Sunday, September 25, 2016

No Rest Know Rest

No Rest Know Rest
September 26, 2016
Matthew 11:28  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

A guilty conscience is a terrible thing; it will keep you from any rest.  It won't just keep you up at night, it will emotionally drain you, destroying you from the inside out like a cancer.  Trying to rid yourself of guilt can be tricky, causing you to run your life in such a way to make up for your sins.  The problem is, they will never go away, that guilt will never be lifted.  It will make you feel like you are trying to keep your head above deep water yet with cement tied to your waist, a futile endeavor just leaving you exhausted and ultimately drowned by the thing you were trying to escape.  The Lord says we should come to Him, those who are tired and heavy laden, and He will give us rest.  This rest, though, it is specific to guilt, forgiveness, a sense of righteousness, and freedom from past discipline.  It has nothing to do with the physical relief of your daily tasks.  Examine this with me.

People like to quote Scripture and say the Lord desires to give us rest from our burdens.  It says so in clear to understand words, "Come to be all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  True, it does say so, but it is specific to burdens of guilt without forgiveness, and the freedom from discipline if you've repented and turned to righteousness.  Re-read the entire chapter of Matthew 11, where this verse is tucked.  It starts out talking about John the Baptist foretelling of Jesus as the Messiah.  A Messiah is someone who delivers His people from something.  That something that Jesus came to deliver us from was our sins.  The book of Matthew was written to Jews who were familiar with the daily rituals of the Old Testament, rituals and sacrifices that were burdensome for removing your sins.  You couldn't just ask and receive forgiveness.  Jesus was declared to be that Messiah in Matthew chapter 11, right before He promised rest.  He was promising rest from guilt, rest from the burdens of daily sacrifices, rest from trying to make amends for your sin.

Further this study on Matthew chapter 11 and you'll find that it contains fulfillment of prophecy.  Some believe it references words spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, who talked about a deliverer (a Messiah) in a dream he had.  Read chapter 31 of Jeremiah and it will show imagery of people who are physically ready for a break.  At first glance this looks like the words of Jesus are to truly give us a break from our busy, over-worked lives.  However, if you look closely at all of Jeremiah 31, you'll find that the Israelites did in fact need physical rest from their busy lives, but for reason.  The Israelites that needed rest were physically exhausted from living in the discipline of the Lord's wrath for their behavior.  They had been unrepentant and the Lord scattered them and made their lives hard.  Their lives weren't over-stressed because they were trying to build a bigger house or make more money, they were actually being punished for their sins.  Their sins resulted in a difficult life, a physical situation the Lord allowed to get their attention.  The Messiah was there to deliver them and give them rest from that discipline.

The Jews in the Old and New Testament needed rest from the daily burden of making sacrifices for their sins.  The unrepentant needed rest from the physical discipline their life choices warranted.  Both scenarios put a burden on the shoulders of man that will make him weary.  You are weary, too, I know.  This gives you an option to evaluate your weariness and what it is making you tired.  Are you pursuing a life of living for yourself, striving after whatever you want?  This is actually a sin and will make you weary.  Are you unrepentant in life and does your life seem extra hard, harder than most other people's lives?  Maybe the Lord is trying to get your attention to repent of your sin.  Are you trying to rid yourself of quilt, running yourself to the bone to make amends for sins through sacrifices or good works?  The Lord desires to give you forgiveness so you might find rest.  In fact, read the last words of Matthew 11:29 where Jesus says, "learn from me."  He actually wants to teach you how to avoid being weary in the first place.  He wants to lift that burned on your life, the correct burden of what your sins do to you, which will ultimately free you.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Jeremiah 31, Matthew 11

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Don't Pray for Them

Don't Pray for Them
September 19, 2016
James 2:12  "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. . ."

If you were to take the stand in a court of law, you would be required to tell the truth under perjury of law, risking the consequences. If you did not tell the truth, you would be committing a crime.  To perjure yourself is to knowingly mislead others in the truth or mislead others with your words in opposition to your actions.  Most of us would not dare to do so in a court of law, the fines and sentences would not be worth the risk.  Yet Christians perjure themselves every day in front of the Lord.  The Bible asks who you say God is in your life.  If you respond that He is Lord of your life, then you better make sure the testimony of your actions parallels with the testimony of your words.  If your actions do not line up, then you are just giving lip service.  I often wonder how much lip service I give on any particular day.  I often wonder how much lip service other Christians have given in front of me over the years.

Specifically, lets examine when someone is in need.  If you learn of a need, a fellow Christian who lacks or is in a predicament, do you tell you you will pray for them?  Do you actually pray for them, a real truthful and heartfelt and honest prayer?  Count how many times you've said, "I'll be praying for you"  This suggests an ongoing state of prayer until the situation has been resolved.  I'm guilty of this.  I've told people I would pray for them, but only given them a positive thought before the Lord, not a heartfelt intimate prayer.  Very rarely do I fully pray through with them.  If you've done this, not fully prayed through with them, you've perjured yourself before your brother, too.

Take this one step further and read what the Bible says about someone else's need.  The Bible says to do something about it and not just wish them to be warm and well fed.  If you are a Christian, you are held to the full extent of Scripture, being ignorant or not.  The Bible says if you declare the God in heaven to be Lord of your life, then you would obey His commands and follow through with His requests.  He has requested you to help those in need, not just pray for them.  If you are aware of someones needs and yet do nothing about it, being fully convinced you are a Christian, then you have perjured yourself in front of God.  Technically, the Bible is calling us liars, should we decide not to help when we are aware of a need.  A court of law would convict us of committing a crime, should we only offer to pray for someone without trying to assist them in their need.  These words are tough and I'm likely to lose readers for declaring these truths about what the Bible says.  We don't want to think we are liars; we want to believe we are just fine in thinking positive thoughts for other people.  Don't bother praying for them if you are not willing to assist them as well.  Don't pray for them if you aren't willing to put some action behind those words.  Don't risk committing perjury before the Lord. 

Here is a suggestion.  The next time you are aware of a need, of a prayer request, pray a heartfelt and honest prayer.  Then tell the individual you will be helping them out.  Don't ask them if you can help; tell them you will be helping.  Warn them if they don't give you direction regarding how you can help, then you'll simply be doing what the Lord leads you to do.  But you are now required to do something, to put your faith into action.  This requires you to make the next prayer, which is asking the Lord what He'd like you to do, how He'd like you to help.  Ask and then listen, truly listen.  Don't pray for them unless you're also asking the Lord how you can help.  Don't pray for them unless you are going to do something.  Trust me, He'll have something for you to do if you uncover your ears and pull your head out of the sand.  It's time to start acting like a Christian, being convicted of being a Christian, not being convicted of perjury.  It's time to do something.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 14:18-24, James 2:8-24

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Slightly Stubborn

Slightly Stubborn
September 12, 2016
Psalm 81:12  "So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices."

If I asked the question regarding how stubborn you are, I am sure you'd say you are at least slightly stubborn.  We often pride ourselves in being slightly stubborn, for whatever reason.  We think it means we are unwavering, grounded, if we are set in our ways.  Sure, we understand being completely obstinate isn't good but a little stubbornness is healthy, right?  While this is good when it comes to stick-to-itive-ness in finishing a task, being stubborn is never a good quality as referenced in the Bible.  The Lord never lauds anyone who is stubborn.  The Lord is appreciative of those who are unwavering in their faith, but that is the extent of His desire for you to be unwavering.  True, He doesn't want you to be blown and tossed by the wind, being grounded in Biblical teaching and sound doctrine, but He never wants you to be stubborn.  Stubbornness only leads to sin.

I had a response from a woman who challenged me on some Scriptural debate.  I suggested that a prosperity gospel is hard to defend at all times when aligned with ALL of Scripture.  I suggested financial difficulties in life don't always mean an attack of Satan or her inability to reach out and take hold of the financial blessing.  She argued and said she refused to believe the Lord would want anything but to financially prosper her.  While I surly hope the Lord desires to prosper her financially, her position is mistaken.  She wanted to believe what she wanted to believe despite any possible evidence to the contrary.  She had no Biblical basis for her belief but it was what she wanted to believe.  She was being stubborn.  You've been stubborn before, too.  I felt bad for this woman, because her stance would only lead her to place blame incorrectly if she didn't receive the financial prosperity she was believing she deserved.  While her particular stubbornness wasn't and isn't grave worthy, there is nothing good that can come from being stubborn.  She was setting herself up for difficulty.

There are many instances when individuals were stubborn in the Bible.  Being stubborn, as referenced in the Bible, is akin to doing what you want regardless.  This does not impress the Lord, and in fact will only get you into trouble.  The Lord has a propensity for allowing you to be stubborn and letting you go your own determined way.  The example of others in Scripture should be a warning to us.  Too many times the Lord removed His hand and allowed His children to go down their own path on their own understanding.  In Psalm 81, He said He allowed them to follow their own devices because of their stubbornness.  This means He allowed them to think what they wanted to think and fully suffer the consequences of their thinking and their actions.  I don't know about you, but I don't think I ever want to fully suffer the consequences of my poor decisions.  I'm always hoping there is grace and mercy there to rescue me when I make a mistake.  But when the Lord said He was turning them over to their own devices He was saying He was removing all grace and mercy for them.

Whether you acknowledge it or not, you experience the Lord's grace and mercy on a daily basis and will continue to reap these benefits as long as the Lord doesn't get too frustrated with your stubbornness.  As mentioned before, being stubborn is not a good thing.  You want to be known as humble, and meek, and compassionate, and forgiving, but never stubborn.  If you are slightly stubborn, I suggest you have something to work on.  The woman who argued her stance on refusing to believe the Lord wanted ONLY to prosper her financially was setting herself up for failure.  She was sincere in her belief but she was sincerely wrong in what she believed.  I'm only using her as an example because there are some things you and I are sincerely wrong about and being stubborn in those areas are not a benefit to anyone.  This is your opportunity to ask the Lord where it is you are being stubborn, where you need to submit.  Submitting your stubbornness will feel like defeat, but it will be your greatest success.  Submitting your stubbornness will ensure you continually receive the Lord's grace and mercy in your life.  As you read this, I believe the Holy Spirit is prompting your heart in areas of your stubbornness.  It's time to submit those areas to Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 81, Pr 14:12, Pr 16:25, Jer 7:24, Jer 11:8, Mk 3:4-6

Sunday, September 4, 2016

God's Protection

God's Protection
September 5, 2016
Psalm 91:4  "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge. . ."

The Lord is mighty and powerful, able to fight off any and every enemy.  And He is more than willing to fight off those enemies for His children.  Notice I said for His children, though.  He doesn't offer His protection to just anyone; He offers it to His children.  This would suggest you must first be His child.  If you are reading this, then there is little doubt you know about the Lord's existence and there is little doubt you are aware of how big and powerful He can be in your life.  Again, you must be His child if you want His protection, though.  There is more though, than just being His child.  The Bible is very clear you have to reside and abide in His house and living your life as His child.  This does not mean you must be within the four walls of the church at all times, but abiding in His will for your life, His path, following His recommended boundaries, and not walking in the way of sin.

Scripture says He will cover you with His wings and He will be like a shield for you, protecting you from the enemy.  The imagery is of a large bird with its offspring seeking refuge under its wings.  While a bird's feathers don't seem like a formidable refuge you must understand the full imagery of the metaphor by reading the verse of Scripture right before it.  The Bible says He will protect you from the fowler's snare.  A fowler is a professional bird hunter, who sets traps, specific to each bird he wishes to capture/kill.  If a bird is away from the nest, away from the covering of the wings, the bird is at risk of falling victim to one of these traps.  The enemy of your life has set traps for you.  They are in place right now as you read this.  The traps have your name on them, intended for you alone by the fowler.  The Lord is more than willing and able to keep you from these traps, but you have to do something first.  You must seek refuge under His wings, the Lord's wings, abiding in His house.  A bird is more than capable of leaving the parent's protection and only gets the benefit of the protection if it is under those wings.  Leave the nest, subject yourself to the deadly snare of the fowler.

The verse right before the description of the the winged covering also talks about protection from pestilence.  A smaller bird is at risk of being plucked out of the nest by anything larger than itself in the food chain.  A small bird is unable to defend itself.  Left without a covering of protection, the small bird is at risk of being carried off with the intention of being dinner.  But under the protection of the wings, the small bird gets the benefit of the parent's fighting skills.  Try to pluck a small bird out of the nest while being covered and you must first get through the covering.  The protector is not willing to lose anyone under its wings and will fight to the death anything that comes against it.  The Lord is this covering for you, but again, you must seek shelter under those wings, abiding in His house.  Like a bird that is able to leave the protection, it subjects itself to the terrors of whatever is hunting it.  Specifically, it is nice to sleep well with a covering.  There are large birds of prey that hunt in the darkness of night.  If it sees a small bird without a covering it will swoop it.  You want that covering in order to find that rest.

If you read the very first verse of this entire passage of Scripture, the Bible says, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will have rest....."  This is the verse before protecting you from the fowler, before protecting you from something wanting to pluck you away at night.  It says you MUST dwell in the shelter of the Most High in order to receive the intended benefits.  It doesn't say you should just say a simple prayer or go to church once a week, or even tithe in order to get protection.  It says you must dwell there, have a lifestyle of following the Lord every moment of the day.  He is more than willing to give you protection, but you must live, at all times, as His child, staying in His will and on His path for your life, staying away from sin.  His protection is there; all you have to do is enter into it.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 9, Ps 91, Is 55:6, Ja 4:8