I know for some it might be hard to believe that the Lord could speak through a classic rock song, but it happens to me all the time.  In fact, I believe that there was a very powerful anointing that rested on many of the bands from the 60s and 70s.  Even though most of the artists probably had no idea that the Lord was using them to speak truth, He often did just that with or without their intent or acknowledgment.  Recently, while driving home after a long day of work, I decided to pick up my cell phone and call my friend about a business start up we were working on together.  Knowing that we had both come from a very similar performance oriented background, we were encouraging one another with the truth that many times it’s not about us having to work harder or to strive to make something happen.  Instead, the Lord was teaching us that our forward progress is usually more about being willing to trust in his goodness and sovereignty so that we can enter into His rest.  The Lord was trying to help us get the revelation that when our soul is at rest, and the peace of Christ is ruling in our heart, then we can just sit back and enjoy the ride.  As soon as I hung up the phone, I hit the radio button and the song “Free Ride” by Edgar Winter started up as if perfectly cued. Being the closet rock and roll devote that I am, I cranked it up as loud as it would go.  A very powerful encounter with the Lord ensued.

In the formative stages of my spiritual development, I was internally driven by the belief that, “If it’s gonna be, than it’s up to me.”  Oh sure I could quote any number of scriptures that were contrary to that mindset, but when it came down to how I was actually living… I was just as self motivated and clueless about the Lord’s leadings as I was before I became a believer.  Although lordship starts with making a decision, that is most certainly not where it stops.  In fact, learning how to truly depend on the Lord may involve a long and humiliating process.  At least it has for me, and I’m fairly confident that I’m not the only one who’s had a little trouble practicing this principle.  Most of us, and this is especially true of we American Christians, have been trained from a very early age to be self reliant and self oriented in thought and lifestyle.  Think about it, the very formation of our country was due largely to our unwillingness to submit ourselves to a ruler.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a gun toting republican who thoroughly enjoys his freedoms.  But learning how to be more lead and less driven has not been easy for me.  I don’t know how many times over the course of my Christian journey, my soul has exclaimed, “Stand aside God and watch how much I can DO for you.

It’s taken many years to even begin to comprehend how arrogant that thought pattern must be to the Lord.   Whether we admit it or not, we often live as if our Heavenly Father’s interest in us and/or his approval of us is somehow affected by something we might do or not do “for” Him.  Granted, we all have things we’re called, gifted, and anointed to do.  But believe it or not, he really doesn’t need us to do anything.  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Prov 19:21) Regardless of our theology, it is shamefully egocentric to deny the fact that His plans and purposes will prevail with or without our human efforts.  This revelation is doubly needful for those of us who’ve committed ourselves to leading and serving in the church.  As one who was once the textbook example of a Messiah Complex, I can tell you from experience that much of our need to “serve” may be improperly motivated.  Remember, “the poor you will always have with you”.   In other words, there’s always more that needs to be done.  Our job is to do only what the Lord himself asks us to do.  Anything beyond that is a yoke we need not wear.  Obedience truly is better than sacrifice, that hasn’t changed.  In fact, I’ve come to believe that one of God’s primary intentions for us is that we simply learn how to relax and enjoy the life He’s given us.

If you’re feeling the burden of a heavy yoke, maybe it’s time to inquire of the Lord about what you’re carrying that’s not really your responsibility.  If you’re an intercessor, maybe you need to stop watching the news for a while.  I’m pretty sure the oil spill in the gulf and that situation in the middle-east that you’re so concerned about will get solved without you losing any sleep over it.  No offense, but sometimes we overestimate the significance of the role we play in the grand scheme of things.  Go for a walk, enjoy a nap, eat a cheeseburger without feeling guilty for the love of God!  It’s gonna be OK.  He’ll keep the universe from imploding on itself.  Our job is to cease from our striving and enter into his rest.  The Lord God Jehovah is on the throne.  He loves us and He’s got this whole thing figured out and under control.  We need only to listen and obey, listen and obey, listen and obey.  Let Him deal with the rest.  Come on and take a free ride.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  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.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matt 11:28-30)

The mountain is high   The valley is low
and you’re confused on which way to go
so I’ve come here to give you a hand
and lead you into the promised land so…

come on and take a free ride
come on and sit here by my side
come on and take a free ride

all over the country I’ve seen it the same
nobody’s winning at this kind of game
we’ve got to do better it’s time to begin
you know all the answers must come from within so…
come on and take a free ride
come on and sit here by my side
come on and take a free ride.

For though you have ten thousand teachers in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers… 1Co 4:15

For many years now, I have not been able to go into a Christian bookstore without feeling a profound sense of irritation.  Without fail, as soon as I walk through the front door, all I can think is “get me the heck outta here ASAP.”  I’m not joking or exaggerating about this.  This actually happens to me nearly every time I try to buy a bible, or a gift or something at one of these types of stores.  It’s like I get instantly provoked as if someone with really bad breath was up in my face insulting me while simultaneously poking me in the sternum.  I can’t say that I completely understand what causes this violent impulse reaction in me, but I’m pretty sure it has at least something to do with the abundance of “Jesus Junk” that is characteristically distributed from this kind of venue.  Shelf after shelf, rack after rack of fish emblems, cliché ridden bumper-stickers, T-shirts that rip off the latest fad by inserting a Christian icon into a popular image or design, cutesy coffee mugs with scripture on them… you know what I’m talking about.  Jesus Junk.  And as if the abundance of cheesy merchandise wasn’t bad enough, most stores also stock a wide variety of books that, in my opinion, do little more than add to the already overwhelming burden that believers tend to carry around as it is.  “How to Lose Weight While Praise Dancing” “Keys to a Successful Marriage from the Pentateuch”  “Victorious Christian Living in 10 Days!”  It’s like we take our cues from a decidedly screwed up culture, and then haphazardly create our own diminished version of it.  God forgive us.

But the overall weirdness of our little sub-culture is not my greatest concern.  It’s the fact that somehow we have propagated the mindset that “church” is that place where we go to hear someone else tell us how to be a Christian.  Week after week we sit and eat, sit and eat, until finally we get bored by the limited selection of buffet items and move on to a more promising location for further grazing.  And if our Sunday morning gorge fest doesn’t sufficiently satiate us, now we can surf the web for the latest and greatest messages from all our favorite teachers and listen to them ad nauseam on our I-Pod.  Especially in the U.S., it is certainly not information that we lack, but rather a lifestyle that is derived from and activated by the principles we’ve already accepted as truth.  Wisdom is the application of truth, not just the acquisition of it. By in large, this is where we’re missing it.  We know enough about Jesus right now to turn the world on its ear, but sadly, we are educated far beyond our current level of obedience.  As a result, we have cheapened the Gospel message and the Christian experience in pursuit of more and more head candy.  For many of us, “ten thousand teachers” is not an overstatement of the actual number of influences we’ve subjected ourselves to over the years.  We must repent of this.  “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor 8:1)

In the next reformation, we have to break out of our addiction to rampant information consumption and learn how to make what we know work for us in real life situations.  A stockpile of Bible verses in no way guarantees that we will actually enjoy our relationship with the Lord, nor will it necessarily have a positive affect on anyone else unless we are intentionally walking out those precepts in the context of our relationships.  Just a little revelation of the simple truth that Jesus really does love us can radically impact our neighbor’s life.  But not unless we demonstrate it to him in a way he can understand and receive.  I’ve spent many hours of my life listening to brilliant men debate the nuances of a wide variety of theological minutia… but to what end?  So what if we have an air-tight systematic theology?  Does that really help us love one another?  Who gives a rip if Jesus returns before, during, or after the tribulation?  If we’re living right, it’s not gonna matter anyway!  Too much eschatological mumbo jumbo gives me a headache.

Have you ever asked your computer to do more than its processor was capable of?  We’ve all had our screen lock up, and our CPU shut down due to frantic data input.  Say what you will, but our mind can do the same thing.  Now is the time to return to the simplicity of our faith as we have surely reached level 10 on the information overload scale.  We’ve yoked ourselves to far too many instructors.  We need to own the fact that our current local church paradigm is geared for information gathering… and not much more.  So much so that our intellectual over stimulation has made it very difficult to receive instruction directly from the Lord.   With the abundance of  info we’ve tried to cram into our brains, our Spirit has been left crying out for our attention.  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this kind of behavior.  “You diligently study the Scriptures… yet you refuse to come to me” (John 5:39-40)

Learning to follow the leading of the Spirit is a process.  But if we’re his sheep, then rest assured, we do know what His voice sounds like.  We’ve wandered from pasture to pasture long enough.  He is our shepherd… not the guy behind the pulpit.  Not the last book we read.  We can’t blame our pastor or our church if we don’t feel like we’re fulfilling the personal call that is uniquely on each one of us.    We all have the same responsibility, to simply listen and obey.  But if we’re listening to “every wind of teaching” then we’re bound to get “tossed back and forth.”  (Eph 4:14)  Most of us are not called to a ministry within the confines of the local church structure.  Instead, we should be looking for opportunities to illuminate our homes, our workplaces, our neighborhoods with the light that every believer carries within.  The spirit will do in an instant what our striving could not accomplish in a million years. (Gal 3:3)

Remember how great you felt when you first realized that God loved and accepted you just as you are?  As new believers, it’s not uncommon to go through a period during which we experience a sense of being “love sick” for Jesus.   We’ve always called this “The Honeymoon Season” of the faith.  Ever watched a pair of newlyweds that can’t seem to keep their hands off each other?  We knew this one guy who, for several months after meeting the Lord, literally could not stop hugging each and every person he encountered. It was as if he was so full of the Lord’s affection that he just had to give some away so that he wouldn’t explode.  You see, when we lose touch with our first love, that’s when we stop having fun. That’s when Christianity becomes burdensome.  Our faith turns into a string of unending responsibilities and obligatory tasks.  His yoke truly is light and delightful.  The yokes of others are a big flippin drag and they suck the life out of us quicker than we can compensate for them.  We have to take them off.  In the next reformation, we must learn to hear from the Lord for ourselves and to show discretion with the frequency and number of our external influences.    In turn, the Lord will help us to cease from our striving and to enter into the kind of rest that our souls are so desperately in need of.   Lead on oh King eternal.

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