensure me that they were grateful, but their behavior far overshadowed any words they could speak. When the begging ceased I softly said, “you will know that you are content when you no longer feel you need anything new.”

When the Bible speaks of contentment, uses some extreme examples. Examples that are very convicting for child and adult alike. Here are some of those examples.

Food and Clothing

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

1 Timothy‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In our current situation

Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.

1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Our weaknesses and being insulted for the cause of Jesus

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

With what we have

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭NASB‬

it honestly feels like a war most days. The pull to want change or new things, or to no longer have to deal with our weaknesses, or for people to just love Jesus and stop hating on Christians. But for those who love Jesus, nothing more can be given to us than that which we already possess…new life. The Christian is free, alive, new, and filled with hope and purpose. The Christian has been given the gift of eternal life. God has paid the ultimate price for humanity but all humanity wants is more.

There is nothing greater we can be given than what God has already done for us. We are so consumed with the temporal and material that we struggle to see our true need which lies in the spiritual. Once my kids get one thing that they feel they can’t live without, their thoughts are on to the next. Christians cannot be guilty of the same. The one thing we can’t live without has been given to us…Jesus…and our minds should remain on Him. That’s what I want to teach my kids. But first, as the war rages on, I have to make sure I’m living it too.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Wherever you find yourselves, may your hearts be at peace brothers and sisters.

Waves or Glory

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There are a lot of things to focus on in life. So much competes for our attention; some good some not so good. It’s easy for me to become consumed with things, whether it’s a task, my family, or concerns that have been weighing me down. Whatever it is, it can draw my attention for quite some time. Lately, I have had some really heavy things that have been filling my mind. I’m sure you, reader, can relate. If not now then at some point in your life. It can really seem like a tempest at times. Wave after wave crashing on or around you with no immediate signs of relenting. It never lets up so you can never get dry. You feel cold and exhausted just trying to keep your face towards the horizon. The concerns are mounting to point that you begin to wonder if they will ever become insurmountable.

That is an extremely bleak picture. One that I’ve found myself walking through at several moments over the last few years. I also believe it’s easy to get there. To let our minds drift to such dark and hopeless places. To try and carry so much weight that our knees are buckling beneath us. Weight that we were never meant to pick up in the first place. And while it’s easy to get there, it can be equally as easy to escape. Perhaps escape isn’t the best word. To ‘rise above’ seems to fit better. It all boils down to choice. Circumstances actually have nothing to do with it. Bills, health problems, difficult people, homelessness, and even the death of a loved one, can hold no power over us that we don’t surrender to it.

Recently, we finished up celebrating the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles. It was first instituted by God back in Leviticus 23, more than a few thousand years ago. But it carries every bit of the significance today that it did back then. A quick rundown of the Feast for anyone who isn’t familiar with it. In the Old Testament context, the feast reflected God’s deliverance of the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt and their temporary dwelling and wandering on their journey to the promised land. It also pointed to the tabernacle that was constructed for God’s dwelling place among the people of Israel. Fast forward to the arrival of the Incarnate God on planet Earth. Yeshua is described as the Word of God made flesh dwelling among us. The word for dwell is literally to tabernacle. The Feast also carries with it a future importance. In the book of Revelation, it is said that Heaven and Earth will unite as one and God will make His dwelling among us forever. We spend a week celebrating all of these awesome things.

On one of the evenings, I was sitting under our makeshift tabernacle (which people construct as a symbol of the Feast) in our backyard. It was really dark out but we had strung up lights on our tabernacle so it was pretty bright underneath. As I sat there, contemplating all the heavy things life had been tossing our way, I decided to open up my bible. I picked John chapter one and here is what I read:

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness concerning the light. The true light, coming into the world, gives light to every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him; but the world did not know Him. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But whoever did receive Him, those trusting in His name, to these He gave the right to become children of God. They were born not of a bloodline, nor of human desire, nor of man’s will, but of God. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies about Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, ‘The One who comes after me is above me, because He existed before me.’” Out of His fullness, we have all received grace on top of grace. Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah. No one has ever seen God; but the one and only God, in the Father’s embrace, has made Him known.”

John 1:1-18 TLV

Everything in that passage spoke to me, not just where I was physically, but where my life was. Here I was, surrounded by darkness, but covered beneath the light of the tabernacle. The symbolism of that was huge! If I were to walk out from under the tabernacle, I would have difficulty seeing my way around the backyard. But where I sat, everything was as clear as day.

All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.

It didn’t matter one bit how dark it got outside, the light that I was in would not be changed. That’s life in Jesus. I started thinking about how I’ve been spending so much of my thought life wandering around outside of the covering of His light. I had been focusing so much on all the difficult things in my life and it was beating me down. But here I was, reading God’s word, illuminated by the light of the tabernacle, at peace.

We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.

My eyes had been looking at all the wrong things. Who can blame me right? Well, I can. I had felt like I was in a sinking ship, all the while missing the point of my life. When God wrapped Himself in flesh and walked on this Earth, we were given the ability to behold His glory. Not just in a past tense, but even now. At any moment, we can look at the glory of God in Yeshua. Are you kidding me? Can we even understand what that means? Apparently, I really didn’t. Because I wasn’t gazing at His glory. Not even a little bit. I was looking at everything else. I was beholding the waves crashing over the sides of my boat.

These few precious moments under my tabernacle did so much to alter where I was mentally and how I felt physically. It was one of those experiences that I’ll always remember. I was able to catch a glimpse of His glory during a fall evening in Colorado in my backyard. How amazing is that?

I’m a J.R.R Tolkien fan so sometimes I can’t help but find spiritual illustrations in the movie adaptations from his books. Here is a scene from the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. To set it up a little, the town is under attack by the Dragon Smaug. It’s burning to the ground and only one man stands in the way of him killing everyone in Lake Town. Bard, the Bowman, and his son are stranded atop this tower and come face to face with the evil creature. This scene is so full of meaning. First, the world is falling apart around them. The danger is very real and there is every opportunity to despair. Everything could come crashing down at any moment. But Bard looks at his fretting and fear-filled son and says, “Stay still son, stay still.” In the moments that follow, Smaug continues to try and strike fear into their hearts and make them come to terms with their imminent demise. As the son, again shaken by the situation he finds himself in, turns to look at the approaching beast. Just then his father says, “Look at me son, you look at me.” It’s then that the son looks at his father with confidence and the surroundings seem to fade in significance. Shortly after, Bard slays the dragon Smaug with one precisely placed shot of an arrow.

I know it sounds cheesy but my eyes seriously started to well up when I watched that scene. I couldn’t help but find myself in the place of the boy, caught in life’s difficulties, wanting to look at them and fall apart at times. But then hearing the gentle voice of my Loving Father call me to be still and to look Him. In those moments, like the one I had under tabernacle that night, I am in a state of complete peace. Everything around me might as well be burning down, but I am still when I look at Him. His light beats back the darkness and the darkness will never overtake it. The key is to behold His glory and not the waves crashing around us. I’ll finish with one last scene. Only this one comes to us from the Bible. A man named Peter, an apostle of Jesus, is about to do the impossible. He is going to walk on water.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:28-33 ESV

I used to focus so much on how Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. I would talk about his lapse of faith and how he focused on the waves and wind rather than Jesus, and that’s when he got into trouble. And all those things are true. And all of us have been Peter more times then we care to count. But what I want to leave you with is what Peter said when he found himself sinking and how Jesus responded.

…beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him…

If you find yourself sinking because of the pressures of life cry out, “Lord save me,” and that’s exactly what He’ll do.

Peace brothers and sisters

The ‘us and them’ mentality

I was raised to think the way that I believe most Christians are taught. It’s a sad reality and something that I’m not proud of. By raised, I simply mean that it was the message portrayed through various mediums, not necessarily my family. Everything around me seemed to reinforce that belief.

I’m talking about the separation we place between the church and Israel. A divide that was never meant to exist. A wall of separation, well over a thousand years in the making. A mentality that we inherited from our forefathers. And it runs deep!

I see it in the faces of many of my Christian brothers and sisters. I hear it on the radio, in certain podcasts, in books that have been talked about. History is littered with it too. I’ve even experienced the hostility myself, as a Christian, from other Christians. Six years ago I began a journey into the heart of the Lord’s Holy Feasts, talked about in Leviticus 23 and referenced through out the entire Bible. When some people heard I was doing this, they labeled me legalistic, and worse yet, questioned whether or not I was joining a cult. Neither of these could be further from the truth. I’ve also tried to be intentional about honoring the Sabbath, where I’ve been met with nearly equal criticism.

What is it about the Old Testament that is so threatening to modern western Christianity? Even in asking that question I shudder. I know people would never admit that their disposition towards the things of Israel and the Old Testament were hostile, but it sure seems prevalent. It’s as though the Christian Church has adopted a doctrine of ‘us and them’. Or even a position of ‘then and now’. What I mean is, it is taught that the destinies of Israel and the church are different. That God has replaced the nation of Israel with the church as His chosen people. That God no longer cares about the things of the Old Testament, only the new. Has that been your experience? How did we come to this? Here are some of my thoughts.

#1-Persecution

When the church was being born during the first few centuries AD, many Christians endured unthinkable evils at the hands of the Roman Empire. It was often due to local Jewish leaders causing a fuss and turning in Christians. It was a way of redirecting persecution off of them onto a controversial minority group. Over time, a divide was erected, even among believers who were once Jewish.

#2-Marriage with Paganism

In the forth century AD, the Christian Church got an influx of pagan rituals, most of which we can see in the idolatrous symbols in some churches, and in the celebrations of Christmas and Easter (both of which were pagan holidays long before any Christian celebrated them). Over time, the mingling of ideologies and practices drew followers of Christ further and further from their roots.

#3-Antisemitism

I highly doubt that any Bible-believing Christian today would admit to being anti-Semitic, but the disposition is as prevalent in the world today as it ever has been. Unfortunately, some in the church haven’t been immune to it. Sometimes it can be so subtle that someone may be completely unaware.

#4-Unfamiliarity

As the gap between Jew and Christian widened, people lost touch with practices and teachings that were thousands of years old. Today, most people are simply Bible illiterate, especially when it comes to the Old Testament. I think with that, comes a sense of fear.

#5-Changing Culture

We are so easily influenced and informed by the culture we grow up in. It’s true for everyone. Many of the Old Testament writings were from 3000-4000 years ago. Times have changed a lot in some ways. Not so much in others. And the Old Testament requires being culturally set apart as much as the New.

I don’t believe that any of these reasons, no matter how legitimate they seem, warrant where we are today. I mean think about it. How could we ever excuse shaming and ostracizing a believer who chooses to honor what the Bible teaches? But it’s like some people honestly think that if someone follows the Biblical dietary guidelines, keeps the Sabbath, celebrates God’s Holy Feasts, Studies Hebrew, etc…that they are somehow less Christian. That doesn’t make any sense.

When Jesus came, He did so to destroy the separation between Israel and the world. Israel was not fulfilling its role as the light of the world, to draw people to God. Instead, they had more times than not, merged with the world. The merger was supposed to happen the other way around. The nations of the world were supposed to see God’s glory and goodness through the nation of Israel and be drawn. Enter Jesus. He demonstrated the teachings of the Old Testament, and the character of God, the way Israel was meant to…the way humanity was supposed to. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus brought down the wall of separation forever. He grafted (Romans 11) the nations into Israel and made us all one through faith in Him.

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Ephesians‬ ‭2:11-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It is no longer us and them. It can’t be. Jesus is the bond of peoples. He isn’t the gate through the wall of separation, He’s the wrecking ball that leveled the wall to the ground. We’ve been the ones, on both sides I admit, that have been rebuilding it. We do our Savior a great disservice if we allow ourselves to fall prey to any of the aforementioned reasons for the division that exists. We cannot allow prejudices to dictate our thoughts. We are about loving God and loving others. The ‘us and them’ mentality can’t harbor love. It is not Israel and the church. It is the Children of God, through faith in Christ. And when God calls a people His, they are His forever.

I implore you, brothers and sisters, to do your part to take down the wall, one brick at a time. Don’t allow unfamiliarity, prejudices, the culture, or history to estrange you from your Hebrew roots. Be the instrument of peace and unity where you are. Together, we can turn back the tide of fear and misconceptions and walk in the path of love and humility. Along the way, maybe we’ll all be changed by the Holy Spirit.