The summer is officially here. Praise God, the pandemic is mainly at bay, and things are getting back to normal. Once again, vacations are being booked and trips planned. After so much hardship, it definitely feels like a lot of us need a break and some rest.
God cares about us experiencing rest. He created rest (Genesis 2:2-3). Jesus said he came to give us rest (Matthew 11:28). However, God says that it is foolish to be lazy (Proverbs, 6:6-11). So what is the difference between rest and laziness?
Laziness is thoughtless. It is just being led by what feels right at the moment. Rest is intentional. There is thought behind what you choose to do and not to do. Laziness leads us to be consumed with ourselves. Rest fills us with love for God and others.
So here are a few suggestions to get some rest this summer.
1. Read a book
If you are already a reader, just skip down to the book recommendations below. However, if you are not a reader, here are three reasons why it could be good to start forming a habit of reading.
- Health Benefits: Reading has been shown to lower stress levels, blood pressure and hearts rates. It is not true that “an apple a day will keep the doctor away”, but it is true that those who read on a daily basis experience better health.
- Cognitive benefits. Reading increases brain connectivity, making you sharper mentally.
- Spiritual benefits. Out of all the ways God could have communicated with us, he chose to speak to us and have His words written down. The better we are at reading, the better we will engage with the book (The Bible) that God has written.
Reading is like a muscle. The more you work at it, the stronger you get. It’s worth the work! If you commit to reading 15 minutes every day, you will read one book this summer. And you won’t regret it 🙂
- Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. This series will not only feed your soul through its beautiful allegories of various Christian themes, but it is also just a lot of fun to read.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A really moving story of a father and son.
- And then there were none by Agatha Christie. My favorite “Whodunit” ever.
- The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. This is one of my favorite authors, and anything that he writes is excellent. I really enjoyed this book, though as it takes a tour through music history.
- Atomic Habits by James Clear. An excellent book on how to form better habits and stop bad habits. Super engaging read.
- Endurance by Alfred Lansing. A gripping true story about a shipwreck in the Antarctic and the crew’s journey to safety
- A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Punnel. This is a fascinating true story about the person who was arguably the most important American in France during WWII.
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. This is a business book classic, but I think the lessons in it can benefit anyone.
Saints, Sinners, and Sufferers by Michael Emlet. A book that helps us relate to one another as complex beings who are Saints, Sinners, and Sufferers all at the same time. Great resource if you want to be equipped to be a better friend.
A Praying Life by Paul Miller. Still the best book on prayer that I’ve ever read. Very engaging read, and you will be blessed by going through it.
The New Reformation by Shai Linne. This book is honest, humble, hopeful, and helpful. Racial reconciliation can only come through the reconciling power found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this book, Shai Linne helps us see God’s heart for all people and how the church can be a place of healing through the power of Jesus. There are a lot of false teachings out there about race relations. This book is an important biblical framework for this crucial conversation.
Walking with God in Pain and Suffering
This book provides a robust philosophical and theological framework for suffering and a compassionate look into the heart of God. Pastor Keller is someone who is intimately acquainted with suffering in his personal life. His empathetic perspective and practical help for walking with God in suffering are soothing balms for hurting hearts.
What about Evil by Scott Christensen. This book is prety big, but don’t let that intimidate you as it is actually fairly easy to read. If you have ever grappled with the question of how a good God could allow so much evil to exist, this book is the best resource that I know of on that topic.
The Cross of Christ by John Stott. This is the best book on the atonement that I know of and one that I regularly reread. The cross is such a familiar visual, but there are depths to the work of Christ that we can’t even begin to fathom. This book helps open up some of those categories for us.
Before You Lose Your Faith edited by Ivan Mesa. While Christianity is growing in incredibly ways in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, American Christianity is going through a period where people are walking away from the faith. This is a great book that compassionately engages those who are leaving the church to look for answers by showing how doubt does not have to lead to unbelief, but can build a more robust faith.
2. Spend time with neighbors
This past Saturday, we partnered with our next door neighbors to host a block. It was so good to get out the grills, put on some music, have games for kids, and hang out as a block. I had hoped that I could also enjoy watching some Sixers games with neighbors, but…. I’m not ready to talk about that yet…
Think about maybe hosting a game night, bbq, going to a nearby park, etc… The best way to love our neighbors is to be with our neighbors. How can you start spending time with people again?
3. Invite someone to church
As you are spending more time with neighbors, maybe this could be a good opportunity to invite them out to a Sunday Service. As things get back to normal, a regular conversation I find myself having is asking people how they are doing. They share and then usually ask me in return, which gives an opportunity to share how good it has been to be part of a faith community during this challenging time. Perhaps that could lead to a church invite?
4. Be intentional with discipleship.
Who are the people that God has brought into your life to influence their spiritual good? Who can you read a Christian book with this summer? Is there someone you can start getting together with regularly and going over the sermon follow up questions that are provided every week in the back of the program? If you are a parent, how are you using the summer months to engage your children differently than you can during the school year? We’ve been trying to memorize Psalm 34 together as a family, as well as, continuing to go through our systematic Bible reading. For Bible reading, we like using Long Story Short and Old Story New by Marty Machowski. It’s also been a good opportunity to start showing my kids how to have their own Bible reading time every day. They are reading through the gospel of Mark and each day write a journal about something new they learned about God and what that means for their life. It’s been great to break out those journals at dinner and have a family discussion about what they are learning.
All these things are ways that we can experience some rest this summer as we cultivate our love for the Lord.
May God restore, rejuvenate, and re-envision you over these next couple of months.