Monday, March 30, 2015

Are You Willing To Share Your Story?

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.  And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.  And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;  And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.  But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter. - Mark 1:40-45

Oh, the irony!  In this passage, Jesus urges the leper to keep his miracle to himself.  "Don't tell anyone," Jesus commands.  "Just show yourself to the priest and follow the rules concerning your cleansing, but I'd appreciate it if you keep this event between you and me.  Okay?"

Yeah, right!  I don't think the leper meant to be disobedient or disrespectful.  I think he was simply so overwhelmed that he couldn't help but tell anyone and everyone what Jesus had done for him.   According to the wording "to blaze abroad the matter," the news of this man's healing spread like wild fire.  He could not keep it to himself.  He had to share Jesus!

The irony is that we have been commanded, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), yet we can barely rouse ourselves to get to church, let alone to reach out and tell others what Jesus has done for us.  The man who was sworn to silence couldn't help but tell, and we who have been commanded to share the gospel can't seem to open our mouths.  What's the problem?  Hasn't God done a miracle in our lives just as He did for the leper?  Don't we have some good news worth sharing?  So why aren't we like the leper?  Why aren't we eager to tell anyone and everyone what the Lord has done for us?

Perhaps we've grown complacent.  We're saved.  We do our best to live like we should.  We go about our daily lives and strive to follow the Lord's leading.  But is that enough?  We treat it as if it is.  We're settled, content to just exist in the here and now, hiding our miracles from those who really need one themselves.  I guess when we boil it all down, we're selfish and self-centered.  We're saved, and whether or not we share our testimony with others won't change that.  True, our witness (or lack thereof) won't affect our salvation, but it may affect someone else's.

Someone today needs a miracle.  Someone is walking down a lonely pathway, wondering if there's any hope.  Someone is looking for a friend.  These people need to hear our stories.  They need to know what Jesus did for us and what He can do for them.  They need to see the results of an encounter with Jesus and to be assured that it's not a temporary fix.  They need to hear a true story.

The leper's testimony sent people flocking to Jesus.  Who knows?  Ours may do the same!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Crying Over Dashed Hopes

Do you ever grow weary of things not living up to your expectations or even to the advertisements and claims of others?  Have you ever asked yourself, "Am I the only person in the world who can't get this to work?"  If so, you're in good company.  In fact, that seems to be my dwelling place of late.

Try this flea remedy.  It's guaranteed.  Yeah, right!  I've tried them all, and you know what, I can't get any of them to work.  We must have the most resilient fleas in the world!

Just plug and play.  No setup required.  Are you kidding me?  I've already spent hours trying to get this crazy thing to work, and it still says it doesn't recognize the software.

A few minutes of this exercise each day will leave your abs flat and toned.  Yeah, I guess, it will eventually.  In the meantime, my abs are neither flat nor toned.  They're sore!

Rub this special oil on your dog's fatty tumors, and they'll disappear within a couple of weeks.  Weeks?  I've been doing it for months and have seen little to no change.

It's discouraging, isn't it?  Time after time, when searching for solutions to the daily problems of life, I seek out a new product or formula and get my hopes up that this time is going to be different.  This time, my effort will pay off.  This time I will be successful and finally conquer one of the many problems that creep in and out of life on a constant basis.  But then, with time and money wasted, the results are no different than the dozen of other things I've tried, and frustration sets in anew.

I cannot tell you how many tears I've shed over these solutions that seem to work for everyone but me.  The discouragement is simply too great, and combined with a sense of hopelessness, I don't know what else to do but cry.  Cry over my dashed hopes.  Cry over the time and money I've wasted. Cry over one more failure in my life.  Cry over the repeated appearance of disappointment in my life.

But amidst my tears, I am reminded of a precious truth.  There is one remedy that I've tried that has worked far better than I could have ever imagined, and His name is Jesus.  He has never left me frustrated or disappointed.  He lives up to His claims and far beyond what mere words can describe.  He has never let me down, and though I don't always understand what He's doing, I can rest assured that He is working.  And as long as I have that going for me, the rest of life's problems don't seem so serious.  Annoying?  Sure, but they are also temporary and not worth my tears, or yours, for that matter.

Instead of focusing on the things that haven't met your expectations, try focusing on the One who has.  It will change your entire outlook and before long, all those other problems will fade from view.  Isn't that how it's supposed to be?

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. - Psalm 116:5-7

Thursday, March 26, 2015

To Whom or What Are You Yoked?

Last Sunday night, my pastor preached out of Matthew 11:28-30 which reads, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Always a comfort to me, this passage reminded me that I don't have to carry my burdens alone.  In fact, Jesus doesn't want me to.  He wants to share my load, but even more than that, He wants to carry it for me.  For a better understanding of this passage, I urge you to read an earlier post, My Yoke Is Easy.

I listened to the familiar passage and its interpretation during the church service, then suddenly, my peaceful calm was interrupted by a pointed question from the pastor:  So who or what are you yoked to?  The question caught me off guard because I felt that the answer was obvious.  Jesus, of course.  I'm yoked to Jesus.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that wasn't necessarily so.  You see, if I am truly yoked to Jesus, then that means He's carrying my load and I'm following every step of His leading.  Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."  In other words, when yoked with Him, I'm not striving and struggling to figure out what to do and how to do it.  He's doing the work through me, and I am merely a willing vessel.

Unfortunately, that doesn't exactly describe my behavior of late.  My burden has seemed anything but light.  I've fought and struggled to make things work.  I've plotted and schemed to figure out how to make ends meet.  I've worried and cried about things that were obviously beyond my control.  I haven't been yoked up with Jesus.  I've been yoked up with fear, and let me tell you, fear does not hold up its share of the load.  On the contrary, it adds more weight.  No wonder the yoke has not been easy nor the burden light.  I've been yoked up to the wrong thing.

Jesus offers to carry my load, but fear adds more and more to my burden.  Jesus offers to lead and guide, but fear leads to distraction and disorientation, often resulting in frustration and indecision.  Jesus offers to do the work for me and through me, but fear piles on more work for me in the form of worry, despair and hopelessness.  Jesus offers rest, but fear steals strength and energy from both today and tomorrow.  Why, oh why have I yoked myself together with my sworn enemy?  It's like I'm trying to run a three-legged race with a snake.  I'm doing all the work and wearing myself out in the process.  This is totally unacceptable!

Today is a new day, and I have the opportunity to choose my "plowing partner."  Will I once again choose to yoke myself to fear, or will I choose the One who will never let me down and will carry my load?  It seems like such an obvious choice, doesn't it?  Sadly, that doesn't mean it's easy.  But thankfully, Jesus' yoke is, and He will even give me the strength to make the right decision.

It's time to plow.  Pick your teammate, but I warn you, choose carefully.  The wrong choice could leave you weary and worn while the right choice will leave you rested and refreshed.  The choice is yours.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Where Do You Place Your Burdens?

My dining room table often serves as a catch-all for the many things that are carried in and out of my home.  We typically enter the house from the side door, so a quick turn to the left, and there's a nice, open table to lay down our many burdens.  Unfortunately, the busier we get, the more cluttered the table becomes.  For example, it wasn't but a few days ago that I cleaned off the table, but to look at it now, you'd never know.  The empty box from my recent shipment of books occupies one end of the table.  Miscellaneous mail is scattered across the other end.  Receipts.  Bags. Birthday cards.  Gifts. You name it, you can probably find it on my dining room table.

The problem with this "catch-all" system is two-fold.  First off, because the table is cluttered with stuff, Jason and I must eat elsewhere.  There is simply no room for food or fellowship in the midst of the chaos that is my dining room table.  Secondly, laying down our burdens at the table is not the same thing as dealing with them.  They're not only constantly in view, but they're also in the way, creating the necessity of handling the same stuff over and over again until I eventually grow weary enough of it to put it all where it belongs.

So often in life, we are so weary and heavy laden that we simply cannot wait to unload our burdens.  The problem is that we often do as I do with the loads of stuff I dump on my dining room table.  We create a temporary solution that isn't really a solution at all.  Instead of taking our burdens where they belong, we drop them at the first opportunity, not realizing that we'll have to continually stumble around them until they're cast out of sight. 

And in the process, we're creating another problem.  There's no room left for food or fellowship with the Father.  Let's face it, it's nearly impossible for us to focus on the nourishment of the Word and our sweet fellowship with the Father when we're surrounded by a cluttered mess of burdens and worries.  Burdens and worries, mind you, that should have been dealt with immediately instead of merely set aside in hopes that they would magically disappear.  And without the food and fellowship of the Father, our spirits grow more weary and our hearts more heavy.

It's so easy to let my dining room table get cluttered.  When I walk through the door, the first thing I want to do is set down my heavy load.  But wouldn't I be better off to set everything down where it belongs instead of creating more work and frustration for myself in the future?  The same can be said in our spiritual walk.  Yes, we need to lay our burdens down, but unless we're laying them down where they belong--at Jesus' feet--we're only creating more frustration and spiritual clutter, which will eventually drive a wedge between us and our Savior.  It's time to stop the clutter!  Who's with me?

 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. - I Peter 5:7