"9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:9-11, ESV).
I highly recommend that you set your heart to rest today! It's not only my recommendation, but Scripture is urging us to enter into rest. Following the Lord can be simple at times like this: If He rested, we rest. Period.
Notice the author of Hebrews makes a point to tell us to "strive" to enter that rest. Why? Because sometimes it takes work to turn off our worries. It can take work to shift from a work mindset to a rest mindset. This rest is a good thing! It shows that we trust God. When we rest well, we worship the Lord.
We're told to rest so that we don't fall by the same sort of disobedience. See, if we rest, we're not hardening our hearts to the Lord and His will. In fact, when we rest, we're softening our will to follow the will of God! I think our willpower is stronger when we rest. I think we make better decisions when we rest. We treat others better when we rest. We're better workers when we rest. Do you get it? EVERYTHING is better when we obey God and REST!!!
So today, whether you have activities with others planned, whether you're spending the day on your own, whether you're making pancakes, or whether you're gonna spend some time in your arcade, do so in rest. Strive to enter rest, and ENJOY it. This honors our Lord. He is pleased with it; He is pleased with you!
-Pastor Tim Escamilla
"5 My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. 6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts’” (Haggai 2:5b-9, ESV).
I remember last year when this passage, and really the whole book of Haggai, jumped off the pages and screamed into my situation! I really feel like the Lord wants to do for us what He promised He would do for them.
Don't get me wrong, I know that we are not in the time of Haggai, and that our situation is much different than that of the people to whom the Lord is speaking here. But my spirit can't help but resonate each time I read this. I want Him to fill my life and my friend's lives with glory! I want him to shake the heavens so that the treasures of God flow bountifully in our lives!
I think I know a roadblock as to why I sometimes do not experience this promise in my life: a lack of belief. It's not that I don't believe God is powerful enough to do it, but rather, I sometimes question whether He wants ME to experience it all. Sounds crazy, huh? I do believe He wants me to experience the glory that He shares in Haggai. But sometimes, when the rubber meets the road, I don't plan as if He is going to come through that way. I don't make preparations as if He was about to open up the heavens over me, my family, and my Freedom family. BUT I should.
Darren reminded us yesterday that faith needs works! So, if I don't prepare as if God was going to come through, it's as if I don't have faith. I don't have faith because I don't have the works to back it up. We've come to the roadblock again: a lack of belief. So I want to encourage myself, and you, to back up our belief with works. Prepare for His glory! Prepare for Him to open up the heavens!
I'm not saying quit your job in hopes of a better one. I'm not saying go buy a lottery ticket. I'm not saying that you should gamble on a sports app. I'm not saying to go invest your 401(k) in Crypto. I'm not saying that a headhunter is going to hire you without you submitting a resume. I'm absolutely NOT telling you to go out and buy a car/truck/home that you can't afford, in the hopes that God would provide.
I AM saying seek God, and see how He wants you to prepare. Ask Him how He would want you to put your faith into action! Then, once you do this with wisdom and following Him, He will open up the heavens over your life! I'm doing it. Because I want Him to know I believe Him! I know He wants the glory I experience today to be greater than the glory I experienced yesterday. He wants this for you, too. Let's plan like it, and believe it for 2023!
John 13:14-15, 34-35 (ESV) “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
These two passages in John 13 stuck out to me recently. Jesus calls us to radical, sacrificial, authentic love for one another in the Body! This word that Jesus uses and the Apostle John writes down is the Greek word, Agapé, that many of us know. It is a holy and divine love. In my opinion, Agapé love needs God’s empowerment to be expressed. When I think about this kind of love, it is an active choice to love, and in many ways I think it is “work” that is brought to life by Holy Spirit’s power.
God loves us unconditionally, and His love is pure and holy. Because of His love, we change. Because of His love, we have the capability to love one another. We are to love each other in the Body as Christ loves us with Agapé love. Who we are in God as His sons and daughters, as LOVED children, is how we can turn around and behave, act, work, and express love. Our love for each other in the Body is transforming us into the image and expression of Christ in the world. In the Church we understand that faith NEEDS works, and works without faith are nothing but noise. This sacrificial Agapé work takes practice, patience, forgiveness, learning & growing, and it takes authentically living in the community of the Body of Christ.
Why do we go through all that hard stuff to love one another? Because it is worth it! “… all people will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (emphasis added) Loving each other in the Body is commanded by God so that the world can see through our struggles, our patience, our trials, our forgiveness, through learning how to love each other better in the Church, how much God loves the world.
Today, pray and ask God what this love looks like that God has called us to express in the Body!
Sometimes, as we go through this life, we are in desperate need of the Lord's comfort. We all go through this at various times and in various seasons. There are different degrees to the need of comfort we each have. Sometimes, all we need is a text or a reminder from someone else that they care about us. Sometimes it's a hug, a cup of coffee, or even a good meal shared with others.
Other times, we need something that goes deeper, deep within our souls. Sometimes we desperately need His manifest presence, His comfort and peace, and His Word to be spoken to us. Sometimes, the desperation goes so deep, we don't even know what we need; but we know we need Him.
Whether you fall into the lighter category or the deeper category, I know the Word of the Lord can comfort you in a powerful way. I know His Word is living and active! I know His Word speaks into our situations in awesome ways.
You might be feeling the need for comfort because of your own decisions; then again, you might need comfort because of the decisions of others. They may have hurt you. They may have hurt themselves, which then hurt you. You might be having to make difficult, yet God-led decisions, and need comfort in the midst of it. I might not know your pain, trouble, or the reason you need comfort, but I know Who does! I believe that if you read His Word, believe it, and declare it, it will comfort you in ways that your loved ones can't. His Word is like health. It's like sustenance. It brings life and light to dark situations.
So I've included numerous passages from Scripture below. I pray that as you read them, you would be comforted beyond your imagination! And that the peace that passes all understanding would be present with you. Love you very much.
-Pastor Tim Escamilla
"18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them"
(Psalm 145:18-19, ESV).
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand"
"Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant"
Day 9 - Present With His People
"In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22, ESV).
I love thinking about the idea in Scripture that God has always wanted to be present with His people. He has always wanted a place to be, that His people would know he would be. Think about a tent that was made specifically for Him to inhabit. That was His desire, to be present with His people.
Flash forward to the desire for a temple, a tabernacle to be built for the Lord. This was so important because it was going to be a permanent place where the Lord would be present. His people would know that He would be there.
I think the Lord's longing for a place to be made for Him to be present was for our benefit. He wanted us to know He was within reach. He wanted us to know that He was near and was listening. Having a place to be present with us helps us know those things, and helps us know Him.
The point was never that He wanted to build a place; the place isn't the point. The main point is that He wanted to be with His people.
When we move into the New Testament, we find that our bodies are called tents in one portion; in another, one of my most favorite portions I always mention, our bodies are called temples. You are a tent; you are a temple. It is an important point to know that we are temples. But that's not the main point; the main point is that God wants to dwell in us! He wants to be present with us! Now, not only is He present WITH us, He is present IN us!
As we live our lives together with other believers, we are being built together into a dwelling place for God! This is done by the Spirit of God. Not only do you have God dwelling in you, when we get together with other believers, we are built together as a place for God to be present! Enjoy Him. Bless Him. Worship Him. Seek Him and know that He is near, and that He longs to be with you!
-Pastor Tim Escamilla
Unsurprisingly, Janie’s word during ministry time yesterday morning lined up perfectly with what God put on my heart to share for my dedication post! I love when God orchestrates details like this. I pray that you are blessed by it today and that you are inspired to keep God’s Word fresh on your lips.
“Alright kiddos, put on the armor of God!”
“The belt of truth,” Ethan and Ella say while motioning putting on a belt of truth and each of the remaining armor pieces.
“The breastplate of righteousness.”
“Feet fitted with the readiness of the Gospel.”
“The shield of faith.”
“The helmet of salvation.”
Exuberantly, they both pull out their imaginary swords, “And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God! Ephesians 6.”
Every night, we reflect on the armor of God and conversations spark, it’s one of my favorite traditions. We memorized the armor of God together; training up these two incredible children in the way they should go has inspired me to memorize more Scripture—to lead by example.
Ephesians 6:13-20 in The Message translation says:
“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. And don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out.”
Take ALL the help you can get, EVERY weapon God has issued! Pray continuously AND for one another—I love that Paul specifically puts a level of responsibility on keeping one another’s spirits up. Also remember that Paul is writing this while incarcerated. Let that sink in—he is in no position to physically armor up. All he has is the Armor of God to help him—and the prayers of His people.
Last year, the enemy tried to knock me down with anxiety attacks that I had already been healed of in high school—that’s a story for another day—and all I was able to do during these attacks was pray and repeat the armor of God over and over both in my head and out loud. Reminding myself that the weapons formed against me cannot prosper and putting my armor on protected me from spiraling and I won those battles! I also had an army of people praying for me—over the phone, over text, and in-person. Prayer is so powerful! Knowing Scripture is so powerful! God is so powerful!
God has already won the war, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have attacks come and battles to be fought. He has equipped up with His armor, He has equipped us with the Fruit of the Spirit, He has equipped us with Scripture. He has also given us an incredible community of believers who pray for one another and carry each other’s burdens.
“As for me,” God says, “this is my covenant with them: My Spirit that I’ve placed upon you and the words that I’ve given you to speak, they’re not going to leave your mouths nor the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your grandchildren. You will keep repeating these words and won’t ever stop.” God’s orders.
Isaiah 59:21 MSG
My challenge for you this year is to memorize the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18) and “keep repeating these words and don’t ever stop.” Keep the Word of God (the Sword of the Spirit) fresh on your lips and no weapon formed against you will prosper!
-Pastor Abby Escamilla
"26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever" (Hebrews 7:26-28, ESV).
What a High Priest we have in Jesus! As you go through this Dedication with us, and as you read this passage, I hope you are awestruck when you think of our Christ. He is altogether lovely. He is majestic. He is almighty. He is immutably transcendent! He does, and has done, what NO ONE ELSE could do!
(Read the passage above again, and let it inspire you!)
He is our High Priest. Behold Him, He is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world! No other priest could've done it. No other way would've worked! He had to offer up Himself because He was the perfect sacrifice.
(Read the passage above one last time, and let your heart burn as you do.)
I have tears in my eyes now as I think of the beauty, the majesty, the glory of our King. My heart is burning for Him. My heart is burning because of Him! Your heart is burning for Him. Your heart is burning because of Him! He is alive and He does what He does! Right now, He is available to you; draw near to Him. Love Him. Trust Him. And know that truly, THERE IS NO ONE LIKE OUR JESUS!
-Pastor Tim Escamilla
After Pastor Tim’s post yesterday, I too read Malachi. I was impacted by the sharp contrast the Lord paints between the righteous and the wicked, directing us to His expectations and desires. This message begs self-examination. Through these powerful questions and answers, we are led to consider God’s call to love Him! How can we do this? He’s faithful to show us His heart.
We start by giving Him our BEST—pure offerings in our worship, service, and confession. Then, in a world that is filled with corruption and deceit, we are encouraged to not to complain and grumble, but to fear the Lord, meditate on His name, and believe and declare that He will not honor evil conduct. He reminds us He will come again in judgment and in faithfulness to His own.
Meanwhile, He is the refiner’s fire—working in us and cleansing us by the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Let us take hold of the power of the resurrection life in us, declaring dominion over sin!
What about when we stumble? Malachi 3:7 states, “Return to Me, and I will return to You.” When Israel asks “In what way shall we return,” note God’s FIRST answer: “Bring all of the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.” He actually invites us to TRY HIM, and to prove His trustworthiness with our giving. 2 Corinthians 6-12 further encourages our generosity and faithfulness to the One who provides both bread and seed.
As we seek to dedicate and lay ourselves down to Him, let’s ask Him to help us to be faithful to offer Him our BEST, through our worship, our trust, our words, and our giving. In Malachi 3:6 He states: “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” Let us honor our baptism in Christ, and our righteousness in Him. God’s covenant promises are ours.
Day 5 - Rebuke The Devourer
"11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:11-12, ESV).
Following Pastor Nate's post, I was reading Malachi. When I read these two verses, the Lord made them jump off the page! What a God-thing that Nate would write that, and that the Lord would lead me here.
He's telling us how He's going to protect the blessings that He will provide for us in 2023: HE will rebuke the devourer! Yesterday's post mentioned cattle, what is living, safety, abundance, and multiplication of blessing. These are all good things that are blessings. Those are the things the Lord wants to protect by rebuking the devourer!
When Malachi talks about "the devourer," it's easy for us to think he's talking about the evil one, the devil. Interestingly enough, he's actually referring to locusts. More precisely, he's referring to a swarm of locusts. When you look at a locust, it doesn't seem that powerful. Even if you see a swarm of locusts, they really aren't all that powerful. They can't cause you physical harm. You might be grossed out if there are a lot of locusts around you, but they won't trip you or cause you any hurt.
But for the prophet, locusts are very powerful. They're powerful because they can devour the fruits of your soil, causing the vine to cease from bearing fruits. These fruits represent the blessings of God. They represent the delight of God, the gifts of God to us, and even favor in this life. It's possible for us to not experience the blessings of God because the "locusts" of the world have devoured them. These "locusts" could be many things: busyness, unbelief, ungratefulness, envy, jealousy, pride, sin, lies, hate, anxiety, the evil one, and many, many more.
The Lord recognizes how powerful the devourer can be. And He responds accordingly: "I will rebuke the devourer for you." The Almighty God has said He will rebuke the devourer for you. He's all-powerful, so there doesn't exist any locust that He can't rebuke. What is the point of the rebuking? So that His people can live in blessing.
When we live in His blessing, all the nations (people around you) will call you blessed, and you (your house, your company) will be a land of delight. In 2023, I want to be blessed and I want to be a delight to those around me. How about you? I bet you feel the same way. You want to be blessed and a blessing, and you want to be a delight for others. It's possible. It will come to pass in 2023. Believe it, proclaim it, and receive it!
Let's make a bold decree together: "I will be blessed and a blessing; I will be a delight for others. And it's all thanks to You, O Lord!"
In the world's oldest and most famous story, the God of Israel miraculously delivers His people from Pharaoh. Unfortunately, there’s always a new Pharaoh striving for power and a different Babylon system of man-worship that God will resist.
Because of this, we shouldn't be surprised when God creates sharper contrasts this year between what is His and what isn’t. His kingdom will rise and shine while the false kingdom of man-made utopia will darken. May those around us see that we are more joyful, more hopeful, more fearless, more mentally healthy, more generous, more fulfilled with life-giving relationships, and more provided for in every sense.
'Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, so that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them, now hear this: the hand of the Lord will fall on your livestock which are out in the field, on the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks—a horrible plague shall come. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing that belongs to the Israelites will die.’ ” The Lord set a [definite] time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” And the Lord did this thing the next day, and all [kinds of] the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the Israelites, not one died.'
Exodus 9:1-6 AMP
God highlighted verse 4 to me: “But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing that belongs to the Israelites will die.”
As we hear of wars and conflicts, food shortages and supply chain issues, may God distinguish between our cattle and Egypt’s cattle, between what is living and what is dying. Not because we are deserving, but for His glory! Because our Father is THE gift giver. He fiercely distinguishes Himself from idolatry, from the vague, malleable life-force energy that old fashioned paganism has always offered. He's narrowly defined Himself through the ultimate gift of salvation offered through Jesus Christ and all of His kingdom, now and forever!
There is a door: a threshold between chaos and order, represented by the blood on the door at Passover and the door of the Ark. It distinguishes between the chaos waters outside and the mini-Eden inside where there is safety, abundance, and multiplication of blessing. Christ is the door, the ONLY door. God graciously allowed the Egyptians also to paint the blood on their doors to protect them from the angel of death. Some listened and obeyed and some had hard hearts. God please soften the hearts of our city, our country, our world. May they experience Your kindness that leads to repentance that Paul describes in Romans 2:4.
Let us examine our lives and distinguish between what is of cursed Egypt and what is of the blessed Kingdom of God. Ask yourself, Are there any dead end pursuits in my heart? What really matters? What is of the eternal Kingdom and what is lifeless chaff, needing to be thrown away?
Pray with me: "God, please cleanse my heart and mind. Make life-giving distinctions, boundaries and separations in my life. Place me on Your path and give me eyes to distinguish what is of Your Kingdom and what is not. Amen."
May the Lord continue to take care of you, His chosen.
-Pastor Nate Noe
Read encouraging posts, that will hopefully fill you with relentless hope in 2023!