Archives For God

By Meredith Flynn

On our state’s bicentennial, the resolve of its early settlers has new meaning for Baptists.

Settlers arriving in the Illinois territory in the early 1800s didn’t know what to make of what they found. History tells us many of them moved north from areas that were heavily wooded. They trusted land that could support so many trees. The Illinois prairie offered no such reassurance.

“The prairies posed a new set of problems for farmers,” writes historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg. “Below the land’s surface were tough, fibrous roots of tall prairie grasses, extending downward a foot or more. A simple wooden plow could hardly penetrate the surface.”

The pioneers made do by settling mostly in the southern part of the state, where ready access to water and trees made constructing their homes and farms more feasible. Some, though, eventually headed north, and found a way to work the hard prairie soil. It was richer than they thought, historians say. They just needed different tools. Steel, instead of wood.

Industrial pioneers John Deere and Cyrus McCormick developed tools for farming the prairie lands. And Illinois boomed. Its statehood population in 1818 was 35,000. By 1830, it had grown to 157,000, and would triple over the next decade. Still, tending the land was expensive. Families sacrificed much, Riney-Kehrberg notes, to run even a modest farm.

Two hundred years later, the challenges of tilling the soil in Illinois are different. But they still exist, especially in spiritual terms. More than 8 million people in Illinois do not know Christ. Many churches are struggling against the cultural tide to see real transformation in their communities.

Blue map copy

“I have often said that even though Illinois is the second flattest state in America, being Baptist here is an uphill climb,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “Baptists have always been somewhat counter-cultural and a minority in Illinois, but that used to be because larger groups of people from different religious cultures had settled the state.

“Now it’s because the culture overall has become less and less religious, and arguably more hardened to the gospel message.”

Like Illinois’ early settlers found years ago, sometimes hard soil calls for new tools. Last year, IBSA presented four challenges to renew “pioneering spirit” among Baptists in Illinois. (Read more about the challenges at pioneeringspirit.org.)

These “new tools” are actually tried-and-true church practices: evangelism, church planting, sacrificial giving, and raising up new generations of leaders.

“The widespread and growing lostness of our state compels us to think in new ways. Maybe old ways,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Planting Team. “The pioneers of Illinois and parts west came to those territories knowing that if they didn’t bring the gospel with them, it just would not be present. We need that same kind of spirit and thinking today.”

‘Time to do something’
After the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, David Starr led his church to tackle all four of the Pioneering Spirit challenges. His congregation, Community Southern Baptist Church in Clay City, is employing these new tools to make a difference in Illinois, especially in places where there is no IBSA church.

Starr approached Joe Lawson, director of missions for Louisville Baptist Association, about starting an association-wide prayer emphasis for the 10 counties in Illinois without an IBSA church. Community Southern, which averages around 70 in worship attendance, was assigned Carroll County in northwest Illinois. They started praying. Then, they took action.

“There’s a time to pray, and there’s a time to do something,” Starr said. He spoke with IBSA staff in Springfield and leaders in northwest Illinois, planning a mission trip that would be focused on assessing needs in the region. In July, Starr and his wife and another couple from their church traveled more than 300 miles along a diagonal line from Clay City to Savanna, Ill.

During their trip, they met with a church planter in Galena for a Monday night Bible study. Then, they knocked on doors. Starr said the small team visited 70% of the homes in the focus area, and found 21 people or families who wanted to commit themselves to seeing a Southern Baptist church planted there.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

The team also saw physical need in Carroll County. The region has lost jobs in two big industries—railroad and lumber. There’s poverty and hunger. A woman who the team encountered ran into them later at a local store. “Don’t forget us,” she said.

Starr’s team went back home to Clay City, but they’ve continued to pray. There’s a map on the church bulletin board showing the streets they visited, and printed prayer reminders for the congregation.

Along with the challenge to go new places with the gospel, Community Southern is keeping up with the other Pioneering Spirit commitments. They increased missions giving through the Cooperative Program, are working to enlist new leaders, and celebrated one baptism on One GRAND Sunday, a statewide baptism emphasis in April.

“Here is a pastor and church that captured the pioneering spirit,” Kicklighter said. “They heard about a place where there was a compelling need, and they decided to do something about it.

“We need lots of Illinois Baptist churches with this kind of passion and willingness—a pioneering spirit.”

Starr said he’s never seen anything like it in his years of ministry. His church is investing willingly in other people and places. Like Illinois’ early settlers, they’re tilling the hard soil, and using less familiar tools to do so.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

– Meredith Flynn, with info from History.com and “The Historical Development of Agriculture in Illinois” by Pamela Riney-Kehrberg

By Joshua Steely

Open Bible

God the Father, Spirit, Son

Veiled in glory

Three-in-One

One true God in Persons three

Wondrous divine

Mystery

The last Sunday in May was Trinity Sunday, so I preached a sermon focused on the Trinity from the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1:9-11. It’s a powerful passage that displays God’s triune saving work.

A lot of Baptists, though, might think it a bit unusual to observe Trinity Sunday; we tend to leave this to our high-church brethren in other denominations. That’s a pity, because the doctrine of the Trinity is the vital heart of the Christian faith, and we should be regularly rejoicing in this great mystery. Here’s why:

First, God the Holy Trinity is the God we worship. Christianity is a relationship with God, and what is a relationship without knowing the other person (in this case, persons)? If the goal of our lives is to be near to God, to know him, then the Trinity is essential. Our prayer and worship, our personal relationship with God, is grounded in knowing him as God triune.

Second, God is our triune Savior. The doctrine of the Trinity is not only a biblical truth, it is a truth of Christian experience. God triune has saved us. When we were lost in sin and darkness, the Father sent the Son by the Spirit to rescue us. In the power of the Spirit, the Son lived a perfect human life in obedience to the Father. Having died for our sins, Jesus rose from the dead and sent the Spirit from the Father to indwell the hearts of believers. The Spirit living in us unites us with the Son by faith, for adoption as children of the Father. 

Salvation is a thoroughly triune work, and we cannot understand redemption rightly without some understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Third, God triune is the God who loves us abundantly and graciously. The Trinity tells us that relationship has always existed in the one God—there has been love between the Father, Son, and Spirit for all eternity. That means that God has never been lonely, and he loves us not because he needs us, but simply because that’s who he is—the God who loves. The wonder of God’s love is magnified when we grasp the mystery of the Trinity.

All glory be to God our King,

Lord of love, One in Three;

Hearts rejoice and voices sing

Praise for all eternity.

The Trinity cannot be left to professional theologians and pastors who read big books. It must be a vital element in the life and worship of the church. How do we make that happen? 

1. Preach and teach on the Trinity.  Now, don’t get the wrong idea—I’m not saying you should turn your Sunday morning sermon into a systematic theology lecture.  Preach on the practical significance of the Trinity. Having a Sunday a year set apart for talking about it is a good habit. But more importantly, the Trinity should be explicitly present when we preach the gospel. Talk about the work of Christ as the saving work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Talk about salvation as being united with the Son by the Spirit for adoption as a child of the Father.

2. Shape the worship service to exalt the triune God. This doesn’t mean that every praise song has to be explicitly trinitarian. But if our worship service as a whole would be acceptable in a unitarian church, that’s a problem. We worship the one true God, the tri-personal God. Some of the old hymns are really good for this—“Holy, Holy, Holy!” is a standout example.

3. Encourage Trinitarian prayer and spirituality. The beginning of our spiritual life is marked by the Trinitarian baptismal formula—in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Carry that through into the everyday spiritual life of your church. In the public prayers of the worship service and in small groups and individual settings, model the practice of praying to the Father by the Spirit in the name of the Son. Talk (humbly) about the work of the Spirit in your life, about faith in the Son, and about the love of the Father. 

Help the people in your church find devotional materials and insightful books that bring out the practical significance of the Trinity for Christian spirituality, like “Delighting in the Trinity” by Michael Reeves (IVP, 2012).

The Trinity is the heart of the Christian faith, the fundamental mystery of our great God. May our churches reflect the centrality of this awesome truth.

Joshua Steely is pastor of Pontoon Baptist Church in Pontoon Beach.

By Daryl C. Cornett for Baptist Press

Old Holy Bible and the American Flag

Independence Day is my favorite holiday — an occasion to celebrate our country’s existence and have some mandatory fun!

There is nothing particularly religious about it, and that’s just fine. I like the family gatherings, cookouts, parades and fireworks. I like all the red, white and blue. It is an uncorrupted holiday that is exactly what it is supposed to be.

However, I believe that this secular occasion affords us the opportunity for important spiritual perspective and reflection.

First, Independence Day is an occasion to express thankfulness for God’s gift of our American government and its perseverance. This year we celebrate the passing of 242 years since a small group of men, representing 13 British colonies, asserted that the time had come to declare their independence. They made a long list of grievances against England and declared that independence was necessary and right. After winning a war that few thought possible, the confederation of the new states decided to unite under a federal government with its own constitution.

Christians throughout history have lived within a variety of governmental arrangements — monarchies, dictatorships, communist states and democratic republics of various forms. It is fitting to celebrate that in God’s gracious providence He has blessed us with government that guards against abusive power. The design of three separate branches has proven to be a practical check against the consolidation of too much power in one place. Christians can give thanks that God has graciously allowed our context to be a democratic republic in which we get to participate in the election of our own leaders and enjoy the privileges and protections of a constitution with a primary view toward preventing oppressive government.

Additionally, we can give thanks that by God’s grace we are still here. Every nation takes for granted its own existence. Human pride causes us to believe that the United States will always be just as it is today — powerful, prosperous and blessed. No empire thinks in its days of dominance that a time could come when it wouldn’t exist. Romans 13:1 reminds us, “… For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” We should be thankful for our Founders — Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and many others. However, we should acknowledge that our country’s existence originates from the hand of divine providence. The signers of the Declaration of Independence acknowledged this in its closing words: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” As we celebrate with our material comforts and security, let’s be careful to give thanks to the One who has given these good gifts and who has preserved our nation.

Second, we should remember to pray for our leaders. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers and intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions….” It doesn’t matter if you voted for him or even if you like him, your Christian political stewardship is to pray earnestly for him. She may be the antithesis of all your political views, but God has seen fit to put her in that position of leadership. Pray for her.

Third, Independence Day is an occasion for the church to renew its commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel. Because God has continued to bless us with a free society, the door for the sharing of the Gospel remains wide open. Our culture has always had sin problems. Where sinful people exist in a fallen world, the enemy is always at work challenging God’s design. Spiritual darkness pushes back against God’s good news.

In America we have incredible freedom to proclaim our faith. We should be thankful that the first of the amendments to the Constitution provides every individual with freedom for personal religion. The first phrase promises this freedom. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Since this was adopted in 1791, we have periodically fussed about what constitutes an establishment of religion but never questioned that each of us has the right to our own personal faith and the right to share it with others. We may receive some rejection, but no one is arresting us for telling others about Jesus.

We would do well to be mindful that our American freedom must not be squandered on selfish individualism. We have all the freedom we could ever ask for to live out our faith with boldness and share it with others without fear of persecution.

On this Independence Day, let our hearts be full of gratitude for what God has established, pray for those God has seen fit to put into leadership, and remember that God continues to give us the freedom to be salt and light to our neighbors and impact our communities with the hope of the Gospel.

Daryl C. Cornett is pastor of First Baptist Church in Hazard, Ky., a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and former associate professor of church history at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.

 

Paige Patterson clarifies comments on abuse and divorce
Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson’s spoke out to address his position on domestic violence after old comments he made regarding counseling women in abusive marriages circulated on social media over the weekend. Patterson said he has advised and helped women to leave abusive husbands, but stood by his commitment to never recommend divorce: “How could I as a minister of the gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce.”

200 evangelical leaders tell Congress to pass prison reform
Well-known evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, and nearly 200 others are calling on members of Congress to pass bipartisan re-entry reform legislation that aims to provide federal prisoners with the training and rehabilitation they need to be successful once they are released back into society. The letter was sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and congressional leaders voicing support for the Prison Reform and Redemption Act of 2017, also known as H.R. 3356.

GuideStone, ERLC defend ministerial housing allowance
GuideStone Financial Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief filed April 26 that asks the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to reverse a lower court decision invalidating the exemption. It will decide on a section of a 1954 law that permits “ministers of the gospel” to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income as a housing allowance.

Pew: 25% of survey’s Christians don’t buy biblical God
A fourth of self-identified Christians believe in what Pew described as “God or another higher power” who is not necessarily all-loving, omniscient and omnipotent as Scripture reveals. “In total, three-quarters of U.S. Christians believe that God possesses all three of these attributes — that the deity is loving, omniscient, and omnipotent,” the study found.

Butterfield: Christian hospitality’s radically different from ‘Southern hospitality’
In Rosaria Butterfield’s newest book, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post Christian World,” she articulates a gospel-minded hospitality that’s focused not on teacups and doilies, but on missional evangelism. It has nothing to do with entertainment—and everything to do with addressing the crisis of unbelief. Interviewer Lindsey Carlson spoke with Butterfield about opening hearts and front doors to our neighbors.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, Baptist Press, Christianity Today

After Easter

ib2newseditor —  April 23, 2018

idyllic landscape

Easter, of course, is about new beginnings. Those of us who know the risen Savior find in Easter new hope, new life, new power, a new covenant, new perspective, and more. Even for those who don’t yet know Jesus, Easter often means new clothes, new plantings, and new spring projects. But just after Easter a few years ago, it was the idea of beginning a new church in our community that brought my wife, Beth, and I together in prayer with three other couples.

Praying was all we knew to do at first. But soon all kinds of new thoughts and ideas started flowing. We began talking about who in our community didn’t know Christ or didn’t attend church, and why. We talked about the spiritual and physical needs we sensed those people had, and how a new church could help address them. We talked about what events we could host, and where we could meet, and how we could invite people to a new beginning.

Over the next several months, we had lots of new beginnings. We began three new Bible studies in our homes. We began a rental contract with a grade school. We began buying sound equipment, and children’s ministry supplies, and everything we could imagine that a portable church might need. We began developing a constitution, and a logo, and mailers, ads, and door hangers.

In this season of new beginnings, consider how a new church can bring new hope to people who don’t know Christ.

And we began surveying our community for feedback on a name for our community’s new church. Together, we chose the name New Hope.

That first year flew by quickly, and as it did, the Lord gathered about 40 people into our core group. Not surprisingly, we chose Easter Sunday one year later as the launch date for our new church. A hundred and eighty-two people responded to our invitations to come to a new beginning that Easter, and found New Hope, in more ways than one.

Looking back, more than a new church began that Easter. For me, it was the beginning of a firsthand understanding that new churches reach new people in ways that existing churches don’t. We were meeting in schools and homes, and baptizing in swimming pools, and making disciples of people who hadn’t been to church in years. It was the most challenging and most rewarding church experience of my life. And it convinced me forever that church planting is essential to go where lost people live, and to reach people that are “lost in the cracks” between existing churches.

New Hope had only been around a couple of years when the North American Mission Board called and asked if I would bring my communications and management background to help start hundreds of new churches each year. I’m not sure I can think of anything else the Lord could have used to lead me away from that new church, but that did it. We moved our family to Georgia, and spent almost a decade encouraging others to live a life that’s on mission, and to start new churches.

And now here we are in Illinois, and it’s just after Easter, again. There are 10 counties in Illinois that still have no Southern Baptist church, and another 12 that have only one. There are at least 200 places in Illinois that need a new church now—most of them in communities where there’s no evangelical church of any kind.

Easter is still about new beginnings, and in many ways the most-needed new beginnings in our state are the planting of new churches that will reach new people, and bring them new hope. I’m praying that there are still clusters of families out there, willing to start praying after this Easter, about what might be possible by next Easter.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Going public

Lisa Misner —  April 16, 2018

Hundreds across Illinois take the baptism plunge on One GRAND Sunday

Net Church Staunton Group


Eleven people at NET Community Church in Staunton joined hundreds more that were baptized across the state on One GRAND Sunday April 8.

On Sunday, April 8, volunteers at NET Community Church carried a livestock feeding trough into the high school gymnasium where the church meets. The trough had a lofty purpose—11 people were baptized during the morning worship service. They wore shirts with the words “going public.”

“Their life stories were all very different, but their life conversion was the same,” said Pastor Derrick Taylor. “It was so exciting to witness each one going public with their new lives in Christ, thus declaring I’m not ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ!”

Across Illinois, hundreds of people were baptized on the day dubbed “One GRAND Sunday.” IBSA’s Pat Pajak first shared the goal of 1,000
baptisms in one day last fall. As word came in of baptisms around the state, Pajak celebrated the 321 reported so far, and the renewed excitement about evangelism that seemed to characterize the day.

“The real purpose of One GRAND Sunday was to remind churches that our responsibility and privilege is to have gospel conversations outside the walls of the church,” said Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism. The day “was a reason to reignite our passion for the Great Commission and rejoice in both salvations and baptisms, which some of our churches had not seen for many years.”

Read a few of the many stories from a day focused on baptism, and on “going public” with faith in Jesus.

‘I’m serious about this’
Brittany Miller grew up going to church, but when she went away to college, it never became a priority, she says. Over the past year, she felt a pull to go back. When a co-worker told her about his new church, NET Community in Staunton, Brittany decided to check it out.

“The pastors were so, so dedicated and just really believed in what they were preaching,” she says. “And I liked how it was just taken right from the Bible.”

There was a disconnect, though. Everyone kept talking about salvation, an unfamiliar concept for Brittany.

Net Community Brittany Miller

Brittany Miller was baptized by her pastor, Derrick Taylor, on One GRAND Sunday.

“I kind of just kept it all to myself,” she remembers. “I didn’t want to ask too many questions, because I didn’t want anybody to think I was a non-believer. Because I believed.” A personal relationship with God, though, was something she didn’t have—yet.

At a small group Bible study one evening, Brittany got up the courage to ask her questions. The group’s leader, Nancy Taylor, pulled in associate pastor David Baker, and together, they walked Brittany through what it means to have saving faith in Christ.

“After hearing what salvation was, I knew that that was what I wanted,” she says. “I wanted that relationship with God; I wanted to deepen my knowledge of him. I wanted him to live through me.”

There was one hang-up, however. “I was so worried that I couldn’t do this because I was going to let God down. And I didn’t want to do that,” she says. “It took a while for the pastor to assure me that that is not how this works.”

After two hours of talking, she prayed to receive Christ. “It all makes sense now,” she says. “It was God pulling me, little by little, to that moment.”

Over the next days and weeks, Brittany started telling family and friends what had happened to her. They were supportive in some cases, and skeptical in others. In some cases, the news didn’t go over as well as she had hoped. Brittany says she’s leaning on her church family to deal with the relational difficulty. She also downloaded a Bible app on her phone, so encouragement is always nearby.

Her baptism April 8 was a way to publicly give God the glory for her faith, and a testimony to the people in her life, she says.

“I need to do this so these people know I’m serious about this.”

All in the family
Willow Krumwiede decided to be baptized so she could share her decision to follow Christ with her church family, among others. Her public profession of faith April 8 also had a profound impact on her dad.

Willow’s father, Tim, came to Grace Fellowship Church in Amboy on that Sunday morning to support his daughter. The church planned baptisms for the end of their first worship service, Pastor Brian McWethy explained, so Tim sat through the entire service that day. Unbeknownst to him, Willow, her fiancé Andrew, and their pastor were actively praying for his salvation.

Throughout the sermon on biblical baptism where McWethy explained why each person must choose to be baptized for themselves, Willow’s father faced his own life decisions. McWethy said he could see the Holy Spirit was at work in Tim’s life during that sermon.

Grace Fellowship Amboy

Willow Krumwiede’s baptism at Grace Fellowship Church in Amboy compelled her dad, Tim, to profess his faith in Christ and be baptized.

As the band played an invitation of “O Come to the Altar”, Willow’s father stood up. He stepped forward and grabbed McWethy by the arms, saying, “I just surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.” McWethy was thrilled at the news. Before he could say much, Tim also said that he was ready to be baptized. Today.

So, a few minutes later, Tim followed his daughter into the baptismal trough. After everyone celebrated with them, McWethy asked Willow, “Did you have any idea this would happen?” Incredulous, she smiled and replied, “No.”

The pastor gives all glory to God. “There is power in his word. There is power in the gospel.” One GRAND Sunday’s emphasis on baptism helped him and his church to focus not only on baptizing, but also evangelism, McWethy said.

“If I’m gonna baptize somebody, they’ve got to get saved.” McWethy has found a renewed focus in sharing Christ daily because he was given the charge to renew his commitment to baptizing believers. “If it did nothing else, it got our minds thinking about the lost.”

‘One happy Grandma’
McKenzie Boston and Kaitlyn Warren are 15-year-old cousins whose “carefree” lifestyle completely changed when McKenzie’s mother suddenly passed away February 8.

McKenzie and Kaitlyn were brought up rarely going to church despite their mothers’ Christian upbringing. But during their visits with their grandparents, John and Carol Warren, the church-going became more frequent.

“I had a burden for all my children and grandchildren,” Carol said. “But I had especially been praying for my daughters and granddaughters.”

Carol wasn’t satisfied with just praying, however, and put her prayer into action. She wanted her children and grandchildren to know where her faith stood. “Every time they visited, I would take them to church.” Carol’s influence paid off and her daughters began attending Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville—the church where they had both been baptized.

Emmanuel Carlinville

Pastor Cliff Woodman of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville baptizes McKenzie Boston.

The death of McKenzie’s mom came as a shock to the family. The young cousins started thinking more seriously about their own faith and what happens after life on earth. Kaitlyn’s mom, Cheryl, began talking to both girls about Jesus and the salvation he offered from ultimate death.

“The girls were ready by this time to have a relationship with Christ,” Carol said. She laughed, “But they wanted to wait for their grandmother to talk to them.”

On Friday, April 6, Carol talked through the Romans Road with her granddaughters and prayed with them as they received Christ. “It was such an answer to prayer!” she said. “And such a relief for me to know the hope of their salvation.” After talking to their pastor, Cliff Woodman, they prepared to publicly proclaim their salvation to the church on April 8—One GRAND Sunday.

“It was a very emotional time for us all,” Carol said. “But perhaps most especially for me.”

Carol had led her own daughters to the Lord years earlier and had seen the two of them get baptized. Now, she was watching her own granddaughters, whom she had also led to Christ, get baptized in the same church.

“It was very special for me,” Carol said. “I’m just one happy grandma!”

-IB Team Report

Rocking chair

A BIG REST – The world’s largest rocking chair beckons the weary in Casey, Ill., and beyond.

A USA Today article confirmed what I’ve been thinking: I’m tired. I’m tired of bad news, the 24-hour news cycle, shootings, Congress, Tweets, screens, talking heads, arguments, and politics. I’m tired of zealots, protests, terrorists, bombings, and assassinations. I’m tired of hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards with names, missile testing, election meddling, special investigations, and dictators. And it turns out I’m not alone. We’re all exhausted, according to that Jim Beckerman article, and it’s not getting any better.

Doctors report we’re losing sleep, gaining weight, and suffering anxiety in greater numbers. We toss and turn and fret and work up a sweat. “There is a sense of danger,” one therapist said, “that we’re living in very dangerous times.” And no one is predicting relief anytime soon. Which makes these words all the more important:

Come unto me.

If any period in biblical times seems to mirror our own, it’s the first century, especially in Israel. A massive empire is in charge, a foreign power ruling from a distance, but the Pax Romana seems a farce. The peace of Rome? What peace? Troops march in the streets of all the major cities to keep a lid on the boiling pot. And in Jerusalem, the local government is threatened by activists plotting political and religious takeover. Thinkers are searching for solutions, and regular people want deliverance. Not even their religion offers relief. If anything, it only adds to the weight they carry, piling rules upon rules, and making daily life harder.

In this environment, Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden.” That is an address to an ample and ready audience. What he says next is especially nervy: “I will give you rest.”

The text in Matthew 11 is familiar and beloved. The rest Jesus offers is from the burden of religion. The Ten Commandments weren’t enough; the Jewish teachers had mounted up 613 rules for daily living that still couldn’t keep adherents in right relationship with God. The yoke Jesus offers is his own teaching, by comparison easy, like well-fitting shoulder gear, and lightweight.

But it’s not only a new teaching the itinerant rabbi offers. Jesus gives himself as a living example.

“Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.”

In The Message, Eugene Peterson phrases it this way: “Are you tired? Worn out?…Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus offers a promise especially suited to our tiresome times.

In times like these, we need especially to keep company with Jesus. The answer for our trying times is not to add more strident voices to the cacophony, but to follow the example of Jesus, who, by his definition, is gentle and lowly. When we spend time with Jesus, learn more of Jesus, and live like Jesus, we find real rest.

As the writer of Hebrews points out, we’ve been seeking rest since God’s people fled Egypt.

“For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people…Let us then make every effort to enter that rest…” (Heb. 4:8-9, 11 CSB).

For believers, there is rest in eternity, but in the spirit of “abundant life,” there is rest now as well. The key, I think, is “keeping company.”

This scene in Matthew isn’t the only time Jesus invited his followers to escape the fray. “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest awhile,” Mark recorded as Jesus’ response to a frantic season of ministry (Mark 6:31). His disciples were so busy tending and teaching that they didn’t have time to eat. Jesus, the rest-giver, declared a Sabbath.

Sounds good to me.

On a country road outside the small town where my mother grew up is a white wooden church on the flat top of a rise. It’s called Pilgrim’s Rest. Halfway to the next largest town, it seems a good place to pull the wagon off the road and give the horse a drink, before attempting the second half of the journey. Here, pilgrims rested. And a few learned to live there permanently.

Perhaps that’s what we need in these tiring times: to pull off the road, camp out with Jesus, and rest awhile.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.