Wednesday, March 25, 2015

He Daily Bears Your Burdens

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
Psalm 68:19

The pace of my life can sometimes feel like a crushing burden to me. There are so many things I need to do. Then there are those things that I know I will never be able to do. And the list of things I feel guilty for not having already done. Sometimes, it feels like too much. 

That's why this verse jumped out at me the other day. It was exactly what I needed to hear from the Lord. It is as refreshing as a drink of cool water to me. I need to be reminded periodically that I am not alone. That God is with me. That He daily bears the burdens of His children. God's salvation extends far beyond forgiveness of your sin.

Psalm 68 praises God for saving and caring for His righteous people in a number of ways. It depicts God as taking a special interest in the weak and "bearing their burdens." He is a "father to the fatherless, a defender of widows" (vs. 5). He "sets the lonely in families" (vs. 6). He frees prisoners (vs. 6). He provides richly for His people (vs. 7-13). Maybe some of these identifiers describe you. Maybe not. For you it may be debt collectors, broken relationships, an overcrowded schedule, an impossible boss or unruly children that weigh you down. 

Whatever your burden, remember that God daily bears it up. Being reminded of that brought a powerful peace into my life. I pray that it would for you as well, and I urge you to take Jesus' advice...
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. - Matthew 11:28-30

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

Many of us still can't answer this question as adults. When we were kids we gave the most outrageous answers. We wanted to be a professional athletes, musicians, or actresses who spent their spare time being an astronaut. 

But what has Jesus called all of us to be? In the Luke-Acts version of the Great Commission we are all called to be witnesses. The word for witnesses is interesting in the original language. It is "martys" (pronounced "martous") and it identifies a person as a witness in one of three ways. 
  1. An eyewitness or observer of an event.
  2. One who testifies to what they witnessed publicly, as in a court of law
  3. Those who pay the ultimate price for their witness, who faithfully testify to the truth of Jesus even unto death.

Looking at the third definition of the word it is easy to see how "martys" gave birth to our word "martyr." 

In Acts 1:8 Jesus sends His followers out to be witnesses in the second and third senses of the word. He sends them out to testify to what they have already witnessed. They must go and bear witness to Jesus’ death and resurrection, many of them even unto death.

Jesus is sending you out and do the same, to testify to the truth of the gospel, to tell others about the salvation you have experienced in Christ. This is who you are called to be. This is what you are called to do, and it is a great responsibility.

Are you a faithful witness? Do the people you live with, work with, and go to school with know that you are a believer? Have you invited them to believe in Christ as well? Don’t let your boss or your teacher silence you. In fact, never allow anyone to silence you when the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded you to speak. Testify to the truth of Jesus even if it means you get into trouble. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but never allow anyone to force you to check your faith at the door.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do you know what a stick is?

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”

[Context note: This conversation took place when God appeared in a burning bush to commission Moses to return to Egypt and lead his people out of slavery to the Promised Land.] 
Exodus 4:1-5

Do you know what a stick is? I'd like to think I do. I'm not the smartest guy around, but identifying a stick seems like a pretty easy task. So I couldn't help but wonder why God asks Moses a seemingly silly question in this passage. "What is in your hand?" God clearly knows what is in his hand. I am sure Moses knew his shepherding staff pretty well. So what's the point? Wouldn't it have been easier to simply skip the question and say, "Throw the staff in your hand down on the ground?"

I try to read Scripture carefully. I don't always succeed, but I try because I believe what II Timothy 3:16 says: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching." So yesterday as I read this passage, even though my gut told me not to question such a minor thing in the text, I stopped to consider.

Slowly, this thought dawned on me. It's precisely because Moses knew so very well that his staff was a stick that God's question was worth asking. Could there have been anything more certain in Moses' mind than the fact that his staff was a stick and not a snake? That fact must have seemed as solid to Moses as the ground beneath his feet. Yet God asked him to identify the stick - to define what it was and wasn't - so that He might show Moses that something which seems as settled as the nature of a stick is no boundary to God at all. Nothing is impossible with God!

This is the perfect response to Moses' question. He brought up a human problem to God, "What if the Israelites don't believe you sent me?" He is asking God what His plan is to solve this potential problem. God gives him the sign of the staff turned to a snake not only as a proof to the people that Moses really has communed with God, but it is also a sign to Moses that God is not easily stopped by even the most sure of human boundaries. Moses must and will learn in the intervening years to trust God and worry less about potential human barriers. The question for us is, "Have we learned this lesson?"

Have you grasped the simple truth that the problem which seems insurmountable to you is nothing before the Lord? This is important in your personal life, but even more so in the life of the kingdom. Is your church struggling to grow? Are you worried that the good news of Jesus is no longer appealing to people? Are you struggling with a call to ministry or mission and simply can't see how God can get you from where you are to where He is calling? Be reminded today that the surest obstacles in our eyes, the most certain facts, are as nothing before our mighty God. Trust His plan, even before you know all the details. Simply obey.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

You've Got to Show Them

(King) Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the musicians played and the trumpets sounded. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed. When the offerings were finished, the king and everyone present with him knelt down and worshiped.
2 Chronicles 29:27-29

These verses pretty well sum up King Hezekiah's leadership. He excelled in a quality that many lack today: public spiritual leadership. This quality enabled Hezekiah to successfully turn his people away from idol worship and back to the one, true God. Though he lived about 2,700 years ago, there's much you and I can learn from him. 

Can you imagine how much of an impact it must have made for the king to get on his knees and worship God in plain sight of his people? It's difficult for us to grasp how important a king was in those days, but I think it would be hard to exaggerate how impactful it was to see a man this powerful humble himself in worship publicly.

I know that Jesus said "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (See Matthew 6:1-6 for the full context and teaching.) But the key words here are "to be seen by them." Jesus' point is that your giving, your prayer, your worship shouldn't be performed to be seen by men. They should be directed at God. It can't be merely a show to impress other people. It shouldn't be a ruse to somehow advance people's opinion of you. But we sometimes wrongly take Jesus' teaching to mean that we should only ever worship or pray in our private prayer closets. This is not what Jesus meant and this misunderstanding of the text has contributed to the lack of spiritual leadership in the church today. 

The church needs men and women who will fall on their knees and openly, unashamedly worship God in front of those they lead. But these public acts of prayer and worship should be only a small fraction of the time you spend praying and worshiping. The bulk of the time should be kept private (between you, the Lord, and your family). Many, many people in our world (including children) need to hear their leaders pray, see their leaders give (even if they don't know how much you give), and feel the passion in their leader's worship. Many of the people in our world will never find the courage to worship God whole-heartedly until they have seen someone else live as an example before them.

We are all leaders in some respect. We are fathers, mothers, managers, shift leaders, pastors, grandparents, and mentors. God calls us to use our influence to draw others to Christ, to give them the courage to worship Him before the watching world. Do the people you lead know you worship God unashamedly? Have they seen your love for God lately?

For further reading...
  • Consider another king, King David. He also worshiped the Lord publicly and unashamedly. (see 2 Samuel 6:12-16) Moreover, his psalms often speak of publicly procaliming God's goodness in worship before all the nations. (for example see Psalm 9:11 and Psalm 105:1)