Hold My Mule

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Robert F. Turner wrote a story that tells of an old Farmer, who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Many of the members thought the old Farmer compensated for his inability to sing by singing loud. His singing disrupted those who sat nearby and disturbed those that sat on the other side.

The looks of disapproval didn’t seem to catch the notice of the man’s joyful noise.

The men of the congregation talked amongst themselves and appointed 3 men to make the long drive to the old man’s farm and have a chat with him about his obnoxious behavior in the assembly. “Didn’t he know that we don’t act like that during worship? Didn’t he know that there are dignitaries and all sorts of important people hearing his off tune, off key, off tempo singing?” they reasoned among themselves.

Dressing in their suits and shiny shoes, which meant to make a statement about their importance, they trekked out to the old man’s farm.

As they pulled up to his run-down house, they saw him out back plowing a dusty field ‘Jeeing & Hawing” a tired old mule. They honked the horn hoping to gain his attention to avoid having to get out and mess up their nice suits. However, the old Farmer was busy wrestling that old mule.

After some time, they reluctantly pulled themselves out of their air-conditioned car and walked out to talk to him.

As they approached, the Farmer excitedly said, “Well looky here, what a pleasant surprise. It’s so wonderful you made the trip out to this old farm. What brings you ‘round?”

One of the men replied, “We’ve come to talk to you about your singing…” Before he could finish his prepared speech, the farmer interrupted. “I know what you mean. When we start singing those songs about heaven, I can’t help but think about my ramshackle house and the MANSION Jesus has gone to prepare for me.”

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

[John 14:2]

“When we sing those songs about heaven, I can’t help but think about this dusty field, the sweat and toil. Then I’m reminded about how God promised there’d be no more sorrow.”

“When we start to sing those songs about heaven, I can’t help but be reminded of how much sin and sadness there is in this world. I think about my wife and son and how they died together at his birth and I’m reminded how the good book says that God will wipe away all tears. I’m reminded how we’re to meet our loved ones in the air when Jesus comes back to get those that are His.”

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” [Rev 21:4]

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” [1Thess 4:17]

He kept on, “I just get so excited about God’s promises that I can’t help but sing praises to our King. As a matter of fact, I feel like singing right now. HOLD MY MULE.” Then the Farmer handed the reins of his old mule to the men and began to sing (perhaps he sang “No Tears in Heaven”) as the men just stood there in the middle of that dusty field.

After a few moments, the men tied up the mule and somberly walked back to their shiny new car. After several quiet minutes of the long drive back to town one of them said, “You know, I didn’t realize how beautiful that man’s voice really sounds.”

“Yes indeed,” replied another. The third man said, “If I get to heaven, I hope that God will see to it that I get to sing with that good man.”

—Spencer

Jesus, the Way

The Hebrew writer speaks about Jesus as bringing better things for us:

But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”

[Heb 6:9]

Jesus tells us about a few of these better things when He said that He is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

[John 14:6]

We’ll study about more of these ‘BETTER THINGS’ as we delve into the story of Jesus, His ministry, His teachings & His sacrifice.

It’s important for us to study, as far too many have a misunderstanding about Jesus. They make Jesus into a genie. The struggles of life cause many to look to Jesus, but they often encounter erroneous & contradictory teachings. These false teachings won’t take away the struggles, rather they will turn them into despair.

  • Do you have problems? Are you confused about the answers? Do you know that Jesus has revealed to us all things pertaining to life & godliness [2Pet 1:3]? Through the guidance of His word we can smooth out many of life’s problems. When we study His word, we will discover how profitable it is to our life on this earth.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

[2Tim 3:16-17]

  • Do you feel lost with a feeling of despair? That can be overwhelming. You’re not alone. Jesus felt all of the same things you feel, yet without sin.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”     [Isaiah 53:3]

  • Are you afraid? “HAVE NO FEAR” is an idea found hundreds of times throughout scripture, and is one of those better things found in Christ. [1John 4:17-18]
  • Are you confused about the Bible? A confusion caused by the 1,000’s of denominations in our world. You don’t have to be, because Jesus is the way to a better truth. He is the truth.

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” [John 1:17]

  • Are you confused about the church? It’s easy to see why by the many denominations proclaiming to be the Lord’s church. All the while as they preach another Jesus, another Gospel and another spirit [2Cor 11:4]. Jesus spoke of better things about the church. Jesus made a promise to build A church. Just ONE, [Eph 4:4; 1:22-23]. The church that He would build would be paid for with His own shed blood [Acts 20:28]. The church that Christ built has Himself as the chief cornerstone [Eph 2:20]. And you cannot join His church. No sir, you cannot join the church of Christ. You must be ADDED TO IT by the Lord through obedience to His instructions, “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” [Acts 2:38, 41, 47]

I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” [Matt 16:18b]

These are just a few of the ‘better things’ found in Christ. Everything will be better in Christ, in His WAY, in His TRUTH and in His LIFE. Please, I beg you, get in that WAY, that bright & shining WAY.

—Spencer

TOMORROW’S TROUBLES

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We only worry about 3 days of our lives; YESTERDAY, TODAY or TOMORROW. Since last weeks article looked at letting go of YESTERDAY, let’s see how to handle the worries of TODAY & TOMORROW.

Everyone, at one time or another has had anxiety about some future event. We worry about making our payments, our health, or facing someone that we need to face. There are more emergency room visits & heart attacks on Sunday night & Monday morning than any other day of the week. Why? Because people are worrying about tomorrow. (I confirmed this on a recent hospital ER visit.) People are dying to go to work.

Jesus had much to say about worry over TOMORROW’S things; “Take therefore no thought for the morrow:” [Mat 6:34].  The command is for us not to fret over tomorrow, but did He give us any instructions as to how? I think He gives 2 steps, and we find them in the same passage of Mat 6:25-34.

THE REMEDY TO REDUCE WORRY

The FIRST thing we learn about reducing stress & worry is in finding PERSPECTIVE. Jesus gives 3 examples to help us gain perspective.

  • Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? [v26]
  • Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? [v27]
  • And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: [v28]

These 3 examples are there for us to have PERSPECTIVE on life. As faithful children of God, we can trust in His promise of care [cf. Psalm 37:25; 1Pet 5:7].

The SECOND thing we learn about reducing stress & worry is in taking PRIORITIZED ACTION. Jesus said it this way,

  • But seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. [v33 emphasis mine seb]

This remedy is so simple that we overlook its great power. He is teaching us about having the right PERSPECTIVE and then taking PRIORITIZED ACTION. When a person devotes himself to “seeking the kingdom of God, and His righteousness,” that person will discover the prescription from the creator on how to live, how to survive this life and how go to heaven.

Without His guidance we’re left to worry & stress over how to wander through a broken world. Jesus continues saying, “Sufficient for today are its own troubles.” [v34] This is just another way of telling us to have PERSPECTIVE and to take PRIORITIZED ACTIONS. The only affect we have on tomorrow are the activities we do today. If we seek God’s way of doing things, we’ll have made the best use of today giving the best chance for tomorrow.

This strategy helps us to better understand what is meant in James 5:14; “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

The context is about concern over tomorrow’s work without having PERSPECTIVE about the frailty of life and taking notice of the PRIORITIZED ACTION needed today. That FIRST action must be getting ourselves right with God. Paul reminds the child of God, “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. [2Cor 6:2b]

Would you desire peace today with release from worry? Prepare today to go to heaven and make that the first decision you make each day. Having PERSPECTIVE and deciding on a PRIORITZED ACTION, then all the rest of your decisions will have already been made. You’ll be free to concentrate on, enjoy & fully live each and every day.

Whether tomorrow comes or not, you’ll have done the very best you could possibly do. If it comes, it will begin on the very best possible footing, His righteousness.

If it doesn’t come, you’ll have ended today on the very best possible footing, having sought the kingdom of God and obeying the gospel.

—-spencer

What are you Doing about it?

We can all agree that Jesus the Christ did not sin. “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:” [1Pet 2:22]. The rest of us have “sinned and come short of the glory of God” [Rom 3:23].

We’re not alone. The great bible characters dealt with this realization:

Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter & Paul. Each of these faced the reality of their own sin, Paul saying; “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” [1Tim 1:15].

This fact is no authorization to continue in sin even as Christ came to save sinners. Paul also wrote; “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? [Rom 6:1-2]

Through our obedience to the gospel we have found redemption through Christ Jesus, having our sins washed away in water baptism [Acts 22:16]. Although we’ve been washed, sin leaves a terrible mark on our psyche and scars on our bodies. What are we to do with this?

Paul wrote to the Philippians about this, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Phil 3:13-14]. However, in another place he reminded the church of their past sins, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” [1Cor 6:11]. What are we to do with that?

Putting these two passages together we come to this conclusion; Remember from where you’ve come and from what you’ve been saved, but close the door on your past so that you can move onward to do the work of God. There are THREE things about our past that need “forgetting” so we can please God today.

FIRST, we need to forget our past sins. Paul had plenty of sins in his past especially as it related to his persecution of the church. “And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” [Acts 22:4]. Our past sins are forgiven, but unchangeable. They are what they are and we cannot undo them. Therefore, they are to be forgotten.

SECOND, we need to forget our past successes. Whatever good we may have done, however many people we may have helped in the gospel, we cannot rest on those successes. We must continue to press toward the goal. Nowhere is “once saved, always saved” taught in scripture. Not after faith, baptism or any good deed.

THIRD, we need to forget (in a figure) our past sorrows. We’ve all experienced loss & pain, but those sorrows should not prevent us from moving forward with God. Some let the pains and losses of their past to paralyze them from continued service in God’s kingdom.

Rather than let our past paralyze us, it ought to MOTIVATE us into more & abundant service to our King. Being reminded of the forgiveness we have through Christ; our past sins should MOVE us to continual repentance [Acts 8:22-24; 1John 1:7-9].

Our past wins should continue to MOVE us to do more service for our King. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” [Titus 2:14].

Lastly, the pains of our past should MOVE us to reach out to the lost with the gospel message so that nobody dies outside of Christ. You can feel Paul’s sense of urgency about this for the unconverted Jewish nation; “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” [Romans 10:1, cf 9:2-4].

We have no control over our past selves and we have no control over our future selves except as it relates to our TODAY selves. Today is the largest amount of time within our ability and with that it is our only opportunity to serve God.

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts… Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;” [Heb 3:7-14].

Do you remember when you were without hope?

You may be thinking that this title refers to that time in your life when you had great financial distress, but it doesn’t. Or you may suppose that it refers to that time when you may have been in fear for your life at the threat of a thief or a maniac, but it doesn’t. Or you may be thinking it’s referring to the loss of a parent or a spouse, but it doesn’t.

It’s referring to Ephesians chapter 2: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh,… That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”

Too many people are hopeless, and far too many Christians are displaying hopelessness as well. It’s very easy to get caught up in the concerns for this life and to forget that there’s an eternity awaiting us. Paul is saying that without Christ this life is hopeless. Without Christ this life holds no promises.

The writer of Ecclesiastes makes the same point in a very powerful way. He writes about seeking success, wealth, joy and meaningful work, but at the end of the day it’s vanity, “grasping after the wind.” He’s not suggesting that these pursuits are worthless. His conclusion is the same as Paul’s, without God in your life all these things are hopeless. His conclusion of the whole matter is, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” [Ecc 12:13]

Have you ever met someone that appeared to have nothing, no money, had physical disabilities or otherwise devoid of many of this world’s goods but was happy? I have, many times. I met a man, whom I’ve told you about, who had a disease called Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP). It is a disorder in which muscle tissue and connective tissue are gradually replaced by bone (ossified), forming bone outside the skeleton. He was one of the happiest guys I knew. I loved being around him because he brightened every room he entered.

How can anyone in a condition like that be happy? It was by no cause of his own, it happened to him beginning from his youth up. He experienced daily pain because of his disease but brought joy to those around him. How did he do it, what’s the key? I’ll tell you, he looked forward to being with God. In other words, he had purpose. This is true of nearly everyone who, despite the difficulties of life, are happy. They have found purpose, meaning and a direction.

THE KEY TO TRUE JOY…PURPOSE

People with purpose are some of the happiest people on the planet. They will endure great pain & struggle because of purpose.

I read about a study where scientists tossed lab rats into a jar of water that had been placed in total darkness to see how long they would swim to survive. In total darkness it took 3 minutes before they gave up. Then they took the rats and placed them in the same conditions, but this time with a small ray of light at the top. How long did the rats struggle this time? 36 hours! When they had a light, a possibility of escape, they were able to endure.

Think about how strong we can be when we have hope, true hope that is in Christ. We can face tomorrow when we know that we’ve been reconciled to God in Christ. Paul finishes his command to remember by saying, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

So, let us be reminded that without Christ we are without hope, without the promise of heaven, but IN CHRIST we have both the promise of heaven and hope that He will return to take us there. [Gal 3:27 put on Christ in baptism]

The next time life gets you down, and it will, look up and be reminded that God loves you, and that He sent His Son to provide you a way of escape.

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful (compassionate), and of tender mercy.” [James 5:11]