Tag Archives: Bible

Rest for Restless Hearts: A Brief Meditation

Presently, I’m on my vacation. During this time, I’ve been re-reading Augustine’s Confessions and reflecting on what it means to truly rest in the Lord. Often, when we think of “rest” we unconsciously substitute “idleness” in its place. Idleness, though, is certainly not the same; as Benedict points out in his Rule, “Idleness is the enemy of the soul.” (Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of St. Benedict, XLVIII.). “Rest” doesn’t mean the cessation of activity; “rest”, unlike idleness, is an active trusting in and following after the One Who is our Rest – the Lord Jesus Christ. True rest is found in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 17:8), knowing that whatever comes you are His and He is yours. (Song of Solomon 6:3). If, in the midst of the wearying miseries and let-downs of this world I am to find abiding rest, it will be found only in Jesus Christ, in taking His yoke upon myself, being His true disciple, learning from Him. His is an abiding rest, and it is the rest in which I must abide, or else I will continue to be restless and wandering about from one failing happiness to another. Remember as you journey on the Way: “Christ alone is my rest.” The following are a few pieces upon which to meditate, concluded by a prayer.

“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.” Matthew 11:28-30

“You stir us up to take delight in your praise; for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless till it finds its rest in you.” Augustine, Confessions, I.I.I.

The Pulley by George Herbert

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span.”

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

“For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.

“Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.”

Prayer: God of rest, grant that we who are weary and heavy laden and who so often seek our rest in Your gifts rather than in their Giver, be forgiven for our sins, be tossed upon Your breast, take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ by the power of Your Holy Spirit to be His true disciples, and rest in Your steadfast love in Christ all the days of our lives and throughout eternity, in the name of Your beloved Son Jesus, Who abides with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Gregory the Great on Job’s Spiritual Warfare

As I was studying for this week’s sermon, these words from the Church Father Gregory the Great concerning Job 1:21 stood out to me:

Although [the devil] himself blasphemes God, he was created blessed; now the man [Job], even though struck down, sings a hymn of glory to God. It is incumbent upon us to notice that our enemy wounds us with as many darts as he attacks us with temptations. For we stand in the front line of battle every day, and every day we receive the darts of his temptations. Still, we too throw darts at him when we are overwhelmed with troubles if we reply humbly. Blessed Job was struck down by the loss of his possessions and the death of his sons, but he turned his pain into praise of the Creator, saying, “God gave it and God took it back; God has done what he pleased; blessed be the name of God.” [Job] struck down the proud enemy with humility, he laid the cruel foe out flat with patience. So let us not believe our warrior was wounded without inflicting wounds himself. As often as he was hit he praised God with patient words, and in so doing he let fly his darts at the adversary’s breast, and the wounds he inflicted were more serious than those he sustained.

-Gregory the Great, Moral Reflections on the Book of Job, Vol.1, trans. Brian Kerns, OCSO (Athens, OH: Cistercian Publications, 2014), 144-145.

Engaging with Scripture in 2021

There have been a variety of adjectives used to describe the past year. Most of them have been a bit on the hyperbolic side. For example, the adjective I’ve heard used most when describing 2020 is “unprecedented”. Really? You mean the events that occurred in the past year were completely without precedent? There’s never before been a global pandemic? There’s never been civil unrest in our country until last year? etc. Of course 2020 had precedents! To say it was unprecedented is daft.

Perhaps a better adjective to use would be “difficult”. It may be that this is understating things; if so, feel free to add a reasonable adverb – “very” comes to mind.

But, if we were to be honest with ourselves, isn’t life, generally-speaking, difficult? Do we think there will be no heartaches in 2021? Of course there will! We’re only six days into a new year and I’ve already buried one of the kindest, most loving women in our congregation filled with kind, loving people! Did coronavirus hear about the dropping of the New Year’s Ball and decide to pack up and leave? Not according to the data. Will there continue to be broken relationships, bad news, sickness, death, and many other symptoms of a sin-broken world in this year? We would be naive to think otherwise.

Life, no matter the year in which you’re living, is difficult.

Perhaps here you’re expecting me to say something along the lines of “But if you read the Bible, all your circumstances will change.” That’s not true. I read the Bible every day, and many of the circumstances of my life are still difficult. In fact, the Bible shows me that the reason life is so difficult is sin – generally (as in the brokenness of the creation because of the introduction of sin into it at the Fall) and personally (as in the eternal and temporal consequences of my own and others’ sins).

What difference does it make, then, to engage with Scripture daily? To read it, study it, meditate upon it? Surely, learning I’m a sinner under God’s judgment just adds to the bad news of an already difficult life, right?

Well, yes. But this isn’t the only thing that the Bible tells us. God has revealed to us that the reason the world – ourselves included – are so messed up is because of sin; that is bad news, especially when you learn that you don’t just commit sins, but that you are born with a sin nature, completely inclined away from the only Source of life. God has also given us very good news! There’s nothing we can personally do about our sin problem; by nature, we are enemies of God, loving that which He hates, and hating the good. But the good news is that though we can’t do anything about our sin problem, God has in sending His Son to save us from our sins and reconcile us to God through Jesus’ death on the cross. The good news is that He Who died for our sins has risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will one day come again to set all things right. The good news is that those who are united to Jesus through faith are new creatures and are being conformed to Jesus’ image by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit – a work that is often painful, but necessary. The good news gives us solid hope in a future where life will be without pain and sorrow and sickness and the other million and one difficulties that we face in the current age; these things will be gone because sin will be gone and the new heavens and new earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord Who has come to dwell with His people.

The Bible isn’t given us to rid us of all difficulties in life. It’s given us to point us to the only real hope we have in this life and the next – Jesus Christ. These 66 books – Genesis to Revelation – all point us to Him. In Him we have forgiveness and reconciliation with God; in Him we have a hope for the future; in Him we have newness of life and are being remade from the broken things we are; in Him we have Him – all He is and is for us.

Reading the Bible is not going to be a magic pill that will change all your circumstances. However, actively, prayerfully, meditatively, studiously engaging with God’s Word will change you. Your greatest need in these and all difficult times is not for your difficult times to end; your greatest need is to know Jesus Christ and to become His being-sanctified disciple. That will never happen unless you are engaging with God’s Word regularly; God sanctifies us by His Spirit working through His Word. (see John 17:17; 1 Corinthians 6:11).

Are you engaging with the Word daily? Last year, many in our congregation worked through the M’Cheyne Reading Plan which took us through the OT once, and the NT and Psalms twice in the year. A reading plan is an excellent way to be sure you’re regularly reading the Scriptures. Multiple reading plans can be found for free online. Check out this list from Ligonier: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWm1abFlUUTFZamxpTkRZeCIsInQiOiJnQlwveTRiVlFNMFdKR3NibDgzVVFwdjBUbHR6SEpSYUEybjV6UWZBRlRuNVhNdit4bEQxNDgzQXZYaGNQK2haMzl2bzJRSURhOTRPdDJ1TGFqV0MyZWZ3OTVkdjFrR0Jxa0d3YnU4NjZNdlJhUVZHdVdkTU1GVDVlQ0NNeTZTSFwvIn0%3D

But, as I’ve told our Catechism Class, you don’t have to read through the Bible in a year. In fact, it may be that reading several chapters a day is too difficult for you to digest. If so, take it slower. Even if you are reading through the Bible in a set period of time – SLOW DOWN! Pray before you even open your Bible that God, by His Holy Spirit, will open His Word to you! Read slowly and thoughtfully. Pay attention to the context – both immediate and canonical. Get helps in the form of commentaries, atlases, sermons, etc. And don’t leave your Bible behind when you close it; memorize passages and meditate on what you’ve read throughout your day, week, month, lifetime. Without intentional, prayer-saturated thinking about what you’ve read, you’re not going to benefit from your time in the Word as much as you otherwise would.

Remember, as you engage the Scriptures this year, the goal is not to read for reading’s sake or to check off a religious box. Read for transformation. As Calvin writes, “The Scriptures are to be read with the purpose of finding Christ there.” Go to the Word prayerfully seeking to behold His glory and to be transformed by seeing Him in the Scriptures! (2 Corinthians 3:18).