Sunday, April 20, 2014

Be Resurrected!

Mary held up her had to shield herself from the brilliant light. Two men stood before her and the other women. They looked dazzling, like God Himself had snapped his fingers and graced them with a cloak of Heavenly beauty.

What do we do now? Mary and the other women had risen before dawn to take the spices they had prepared the night before to the tomb where Jesus' body lay. However, when they arrived, all that awaited them were two unconscious Roman soldiers, a large stone casually rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, and instead of a body, an empty tomb and burial clothes!

The man on the right was slightly taller. He briefly studied them and spoke. "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

At their blank expressions, the man on the left smiled and said, "He is not here...but has risen!

"That's right," spoke up the first man. "Don't you remember how he told you the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men? They would crucify Him, but on the third day He would rise again!"

A cool, yet warming breeze stirred the leaves, distracting them for just a moment. The tingling chill gave her goosebumps and a rush of excitement through her body. Mary swung her gaze back to the men, a question on the tip of her tongue, but they were gone, too.

But their words echoed in her head, resounding in her heart.

He is risen!

                                                                                                                          

"You're crazy." Thomas glared at her disapprovingly.

Mary jutted out her chin, her old defiance rearing it's ugly head. "I know what I saw. The tomb was empty! The two men told us he had risen! He's alive."

He dismissed her words with a flick of his wrist. "Did you stop to think that it might have been two men who were part of the plot to steal Jesus' body? You just blindly believe whatever any man tells you, don't you?"

A collective gasp went through the room at the horrid shot at Mary's past. "Ask James' mother and Joanna. They were there, too. Or do you plan to accuse them of sharing in my heinous activities?"

"Mary!" James' reprimand quieted her next comment. She bristled at Thomas' words, but she respected James enough to stop yelling. For now.

"She's right." Everyone looked at Joanna, and Mary breathed a sigh of relieve. "The tomb was empty, and those men, those Heavenly beings, said he was risen."

There was calm and quiet as everyone digested the revelation. Then Peter and John looked at each other, and bolted out the door.

Thomas opened his mouth, doubting words pouring out as he completely ignored the warning look from James. "Prepare yourselves for the likely possibility that his body was stolen." Mary felt like her lungs were being crushed. The invisible weight grew heavier with each word. "I would love nothing more then to see him again, but he's gone. I saw him die. We all saw him die." Thomas' voice caught as he swept his hand around the room. "It's time we sought God's counsel, and figure out what's next."

Slowly Matthew and Bartholomew nodded their agreement. Mary couldn't take it anymore! With a cry, she ran out the door, back to the last place Jesus had been.

The tomb.

                                                                                                                                   

Mary stumbled over a small stone. She got up and started running again, barely noticing the blood on her hands. Her only thought, her only focus was to get back to the tomb. Once in sight, she slowed her pace, the path in front of her becoming a blur of green, brown, and gray. Stopping in front of the tomb, she couldn't bring herself to look inside, in case they were right. What if some fanatics really have stolen his body? She couldn't bear the thought!

Collapsing in front of the tomb, Mary wept. Her fears coming through in gut-wrenching gasps. Her failures and worthlessness tracing their way down her face in hot, burning tears. Her emptiness and confusion squeezing the beat out of her heart.

She didn't know how long she lay in front of Jesus' tomb weeping, but eventually her sobs eased, and she sat up. Looking straight into the tomb, she saw the same two men sitting where Jesus' body had lain.

"Woman, why are you weeping?" The taller man asked with a smile on his face.

"They have taken away my Lord, and I don't know where to find him." Annoyed with the mysterious men, she turned around. A man smiled at her gently. "Woman, why are you weeping?"

Maybe he's the gardener. Which means he might have heard something! He might have seen who took his body! "Sir, if you have carried him away, or if you know who did, please tell me where he is. I will take his body." Mary was begging, but she no longer cared. She would do anything to retrieve his body.

"Mary." Her name rolled off his tongue and caressed her heart. Her eyes were opened. It had healing and life. Hope and joy. It was the greeting of a friend she had thought was lost. It was Jesus. Alive!

Joy bubbled up inside of her and spilled out in a single word. "Rabboni!"

Based on Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-10, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-18.

Today is a very special day. It is the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We know that. We believe that. We celebrate it with candy, special church services, and maybe a honey-glazed ham. We know that today is about Jesus being raised from the dead.

But wait, there's more.

Many moons ago, our souls were raised from the dead. Jesus stormed the throne room of hell, and took us back!

"We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."  Romans 6:4

But are we dead?

When Mary told the disciples what she had seen, and what the men had told her, they didn't believe her. It crushed her. She started doubting herself. Pretty soon, she had given up all her hope.

Jesus didn't take back the keys of our souls for us to voluntarily live in bondage.

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

When you let someone's unbelief beat you into a weakened stake, that's death. When you let fear choke the joy out of you, that's bondage. When you let anger rule your life, that's slavery. Jesus has freed us from all those things.

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36

This Easter, think about Resurrection Sunday in all it's glory. Jesus has saved us from a dead life. However, every time you let one of those doubts into your heart, then you are letting yourself be locked into a living tomb. Jesus conquered so that wouldn't happen.

Let your faith be resurrected! Let your souls be revived. Despite the naysayers around you, look to God, and believe.

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

In all you do, remember to be resurrected in your faith, in your life, in your soul.

Happy Easter and Resurrection Sunday!


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Saturday, April 19, 2014

"His Cup To Bear"

And coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done."
  
Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground. When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation." Luke 22:39-46
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I don't know about you but one of the first things I notice as I read this section of Scripture is ...He went to the Mount of Olives, as was His custom, and His disciples followed Him. When He came to the place... Did you see the words 'as was His custom' and 'when He came to the place?' These words show us that this time with the Father was something that He did often and that this spot in the garden was a regular meeting place for Him to hang with His dad, Almighty God.

When I was a kid, I know that my all time favorite thing in all the world was hanging out with my dad. I have three sisters and three brothers and my parents were also foster parents so time alone with my dad was hard to come by. Actually, I figured out a way. When there was work to be done the others preferred to be off playing while I took advantage of that and it became  my time with him. I became, 'his helper.' I remember when he was building an addition to the house being right there beside him carrying boards and handing him nails. I worked along side him in the garden, raking leaves, and any other projects he had going. I loved those times even though they involved some work because it was time that was filled with laughter and 'talks' that I still remember to this day. I treasure those memories because it was time spent loving and being loved by my dad!

Jesus had that and more with His Father. He reveals His love for the Father every time He speaks of Him. He reveals His confidence in and His knowledge of His Father's love for Him with the words He speaks as well! He never, never, never, NEVER has thoughts of doubt about His love for His Father or His Father's love for Him. NOT EVER!

I say all that because you need to know and understand that turning to the Father was what He did. He was in this place crying out to the Father because what was about to happen was something that was inconceivable to Him. He was having a really hard time with this something; this cup that was about to happen.

It says that once they got there He separated Himself from the disciples and knelt down to pray and the words that He spoke were these, "Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done."  Between being a youth pastor for 34 years, a teacher for 14, and a foster parent for 7, I've heard, "Do I have to?" a million times. Jesus is here in this place doing what He does, turning to the Father, because He knows He needs help to do the thing this cup represents and its something the Father has obviously told Him needs doing. I know that there have been times in my life that my dad has asked me to do something that was outside my comfort zone, and I've gone to him with the attitude of, "I really don't want to ... but if you really need me, OK, fine, I'll do it, I won't like it, but, I'll do it."

These words, ...not my will but Yours, be done." are used so often that I think that we forget that when He spoke them they weren't spoken in some monotone tone of voice so that we would have cool words to quote about surrendering but that they were spoken with all the emotional agony that He was feeling. It says that as soon as they were spoken an angel came from heaven to strengthen Him. His Father knew and understood his suffering. He sent an angel to Him to help so that He would be able to bear the cup that was to come.

Next it says ..."And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground." Being in agony; agony here means struggle, anguish and this is the only time in the NT that this words is used. It says ... being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. He was in agony - He was struggling and it was so great a struggle that He prayed even more earnestly. I keep saying it so that you see He was still looking to the Father for help. He was still talking with His Father. This thing was huge to Him. It says that He even began to sweat drops of blood. According to Wikipedia it is called - Hematidrosis - It can occur when a person is suffering extreme levels of stress. So what was this thing, this cup that was so hard for Him that it caused Him such a struggle, such extreme stress?

I know what I think. You may not agree but I don't think it was the beating, the scourging, the spitting, the punching, the betrayal, the crown of thorns, the struggle He felt as He carried the weight of the cross up the hill, the ridicule, the spikes being pounded through hands and feet, or even the hours hanging on the cross trying to breathe through the pain and agony. I don't even think it was a combination of all those things. As horrible as all that is I think He would be able to endure and face all that. People did. The other two thieves did. I think it was more; or rather a different 'cup' to bear.

I think we see the answer here, in this particular moment found in Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46...And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" I believe that the thing that caused Him such agony; and so much stress that it had Him in the garden crying out to His Father for help was what took place right here in this moment. The word forsaken means to leave behind in some place, to desert, and it comes from a root word that means to leave down, i.e. behind, by impl. to abandon. Personally, I believe this is the moment that Jesus was dreading. This moment when He felt abandoned and deserted and left to bear the weight of all our separation from His Father all by Himself. Remember, Sin separates. This was the real horrific moment, when the sins of the world, our sins were laid on Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) and the He was for the first time, no longer in that place of resting and abiding with the Father. He no longer felt His Father's love. I believe that this was the cup He longed not to have to bear!

If you look at Adam and Eve and their lives after they left the garden; the place they had been abiding with God you get a very real sense of their hardship as that they carried the 'weight' of that separation all the rest of their days. I think that we, as human beings, all too often don't appreciate the price Jesus truly paid on our behalf because we don't fully grasp what He sacrificed in those moments while He was under that weight of our sin, our separation, from the love of His Heavenly Father. After all, don't forget it was His custom to hang with His Heavenly Father, Almighty God and I don't say that because I am in any way belittling what He went through physically; the beating, the scourging, the spitting, the punching, the betrayal, the crown of thorns, the weight of the cross, the ridicule, the spikes through hands and feet, the hours of suffering as He was hanging, the pain, the agony, The Cross. I'm not!  I get what He suffered! I do; I just think that the hard part, the struggle, or rather the cup that He took to His Father in the garden was the harder part. The weight of the spiritual separation from the love of His Father.

"My God. My God. Why have You forsaken Me?" paints the picture of the agony He felt at the moment He felt the loss of His Father's love; It was the moment His Father turned away!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Your Own Accord

Onesimus was so nervous. He was sitting on a rock, with his head in between his knees, trying to ward off the dizzy sensation crowding his vision. It was a warm day, and the breeze should have been soothing to his soul. He wanted to toss his lunch of lentils into the bushes, though.

He was only ten or so minutes from his former, and technically current, master.

Onesimus had tried to ignore the nudging in his spirit to go back to Philemon's household and make things right. He'd tried to tell God that it was unnecessary, that Philemon wouldn't care anymore, and that his place was studying under Paul.

However, God must had given Paul some insight into Onesimus' situation, because Paul started asking him questions. Then, Paul started teaching about forgiveness. Eventually, Onesimus broke, but how do you feign ignorance against the Almighty and His stubborn apostle?

Onesimus sat there for a long time, trying to delay the inevitable. Sooner or later, he would need to face his past. He was done running away. God had called him to so much more then that sorry excuse of a life. He pushed himself off the rock. Onesimus checked the small traveling sack for the most important thing he could have taken on this journey. He bypassed the bread, dried figs, and wine skin filled with water. He sighed in relief when he saw it was still there. He had double checked this sack a hundred times, always fearing it had fallen out somewhere.

However, Paul's letter to Philemon was safe and sound.

                                                                                                                                   

Philemon couldn't believe it. He didn't believe his ears when a servant tending the livestock had come running through the house into the room where the majority of his family and servants were having devotions. He didn't believe his eyes as he watched him finish the remainder of his trek to the side entrance. He didn't believe it when he had stood before the younger man just moments ago. After all this time, there was Onesimus.

Before Philemon's mind could comprehend anything else, Onesimus had shoved a letter to him. Excusing himself, he took the letter into the abandoned devotional room so he could read in private.

He scanned the letter.

What?

The letter started off okay. It was from his dear friend, Paul. Paul had traveled through this city several times, and one day, thank God, they met. Paul had just started teaching in Philemon's home when Onesimus had disappeared.

Philemon shook his head ruefully. He had been a terribly cruel master. He was stubborn, and rough. His bark was just as painful as his bite.

A lot has changed. 

Paul started off thanking him, and singing his praises. Then, Paul switched gears. He explained that Onesimus' path had crossed his, and later on, Onesimus was saved. Apparently, Onesimus had grown in the Lord in leaps and bounds. However, it became clear to the both of them, that the Lord was leading Onesimus to return to Philemon, and make amends. 

Only Onesimus wasn't making amends. Paul was on his behalf.

Philemon reread the letter. "But I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion, but of your own accord."

He clenched his jaw shut. He tended to grind his teeth when he was irritated, and right now he was plenty irritated.

"So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it   to say nothing of your owing me even your own self."

He snorted at the subtle reminder that Paul's obedience to share the gospel had literally saved his life.

"Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say."

Philemon sank onto one of the couches, the letter floating to the floor beside his feet. Running his hand through his salt and pepper locks, he fought a war within his spirit.

I should forgive him...but he did betray me! However, Paul wants me to forgive him, and it would disappoint him if I harbored anger towards Onesimus...but Paul said he wanted this to be my choice...

Philemon left the safety of the room without really knowing what he was going to say to Onesimus. Would he kick him to the sycamore tree at the end of the road? Would he forgive Onesimus, but never really trust him again, holding onto that anger and distrust? Or would he forgive Onesimus, completely, totally, truly?

For once and for all?

The man in question was surrounded, giving hugs, answering questions, and asking questions of his own. Some of his servants saw him though, and within a breath, everyone had parted, leaving a clear path from him to Onesimus.

Onesimus looked terrified, and yet at peace. His nervousness was evident, but there was something in his demeanor that spoke of change.

"In order that your goodness might not be by compulsion, but of your own accord..."

Paul's words floated through his mind once again. He had a choice. A choice to extend love that mirror his Savior's, or to backslide into his old self.

He inhaled deeply. "Onesimus..." All eyes were glued to them, but Philemon didn't care. "Welcome back...my friend!" His voice broke on the last word. He meant it! In the instant, God had given him a love for Onesimus.

One that would forgive betrayals.


Based on the book of Philemon.

Philemon was in a difficult position. A betrayal from his past was made fresh. Onesimus had returned! Philemon was faced with a choice that we have all battled ourselves. How/Can/Do I forgive this person?

We all know this verse, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

And we know this verse, "For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you." John 13:15

We know what we should do.

But do we want to forgive? Is it in our heart? Or do we feel the "Christian compulsion" to forgive?

Paul told Philemon that he didn't want to force him to forgive Onesimus. He wanted him to do it of his own accord. It needed to be his choice. God is telling us the same thing. It is our choice to forgive. It is of our own accord. Otherwise, is it really forgiving?

Forgiveness is an act of love. Pure love that is one of the truest reflections of Jesus Christ. He is love and forgiveness.

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." Luke 6:35

"Then he adds, 'I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.'" Hebrews 10:17

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

It is our choice to love someone like Jesus. It is our choice to forgive with love like Jesus. No one can force you. It's not always easy. It's certainly not fun. God would not give us more then we could bear, and He forgave the world for so much...

Jesus loved by forgiving, and He forgave by loving. You get to choose just how much you will reflect Jesus in your life.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

"According To Your Faith"

When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David, have mercy on us!" And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith let it be to you." And their eyes were opened. Matthew 9:27-30

In this encounter with Jesus we see two blind men pursuing Jesus because they were looking for an answer to their need. He asks them a simple enough question. "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" and their response of "Yes, Lord" was the evidence of their faith.

It was a simple question? "Do you believe?" and an even simpler answer. "Yes, Lord?" Sometimes we make receiving our answers way too hard. We think that it needs some big action or some huge profession of faith when really all it needs is a confession that means we have aligned ourselves with Him.

I used to think that the use of the word 'according' here by Jesus meant that it had something to do with the idea of 'depending' on your faith. Not the depending of your leaning and trusting on something, but the depending that has to do with a response of yes, no, maybe? The idea of not being sure which way to lean or when the answer is still waiting on your response? But, and it is a big BUT, in reality it was a statement, not a question. Jesus said, "According to your faith let it be to you."  He was stating a fact not still asking the question! The Strong's says that the word according here in this statement, is the word kata (2596) and it is the preposition down (in place or time). It is used in varied relations according to the case with which it is joined.

In this place and time it is where these men's "Yes, Lord" was joined with Jesus as He touched them and down came the power of heaven to bring sight to their blind eyes! There is a reason that Jesus said, "It only takes a mustard seed." It doesn't require a big hard task or huge speech. It only requires a little tiny mustard seed, "Yes, Lord" to mark down the moment we join with Him, and we too receive what we need in faith!

A simple question. A simple answer. An amazing outcome!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Fine Piece of China

Jeremiah stood outside the modest house. Why am I here? 

A sigh escaped his lips. Actually being a prophet was different then he'd imagined it would be when Yahweh had first called him. Go to this place. Do this weird thing. Pronounce doom and gloom on these countries. He had really thought being a prophet was more then that. He remembered the stories of the mighty prophets and judges the elders had passed down to his generation. Would that ever be the case for his ministry?

Yahweh's voice had come to him early this morning. "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words." The message came with the familiar, fiery sensation that flooded him whenever the Lord spoke to him.

So here he was. Absolutely thrilling.

The late morning breeze fluttered through the cloth covering the entrance. Using two finger to move the light fabric to the side, Jeremiah peeked into the potter's house.

The potter was working at his wheel, completely oblivious to Jeremiah spying on him from the doorway. Jeremiah could only see the front room, but the walls were lined with shelves, all filled with pottery. Bowls, plates, pitchers, cups were everywhere. A pile of thirty or so plates were stacked to the right of the potter, resting on a weathered rug.

The potter worked the lump of clay. At first he was flattening it, stretching it like a large plate. However, the lump of clay would not cooperate. The edges wobbled out like a wave, and soon became unmanageable. It was too much clay for a simple plate. So the potter started stroking the clay higher and higher. Soon a pitcher began to take shape.

Jeremiah studied the new water pitcher. It had gone from a big pile of lumpy goo, to a malformed plate, to this water pitcher, where it could really be used.

He was getting that fiery sensation again.

"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?" Yahweh's voice was loud and clear, but absolutely quiet. A feeling. A fire within his spirit. Like He was standing there with him, even though Jeremiah knew no one else would claim to hear His voice. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoke, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it."

Sometimes I hate that He knows what I'm thinking...

Based on Jeremiah 18:1-10

"Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work." 2 Timothy 2:20-21

God is the Potter. We are all vessels in His house. Some of us are plates. Some of us are cups. Others are used as water pitchers. Others are used for food. There are also items made from lesser quality that are used for...dishonorable purposes. We don't have to remain as the dog food dish. We give our vessel self to God, and He has the materials to make us into a fine piece of china.

We like the idea of becoming that new creation.

It's the getting there where we have a problem.

God tries to change us. As the Potter, God has every right to change us.

"But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Romans 9:20

Are we willing vessels? Are we eager to be molded into His image? We say we are, but will we really let Him work? Being shaped, molded, and refined by fire isn't easy. It's not pretty, and it is no lazy Sunday. We tend to avoid those things like the plague. We want to hold onto our rough edges and unformed sides. "Leave me alone! I want to be this! I work just fine as a plate!"

"Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for the vessel." Proverbs 25:4

"And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ' They are my people'; and they will say, 'The Lord is my God.'" Zechariah 13:9

God has the material to make you a new vessel! He wants to make you into a new creation. Brand new china. Are we asking Him to take the dross away? Are you calling upon His name? Do you say, "Make me more like You!"?

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith   more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire   may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:6-9

The trials, the change, and the burning of our spiritual dross are all annoying and painful, yes. However, if we want to be like Him, if we want a faith full of revelation and glory, and if we want inexpressible joy in Him, then it is something we need. No one can force you, but if you want to reach your full potential, and to be used by Him, then be a willing vessel. Let Him mold you into something honorable.



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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Come To Me"

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden light." Matthew 11:28-30
I don't know about you, but for me when I hear or even when I read these words, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." it paints a very specific picture in my mind. It makes me think of a number of scenes were we see people who are pressing in to come to Jesus for help with the burden they are carrying.

In Mark 10:46-52 we see Bartimaeus crying out in the midst of the crowd, trying to get Jesus' attention. When the crowd tells him to be quiet it says ...but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" What that means is, he didn't stay silent, he didn't go quiet, he yelled even louder. His desire for relief from "his' burden refused to stay away any longer. He was pressing in!

Another scene that comes to mind is found in Mark 5:25-34 and it is the account of the woman with the issue of blood. Her burden? ...'Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many  physicians. She had spent all she had and was no better, rather she grew worse.' Sounds to me like a heavy burden! She had suffered for twelve years doing all she could to no avail. She came to Jesus to find relief, to find rest from 'her' burden. She, like Bartimaeus, pressed in. She didn't let the rules, traditions, or even the crowd of people stop her coming to Jesus. She pushed, shoved and pressed her way through the crowd till she could reach out and touch the hem of his garment. She refused to be heavy laden with her burden any longer. She pressed in!

How about the leper in Mark 1:40-44 who it says ...came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, "If you are willing, You can make me clean." His desire for relief from 'his' burden caused him to press in and to come to Jesus even though he was supposed to keep his distance! What about the four friends that broke through a roof in order to put their friend in front of Jesus. They pressed in when they couldn't get through the crowd.

Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden light." If your feeling like you have been carrying 'your' burden and are tired of being heavily laden by it, press in to Him! Bring it to Him. He will give you rest!

First He says to come to Him and then Jesus gives an explanation as to how to receive His rest. He said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden light." The key to being in that place of resting in Him is the yoke. The word yoke in the Strong's means - to join especially by a yoke, a coupling. A yoke links and joins you together so that you are working together for one purpose. It puts you on the same path going in the same direction. It causes you to share the load. He said, "Take My yoke and learn from Me." That simply means you link up with Him, you follow His lead and allow Him to help shoulder the weight of the load your hauling with His word. 

We can be yoked to whatever causes us to labor and feel heavy laden or we can come to Him; yoke up with Him and find rest in Him.  In Isaiah 40:31 it says ...But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with eagles wings, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. The key word here is the word wait, and it means - to bind together (perhaps by twisting). So, Old Testament, New Testament, bind, attach, yoke; it all means the same thing. Link yourself up with Him! His yoke is easy. It means binding yourself up in Him. You know, it means loving Him enough to walk with Him.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Your Praise and Worship Key

Another foot slammed into his rib cage, and Silas grunted. Then a crashing club attempted to permanently flatten his right calf. From the pain flying up through his body, he thought they might have succeeded. He closed his eyes, willing it to stop. My Deliverer!

"Enough!" He opened one eye. Through the red, bloody haze, he saw a man dressed like a magistrate motion to a modestly dressed man. He only wore some of the Roman uniform, so Silas didn't think he was a soldier. The magistrate was talking to the men who owned the previously demon-possessed girl. "The jailer will see that they are put in prison, and put in stocks until we can determine what to do with them."

The idea certainly didn't appeal to Silas, but he had more important things to worry about right now. He slowly moved his jaw in a circular motion, testing if it was broken. Convinced it was okay, he croaked out,  "Paul?"

His friend moaned behind him, towards his left. Paul looked like Silas felt. He winced for his dear friend. Soon guards surrounded them, picking them up, and shoving them forward. The futile attempt at making them walked ended with Paul and Silas falling on their faces. Silas felt a sharp rock pierce the flesh of his forehead. The guards gave up and hoisting them high, dragged them. Silas' legs dragged against the ground, and he tried to maneuver his good leg to take awkward steps with his Roman escorts.

Blood flowed freely into his eyes from the new wound. The warm streams dripped their trail on the ground. Blackness clouded his vision, and while he tried to fight it, eventually he succumbed to the sweet darkness...

                                                                                                                        

Silas blinked. His head was throbbing. Where am I?

He was lying on his back at an awkward angle.  It all came back to him. The healing. The riot. The beating. 

The prison. 

He pushed himself up, and saw that his feet were in stocks. He twisted to look behind him and saw Paul. He was sitting up, eyes closed, and humming.

"Paul."

Paul opened his eyes and smiled. "Good morning, Silas."

"What time is it?"

"It's about midnight. We've been in the prison for less then a day." Paul went back to humming his song. He looked serene. Just sitting in prison and humming.

Silas sighed. Eyes sliding shut, he flung himself down and tried to pray. However, the events of the day played through his mind, and the uncomfortable angle of the stocks only added to his irritation.

Silas' eyes flew open. He had started humming along with Paul! His feet had even started tapping in rhythm with the tune.

Of course!

"Paul," the older man opened an eye at him, "Lets sing! Oh, the song about Jesus marching with us!"

The two men offered up their meager song loudly, joyfully. The other prisoners shouted profanities and threats at them, but the louder they sang, the quieter the prisoners became.

Minutes trickled by them. They were completely unaware, caught up in worship. Silas clapped his hands over his head, while Paul thumped the wooden stocks, bringing the beat to life.

Silas felt free. Despite their physical circumstances, he felt completely at ease. He loved to praise and worship God, and in times like these, it was Heavenly comfort. So despite everything around them, Silas made a glorious trip into God's house.

Silas had no idea how long they were singing, if it was just minutes or hours, but the ground started to shake violently.

Then the prison doors swung open...

Based on Acts 16:16-25

So Paul and Silas speak Jesus' healing power into a young woman's life. She is freed from her demons. Then the money grubbers see their hope of future fortune slip away. They have Paul and Silas arrested, and start a riot. Soon all kinds of people are attacking them, and the officials give the order to have them beaten, thrown into prison, and put in stocks.

What do they do?

They praise Him!

They didn't praise God because it was the key to getting out of their physical prison. They praised God because it was the key to getting out of their spiritual prison. Then the spiritual superseded the physical, and it led to physical freedom.

There are moments when I am so lost in worship that I don't notice anything else around me. My rumbling stomach isn't distracting me with thoughts of food, because I missed breakfast. Noises don't distract me. I don't care if people are watching me. I don't care what they might be thinking. I don't even open my eyes for them. I'm just lost in His beauty. I feel His presence. I feel truly beautiful, and I just want to swirl, twirl, and dance before Him. I want to leap, shout, and sing my praises! I love when I reach that place of worship! It's a place of freedom.

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness." Psalm 30:11

Paul and Silas reached that place of praise and worship, and their praised changed the atmosphere. God stepped into the situation, and soon they were on their way   with converts, too!

Why did they praise and worship? Why was it in their heart to go to that supernatural place of freedom? It was more then just a "Get Out of Jail" card. It was natural for them. In good times and bad.

Is that our heart?

"Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being." Psalm 146:1-2

Is it our heart to be lost in God, not just in the low points, but in the high points? Will we praise Him with everything we've got, every moment we've got? Do we long for Him so much, that we sing praise and worship to Him?

"One thing have I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple." Psalms 27:4

Is our heart to dwell in His house for all our days? If it is, our obsession will be to get there.

Praise and worship are your personal keys, hidden under the ceramic frog. You know it's there. You have access.

His heart is for you to come as often as possible.


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