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Love Letters

loveletter

When the topic of love letters is brought up among women there is always a mixed reaction.  For some lucky women they can remember back to a time when an enthralled lover took the time to meticulously compose his admirations for them and send it off.

However for others, you can see the “but I’ve never received one” look of disappointment in their eyes. In this day and age that is so far from the romantic times of days gone by–many women have missed the chance to receive a real love letter.  They have failed to experience the exhilaration of reading a letter painstakingly written and sent to them by the one who loves them.  In a time when each young man has at his disposal a cell phone from which to verbalize his affections or quickly text his feelings–alas, love letters it seems have gone out of style.

The good news is, that all women have received at least one glorious love letter they can boast about.  God has sent each of us a very elaborate love letter that virtually drips with His care. The Bible is a love letter sent straight from the heart of God to each person and it magnificently explains the parameters of His divine affection.

It is rarely enough for any truly creative and inspired author to merely write “I love you” and the Creator of the Universe is no exception.  God has placed in our hands a collection of writings supernaturally infused and filled with the perfect embellishments to melt our hearts.

Now to be sure, some parts of the Holy Writ warm the heart more than others, but there are within the Book certain passages that literally cry out to be read over and over.  By definition love letters are filled with passion, and of all literature, love letters are the words most often kept, treasured and memorized.  Similarly, God’s love letters are also passion filled and memorable. Indeed, within God’s wonderful love anthology there are some verses that veritably deserve to be inscribed on the recipient’s heart.

One of the wonderful things about God’s love letters to us are the things that they reveal about Him. If we were given the life-time correspondences of any person, we would probably move first to the love letters, knowing that incased in these we would find the most intimate and candid portrait of the correspondent. And likewise, as we consider the Word of God, it is especially within certain “love passages” that we receive a special illumination of the Lover of our Soul.  A collection of love letters written over time is always especially revealing, each letter exposing a different aspect of a multi-faceted affection. And God’s love correspondences with us are like that; one a letter of declaration, the next of affirmation, another speaking of His needs and supplications and best of all those that envelop revelation—and the Lover’s plan and dream for our future.

So why exactly does anyone take the time to write a love letter when they could just as easily speak their love? And why would God in Heaven see fit to leave us with such a catalog of written expressions of His love? One expert on the subject has delineated some reasons I believe provide some interesting insights into the topic.

“We write letters because we want to be close to someone who is physically absent.”

“We write letters to allow for graceful expressions that might be hard to deliver in person.”

“We write letters because they are more potent than verbal declarations and because it is a considered thing that time spent on a love letter allows for refinement towards perfection.”

“We write letters because they last, to be read again and again.”

And finally, “we write letters because we know someone wants them.” (quoted from Love Letters by Michelle Lovric).

In closing, no one can hear often enough that they are loved, or be reminded frequently enough about the delight that the one who loves them finds in them.  We are all made for relationship and the Bible teaches that loving expressions and affirmations provide for a healthy psyche.  They are literally like enriching food or healing balm for the soul (Prov 16:24).

Humans thrive on loving messages and there is no one among us who should deprive themselves of the sustenance that expressed love supplies.  And the fortunate truth is there is no need that anyone should go without.  The “love letters of God” are there waiting for anyone who will pick them up and read them and His loving messages provide the finest feast of all.

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What You Always Wanted to Know About Sabbath-rest but Were Afraid to Ask!

I took some much needed time off this week. It was a brief respite away from home and my daily grind but it yielded great benefits.

 

Given a few days away, I began the gradual unwinding process that is always needed and required for me to find true rest.

 

Today, I am back at home and I am much more in touch with my need for rejuvenation and restoration and the need for us all have to have Sabbath-rest for our souls.  As a result of contemplating the topic of rest, reminding myself of the basic info and doing a little research; I came up with the following post.

 

The Bible orders us to rest.  In fact—one of the “big ten” in terms of commandments is the charge “to remember the Sabbath rest and keep it holy.”

Ex 20:8-11, tells us, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

 

The root idea of Sabbath rest is simple.  It is as simple as the changing of seasons and as basic as the inhale-exhale process of breathing— living things were designed by God to flourish only with a pattern of regular rest and rejuvenation. 

 

The Bible specifies the need for one day of rest out of each seven day interval.  And a day in Scripture is always measured from one evening to the end of the following day-light period. Gen. 1:5 states, God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.  In accordance with this the Jewish Sabbath began in the evening and ran from sunset to sunset. 

 

Jewish tradition also dictated that the weekly “rest interlude” was always preceded by a time of preparation.  Beginning at 3 P.M. every Friday the faithful would prepare their food for the next day and perform all labors which were forbidden on the Sabbath and yet had to be done. Before sunset they would bathe and purify themselves, dress in their festive apparel, set their tables, and light their lamps.

 

The observance of the Sabbath always began with the Hebrew family partaking of the pre-prepared Sabbath meal followed by prayers and the compulsory call for the whole household to sleep.  The arrival of night and the opportunity to sleep was not only a necessity but symbolically it provided a natural relinquishment of control.  A good night’s sleep broke the cadence of work and set a rhythm for the entire Sabbath rest period. When we are sleeping, we cannot be working, we cannot direct anything, or control anything and we give ourselves temporarily over to God’s care.  A believer shuts his eyes and believes that the Lord will take care of him through the night.  Appropriately the first hours of Sabbath observance were spent sleeping.

 

Sabbath rest is a time that is supposed to be sanctified or set-apart for God’s use in our lives. However in our present day American culture few of us have really understood or appreciated the concept.  What we don’t seem to understand is the fact that Sabbath rest is not just discretionary free time.  It is not just a block of open time to be utilized as we see fit.  Sabbath rest in actuality is to be used in a deliberate manner for rest and restoration of body, soul and spirit.  And in remembering the Sabbath, we are to put aside work but we are also to put aside our own time agendas and even the act of creating.

 

Many people miss the importance of taking into consideration the Sabbath that God Himself modeled for us.  God initiated Sabbath rest first and foremost by resting from creating.  In Gen 2:3 we are told “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  If God needed to rest after creation how much more do we also need to be re-created after our creating? Working wears us out and creating pulls from our pool of resources and literally empties us out!  We do not have unlimited resources as God does and as humans beings our finite resources are limited and must be restored.  We cannot be creative, fruitful, and productive or reach our long term potential without Sabbath rest.

 

One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping in contemporary life is leisure.  Leisure competes with the concept of Sabbath and is what Sabbath-rest tends to become when we don’t know how to sanctify our time.  The definition of leisure is “vacant time without occupation to be used at one’s will.”  Leisure is an attempt at Sabbath rest without any focus on the sacred aspects.  One author has rightly stated that “the Golden Rule of Sabbath Rest is to cease from what is necessary and instead embrace God and what truly gives life!”

 

Some present day believer’s may bristle under the call to Sabbath rest because they believe it to be an antiquated Old Testament ritual. The necessity of rest however is not just an Old Testament pronouncement; the need for rest is emphasized throughout the entire Bible.

 

Jesus promised that knowledge of Him would bring rest for the soul. Come to Me, all you 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. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matt 11:28-30 (NKJV).  And He insisted that his disciples should rest. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31 (NIV)

 

The Bible proclaims that a pattern of sanctified rest is a vital and needed practice because it supplies us body, soul and spirit with what is needed to survive and thrive as humans.  The Bible teaches that rest it is an important vehicle for “making contact with God.  God tells Moses in Exodus 33 that rest and His presence go hand in hand, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Psalm 46:10 states clearly, Be still, and know that I am God.   The central nature of rest is underlined for us in psalm 23.  In the familiar psalm David speaks of the Good Shepherd’s dogged determination to make his beloved sheep rest, He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; Psalms 23:2-3 (NKJV)

 

Rest is a physical reminder that we are not in control of everything and that at the end of the day; we are not the ones who have the power to hold it all together.  After all, ultimately managing things—being in control– is God’s job and we need to remind ourselves of that regularly (say at least once a week).  During busy times it’s easy to be distracted from our relationship with God and treat our work as if it is our God.  We must not however fall prey to work-worship for very long.   If we make work our God we can in an incredibly short time find ourselves reaping some very serious consequences. 

 

Work-worship has the ability to take an incredible toll on a human being and can jeopardize our physical, emotional and spiritual health.  As Christians living in this incredibly stressful era we must repent and hear the clarion call back to one of the most basic principles of life and give God the time that is due Him. When we practice sanctified rest we focus back on God and allow Him to restore us—and that is a very good and necessary thing.

 

What are the culprits in your life that keep you from realizing the divinely ordained benefits of Sabbath rest?  Have you fallen victim to inserting leisure into the place of Sabbath rest in your weekly routine?  What is your opinion about the priority you believe Sabbath rest should play in the lives of contemporary believers?  Please feel free to reply to these questions or any other question this post spurs in your mind.  As always any comments are encouraged and welcomed!

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Finding Refuge

Today, here in my home town, we are enduring a typical early spring March blizzard. 

 

 

 

And for fortunate people like me who work inside it has provided an unusual opportunity to experience finding refuge. 

 

Those of us lucky enough to be able to hunker down and enjoy viewing the snow from our cozy nests have encountered what it feels like to watch the bluster of a storm pass by while being safely and blissfully hidden away. 

 

Taking pleasure in a hide-away it seems is almost a universal human delight.

 

The drive to sneak away and be hidden seems to be virtually instinctual.  Children and hiding places go unanimously together.  Whether children are found living in the country or the city, give a couple of kids an hour or two and they will be nested away in some kind of secret shelter.  Tents, tree houses, snow caves, attic perches, niches and crannies of all descriptions are relished by children as hide-outs. 

 

Yet at times all of us—no matter what our age—may find ourselves longing for a hide-out.  We desire to find a refuge, a hiding place; a place that is tucked away and secure from the problems that are at hand. We dream of coming upon a locale where we can while away the hours unmolested and at peace. 

 

You see, just because we’re Christians the storms of life don’t just disappear.  In fact, because we are Christians sometimes our spirits cry out all the louder for a peaceful place.  It is nothing to be ashamed of—this desire for refuge—some of the greatest men in the Bible expressed their need to find a safe haven in which to hide. 

 

In one of his deepest moments of pain and sorrow over the sin of his people, Jeremiah called out…Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them (Jer. 9:2).  And David expressed similar sentiments in Ps. 55:6-8 Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.

 

Fortunately for all of us, Scripture tells us that there is a refuge.  There is a safe place in the storm that is much stronger and secure than we could ever imagine. Hannah sang about it There is no one besides you; there is no rock like our God (1Sam. 2) and David wrote about it, The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God my rock in whom I take refuge.  In fact, David’s favorite metaphor for God as refuge was: God as refuge and Rock. 

 

In verse after verse the man after God own heart had more to say about God as our Rock than any other biblical character.  David’s own Psalm 62 features this metaphor.  This famous Psalm internally gives no specific historical setting.  However, most commentators seem to be in agreement choosing to place its context as written during David’s time in the wilderness. 

 

Authors ascribe these words to David during that time when he was fleeing Saul with his band of men.  It was a time in David’s life where it was typical for him and his men to retreat to the crags and caves of the mountains of Palestine for refuge.

 

During this time of running for his life the “Cave of Adullam” was David’s home.  The cave was a wicked refugee camp, a dark vault on the side of a cliff that reached deeply into a rock hill.  Huddled in this cave with him were 400 losers—a mob of miserable humanity.  1Sam. 22:2 it tells us, all those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. 

 

In this unlikely place, it became David’s responsibility to turn a hap-hazard mob into an organized, well-disciplined fighting force, his mighty men of valor.  And at the end of days spent eluding Saul he would run back to the rocky hills with their caves and nooks and crannies and find a safe haven.

 

 It was during this chaotic time in his life that David inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote:

 

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. …

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge

 Psalm 62

 

To find refuge is to find that safe place of being covered or protected. To find refuge is to find a place that is immune to exposure and vulnerability, where one is sheltered and hidden away from the storms of life. 

 

David found this place in God.  This year as we sit behind our window panes watching the storm swirl around us let’s take the time and reflect on the refuge God provides for us.  Let’s realize the shelter and place of safety he supplies and join with David in his song of praise.  

 

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,

I call as my heart grows faint;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  Psalm 61: 1-5

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Jesus is all about relationship–Are you willing to go there?

Making contact with God and maintaining a meaningful relationship with Him is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. The primary purpose for Jesus’ mission to this planet was to pay the way for reconciliation of relationship between God and humankind.  The capability of people to make unhindered and lasting contact with God was a high ticket item for Jesus—He gave his life for it.

 

When Jesus walked this earth He vehemently condemned the religion without relationship he found amongst the Jews. At every opportunity He openly opposed the empty faith of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees who were the professional religionists of the time were not in the least bit concerned with “How can I seek to know God?” They had long before degenerated to an obsession with “How can I look good for God?” They were preoccupied with image, reputation and prideful practice and Jesus had little patience for their self-focused religion. It is not surprising that God Incarnate could not tolerate their brand of “man-centered worship.” With righteous indignation Jesus took on the Pharisees again and again.  And at every encounter with “all authority” He turned the tables on them. His teachings redefined God the Father and true religion and it upset their status quo.

 

The early church was also infiltrated by “man centered religion.” In the third chapter of Revelation, Jesus rebukes the church of the Laodiceans for their self-focused ways, “…you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  He chastised them in the strongest terms to repent and refocus their lives.  In the end, His prescription for this ailing church was short and sweet—make contact with your God again.  Get your focus off yourself and connect with Me.  He unashamedly held out the invitation to relationship… Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

 

As believers we all have the option of distancing ourselves from the God who loves us. It is within our power to rudely keep Jesus on the other side of the door of our heart knocking while we are otherwise occupied.  Many Christians today have become “Neo-Pharisees,” a breed who flock to church to put on a good show.  They dutifully practice the external intellectual elements of bible study, go through the motions of worship and make eloquent prayers.  But just like the Pharisees it is all to be seen by men.  On the inside they are making little real relational contact with the transforming power of the “Living God” and as a result they are actually starving, miserable, and perishing souls. 

 

Why do people who once said “yes” to Jesus, do such things?  Because down deep they want a God of their own making, a God who obeys them, making them look and feel good at all times.  They want a God who gives precedence to their priorities.  The problem is Jesus doesn’t work that way. When Jesus comes into a heart to intimately dine with its owner He requires a few things.  Unfortunately, in the eyes of many wanna-be disciples the requirements he deems necessary are so inconvenient.  Dying to self, dealing with sin, changing attitudes and behaviors and receiving God’s directions for your life can at times be “not fun.”  Uninformed Christians do not always like the initial aftermath that making contact with God brings.  So they pull back, shut the door, and let Jesus keep on knocking.  They are unwilling disciples.  They are followers who have not counted the cost that a vital relationship with the Creator of the Universe rings up.           

 

The problem is many are also guilty of not measuring the benefits that making contact with Jesus can bring.  Jesus promises to come into your soul and dine with you.  He wants to share a feast and He’s bringing the provisions. Come and dine, come and drink, come and rest—are all very familiar invitations that our Savior issues.  He wants to satisfy the true deep needs of our souls.  He is not concerned with the “bling” or the status of this world.  As our maker he wants to meet our real needs and come to us in ways that truly satiate the hunger and thirst of our inner being.  All the great saints of the Bible were accomplished at making contact with God.  Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, Mary of Bethany and John to name a few majored in friendship with God.  They recognized the benefits relating on a regular basis with the God of the Universe could bring.

 

If you’re going to be a Christian making contact with God is not optional. It is mandatory.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are willing to open the door of your heart to Jesus on a regular basis.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are ready to deal with the internal issues, the issues of the heart that Jesus deems important.  Realize that He wants to make contact with you and that if you let Him in He will bring His life transforming power to meet the deep needs of your soul.  Realize that by His power He is willing to change you from the inside out.  God has the power to affect your life beyond all your expectations and in ways you could not even dream of. 

 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man

 The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1Cor. 2:9

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Please feel free to share any effective tools that you have utilized to help you stay in contact and build relationship with the Lord? How do you remain true to your commitment to make Him number one in your life?

Do you know Christians who are all about religion and yet seem unaware of relationship and intimacy with God?  How does the “pharisee” routine look in 21st century churches.  Share your experiences and please feel free to vent!  

 

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