As Living Stones

1 Peter 2: 4 – 5

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

I was picturing a person walking along a riverbed picking up and rejecting rocks, looking for the perfect one to keep. The stone we would throw away is precious in the sight of God.

The way to think about this verse is two-fold. It speaks of Jesus, the one rejected by men but precious and choice by God. The beautiful Son of God was rejected by the establishment. The cool kids didn’t want to have anything to do with him. His own brothers made fun of him. To many, most in fact, he did not look like the pretty, collectible stone. He was the one tossed aside.

We also see ourselves in this verse. Jesus is not the only precious to God stone to be rejected. The feeling of rejection is widespread. Books and books have been written to help people overcome rejection. It is a problem, but the number one thing for each of us to understand is that despite rejection by people, each of us is a precious gem in God’s sight. I think that makes a difference. That is not to say it won’t still hurt a little when people reject us but what a refuge we have in God. We can run to Him with our hurt feelings and be welcomed and valued. It does take the sting out of the rejection by people.

Lastly, the cornerstone, Jesus, and we, the living stones, are being fitted together as a living temple, a spiritual household of faith. In other words, we are the brick and mortar of the Kingdom. We are being shaped and assembled, together, as a living edifice of glory and honor to the Father. We are not all the same and perhaps the Lord is having to round off some of our rougher edges. None the less, we are each chosen and precious. We have been selected to be a part of the monument of praise to the Lord even though we are different from one another. You are chosen because of your uniqueness, not in spite of it.

This is why unity among us is so important. Despite our differences, we must hold together. If we reject one another, we tear the building apart. So, today, though this is not where I thought this Word of the Day would go, I want to officially recognize each one of you as accepted and valued. And I pray that I can see each and every one of you with the eyes of God; that I see your glory and beauty even if you still see your blemishes. In these most troubling of times, I want you to know this ministry and myself personally and as a pastor welcomes you and gives you refuge from what may feel like a cold and angry world. As our Lord said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28).

Stay and Rest

Matthew 11: 28

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Did you know you need rest for your body, your soul and your spirit? In the very next verse Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” (v. 29). Jesus understood that we get tired down in our souls. It is a weariness that is even more pervasive that physical fatigue. Mentally you are drained and emotionally spent. This kind of weariness, indeed, comes from being heavily laden. Worry, anxiety, stress, these are the contributors to being wrung out in your soul. Jesus’ remedy was for us to give all those things to him. He instructed us to take his yoke onto our shoulders. That does not sound restful, does it, but Jesus said that his yoke is light. His teachings will unburden you rather than adding to the seemingly endless worries of life.

Paul revealed that we can even get tired in our spirits. “I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia,” (2 Corinthians 2: 13). Who would have thought that your spirit could get overtaxed? Well, actually, I would. I remember when my dad was dying of cancer. There was a great and continuing need for prayer and for spiritual support. One day I just ran out of juice. Physically I was fine. Emotionally I was okay, but down in my spirit I felt like I did not have one prayer left. I felt like I had no more to give to anyone. A friend recognized that I was drained spiritually and advised me to get alone and pray so that I could reinvigorate my spirit. She was right and I have never forgotten that lesson. When you are giving out a lot from your spirit, you have to feed it with the Word and with personal prayer. After spending time with Yahweh, I felt renewed and could go back to supporting others.

Then, of course, we need rest for our bodies too. Paul wrote, “For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within,” (2 Corinthians 7: 5). He revealed that his flesh needed rest but there was none. We are familiar with this sort of fatigue, but we don’t always pause to give our bodies the rest they need.

Jesus used to slip away to the wilderness or to a mountain to rest and restore. The Sabbath was given to us by God explicitly for rest. We love to live life full throttle, but the scriptures teach us that our minds, spirits and bodies need rest, a time of rejuvenation. This Sabbath rest, which can happen any day, at any moment is designed as a time of communion with the Lord. He is our rest. He is the source of rejuvenation for all three parts of us. The most effective rest isn’t lying in the bed all day. The best rest is getting your full 8 hours of sleep and then arising gently and spending the day hearing the Father. The Word is manna for your spirit, but you may be surprised how effective it is for your soul.

You can have a bit of Sabbath every day and that is great and advisable. Sometimes you need several days’ worth of restoration. That is good too. Enjoy it. The deepest rest, though, comes from abiding in Jesus. As we abide in him, he fills us. That is the restorative piece that is most effective and nothing else will do. So, don’t just have that week vacation of rest. Don’t even limit yourself to daily Sabbath time. Have that time, absolutely, but also let us learn to abide in Jesus all day. He becomes our Sabbath every minute of the day. Stay in his presence and rest.

Take Care

Luke 10: 41              KJV

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.

The word “careful” has become iconic in the American lexicon. We have adopted expressions like “Take Care” and “Be Careful” as routine sayings, by which we mean to bestow good tidings to the recipient. However, this is one of those uses of language which we all too easily fall into, not really appreciating the actual conveyance of meaning. In other words, it has become a normative expression without regard to its literal meaning. These expressions which creep into the vernacular without due notice given to their true meaning may well be what Jesus referred to in Matthew 12: 36 when he said, “I can guarantee that on judgment day people will have to give an account of every careless word they say.”

I have written on this before but I find it so prevalent in our society that I feel I must remind myself and others of this pitfall. There are many truths wrapped around this topic the greatest of which is that it is a violation of scripture. We say these words, well-intentioned, intending to bless others, but no expression which violates scripture can ever be the source of blessing. In today’s verse, Jesus conveyed the exact opposite message to Martha. He told her, “Martha you are full of care.” That is what careful means, full of care. He went on to tell her that there was only one thing that was needful, only one thing with which she need concern herself. That, of course, was himself. Keeping our minds and hearts on Jesus is the prescription, rather than worrying or being full of care about the many incidents of life. Matthew 6: 34 is illustrative in this matter, “Be not careful therefore for the morrow,” Jesus said, “for the morrow shall be careful about itself. Sufficient to the day [is] its own evil” (Darby Translation). Even though each day has its share of issues, Jesus said not to be full of the care of them. Tomorrow will take care of tomorrow. What about today then? Today is the only day we need concern ourselves with. Is that the same as saying that today is the only day we need worry about? No, that is being full of care again. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 11: 28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

We are supposed to take all of our worries and cares and give them to Jesus. He will, in exchange, give us rest. He will release us from our burdens and carry them himself or if you wish to know the fullness of truth, he already carried those cares to the cross. Peter expressed it this way, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5: 7 KJV). We are supposed to cast all our care on him, not carry it. Therefore, taking care, being careful, or not fully casting our care upon the Lord is completely contrary to the teachings of the Lord Jesus. As such, it is a violation of Scripture and, if you have ears to hear, sin.

Whatsmore, this idea of taking care and being careful is born of and perpetuates fear. Today at the YMCA I heard a lady bestowing what I believe was meant to be good wishes to a couple who is leaving today for Maui. She said, “Be careful. Don’t go scuba diving.” Despite what may have been well-intentioned, what was conveyed was fear and fear polluted the environment. One need not be very sensitive or tuned in to have felt the immediate change in the atmosphere. All fear is of the devil. Our God is a God of faith. Fear comes right out of hell for there is no fear in heaven. There is only trust, faith and well-being in the Kingdom of God.

So, with fervent prayer and pastoral concern, I implore you to eliminate this language from your vocabulary. Tell people to have a great day, be blessed of the Lord, be faithful. Give them words of faith and encouragement rather than a caution rooted in fear. Further, don’t allow people to speak these unscriptural words into your life. Help them to find better expressions, expressions which will bless rather than hinder, words which comport with the message of Jesus instead of flying in the face of his teachings. All the world will be a better place as we do. Be blessed!