Tag Archives: rest

Nuggets of Hope 27 – Are you listening?


Hey you. I have some things to tell you. Secrets. Things that can help you.  Are you listening? This is really important.


This is a time of many opinions, much commentary, many unknowns and uncertainties, many claims and counter-claims, much fear and anxiety, much suspicion and accusation, much unrest and contention.

In the storm of words, it is a great gift to be able to quiet one’s thoughts by giving our attention to the Holy One.

Before I was born again, I could not do this. I was a young United Church pastor – attempting to be a shepherd to others although I did not yet really know the Good Shepherd. I was driven and anxious much of the time. I wanted peace – wanted it desperately – but I could not think my way into it.

I found that the way to peace was through surrender of my will to Jesus Christ and baptism with the Holy Spirit. Right away my life became much simpler as I no longer felt compelled to solve every problem or come up with a solution for every situation. There was such freedom in not being responsible for everything.

I am very grateful for those who trained me, early on in my walk with Christ, in learning to listen to the quiet whisper of Holy Spirit speaking to my spirit.

Nowadays, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am finding that to stay healthy I need to practice a few simple disciplines.  Physical exercise, prayer, Scripture, work, rest.

One of the most important is to pay more attention to the voice of the Lord than to the voice of man.

From the time I was a young child I always wanted to know what was true and what was false. I also have a strong sense of justice and hate to see lies and wrongs prevail. These are good qualities but I have found that in order to stay in God’s peace – which is the place of order and productivity and fruitfulness and life and hope – I need to discipline myself to listen to His voice in preference to all the other voices. When I forget this, even for a short time, I pay a price. When I remember it, peace returns and I am able to see clearly again because I have heard the voice of the One who is True.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jesus, John 10:10

My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways …
as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God, Isaiah 55:8-9

The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are a mere breath.
Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord,
And whom You teach out of Your law;
That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity,
Until a pit is dug for the wicked.
Psalm 94:11-13

The Holy Spirit is such a blessing to me. In an instant He can cut through the confusion of human voices and give me His perspective. He doesn’t answer all my questions but He directs my attention to the one thing that I need to pay attention to in that moment. This brings rest to my thoughts and keeps me stable, focussed and productive.

One of my favourite Psalms speaks of the secret counsel of the Lord which is available only to those who fear Him. It is like the counsel that one gives to a trusted friend. I need that secret counsel on a daily basis, to guide my life, to show me His ways and keep me from trouble.

I daresay you need that daily counsel of the Lord as much as I do.

Are you listening?


Nuggets of Hope 23 – Keeping the Peace

The job of a hockey official is not always easy – especially during the Stanley Cup playoffs which we are currently missing. One of the more challenging aspects is keeping the peace between opposing players who get a bit hot under the collar in the heat of the game.

The COVID-19 pandemic, like a hockey game, could be likened to a battle between two opposing forces. But as with a hockey game, there are often various secondary skirmishes that take place on the sidelines. People have different points of view on the origins of the virus; the actions of government, public health and law enforcement officials; the wearing of masks; the rules for social distancing; the extent to which one should disinfect all surfaces – and they express them with great passion and conviction. This often leads to useless arguments.

Christians are not immune from such conflicts. We can get drawn into them like anyone else. Writing to the church in Colossae, Paul had this to say on how to avoid needless and unproductive quarrels.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. (Colossians 3:15)

The literal meaning of the Greek word for “rule” refers to the function of a referee or umpire in an athletic contest. Part of the assignment of officials at sporting events is to keep the players from fighting with each other. Hockey officials usually do this by trying to talk the players down. However the players don’t always listen. Sometimes they just seem to be intent on a fight.

Handled constructively, the expression of different points of view can serve a positive purpose. Unfortunately, some are so committed to making their point that their statements are like declarations of war, seemingly calculated to provoke an explosion. Even those who frame their comments in an entirely reasonable tone find that they sometimes land in a minefield of emotion and the result can be a raging conflict.

I have learned that although I have freedom of speech, it’s wiser to remain silent when a productive dialogue seems impossible to achieve. Even valid insights are of little value if they are hurled at others like weapons of warfare – or even if they are uttered peaceably, but unlikely to be well-received because of the mental state of the hearer.

A wise man wrote that one who is able to rule his own spirit is better than one who can capture a city. I have found that when I take time to listen to Holy Spirit He always leads me into the peace of Jesus.

The other day I went for a bike ride after a long day. I was feeling worn down from work but also from hearing too much information and too many opinions. The Internet can do that to you, especially during a contentious time like this. I told Jesus that I needed Him to speak to me. I think He already knew that, but I needed to say it because I needed to position my heart to listen. It was a beautiful afternoon and as I cycled alongside farm fields, I saw a small bright yellow goldfinch flying just above the drainage ditch. The beauty immediately caused a prayer of thanks to rise from my heart.

I heard the Spirit ask me a question.

Who made all this?

You did, Lord.

The turmoil that I had been carrying in my heart subsided as I recognized the amazing wisdom and power of God that is displayed in His creation. I saw again that God, who made all things, will bring in His Kingdom in His time. He uses storms like the present COVID-19 crisis to bring the nations to submission. Some recognize this and some fight it. I am asking the Lord to discipline and instruct my heart so that I am quick to recognize His wisdom.

We have to choose to abide in the peace of Jesus. It doesn’t come automatically. We can choose to recognize His authority over our lives, and allow His peace to rule our thoughts. When we do this, the result is a fruitful life and open doors to share the life, peace and joy of Jesus with others. This is the wisdom on which I choose to build my life. Nothing else will last. His ways alone will endure.

Come, Lord Jesus.




God’s hands

It has now been two months since my most recent IT consulting contract came to an end.  Since then, I have been on an enforced vacation.

Well, of course it hasn’t all been vacation. There have been days that were almost entirely filled with activity related to my life as an IT professional – reading, emails, phone conversations, resume tweaking, setting up my new laptop to run Oracle. But those were brief bursts of activity in a time that has for the most part been very quiet and restful.

You’d think I ought to be worried about the lack of work. The reality is, for the most part I have been remarkably free from worry. In large measure this is because Marion and I have been down this road before. I’ve had several interruptions in work since I started doing IT contract work more than 13 years ago, and the Lord has never left us high and dry. So when He whispers into my spirit that I don’t need to worry, I can draw on a fund of experience to remind me that He is faithful.

That’s a good thing, but it’s not the only thing that the Lord has been speaking to me about these past few weeks.

Marion, Bethany and I returned from Minnesota a little over three weeks ago. Especially since then, I’ve sensed the Lord’s restraining hand, keeping me from becoming too active in chasing work or creating projects for myself. Yes, I’ve set goals and worked at them. In fact, I’ve completed a number of items on a to-do list that included the yard, the house, the cottage and the trailer. But the item on my to-do list that the Lord seems to keep highlighting, especially in the last couple of weeks, is the imperative of using this time to dig deeper in my relationship with Him.

A couple of weeks ago, Marion and I spent the better part of four days following a conference on the free IHOP-KC web stream. We were both fully convinced that we had been directed by the Spirit to set aside this block of time. It soon became apparent why this was so important. We were both deeply impacted by the worship and the powerful teaching. God was getting our attention. For me, I realize the time since then has been different. It is as if I were a little child again, and my Father had picked me up, gently but firmly, and set me down in a protected place, free from distractions, where I could focus on getting to know some aspects of His plans, His purposes and His nature that I needed to see in a fresh, more focussed way.

Last night at our life group meeting, Marion described how sometimes, when dealing with a three-year-old who is easily distracted or just not listening, you need to take her aside, cup her face in your hands, put her face right up against yours, and speak gently but firmly to be sure that you have her attention. I have the sense that this is how God has been dealing with me the past while. This time off work feels like the provision of God – a time set aside for me to refresh some old things and look at some things from a perspective that I hadn’t really considered before.

The Bible tells us that for those who have been actively resisting God, falling into his hands is a fearful thing. God is capable of being quite terrifying. John’s Revelation calls Jesus the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and he’s not a toothless, stuffed toy sort of lion. Like Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales, he’s a bit unpredictable and can be wild at times. But to those who have willingly placed themselves in His huge hands, His touch is amazingly kind and gentle.

Kindness is always Father’s preferred way of dealing with us. It’s how he treats everyone who is willingly responsive to Him. Yet even in the gentleness He is also very authoritative.  I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father, and my Lord Jesus, and the Spirit of Holiness, are so much bigger than I am. It brings deep peace to my soul every time He sovereignly reminds me of both His power and His mercy.

Although I don’t have a contract offer yet, in my spirit I sense that this quiet episode will soon be over, and that before long I will be back at work again. I want to retain the fruit that has come from this time that the Lord set apart for me. I am so glad that he has picked me up, set me down in a quiet place, and directed me to set aside distractions and seek His face. Lord, give me the grace to be faithful and to respond to you with my whole heart and life, in a way that is worthy of You and that causes my life to shine with more of Your glory.



Vacation thoughts

We have now been on Drummond Island for three days.   It is a beautiful, quiet, restful place.

Being on vacation has prompted some reflection on why we need rest.

Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man.  In other words, it is part of God’s provision for us.  We are commanded to rest, and God has so made us that this rest is essential to our wellbeing.  It is true that under the New Covenant we are no longer bound by rules about special days and seasons.  But as with all the New Covenant freedoms, this one is not intended to decrease our obedience but to take it to a deeper level.

After a few days of vacation my mind is starting to slow down.  This is a very necessary process.  As I enjoy the simple pleasures of playing with my granddaughter, going for walks on the beach, playing Scrabble and losing myself in my novel, my mind becomes uncluttered. As a result, I find that it is easier to hear from God, and I can see many things more clearly.

I have learned that if I do not take time to rest, I become very hard to live with.  I may be committed to doing the works of the Kingdom, and I may be engaged in many worthy endeavours, but I can become hard-edged and intense without even realizing it.  Rest is a necessary restorative, not only for the body but also for the mind and the spirit. When I take time to slow down, I find that I am more able to operate in the grace of God.

Jesus invites those who are weary and burdened to come to him and rest.  He invites us to take up his yoke and learn from him.  Part of what I am learning  (or re-learning) from him is that not everything depends on me.  I truly do depend on the grace of God, and if I try to do everything myself, I end up missing the grace of God.  As someone with a well-developed sense of responsibility (not a bad thing in itself), I seem to need to keep being reminded of this basic, essential truth.  I am continually surprised by the gentleness and mercy of God to me when I humble myself and allow Him to restore my heart and mind.



Last Sunday, our pastor’s sermon prompted Marion and me to take a five-week period (up til the end of May) as a sabbatical from all church and ministry commitments.

I am the kind of person who tends to take on a fair number of commitments. The Lord had already used circumstances to slow me down a bit by dropping an unplanned and unpaid staycation into my lap (see Life in the Hallway). Marion normally lives at a slower pace than I do, but an unexpected job offer (see God’s Sense of Humour) has increased her pace quite a bit.  So both of us are adjusting to a different routine. At the same time, many things have been changing at church, and we have been doing a lot of reflecting, pondering and praying. This past Sunday we both realized that we were being directed to take some time to step back from our usual ministry commitments and get our bearings.

It’s odd that we would find this unusual. The Sabbath principle is essential to a healthy walk of faith, whatever your convictions about the manner in which it is best lived out.  Put simply, we need to learn to rest. I find that it is not until I step back from situations and take some time away that I can see more clearly.  Jesus often took time away from situations to get alone and pray. Over the past few days, after having made the decision to take this period of time for reflection, I’ve been taking time to read through the Book of Proverbs (which was a favourite when I was a newer Christian, so it’s like returning to an old friend) as well as doing a lot of journalling, reflecting on my personal calling and on some ministry-related issues that I won’t go into here, and some key issues are becoming more clear to me.  Some of the things God has shown me have been realizations that have dawned on me as I was going about some mundane task – mowing the lawn, hanging out laundry, delivering flyers for a community cleanup day. I find this is often the way it works. I read, pray and journal, and much valuable insight does come while I am engaged in these “spiritual” tasks, but often the real nuggets of insight are dropped into my lap when I turn my attention to something else. I guess it’s partly because I have developed the habit of keeping a running dialogue with God going on in the background, no matter what else is going on – and especially when I am engaged in activities that don’t require a lot of conscious thought.

Socrates was not a follower of Christ – he was a Greek philosopher who lived five centuries before the time of Jesus – but he was a man of considerable wisdom.  At his trial for heresy he stated that the unexamined life is not worth living.  I believe this is a statement of which Jesus would approve. Solomon, in his day reputed to be the wisest man on earth, states in Proverbs 20:27

the lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man;
it searches out his inmost being

I want to have the mind of Christ on the situations in my life, so I need to step back periodically and let the Lord shine the light of His Word and Spirit on the contents of my heart and mind, to bring His order, clarity and peace.

We live in a fast-paced society. Our culture values leisure and recreation, but not solitude or reflection. I want to encourage each of you to make sure you take time periodically to step back, take some time away from your usual responsibilities, and get your bearings.  It could be life-changing.


Sabbath Rest

What does it truly mean to enter into God’s rest?

As a child I memorized the Ten Commandments.   One of those commandments is the requirement to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.   I memorized the verse in Sunday School, but I didn’t really understand what it meant, beyond the idea that it must have something to do with going to church on Sundays.

Two of my young adult children have jobs that require them to work some Sundays.  This is going back to what life was like for Christians in the Roman Empire, where the Lord’s Day was not a holiday.  It’s a reflection of the fact that we live in an increasingly paganized society.

Although Sunday is not and never was the Sabbath, in the Christianized society of a generation ago it was a lot easier than it is now to take Sunday as a day of rest and worship.  But perhaps it was also easier to fall back into an outward observance of a day on a calendar.

I remember my father telling me about the strict rules in his Calvinist grandmother’s home regarding what you were and were not allowed to do on Sundays.   But resting in Jesus has nothing to do with rules about what I can or cannot do on a particular day of the week.  This is why the Pharisees were so offended when Jesus healed on the Sabbath.   They understood rules but they didn’t understand the mercy of God or the Sabbath rest of the people of God.

Over time I have come to realize that the Sabbath rest spoken of in the book of Hebrews has nothing to do with a day on a calendar.  If you need further convincing, take a look at what the Apostle Paul has to say in Galatians 4:8-11 and Colossians 2:16-17.  As God has dealt with me over many years, I have learned that my old nature resists true rest, because one of the Enemy’s favourite ways of keeping me enslaved is by convincing me that I have to work hard to please God.   As long as I believe this – even subconsciously – there is no rest and no peace.   It is through trusting fully in what Jesus has done for me that I can discover true rest.  Sabbath rest is a condition of the heart.

I’ve also discovered, however, the great wisdom in Jesus’ words that the Sabbath was made for man.  As a practical strategy to keep my heart in this place of rest, I need to set aside a day every week to nurture my relationship with God, to move at a slower pace, to take time to pay attention to those close to me.  One of the ways I know this is true is that my old nature still resists it.  I can always find things that I “should” be doing or things that I “should” be thinking about on my day of rest, or entertainments that – while not wrong in themselves – distract me from developing a quiet heart.  In a culture that encourages constant activity and constant stimulation, cultivating a heart at rest is a real challenge.  Sometimes I have to really battle to take the time I need to just rest in God.  I need the reminder offered by the writer of Hebrews who urges us to make every effort to enter that rest.

How about you?  What do you believe it means to enjoy the Sabbath rest of the children of God?  Does this have anything to do with a day of the week?  And how do you keep your heart in this place of rest?

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NOTE to City Church small group leaders – I’ve included this post in the Small Groups category because it could function as a useful discussion topic in small groups.