#bestchristmasever…Pursue Peace

Psalms 34:14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

 

A young mom sat down with a sigh, ‘twas some nights before Christmas, and all was awry.

No packages were wrapped, some not even bought, and Christmas was coming, like it or not.

Finances were tight, the work was relentless, where nothing could cease, pushing back any hope or a thought of some peace.

All through the house, the kids were still stirring, yes, even her spouse.

The kids were excited, hardly sleeping a wink. “Mommy”, yelled Jace, “I need a cold drink”, and Jared decided to make a big stink.

“Life’s not fair” he argued and cried that everyone, yes everyone is better, has more and he always has less when it comes to compare

Jill was no better, having been quite witty, slipping out of her bed to make herself pretty,

She knew just what had to be done, mommy’s makeup would be the place of her fun.

Oh the blush and lipstick were all over herself, on the floor and the carpet and Kona the dog, and even the top shelf.

When all of a sudden there arose such a clatter, the young mom jumped up forcing dishes to scatter.

A yell from the roof, as dad came a sliding, bundled in lights with shingles and gutters dividing.

It could have been worse, but he hit the inflated snowman that simply just burst.

It all was too much, the young woman exclaimed, this Christmas is not the peace on earth as it is proclaimed.

But as she sat at her table covering her ears from all the noise, she thought in her heart of all her past Christmas joys.

The time with the family and friends all together, celebrating the birth of her wonderful Savior.

Yes, Jesus it is, the One to adore, where peace is found and oh so much more.

 

OK… I will stop at my lame attempt to talk in rhyme, but the reality is Christmas can be a very hectic and chaotic time. We sing and hear of ‘peace on earth,’ but don’t get how it’s tied to a birth. Ahhh! I can’t stop!! But I think you get it. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6-7. Yet, where is the peace? We want peace to come about like a quiet snow at night, where all seems to stop and the only sound is your breath, and it just appears. Yet, as Psalm 34:14 says, it’s something we ‘seek’ and ‘pursue.’ To seek is to expend effort to search it out like searching for hidden treasure. To pursue means to run after like chasing after an important paper blowing in the wind. But this sense of peace is not created through our own efforts! Peace comes as we seek Jesus and pursue Jesus.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we grasp Jesus in faith (faith is belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord), we have peace with God. See, we humans have a problem. We wear the shame and guilt of sin (Roman 3:23, 6:23), and that sin has separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2). But Jesus came to deal with that friction between God and humanity, and when we embrace this truth in faith, we have an amazing inner peace. Not only that, Jesus said He would give us His peace.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This peace comes as we learn of who Jesus is and all He has done. So a way to seek peace and pursue peace is to read about Jesus in the Bible. The Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are four unique views of Jesus’ life and purpose.

 

As we embrace the Prince of Peace, we can see and pursue peace with others.

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Romans 12:16-18 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Yes, Christmas is hectic. There is a lot to do. But why not seek peace and pursue it? It just might be what makes your Christmas the #bestchristmasever.

 

Church at Christmas time is a wonderful place to learn of the peace we can have in Jesus. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Seeking and pursuing peace this Christmas along with you,

 

Mike

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#bestchristmasever…Embrace Hope

Isaiah 40:31 but they who wait (hope) for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 

There are a lot of fun TV commercials out there this Christmas lobbying for us to put our hope in their products. Some advertisements are super creative, drawing us into a story were hopes and dreams are fulfilled if we obtain their product. Other TV commercials are funny, drawing us into that hope for a happy life on offer with what is being sold. There are commercials that make us feel guilty, in hopes we will buy what is being endorsed. There are also TV adds that fuel our hopes for a better life, easier life, more successful life, or a significant life if we would just go and buy these items. One particular TV commercial that is running during this Christmas season is about a boy who all through his life hopes for a new car, each year through out his life he wakes up on Christmas morning, hoping this will be the year. Each year it does not happen and now in his adult years he still looks out the window, but has lost hope. Dragging himself to the widow to confirm his hopelessness, he checks anyway…and to his surprise and delight his dreams have come true! There is a new car in his driveway!! A Christmas miracle!

 

Though these are just TV commercials, we do get our hopes up and especially around this time of the year. We want our own Christmas miracle. We want our relationships fixed, our work situations smoothed out, our family drama toned way down, and all those inner struggles to either miraculously disappear or be immediately resolved. So we reach out in hope that this year it will all work out, for hope is an anticipation of a future that is better than the present. We humans need and crave hope. Without hope we can easily move into despair and feel like nothing good will ever happen, feeling hopeless. Yet just having fun dreams of TV-commercial-hope where we obtain an item and all is good is like grasping water. So, is there a hope we can embrace that does deliver, that can be held and bring on an inner joy that brightens life and gives us a genuine hope, a hope that provides a warming light even in dark times?

 

The Bible verse at top answers the question:

Isaiah 40:31 but they who wait (hope) for the Lord shall renew their strength…

Strength for life is gained as we embrace, in faith, the Lord God Creator and Savior. It is a choice to put our hope in God’s Word, the Bible, in who He is, in His character, and embracing the hope of His promises.

Psalms 71:5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.

Lamentations 3:24-25 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

Psalms 31:24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait (hope) for the Lord!

 

This strength-renewing hope is what Christmas is all about, a hope in Jesus who is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6-7. It is trusting in Jesus enough to seek Him, to know Him and to relate with Him as Lord (see Matthew 11:28-30, John 1:12, John 14:1-7)

Romans 8:24-25 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

The Bible reveals the truth of Jesus and who is a source of hope to embrace.

Psalms 119:114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

Psalms 130:5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope;

So this Christmas, seek to embrace hope in what Christmas is all about, Jesus.

 

Now, sure, it’s fun to dream about a new car or some new gadget, but what is our hope in? This Christmas let me encourage you to embrace hope in the Lord. It just might bring on #bestchristmasever.

Psalms 39:7 And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.

 

Church at Christmas time is a wonderful place to learn of the hope we can have in Jesus. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Seeking to embrace the hope in Jesus this Christmas along with you,

 

Mike

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#bestchristmasever…even in the Unexpected

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

 

Most of us have had a time when either something we had planned unexpectedly did not happen, or we were surprised by an unexpected circumstance. It could have been one of those fun surprises like one I saw in an online Reader’s Digest where in 1942 a group of young people went out caroling in downtown San Diego on Christmas Eve and, as they started to sing, a throng of homesick servicemen joined in. The group sang all night and the crowd never dissipated, staying there until past midnight. It was just what those men needed. It was the best Christmas ever, carolers and servicemen alike. In another, more recent story, Will Krause survived a shark bite to his head! He was in the Bahamas spear fishing and shark came up from behind and took a bite. He lived to tell the story and his friend caught it on video. The video went viral and in multiple news appearances, Will is giving glory to God and taking this unexpected circumstance to reevaluate his life. Though this happened this Thanksgiving, Will is so grateful for life, he and his family will be having the best Christmas ever.

 

Yet there are times where we want to post  ‘#bestchristmasever’ but we are being more sarcastic, revealing that this really was NOT in the least, an occurrence that made this the best Christmas ever; it was more the opposite. Like the time, many years ago, when we were struggling financially and decided to splurge on a Christmas tree we cut down. It was a fun time with our young kids, picking out the tree, sawing it down, loading it up, and taking it home. We set it up and decorated it. With Christmas music playing, it was a picture-perfect moment…until! Until we started finding little bugs all over our house! Yep, unknown to us the tree was plagued with some kind bug that hatched when the tree was warm in our house, #bugseverywhere.

 

What is interesting is we tend to have high expectations for the Christmas season. Most people desire a #bestchristmasever as we see them in the numerous Christmas TV specials, read of them in print, and have them reported to us through the news media. We are left wanting our own Christmas miracle: that relationship to work out or become repaired, that accomplishment to be realized or acknowledged, that goal to be completed or exceeded, and, of course, that anticipated gift received or given. Admittedly, we have expectations for the miraculous this time of year, for isn’t Christmas all about the unexpected miraculous? Mary was unexpectedly pregnant (Luke 1:26-38), Jesus unexpectedly born in a stable (Luke 2:1-7), and the shepherds’ unexpected visitation by angels announcing Jesus’ birth.

Luke 2:10-14 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

In each of these it seemed to be the worst possible scenario. In Mary’s case, there has never been a virgin birth and to this engaged girl who finds herself pregnant, the questions and accusations of her tight knit community went flying. In Mary’s culture this was an indiscretion and violation of God’s standard of purity. With the shepherds, this was terrifying and confusing being they were social outcasts, not accustomed to special announcements! These were NOT #bestchristmasever! Yet something changed it all. Something changed this toxic concoction into a joyful event. They still had to endure the trouble, but there was an element that they could grasp onto that changed everything and truly made this the #bestchristmasever! Mary still had to endure the negative comments. The shepherds were still despised. What made it the best Christmas ever was faith in who this baby was and what He would do.

Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

See, Jesus can bring joy, peace, love and more. He brought this love, peace, joy, and more to those in the biblical Christmas story, to those who have embraced Jesus throughout the years, and can bring it to us as well. Now true, our difficulties, struggles, hardships, and even disasters may not change, but Jesus can still make it the best Christmas ever. The key in this is to seek Him out. He can be found. It’s discovering who Jesus is and seeking to put faith in Him whether we have known of Him for a long time or are just hearing about Him.

 

Church is a great place to learn of Jesus this Christmas season. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Jesus can bring on #bestchristmasever… I know He has for me. Why not take this Christmas season and explore Jesus, who can take the unexpected and create #bestchristmasever.

Seeking Jesus this Christmas along with you,

Mike

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Lean in…and Savor the Moment

Ecclesiastes 2:24 There is nothing better for a person than that they should eat and drink and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.

 

An interesting incident happened this past week that challenged me to lean in and savor the special moments we have in life. It actually happened on my birthday as I was celebrating with friends. The day was filled with calls, cards, texts, Facetime video calls, and well wishes on Facebook. This was not the incident, but each connection was special, and in those times of interaction I left with a smile on my face as I took moments to relish the relationship and appreciate the contact. I was blessed and so encouraged as people said so many nice and affirming things.

 

Well, later that night, we made plans to join some good friends who just happened to be vacationing in our area. We met up at Disneyland and to my surprise they had made reservations at a nice restaurant in the park. It was a total shocker and as we anticipated the time, I was delighting in all that was happening. Donned with my “It’s my birthday” button that included my name, both Disney Cast Members and guests were saying and some even yelling, “Happy Birthday Mike!,” we walked to dinner. It was fun!! The dinner was amazing, great food, amazing conversation, and just nice to sit and enjoy time with friends. Yes, a great time, but not the one that challenged me to lean in and savor the moments of life. We all were so stuffed, we had to walk a bit to let the food digest and made it to Main Street just in time for that special moment when the lights change and it actually snows in part of the park. It was fun to look up and see little flakes falling as Christmas music was playing. It was a magical moment, but not the one that challenged me. The one that challenged me happened just after.

 

As the crowd was breaking up and people were going their separate ways, I heard a few taking about what ride or show they were going to go to. One little kid was done and was crying to go home and I think her parents were too! But then I saw it… this incident that stopped me and encouraged me to lean in and savor the moments of life. See, what happened was I saw a family, I assume a mom, dad, and a teenage son and daughter had not yet moved on from the snowing experience and were just standing there taking it all in. They were not talking, each just smiling and looking around and at each other with big smiles. Then mom did something. She reached her arms out for a hug and as if they were in slow motion, they all smiled big, closed their eyes, and nestled in for a big, family hug. As they got closer, you could see them each tighten their hold and though I could not see the other’s faces, I saw mom’s face. It was pure delight and she did not let go. She even moved her head in to the center with eyes shut tight and a satisfying smile widened on her face. I could almost hear her thought, “I don’t want this to end.” She had leaned in and was savoring this family moment. I’m not sure how long they stayed in that family hug, but it was inspiring to me.

 

We live in such a fast-paced, stress-filled world. The list of things to do never ends at home, at work, at school. There are always people we should see, should call, should text, or should respond to. I know I’m feeling it. Yet, God designed us to work hard and rest well, taking moments both at work and in rest to find and experience joy.

Ecclesiastes 5:18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.

Too much we race from one event to another, wolfing down our meals, shortening our conversations, and trying to speed through rather than leaning in and savoring the moments. It’s not that in every moment we need to have a group hug, but let that moment settle, and like a tasty meal, take time to savor and enjoy each flavor.

Proverbs 17:22 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Now in this leaning in and savoring the moment we are not to celebrate when others are hurt or fall.

Proverbs 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles

It’s not about getting all excited and savoring the demise or downfall of others. Actually, we are to pray for those who hurt us (see Matthew 5:43-48) obviously not to continue being subject to their abuse, but to get help, be safe and pray.

 

After I saw this savoring the moment incident, I have spent less time thinking about what’s next and have tried to enjoy the moment. I had a mentor tell me, “Where ever you are, be all there.” What he was saying was to lean in and savor the moment. It is appreciating the interactions, taking in the sounds, smells, surrounding, and sensations. It is to delight in what is happening, finding the fun, extracting the enjoyment, and be amused, amazed, and astonished at the wonder of it all. I truly believe if you would lean in and savor the moment this holiday season, it might have a lasting and positive impact on your life.

 

Church can be a great place to lean in and savor some moments with God. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. We would love to have you join in the fun.

 

Leaning in and savoring moments along with you,

Mike

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Lean in…and Give

Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

 

It has been a difficult couple of weeks here in California as many fires have broken out laying to waste acres of destruction, turning beautiful homes into ash and even taking people’s lives. The phrases, “worst fire in history,” “deadliest firestorm ever,” are again hitting the headlines. Not only that, but “another mass shooting!” The statement and reality is horrific, but what brings even more pain is the gut wrenching blow in the word ‘another’; another unsuspecting group ravaged at the hand of evil, another crowd running for their lives, another barrage of news reporters looking for a motive, looking for a reason, looking for the story.

 

It has been a rough week where people have lost everything, barely escaping with only the clothes on their back. It’s been a week where loved ones have died and people, people with hopes and dreams, and family and friends were senselessly murdered. It’s been an awful week.

 

In these devastating realities where is the hope? Yes, in the comfort and help of God.

Matthew 11: 28-3O Come to me (Jesus), all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

God does care and much of the time the help God brings is from the hands of people who are willing to help, giving of their time, giving of their abilities, and giving of their resources.

Acts 2:45 And they (the first churches that followed Jesus) were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

To lean in and give has been, and is, an expected reality of people who call themselves followers of Jesus or Christians. See, God is generous.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 He (God) who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.

God gives us time, talents, abilities and resources so we would be generous towards other, especially in times of need.

Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his deed.

Proverbs 11:24-25 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will, himself, be watered.

 

When we lean in and give, it not only helps but also brings hope. I love the words of Fred Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping…and if you see the helpers there is hope.” When we lean in and help we can be used of God to bring hope.

In this week of tragedy, there have been numerous examples of people bringing hope through giving. I was watching the news and the reporter was asking people who were rescuing animals displaced from the fire what they needed. The person said they needed some horse trailers. By the time I turned off the news that morning, a few horse trailers had shown up. It visibly encouraged the rescuers. In the horror of the shooting and the craziness of people fleeing, off-duty officers and medical people with knowledge of first aid were seen administering help. People later shared how these people were like guardian angels. All through this week of struggle people have given donations of food, blankets, temporary housing and money to help people in need. It has and is bringing hope! It shows that though there are tragedies that happen, and yes, even evil and hurtful people who spew their deadly venom, there is hope when we give. So let’s lean in and give as we see needs.

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

 

Church can be a great place to be inspired to give for we learn of our generous God. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. We are in the midst of a Bible teaching series called “Leaning in – Experiencing God in everyday life”. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Leaning in and giving along with you,

Mike

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Lean In…and Pray

James 5:16 …The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

 

There was a story I heard a while back about a guy who was out hiking with his buddies. They were all avid outdoorsmen who were packed with the latest gear, gadgets, and know-how. They chose to do a familiar night hike up in the mountains near their home and camp until morning and make the trek back for the rest of the following day. Donned with lights, all-weather gear, and supplies they split up to do a little solo night orienteering where just using a map and compass, they sought to find their camp. As they were heading out, the weather took a turn with some strong winds whistling through the trees and clouds blocking the moonlight. A light mist turned into a mild rain, then a steady rain, and then a downpour. The guys all sought shelter. One found a cleft in a rock to wait out the worst of the storm and a few others found some fallen trees to be their makeshift shelter. One kept moving, wanting to outwit and outsmart his friends. The rain was making small rivers through the forest and as this one guy turned a corner, a few of those rivers collided and created such a swift current that it swept the guy off his feet, down a steep incline where his light showed that he was heading straight for a sheer cliff. The guy turned to claw at the steep incline, but the debris was too slippery. A rock took out his light just as the water and guy flew off the cliff. The guy, still clawing, now at the side of the cliff felt himself fall, and then all of a sudden, a small yet sturdy bush abruptly stopped what was certain death. The guy quickly took out rope and secured himself to the bush. Catching his breath, he yelled for help. No one answered. He kept yelling and listening. It was difficult to hear as the rain and wind continued to howl. Desperate, he prayed, “God I know I’m not very religious, nor have I been to church, but I could use a miracle here. Please help me.” The wind howled more, yet the rain did begin to relent. Just then the bush gave a crack and seemed to be pulling out of the side of the cliff. The rope slipped off and the guy was now hanging, dangling from the bush. He prayed…now out loud, first with a sheepish “Gooooood!” Another crack, and the bush bounced down about six inches. Now with more conviction the guy screamed out, “Are you out there! Please help me!” Then a small voice answered back. “Let go of the branch.” The guy was first shocked that he got a verbal answer, but then to let go and fall to his death, it made no sense. The guy called back, “Is there anybody else up there?” “Nope, just let go”, came the answer as a light came on about eight feet below him as the rest of this guy’s friends were below with arms held up ready to catch him. See, he was just out of their reach only about 3 feet above the ground.

 

Well, I’m not sure if the story above really happened but it opens up the subject of prayer. Prayer is talking to or communicating with God. See, God is not distant deity that stands aloof from humanity, but desires connection and relationship with us.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I (Jesus) stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Proverbs 8:17 I (God) love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me(God) and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

God is always ready to listen and connect with us as we pray. So lean in and pray for prayer is important. So important it is mentioned some 250 times in the Bible. Now sure all-knowing God does know our thoughts (See Psalm 139:1-6) but just like our friends or loved ones like it when we communicate them, God loves the sound of our thoughts and voice (Zephaniah 3:17, Jeremiah 31:3, John 3:16, Psalm 86:15) and longs for us to interact with His through prayer. So lean in and pray!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

When we talk to God we gain a greater sense of connection with Him and we are more open to sense His comfort, care, and guidance.

 

So what do we say to God? Jesus gave us a formula in what is called “the Lord’s Prayer”

Luke 11:1-4 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Pray includes words of praise and thanks to God (1 Chronicles 16:8-12), voicing requests (Philippians 4:6-7), expressing confession (1 John 1:9), and asking for guidance (James 1:5). God looks forward to these moments when we pray. So, lean in and pray!

 

Church can be a great place to not only practice prayer, but also to learn how to pray. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. We are continuing a Bible teaching series called “Leaning in – Experiencing God in everyday life”. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Leaning into prayer along with you,

Mike

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Lean In…to Rest

Ecclesiastes 4:6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

 

I was out working in my yard and it was time! Time to tackle the bougainvillea!! You know, that wonderful vine type plant that does not need all that much water and can be trimmed about any way you would like and has those brilliant, vibrant, and almost neon type colors of purple, pink, orange, red, and even blue accented by their dark green leaves. They are a lovely addition to any garden, a wonderful plant, all except for one little detail that gets over looked because of their beauty. They have vicious and unyielding sharp thorns! These barbs of torture, these spikes of torment, seem to pierce through the toughest of gloves, tear through most articles of clothing, stab miraculously through any hat, and even penetrate the soles of most gardening shoes! I had waited and put off this punishing event as long as could and donning long sleeves, thick gloves, and good hat, I dove in. It was the nightmare I had imagined. Though taking it slow and careful, I still got stabbed, poked, speared, gored, and gouged…right through my shoe, my hat, and my shorts. It was bad. It was also hot and sweat stung my scrapes and puncture wounds. But I had to keep going. I had to finish. The bougainvillea fought back having twisted itself around to make it nearly impossible to cut through the mangled mess. The heat was getting to me. I was parched. I even felt a bit dizzy. I was exhausted and needed to take a break, get a refreshing drink, retreat a bit from the battle and see what new plan of attack I should take. So I slumped down in a chair and the cool water, along with moment of inactivity, replenished my sore hands and arms from snipping, holding up, and maneuvering the gas-powered trimmer, pulling out those stubborn vines.

 

As I sat there resting my weary, scrapped up body, something happened. I did not notice it at first, but slowly it came over me as stopped my efforts and just rested. As I took time to look over my wounds, I noticed the carnage of the bougainvillea and that I was nearly done. I caught my breath and felt like I could endure the heat and thorns for another assault. I did…and with a few more times of rest, I pushed back that bougainvillea beast and cleaned up the mess. See, rest was key. I could not have completed the task without it. Rest is good. Rest is needed. Actually, God created us to make time and take time to rest.

Exodus 34:21 Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.

Now yes, we are not to rest all the time or work all the time, but in all times we are to find time to lean into rest and take full advantage of its blessing and benefits.

 

Jesus and His disciples were teaching, encouraging, healing and helping people, and it was exhausting. Yet, they took time to rest.

Mark 6:30-32 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.

Time of rest has many benefits. One online article revealed rest and sleep can improve our immune system, improve memory, restore energy, stimulate creativity, help weight management, process stress, slow the aging process, and can even make us feel happier. God designed us to rest. It’s a good thing to take time and make time to lean into rest.

 

Rest is tough when we are troubled and dealing with the struggles of life. The Bible encourages us to pull away and let God know.

1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

As well Jesus says to us:

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke (way of life) upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

To soak in Jesus’ way of life and let the refreshing truth of His love, care, and help revive us, we need to lean into rest. Will you?

 

I don’t know what your bougainvillea beast is in life; a tough job, a house full of kids or big family, past hurts or deep emotions you are dealing with, too many projects undone, loads of expectations from others, a ‘perfect storm’ of troubles, or maybe just life right now. Maybe it’s time to lean into some rest. I encourage you to take Jesus with you and ask Him to revive and revitalize you. You might be surprised at what happens.

Isaiah 40:30-31 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait (rest in Him) for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Church can be a great place to lean into rest. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. We are in the midst of a Bible teaching series called “Leaning in – Experiencing God in everyday life”. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. It would be great to rest in the Lord with you!

 

Leaning into rest along with you,

Mike

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