Rest is Hard

I am discovering that I am not good at resting. Resting feels like a guilty pleasure. Sinful. Lazy. Slothful. Not industrious. Not pulling your own weight. Slacking off. 

I’m in a weird in-between place right now. Our foster daughter went home after three years with us. I am finding that all the insanity of the last three years has not been processed and it is suddenly jumping up and down in my head. And I’m not just talking about fostering (which I’m going to say is the hardest thing I have ever done). How about a pandemic, family members being sick, big streak of violence in our neighborhood that turned my kids high school into a war zone, craziness in my little kids’ schools, someone close to me dealing with severe depression, discovering that one of my kids has some neurological differences, one of my kids growing up and leaving home, another one joining the army. And then quite a few other things that I’m not going to write about.

The past three years have been about surviving each blow and then running on to the next catastrophe. This is not to say I’ve been walking around in a horrible state of mind for three years. God is gracious and I have felt his love and peace with me throughout everything. But at some point in time you have to stop moving for a minute and just acknowledge that these things happened, allow yourself some time to work through the emotions, and then be able to lay it down and move forward. 

I feel like that is the place that God has put me in right now. And I don’t like it. It feels wrong. I’m not doing anything extra. Yeah, I’m taking care of my family, but nothing else. 

That “something else” is a tricky thing. We are saved by grace, not by works. But it’s really easy to fall into that “Grace Plus” mentality. I think I’ve written about this before. Probably because it’s one of the easiest traps for me to fall into. I’m saved by Grace PLUS I do this other ministry. I’m saved by Grace PLUS I’m a really moral, self-disciplined person. I’m saved by Grace PLUS I make no mistakes. I’m saved by Grace PLUS…you get the idea. 

When I reach these places where my ministry is over, some kind of transition has happened, I’m no longer doing all the things, I feel panicky. I can’t be pleasing to God when I’m just sitting here. God only likes me if I’m working. God only likes me if I’m producing. God only likes me if I’m doing all the extra stuff. 

I was in a church service several weeks ago and the minister said something about service to God and I cried out to God in my mind, Lord, what do you want me to do?? And he answered me. I’ll let you know when you need to know. Right now, just rest.

So, here I am trying to rest. And I’m not very good at it. I know that I am on empty right now. I really don’t have anything to give anyone at the moment. I’m trying to slowly rebuild habits of taking care of my body and mind and soul. Habits I used to have but which got thrown overboard when the storms of life got too crazy. 

And the hardest part is looking up at heaven and saying, Are you ok with this? I’m not doing anything. Are you sure this is ok? 

So, I grow in faith again.  Saved by grace. Not by works. It’s ok to rest. 

“Shadows and Substance” a Review

I just finished reading my pastor Neil Silverberg’s new book, “Shadows and Substance: The Truth About Jewish Roots and Christian Believers”. It has been an excellent read, though it has taken me a while to get through it just because the amount of time I have to focus on intelligent reading only comes in short increments. 

I have been thinking a lot about what I want to say about this book. What I really want is for all my friends who are involved in the Hebrew Roots Movement to stop what they are doing, pick up this book, read it, and then have a discussion with me. And maybe I would invite my pastor to come along so that it could be a real meeting of minds and you could talk to someone who is Jewish and hear him explain why he does not folllow the Hebrew Roots Movement.

Second best is that you would buy the book and read it and truly allow yourself to be confronted by what it says.

Third, fourth, and fifth best, go at least read the reviews of the book left by people who are more eloquent than I am. reviews

Maybe sixth best thing is that you read what I have to say about the book. And I think the best I can do is give you some excerpts.

Concerning the Law, here is an excerpt from the book:

“More than any other book in Scripture, Hebrews attempts to make sense out of fifteen hundred years of Old Testament history, promises, covenants, and rituals. And it does so to set forth the powerful truth that what has come in the Messiah is so much better than everything that preceded it! The Messiah has come and introduced a brand new order, superior in every way to what existed under the old order.

One of the ways the writer of Hebrews communicates this is by referring to everything in the Old Covenant as a “shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities” (Hebrews 10:1; italics mine). By referring to them as shadows, the author doesn’t mean they weren’t real; they were, in fact, real personages, real events, and real rituals. But they were not complete in themselves, being mere reflections of reality. The fullness of those things would not be known untl the Messiah came. Then those shadows would give place to the substance which has come in Jesus.” (pg 193-194)

Learning about the Jewish roots of Christianity is fascinating and enriching. It helps us to understand so much better and deeper how Jesus fulfilled the law and the Old Covenant, how the entire Old Testament points towards His Coming. But then Jesus instituted a New Covenant. Another quote from the book:

“Do you see what Paul is saying? The righteous requirement of the Law is now fulfilled in believers who “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4b). In other words, the righteousness the Law demands is now exhibited by a believer as he or she walks in the Spirit. Paul reminds the believers at Galatia that as they walk by the Spirit, they are no longer under the Law but under the law of Christ (Galatians 5:18).” (pg 67)

In the end, my takeaway is that it is so easy to get entangled in Law. The free forgiveness that Jesus has offered us, the grace he calls us to walk in, the simplicity of walking in the Spirit, it never feels like it’s enough. Because we aren’t doing any of the work. We aren’t earning our salvation in any way. And that doesn’t feel right. We always feel like we have to do some of the work or it doesn’t count. But, we come to Jesus on his terms, not our own. And his terms say that you accept his completed work on the Cross and you come to him through faith, not works. 

For anyone who is aware of  their own tendency to slip into legalism, this is a great book. For anyone who has dabbled in the Hebrew Roots Movement, this is a great book. For anyone who just wants to grow in their knowledge of the Gospel, this is a great book. 

I hope you can read it. 

Thoughts That Keep Me up at Night

I was awake at 4am this morning, not able to sleep, my mind racing through thoughts and arguments. I finally got up at 4:30am and started writing down my thoughts. Then I spent all day, revisiting, writing more, erasing, starting all over again. This has been a difficult blog to write, probably because I have too much to say, and it’s a subject matter that I don’t feel like I have completely thought through yet. I would say that I am at the half-baked stage right now. But, I’ll catch you up to where I’m at in the process.

This week I have been reading different books and articles that come from a much more liberal view of Christianity than what I profess. It has been enlightening. I want to tell you what is so appealing and Right about these books and viewpoints. They all seem to have a really good grasp on the overwhelming Love and Grace of God. They talk about rich and poor people serving alongside each other. They talk about the healthy serving bread to the sick. They talk about the people in community seeking out the lost and the lonely and drawing them into a nurturing environment. They talk about grace to forgive the most heinous wrongs. They talk about including those who are the social outcasts, extending mercy to the misunderstood, being Jesus’ hands and feet here on earth.

It is so Good. So Right. It draws me in and I find myself wishing to be more like that, wishing to be part of this group of Christians who have somehow been able to set aside selfishness and have learned how to serve the lost.

I feel like the mainstream evangelical church, of which I am a part, has been portrayed as a people who don’t venture far outside their four walls. People who have a strict standard and woe to those who don’t fit into the mold. People who are comfortable hanging around their own race, hanging around people who all make about the same amount of money as they do. This is the reputation that I see on the news, on the internet, in books, and articles.

Is this reputation deserved? I guess that depends on who you ask. I want to come back to this, but before I do, I need to talk about the problems I saw with these books and articles I was reading. They portray a gospel that is incomplete. It’s grace without judgement, heaven without hell, forgiveness without repentance. It is a soft gospel that seems to go through a lot of awkward contortions to ignore the written Word. It also seems to ignore the awesome, fearful Holiness of God.

So, here is my question that has been nagging me for over a week now, keeping me up at night. How do we maintain the balance? How do we extend a hand to the hurting, be the hands and feet of Jesus, be so overwhelmingly loving that people are just drawn to the Jesus inside of us..How do we do that, but also call people to repentance? How do we not only say, I love you, though I hate your sin, but I also want to offer freedom from those sin addictions? Freedom from bondage! How do we hold true to the scriptures that say, Come! Come to the table, everyone is welcome!

‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Matthew 22 8b-10

And while we are telling everyone to come, everyone is welcome, we also acknowledge the scripture that says,

small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14

As I read arguments from both sides, I feel like they are saying you have to choose. You have to choose love and grace or you have to choose law and Holiness. Why?? Why do we have to choose? It’s the same Jesus who taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves who reached out and touched the leper to heal him, who also said, Go and sin no more.

So, back to the evangelical church. Is our reputation for exclusiveness and legalism deserved? I look at my own church and I realize, there is no easy answer. A church is simply a body of people. People who sin. People who are weak. People who have said, Yes, Jesus, I want to follow you, but they are still daily having to learn how to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus. We’re all learning as we go, and we make a ton of mistakes along the way. My church is a holy mixture of God’s divine love being played out right alongside people’s sinful natures. There are definite things I want to see change. I want to see a lot more color and variety of people at my church meetings. I want to us to work harder at making our church a place where drug addicts, homeless people, ex-cons, prostitutes, and even awkward teenagers, can walk in the door and immediately feel welcome and at home. I want to figure out how I can be one of those people that make people feel welcome and at home. I want to stay fully immersed in God’s word while carrying that Gospel message that I’m so diligently studying, carrying it to my neighbor, to the lady at the library, to the neighborhood children who come to my door. I want to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus and I want those hands and feet to be cemented, fully rooted in God’s word.


These are some of the thoughts that are keeping me up at night.