The Yoke

Psalm 52 explains that we who trust in God’s unfailing love are like olive trees thriving in the house of God.  Our trust is a forever trust. It does not have limitations of time and space, because God’s love never fails. It lasts forever.

To grasp a sense of the everlasting love of God, close your mind off for a few minutes and rest in the perfect communication of the Spirit of God into your spirit. Psalm 46:10 says to be still and know that He is God. His love cannot be measured because it has no beginning and no end. It has always existed. It will always exist. Apart from Earth and the universe and any man, woman, child;  God is Love, and His love cannot change or stop.  That He should pour His love into us and through us and send Jesus to die to place us back into the center of His love from which we had turned away is proof of His love.

Psalm 52 also discusses the turmoil on earth. There are mighty warriors who do not trust God. They do not accept that He could be right in His love and they want to keep control of their own lives. A mighty warrior is anyone who spends his life working to keep a grip on his life. Such warriors may appear small and mousy but fight fiercely in the spirit. God says these people will trust in their wealth and grow more and more bold to do whatever it takes to survive apart from God’s love. Their efforts result in great hurt to other people and themselves. The truth is, God loves them anyway. Surrendering to the Lord of love removes all the shades of wickedness and terror from their lives.

Psalm 53 says terror will grip the ones who do wickedness. Those who return God’s love will put them to shame.  I Timothy 1:5 – 2:1 instructs us in being right with God. To be filled with right love, we will have a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith. Each of these things is a free gift we receive from God through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For God so lived the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Everlasting life means living in the eternal presence of God’s unfailing love. We die to sin and wrong and live to God.

Is your conscience defiled and you feel you do not know God’s love?  I Timothy 1:19 says that people who deliberately violate their consciences SHIPWRECK THEIR FAITH. We are all given faith to believe God and the choice to do so. Doing what we know is wrong –  and it is built in to us that we should know – sends our faith to the bottom of the ocean. The good news is that Jesus Christ resurrects us from the shipwreck and restores us completely.

God knows that our only way to have a glorious life is to be who we are created to be – His children, living in His unfailing love. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (John 11:28-30, NLT)

The yoke is like a training yoke where an adult oxen is hitched to an immature oxen to train it to pull the plow. The adult takes the greater share of the burden while the child walks alongside learning its way. Yokes are made specifically to fit the oxen who wear them so there is no chafing or pain to their necks.

Picture yourself in a yoke with Jesus. You are walking side by side, and his arm is around your shoulders keeping you safe and upright. You do not have to worry about anything because you accept his yoke and he accepts your burden.  While you walk together, he talks with you about everything you need to know and do. When you pray, you are asking him for things that you are absolutely certain he will do because you are always yoked together and you know him intimately. You aren’t going to ask him for silly or irrelevant or wrong things. He makes sense to you, and you are sensible and in agreement with him. If you are not, you feel the yoke pull on you, and step right back into agreement.

Now, some may say that being tied to God is to live with rules and regulations you do not want in your life.  I Timothy 1 says that the rules are not made for people who do right, that is, what God knows is right and keeps us walking in His love. The rules are made for people who rebel against God and do what is evil in His sight.

Therefore, walk with Jesus and see with his eyes the direction you should go. He took the weight of the rules and judgment when he died on the cross for you. In him, your burden is light. I Timothy 2:1 – Pray for God’s mercy, then, on other people, and give thanks.  This is the way of the Lord, and it is not difficult; he makes the way.

God bless you.

 

 

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The Cry of Your Heart

Is there trouble in your life? Are you seeking God’s mind on the matter, or are you just fighting your way through the experience?

Present day culture is so raddled with evil and desperation, it can be very difficult to choose to go to God for answers to a problem.  The problem and its impossibility of a good outcome focus our attention on the problem. God wants our attention focused on Him. We don’t think He is going to do anything right away, so we don’t want to look at him.

Consider a small child who has accidentally spilled water on the carpet. Over and over, the child has been told not to carry food or liquids across the carpet. The child doesn’t see why that applies to water because water dries clear. So he fills his little cup and focuses on walking carefully across the carpet. Suddenly the water spills.  It just happens. He wonders if the water will dry up before his mom sees it. What he doesn’t know is that the water has seeped through to the floor underneath and will cause harm to the floor.

Often we have a problem because we do something but don’t know all the facts of a matter and can’t predict the end result if we run into difficulties. We assume we can get by and things will work out even if we spill the water. Remember that God knows all end results and has put boundaries in place to help us avoid the ripple effect of a problem.

Okay, so water has been spilled and dried up without anyone being the wiser – we think. Then six months down the road, there is a creak in the floorboard under the carpet where we spilled the water. We take a look at the spot and see it isn’t real bad and shrug it off. We didn’t realize that all the while that board was moist, fleas got in there and made a nest. Next summer, when the weather becomes hot, those fleas come up through the now rotted board and right up through the carpet and start causing a very big problem. Everyone who walks through the room is affected and not just ourselves.

We spend all our time for days and weeks trying to get rid of the million tiny problems that are a result of one spill of water. We can’t eliminate the fleas; they reproduce too fast, and we become sick from the bites they lavish on us.

Finally, we cry out to the Lord in extreme agony. He hears. He knows. He takes us step by step through the process of redemption as many times as we need to get free. Because we are sick from a million bites, He heals us and removes that torment so we can focus on Him again. Then He reminds us that when we know what to do and don’t do it, it is sin. He leads us to repentance. He washes us clean. He shows us how to replace the rotten floor and seals the cracks. He sets us upright on our feet and puts a light in front of us so we can’t miss the way again. God hears your cry and heals your heart. Always. He never fails.

Now stop carrying water across the carpet.

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Worshiping God Together

Nehemiah 8:10 “This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

May I recommend that you read the entire book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament of the Bible, and especially chew on chapter 8. The context of the verse quoted above is instructive! The people of Israel had been hearing the Law of God read aloud to them and a group of them called the Levites also explained what they were hearing. These people had been reunited in Jerusalem and the surrounding area after long years of captivity away and were only re-discovering God’s Word. They were astounded and awed. His Word resonated in their hearts and minds and later in the book you will read that they vowed to follow the law and be blessed by God.

Chapter 8 gives us a nice pattern for meeting together to meet with God and give Him our complete attention.  There are five specific steps included, whcih we can easily follow in our church meetings today. The guidelines are simple! God always makes things simple to understand, even how we can have unity and worship Him!

1. A time of praise. The people stood, with their hands lifted, offering praise to God. The book doesn’t say that they sang, but as singers were an integral segment of Temple staff, singing and music could certainly be included.

2. There was a time of worship. The people bowed low to the ground and offered their complete selves to God in worship. There was no lolling around in easy chairs presuming equality living room time with God for this kind of serious worship. Purposeful reverence required involvement of body, mind and spirit all reverently bowed before the Lord their God.  More than likely, the people were also dressed in their very best garments. God deserves our first and best of everything.

3. Next came a time of preaching. The Levites, God’s appointed priests to the people explained the Word of God.

4. Following the preaching came a time of repenting. The Word of God entered into the hearts of the people and revealed what they needed to do to be right with God and they did this immediately.

5. Finally, a time of celebration. The people were told to feast and share what they had with people who did not have anything prepared. This precedent deserves much meditation by all believers!  Today, as Christ commanded we remember Him,  we would most certainly include the Lord’s supper, or communion following the time of repentance. Many millions of people in the world come to communion unprepared. They do not understand any of the Lord’s commandments regarding the bread and the cup, and so they take it unworthily, thus sinning against the Lord.  All you who do know what the Lord has said and follow Him in truth have the right and the obligation to prepare others.  Recommended reading further on this:

I John 5:13-21, 2 John

Being prepared to celebrate Christ and being forgiven of sin means that you must know and receive the truth that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, that he came to earth to die for the sins of all, and that he rose from the dead.  Review the pattern given to us in Nehemiah, practice it for yourself, and you will find that the Lord will raise you up to bring others in!

God bless you with His mighty joy as you worship God today.

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Priority of the Heart

Do you have trouble prioritizing? Do you feel that you are going in circles without a door to get out and move forward? The book of Proverbs offers you direct instruction from God how to stay on the path that will get you somewhere.

Proverbs chapter 4, verse 23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.”

That is very clear, isn’t it? First things first: guard your heart. Everything else you do is going to be affected by what is in your heart.

How do you guard your heart? Obviously, we can do this, or God would not have told us to do it.  Here are some tips:

1. Give your heart to Jesus, God the Son, for safe keeping. He died for you, to pay the price for your sin and give you eternal life, and He rose from being dead to prove that death is defeated. He is with God the Father now, praying for you. Who is better to keep your heart safe?

2. Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart, and don’t try to figure everything out. See Proverbs 3:5  When you are constantly analyzing your thoughts and emotions, and other people’s thoughts and emotions looking for what they mean, you will only get snarled up and confused.  Apart from the Lord, emotions reflect only circumstances, and circumstances change constantly. God never changes. His ways are consistent with everything He says.

3. Let your heart be open to new input from the Word of God and learn to hear His voice this way. When you read scripture, listen with all your heart to what the Lord is saying. Our minds can be closed to new insights because we have been taught certain things, but God wants us to hear Him with our spirits. The way to do this is to keep an open heart. Then ask God to apply what you hear to your mind and your daily life.

4. To guard your heart from evil influence, regularly put on the whole armor of God. See Ephesians 6:10-18

Now, you are walking in the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23 and guarding your heart as best you know how. Now rest in the truth that your Lord and your God takes full responsibility for every step you take today  as you have placed yourself in His care. Your priorities are in order!

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OMG and Relationship With God

How do we know we have fellowship with God? When do we know we are okay with him and not off on the sidelines somehere?  When can we be sure and more sure of God’s active power and glory in our lives?

Everyone wants a relationship with God. He is real, he is the creator, and he made us in his image so that whether we admit it or not, we want to know him.  You have heard the expression, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  If you will look around you and listen, you will always hear people who never give God any credit saying, “Oh, God!” as the first thing out of their mouths when trouble strikes. Maybe you are one of those people.

Do you flippantly write and text “OMG” all over the place? Do you know that God hears that and takes it with its full meaning, that you are either calling him or blaspheming him? God is real, and he knows even how many hairs are on your head. Think of this: suppose your name is John. Suddenly there is a whole culture of people using your name as an expletive or slang expression. You can hear each one, everytime it happens. Millions of people saying or texting, “Oh My John” millions of times a day. Yet they aren’t paying any attention to YOU, the person they are using to express whatever it is they are expressing. You can’t really help them, and most of the time, it’s meaningless anyway. Yet you keep hearing it and hearing it and hearing it. Do you have a relationship with these people? No.

Now think how God feels. He wants a relationship with everyone. He wants to be a loving Father to each and every person on the planet.  His name comes up continuously, yet he is not given any opportunity to respond.

Praise God, he can also read our hearts, and not just our text messages. He can pour his own Spirit into our hearts and help us and comfort us and draw us into relationship with him.

I John 1:6-7 says that we are lying if we say we have a relationship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. Think of this: anyone who is expressing an opinion and says “OMG” is claiming a relationship with God. Otherwise, how could you say God shares your opinion? Yet God says that when you keep going in spiritual darkness, you are lying about that relationship.

Most people who go on in spiritual darkness do so because they think God will make them stop doing some of the things they like to do. Well, that is true. However, God also shows you a better way, and then those things you thought were so important no longer matter.

Doing things that hurt your body, or hurt other people, or are just plain immoral or selfish (and don’t say it’s relative, because in your heart you know better) are things that keep you in spiritual darkness. Your Father God wants to deliver you from darkness and give you a path of light to walk in. God never lies, so you can always have fellowship with him in that manner. I John 1:7, those who are truly lving in the light of God’s presence also have fellowship with each other. Ahhh. So there we find we can have true relationships with other people, too.

How do we get into relationship with God? Through Jesus Christ his Son.

For God SO LOVED THE WORLD that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not die but have everlasting life. By agreeing with God and confessing out loud that you have been walking in darkness and that Jesus came to die for you as a sacrifice for your sin, you enter into a right and perfect relationship with God. You can call on him in truth. He loves you and will always hear you, and when your body wears out and dies, he takes you to heaven to always be with him.

Jesus says, “I AM the way, the truth and the life . . . . no one comes to the Father by through Me.”

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Grief and God

Every person experiences  separation from a loved one by circumstances, trouble, or death. It is going to happen to you if it hasn’t happened. When the pain of loss strikes, we react. It is what we do, and we cannot avoid the trauma of grief.

Grieving can be constructive or destructive. The first time it happens, most of us don’t fully understand how we are being affected. We say and do things we would not normally do, and we are unaware of the difference. At some later date, we look back and realize we were not in touch with the real world during that initial time of grief. If we have stuffed our pain deep inside somewhere to keep up appearances as normal, we are only fooling ourselves.  It will not go away by itself.

The purpose of pain is not from God. It is a result of sin in the world, and because we are born into the corrupt world, we cannot avoid grief and pain.

However, God certainly can use our trouble to our advantage. First of all, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be the sacrifice to pay for the sin debt loaded upon us. Sin leads to death, always, but by accepting Jesus as the One who paid that debt for us, we are totally saved from paying ourselves, and we go to be with God when we die instead of being eternally separated from him. Sin separates us from God, so God uses pain and trouble and grief to show us the results of sin and bring us to himself and save us.

God never wastes anything.

When grieving goes on and on, we become radically different from the persons we were before the loss that causes the grief. There are times when grief has become a habit and a comfort zone. We can’t move forward until we are willing to risk letting go of the grief. Sometimes grief paralyzes us; we go on as usual, but numb in our souls, and eventually, months or years later,  it has to come out. Many undiagnosed illnesses are probably a result of grief paralysis. These are examples of what may happen, but for sure, a grieving person’s character changes over time.

We can choose to let God make changes. People say “time heals” but that isn’t actually true. It is God who heals. As we pass through our life, we learn and grow and do new things, and God uses these new experinces to help us heal up.  He brings out his purpose of conforming us to Christ when we let him handle our grief instead of stowing it away as a personal possession or tyring to ignore it.

God is in the resurrection business. In John chapter 11, you can read the account of Lazarus’ death and how Jesus came to his tomb and raised him from the dead. Jesus did not come when first called when Lazarus was sick, so Lazarus died. Jesus remained away because he had a reason – to raise Lazarus from death and everyone saw God’s glory. In the time between the death and Jesus’ arrival, Lazarus’ sister Mary got herself in to a state and railed at Jesus when he did get there: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died!” Jesus did not get angry with her for that. He groaned in spirit and wept with her. Then he set about changing the situation. In this case, he called Lazarus back to life. In your case, if you have been grieving too long and cannot get out, he will restore you to life.

So much more could be said about how God handles grief. The only thing we need to remember , though, is to give it to him to handle! Man’s methods are partial and destructive, while God’s methods are always complete and constructive. Here is a prayer to get you started, please say it out loud:

Father, I ask you to take this burden of suffering I have been carrying. It belongs to you now and I never want to carry it again. If I try to pick it up again, please remind me that it is yours, not mine. I understand that Jesus paid for all that I carry on the cross and that is why it is yours and not mine. I ask for your peace that passes all understanding now to be rooted and grounded in me. Thank you for your love and compassion and mercy. In Jesus’ Name.

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Shout With Joy!

For anyone who attended a Sunday School as a child,  you probably memorized Psalm 100:1-2; “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.”  Your teacher explained that this meant worshiping God singing out loud cheerfully. Then you went upstairs out of your damp basement classroom and whispered to each other during the church service about so-and-so singing off key, and was that “making a joyful noise,” then giggle, giggle, giggle. Somebody glared at you for making noise in church, so you became quiet. Now you were wondering how anyone could make a joyful noise to worship God when you had to be quiet in church!

Another word for “serve” in verse 2 of the Psalm is “worship.” When we worship Almighty God, we are serving him. This is not to be a secret.  Verse 3 says “Know ye that the LORD, he is God, ” which means everyone knows that God is your LORD, because you aren’t quiet about it. You acknowledge him with your glad worship.

When you are glad, do you keep quiet about it? Doesn’t even your face show that you are full of joy and gladness? Your personal joy in the LORD is a very, very important component in leading others to know him, too. They will not be afraid to come to a God who so obviously makes people glad.

The rest of Psalm 100 gives reasons why we are so joyful in our worship:  1) God made us, and we didn’t make ourselves. 2) We are his people and the sheep of his pasture, i.e., he takes responsibility for us in every way. 3) God is good. 4) God’s mercy and truth last forever.

As you meet with God alone this morning, or go with others to praise and worship him, enter in to worship with thanking the LORD your God for everything, and praise him, blessing his name.  Let the joy of the LORD shine in your voice and on your face, and you will see the glory of the LORD rise upon you.

Don’t “feel” glad, or don’t “feel” in the mood for praise and worship to God? Well, read Psalm 100 for yourself and you will realize that if you just do these things from obedience, whether you feel it or not, you will be serving the living God in the way he wants you to. And he will honor your gift to him by bringing your emotions in line with your spirit. God bless you today as you worship him.

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