July 31, 2017 | It’s Not Always Easy

 
Following Jesus on a path of righteousness is not always easy. If you came to Christ expecting Him to make your life easier and simpler, then you may have been misled. I’m absolutely convinced that living a Godly life is the best life; but, it’s certainly no walk in the park. Jesus was crystal clear of this truth in His sermon on the mount.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” -Matthew 7:13-14

In Psalm 23 David metaphorically describes the relationship between God and His people as sheep following the shepherd on the

“path of righteousness”.

The path of righteousness is not always the safest of passes. Walking this path will face a myriad of obstacles. There will be moments that this path seems impassible. You may even feel resistance while walking this road. Perhaps that’s why so few people choose to remain on this path.

That’s why the majority of people will never walk this road. Instead they’ll remain the path of least resistance. This is the path that seems to be the safest and easiest. This path doesn’t require a shepherd to follow; just follow the masses on this road of destruction.

The path of righteousness maybe crooked and have moments that are tiring; but we’ll never travel it alone. We have a Good Shepherd named Jesus who takes the lead. This is the good path, the right path, that ultimately leads to eternal life.

Breaking for the metaphor, here are a select few of the challenges of following Jesus on this path of righteousness:

Putting sin to death. It’s hard work breaking the stronghold sin has on our lives. Its so easy to ignore it, excuse it, and put up with it in our life. But this is not the way the Shepherd wants His people to live our lives. Paul encourages believers in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” It’s hard work to put sin to death in our lives; but, with the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s worth it.

Training our kids toward holiness. Raising children is hard. It’s difficult enough to care for your own needs; let alone caring for the needs of another human dependent upon you for their survival. The Bible gives parents a clear responsibility of raising our kids in such a way that we lead them to follow God. The Bible commands parents in Ephesians 6:4 to “bring them (children) up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Don’t take the path of least resistance with your child’s faith. Encourage their faith by living out your faith consistently and model for them how to live it themselves.

Trusting It’s word even when it doesn’t make sense here and now. I’ll admit there are times when it doesn’t make sense to obey the Bible. For example, it’s never made mathematical sense to tithe. It still blows my mind that when I give 10% of my income back to the Lord, that He provides so that I can live better on 90% than if I had kept all 100% of my income for myself. The Bible says of itself that “it is living active” (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is not just some ancient text. It’s words are as relevant and reliable a source of God’s voice to us today as it was the day it these words were written. It takes great faith to trust these words and you’ll be blessed by God if you will

You’ll surely feel resistance if you will follow the Good Shepherd on the the path of righteousness; however, you’ll never be led astray if you do. You can trust that He will always lead you towards the best for your life. As you walk this narrow path, you will become more and more like Jesus. As you focus your eyes on Jesus, let this truth encourage you to remain on this narrow path — “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

In Christ,

Ashton
 

July 24, 2017 | Overworked and Under-rested?

 
Who loves a good heat wave? No one? Me neither. Last week Western Indiana experienced some of the warmest temperatures of the season with temps in the mid-90s with high levels of humidity making it feel even warmer outside. Although I may not be so grateful when it’s time to pay the electric bill at the end of the month, it’s days like these I am grateful for the invention of air conditioning. I can tell how incredibly hot it is outside because the air conditioner at my house has not stopped running all week. After thinking about how overworked my air conditioner has been, I was reminded of an incredible principle that prevents us from overworking: The Sabbath.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” -Genesis 2:2-3

You and I are not machines.

We were never meant to run constantly. We need consistent opportunities to take a break, recharge, and refresh. That is the pattern that God set for us in creation. That is the pattern that He commanded the Israelites to follow as one of the Ten Commandments:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” Exodus 20:8-10

We need a break in the regular rhythm of life.

Without a break you will burn out. But it’s not always easy to simply stop what you’re doing, walk away from your work for a day or two. I’ve found that if I don’t plan ahead, I may be robbed of my Sabbath. More commonly, if I fail to plan ahead how I will guard my Sabbath, it’s tempting to allow someone or something else to make use of it. So here are three ways I regularly prepare for and guard my weekly Sabbaths:

1. Write Down Your Plan
When I begin my week on Monday, I begin mapping where I want this week to go. It’s important to “begin with the end in mind”.

If I don’t see at the beginning of my week that I will end with a break, then anything can rob me of that break. Planning ahead creates a sort of urgency that prevents procrastination. I know that everything will not necessarily go according to plan; however, this plan will provide a sort of map that will allow me to ultimately reach my destination.

So begin your week writing out a few planned goals for your week. This does not have to be a detailed to-do list. Just a few general guidelines for the general direction for your week.

And at the end of your plan, write down your break. Schedule it. There is power in scheduling your break. It not only holds you accountable; but, it will also empower you to say

“No, I already have something scheduled on that day.”

2. Create Personal Deadlines.

As a Pastor I have learned the very rude lesson that Sunday comes every week without exception. Therefore, I better be ready to preach when Sunday comes. Enjoying my Sabbath on Saturday is not a legitimate excuse for not being prepared on Sunday. Therefore, I have learned to create personal deadlines earlier in the week that forces me to complete the goals in my plan sooner.

For example, I typically take Friday and Saturday as my days off. I use one as a family day to do whatever my family wants to do. And the other is my Sabbath – my personal day for rest and refreshment. In order to protect these days from being used as last minute sermon preparation, I have created a personal deadline to have my sermon finished by noon Thursday. My goal is actually to have a completed rough draft ready to send to my worship leader by Wednesday evening.

What would “creating personal deadlines” look like in your line of work? Personally I would rather work late Thursday night than have to come in to the office on Friday. Your week may be the traditional Monday thru Friday with the weekend off. Maybe you have a varying work schedule with your days off changing. Whenever your day off comes, protect it by getting your most important work accomplished before it’s time to take a break.

3. Make it Holy.

The Bible commands us to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it…HOLY.” Sabbath is a Hebrew word that literally means to “REST”. Rest is not just a physical activity. Rest is a spiritual event. You not only need rest to recharge your body and your mind. You also need rest to refresh your soul.
David understood this about rest when he penned the 23rd Psalm. He wrote,

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3). Our Good shepherd knows how to restore our weary souls. Rest should replenish us spiritually.

Some spiritual refreshers to include on your Sabbath may be worship, reading the Bible, extended time in prayer, fasting, or fellowship with other believers. After your Sabbath, you should not only be physically ready to go back to work, but you should feel spiritually ready as well.

Rest doesn’t come easy for many of us.

We all too often are wired to work because our culture has conditioned us to believe that time is money. Consequently, there are great costs to taking time off for rest. Taking time to rest demands that we trust God to provide and care for us. The way you rest actually reflects how much you trust God as your Shepherd. So plan so you will be able to take some quality time for rest and restoration.

 

In Christ,

Ashton

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One Response to “Beyond Sunday”

  1. Nancy perry says:

    Thank you. It’s a pleasure to go to church now.You not only preach from the Bible but also from your heart. If I didn’t know any difference I would think you were Dr Stanley son. I watch him 3 times each week. Keep up the great work and I will be their every Sunday if Lords willing
    God Bless you and your family.

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