Saturday, September 15, 2007

Rest For The Weary

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

The Pharisees considered themselves to have the authority of Moses to dictate God’s commandments and add to and took away from them as they saw fit. Jesus instructed the Jews to obey the Law rather than to obey the Pharisees.

In our text today, Jesus states that those who come to Him will be given rest. Even in our modern technologically advanced world, we experience fatigue mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This world, marred by sin and the consequences thereof, is just as difficult and wearisome to us as it was to the Christians of long ago. Today we have many amenities they could only dream of--automobiles, heating and air conditioning, refrigerators, machines to wash and dry our clothes and dishes, telephones--so many things that are meant to make our lives more comfortable and efficient. Despite all these conveniences, we still get tired and one can only conclude that the people of Jesus’ time did too.

When Jesus spoke of rest, this most certainly caught the ear of His listeners. Everyone was familiar with manual labor and the burdens of life. On the surface, it probably sounded to those listening that Jesus was saying they would never have to work again. However, Jesus was referring to the burden of keeping the Law of Moses and, quite possibly, the burdensome way that the Pharisees interpreted and taught the Law of Moses. Beginning in Exodus chapter twenty we read the first laws given to the Israelites, commonly known today as the Ten Commandments. The book of Leviticus provides us with a record of more commandments given to the Israelites and to the tribe of Levi, the priests. Jesus had come to fulfill the Law and ease the burden of God’s people (Matthew 5:17).

In Matthew 11:29-30 we read these words of Jesus,“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.” A “yoke” was a device that had a crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircled the necks of a pair of oxen or other draft animals working together. The sole purpose of the yoke was to keep the oxen together, so that they could not go their separate ways and interfere with the plowing process, either by being too fast, too slow or going the wrong direction. The yoke guided the oxen to work together, as a team.

Another type of yoke most likely used in Jesus' time was a frame of wood fitted to a person's shoulders for carrying pails, etc., suspended on each side; as, a milkmaid's yoke. Again, this device brings to mind the idea of balancing the burden, to ensure the work is equally distributed.

Jesus uses this illustration to distinguish between the burdensome nature of the Law of Moses and simplicity of the Gospel. The Law of Moses was filled with rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts and endless animal sacrifices which never took away their sins, but merely pushed them forward, awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. Jesus was proclaiming that He was the Messiah, and those who followed Him would no longer have to practice the Law of Moses. Jesus' method of bringing the believers together was easy, and the burden or message they were to carry, would be easier.

We read in Matthew chapter twelve that Jesus and His disciples walked through a field of grain, picked some and began to eat it. The practice of eating the grain was not what caused the controversy, but rather the fact that Jesus and His disciples rubbed the kernels of grain in their hands to remove the outer covering (the chaff). The Pharisees accused them of violating the Law of Moses, a reference to Exodus 31:24 where the Lord stated that they were to do no plowing or harvesting on the Sabbath day.

In Matthew 12:8 Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the account in I Samuel 21:5-6 where we read that David and his men had not eaten in three days. David entered the temple and stated this fact to the priest, who gave them the shewbread that had been placed before the Lord. Jesus also makes reference to the priests “profaning the Sabbath”, a reference to the fact that a male child was circumcised in the temple by the priest on the eighth day, even if the child was eight days old on the Sabbath. Jesus was teaching the Pharisees that while the Law was of value, there were times when necessity outweighed the ceremonial aspects of the Law.

After this discussion Jesus went to the synagogue where He met a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees seized what they saw as an opportunity to once again find fault with Jesus, and asked Jesus if was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Clearly, the Pharisees took exception to this, undoubtedly viewing this healing as work which violated the Law of Moses. Jesus used the illustration of a sheep that had fallen into a pit, and asked them who would not reach in and rescue the animal. Just as the sheep was in need of rescue, this man, too, was in need and Jesus had the power to help him. He told them that the man was more valuable than a sheep, and stated “Wherefore it is lawful to do good on the sabbath day.” Jesus healed the man’s hand, once again attempting to demonstrate the burden that the Pharisees had placed upon the Jewish people, a burden that He refused to bear.

The Pharisees considered the actions and teachings of Jesus and those who followed Him to be in direct violation of the Law of Moses. Ironically, the Pharisees themselves had reduced the Law of Moses to mere actions of the body rather than of the spirit, and had invoked their own interpretations and stipulations. The teachings of Jesus appeared to them to be opposed to the Law of Moses, but were in effect the spirit in which the Law was to have been practiced. The teachings of Jesus were principles upon which people were to build their faith and live their lives. Jesus wanted the people to understand that God is not pleased with just the mere act of sacrifice, but rather He desires a person that truly believes and desires to obey God. I am reminded of the passage in I Samuel 15:22 in which Samuel said, “Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

The Pharisees handled the Law of Moses as a sterile set of rules and regulations that were to be followed without exception. Jesus revealed that the Law was given with the purpose of bringing about obedience, not merely robotic like people performing robotic acts without thought or feeling. Pharisees had checklists, but God has mercy and compassion. We read in John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Friend, are you weary? Have you exhausted yourself by merely trying to do everything that God says, out of fear? Tradition? Peer pressure? If so, you need to know that God is not concerned with our appearance or our actions, but rather the reason for our actions (I Samuel 16:7). God desires us to worship Him, but in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24), not just in appearance (James 1:26).

Jesus came to this earth and walked among men to leave an example for us. We read that Jesus kept the Law perfectly (John 8:29,55) and He did this by obeying God not just with His actions, but with His heart. Jesus allowed Himself to be yoked, or guided, by God’s teachings. He was obedient to God to the point of death. What a precious, perfect example He is to us today!

Friends, we all know that this life is filled with trials and tribulations. We have heartaches and frustrations. Our bodies wear out much sooner than we would like, and everyday we grow weaker. When sin entered the the world it was forever changed. Man’s life of ease was exchanged for one of endless hard work, sickness and decay. Mankind bears the burden of sin and its consequences in the form of physical, mental and financial wear and tear. We endure so much and at times we begin to doubt or question whether we are truly able to endure (I Cor. 10:13).

If you are a Christian and the cares of life are wearing you down, know that Jesus hears you. Hebrews 4:15 tells us “For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”. How is that possible? Think of the types of sin we face today...jealousy, unrighteous anger, lust, gluttony, deceit. We like to think our temptations are greater than those experienced by those who came before us, but the truth is, sin is merely the result of our succumbing to temptation, a desire to do something other than what God has instructed us to do, something other than what Jesus did.

If you are not a Christian, you too may be experiencing difficulties in your life. Some would tell you that if you do what God says, you will live a life free of care and trouble. One only has to look at the life of Jesus to see that obeying God oftentimes brings more earthly trouble than peace. But if you believe Jesus is the Son of God, confess that belief, repent of your sins, and are baptized for the remission of your sins, you will be following in the steps of Jesus. His life had trials and tribulations just as ours do, but when His life ended here on earth, Jesus entered eternal rest. This same eternal rest is available to us today, due to His willingness to obey God and die a cruel death for our sins.

Won’t you obey Him, and ensure that eternal rest?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dare To Stand Like Joshua

Joshua chapter six provides the Biblical account of the fall of Jericho. Children know the story well, how God gave specific instructions of how the city was to be taken. God also warned them not to take anything from Jericho for themselves. Only the precious metals were to be taken and placed in the treasury house for the Lord.

How amazing that must have been to see the power of God over walls of stone, to be able to topple them without even touching them! Certainly, the Israelites went into battle against the next city, Ai, confident that God would be with them and would provide a swift victory for them.

What it was like for Joshua, when he heard the Israelites had been defeated at Ai? Disbelief? Bewilderment? The Israelites who died in the battle were not just his soldiers, they were his family. God had give them victory over Jericho, and He had promised time and time again to be with them. What happened?

From childhood we are taught that God is love, that God is all knowing, all seeing, all hearing, perfect, faultless, and He is our Creator. We are taught to trust Him implicitly. Joshua had done this when, as one of the twelve spies to first enter Canaan, he implored the Israelites to trust God in delivering victory to their hands against the inhabitants, despite their walled cities and giant size. And now, it seemed, God had broken His promise.

In Joshua 7:6, we read that “Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of Jehovah until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, ‘Alas, O Lord Jehovah, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over the Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to cause us to perish? Would that we had been content and dwelt beyond the Jordan! Oh, Lord, what shall I say, after that Israel hath turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will compass us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do for Thy great name?’ ”

Are there times in our lives when we feel as Joshua did, when we are striving our best to please God, and yet tragedy strikes? Certainly! Sometimes that is a result of our poor choices, the consequence of our own sin, or the sins of others. Joshua had followed God’s instructions to the letter, and he had told the Israelites exactly what to do, and yet they were defeated. Did Joshua give up? Did he turn away from God? No, he turned toward God. And God answered him.

When the Israelites had entered Jericho after the walls fell, they were to destroy every living thing, except for Rahab and those within her house. An Israelite named Achan found a beautiful coat, some silver, and a wedge of gold, and he wanted them, so he took them and buried them in his tent.

We do not know what Achan’s intentions were with regard to the stolen items. It was not like he could just suddenly appear wearing a new coat without someone noticing. And the silver and gold would certainly be of great value, but again, people were bound to notice. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that he buried them in his tent: to prevent any unwanted questions.

When God told Joshua that someone had sinned, Joshua was tasked with determining who that person was. The next morning Joshua called each of the tribes of Israel to pass before him, and slowly, tribe by tribe, family by family, person by person, Joshua worked his way to the guilty party. Joshua 7:19 reads, “And Joshua said unto Achan, ‘My son, give, I pray thee, glory to Jehovah, the God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.’ ”

Whatever Joshua was feeling at this time, he put aside his own feelings and looked upon Achan for what he was: a sinner, a soul in danger. Joshua spoke to Achan with love, imploring him to confess his sin. He asks Achan to “give glory to Jehovah”, and truly, when we confess our sins to God, we do give glory to Him. It is in our confession that we acknowledge God’s authority over us.

One wonders how Achan felt. Since the time Achan took the plunder from Jericho and hid it in his tent, he had one motive: to keep it a secret. Imagine him, in the tent, digging this hole. A voice outside the tent startles him, the wind blowing the tent door open sounds like someone coming and his heart pounds. From the time he took the items until he was caught, he was caught up in the deception himself.

As Joshua worked his way down through the tribes, the families, the individual households, Achan knew what was coming. Just as Satan fools us into thinking we can hide our sin, Achan was a fool to believe he could hide his sin from God. We have all had times in our lives when we have sinned, maybe the type of sin that no one else knows about, and we do our best to keep it secret.

When Joshua confronted Achan, he did so with love. He was begging Achan to confess, to tell the truth, to end the lie that had begun when Achan took the items from Jericho. And thankfully, Achan did confess. In Joshua 7: 20 we read that Achan said “Of a truth I have sinned against Jehovah, the God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: when I saw among the spoil a goodly Babylonish mantle, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.”

There. It was done. Achan confessed that he had coveted things, stolen them, and hidden them. Covetousness, theft and deception. Three simple words that go hand in hand, and are each in and of themselves, sin.

When Achan stole the coat, silver, and gold from Jericho, he may very well have been the only person there that knew he did it. And once he had the items safely buried in his tent, he probably felt some relief that he had not been “caught” by anyone. But despite the items being out of sight, and his sin secret from his fellow Israelites, none of this was unseen by God. And while Achan’s sin was his and his alone, his sin had ramifications that reached far beyond him.

In verses 24 - 26 of Joshua Chapter 7, we read that Achan, his sons, daughters, his tent, and all of his belongings, including the items he had stolen, were taken to a valley where they were stoned and then burned. So not only was Achan punished, but his family and all his belongings were destroyed as well.

When we sin privately, whether that be a private deed or thought, it is only private in that other people may not know of it. Our thoughts, our actions, and our intentions are never hidden from God. And while we may justify our actions to ourselves as not being harmful to others, we can see from the story of Achan that we do not control our sin. Our sin controls us, and can affect innocent people.

To those reading this article, let us strive to dig up our wrongdoings, confess them and in so doing give glory to Jehovah. When we stand before God in judgment, it will not matter how well we have hidden our sins from others.

If you are reading this article and are not one who has been immersed for the remission of your sins, why not do so today? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe that He died and arose and sits at the Lord’s right hand? Do you want to please God and live a life that is pleasing to Him? We would love to make arrangements for you to make that confession, and be immersed in water for the remission of yours sins, and provide you with encouragement as you begin and live your new life.

If you have been immersed for the remission of your sins, and you have private sins separating you from God, confess them today. Maybe you need only to pray to God for forgiveness. Or perhaps it is a sin that you struggle with daily, and you would like the prayers of your fellow Christians to strengthen you. Whatever your need, wherever you are, God can see you, and He wants you to obey Him. I would love nothing more than to help you get to Heaven.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


“But let all those that take refuge in Thee rejoice, Let them ever shout for joy, because Thou defendest them: Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee.” Psalm 5:11

Joy. The Hebrew word for joy is chedvah, meaning gladness. At one time or another in our lives, we are glad. As children, we may be glad about gifts we are given, special treats such as ice cream, parties, or vacations. Joy and gladness is not reserved just for children though; adults too experience joy and gladness, both for the reasons children do, as well as professional and personal milestones, such as promotions, weddings, or the birth of a child.

In the Bible, the word joy is used to describe the gladness that comes from God and His blessings upon us. In our scripture text today, the Psalmist states that those who love and trust in God should shout for joy, or gladness, because God is their Defender.

The Hebrew words for Defender are cakak and sakak and define the act of hedging, fencing, or shutting in. A hedge acts as a boundary or barrier around an area. Following these definitions, we understand that God hedges, or fences, us in so that He can care for us, protecting us from harm.

Roughly one and a half years ago, several thousand people have lost their lives as a result of an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Asia. Without a doubt, it was a horrific experience for those in the affected areas; families were torn apart, children left without parents, parents left without children, and some people lost their entire families. Imagine, if you can, what it is like to lose every family member in such a tragedy, or even to lose one loved one so quickly, with no warning. Certainly the thought of joy and gladness is hard to reconcile with such an event.

And yet, those who are in the Lord and rest upon Him for their strength, can experience joy. Yes, there is pain and sadness, and rightfully so. Jesus wept just moments before raising Lazarus from the dead. There is sorrow and sadness in death for those left behind. But just as there was joy when Lazarus came forth from the grave, there is a joy that we feel when a Christian leaves their earthly body and enters eternal rest. Despite our sorrow and sadness at their death, a great joy is felt as well, a relief that their suffering in this world has ceased and they will never again feel the pain of this life. Truly, this recognition of eternal rest provides us with the means to carry on, as we await our time to leave this earth.

The Psalmist also says that those who love God should be joyful, or full of gladness, “in” Him. When we first obey the Gospel and put on Christ, there is inexplicable joy and gladness. Our sins have been washed away and we are now reconciled to God through our obedience. There is joy felt both by the convert and by their fellow believers. This joy in being a child of God is, in a manner of speaking, a form of worship to God. Our joy in being His child, in partaking in the blessing of repentance and forgiveness, is lifelong. A precious gift has been extended and accepted, and there is joy both on earth and in Heaven when one gives their life to Jesus.

In the Old Testament we can read about the joy brought about by obedience to God. In Nehemiah 8:10, we read that the joy of Jehovah is strength. Our gladness in God, our joy in His existence and in what He has done for us, strengthen us for the trials of this life. In the book of Esther, after Queen Esther petitioned the King and saved the Jews, we read in chapter 8 verse sixteen “The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor.” They held a feast to celebrate God’s deliverance.

When we think of the Book of Job, the word joy is not the first word to come to mind. We often hear the phrase “the patience of Job” to describe one who is incredibly patient. Someone who is enduring great suffering is referred to as “Job-like”. And while Job endured financial and personal loss, including the loss of all of his children, he speaks of joy.

Of course, the Psalmist uses the word joy often in praising God through song. In Psalm 16:11 and Psalm 21:6 the Psalmist states that there is joy in the presence of God. Just to be near Him, to experience and acknowledge Him, one is made joyous and glad. The Psalmist often asked God to help him to feel this joy. In Psalm 51:8 we read the Psalmist’s plea “Make me to hear joy and gladness, That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” and again in Psalm 51:12 we read “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit.” There are times when we are weary and tired, and it is difficult to feel anything but sadness and solitude. However, if we will only ask, God will hear our prayer and acknowledge our need to feel His presence.

Perhaps you know of people who are always happy, always smiling, and always cheerful. They never seem to have a care in the world, always keep things in perspective, and inspire you to do the same. There are still others who are always sad, frowning, and negative in every way. Why is it that some choose to be happy and others seemingly choose to be unhappy?

Proverbs 21:15 tells us “It is joy to the righteous to do justice; But it is a destruction to the workers of iniquity.” Those who desire to please God and to live according to His word willingly do so. Their priority in life, first and foremost, is to do the right thing. There are others who do not desire to please God, who live only unto themselves. Ironically, they are among the most miserable people you will ever meet. While they may have every aspect of material wealth, their way of life and reason for living is void of righteous purpose. There can be no true joy and gladness in such a life.

In Ecclesiastes 2:26 we read “For to the man that pleaseth him God giveth wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that pleaseth God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” The writer clearly makes a distinction between the life of one who seeks to please God, and those who seek to please merely themselves. Ecclesiastes 9:7 states that we should eat our bread with joy, and truly, we should be glad, as God has provided a means for us to feed ourselves and provides for our needs as only He can.

In Isaiah 35:10 Isaiah prophesied that “the ransomed of Jehovah shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” In chapter 52:9 he instructed the Israelites “Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for Jehovah hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.” Our worship, our praise of God for who He is and what He has done, should never cease for He is always worthy of praise.

The prophet Habbakuk pledged “joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab. 3:18) Despite adversity and trials, Habbakuk acknowledge God, and rested in God’s promises. We too, should find joy in God, the God of our salvation. He is our reason for living and our reason for existing is to praise Him and obey Him.

In the New Testament, we read that when the shepherds saw the star leading them to the Christ child, “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Mt. 2:10). Their joy, or gladness, resulted from their faith in God, and in His promise of a Messiah. The Messiah had been brought down to earth, and they acknowledged God’s hand in this event. In Matthew 28:8 we read that the women at the tomb felt great joy when they realized that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were joyous to know He was not dead, but alive.

In Luke 14 we read the parable of the prodigal son, who squandered his inheritance and returned home penniless. His father rejoiced that his son had returned and gave a feast in his honor. In Luke 15:7 Jesus stated that in the same manner, there is great joy in heaven over one sinner that repents. When one obeys the Gospel, there is joy in Heaven, because a soul has been rescued from eternal suffering. Verse eight relates the parable of a woman who lost a coin and then found it. She rejoiced and let everyone know of her joy. Again, Jesus relates this to the joy felt in Heaven when one obeys the Gospel. Just as we praise God and are glad for all He does for us, the very Heavens rejoice because of God. In Galatians 5:22 we read that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, a result of our obedience to God, and His care for us.

Throughout the Bible we read of those who loved and served God, who endured trials and sorrows and disappointments. Despite their sufferings, they did not fail to praise God. God protects and guards our souls from eternal destruction, if only we will acknowledge and obey Him. Jesus himself endured shame and death on the cross, all because He knew the joy that lay ahead of Him (Heb 12:2).

Are you joyous? Do you feel gladness in God? Are you thankful for all He has done to provide for you and to bring you to Him eternally? Let us hear the words of Peter in 1 Peter 4:13 “but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy.” When we suffer as Christians, it is difficult, and yet we can garner joy in our suffering, for God sees it, and He will reward us one day with eternal life, eternal rest, and eternal joy!

If you are not a Christian, won’t you acknowledge God today? Rejoice in the Lord, and praise Him for all He has done for you!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Tongue

“If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue but deceiveth his heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:26)

If you have ever ridden a horse, you may remember holding onto two strips of leather, called reins. These reins are attached to a special harness on the horse, called a bridle. The sole purpose of the bridle is to control the horse’s actions. If the rider wishes the animal to turn left, the reins are used to guide the horse in that direction. If the rider wants the animal to stop, the rider pulls back on the reins tightly. This causes the mouthpiece, or, “bit” to be pulled into the horse’s mouth. When this occurs, the horse stops so that the bit moves to a more comfortable position in its mouth.

In our text today, James writes that we as humans are to bridle, or restrain, our own tongue. In James 3:8, he writes that no man can tame the tongue, and states that it is full of restless evil, full of deadly poison. Just as one can not truly tame an animal, only restrain it, so it is with the tongue. Recognizing the power of the tongue, both good and evil, is necessary in learning to control it.

One need only spend a little time in society to hear how loose we have allowed our tongues to become. Profanity, blasphemy, angry words, lies, and gossip can be heard everyday. The tongue is at the mercy of the owner; t has no means of restraining itself anymore than a hammer can stop itself from hitting a nail or a thumb.

James writes in chapter three verse five “So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!” Truly, our tongue is among the smallest parts of our bodies, often taken for granted and unappreciated, but powerful. It is merely a muscle consisting of tissue, skin, and blood; a tool given to us by God to aid us in communicating with one another, as well as enabling us to taste and eat. The analogy of starting a fire is a very effective one. When starting a fire, small, thin pieces of wood, called kindling, are used. Once the wood catches fire, the fire consumes the wood quickly, and large pieces of wood can then be added. The same holds true for our words. We do not need a lot of words to inflict great sadness or pain upon someone. All it takes are the right words (or more accurately, the wrong words) being uttered to someone in a spirit of anger and great damage can be done.

In verse six of chapter three James describes the tongue as fire, the world of iniquity, and defiler of the whole body. Truly, the tongue is small in size, but yields great power to do both good and evil.

In Psalm 34:13 the Psalmist warns the reader to keep his/her tongue from evil, and his/her lips from speaking guile. Such wise advice! How many relationships have been damaged by angry, bitter, or cruel words? Have you ever said something in anger, or in a flippant way, and immediately wished you could take the words back? When we do not engage our brains before putting our tongue in gear, we can inflict just as much damage with our words as with our fists, and leave unseen scars on the hearts of those we have hurled our words against.

There is a hymn about this very subject, which states “Angry words! O let them never, from the tongue unbridled slip; may the heart's best impulse ever, check them ere they soil the lip.” How wonderful to have the maturity to consider our words before speaking them! It is a trait that comes naturally to some, but most of us struggle to control our words.

The next verse of the hymn reads “Love is much too pure and holy, Friendship; is too sacred far, For a moment's reckless folly, thus to desolate and mar.” Our words are powerful, capable of great good and great evil. We can have wonderful, loving relationships with friends and family, and in just a moment, say something so unkind, so cruel, that the relationship is forever changed, possibly broken. The last verse of the hymn is equally true “Angry words are lightly spoken, Bit'rest thoughts are rashly stirred, brightest links of life are broken, by a single angry word." How many marriage, family relationships, and friendships have been severed because one or both of the people involved did not control their anger and said unkind things? Perhaps you have experienced this, either by being the one who said something hurtful, or by enduring the hurtful words of another. Regardless of which position was yours, undoubtedly you both felt regret that the situation happened. And while relationships can overcome these situations, unless all involved forgive, it becomes a casualty.

Proverbs 14:29 reads, “He that is slow to anger is of great understanding; But he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” The one who truly understands the power of the spoken word to heal or maim is more likely to consider their words before speaking them. Rarely do we need to speak quickly out of necessity; often we simply wish to be the first to speak and do not consider the importance of what we say. I once heard someone describe another person this way “I think they talk just to hear their head roar.” The phrase basically means that the person speaking has no real purpose in speaking; they have nothing of true importance to say. There are those that seem to want to be heard, but really have nothing worthwhile to say. This is yet another example of when the tongue can get one into trouble. Another quote I appreciate is: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Wisdom dictates a discernment of our speech.

Proverbs 15:1 tells us “A soft answer turneth away wrath; But a grievous word stirreth up anger.” I wish I could tell you that I have never stirred up someone else’s anger, but I have. I also wish I could say that I never did it intentionally, but that would also not be true. When people are hurt either physically or emotionally there are two possible responses: silence or retaliation. Learning not to act, or react, is for some a lifelong quest. Others seem to grasp this talent easier than others. They are the ones that do not ignite situations, but rather diffuse them. They are the ones that are called in to settle disputes, rather than engage in them.

Proverbs 15:18 reads “A wrathful man stirreth up contention; But he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.” Many courts of law today require parties in a lawsuit to attend mediation. Mediation requires an unbiased third party to meet with the parties to try to resolve their issues, thereby avoiding the need for a court hearing. When two people are unable to resolve issues between them or to get along relationship-wise, they often recruit the aid of a third party to help them to work out their issues. The mediator’s role is to act as a “go between,” a disinterested third party who can listen to both parties and help them to come to some sort of agreement about their situation. This requires someone with great patience, objectivity, and above all, a controlled tongue.

Proverbs 29:11 tells us that “A fool uttereth all his anger; But a wise man keepeth it back and stilleth it.” We call this reigning ourselves in, or “holding” or “biting” the tongue. Have you ever become angry and managed to keep from saying anything? I don’t know about you, but for me, it feels impossible to do! The first thing I want to do when I get angry is open my mouth, and that is truly the worse thing that I could do. Ecclesiastes 7:9 warns the reader not to be hasty in anger, and says that anger rests in the bosom of fools. Does that mean that anyone who is angry is foolish? Not always. Jesus became angry and cleared the temple of the moneychangers. They were taking advantage of people, overcharging them and dealing dishonestly with them. His anger was due to the sinful nature of the moneychangers, and He was right to be angry with them. We can read in the Gospels of the many times that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy. Anger of this sort is justified. Unfortunately, mankind rarely is angered by sin, rather anger usually leads to sin.

However, we read in James 5:16 “Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working.” When we sin against each other, we are to confess that sin, and we are to pray for one another. James tells us that the prayers of the righteous availeth much, or have much power. The power to forgive is ours just as much as it is God’s. We read in Luke 17:3 that we are to “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” When we are hurt by the words and actions of others, we must remember that Jesus endured great physical and emotional pain from those who betrayed Him, bore false witness against Him, beat Him, and killed Him. And yet, He prayed for them, telling God that they did not know what they were doing. He looked beyond His pain and saw the pain that we would all endure if we were not able to be reconciled to God through Him. As another hymn says, He could have called 10 thousand angels to rescue Him, but He suffered and died for you and me.

Let us all think about the words that we say and how we say them. Yes there are times when anger is righteous and justified, but mean-spirited, spiteful words are never righteous or justified. In the same amount of time we can inflict much harm rather than help. Let us strive to speak as our Savior did, even as He suffered and died: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Let us pray for one another to be more aware of our words and our tone. Let us speak in love and help one another through this life with encouragement and loving admonishment.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Ps 46:10 )

We read in the Old Testament of a man named David. He was a mere shepherd boy who killed a giant Philistine with one rock and a sling. He was chosen to replace King Saul as the King of Israel, a fact which nearly cost him his life due to Saul’s jealousy. When God revealed to Saul that He was taking the kingdom from him, God described Saul’s successor as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

Our scripture text today, Psalm 46:10, comes from a psalm written by David in which he extolls the comfort provided by God to those who believe. The first verse states “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”. We read in the Old Testament of the sin of David and Bathsheba, of David’s sin in having Bathsheba’s husband purposely killed in battle, and of the subsequent death of the child Bathsheba conceived with David. We read in 2 Samuel 12:16 that David fasted and prayed, asking God to spare the child’s life.

David was going about his life, enjoying Bathsheba, his child, his kingdom. Suddenly, his child became sick and David’s life focus become one thing and one thing only...saving his child’s life. On the seventh day, the child died, and David’s servants feared what would happen if they told him. While the child was alive, David did not eat food, change his clothing, or bathe. David was obviously devastated and his only prayer was that God spare the child’s life.

When David discovered that the child had died, he got up, washed, changed his clothes, and went to worship God. When he returned home, he ate. His servants were confused...he had been so upset when the child was sick and now he was no longer mourning? To them, David’s actions seemed backwards;. before the child died, there was hope and he was devastated; now the child was dead and he was resuming his life? How could he eat when his child had just died?

In 2 Samuel 12:22-23, we read David’s response “And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who knoweth whether Jehovah will not be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” David realized that he had done all he could do to save his child. David was facing the reality of his sin with Bathsheba and the reality of God’s power. God could just as easily have killed David or Bathsheba. Instead, God had taken their child, and in doing so, He had regained David’s undivided attention.

The Hebrew word used for fast is tsuwm {tsoom}, meaning to abstain from food. The practice of fasting, of abstaining from eating food for a period of time, is demonstrated several times in the Bible. We read in 2 Chronicles 20:3 that Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast throughout Judah. In Ezra 8:21 we read that a fast was held to reflect humbling before God, to seek His will. In the story of Esther, we read that Queen Esther asked Mordecai to fast, or abstain from eating food or drinking liquids for three days. She and her maidens were also going to fast, and pray that the King would hear her plea. When Jonah proclaimed to the people of Nineveh that God would destroy them if they did not repent, they fasted and wore sackcloth, the clothing worn during mourning. Fasting was practiced by those in great mourning, either mourning the sickness or death of a loved one or, the mourning of sin in their life. It was a means of expressing to God great sadness and was accompanied by prayer to God requesting healing, comfort, even forgiveness.

In the case of David, certainly he realized that the child was born as a result of the sin of adultery that he and Bathsheba had committed. He knew that he had sinned against God, and the child being taken from him, while painful, did not sway David’s faith. When he heard that the child had died, David cleaned himself up and worshipped God. In his sorrow, David recognized God’s power, His glory, and His omniscience.

David was a warrior in his lifetime. As a result of this, he was not allowed by God to build the temple. David had shed the blood of both animals and men. He had been sought by his enemies, including Saul, who desired to kill him. While caring for his father’s flocks as a young boy, David had killed a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:36). He was no stranger to violence, and yet was looked upon by God as a man whose heart was like the heart of God.

We, like David, become consumed with this life’s tasks and with our desires. It is difficult enough to find time to do all we need to do each day, and finding a moment for God can seem impossible. We never seem to have enough time to do all we want to, but, more accurately, we tend to concern ourselves with things that should not be a priority. We intend to get together with other people, we intend to do good things, we want to help others, but there is no time. Truthfully, there is time, but our inability to properly prioritize results in less important things superseding the more important. But no matter how busy we are, now matter how consumed, the death or illness of a loved one will stop us in our tracks. Suddenly the day to day tasks become less important to us. Our focus is shifted from ordinary things. We now focus on the person who is sick, on helping them and their family. If there is a death, we may call the family, go to see them, take food, attend a memorial. It is a time when our lives are made to stop moving so quickly, and we focus on the fact that this life is temporary.

The last verse of our scripture text reads “Jehovah of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.” David realized this while praying for his child and in his acceptance of the child’s death. David made many mistakes in his life, but when confronted with his sin, he became still and realized that God was in control. At a time when it might have frustrated some to have their fervent prayers answered differently than they hoped, David accepted God’s answer and worshipped God. David accepted the fact that his child was dead, and that there was nothing he could do about it. David had prayed for the child to be healed, and God had said “No.”

Today we have events that occur in our life, sometimes as a result of our own sins, that grieve us. The consequences of sin are never worth the pleasure of the sin, and David’s sin with Bathsheba had resulted in the loss of their child. It seems a hard lesson to understand why God would allow this innocent child to suffer and die. Perhaps David believed it to be because he had sinned and therefore accepted it as a consequence of his actions. For whatever reason, the experience brought David to a halt, and caused him to look at his life and see the sins he had committed. While David prayed for the life of his child, he put his faith in God, and recognized that he was powerless over God. David was a mighty warrior, a powerful king, but he was bested by Jehovah, the creator of all living things. David humbled himself before God both while the child was alive and when the child died. David knew that God was in control, and that humbled David to the point that he could trust God, implicitly, and accept even that which was too painful to understand.

Life is filled with injustice, unfair treatment, and evil. There are times when we pray and our prayers are answered with silence or are answered the opposite of how we hope. At times life can be overwhelming in its sadness and frustrating to deal with. But David learned that no matter what, God is there. Whether our sadness is due to our own sin, the sin of others, illness, or death, God can comfort us. He may not remove the circumstances or the consequences, but He will provide comfort to us. In order to gain the comfort, we must first believe in God’s power. While God provides for all people, many struggle greatly in this life because they do not acknowledge God.

Jesus suffered many things in His life and yet as He hung on the cross, He prayed for those who sinned against Him (Luke 23:34). Jesus, who calmed the seas and quieted the storms, sought comfort from God through prayer as he prepared to go to the cross. We too can experience the peace and comfort from God, if only we will acknowledge Him.

Are you suffering today? Are you in need of comfort? God loves you and cares for you so much, He gave His Son’s life to provide a means for you to be reconciled to Him. Won’t you acknowledge God’s power today, and allow Him to comfort you?

Be still, and know that He is God.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Here We Go Again

My name is ___________ and I am a webpage design junkie.


I have created pages on MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, and now Blogspot.

I love the whole process of setting up a website. Then I get bored and delete it.

So, here we go again. I hope I can make my readers laugh, cry, shout, scream, cheer, react, act, be.