Did you know that ever since Jesus died and rose again, each Sunday is like a mini Easter? In addition to resting, like God commanded in the Old Testament, the first Christians remembered and celebrated Christ’s resurrection every single week.
Today, God invites you to celebrate and rest in the finished work of Christ — for you and for everyone who trusts in Him.
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.” Psalm 62:1
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” Hebrews 4:9
“I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say ‘hello, goodbye,’ I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” So said the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland.”
The last four years of our lives has been wrought with loss, medical challenges, unexpected burdens, personal tragedy and side roads that we would have never chosen. Opportunities to serve our family and friends. Being pulled in a million different directions for all the good and right reasons many days felt like we were continuously rushing about. Our brains swirled with appointments, the needs of our family and little time for self-care. Life-altering diversions with a hectic pace can lead to exhaustion.
In all of that we learned so much about the character of God in the middle of challenging circumstances.
Truth: God has a better idea. David writes in Psalm 62:1 that he waits for God’s deliverance from his enemies. This waiting involves being silent before God, expectantly waiting to hear from Him and meditate on His Word. While the world would tell us to hurry, to get more done and take charge, often, like Mary in Luke 10:38-42, the Lord wants us to just sit and be with Him. Totally depending on God’s timing and wisdom leads to confidence in Him and a rest you cannot experience anywhere else.
Jesus offers rest when you are feeling weary. Just as you don’t achieve eternal life through anything you do, the Christian life cannot be lived by your own efforts. The rest Jesus promises is not just freedom from uncertainty, anxiety, fear and despair, but it is a peace of heart and mind.
God wants you to enjoy what is called a “Sabbath rest,” which is taking time to step away from the daily schedule and have some downtime with Him. Some people spend part of a day focused on the Lord every month or so to do just that. He also gives us a reminder weekly to rest in Him on the Sabbath day, which for Christians is usually Sunday. Our vocation demands weekend work, so we have to be diligent and committed to an alternate and strategic time for rest because our service is atypical for the Christian community. Finding the rhythm for your life is crucial to navigating the most difficult times when soul rest seems like something tou will get to “one day”.
This rest involves an awareness of being in the sacred presence of God to worship and praise Him for who He is and the creation He has made. This time of rest points you to the eternal rest He’s promised for all who trust in Him.
As Augustine prayed, “My heart, Lord, does not rest until it rests in Thee.”
Reflect and Respond
Choose rest when you’re feeling weary and exhausted. Today, thank God for two specific things He has provided so you might have a forever relationship with Him. Or consider planning a day when you can get away for a few hours and spend time in the presence of the Lord.
“Sing to God, sing in praise of His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before Him — His name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” Psalm 68:4-6
“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3, English Standard Version)
In the early 1990’s, Monty and I left behind cherished friends for Muncie, IN. We unloaded our car full of belongings into an empty room. In a few days we would move in our furniture and the things that help us create our home. Yet even all the things familiar did not fill the gap that spanned the gap between friends and family who were half way across the country from us. More specifically, I quickly found that the wave of transition and loneliness were inseparable. We struggled to find a church that met our needs. That connection has always been the difference for our family and it was a so very challenging. It took almost a year before the sadness slipped into a sense of belonging. Over time, we would find friends that remain as true as any we have ever known. There will be seasons like this where God becomes our closest, dearest friend.
The start of a new season might feel isolating, or maybe you sense a missing connection with people in your day-to-day life. Maybe the recent pandemic has made connecting regularly with people difficult for you. You feel it deep in your soul: God made you to be among others.
At the very beginning, in the book of Genesis, God said it was not good for Adam, the man He created, to be alone (Genesis 2:18). So He crafted a companion: Eve. Human community comes in many forms. For me it came in the shape of a new church family, friends and co-workers who kept me from hiding my struggles and encouraged me to get help when I needed it.
But even more than the physical presence of relationships, humans need a spiritual connection. The Scripture readings today point to where you can ultimately find a home and the dearest friend. God meets His people in their need for family and community. The fatherless have a father because God draws near to them in their loneliness.
You were once separated from God. After Jesus died on the cross to bring forgiveness for sin, He came back to life so that you could live forever with Him. Every person who accepts this gift experiences never-ending togetherness with their Creator and will one day live in a home that Jesus has prepared. Have you accepted Him?
If you feel alone, sometimes it can seem impossible for your situation to change. But you can take a small step forward. Try writing down your thoughts to God and sending a text message to a friend. Community requires a jump to enter in and faith that God will provide.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:11-22
What makes a movie great? In my opinion, it’s when it touches on themes that reflect the passions in me. I love watching movies about unity; even the thought of a team that’s not united makes me feel anxious.
A favorite movie of mine is “Miracle,” based on the 1980 U.S. hockey team that beat the odds to win the gold medal. If you haven’t seen it, then after you read this, you have to check it out!
Here are the basics: the team is filled with former players from Minnesota and Boston — arch rivals. The task given to coach Herb Brooks is to get this divided group to play as one united team. Good luck.
At the film’s turning point, the players realize they no longer play for Minnesota or Boston, but for Team USA. They only begin moving toward their goal once they realize that what unites them — that greater identity — is stronger than what divides them.
The task given to coach Herb Brooks is similar to the one Jesus took on Himself: to bring two radically opposed peoples together as one. The Jews, who were God’s people from the start, and the Gentiles, who had always been their enemies. The solution found in “Miracle,” though, is only a shadow compared to the ultimate solution found at the cross.
At the cross, Jesus reconciled both people groups to God the Father and, consequently, to one another. If the church today is going to bring the gospel to all nations, then, like the U.S. hockey team, we will have to see that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. We, too, will need to believe that the team we play for now is more important than any one we played for before.
As a Christian, before you are anything else, you are a follower of Christ. Often, nationality, church denomination or even political affiliation competes for this top spot in our identity.
What is fighting for that top spot in your heart? Confess this to God, knowing that He has already forgiven you for placing something other than Him first in your life. Pray and ask that the church today would see that what unites it is stronger than what divides it.
“For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13
You stuck your foot in your mouth — again — and you can’t rest as your mind rolls endlessly through the ways the conversation should have gone.
You study your bank account history to try to match up where your money went this month and wonder what you can cut out of your spending in order to pay those unexpected bills.
You feel lonely and constantly scroll on your phone to see if anyone commented on your most recent social media post — and to see if friends are hanging out without you.
When the stress of life bears down on you, where do you turn? Does your solution make everything better, or is it only a temporary fix for a deeper issue?
While I might figure out how to cope with any of these examples from my own life in the moment, there’s always something else — another problem or obstacle — waiting to keep me awake. How can I rest when I’m so easily shaken by the next thing?
We all wander, looking for answers to whatever challenges we encounter. It can feel like an endless journey, as our temporary solutions never fully fix our problems.
God identifies our problem in Jeremiah 2:13; His people have turned their backs on Him, the true source of life.
Not only that, but God says His children have a second problem. We look for what we need for life — water — in places that regularly run dry. But Jeremiah 2:13 also gives us the solution: God Himself is “the fountain of living waters.” While a tank for storing water may become empty, a fountain has its own source and continuously flows with fresh water.
A few chapters later, Jeremiah tells us what happens when you go to this fountain as your source of life:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
Isn’t that what we all want? Instead of wandering, we want to be rooted. Instead of anxious* and fearful, we long to be calm and unafraid.
When your trust is in the Lord, you find your roots in Him. Christ satisfies your deepest longings. When you are rooted in Him, you can rest secure because the living water He offers will never run dry.
Pray and Respond
Set aside some time to spend in silence and in prayer, asking God to reveal to you where you are wandering, looking for stability and meaning from things that will never fully satisfy.
How are you craving “rootedness,” and what would it look like to bring that need to Jesus and find your roots in Him? Take some time to explore what Scripture has to say about Christ’s character and how He can help you rest from your particular wandering.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” Matthew 6:9-13
God longs for you to engage with and enjoy your relationship with Him. As you pray — and experience how He answers — your relationship with Him grows in trust, and you can have peace in whatever challenges you’re facing. There are six important steps to personalize your prayers, all found in Matthew 6:9-13. These steps include worshipping, surrendering, requesting, confessing and inviting protection.
Pray by using your own words that reflect your unique journey with God.
“Our Father in heaven.” Pray to the Father who is in heaven. Remember that He is in control. This leads to peace and confidence.
“Hallowed be Your name.” Worship God for who He is. Thank God for His love, grace, forgiveness and sacrifice. Focusing on His attributes puts your circumstances into perspective and reminds you of why you can trust Him.
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Pray for God’s will to be done by surrendering your plans to Him. Pray for His power, position and presence to be evident on earth.
“Give us today our daily bread.” Ask God for the things you need. Share with Him your deepest desires and longings. He is your provider, protector and sustainer. Trust Him with what you need today. Trust Him with your unmet desires. You don’t need to worry about tomorrow. He will be there to care for you.
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Confess your sins to God, turn from them, and ask for forgiveness. Forgive others as God has forgiven you. Release your pain to Him for justice and experience the freedom of forgiveness.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Pray for victory over temptation and protection from the attacks of Satan. God can break every addiction* or sin in your life.
Pray, Reflect and Respond
How could praying through each of these topics daily help you in your relationship with God?
Pray every day this week following this model and note how it impacts your relationship with the Father.
“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” John 12:46
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:10
Before the invention of electricity, oil lamps were common. Add oil, trim the wick and light the lantern.
Without light, darkness is deep, real and often frightening. When a lantern flickers out, the darkness feels complete.
Jesus frequently uses lamps and lanterns in His analogies, comparing His truth and love to physical light (Matt. 5:14-16) or using light to call for a prepared expectation of His return (Matthew 25:1-13). In the New Testament, Jesus calls Himself the Light of the World — and we are invited into His light.
There’s something inside each of us that feels dark — something that weighs heavily on our hearts. Our experiences are different, and each of us feels that burden in a different way. Our life stories are all filled with hardships and difficulties that reveal darkness in our lives.
When you come to Jesus for the first time, you’re cloaked in darkness. Your sin and shame cast shadows over your heart. You’re walking through the world blindly. But Jesus, the Light of the World, reaches you through the darkness and pulls you into His beautiful and glorious light. Jesus, the ultimate lantern, the ultimate guide, sees each detail of your pain and sin.
Throughout your life with Christ, darkness will creep back in.
As a human, you’re sinful. As a child of God, you’re forgiven. Although you will continue making mistakes, Christ’s forgiveness breaks through every barrier. Likewise, difficulties will come that you did not cause, but which affect you greatly. Even in these dark places, Christ is your eternal lantern.
Reflect and Respond
How have you seen Christ’s light in your life? How has He broken through your darkness? What parts of your life need the light of Christ the most? Reflect on this in a quiet moment with the Lord today.
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:24-31
Doubt gets a bad rap in many Christian circles. In today’s passage, we see someone whose uncertainty became so well known, his name became synonymous with doubt. “Doubting Thomas” is about as desirable a nickname as “Party Pooper” or “Debbie Downer.” Feeling doubt would likely not be anyone’s preference, just as most people prefer not to feel discomfort, sadness or anger.
But is doubt bad?
Many people add insult to injury by heaping shame on themselves when they feel doubt. But like discomfort, sadness and anger, doubt is not wrong in and of itself.
Look at how Jesus responds to Thomas, who doubted even his fellow disciples’ eyewitness testimony. He isn’t harsh with His friend, but He offers to meet him exactly where he is. He provides what Thomas needs to move from doubt to trust that Jesus is exactly who He says He is.
Jesus goes on to give a blessing for all who won’t have the opportunity to touch Him in the same way Thomas did but who will hear and believe nonetheless. Thomas’ story ought not to be used to shame or discourage anyone. Instead, Jesus went out of His way to comfort and encourage His followers.
If a little child falls, good parents don’t stand over them, arms crossed, foot tapping, yelling for them to get up or be disowned. A good parent goes to the child, offering a hand and an encouraging word. God is a good Father. He is patient and kind. Even when we cannot sense Him close by, we can keep calling out and trust that He hears, He cares and He will respond in love.
How do you feel about your doubt? How do you think Jesus feels about your doubt? Calling out for help is itself an act of faith. Don’t worry if you feel uncertain even as you call.
For a deeper dive into your doubt and how the Lord can walk you through it, consider reading Doubtless: Because Faith is Hard by Shelby Abbott.
Every Saturday during this study, you will learn about common spiritual disciplines that many followers of Jesus practice during Lent. Today you will learn about repentance. These disciplines are valuable tools to draw near to God when they come from a heart seeking to do just that — rather than a heart which hopes to justify itself through these works or simply check a box on its Lent “to-do” list. We hope these insights will encourage you and help connect you to the Father throughout these 40 days.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge.” Psalm 51:1-4
Saying “I’m sorry” has never been easy for me. I don’t enjoy admitting when I’ve messed up. I’ve learned, though, that if I don’t apologize when I’ve done something wrong, my relationships inevitably suffer.
I see this in my relationship with God too. Sin damages my fellowship with Him, but repentance — the act of turning away from sin and surrendering anew to God’s authority — brings restoration and peace.
King David learned the importance of repentance after having an affair with a married woman and sending her husband to the front lines of war to die. Psalm 51 shows his anguish over his sins. His prayer of repentance can serve as a model for you today.
Repentance acknowledges that your heart is prone to wander away from God, and it places God back in His rightful place on the throne of your life. The purpose of repentance isn’t to spend time wallowing in shame but to allow the Holy Spirit’s conviction to draw you back to God. He has already paid the price for your sins, and He has the power to bring you victory over that sin.
If it’s been a while since you’ve practiced the healthy discipline of repentance, Lent is a great time to incorporate it into your spiritual walk. His love is perfect; His mercy is abundant. Like David, cry out to Him and trust that He’s able to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. And then enjoy the sweet fellowship that comes with being right with God.
“God, thank You for Your goodness and mercy. I acknowledge that I am guilty of __. Please forgive me and create a clean heart within me. I surrender to You and ask You to help me live a life that pleases You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”