Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rest That's Soul-Deep for the New Year

     Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30

I enter the New Year celebrating an age-old truth freshly spoken into my heart by God through the Holy Spirit today.  It's a culmination of the "rest" theme He's been leading me gently into over the past few months.  I pray this message of rest will comfort and strengthen your hearts, as it has mine.

A version of the following message was originally published in the Far East Broadcasting Company's blog on December 11, 2013. I've added some thoughts here on hearing from God, another theme you will have noticed in some of my previous posts on this Joy blog.

"So much for your preachy Thanksgiving post last week about how we should thank God for the important things He does for us," I said to myself as I sat in church on Sunday morning.  We were preparing our hearts for communion, and I could not conjure up a spirit of thanksgiving for God's gracious gift of salvation to save my soul. 

It's really hard for me to admit this, but after sixty years of celebrating communion every month, it's sometimes difficult for me to come to the table with a fresh appreciation for what it all means.  I think one of our worst characteristics, as human beings, is our tendency to take good things for granted after we've had them for a while.  It keeps us from loving God as we should, and it steals our joy. But I have no idea how to keep it from happening.

So I sat there, feeling exactly the opposite of what I should be feeling as I "remembered the Lord's death until He comes."  Feeling nothing, except an uncomfortable burden of guilt as I realized how hard my heart was, and a tiny sliver of fear that sneaked in after the guilt.   

And then the Lord spoke to me. 

I want to try to describe how it happened, even though I can't do it adequately, because I've been thinking a lot lately about how God speaks.  I don't know if this is how He spoke to Abraham or not.  I know He used words with me.  He spoke them into my spirit somehow.  But when I try to remember them and write them down, they don't seem quite right. 

I know it was His "voice" because I recognize the spirit of Jesus in what He said, and also because of the overwhelming awesomeness of the realization that came.  The words had the ring of truth to them.

As I sat there feeling sad and guilty and afraid because of my insensitivity to His love, He said, "It's okay, Ginny."  

Translated into New Testament language He might have been saying, "Peace, be still," or "Let not your heart be troubled."

Then He told me why I should not be troubled.  He said,

Whether or not you feel gratitude for my broken body and shed blood has no effect on whether or not you're forgiven.  My broken body and shed blood have thoroughly redeemed you, and that redemption is a finished work.  You will always be forgiven, whether you ever thank me or not.  I didn't die for the appreciation.  I died for you, because I love you.  It's a given.  Nothing will ever change that.

He wasn't that wordy.  It takes a lot of inadequate human words for me to convey the total relief and freedom I felt when He spoke.  It was overwhelming.  It brought peace to my heart and tears of gratitude to my eyes.  That's why I know it was his "voice."

More and more I am realizing that the Christian life is not about what I am supposed to do for him, but what He has already done for me.  And continues to do.  And will continue to do, throughout eternity.

More and more I am learning to relax into His love, and every time I hear His voice I find it easier and easier to recognize.

Jennifer Dukes Lee writes a blog that I always find a real blessing.  I recommend her to you.  Her post today on New Years' resolutions mirrors this same message of rest.  

May God give you a heart full of peace and joy as you lean back into His boundless love and grace during the coming year.  

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