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Replenishing Our Weary Souls

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah‬ ‭31:25‬ ‭

When I read this verse Monday morning, it opened my eyes to where I’ve been walking since March. This COVID-19 pandemic that has turned our lives upside down seems like it will never end. Add the civil unrest and violence in our nation and the situation seems dire. Soul weariness has made it difficult for me to accomplish anything during the last couple weeks.

The Hebrew word for “weary” is used of one who is “wearied out from a long journey and at the same time suffering from thirst.” Has this “journey” caused you to be “wearied out”? Has it caused you to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) instead of the injustice and violence that seems to be thriving? Is your weary soul needing to be replenished? To be filled up and restored? Mine sure is!

So how do we replenish our dry souls as these circumstances drag on and on? Here are five ways that have helped me. (All verses in ESV unless noted)

    Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a) To be still means “to stop frantic activity, to let down, and to be still.” It is a stillness that leaves behind the pressures and even the jobs that still need to be done for a time of rest and restoration. To know is to perceive by observing and reflecting or by experience. As we become still and allow our minds to take a rest from the things of this world, remember how this Psalm begins. God is still “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) He is there for you if you’ll just take your needs to Him.
    Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31 NASB) The word “rest” in this verse refers to taking a break from your labor. Find a “secluded place” and rest for a while, relax and simply enjoy the presence of the Lord. For you that might be by taking a short walk and enjoying the birds singing and flowers growing. It may be a short trip to the beach. But resting doesn’t always mean a change in your physical location, as long as you’re leaving behind the daily stresses and spending time with the Lord. Find a restful place and allow the burdens of this season to be rolled off your shoulders and onto the shoulders of the Lord.
    “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm‬ ‭1:1-2‬)‬‬ As you rest, ask the Lord to speak to you through His written word. Listen. Is there a specific Scripture that comes to mind? Take time to meditate on that Scripture. Start with prayer and ask God to help you understand the verse or passage. How does it apply to what you are currently walking through? Is there anything God is showing you that you need to obey?
    For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew‬ ‭18:20‬) One of the biggest struggles I’ve had during this season is the requirement for social distancing. To prevent spread of the virus, we’ve been asked to wear masks whenever we are out and stay physically separated. But we can still gather together during this season in other ways. Reach out to someone else who may be struggling with weariness and loneliness with a text or phone call. “Talk” with a friend on Facebook Messenger. Send a card to someone who is struggling during this time. Remember, God isn’t limited by social distancing. When we reach out to others in His name, He is there among us.
    But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John‬ ‭4:23-24)‬ ‭‬The hour is now here, when true worshipers worship the Father in spirit and truth. What does this mean? This idea was a part of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. The message was that worship of God is not to be confined to a single geographical location. Many of us have not been in our local church for months, instead having to “worship” online. The Holy Spirit isn’t limited to one specific building for true worship to happen. True worship comes from the heart. It is doctrinally grounded and focused on the truth of all we know of our great God. It’s the Holy Spirit who stirs in our spirit a desire to celebrate and rejoice and give thanks to God for all He has given us in Jesus Christ. Corporate worship is a blessing, but until that is once again safe, let’s remember that we can worship the Lord in spirit and in truth right where we are.

Find time today to bring your weary soul to the Lord so He can replenish your inner man, fill you back up again. Be still and remember God is still in control. Take times in your days to simply rest, to leave behind all your responsibilities and focus on restoring your weary soul. Let God speak to you through His Word. Soak up the peace that comes in His presence. And take some time to worship God for Who He is and all He has done for you. Even though this time of COVID-19 and civil unrest probably won’t be behind us anytime soon, let’s remember to practice these steps of replenishing our weary souls.


https://youtu.be/mq59iE3MhXM

Bringing Calm to Unrest

Last Thursday, I was encouraged when my husband Mitch and I were finally able to have lunch together at one of our favorite restaurants. After months of isolation due to COVID-19, things were finally starting to look up. Stores and restaurants were gradually opening back up, still with the need to maintain social distancing, but it felt like things had turned a corner. Our church was even planning in-person services on Sunday, and though we had decided to wait a few more weeks before going back, things were finally starting to look hopeful.

Then, as we left the restaurant to take a package to UPS, we turned on the radio and listened to the news. The heartbreaking story of the senseless death of George Floyd was the top story. We expected there to be some protests about this situation, but we really didn’t know what was ahead. What started as a peaceful protest of the injustice was quickly hijacked by violent external groups bent on destruction and mayhem.

Soon after that, we learned George Floyd was originally from Houston, our hometown, and that his family still lives here. So as we heard of the rioting and destruction in other cities I was a little fearful of what was ahead. George Floyd’s brother Terrence has been a calming voice in our city, saying violence wasn’t the way to honor his brother. He said, “My family is a peaceful family, my family is God fearing. Do this another way.” This has still been a time of deep grieving, but Houston has been spared most of the destruction and violence that has marked other cities.

As I’ve thought about this situation, two questions have been on my mind. First, as Christians, how are we to be a calming force in the midst of situations like this? First, remember we are all created in the image of God. Our skin color or nationality doesn’t change that. Paul gave us advice on how we are to deal with situations such as these, two important instructions found in the book of Romans that apply to situations of injustice. We are told to weep with those who weep, and our ultimate goal is to learn to live in harmony with one another.

Another truth is equally important in this situation. Ephesians 6 reminds us that our battle isn’t just with flesh and blood. Yes, there are people involved whose desire is to fan the embers of hatred into a raging fire. But behind them there are spiritual forces in control. Walking in this understanding and responding in love and prayer can bring healing to a horrible situation.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:12-13

Yes, the United States is in turmoil right now, but as Christians we can help to bring the presence of the Prince of Peace into the unrest. Let’s reach out to our black brothers and sisters and support them through this time. And let’s pray for all those affected by this travesty.

Remember, the Light of Christ can overcome the darkness, the Love of Christ can replace hatred. Though prayer, we can come against the spiritual forces that are behind this situation. And we can run to the Lord, our strong tower, and find in Him a place of safety.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10

Staying Connected During Coronavirus Social Distancing

As human beings, we were created for connection. God made this truth clear from the Garden of Eden when He said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Many verses remind us that we are never completely alone if we have surrendered our lives to God. His promise to Moses is one of my favorites: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:24). But this doesn’t eliminate our need for human connection.

One of the most frequently used phrases in the New Testament is “one another.” Here are just a few of the “one another’s” in the Epistles.

  • Romans 12:10 says we are to “love one another with brotherly affection.”
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 encourages us to “comfort one another.
  • Galatians 6:2 says we are to “bear one another’s burdens.”
  • Ephesians 4:32 tells us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says we are to “encourage one another and build one another up.
  • Hebrews 10:24 instructs us to “stir up one another to love and good works.”

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Without meaningful connection to God and others, our quality of life will diminish. But with the recent changes in our daily lives as we’ve walked through months of social distancing, quarantine and isolation, loneliness has been an even bigger issue for more of us to deal with.

From a physical health standpoint, these are necessary health measures, especially for those of us who are vulnerable because of chronic illness or age. But from a mental health vantage point, they have resulted in increased anxiety and greater loneliness.

I think one of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with since gathering in large groups became unsafe has been the fact that it is currently unsafe to meet in the church building. Our church has gone out of the way to keep us connected, with Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services, plus a variety of other ways for us to “get together” while physically separated.

Our church is big – many thousand members – so connection is an issue our leaders take serious. We have over fifty adult small groups to choose from, which we call iConnect groups, to help us “find the little church inside the big church” as we connect with God and others. Even though we can’t meet in person during this pandemic, our iConnect group has been meeting weekly via ZOOM for fellowship and teaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Social distancing has made it impossible to meet in person right now, but we are still able to find ways to stay connected.

What ways have you found during this COVID-19 pandemic to stay connected? Have you found ways to minister to the needs of “one another” as listed earlier? Remember, the church is made up of people, not buildings. How has this season affected your relationship with the Lord? Your church? Your family? Your friends? Consider these questions in prayer.

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An August Anniversary

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday, where we write spontaneously for five minutes on a one-word prompt.  The prompt this week is Anniversary.

As August 2018 begins, one of the most discussed topics in Houston, Texas is the upcoming first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. On August 29th, 2017, after this devastating storm came in at the Texas coast, it moved northeast toward the huge metropolis of Houston. And Houston hasn’t been the same since.

The annual recurrence of the date marking a notable event – an anniversary – can be a time of rejoicing or a time of sorrow. In this case, my emotions concerning this upcoming anniversary are mixed. Hurricane Harvey caused devastation, but it also showed how loving and concerned the people of our city are for one another.

Our own church received major damage to it’s buildings during this memorable event, and yet the thing that stood out to me was the outreach to the surrounding community. Hundreds of people went around the neighborhood, cleaning out flooded homes, removing debris and delivering the hope that is found in Christ. And this same thing was happening in churches and ministries throughout the greater Houston area.

When disaster hits, we are faced with a choice. Will we sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, or will we show the love of Christ to our neighbors who are hurting? I’m grateful to be a part of a city and church that made the right choice in this, the choice that led to restoration and changed lives.

Houston isn’t the same today as it was after last August’s devastating flooding. Lives and property were lost, and some areas still need work before restoration is complete. Our own family was touched by the storm, as we faced damage to our home that to this point is still only partially repaired and as our special needs son David had a small illness that turned into a life-threatening battle with pneumonia because of delay in getting a prescription for an antibiotic filled in the midst of the storm.

But the thing that stands out to me as I look back is a clear lesson in what it means to truly love those around us in word and deed. We can look inward in the midst of a disaster such as this, or we can look at the opportunity before us to be “Living Proof of a Loving God to a Watching World.” This theme our pastor reminds us of frequently was lived out last August in practical ways. God used His people to bring good out of the disastrous storm. And for that, I’m thankful.

Peace Within the Body of Christ

God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is our guidebook for how to walk in peace in each area of our lives. Last week, the focus of my blog post was on peace in our relationship with God. If you missed that post, here is the link.

https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2018/06/16/peace-with-god-the-peace-of-god/

This week, I’m shifting attention to peace in our relationships with others in the body of Christ. God’s will for His people is to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:2-3‬ ‭ESV)‬‬ In practical terms, how do we do this?

For Christians, how to act in a specific situation is often black and white. Option 1 is obedience to a command of God’s Word, option 2 is disobedience and living according to our fleshly desires. But there are also many areas of our daily lives where right and wrong are not so clearly spelled out. These are areas where we need to seek understanding from the Lord concerning what He wants us to do, where with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we form our own personal convictions.

Once we have formed our own personal convictions and are seeking to live according to them, we need to understand how these relate to our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If God has shown us something is right for us, does that mean it is right for every Christian? Not necessarily. This week’s verses for the Perfect Peace study begin with Romans 14, which deals with areas of personal conviction, things which the Bible does not say in themselves are right or wrong.

How to live by my personal convictions yet not insist that others adopt the same convictions was one of the first lessons I remember God teaching me as a new believer. Some things God clearly says are right or wrong (sin), but in many areas the choices we make are between us and the Lord. We are not to force our personal convictions on others.

As God was teaching me this lesson, I was invited out to dinner with some dear family friends who were Christians but belonged to a church that tends to be rather legalistic in areas like abstaining from certain foods and gathering for worship on a specific day of the week, both areas mentioned in this chapter. I was asking God how I should handle this invitation. He lead me to Romans 14 and told me to accept the invitation, order only the type of foods they would be comfortable with me eating, and avoid the trap of trying to change their personal convictions.

I love this chapter in The Message – it makes this lesson so clear and easy to apply. Here is the Message paraphrase of Romans 14:1 which gives a good summary of the message Paul was trying to get across, and I’m including the link to the entire chapter below for anyone interested in reading more.

“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.”

‭https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+14&version=MSG

Where God does not say one choice is right and another is definitely wrong, He gives us some guidelines in His Word to help us make decisions. Here are a few mentioned in Romans 14.

  1. We are to welcome other genuine believers in Christ with open arms.
  2. We are to seek peace and walk in love toward all of our true brothers and sisters in Christ.
  3. The forming of personal convictions is between each individual believer and the Holy Spirit that lives in the believer’s heart. I am not to attempt to do the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of my brother or sister in Christ.
  4. Once God has shown us what is right for us in these areas, we are to be fully convinced in our mind. God will hold us accountable for our own choices and behavior.
  5. Quarreling over personal convictions does not maintain peace among believers, so this is to be avoided.
  6. Judging others in areas where right and wrong is not spelled out in the Bible is not our responsibility.
  7. We are to avoid actions that would be stumbling blocks to others who are seeking to follow Jesus Christ.

Walking in love with others in the body of Christ, especially with those who don’t see things the way we do, can be a challenge. But with the truths taught in Romans 14 we have some clear guidelines in how to promote harmony and peace with our  brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s begin using these to begin bridging some relationship gaps so we will be a clearer representation of what it truly means to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

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True Love Bible Reading Challenge: Week 4 Summary

February, a month when my thoughts have been focused on love with both this True Love Bible Reading Challenge and the Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study of Wendy Blight’s book I Am Loved, is drawing to a close. But first, seven more passages to reflect upon God’s love for us and our appropriate response to that love.

Day 22 – Philippians. 2:1-11

Reflecting upon the love of God has brought encouragement, comfort and joy to our lives during this month. Today’s passage focuses on the ultimate picture of God’s love for us, as seen by Jesus’ willingness to empty Himself, take on the form of a servant, and become obedient to the point of death on a cross. God’s call to us in response is to have the same mind as Christ had, in humility loving others as He loves us.

Day 23 – Colossians 3:8-15

Acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the first step in the process of our lives being transformed into the image of Christ. With the Holy Spirit within to empower us, we are then equipped for the disciplines of putting off the old self of our former manner of life, renewing our minds through the Word of God, and putting on the new self made in the image of God. We must put off (or put away) the practices that are rooted in sin, as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to them. But to put off without putting on leaves a void. Replacement is a necessary part of transformation. Put off. Put on. Both are essential for us to be changed into the likeness of Christ. And the most important thing for us to put on is love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Day 24 – John 14:21-27

Loving God is closely linked with obedience to His Word. In these verses, Jesus made this truth clear to His disciples. And He also reminded them that the words they heard Him speak are not just His words, they were also the words of the Father who sent Jesus. Just as Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19), this passage tells us He only said what He heard the Father saying. Therefore there is no separating God’s Words – which we often think of as the Old Testament Scriptures – and the Words of Jesus which we read in the New Testament. If we truly love Jesus, our desire will be to obey all of God’s Word, both the Old and New Testament. But we also need to balance this truth with the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness, with the fact that our obedience during our days on earth will never be perfect. As Beth Moore says, “Obedient lives are not perfect lives. Obedience does not mean sinlessness but confession and repentance when we sin.”

Day 25 – John 15:9-13

How does Jesus love us? The same way the Father has loved Him. The Father’s love for Jesus is deep, tender, sacrificial, eternal and unchanging. Jesus’ love for us is a clear reflection, a mirror image, of the Father’s love for His own perfect Son. What an amazing thought! The Father loves the Son so much that He “has given all things into his hand” (John‬ ‭3:35‬).‬‬ The Father loves the Son so much that He “shows him all that he himself is doing” (John 5:20). The Father’s love for Jesus is perfect love. And this is the same way Jesus loves us.

And the response Jesus asks of us? We are to abide in His love, having an intimate, close relationship, not just a superficial acquaintance. When we do this, two things happen. We find delight in keeping His commandments and His joy fills our lives. And as we are filled to overflowing with the love of Christ, we love others in the same way He has loved us, even to the point of laying down our lives for them.

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Day 26 – John 15:14-21

In this next section of John 15, Jesus says to those who abide in His love, as seen by laying down their own will and walking in obedience to God’s will and ways, “You are my friends.” What is the difference between a servant and a friend? A servant doesn’t know his master’s business. He simply does what he is told. But to His friends, Jesus says, “everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” One of the ways the Father loves the Son that I listed above is by showing Jesus all He is doing. And if we are His friends, Jesus passes this information on to us.

So how do we know if we are living as a friend of Jesus? If we belong to Jesus, if we are His friends, there will be lasting spiritual fruit in our lives. And the primary fruit will be our love for one another. Plus an added benefit of this lifestyle: answered prayer.

Day 27 – 1 John 3:1-5

Sometimes I think we miss the fullness of all Jesus accomplished on the cross. Derek Prince has identified ten things from Scripture that Jesus achieved by His suffering and death on the cross. Today I’m just going to share three of those.

  • Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.
  • He tasted death for us that we might share His life.
  • He endured rejection (because of our sins being laid upon Him) that we might have His acceptance with the Father.

When we think of Jesus’ death on the cross, we usually focus on Him paying the penalty for our sin that we might be forgiven. That is a major truth, one I am eternally thankful for. But I’m equally grateful that His death made the way for me to share His life. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, I am a new creation. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Now I am one of God’s beloved children, fully accepted into the family of God. And that is good news today and for eternity.

Day 28 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Love is Who God is! God is the heart of true love. The characteristics of love are the characteristics of God. By knowing the heavenly Father and Jesus Christ the Son, we learn what love is all about. The characteristics of love are also the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us expressed to others. As this “Love Month” of February comes to an end, this is my take-away from this month’s study of LOVE. It’s what I want to remember when circumstances feel overwhelming, when I’m tempted to lose heart. God is Love, and because this is true I have hope for the future!

True Love Bible Reading Challenge: Week Two Summary

During this second week of February that ends with the day set aside to celebrate love, let’s remember the source of true love. God’s love for and through us is the True Love that has the power to change lives.

Day 8: Zephaniah 3:17-20

Life on earth is filled with battles, but these verses from the prophet Zephaniah remind us that God doesn’t leave us on our own to win the war. He Himself is the Mighty Warrior who saves us because He takes great delight in us.

Day 9: John 13:34-35

Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? There’s one way to know for sure. Jesus said, “everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” Love is shown in many ways. But one way of allowing God’s love to flow through us to those around us is by praying for one another. Interceding for others, lifting their needs up to our heavenly Father, is a concrete demonstration of our love.

Day 10: Psalm 136:1-13

One characteristic of God’s love, whether we are the receivers or the conduit through which it flows to others, is that it keeps on going and never quits. It is everlasting, perpetual, and there is always more left over.

Day 11: Psalm 136:14-26

When we recognize the depth of God’s love for us, it will do two things in our lives. Our hearts will be filled to overflowing with praise to this One whose love for us is beyond our comprehension. And that love, too great for us to contain it, will flow out of us to those around us.

Day 12: Deuteronomy 10:12-15

This passage, addressed to the Jewish people but equally applicable to those Gentiles who are now “ingrafted branches” (Romans 11:17) through our relationship with Jesus Christ, gives five things that the Lord our God asks of us as His people. We are to fear or revere Him, honoring Him as our Lord to Whom we will one day give account for how we have lived. We are to walk in obedience to him, serve Him with all our heart and soul, and observe His commands which have been given for our own good. And we are to love Him with all our heart and soul, which gives us the proper motivation to do the other four things.

Day 13: Psalm 5:7-12

Father, this morning I’m grateful for the privilege of coming into Your presence. I rejoice in You. Lead me today, my Lord, in Your righteousness. Make Your way straight before me. I love You and take refuge in You.

‭‭Day 14: Psalm 25:1-10

Lord, I’m so grateful that You don’t leave me on my own to figure life out. By Your Spirit, You guide me in Your truth and teach me how to walk. All Your ways toward me are loving and faithful. You are good and upright, a God of mercy and love.