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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Come into rest

17"Come!" say the Spirit and the Bride.
   Whoever hears, echo, "Come!"
   Is anyone thirsty? Come!
   All who will, come and drink,
   Drink freely of the Water of Life!
(Revelation 22:17)

An invitation is something that many of us regard as a thing of honor - to be invited to an event, to participate in some significant memory, is a significant point of enjoyment in our lives.  We have an invitation presented to us this morning in our passage to "come".  There are several things that we are invited to participate in that are presented to us in scripture.  Over the next couple of days, we will explore some of those "invitations".

The first invitation we are encouraged to participate in is that of rest.  We are called upon to participate in a rest that is outside of our own doing - it the rest that only God can produce deep within our spirit.  

28-30"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
(Matthew 22:17)

What does this invitation sound like to you?  Normal, everyday trudging through life?  If you are like the majority of us, the answer is yes.  We are tired - burned out - not just on religion, but on all kinds of matters of life.  We get "worn out" because we are trying to live life by our own terms - trying to "fix" everything in our own power.  There is nothing more fatiguing than to have the idea that we can do things all on our own - like when we think that if we want something done right we'll have to do it ourselves.

David tells us that his soul found rest in God alone (Psalm 62:1).  Mind, will and emotions have a tendency to be in conflict many times.  The mind races ahead in unending reasoning, working out every detail to the "nth" degree.  The will struggles with each decision along the way, sometimes with great stress produced.  The emotions consume our energy as the turmoil of keeping up with the mind's thought and the will's struggles taunts us at every turn.

So, how do we "come into" rest in the way God defines rest?  The answer comes in another passage written by David:

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
(Psalm 91:1)

There is a place of "dwelling" that gives us rest.  To "dwell" means to remain - to continue in - the shelter of the Most High.  The presence of God must be cultivated - we have to take the time to experience God.  Rest is a result of knowing his presence is with us in all matters.  Rest is a condition brought on by taking time to "cease" the endless mayhem of our day and to refocus on the one who made the day.  

Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet that God used to confront Judah and Jerusalem for their worship of idols - those things that got in the way of truly celebrating the presence of their One True God.  He gives this instruction to the nation:  "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."  (Jeremiah 6:16)  Look at what God says through Jeremiah.  Stand and look - this is a call to refocus.  Ask where the good way is - this is taking time to seek God's plans over our own.  Walk in it - this is a call to be obedient to what is revealed (submitting our will).  Then...you find rest for your souls.

Rest is not as elusive as we may think - it is just as close as the presence of God.  The invitation is given to come into rest - ceasing from our labors long enough to enjoy the presence of God - thereby experiencing a right order to our thoughts, a freedom from the struggle of our will, and the settling of out of control emotions.  Rest is found in a person - not in any action, any location, any plan.  It is in God and him alone.  In the shelter of his wings, we find rest.