Entering God’s rest…

In  the middle of life’s busyness & hectic pace, have you ever had the thought, “I wish I was on a quiet beach somewhere with no noise, no demands. Just the sun, a good book, & a loved one? THAT is where I’ll finally be able to get rest.”  I have… & I’ve been thinking more & more about what theBean & I going to do on our sabbatical when this quiet beach becomes our reality.

But I know me. It will do me no good at all to get away for 8 weeks, no matter how incredible the beach is or how isolated, quiet, & perfect the surroundings if I don’t REST. In my head… you know, find the relief, the mental & emotional tranquility that brings a refreshment to the depths of your soul. I know that the last thing I want to do is be laying on beach next to theBean, all the while going 100 miles an hour in my brain, preoccupied, distracted, worried, & stressed.

And so I’m trying to prepare myself, in advance… wrestling through Scriptures on Sabbath & rest, wrestling with God in thought & prayer, determining to find those “unforced rhythms of grace” that Jesus talked about in Matthew 11:28-30


One passage that I’ve been spending time in is Hebrews 3 & 4 – & I have really been digging into  Hebrews 4:1-13 & the specific wording about entering God’s rest & what it means. The authors of Hebrews talk about how Israel was unable to enter God’s rest (a.k.a. the Promised Land, the place promised to God’s people) due to their disobedience to His word & instructions. So, as I see it, there is a direct tie in between entering God’s rest & obedience – hearing God’s word, the Good News & receiving it (acting on it.) And there is a Sabbath rest promised to us…

…there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

For the word of God is living & active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul & of spirit, of joints & of marrow, & discerning the thoughts & intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked & exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.        

Hebrews 4:9-13 English Standard Version

As I’ve been pondering the question, “What do I have to do to enter God’s rest & to really experience the Sabbath rest this talks about?”, I keep coming back to verses 12 & 13 above. You know, the part about the power of the word of God – & its ability to cut through to the very core of our being, even weighing our thoughts, motives, & intents of our heart… & it makes me think that entering God’s rest (& finding true rest for my soul) is tied to time with Jesus… meditating on His words… allowing Scripture take root deep in my heart. Because it doesn’t seem to be about doing something – its about transformation of heart & mind… not striving… learning to BE & BE dependent on His word.

It reminds me of what Jesus said when He was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4:

“Man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

That’s my goal. That’s how I want to be becoming, more & more. And I’m gonna find rest.

Set apart for special use, obedience, & other musings…

When you hear the word, “holiness,” what comes to mind?

Scripture tells us that holiness means being set apart to God, for His exclusive purposes and use.

In the Book of the Law, God gave specific instructions about being holy and maintaining holiness – to help the Israelites understand it, He gave them specific things to do and to avoid; foods they could eat, and foods they couldn’t; He even gave restrictions about who they should hang out with, and who they shouldn’t.

At the same time, God also challenged Israel with the idea that holiness was MORE than this. That God’s main hope & desire for His people wasn’t just that they had the list of “stuff we don’t do” memorized; further, He told them that the holiness, the set apart life, wasn’t merely a set of exterior behaviors. It involved a ‘set apartness’ of heart, mind, thought, & purpose. It wasn’t just for temple/church times, but was a 24/7 manner of living.

Knowing the Rules: what we’re not supposed to eat, where we’re not supposed to go, & who we’re not supposed to hang out with is easier than living fully dependent on the instruction of the LORD, & direction of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Peter was holy – he’d never knowingly eaten forbidden food; hadn’t gone where he wasn’t supposed to go; didn’t hang out with ‘unclean’ Gentiles.

And so his world was rocked when God told him in a vision – “Don’t call unclean & unholy what I’ve made clean & holy.” If that wasn’t enough, God gave him instructions to immediately & without hesitation go with 3 Greek men to the house of another Greek- Gentile man & to await further instructions.

To obey & do this was a huge risk – at the very least it meant a loss of reputation, & at worst, he could have been prosecuted (or worse) for doing something so “unholy.”

But something clicked. Peter got a glimpse of what it truly meant to be holy; it wasn’t just the externals. Rather, it was the willingness to be directed & redirected by the LORD; to be willing to have his mind changed, to go where he’d never gone before in obedient response to the Holy Spirit.

And he saw the LORD move. The Holy Spirit poured out. He gained brothers from among a people that beforehand he wouldn’t have even been willing to be seen with.

May we be holy, set apart to God for His purposes & directions, no matter what.

fear, faith, & other musings…

Fear paralyzes us. It stirs up doubts. It rises up in opposition to faith. It crowds out every other thought, dominating the mind. It is a primary weapon used by our enemy, the devil to attempt to manipulate & control us by taking our eyes off of Christ, & putting them onto our circumstances. Fear promises us an alternate future, one void of the good & faithful promises of God.

In Acts 9, one particular disciple, Ananias, had to confront fear & make a choice: would he let fear or faith direct his life?

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” Acts 9:10-12


Ananias knew who he was. Everyone knew Saul of Tarsus. The stories of his zealous persecution of the Way had spread like wildfire. The believers he’d personally thrown into prison, the families he’d destroyed, & the stonings he’d been party to were numerous.

While every other believer in Damascus was looking to hide FROM Saul, God purposely was sending Ananias to FOR Saul. To pray for him. It didn’t make sense. Ananias wrestled with it. He discussed it further with the LORD.

And then he boldly went, found Saul, & healed him in Jesus Name.

One of the main purposes that Jesus gives His followers the Holy Spirit is so that, in the face & threat of fear, we would be filled instead with boldness. And in those moments when we’re wrestling, where fear is attempting to ensnare us, we can have the Divinely provided fuel to reject the temptations to fear, & to purposefully & boldly give ourselves to obedience to God’s purposes & plans.

Living with bold obedience to Christ affects not only my life, but those that I come in contact with. And because Ananias chose faith over fear, God used him to help Saul the leading opponent &persecutor of the Way, to become Paul, God’s chosen instrument to spread the gospel over the known world.

LORD, fill me with Your Holy Spirit today – that I would recognize (& reject) the temptation to fear, & choose faith instead. May I be boldly given to Your purposes & plans.

Reading, studying, & thinking…

I’ve been re-reading (which with books that one has read before is more like visiting or revisiting an old friend,) “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” by Eugene Peterson. I love the familiarity of the Songs of Ascent, & Peterson’s thoughts on discipleship, faithfulness, & perseverance in the face of the times of life that are seemingly mundane, humdrum, boring, uneventful, & lonely.

And it gives me great joy to learn & keep learning from those that have gone before me, walking a similar path to the one I’m on… & those that are a few steps ahead of me in life.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been pondering a blog post I read from a guy I look up to… in it he mentions some identifiers, “measuring sticks” really, of spiritual maturity…

1. Our spiritual maturity is measured by the degree which we communicate the love of God to & with others.
2. Our spiritual maturity is also measured by how we encourage others in their spiritual growth & development.

Both of these indicators aren’t fantastic, spectacular, or even… spiritual, in the way that many see spirituality. One thing that stands out to me is that they aren’t focused on the individual, but rather look to others, their lives, & how they can be encouraged, helped, & blessed.

Currently in a series at church called, “GOD – the Holy Spirit”… which came out of an increasing awareness that the Holy Spirit, the 3rd part of the Trinity, seems to be largely misunderstood, ignored, or feared by large segments of the Church at large… & that many (myself included) weren’t really aware of the work, let alone the person of the Spirit. My studies & prep have taken me from the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan to perusing Scripture, with eyes especially looking for where the Spirit is at work & is revealed…

Something I read the other day still rings in my head… it was in Ezekiel 3:24 where Ezekiel has fallen on his face due to the glory of the LORD being revealed. Here it says that the ‘Spirit entered me & made me stand on my feet…”

The Spirit gave Ezekiel strength to stand, & then gave him direction at what to do next. Wow.

Its very encouraging to me to see the Spirit, God’s indwelling representative in me today, actively participating in the “what to do” & the “how to get there.”

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #7

Woke up around 8:30 to the heavenly smell of coffee & homemade cinnamon rolls; Laura is an amazing cook. Just sayin. Evidently, I’ve taken to saying, “Tasty!” so often in response to our meals that Taylor (6) & Elliot (3) the Dueck’s 2 oldest boys, have started using the word as well. Now just to get Max (2) saying it too…

Sitting around the counter eating, the personalities of the 3 boys come out. Makes me think about how very unique the experience is to be growing up as a pastor’s kid… having people in your home all the time… with church days not just ‘going’ to church but ‘running’ it… I’m reflecting back on my own childhood, growing up ‘in the church,’ & also the experiences of my kids; wondering how & in what ways that has shaped their personalities & life outlook. Note to self.

Different service schedule today at TPLF: 1 song, then some announcements & ‘missions discussion’, followed by the speech – with the last 30 minutes or so being set aside for worship/response. The worship team was led by Kyong-he & Steve G… Kyong-he has got a voice that reminds me a lot of Kate Miner, & she is a very skillful & sensitive worship leader, in that you don’t ever really NOTICE her so much as simply FOLLOW her in worship through songs, spontaneous spoken praise, silence, & celebration. Steve is an Englishman living in Frankfurt, & is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, with a quick wit & ready story. He’s also incredibly willing to help in whatever way he can, & is a great example of how someone with the gift of evangelism has integrated into the ebb & flow of life in & around TPLF.

Today is the last of a 4 week series on the mission of the church – it’s interesting to me to see that though many things have changed, including the pastor of TPLF, the mission statement hasn’t.

    -Living for Jesus
    -Living for each other
    -Living for Frankfurt
    -Living for Germany & the World

The text I spoke from was Acts 8:26-40, about Philip meeting the Ethiopian eunuch/treasurer on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. If you’re interested in hearing it, you can try to find it here. What really stood out to me about that portion of scripture is that “living for the world…” doesn’t always mean having to go to the far corners of the earth (ironic, I know, as I am writing this from Frankfurt, about 5500 miles from home.) The story of Philip is an example where the world has come to him – & he (Philip) responds to the leading of the Holy Spirit in starting a conversation with a man seeking to know God, & in turn, touches & helps change an entire nation.

To me, it’s not about aiming for greatness, or trying to be significant, let alone famous… its being available to serve, to obey, to be lead in a simple way to do whatever God puts in front of me to do… whether I can see the “WHY” behind it or not. Obedience is better than sacrifice, & the real joy comes from gladly doing the will & purposes of God.

I really enjoyed having the worship/song/reflection portion at the end of the service – it gave a lot of time & possibility for listening & responding to the LORD… & also felt like a ‘good’ fit for the message & the day.

Its always great to be at TPLF & have the opportunity to renew the acquaintance of old friends, & to meet new people. Today was even better – my dear friend Anja came over from Mainz (about 25 miles away,) & Julia, the young woman from Aachen, Germany that lived with us for 6 months,) made the 2-hour trek by with her sister & a friend to be in the service. It’s hard to put into words the response that that kind of love evokes. What special & dear friends.

After church, several of us made our way to a restaurant just around the corner from TPLF – Koriander (formerly Zimt und Koriander – now under new ownership.) I think that they have great pizzas, so that’s what I got – a personal pepperoni & pineapple, complete with a dark Hefeweizen. Mmmm. That should get your mouth watering.

We walked from the restaurant, talking & catching up on the last few months – & navigated the short distance to Eddy & Laura’s house. They were having an ‘open house’ for any who wanted to come by & sample some of Laura’s baked goods & drink some tea or coffee. The house was filled with great smells, peals of laughter, & good talks. Aris & Steve had us all rolling with their witty repartee.

Too soon, it seemed, the afternoon flowed into the evening, & our friends had to make their way home, especially those that had traveled so far. It brought tears to my eyes to say goodbye to my friends, for whom I’m so thankful.

The family & I spent a quiet evening with a light supper (tasty!) & now the boys are in bed & I’m trying to catch up on the happenings of the day with news from home & Hillside. When I’m here in Frankfurt, I try to be “HERE”; while at the same time, I dearly miss my wife, my family, friends, & church family.