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Showing posts with label Matthew 11:28-30. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matthew 11:28-30. Show all posts

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Prayer of Rest

Advent is the season where we get ready for Christmas.  It’s also the season we remember that Jesus is coming again and so we work to be ready for that Second Coming.  We prepare our soul through prayer and fasting and worship and study and service.  Advent is nearly at an end.  Christmas is in two days.  Are you ready?  It’s been a long, busy season.  We’ve worked hard.  We’ve studied many types of prayer.  I’m looking forward to the Christmas break when we can rest a bit.  We need rest.  I need rest.

Part of prayer is learning to truly rest in God, even in the midst of chaos.  So today, let me share about what is known as the prayer of rest.

Matthew 11:28-30
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Jesus Invites us to Rest in Him
Who couldn’t use a little more rest?  As children, we often fought our parents when they tried to make us take a nap.  (When I became a parent, I learned how blessed it could be to make your child take a nap--because it gives you a moment to rest too!!!)  As adults, there always seems to be too much to do and never enough time to rest.  Some people would kill for a little extra nap time!  I have Good News!  God wants you to rest!

When God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, He established a holy rhythm for life.  There were six days to do the ordinary work of life and then the seventh day was a special day to rest.  It is was a wonderful gift God gave to humanity--a special day just for rest, to leave off from the stress and strain of regular work and just enjoy sweet communion with God who is the source of life.

But people, who are overwhelmed with sin, always strive to gain more, more, more.  God wants to give us rest, but if we rest, we might miss out on some of the “more” that we desperately want.  We say we want rest, but when we have the choice between entering into the Lord’s rest or chasing after more (more money, more fun, more stuff, more more more), we usually choose “more” over rest.  If we are honest and if we really think on the matter, we realize our lack of rest is most often the result of our own choices and priorities in life.

In the midst of this, Jesus invites us to rest.  “Come to me,” he says, “And I will give you rest.”  In other words, be my disciple (follow me, pattern your life after my ways instead of your own or the world’s example), and I will give you rest.  Again, the choice is before us.  We can choose His way that leads to rest, but we most often choose a different path that keeps us from rest. 

Sabbath, rest, means to rest in God.  It is trusting in Him to take care of things without giving in to the nagging impulse inside that says we’ve got to make something happen.  Sabbath rest is not so much “being lazy and doing nothing or sleeping all day”; it is letting go and trusting God to handle it (or else doing what He tells us to do according to His plan).

3 Ways to Practice the Prayer of Rest
The first practice is solitude, something I spoke about last week.  Solitude is going off to be by yourself.  Solitude can help you worry less about what others think, but it can also help you stop trying to be in control everything.  When you voluntarily step away from all your normal work and interactions with people, you have to let go.  We may think the world cannot survive without us; everything is going to fall apart if we’re not there to keep the train on the tracks.  Is that really so?  Are you so important the world cannot survive without you?  Who do you think you are?  (Pause…)

Last January, me and my whole family came down with the flu.  I was not able to go preach or lead worship at the church I pastor.  Thankfully, my worship leader and choir leader volunteered to lead the service without me.  They told me to stay home and rest and recuperate.  They designed a prayer service with special music and different people from our congregation leading prayer.  They designed and lead it completely without me.  People loved it and told me how meaningful it was for them.  It was so well-received, we decided to do ti again this year (not get the flu, but the service!).  Furthermore, that same day, I was scheduled to lead a planning meeting where we planned all the activities for the 2018 year.  I was supposed to lead the meeting.  Thankfully, two ladies from my church stepped up and led the meeting.  With the help of other leaders in the church, they planned all the activities for the calendar year.  And it all turned out great!  We had a great 2018 year full of wonderful programs.  And it all got planned without me (maybe because I wasn't there).

Step away from things.  Go off by yourself for a time--a few hours, a few days.  Rest in the Lord.  Meditate on this eternal truth:  One day you will not be here anymore.  Do you think the world will not go on without you?  Of course it will.  And it will go on with you for a little while if you leave it alone and take a rest.  In fact, things may work themself out just fine without you (with God’s help instead of yours).  It may be that your absence is what is really needed in order for God to work it out.

Silence is another way to practice the prayer of rest.  What I mean by “silence” is not so much refusing to speak or make noise.  What I mean is to silence your striving and grasping and manipulative control of people and situations.  You have to silence the inner turmoil within your mind that worries frantically, “I have to do something!”  No.  All you need to do right now is rest.  Be still and know that God is in control.  He doesn’t need any help from you.  Quiet your mind and let God rebalance you. If and when He want you to get involved, He will show you.  Then you will be a peace in your soul and better able to resume your work according to His priorities.  But here’s the thing, you can’t hear God’s still small voice guiding you until you silence all the other worrisome voices loudly urging you to “Go! Go! Go!”

A third way to practice the prayer of rest is reflection.  Through reflection, you take time to stop your work, rest, and intentionally reflect on your life.  You consider:  Who am I?  What is my purpose according to God plan?  You make time to reflect on God’s glory, what He has done for you, and His incredible power and ability to hold the whole world together.  You empty your mind of all the things you have to do and instead consider the wonder of God and rest in His love for you and the reasons He gave you life.

Caution!  (Don’t Be A Pharisee)
The Pharisees in Jesus' day were militant about the Sabbath.  They believed you could not break it because God said so.  Jesus came along and drove them crazy, because he kept doing things like healing people or picking corn on the Sabbath and they said it was against the law.  Jesus said something different.  He said the Sabbath was made to serve man not man to serve the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is God's gift to us, not something we do for God's sake.

Sabbath is different for every person.  Exodus 20:8-9 says, “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.”  I added the italics to the word ordinary because I want to point out that everyone works in different ways and we need rest from our ordinary work.  Most people work all week long and then rest on the weekend.  I'm a pastor.  My most important work day is on Sunday, a day everyone else considers a Sabbath.  And I also work by serving God through religious activity.  That is my ordinary work.  So when I rest, I like to do something different--maybe build some furniture or work on a car.  That is restful for me, even though it may be very physical.  Resting for me often means not doing "church" stuff.  For you it will probably be different.  You need to take a break from your ordinary work routine and do something dedicated to resting in God.

Maybe, you want to take a vacation.  Great!  But be sure it's a resting vacation.  Sometimes we work so hard trying to pack more, fun, more memories, more, more, more into our vacations, they are anything but restful.  Just slow down, take it easy, and rest.

Jesus invites you to rest.  He says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Notice that Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you.”  A yoke is a tool to help oxen do work by pulling a loaded cart.  So following Christ still means you will work.  The difference is, the work will fit you so well it won’t seem much like work at all.  On behalf of Christ, I invite you to come to him and rest.  Lay your burdens aside and take his yoke upon you.  Enter into the prayer of rest.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Come to Me

            God reveals Himself to His people through Jesus Christ.  When we look at Jesus, we see God, the Father.  Yet not everyone sees God in Jesus.  Even miracles cannot convince some people.  What truly helps us to see God in Jesus is humility.  When we humble ourselves and admit we are not as wise as we think, we begin to hear the voice of God calling us. 
Do you realize how much you need God?  Have the worries and burdens of this life weighed you down enough to see him yet?  Listen, oh people, for the voice of God to you today.

Matthew 11:28-30
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

An Invitation
            Jesus offers an invitation.  He does not invite just anyone.  In this passage, He invites only a particular kind of people—those who are weary and carry heavy burdens
We are an “inclusive” people and so we imagine Jesus would invite all people.  Jesus wants to save all people, but there are many people who do not want to be saved.  The frustrating Truth is there are many people who do not really believe they need to be saved.
In Jesus’ time, there were whole towns who rejected His ministry.  Jesus cursed the towns of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because they saw Jesus perform miracles and yet still refused to turn to God.  It was primarily the cripple, poor, and outcast that saw Jesus as the Savior they desperately needed.  Very few of his early followers were the rich, influential, people of means.  The frustrating Truth is people who feel like they can handle life by themselves rarely come to Jesus.  It is those who are “weary” and carry heavy burdens that recognize their desperate need of a Savior and come to the Lord.

The Weary
            Are you weary this morning?  There are many things that can make us weary.  Sometimes health problems can make you weary.  We saw this in Jesus time; that is why healing stories were so much a part of Jesus’ ministry.  It is frustrating and scary when your body breakdowns.  It reminds you so quickly how fragile life is and that you are not really in control of very much.  We pray for healing, but sickness can be a blessing because it can brings us closer to Jesus.
            Some people are weary because they are too busy.  We live in a world where we must go, go, go!  We try to pack so much into our lives and into our family’s lives that we are run ragged.  We are tired physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  We are stressed by our fear of failing.  We never feel like we have enough time, money, or fulfillment in life.  The only hope is that all this business finally brings a weary person to their knees so they can hear Jesus' voice calling them to surrender it all to Him.
            Some people are weary because the world is such a dark place these days.  We fear our children and grandchildren’s will not know the world we grew up in—the prosperity, the kindness, the freedom, the values, the communities we have come to cherish.  We don’t want our world to fall apart and we don’t want our children to suffer in a dark future we cannot fend off or control.  Some are weary with worry about the future.  Perhaps in our weariness we will turn to Jesus.
            Some are weary because they keep making the same mistakes over and over again.  Like an alcoholic who keeps drinking even though he knows it is destroying him and those he cares about, we keep making the same mistakes again and again—disappointing our friends and family.  At first, we thought we could change on our own, but experience has worn us down to admit we are trapped in our bad behavior.  We are ashamed of our mistakes and tired of our failures.  Praise the Lord!  We are better off than most because Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary…"
            What about you?  Are you weary?  Perhaps you are weary for another reason.  There are a thousand ways this world can make you weary.  I could never name them all, but you know your heart.  You know why you are weary.  Rejoice, then, for Jesus invites you to come to him!

The Heavy Laden
            Are you carrying a heavy burden?  There are many heavy burdens we must carry in this life.  It is a heavy burden to be a parent in this world.  Just the typical responsibilities are heavy enough: assuring your kids’ basic needs are provided—food, shelter, clothing, education,  extracurricular activity—sports, band, social life (parents in America today are some of the busiest people on the planet.  We have so many worries for our kids.  We worry about their physical and mental well-being.  We worry about their future (will they be prepared for life and will the world they inherit be worth living in).
            Caring for children is not the only heavy burden.  Being responsibility for any other human being is a heavy burden.  Often children grow up to take on the burden of carrying for their parents (and the parents are burdened because they have become a burden to their children).
            In the business world, we can be responsible for the welfare of employees under our leadership.  We feel the burden of caring for them and enabling them to provide for their families.  We carry an especially heavy weight when we must fire an employee for one reason or another.
            Being a leader in the church can be a heavy burden.  Think about our HR committee.  They must oversee the staff of our church—people they love and consider brothers or sisters in Christ.  Yet they must also relate to our staff as “employees.”
            I think of Andy Andrews, the chairman of our Trustees Committee, who has the responsibility of overseeing our church facilities (and dealing with the dreams and expectations of hundreds of church members who care deeply about this property and the ministries of our church).
            Another heavy burden so many Americans carry is debt.  The average American household has $132,086 of debt—$15,310 of it in credit cards![i]  Debt piles up.  In the beginning, it is only a small payment.  However, as debt rises, it consumes more and more of a family’s income until it can seem impossible to bear.
            Perhaps the heaviest burden to carry is guilt and shame.  There is nothing worse for a person than to bear the guilt and shame of having wronged another person (or worse) having wronged God.  It is a terrible burden to feel unforgiven.
            What about you?  Do you carry heavy burdens?  Rejoice, then, for Jesus invites you to come to him!

The Yoke of Christ
            Jesus said, “My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.  It is an image of the Christian life.  It might seem an odd image—the idea that we are like animals wearing a yoke and pulling a cart.  You might think, “Forget that!  Who wants to have a yoke around their neck?”  Well, as you have seen, you already do.  Life is heavy load to pull and we are not free of the weight of it as long as we take breath.  If you are breathing, you have yoke around your neck.  The only choice you have is which yoke you wear and who is pulling with you.
            Jesus said, “My yoke is easy to bear…”  A yoke is made of wood.  An especially good yoke is customized to fit a particular animal.  First the yoke is made to the general size and shape to fit any animal (say an ox).  Then, a yoke can be made more comfortable by a carpenter who carves the lines and curves of the yoke to fit exactly over an individual ox’s neck and shoulders.  In this way, the yoke is now customized for that individual animal and will not fit on any other animal as comfortably as it fits the particular animal for which it was made.
            Remember, Jesus was a carpenter.  It is quite likely that some of his work as a carpenter was to customize yokes for oxen in his day.  I could imagine this saying in our scripture would have made a nice slogan for the sign over his carpenter shop.  Can you imagine it?  "My yoke is easy to bear..."
            When it comes to the yoke of life, Jesus has one that is custom made just for you.  We go through life trying to fit ourselves into all the roles this world tells us we are supposed to be.  We try to be like the people we admire (or that the world tells us we should admire).  We try to keep up with the Joneses, but we our last name is not Jones.  However, Jesus has a life that's custom made just for you.  If you are weary, if the heavy burdens of your yoke is chaffing you, go to Jesus and exchange it for the yoke he made just for you.  It is light and easy to bear.
            There is another thing about a yoke.  It is made for two.  In life, you don’t pull the weight all by yourself.  You pull it with someone else.  Who are you pulling with in this life?  It may be that you've been yoked with the wrong people.  
            Our church secretary's daughter was visiting the church office this week and we were talking about this sermon.  She thought a yoke was just something inside an egg!  When I showed her a picture of the yoke and said how Jesus said we were yoked, she said, “You better like who you are yoked with.  What if you're yoke to someone ugly!” Haha!  That'll preach!
            Some of us are yoked with the wrong things or people.  And the things or people we're yoked with are pulling in the wrong direction or not pulling at all.  That's not good.  You better make sure you're yoked to the right person.
            Some might think the right person to yoked with is your wife or husband.  That's would be better than being yoked to the world, but it's still not the answer.  Your should be on the team with your spouse, but your spouse is just a person and sometimes they fall.  If your primary reliance is on your spouse, they're going to let you down.  Sometimes they don't pull their weight and sometimes they fall--and when they do, they could drag you down with them.  Don't rely on them to do what only Jesus can do.  
            Jesus said, “…the burden I give you is light.”  He should know.  He is pulling it with you.  People will let you down, but Jesus won't.  Jesus never stumbles and falls.  Jesus always pulls his weight.  Jesus can help you pull any load or carry any burden because he's doing it with you and he has the strength to carry anything--even a cross.

            “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  I invite you to come to Jesus and find rest.  Go him, take off your burdens and lay them down before Jesus.  Bow your head in prayer right now.  Tell him your troubles.  Give them to him and let them go.  Put on His yoke and go forth in peace.