Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for September 2014 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

"I will give you rest."

Don’t you love this simple verse in Matthew 11? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

After a busy week, I could use some rest. I bet you could too- it is Friday after all! How do we find this rest?

Jesus continues, “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.” Hmm…my yoke? Though most of us don’t use horses or oxen to get our work done- we do understand that ‘yoke’ is a term pertaining to work. I thought Jesus was talking about rest. How exactly did we get from rest to work?

A yoke increases the power of one animal by binding them to another animal. When the two animals are joined together they can get more done compared to working alone. Think about that for a moment.

I think Jesus is giving us a pretty plain example. Jesus is saying, “When you are joined to what I am joined to, your strength will increase.”

Before we finish this thought, Jesus makes one more point, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The question I have is- What exactly is Jesus’ yoke? Most theologians would tell you that the Law of Jesus as compared to the Law of Moses is His yoke. Biblically, there are some great arguments that support this idea.

This week, I was challenged to rethink this idea. You see, if you go back a few verses, the context brings new light to the passage. Jesus is speaking of His relationship to His Father.

Take a moment and read Matthew 11:25-27. It is all about Jesus and the Father. Jesus is telling us something very important. We are all yoked to something. Good or bad. You might be joined to a sinful behavior. You might be joined to addiction. You might be joined to your job. You might be joined to your family.

I believe Jesus is telling us- You must be joined to my Father. Verse 30 gives us a clue to this point. “For my yoke is easy.” Let’s rewrite this for a moment. “For my relationship with my Father is easy.”

Some of you are thinking, “Now you have lost me, pastor. I know my relationship with God is not always easy. As a matter of fact, I don’t think Jesus would say dying for our sins was easy.” To that, I would say- I totally agree.

The problem is our translation. The word we translate as ‘easy’ is better translated ‘proper fit’. Think of this in the terms of a tailor made suit. It is to your specifications- it fits you perfectly. Why is this? Because this suit was made just for you.

You see, you were made for a relationship with your Father. When we live our lives in this relationship, we realize we were made for Him. When we are yoked to Him, God can give us more strength and rest than we could ever find on our own.

My question for you is this, “What are you yoked to?” You were made for an intimate relationship with the One who created you- and in that relationship is true rest.

May God bless you as you seek Him,

Pastor John


Green Shoots

It is Friday and the weekend is upon us. I’d like to share a little in preparation for Sunday and share a few announcements with you.

As we move through The Sermon on the Mount, it is my hope that we continue to see it as a whole. It is hard not to break it into segments because that is what we have to do Sunday after Sunday.

This week, we will be looking at Matthew 5:33-37. As I have been preparing this week, I found a quote pertaining to the sermon as a whole. It is striking quote that paints a beautiful picture for us.

“[The Sermon on the Mount proclaims] a glad and unworried trust in the Creator God, whose kingdom is now at last starting to arrive, leading to a glad and generous heart toward other people, even those who are technically ‘enemies.’ Faith, hope, and love: here they are again. They are the language of life, the sign in the present of green shoots growing through the concrete of this sad old world, the indication that the Creator God is on the move, and that Jesus’s hearers and followers can be part of what He’s now doing.” –N.T. Wright

It is my prayer that you can begin to see the ‘green shoots’ of new life growing in your life as we study these powerful words of Christ. May God continue strengthing your heart in faith, hope, and love.

Grace and peace,

Pastor John

Hunger for Righteousness

Good Afternoon,

I write this today just a couple miles from the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University. Heather and I are in San Diego for a wedding this evening. Wednesday night, we had the opportunity to have dinner with a couple we were on staff with while we served here. The restaurant they chose had tables of eight and since there was only four of us, we shared a table with four strangers.

About half way through dinner, the young lady sitting next to me tapped me on the arm and said, “I don’t want to admit I have been listening to your conversation, but I overheard you say the word ‘disciple’. What does that word mean?” As we spoke, she told me that she had lived a life of a typical secular college student. This life involved partying and everything that went with that lifestyle.

Recently, she started attending a church and she had accepted Christ. The problem she was facing was that she had questions about her new faith and didn’t know who to ask. This opened a beautiful conversation- I told her, “I will answer any question you have.” This led to questions like, “I thought the Kingdom of Heaven was after you die, but this church acts like the Kingdom is now” and “They keep stressing baptism, what really happens when you are baptized?”

As we talked, a verse kept coming back to me. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). We looked at this passage on Sunday as we talked about righteousness as ‘right-relatedness.’

What I saw in this young lady was a hunger for a right-relationship with God. She openly admitted her past life and the hole that was left in heart from that life. We as the church offer the gospel. We have the great news that our God can not just cleanse your sins, but heal your heart.

This Sunday, we look at our next passage (Matthew 5:21-26) in the Sermon on the Mount. These words are tough for us to deal with, but in the words of Christ reside the power to heal our hearts from sin.

We all carry wounds like this young lady, but we must open our hearts to the reign and rule of God. In opening our hearts, we allow the Spirit to truly heal our lives.

May God bless you as we prepare to worship Him!

Pastor John


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