Weekend Word - Part VII

“Then Jesus said, “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.” Matthew 11:28-30

Don’t we all need to read this verse from time to time…I feel like given the pace of my life, this is another verse, just like last week, I should probably read everyday.

Who among us does not know what it’s like to feel totally week…totally exhausted…like we couldn’t take another step?...and I don’t just mean physically, I mean emotionally and spiritually as well. Perhaps you’ve taken so many hits to your self-esteem you can’t imagine ever being able to take a chance again…you’ve experience such great loss that you don’t think you will or could ever be happy…you’ve been waiting and waiting for God to renew your spirit and it just hasn’t happened and you’re feeling utterly lost, alone, and hopeless…these are what I consider to be “weary and heavy burden” moments…

“I will give you rest”…relief…I’ll take those problems for a while…I’ll give you joy, peace, love, hope…I will renew your strength…I love you…let me show you…don’t try to handle this alone…I can take it…trust me…

Now, I can be a little Rob Bell-is this week, because I’ve actually heard people (him) talk about what it means to take on a teacher’s “yoke.” (although, I’m sure I’ll most likely butcher the meaning of this because I totally just write this stuff from the top of my head…there’s no extra research involved…it’s the weekend…I don’t have that kind of energy or drive…I’ll just say it’s on one of his Nooma dvd’s so you should probably just watch it to get the real info). I think that in Jewish culture, when you chose to identify yourself with a particular rabbi or teacher, you would take on their “yoke.” That meant that you would take on their teachings. Then it would be your job to pass those teachings and ideas on to others. So, when Jesus said that His “yoke is easy” and “His burden is light,” He’s letting us know that we’re not going to be taking on this impossible task by being His follower. It’s doable, it’s achievable. He even says it easy…and that He'll be easy on us...He's humble...not the kind of know it all that you can't stand to be around...and when you get something wrong, or fail a little, He's not gonna beat you...He'll be loving and gentle

Now, I don’t want to disagree with what Jesus says here…so please don’t think that’s what I’m doing, but I don’t really necessarily feel that His burden is light. I see His burden as being death on the cross…death to self…and the burden of reaching the world with His love and power…I mean, perhaps that’s not what He’s talking about here, but I take it as a very heavy burden. However, it's not a hopeless one…not one that I carry alone. Maybe that’s why He considers it “light.” Perhaps it’s light, because it’s shared by all Christians…and Jesus is holding up the heavy side…What an awesomely cool God we have…I feel like that sounds kinda corny, but how else can you describe someone who’s willing to take on our heart aches, struggles, pain, and sorrow so that we don’t have to? I think that’s pretty awesomely cool in my mind…don’t you?

~Blevins – out!

Weekend Word - Part VII

“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” James 4:17

Yeah…I almost feel like this is one of those “enough said” moments. Oh James, why must you be so complicated and stressful?! I would definitely say that although short in length, James is one of the longer books of the Bible when we’re talking about unpacking what it means. I think we could go on for weeks about what this little book has to say about the way we should live (and at CCC we have...just listen to the series "Shorts"...one of the guys that speaks during that series is pretty amazing...I'm sorta kinda head over heels for that guy...).

This particular verse is one that I think I should probably read everyday. How many times do I see something that I really should do, and don’t do it? I just pass the opportunity on by and probably don’t even give it another thought…well, that’s not true…I’m actually the type of person who, once I realize I should have done something and didn’t do it, will beat myself up over it…however, I’m not sure that I ever really think about it as sin. I wonder if I did think of it as sin, would I take the time to make sure I did what I know I ought? And, the times that I have asked God to forgive me for missed opportunities (when I've realized it) are almost more unbearable than asking God to forgive me for not telling the truth or speeding down Rt. 40...And what about the times that I just totally miss the boat? Is it because I’m too self-absorbed to see the world around me?...probably, but how can God forgive me for that? I guess I’m just really really thankful for the power of Jesus’ blood and the fact that it can wash away any sin…even the sin of missed opportunity…

I will close by saying that it is my earnest prayer that God will somehow make clear the things I ought to do, so I can be a blameless and pure child of His…one without fault or blemish…one that can say that she lived her life for God, and lived it well, making the most of everything.

~Blevins – out!

Weekend Word Part VI

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.” Matthew 16:24-27

So…this is one of those…”Holy cow, why did Jesus have to say such things?” verses…I read this and think, there’s no way I can live up to these standards…I mean, I don’t necessarily consider myself to be all that selfish, but then, let’s stop and think about the definition of selfish. Selfish: (adj) devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others. Now, I don’t really know all that many people who only care for themselves so then I start to wonder if we (America) aren’t as selfish as everyone always says we are. On the other hand, when I look at the rest of the definition and read the words “concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc.” I start to wonder…maybe I am really selfish. I’m not saying that I don’t care about anyone else but me. I just mean that I am normally absorbed in thinking about my own interests, my own well-being. Many times I am so much consumed with thinking about everything that’s going on with me, that it clouds out what God might be prompting me to do…changes I might need to make, people I might need to help, things I might need to do, steps of faith I might need to take…Perhaps that’s the reason why Jesus says these words about being selfish first. That is to say, that if we (myself included) are mainly concerned with ourselves, then there is no room for God to move in our lives…He’s a big God…He’s not going to play second fiddle to us.

“Take up your cross…” This phrase reminds me of that song we used to sing a lot in church growing up…I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. I’ve always enjoyed this hymn…I don’t know if it’s because of the words or how easy it is to sing or because it has so many verses, but it’s definitely one of my favorites. Anyway, there’s a verse in this song that says “My cross I’ll carry ‘till I see Jesus.” I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by this idea. Now, if I were Rob Bell or somebody like that, I’d probably have some type of historical meaning to this idea of taking up one’s cross, but alas, I do not. I’ll just convey what I think it means…I guess because I’m selfish like that. Welp, I think we all have these crosses in our lives, just like Jesus. Jesus always knew he was going to die…I've always seen is as this big thing between Him and God…like the proverbial “pink elephant” in the room. I can imagine that Jesus most likely mentioned it every time He talked to God…I know I would. “Hey dad, about this whole dying and giving up my life thing…that’s really gonna hurt and be really hard…can’t we rethink this a little…” These are the kinds of bargains I feel like I have with God too…of course mine are absolutely meaningless compared with Jesus giving up His life to save the whole world, but I think the idea is sort of the same. We all have these hang-ups…these things that keep us from really giving in fully to God’s plan. I think one of the points that Jesus is trying to make here is that He knows we have these things, these issues, these “crosses” that we carry around with us…these burdens, if you will, and He wants us to pick them up and bring them to Him. It won’t be easy, it will probably hurt, it will probably be a little humiliating, we’ll definitely need some help with it, but in order to follow Him, in order to be like Jesus, we have to be willing to take up that proverbial cross.

“Follow me…” well that’s definitely easier said than done. I’m still holding out for those burning bush, goatskin in the dew, writing on the wall occurrences…I guess that’s not happening anytime soon, so how do I know I’m following Jesus? I suppose that’s where faith comes in to play. We just have to have faith that God will somehow make His path clear to us so that we can follow…

"If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” This part seems self explanatory, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult to do. I kinda get the feeling that maybe Jesus was not only talking to His followers, but to Himself too.

And here comes the real kick in the butt moment…”And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” It is so easy to get caught in the trap of “getting.” (or at least that’s what I’m going to call it) It happens to me all of the time. There are so many things in this world that I want to gain…money, things, power, stature (well maybe not all of those things, but it’s gotta be true for some people…). Then I read this and I get all squirmy inside. I don’t mean to be someone who is trying to gain the whole world, but sometimes I feel like I’m getting pulled into the whirlpool and can’t swim out. That makes me worry…not just for myself (because at least I have moments of clarity where I realize that I’m putting my wants ahead of following God), but it makes me really worry about our world in general. How many people around us are losing their souls (and not just people who are “lost”—people we see in church with us each Sunday)? I know those are harsh words, but they’re the ones Jesus used…so we know they’re true.

And finally, “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.” This is one of those things that keeps me up at night from time to time. When I think about being judged according to my deeds, I get this weird flush that rolls right over me, it’s probably some type of a panic attack. I know that I have many things that I do right and I do them for the right reasons, but, I also have so many ways that I fail and fall. I have those thoughts that wouldn’t be really pleasing to anyone, especially the God of all creation. Ugh, I guess this just another reason to remember that although God is just, He’s also loving and forgiving. I think I’ll choose to hang on to that for now, just so I don’t get all freaked out and panicky…What a great note to end on…perhaps I should have planned this one out a little bit better. I guess the best thing is that there’s still hope…there’s still time to follow hard after Jesus…to gather up all of our problems and hang-ups and issues and to seek after Him…to put our worldly desires and struggles in the back seat and to let our actions scream to the heavens how wonderful our God is.

There you go...two weekends in a row...
~Blevins - out!

Weekend Word Part V

“But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.” Job 23:10-11 (NLT)

This verse is from the Old Testament book of Job. Job was this dude that had a whole bunch of bad junk happen to him. You see, Satan thought he could cause Job to turn away from God, so he sent horrible events his way. Even though everyone thought Job had done something horrible in the eyes of God and that he was being punished and that he should go ahead and curse God and be done with it, Job thought differently. He knew that no matter what happened, even if he didn’t understand it, God loved Him. Therefore, he never gave up. He stayed strong. He persevered.

Given Job’s history, and all that he had lost, I love the fact that he didn’t doubt what he had done. He knew that he never compromised.

I wonder about my life. When God tests me, do I “come out as pure gold?” I think to be able to say “I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside,” at the end of my life would be an amazing accomplishment. I feel like these two verses are “life verse worthy”…you know what I mean? Sometimes people will ask “what’s your life verse?”--I never really know what to say. I have a lot of verses that I really like and many that would be great to live my life by, but isn’t the Bible full of verses like that? “I have followed his ways and not turned aside…” There’s the goal…

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