Life’s Hardest Lessons

Our “education” doesn’t end when we finish school, whatever level that may be. ¬†I sometimes joke that I’ve learned the most from that school whose colors are black and blue. ūüôā ¬†I seem to keep getting set back a grade, though, because in some things I never seem to learn. ¬† This world isn’t the only one which believes in “continuing education”.

The most difficult lessons are about something the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV),

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. ¬†Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ¬†For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”¬†

Spurgeon had a tremendous sermon on this text, and if I still had it, I¬†would be tempted ¬†just to print it, even if it is twelve¬†pages long. ¬†He’s not to be blamed, though, for the thoughts which follow.

There seem to be two “grades,” if you will, in this school. ¬†These are found in connection with the word, “rest.”

In the first grade¬†–¬†would that it were that simple because that was where we learned the ABC’s and 123’s¬†–¬†in the first grade, our Lord says to “come” and He will give us rest.

This, I believe, is the “rest” of salvation.

With this phrase,¬†I don’t mean¬†that there is something “more” to salvation, that is, the “rest” of it. ¬†Perhaps I should have said, “the rest which comes from salvation.” ¬†There are those who look for something more, some experience, some emotion, something… beyond “salvation.” ¬†They look for the “abundant life,” as if eternal life itself isn’t enough. ¬†They want a “second” blessing, as if we¬†haven’t already received every spiritual blessing¬†in the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 1:4. ¬†They just feel that something is missing.

Nor, by this phrase, do I mean that we can “kick back and take it easy;” we can just “rest” and goof off. ¬†We’re on our way to heaven. ¬†Saying this, I DON’T mean that we somehow have to work our way to salvation, or that we even can do such a thing, though our Lord does address those¬†who labor and are heavy-laden.¬†

No, no, I believe He’s talking to those who “labor” in the shackles¬†of sin, though modern “wisdom” has¬†lessened that thought to a mere “addiction.” ¬†They are “heavy laden” with the effects of their lives: disease, poverty, crime, violence, to name just a few. ¬†Just in passing, though I’m not really railing against “evil Joe Camel” or “Demon Rum,” but how much do you suppose¬†an average person spends in a year on tobacco or alcohol? ¬†In a life? ¬†I don’t know, though I suppose someone has figured it out. ¬†But at $5 or so a pack for cigarettes – and a pack or two a day? ¬†No wonder folks are “poor!” ¬†And that doesn’t figure in the cost¬†of alcohol. ¬†Or the price of a “fix.”

Even for those who aren’t one of “them,” life apart from the Lord Jesus is expensive. How much will¬†some pay for “success,” however that may be defined?

What will they pay for “stuff?”

No, no, our Lord talks about “rest” because the work of salvation is done. ¬†When He cried out on the Cross, “It is finished,” He didn’t mean there was something left for us to do to “complete” salvation. ¬†He lived the live we can’t live; He died the death we can never die – the only life and death which can satisfy God’s law and justice. ¬†That work is forever done.

Some people look to the “merits” of saints to help them out. ¬†Beloved, there’s only ever been One Who had any merit to begin with, let alone have any “left over”!

To “come” doesn’t mean to walk an aisle or pray a prayer or do any of a hundred other things religion says to do. ¬†It means to believe, to trust, to “rest” on Christ, Who He was and what He did for sinners like you and me. ¬†To rely on Him to the point that if He were to fail – and He can’t! ¬†He won’t! – there’s no other hope for us.

Because, apart from Him, there IS no other hope!

However, there is another word our Lord uses. ¬†He said,¬†“Take.”¬†

This, I believe, is the “rest” of¬†submission.¬†

Oh, that word raises the hackles. ¬†It makes us arch our back and spit like a cat. ¬†There are whole bunches¬†of religious people¬†who oppose this idea with all their might. ¬†And these aren’t just “liberal” folks; they might otherwise be very “conservative”. ¬†They might even “believe the Bible from cover to cover.”

I spent several years among them. ¬†Saw perhaps hundreds of “professions,” but only¬†handfuls who were¬†ever baptized or joined a church. ¬†But they were “saved” because they had “prayed the prayer.” ¬†Or so it was said. ¬†I really don’t know in any particular case because I can’t see the heart.

But I do¬†believe that there will be multitudes who will “weep and wail” at the judgment because they did what some preacher or soul-winner or priest or rabbi or imam or guru or whatever told them to do, only to find out when it’s too late that it’s not what God told them to do.

The “yoke” speaks of service. ¬†It was put on the neck of animals so they could pull a plow or some other item.

All of us have a “yoke” of one kind or another. ¬†But our Lord tells us to take His yoke, to serve Him, not sin, nor self, nor stuff.

It amazes me even after several years of study and writing, etc., that even in the middle of writing this very post, I saw something I can’t say I had really noticed before. ¬†In reading over our Lord’s words, I was struck that there was a third thing He told us to do.

He said to “learn” from Him.

There are multitudes who are “Doctors” or “Masters” of some particular branch of learning. ¬†And I am not against “formal” education. ¬†I have a degree, though not as exalted as those.

Ah, but to learn from Christ Himself! ¬†And not just about Him! ¬†How I would love¬†to have been with¬†those who sat at His feet or those on the road to Emmaus who listened to Him and who testified later,¬†“Did not our hearts burn within us, …while He opened the Scripture to us?”¬†Luke 24:32.

But why Him?

“I am gentle and lowly in heart.”….

Yesterday was Christmas.

Today – not so much.

The wrapping paper has been picked up and put in the trash. ¬†All the food has been put away, though I fear the scale might tell us we put too much away! ¬†In the retail world, this is a very busy day, with gifts being returned and exchanged, and with all the “after-Christmas sales.”

The nativity set probably still sits there, sharing space with a tree and ornaments and decorations.

Christmas was yesterday.  (Sounds like the title of a post.)

In a few days, there will be a New Year, the ball will drop in Times Square, and life will go on.

Will the lesson have been learned – the gentleness and meekness of Christ?

“Very God of Very God.”

Born a Baby.

In a feeding trough.

Probably not….

But there’s another reason “why Him”?

“My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”¬†

So much easier than that burden you’re carrying right now.

The world looks at Biblical Christianity as a terrible thing. ¬†I had a man tell me that God ¬†forbids all the things we want to do. ¬†That’s because they’re bad for us, now and forever.

So, why do that? ¬†Why “come”? ¬†Why “take”? ¬†Why “learn”?

Because we will¬†“find rest for our souls.”¬†

The most popular drugs are tranquilizers. ¬†One of the most common ailments is stress. ¬†That’s because this world has no resting place. ¬†There’s nothing that really can say, “That’s enough.” ¬†There’s always another dollar, another pleasure, another rung on the ladder, another “thing.” ¬†We need this year’s model; last year’s model isn’t any good any more. ¬†We have been taught to believe that “new” is “improved.” ¬†That it’s better.

But it wears out or becomes old itself.

Only God’s blessing, in Christ, in¬†new every morning, Lamentations 3:23. ¬†(You might take note of the surrounding verses and chapters in this short book. ¬†It isn’t about “health and wealth” or any of the other things our modern superficial spirituality looks for. ¬†It is about trusting God when everything around us says, “Why?”)

Oh, there’s so much more I could write. ¬†So many things.

But I don’t know you, my dear reader.

I pray the Spirit of God will do that which I cannot, and find you wherever you may be in life and make you a student in the School of Christ, that One Who alone has the words of eternal life, John 6:68.

May God add His blessing, for Jesus’ sake.

Where’s God??

God is seldom involved directly in what happens in this world. ¬†He created it with physical, natural and moral laws, which are sometimes called “second causes.” ¬†In other words, if a farmer wants a harvest, he must plant seeds – and do the other things necessary to the seeds to grow. ¬†God has also made it so that actions have consequences.

Man isn’t a puppet or robot. ¬†In spite of all the discussion about “free will vs. divine sovereignty,” there are very few who disagree with the idea that we make choices, all of the time. ¬†These choices have consequences. ¬†Since the 60s, there has been an increasing effort by liberals and unbelievers to distance this country from the political and religious principles upon which it was founded: ¬†“There are no absolutes,” “What’s true for you may not be true for me,” “Get rid of all those old Puritan hangups.”

The result of all this is seen in the increasing violence and immorality in our country, aided and abetted by a liberal media which flocks to scenes of horror – the latest shootings, for example – like vultures to carrion. ¬†And I’ve noticed an increase in profanity in the little network television that I watch. ¬†Words are being used that were seldom heard anywhere in my youth. ¬†Kids in elementary school use words that were seldom heard anywhere in my youth. ¬†A lot of television is little more than softcore pornography.

The High School I went to had a rifle range in the basement (ROTC) with rifles and live ammo. ¬†And, yes, they were locked up when we weren’t using them. ¬†I qualified as a marksman on that range. ¬†Guns were everywhere and easily and legally available. ¬†The local department store likely sold them. ¬†Further, the fellows almost all carried pocket knives. ¬†This HS was the “tough” school in the city, yet there was NEVER any trouble with guns or knives. ¬†Liberalism hadn’t yet succeeded in destroying the moral foundations of America.

For years, we’ve told God that He’s not welcome in our schools, our government, our society, or even in many churches, which have become interested in what they call “social justice,” rather than spiritual redemption. ¬†For the most part, God has allowed us to go our foolish, sinful way – with the sad and horrifying results we see all around us. ¬†Yet when these things happen, the first question often is, “Where is God?”

God gave us what we want; He has left us to our choices.


Has God Forgotten Our Children?

“What kind of a question is that? ¬†Of course He hasn’t. ¬†Jesus called little children to Himself. ¬†‘God loves the little children, all the children of the world’.” ¬†It’s certainly true that the Lord Jesus loved children and children seem to have loved Him.

At the same time, it’s a shame that so much of what we believe comes from Sunday School and sentiment instead of from the Scripture.

Certainly, God can’t and doesn’t “forget” in the sense that there become “gaps” in His memory. ¬†There is a verse, however, in which He Himself say He will “forget your children.”

“Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children,” Hosea 4:6.

This came as a result of¬†God rebuking the people of Israel¬†for their wickedness: ¬†“There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. ¬†By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed,”¬†Hosea 4:1a-2 (emphasis added).

When God talks about “forgetting” their children, does that mean that there will be a gap in His knowledge, that He actually forgets them and has no memory or knowledge of them?

Of course not.

But read the first part of the verse to get the context of the second part: ¬†Because you have forgotten the law of your God…. ¬†Don’t get upset about the second part without understanding the first part.

This verse may be one of those¬†“hard sayings” that skeptics and unbelievers rail against, but, you see, ¬†that’s because, it says actions have consequences. ¬†Every action has a consequence. ¬†Israel, God’s favored, chosen nation found that out the hard way. ¬†We don’t like that; we want things our way, as if God just ran¬†some sort of cosmic Burger King where “you get it your way,” instead of being the King of Eternity.

When God brought the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and made them into a nation, what was one of the main things He told them to do?

In Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, God said,¬†…these words that I command you this day shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up” (emphasis added).¬†

“Teach them….”

He had already warned them about this earlier in chapter 4. ¬†In v. 9, after reminding them of the great blessing and privilege they had, things not given to other nations, vs. 6-8, he said, “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life,¬†and teach them to your children and your grandchildren¬†(emphasis added).

“Teach them….”¬†¬†

Talking to the generation that was about enter the land, Moses reminded them of all the things God had done for them, bringing them out of Egypt and sustaining them through forty years in the wilderness, where there was neither grocery story nor Walmart. ¬†“Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years,” ¬†Deuteronomy 8:4.¬†¬†In Deuteronomy 29:5, he repeated¬†this thought: ¬†“Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.” ¬†In fact, they were still wearing those same clothes and sandals.

When Moses warned them against forgetting the Lord, forgetting what He had done for them in the land of Egypt, and how He had provided for them in their wilderness travels, was he just warning them against a mental lapse of some sort?

No, no. ¬†It was so much more than that. ¬†In 8:11, he said, “Beware that you do not FORGET¬†the Lord your God BY NOT KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS, HIS JUDGMENTS, AND HIS STATUTES,which I command you this day”¬†(emphasis added).

Israel never “forgot” God in the sense that she lost the memory of Him. ¬†She just, for the most part, did her own thing and went her own way. ¬†This is what Hosea was complaining about.

The sad thing is, there is never a single time when Moses ever expressed any hope that Israel would actually “remember” the Lord like she was supposed to. ¬†It was always from the standpoint of warning her what would happen if she went astray. ¬†She had already¬†done that before he ever came down from Sinai the first time!

“Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.”

He “forgot” them by leaving them to the consequences of their actions.

Is there a lesson here for us? ¬†I write of the US, though it’s applicable to other nations and people as well.

There’s a university that does a lot of advertising in various magazines and through the mail. ¬†One time they sent me a sample CD, with lessons which covered the settling of our country by the Pilgrims. ¬†The thing I found striking was that there wasn’t a single mention of the Mayflower Compact. ¬†This was actually the first¬†document of American history, in which some of the passengers on the Mayflower put into writing for the first time in history the idea of self-governance, an idea later formalized by our Constitution.

The interesting thing in this document is found in it’s¬†opening sentences. ¬†After the obligatory reference to King James, of¬†whom they were¬†“loyal subjects,” they referred to the reason for their own coming to the new world: ¬†“….having undertaken [it] for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith….”

Not a word of any of this in this CD. ¬†And¬†this has pretty much become the norm: ignoring the idea that Christianity had¬†any part of the founding of this nation. ¬†Granted, it was never the “established religion,” as it was in England or Germany or other countries. ¬†Some of the founding fathers had suffered under such regimes, a thing which always happens when religion has civil power. ¬†Witness the Inquisition under Rome and the slaughter of tens of thousands, if not millions, of Anabaptists and other nonconformists under the Reformed churches. ¬†The same thing is true in Islam. ¬†So the Constitution was written to prevent the establishment of any religion as “official.” However, the founding fathers did not, by this, intend the founding of atheism as the official viewpoint, nor the preventing¬†of religious observances, as it has developed.

In fact, the first universities in this countries were founded as “seminaries.” ¬†One of the important founders of Yale University was a man named Asahel Nettleton, whom probably not 1 of a 1000 Americans has ever heard of. ¬†He was, however, a successful evangelist and preacher, much used of God in the early 1800s, who opposed Charles G. Finney, his preaching and his popularization of the “New Measures,” which Finney used, methods which were the beginnings¬†of the altar call and modern fundamentalist forms of “soul-winning.”

McGuffey’s Reader, which was widely used until men like Horace Mann and John Dewey urged the secularization of public education, started off teaching the alphabet with “A: ¬†In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” ¬†You can imagine¬†what would happen today if a teacher tried to teach that to her little students.

There has, until the last two or three generations, been a strong Biblical influence in this country.  As time has passed, though, this influence has been challenged and today it is even illegal in schools and government.

And parents have to a large degree fallen by the wayside in the teaching of spiritual truths to their children. ¬†I speak from my own experiences in “church,” but parents tended to drop their kids off for Sunday School and expected the church to give them the teaching they needed. ¬†There was little if any corresponding teaching at home. Any such teaching at school, of course, was, and is, out of the question.

And look at our kids today – generally speaking. ¬†There are still good kids out there, but I fear they are in a growing minority – a minority that will never have¬†government approval. You see kids shuffling down the middle of the street, underwear hanging out, a look of arrogance on their faces. ¬†Drive-by shootings. ¬†Bombings. Schools being shot up. ¬†Drugs. Violence. ¬†Sexual degeneracy. ¬†Gangs. ¬†Nurseries for babies in high schools. Teenage abortion. ¬†Rap “music.”

For the most part, our kids are a mess.

They haven’t been taught the Word of God. ¬†In fact, they have been taught against it. They suffer the consequences of these actions every day.

Though it isn’t just the kids.

There’s a lot of concern in the¬†community about “stopping the violence.” ¬†There’s a lot of church leaders in the lead here, along with the police and other concerned citizens. They want the young people to turn in their guns. ¬†Go to counseling. ¬†Hold vigils. ¬†Light candles. ¬†“Stop the violence.”

But¬†“guns” aren’t the problem. ¬†No, they’re not. ¬†The high school I graduated from was the “tough” school in town. ¬†It’s in what is now probably a hotbed of violence and youthful troubles. ¬†Though I’m sure it’s not still there, in the basement of this school, there was a rifle range (*gasp*) with rifles, locked up, of course, and ammunition. ¬†They were common back then. ¬†I, myself, qualified as a marksman on this range. ¬†But there was never, ever,¬†any trouble with these guns.

Furthermore, most of the fellows carried pocket knives.  No stabbings.  I carried one myself for years, even after I graduated, until the day I tried to make a delivery at the local courthouse and had to go through a metal detector.  Oops.  Why, I was carrying a dangerous weapon!  *sigh*  I had to take it back to my truck and leave it there.

“You’ve come a long way, baby.”

I blame these pastors and church leaders for much of our youth’s troubles. ¬†Instead of preaching the Gospel and requiring repentance, faith, and holy living, they want “social justice.” ¬†“Diversity.” ¬†$15 an hour to fry hamburgers.

They want to take folks out of the slums, without stopping to consider the “slum” that is in folks. ¬†We’re all sinners by nature, preference and habit.

Now, social justice is important. ¬†Even our Lord taught that we’re to treat others as we would like to be treated. ¬†And there’s a great deal more about that¬†in the Old Testament. ¬†However, that’s not the emphasis in these modern times. It’s not at all about how we treat others. ¬†It’s about how they are supposed to treat us. ¬†At the same time, we can treat them pretty much as we like.

But isn’t our God a God of love? ¬†Surely, He wouldn’t do as He might have done in the Old Testament. ¬†Praise His holy name, He is a God of love, but He’s still a God where actions have consequences. ¬†America, and most of the rest of the world, has largely forgotten God by neglecting or denying His Word. ¬†We’ve thrown His Word out and told Him He’s not welcome.

As a result¬†of our actions, He’s “forgotten” us by leaving us to their consequences.

I think we can imagine Him asking, “How’s that working out for you?”

[I’m sorry for the “negative” tone of this post. ¬†It’s just that there’s not much to be “positive” about in this year of our Lord 2014.]