Two months ago my husband, a dear friend, and I made the trek down to Florida. It was a spur of the moment few days away in the midst of a Pennsylvanian winter. We returned home to a snow storm that left us without power for six days, but the week that we spent in Florida was a much needed rest and retreat in the midst of winter.
I've been learning a lot about rest over the past year, and something I keep thinking about is how vacation and rest are actually good for the soul and help us to flourish in the work we are made to do. Work is not a bad thing. Our souls and bodies were actually made for fruitful work and labor, but we often work to the point of burn out and exhaustion and we lose sight of the joy and blessing of fruitful work. Taking time to rest actually helps us to be refreshed and gives us a fresh perspective on our work.
In my case, taking time to rest gave me the refreshment I needed to continue discipling students and leading Bible studies in the midst of a busy semester. Sometimes a good rest is needed.
In celebration of rest, here are some photos from our recent trip to Florida and our time at Disney and Universal Studios. (These are primarily for you, my family!)
Last week I wrote an article called When Spring Comes. It was a week before Easter and the sun was shining and the hope of warmer weather looked to be ahead. Today is the second day of April, a day after Easter and Resurrection Sunday, and this morning there was six inches of snow on the ground. Sometimes in waiting for spring, we get more snow.
I was reading a blog post last week by Lore Ferguson Wilbert (an excellent writer) titled We're Sunday People, But Sometimes We're Saturday People Too. I would highly recommend reading it. Something that struck me from this post is the idea that even though Christians are Sunday people (meaning we live in the hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ), sometimes we're Saturday people too (meaning we don't live like Jesus rose from the dead).
I did not know how to process through this idea until walking through Good Friday and Easter of 2018. I was reminded throughout the weekend that while we celebrate the resurrection happening and what it means for the lives of Christians, we're still dealing with the affects of sin and a broken world. We're Sunday people, but sometimes we're Saturday people too.
This reality hit home even more so this morning. I've been looking forward to the arrival of spring, and yet the snow returned. But it didn't last long. By the afternoon the sun was shining and the snow melted, and I didn't even have to wear a coat by evening. Even with the snow, spring is still coming. It's inevitable. The seasons will change. The same goes with the spiritual. Jesus rose from the dead. He is coming back, and eternal life is ahead from Christians.
Sometimes it looks like we're still living in Saturday when it's actually Sunday. But Sunday is past. Jesus rose from the dead. Spring is coming, even if the weather or the circumstances of our lives say something completely different. All we have to do is wait for spring.
This post is in connection to a 31 day series called Longing For Home. If heaven is a topic that you're interested in, you can read more from the series.
February and March have been quite full for me this year. February seems to come and go faster than I have time to enjoy it, and March tends to be the second winter for the area in which my husband and I live. This year, we've experienced more snowstorms that I can count or remember, and now it seems that spring is finally awakening in the northern parts of Pennsylvania. It is a reminder for me that life bursts forth from death.
It is timely that Christians celebrate Easter in the beginning of the fullness of spring, because Easter is the reminder of the ultimate Life that burst forth from death. As the world celebrates the arrival of spring, Christians celebrate the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This resurrection is the heartbeat of Christianity, and it is the hope in the midst of the winters of life.
It always amazes me how God gave us earthly realities and seasons to help us visually understand spiritual realities. Spring is a season of renewal and growth and life, and the resurrection of Jesus leads to such in the life of the Christian, only it is a renewal, growth, and life that hopes and points to the eternal.
I was talking with a new friend the other day, and she was asking about how Christians view heaven. And something we started talking about in connection to heaven was death. Now, death is not something most people often allow themselves to think about, but when we do, the thoughts often come as the result of the death of someone we know and love. We are sad and we mourn, and in our hearts we know that death is not how things are supposed to be.
We know this in our hearts, and the Bible even talks about this in Ecclesiastes, "He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to the end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
God has placed eternity into man's heart - into our hearts. Death was not a part of the original design, but rather a result of the curse on mankind as a result of sin. No wonder death feels out of place! But death is not the end. God has placed eternity into man's heart - our hearts. Whether we realize it or not, we long for eternity. We long for spring to come, and for life to burst forth from death and for the end of troubles in this earthly life we are living.
Our hearts are longing for the hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because if Jesus truly rose from the dead, then life defeated death. His life defeated the curse of sin and the grave, and if we believe in him, we will have that resurrected life as well.
This week the Church will celebrate and remember Holy Week, the week before Jesus' death and resurrection. In a week, we will celebrate Easter and the greatest event in history - the resurrection of Jesus Christ. My prayer for us today is that the resurrection would give us hope, and remind us that spring is coming, but it is an eternal spring in Jesus Christ.
This post is in connection to a 31 day series called Longing For Home. If heaven is a topic that you're interested in, you can read more from the series.
As a married woman, I know that some decisions have the power to change everything about our lives. When I married my husband Brandon, my life changed dramatically. My name changed. My address changed. My priorities changed, and my heart changed. My seemingly independent living as a single adult gave way to a new reality as two people became one in marriage. While there were hard things with the initial change, it is a change that is a blessing in more ways that one. Marriage changed a lot about my life, but it did not change everything the way that following Jesus changed everything.
The gospel of Jesus Christ radically changes and transforms every area of our lives: relationships, time, church, and spiritual growth. Jaquelle Crowe discusses this in detail in the book This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years. Written by a teenager for teenagers, Jaquelle offers a helpful perspective for teenagers on following Jesus in a world where the gospel is anything but trendy and "lit". While this book is written for specifically for teenagers, the content is for readers of all ages.
Jaquelle's main point in writing this book is that if we are truly followers of Jesus Christ, then the gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ) should transform and change everything about our lives. Following Jesus should not be something just reserved for Sunday, but something that impacts every area and facet of our lives. In this, Jaquelle reminds her readers of the gospel and calls them to live a life shaped by the gospel. With each chapter, she explores an area of life that the gospel affects, how it has applied to her life, and what it might look like for the gospel to impact that same area of our lives.
If there is a teenager in your life looking for encouragement as he or she walks with Jesus in an ever changing culture, I would highly recommend this book to them. If you're looking for a book to be reminded of the gospel and the ways that it impacts your life, this might be a book for you as well. I would even recommend giving this book away to new Christians.
My hope in sharing this book title with you is that it might equip you on the journey. If you're interested in other recommended reads, there is a book review archive for this purpose (book archive). I hope it blesses you.
(I received a free copy of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years in exchange for an honest review from Crossway Books)
If you've been looking for the rest of the heaven series, you might have noticed that I have not posted in a few weeks. Due to a number of other life and ministry responsibilities, I have not had time yet to work on and finish the series, but it is one that I hope to finish in the next few weeks and months.
For now though, I need to pause the series in order to focus on other priorities. This does not mean that I will not be writing or sharing new posts here, but I do not have the mental bandwidth and focus needed to finish the series right now.
Thank you for those of you that have faithfully been reading it, and I hope it has been a blessing to you in this season. My hope is that our hearts are continually set on things above, and that was the goal of this series.
Look forward to more posts, but we'll be taking a pause on the Longing For Home for the time being.
I hope that you're enjoying this 31 day series. I'm writing it a little slower than I thought, but I'm thankful for those of you that are patiently bearing with me through it. I thought I would share a few resources for further reading about heaven while we continue this series. Here are some books and blogs for the journey.
Heaven by Randy Alcorn - an encyclopedia of sorts about heaven. Alcorn points to specific Scriptures as he answers common questions about heaven.
Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings by Elyse Fitzpatrick - a wonderful little book about heaven and how it satisfies our deepest longings.
Coming Home: Essays on the New Heaven and New Earth - precisely what the title says - a set of essays written by theologians about the new heaven and new earth.
Eternal Perspectives Ministries Blog - Randy Alcorn's blog focused on having a perspective on life focused on eternity with the Lord.
One of the things that I look forward to the most in heaven, will be entering God's rest. An eternity of restful work and play. Can you imagine? Have you ever had a day that was full and fulfilling and yet felt restful? God's rest will be far better than we could ever imagine.
In the Old Testament, after God delivers the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, he promises to bring them to the long awaited Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. However, due to Israel's sin, the wander the wilderness for forty years before the Lord delivers them to the Promised Land, and as Joshua leads them in entering the Promised Land, they enter a land of rest. It is a land where they are no longer slaves, and they are free to live and worship God.
But this Promised Land was not the land of forever rest. Israel's sin and disobedience of God's commands led to a history of struggle within this land.
This Promised Land foreshadows a better land and a better rest to come:
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8-11)
There remains a Sabbath-rest for God's people.
A rest from our works just as God rested from his works.
It is a rest that is to come, but it is a rest that we must make every effort to enter and we enter it by resting in God's grace.
Israel celebrated a weekly Sabbath - it was a time when they rested from work and gathered together to worship the Lord.
A greater Sabbath-rest is coming for God's people, a rest that we will be a rest from works. But the thing is we can experience glimpses of this Sabbath-rest now when we rest on God's grace through Jesus Christ instead of our works.
Even though we may have glimpses of this future rest now, we should make every effort to enter this future Sabbath-rest.
Think for a minute about the best rest you ever had.
What was it like?
Was it a time of quiet and peace after a long and busy week? Was it a night of much needed sleep? Was it a time with family and friends that brought encouragement and refreshment to your soul?
When our culture thinks about "rest" a number of things often come to mind: sleep, not having to-do's, vacation time, off the clock time, or binge watching Netflix, or doing something all together restful and refreshing like a hobby. We have a lot of ideas about rest, and a lot of people even dream about taking time for rest and refreshment, planning vacations months or years in advance or even guarding a Saturday with nothing to do.
But if we're honest, these things often do not turn out to be restful. We guard Saturday to rest only to find out that our car needs to go into the shop or another pressing matter comes up. We spend time planning vacations only to get sick while there, or we need a vacation when we come home from our vacation that has been fuller than we expected. We spend hours binge watching a show, only to be reminded of the laundry we didn't do or the tasks that didn't get done. Things that we expect to be restful actually turn out to not be very restful.
We wonder if we ever will experience true rest and refreshment.
But then we catch glimpses of it. When our heart is encouraged after serving a neighbor. When we listen to a beautiful song. When we have a rare moment of quiet. When our plans change and we're free to explore before an appointment.
Our hearts want rest after working heartily, but it often alludes us.
Or we haven't experienced rest in a while and it makes working hard even harder.
What if I were to tell you that heaven will be the best rest you have ever experienced, but it will not be a rest without joyful and fulfilling work?
The Lord's rest will be a rest unlike we have ever experienced.
We'll learn more about it tomorrow.
I've heard it said that only God checks everything off of his to-do list everyday. This is a slice of humble pie for someone like myself that tries to do everything and cross everything off of my to-do list. I don't know about you, but I start my day hoping to accomplish more than I actually can accomplish. Then I get to the end of the day and feel a sense of defeat when I don't live up to completing my list. But it is true: God is the only one that accomplishes his to-do list everyday - unless you keep a minimal to-do list.
The principle is this: God is the only that can perfectly accomplish what he sets out to accomplish, and his purposes are always accomplished.
Me? I'm very different from God. I don't know about you, but most of my life never feels accomplished or completed. After I finish a task, I need to do it again next week. I might check laundry off my list, but then I need to do it again. My work is never finished or accomplished... at least in this life.
Right before Jesus died on the cross, his last words were "It is finished" (John 19:30) And he meant it. God's mission to saving people from their sin was accomplished as Jesus gave up his life on the cross. Jesus' work was finished.
Because of Jesus, it is finished. We cannot earn our salvation. Salvation is freely given through faith in Christ, and because of Jesus' salvation, we have the hope of being able to enter God's rest.
Most people live their lives longing for things to be finished, but other than salvation in Christ, most things feel unfinished. We're working towards the end of the project, so we can rest only to have a new project. People work hard for the first 60 years of their lives to rest for the last few years. We're always working to finish and longing for rest.
Because of Jesus' finished work on the cross, the greatest rest we can imagine, God's rest, is offered. We'll talk about God's rest tomorrow.
The resurrection of Christ is at the heart of the gospel. Without Jesus' resurrection, there would be no hope for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but because Jesus defeats sin and death, there is great hope for us in following Jesus.
Image the disciples. They witnessed Jesus dying a gruesome death on the cross. They watched him die, and then three days later they saw his resurrected body. The resurrection of Christ is what led them to give their lives for the gospel to the point where most of them were martyred. The hope of the resurrection is the reason many Christians endure the intense pain and suffering that comes with persecution.
The resurrection changes everything, and it gives us a glimpse of eternal life with Jesus.
It's also the fulfillment of God's promises.
The resurrection of Christ gives us hope in this life to know that any hardship, suffering, or persecution we face in this life, will not compare with the glory to come.
Welcome! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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She Laughs Without Fear