For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
I love early morning walks. In the quietness of the early morning I find it easier to be silent and just listen. It is in listening and trusting that I find strength. God often speaks to us in quietness, in a “still, small voice.” Maybe one of the quietest times he spoke was on the night Jesus was born. Sure there was a glorious angel chorus but it was heard by only a few shepherds outside a small village. There was no fanfare as their would have been for earthly kings or wealthy people of power. Only these shepherds and Mary and Joseph knew that Jesus has slipped silently into this world. The words of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” by Philip Brooks remind us that Jesus still comes silently into the hears of those who quietly and humbly accept him.
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear my hear his coming but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
Willingly and quietly open your heart to Jesus today and you will find the blessings of heaven.
Make us willing to return to you, to open our hearts, and find strength in quietly trusting you.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Becoming a photographer has turned me into a day hiker. I now have a backpack that allows me to carry my camera gear as well as what I need to be safe on a hike. While it is not that much heavier than a regular day backpack, it is still a relief when I set it down by a stream to photograph and take it off my back. However, after I have finished then I must pick it up again and put it back on my back. I was thinking that we do this to ourselves with the burdens we carry that can’t be physically seen. We lay them down only to pick them up again. We never seem to quite lay them down where they need to be, at the feet of Jesus.
Today in my devotional reading (December 18) from Timothy Keller’s book “God's Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs”, I found these words that suggest one reason we seem to pick our burdens up again:
Only when you see Jesus dying on the cross for your sins can you lay down the ultimate burden, of trying to prove and justify yourself, of trying to earn your self-worth and salvation. The gospel of the cross is the only true wisdom that will give you this rest. “Lay your deadly doing down—down at Jesus’ feet. Stand in him, in him alone, gloriously complete.”
Prayer: (for the devotion for December 18, from Timothy Keller’s Book)
I am weary, and I blame how hard I’m working, but it is more of an inward, spiritual condition. I am working to prove myself, to win approval, to make a name for myself. I am ready to lay down that burden and receive the deep rest that comes from the gospel. Help me to do that.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
An important part of our recent road trip north was time spent in the Chicago Botanical Garden. Here I experienced the beauty of a garden in a new way. Every plant, every walkway, every statue, and every bench is in its place for a purpose. It is easy to find silent places in a garden, especially a large garden early in the morning, to just sit and wait on God.
While I don’t have a garden as beautiful as the Chicago Garden to go to every day, I do need to learn to sit in silence and wait on God. I think I do hear him in a special way when I can sit in a garden, for it was in a garden where God first put man. It is in the silence of his presence that I find hope and strength to move through the noisy world. Take time today to sit in silence and view God's world if only through a window. Open your heart to him and find hope.
Creator of Gardens
Thank you for the beauty and lessons I find in gardens. Teach me to wait in silence each day for you. My whole being rests in only you, my refuge from the noisy world.
One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
In this story from Mark’s gospel, Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees about the Sabbath. They were worried about the appearance of the Sabbath and Jesus wanted them to see the why of the Sabbath. God made us to need rest. He didn’t rest on the seventh day because he was tired but because we need to rest. Rest is harder and harder to do in our culture. Work will always be calling, but we are more able to do our work if we are rested. Sabbath, whenever it is practiced, is a gift to us from God and we need to intentionally seek it.
So like I did this late afternoon, go somewhere and take a simple walk along an easy path. Listen and look for God in his world.
Lord of the Sabbath,
Thank you for the joy and rest that comes from a simple walk in the woods. Help us to intentionally seek out the Sabbath in our lives and truly learn to rest.
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
We see God in great and majestic mountains that remind us of eternal God who lives in the high and holy place. We also see God in the smallest flower. As a gentle rain revives the flower and provides the moisture it needs to grow, God also dwells with his lowly and humble servants.
Holy God Who Dwells in Lowly Places
Show us your glory in majestic mountains and small flowers. Revive our weary lives with your beauty and take us to your holy place.
He restores my soul.
In the Appalachian mountains where I live, there are mountain tops that have mostly grasses and a few trees called balds. On the mountain top the wind can be strong so the trees tend to be shorter than usual, many times these are rhododendrons or other evergreens. You have to climb to get to the top of a bald but once you are there you can rest from the uphill climb and look out over the mountains and valleys. The balds are places of great beauty, especially in the early summer when the rhododendrons are in bloom.
Living a full life means there will be times when we will have to walk uphill. If we are following the Good Shepherd we can be assured that the uphill path we are walking will lead us to a clear and level place. The path will not be easy, but we will be able to truly rest because we know we have taken the right path. We will know that the work we have done will be used to help others and glorify God. We will be able to look out over the mountains and valleys and see the path God has for us to follow.
Open our eyes to the path you have for us to follow. Give us the strength to climb uphill and restore our soul as we look out over your beauty.
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
There is something about seeing a beautiful sunset that just makes it easier to rest. We have seen the beauty of God’s world and sleep just seems to come much easier. Not every day has just the right amount of clouds in just the right places for that beautiful sunset. Even on days when the clouds cover the sun, if we put or trust in God we find a security that gives us peace and rest in even the most difficult circumstances.
Teach us to trust in you even when our circumstances seem to be filled with darkness. Show us your beauty and give our weary souls the rest that only your peace can give.
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
It was late afternoon, the busy dock was closed, and the lake was calm, quiet, and still when I took this picture on our walk around the lake. There was such a sense of rest and peace. But there was no sense of rest or peace when the prophet Isaiah spoke these words to a rebellious people.
Rest is something that can be very hard to find. We want to do a good job and work hard to seek perfection. So many times I hear people call themselves perfectionists and there was a time when I would have called myself the same thing. But I have learned that perfectionism is a burden that I no longer want to carry. When we seek perfection we are seeking to save ourselves by the quality of our work instead of trusting God to save us. We need these words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah today. We need to return to God when our work becomes our way to salvation and then in quietness and trust we will find true salvation and rest.
"Father, help me to use the gospel on myself to weaken the perfectionism that makes my work a burden. Give me the deep rest of soul that comes to the degree I remember I am saved by faith in Jesus, not by the quality of my work. Amen."
Taken from Timothy Keller’s Book, God's Wisdom for Navigating Life
Come to me, 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.
About This Image:
Water Lilies, like this one in a pond at the UT Gardens, grow in still water. Their roots are deep in the soil and their leaves and flowers float on the still, shallow water. In order to grow we also need stillness; we need rest. God made rest a part of the order of creation and a commandment for the people of Israel. The word sabbath means to cease, but ceasing to work is only the first step to rest. True rest only comes from Jesus Christ, for Jesus finished our work for us. We no longer have to work to keep the law, to be good enough to earn anything. Jesus has done that for us when he took away our load of sin on the cross. Come to Jesus this sabbath and find rest for your souls.
Get In Touch
If you have something to share with everyone reading the blog, click on Comments to add your thoughts. Remember that your comments will be seen by anyone reading the post. If you want to just share your comments with me then click on the Contact link in the menu above.
If you are looking for a particular scripture or post title then enter the word in the search box below. You can also find posts about specific topics in the Topics section.