Get Some Rest

“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.”

(Matthew 11:28-29 NIV)

Growing up I spent most of my summers at my grandparent’s house. We had a summer tradition I loved; every year on the last day of school they would pick me up and take me to the mall. There I would get to pick out a new swimsuit and ten (ten!) new books. I swam all day and stayed up reading all night. Somehow I also managed to squeeze in sleepovers, beach trips, church camp, BBQ’s, and all kinds of other summer activities. I would start strong, but by the end of the summer, I’d be sleeping until noon and spending my days in an exhausted daze on the couch. The one phrase I can remember hearing most from my sweet southern grandmother was, “You look a little peaked, honey.”

Rest is so important, and it does a lot more for us than we give it credit for. The concept of summer break was created so that children and families would have an opportunity to settle down and get some rest. So why does it seem like so many people are exhausted by the time Fourth of July is over? 

Our modern culture values activity and movement. When there is a lull in our schedule, we feel a compulsive need to fill it. So much of the time we find ourselves needing rest, but we don’t know how to seize the opportunity when it arises. 

I think God wants us to understand the importance of rest, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. God is a God of rest! Think about it, in Genesis chapter 2, God rests after He finishes His creation. In exodus chapter 20 He commands His people to rest one out of every six days. Psalm 127:2 says that God gives rest to those He loves. In Mark chapter 6 Jesus invites His disciples to “come with Me to a quiet place and get some rest”.

The most obvious reason God wants us to rest is that when we are tired, we make tired decisions. Think about it. How many things have you said or done just because you were tired that you later regretted? How many times have you compromised just because you were tired? If you’re interested in adding to your summer reading list, I suggest you check out Genesis 25:29-34. It’s a crazy story about a guy who ruined his life because he needed a snack and a nap!

I know in the summer it’s tempting to get as much done as possible before it’s over, to try to knock out as many to do lists as we can before a new school year begins. It feels great to get a lot accomplished. But let’s remember that rest is productive! When we are rested, we are more likely to make decisions that are life giving to ourselves and others, and that honor our relationship with God. 

If you’re like me and you want to be intentional about getting some rest but don’t know how to get started, here’s a prayer I think will help:

Father, thank You for giving me opportunities to rest.

Help me to recognize those opportunities when they arise, and to make the most of them.

As I choose to rest in You, thank You for speaking to my heart and drawing me closer to You.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

-Aly Croy

James 1:2-4

James 1: 2-4 Says to Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

The testing of your faith, believe it or not is actually a good thing if we allow it to be. You may ask well who tests us, and why? Verse James 1:13 gives us the answer as to who it is not. It says that God does not tempt anyone with evil, and He himself cannot be tempted with evil. James goes on to say that each person is tempted by his or her own desires. If left unchecked this will ultimately lead to sin and death. 

We must look at adversity and challenges as an opportunity to move on to the next level in our walk with Christ. As christians we know that trials and tribulations will come our way, it is up to us how we respond. Job is a perfect example of facing extremely difficult times and never once blaming God for what happened. 

Job chapter 1 gives us insight into a rare case of an interaction into the spiritual realm. Satan makes a claim that the only reason Job loves God is because he protects him and blesses the work he does which increases his wealth and land. God allows Job to be sifted by Satan for a time and things got really bad for Job. All of his animals and children were killed by Satan. Job obviously did not have the book of Job at the time to know that this horrible attack on him is the doing of Satan. In fact it could look like it was God, a tornado killed his kids and fire from heaven consumed his flock. Nonetheless Job fell on his face and worshiped God. 

Because Job never placed blame on God and continued to love God through the storm God added back to him twice as much as he had before Job 42:10. That is such a testament of Job’s character and something we should all strive to emulate. We must have a perspective change when facing the storm, instead of asking, “God, why is this happening to me?”  We should be thanking Him for the opportunity to become complete in our faith, lacking in nothing, and giving him praise throughout the process.
James 1:12 lets us know that after we have stood the test of the trial we will receive the crown of life. Testing will happen throughout our entire life so that we will become closer to Christ. We can use this to reach back and help other believers as they go through the trials of life, and together we can run the good race that leads us to heaven.

-Jason Smith

A Different Way of Thinking

1 Corinthians 2:16

For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? One of the things I believe it means is to do things the way Christ did them, or the way Christ would do them. We have all seen the t-shirt, or the wristband with the initials WWJD. What Would Jesus Do? 

It is human nature when bad things happen, to have a “what about me?” thought. It is our nature to use our sufferings, our hurts, to become a bit self-centered. Self-centeredness in a time of crisis seems a bit understandable. It is not in our nature to think about someone else’s problems while we are in the middle of our own.

When we are in the middle of our problems, it is a normal thing to focus on what we can do for ourselves, or on what we can do to get by. How can I get mine? Why does everyone else seem better off than me? How can I get my blessing?

I have learned something about how to get your blessing. It's really not that hard. If you want to receive a blessing, be a blessing.

Luke 6:38

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.

When you are in the middle of a really bad day, when everything seems to be going wrong, when all you really want is someone to simply be nice to you, here is what you do. Find someone to be nice to, and be nice to that person. Find someone you can help, and help that person. Find someone to bless, and bless that person.

Take the time today to read the passage in Luke’s gospel that details the story of Jesus’ death on the cross found in Luke 23:33-43. 

Jesus had His beard plucked (the most insulting, humiliating thing you could do to a man in that society). He had been beaten, stripped, whipped, crowned with thorns, mocked, and finally crucified…the cruelest form of execution known. We cannot imagine what that must have been like being nailed to a cross.

It would have been really easy, and really understandable, for Jesus to be a little self-centered at that moment, but instead of asking His Father to send angels to get Him off the cross, He hung there and died as a sacrifice for our sins. He hung there and asked His Father to forgive those who had crucified Him. And as He hung there dying, He turned and ministered to the thief who sought forgiveness.

The mind of Christ at that moment was not self-centered, but “others-centered.” In loneliness and abuse, we justify whatever effort we make to preserve ourselves. In loneliness and abuse, Christ used the situation to bless not only the repentant thief and those who physically crucified Him, but He used the situation to bless you and me; to provide the way for you and me to be forgiven of our sins and to have the way to eternal life in heaven.

Oh, thank You, Jesus!

Excerpt from “RESTORED A Practical Guide to Becoming A New Creation” © 2019 by R. Murphy Hanley 


Galatians 2:21

“So that is why I don’t view God’s grace as something minor. For if keeping the law could release God’s righteousness to us, the Anointed One would have died for nothing.”

Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is so crucially central to our faith and we must not be quick to forget why. We live in a merit based society, meaning we achieve our goals when we work hard and put a lot of time into what we’re doing. This is not a bad thing, in fact it is a really good thing! It has lead to the flourishing of our country, it produces character and promotes personal growth. However, when we take this ideal and use it as a lens to understand God’s grace it can hinder our relationship with Christ.

Before Napoleon Bonaparte introduced hiring staff based on merit in the eighteen-hundreds, kingdoms were ruled by family. Your dad was the king? Then your brother was the commanding officer of the army and you were next in line to govern the kingdom. This highly family oriented framework helps us to understand some things in the Bible we may have missed at first glance.

“The Kingdom of God” or “The Kingdom of Heaven” are phrases we definitely have heard if we have been around church for any period of time and they appear frequently in the gospels. When we hear kingdom and don’t connect it to family we start to miss out on some incredible meaning hiding behind the text. Let’s rewind to 2 Samuel 9, the account of Mephibosheth.

This was a man was a servant with two lame feet, he even refers to himself as a dead dog! Despite King David’s complicated relationship with Saul, he still wanted to honor him and show his family God’s kindness. So he asks around to find if there are any descendants of King Saul. Eventually Mephibosheth shows up who is one of King Saul’s grandsons. From then on Mephibosheth always eats at the king’s table; not because of anything that he did but because of who he was associated with, who’s family he was a part of.

This account of Mephibosheth is a type and shadow of the work that Christ would come to do through his death, burial and resurrection. What Christ has done has allowed anyone to receive the free gift of grace and become a part God’s family. Romans 11:17 puts it this way, “You, who were once nothing more than a wild olive branch, God has grafted in - inserting you among the remaining branches as a joint partner to share in the wonderful richness of the cultivated olive stem.” Romans 8 talks about how we are coheirs with Christ - we are going to inherit everything Christ will, right along side of him!

Here is the big point: this is our reality (being grafted into God’s family), not because of anything we did, not because we followed the law to a tee and earned our righteousness, but because - by faith and through a working of the Holy Spirit - we have accepted the free gift of God’s grace that is ever extended towards us. God shouted to the ends of the earth, “Who is our there that is part of my family that has not come to sit at my table?” and we heard the call.

So remember, this faith journey is not about following the law in order to earn your righteousness. It is about finding relationship with Christ - who is the fulfillment of the law. It’s about being a part of God’s family. Once you start to focus on being in the family of Christ, you will naturally begin to follow the law… but not because you are trying to earn your righteousness, instead because you are so in love with Christ it is only what is natural to do.

-James Mortrude

Unspoken Prayer Request

Many people know the miracle story of Elizabeth and Zechariah; an old, virtuous priest and his wife, a lover of God, old and barren.

One day, Zechariah had been chosen to serve as priest. This was a great honor to enter into the Holy Place and burn incense before God. It is said that there were 20,000 priests in Christ’s time, creating a once in a lifetime opportunity for each priest. Lots were cast and it was Zechariah's big moment. 

All of the sudden an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah and said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah! God is showing grace to you. For I have come to tell you that your prayer for a child has been answered. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son and you are to name him John” (Luke 1:13 TPT). Later in the story, Zechariah is shown to challenge the angel, not believing he and his wife were of good enough age for conceiving children. The angel said, “But now, since you did not believe my words, you will be stricken silent and unable to speak until the day my words have been fulfilled at their appointed time and a child is born to you. That will be your sign” (Luke 1:20). 

God kept his promise. Zechariah could speak once the child was born and John became the paving road for Jesus Christ.

What is most interesting to me in this story is verse 13. According to Greek Scholar, Brian Simmons, when you look at the verse in the Greek, it allows for a possible translation of “prayer you don’t even pray anymore”.

Zechariah and Elizabeth’s desire to have a child had probably been a grueling, emotional and hopeless journey. They were old and hadn’t seen their prayer come to pass, so they tucked it away in the depths of their heart and forgot about it. But, God didn’t forget about it.

God hasn’t forgotten about your heart’s cry either. Continue to stay steadfast and remember his promise; He loves you and is for you, always. 

-Lexi Mortrude

Overcome the Fear of Witnessing

We overcome all of our fears when the need to overcome that fear exceeds the fear itself. When the reasons love gives are louder than the excuses fear brings, we are driven by love to push past the fear.

1 John 4:18 says “Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love takes away fear. It is his punishment that makes a person fear. So his love is not made perfect in the one who has fear.”

Imagine this scenario...

A firefighter is climbing up a sixty-foot ladder on a burning building. At the top of the ladder, a mother is leaning out of the window with her two children as the flames spread closer to them.

The heat from the fire has them soaking in sweat as the flames start to lick their clothes.

Of course the firefighter would rather be in the comfort of his home with his wife watching a movie and enjoying life, but love compels him to keep climbing.

Jude 22-23 likens us to firefighters, "Help those who have doubts. Rescue those who are living in danger of hell's fire..."

Even though the mother and her children are strangers to him, and even as scary as the situation is, he cannot call himself a firefighter if he lets fear stop him from saving them.

In the same way, we cannot call ourselves followers of Christ if we allow fear to stop us from proclaiming the message of Jesus to the lost.

Romans 1:16 says, "I am proud of the Good News, because it is the power God uses to save everyone who believes..."

Maybe you're concerned about how a person you want to witness to will react, or how they will view you.

Maybe your family will disown you, or your friends will think you've lost your mind. Maybe you get labeled as a religious freak.

Do any of those opinions matter under the weight of eternity?

To remain silent about such a great salvation we have in Jesus is sin. "If you fail to do what you know is right, you are sinning." (James 4:17)

If these ideas resonated with you, try praying this prayer:

Holy God,

Forgive me for the times I have been afraid to tell others about your Gospel and for fearing people more than You.

Forgive me for not doing what I know is right.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, make me into a bold witness for You.

Open my eyes to understand the importance of witnessing to others. Fill my heart with Your love and compassion for the world.

Help me to love people with Your love and give me the wisdom to know how to approach people, what to say, and how to say it.

In Jesus name I pray, Amen.  

-Kelvin Rivera

You Don't Need a Pulpit

In church culture, we often here the buzz phrase, “I have been called to the ministry.” But, in reality, isn't that a silly statement? Aren't we all called to the ministry?

Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of age.”

I want you to notice who Jesus was talking to in this passage; his disciples. These disciples were not pastors, worship leaders or missionaries. They were ordinary people with ordinary jobs who devoted their lives to loving God and loving others. They were people just like you and because of their passion and dedication, countless miracles and salvations were made.

This passage is just one example of how God views the ministry. All throughout scripture, God commands his people to be his hands and feet to the nations. He doesn’t first ask preachers or evangelists, he simply asks his people. He commands us all and if commands us all, he believes in all of us to do it.

I am sure that there are a plethora of people reading this right now: doctors, mothers, construction workers, teachers, pastors, etc… Some are classified as “full time ministry” and some are not. It may be hard to wrap your mind around the fact that you can make a difference for Christ in your vocation, but God knows exactly what your demographics of people are in your everyday life. He has put you there for a reason and he sees you fit to reach these people. 

You don’t need a pulpit to share Christ’s love, you just need to be a willing vessel like the disciples and God will give you an opportunity to minister wherever you are.

You are called and equipped for the ministry. 

-Lexi Mortrude

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate towards one another, forgiving each other just as God in Christ forgave you.

There are times in our lives when forgiving someone seems absolutely absurd. The pain others cause us can seem unforgivable. We say things like “I can’t forgive her; do you know what she did to me?”. We are essentially saying that a person’s behavior excludes them from the privilege of our forgiveness. In the world’s estimation, this thought pattern seems true and justified; but this is opposite of what Christ has demonstrated for us.

 So why exactly is this our default behavior? Why do we hold on to unforgiveness like a badge of honor and the pain of offense as if our lives depended on it?

The answer is quite simple: We do not realize that we were forgiven first (Rom 5:8). Christ does not ask us to do anything that He was not willing to take the lead on. As we begin to understand all that Christ has forgiven us of, we begin to see that there is really no offense that cannot be forgiven.

There are some misconceptions about forgiveness that I hope to help you resolve:

  1. Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation; they are two separate transactions. Forgiveness only takes one person, and that is you. Forgiving someone is a choice that we make because we want to be obedient to God. Notice that I said it is “a choice” not “a feeling”. A lot of times we do not want to forgive someone because we think that means we have to be in relationship with them again if we do, but that is not true. Though forgiveness and reconciliation are often paired together, they are completely independent; you can forgive someone and still decide to end the relationship. Reconciliation is a decision that two people are making to mend the relationship. How do we know if we should reconcile a relationship? We should watch for fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt 3:8) meaning, are they changing? Not just their words but their actions.

  2. We think that if we forgive someone we are condoning their bad behavior. “If I forgive him, then he is going to think it okay to treat me this way” (refer to point one). In addition to forgiveness, it is important that we address hurtful behavior and set boundaries. If someone you love is consistently repeating the same hurtful behavior towards you and you have never said anything about it, its possible that they do not know they are hurting you. A good model for starting this conversation is: “When you do _________, I feel_________. I would rather you_______”. 

  3. We think that forgiving someone is for their benefit but really it is for ours. Unforgiveness poisons the container that holds it, don’t let that container be you!

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the prison doors of bitterness. If you are holding on to unforgiveness, be encouraged that you do not have to right the wrongs in your life. It is okay to let go and let Jesus validate and vindicate you. You can live free by choosing to forgive.

-Nikki Mayberry