When I first started going to church I heard about Lent but did not really know what it was. The churches I attended did not really talk about it much either.
More recently I have been attending a church that does talk about Lent and celebrates it each year. This year some of the blokes from our Men’s group “Who let the blokes out?” are giving some things up and we are doing some things to help us focus more in God.
Here is a really good description of Lent from a devotion I am doing…
“The basic purpose of Lent is to create space in the middle of life’s responsibilities to appreciate what’s always been there—God’s presence. Lent is a 40-day period leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Based on Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, Lent is a tool that can help you become more aware of God’s voice and His sacrificial love. Although Lent isn’t actually mentioned in the Bible, it was discussed at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD because it provided a rhythm of reflection and repentance for Christians as they entered spring—a season often associated with new beginnings.”
So what am I giving up and deciding to do? Here are my things…
I usually grab an iced coffee and maybe a snickers bar when I get fuel. I will give that up. That will be a little bit of donation money for the Lent Event that funds missions. I am going to listen to an audio book called “40 days with the Holy Spirit” by KT Kendall. It is a short audio of 5-8 minutes each day.
If you have never celebrated Lent or taken part, maybe you could try it this year? I pray that if you do, you will hear God’s voice more clearly and be reminded in a deeper way of God’s sacrificial love for you.
In my morning devotions this morning I was reflecting on the way that God changes our lives over time. Our old habits and attitudes slowly fall away and good deeds start to flow.
As I was thinking about this I was thinking of two ways this process happens.
The Word of God – the Bible has a way of transforming our thinking. As Hebrews 4:12 says it cuts to the heart of things and shows us where we are wrong. But it doesn’t leave us all condemned, it gives hope and forgiveness and shows us the right way to think and live. Time spent reflectively in God’s Word brings godly change.
The Spirit of God – God’s Holy Spirit helps to transform us inwardly. When we come to Christ the Holy Spirit resides in us (Romans 8:11) and He helps us to change. Day by day we are transformed inwardly (2 Corinthians 4:16) and we are changed into the likeness of Christ.
So the Word of God and the Spirit of God work hand in hand. As we spend time in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit teaches, changes and strengthens us to become the people God intended us to be all along.
Let’s purpose to spend time in God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to bring change to our hearts and minds today. Let’s be a transformed people!
I saw this image recently and it reminded me that sometimes we wait a long time for the things God has in store for us. We see that Moses, Abraham, Joseph and even Jesus waited a long time!
When I saw this I was reminded of how God first spoke to me about school chaplaincy 30 years ago. I went and did some Bible college to prepare and thought it would be in a year or two.
Little did I know that after Bible college I would marry, raise my family, do more Bible studies, work as a Pastor, work in a hospital for 10 years and work in a few government departments for 20 years before I became a school chaplain.
The reality is that God knows what we need before the role He calls us too comes about. I was not ready to be a school chaplain in the 90s. I needed to grow and learn more about my faith and generally mature in life.
I wonder what God has spoken to you about in the past? I wonder how long you have been waiting? Know that if God has called you to something, it will come to pass. Even if it seems to be taking a while.
As the picture says above, “If God is making you wait, you’re in good company”.
The title of my message today is “Serving Jesus from a place of rest”. This message has been on my heart for the last few months. Especially since I found out I would be a Chaplain in three schools this year and also be an Elder in this church. These are four big roles, and I believe to would be easy to be overwhelmed, but I believe we serve a big God.
All of us know what it is to be busy, some of us know what it is to be too busy. We experience busyness of life and work, the busyness of kids and school, the busyness of church and serving in volunteer roles, and some even experience the busyness of retirement. Rather than winding down, retirement for some is a winding up!
Today I want to share this message as a new year is upon us and many of the things we do are starting to wind up in February. So before all the rush begins I want us to stop and reflect on the call of Jesus that is found in today’s reading.
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “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.”
At the heart of these verses in the Bible reading is an invitation. An invitation to come to Jesus and an invitation to live differently. Today I want to share four things I love about this passage.
1. Jesus invites us to Himself
Jesus says, “Come to Me”. He invites everyone to come and get to know Him and spend time with Him. It is a personal invitation, but it is also to everyone. We see this in the “all who are weary”. It is an invitation to intimacy like He has with His Father.
In the New Testament, we see that Jesus often drew aside to spend time alone with His Father. In Mark 1:35 it says, “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” He needed time alone with His Father to connect with Him and receive orders.
He also called the disciples away to be alone with Him. In Mark 6:31-32 “Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat. 32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.”
In my life as a Christian I have heard an audible voice from God twice. Once was when I was in a very busy period of work and ministry and I was staying up late to finish things off after everyone went to bed. In the midst of this work I heard a voice say “Dave”. It was different to the normal sound of my name being said. It was strong and firm, but calming and inviting all in one. It stopped me in my tracks. I walked in to Larissa hoping it was her. She was sound asleep. It was then I realised it was God. I said yes Lord and went and sat in my chair that I did my devotions in. Over the next hour or so I just sat in God’s presence. I didn’t say much. He didn’t say much, but I just sat. I felt a peace and a presence that melted all my stress and worry away. I was weary and God called me to come to Him. The other time I heard an audible was my name again. This time it was when Larissa was in hospital and I was home with two small kids. I had been awake for 24 hours and God said “Dave” again. I sat in His presence again and the same thing happened, my stress and weariness melted away.
Jesus invites us to Himself. He wants us to spend alone time with Him. He promises help for those of us who are weary. So to be effective in serving Jesus from a place of rest, remember Jesus invites us to Himself first.
2. Jesus invites us to take on His yoke
In old style farming a yoke was used to join two animals together. Side by side they would work, until the work was done. Often an older more experienced animal was put with a younger animal. By working with the older animal, the younger one would learn what to do and be under better control.
In today’s passage Bible scholars tell us Jesus was talking about the heavy yoke or burden that the Pharisees put on the people. They had 600+ laws for people to live by and that was burdensome. It was hard work and took all their energy. Jesus on the other hand, asks us to take on His yoke which He says is light and easy. Jesus just wants us to love God and love one another and do His work.
Also by using the yoke analogy, Jesus invites us to partner in the work He is already doing in the world. He invites us to work in His mission field. In this life, it is easy to get caught up in doing all kinds of “good” things, but Jesus invites us to be involved in His work. To put on His yoke and join in with Him.
For me being in three schools it is important for me to take on His yoke and prayerfully seek what God is already doing and join in. I need to see not only with my physical eyes and show love and compassion, but with my spiritual eyes and look for the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit is always working around us drawing people to Jesus. As I walk around I need to learn when to go left, when to go right or when to do the holy hover and wait. So far it has been working well and led to some good conversations.
So to be effective in serving Jesus from a place of rest, it is important to take on His yoke and not the yoke of the world.
3. Jesus invites us to learn from Him
Jesus wants to teach us a different way to live. Jesus wants us to follow Him just like He asked the first disciples to follow Him. He promises that He will be gentle and teach us from a humble heart. I don’t know about you, but that is my kind of teacher.
How do we learn from Jesus today?
We read and memorise the words He said in the Bible – the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is a great place to start.
We read and reflect on His interactions with the people He met – Matthew chapter 8 onwards deals with this.
We read the prayers He prayed – The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and Jesus’ prayer for the disciples in John 17.
We see how Jesus dealt with temptation from the devil and how He responded with Scripture three times in Matthew 4:1-11.
Over the years I have met a lot of very strong Christians. When I asked what their secret was, it was always the same. They loved the Bible. They loved reading and meditating on it. They loved memorising passages. They loved talking about it.
So to be effective in serving Jesus from a place of rest, we must learn from Him and the best way to do that is by getting in to His Word – the Bible.
4. Jesus promises us rest
The last thing we can learn from these three simple verses is that Jesus promises us rest. If we respond to Jesus’ invite to come to Him, to take on His yoke and to learn from Him, He promises us rest.
The rest Jesus gives us is a rest not of this world. It is a rest that calms us in the middle of our busyness. It is a rest that lets us know God is in control though the world around us is failing. It is a rest that knows the eternal God has everything, even our eternal destiny, under control. We can rest knowing that we are kept safely in the palm of His hand.
My weariness test
Before I finish I want to do the weariness test that I give myself every now and then. I want to use the letters of the word weary.
W – Do I feel like I am working day and night? Or am I waiting on the Lord and responding to His promptings?
E – Does it feel like everything depends on me to get done? Or does everything depend on God and I just play my part?
A – Am I always rushing around to get things done? Or am I allowed to relax and have time off to do the things I enjoy?
R – Am I restless and can’t keep still? Or am I resting in Christ?
Y – Am I saying yes to everyone and everything? Or am I yielded to God and saying yes to Him?
If my answers were more on the left, I may be weary and need to hear Jesus’ call afresh to “Come to me all who are weary?”
As I said earlier at the heart of these three simple verses are an invitation from Jesus…
1. Jesus invites us to Come to Him
2. Jesus invites us to Take on His yoke
3. Jesus invites us to Learn from Him
When we do, we experience His rest. A rest that is not of this world. And we can run the race in a way that does not make us weary.