Freely and lightly podcast notes

Have you ever noticed in the Bible God never hands out any easy assignments. He’s never, “Hey I’ve got a task for you. Should be pretty easy. Won’t take you more than a couple weeks.”  He never comes to us like he’s trying to get us to join the PTA or volunteer to be room mom. Although volunteering to be a fifth grade room mom can feel like leading a group of grumbling Israelites in the desert.

It always sound like this. 

Abraham leave everything you have and go to a country where you will be all alone.

Moses free millions of slaves from Egypt

Hosea I want you to marry a woman who will cheat on you

Isaiah go preach for 40 years without anyone listening to you

Jonah go on a witnessing tour through Nineveh. Ok, you don’t want to go. Great. I’m sending a fish to eat you.

Gods call is never easy.

I’m guessing some of you can relate to a call like this

You were called to raise a child on the spectrum

You will called to hang in a tough marriage

You were called to battle mental illness

You were called to wait for a prodigal child to come home

You were born into a house controlled by alcohol

There is one word I would never use to describe the Christian life. It’s easy. When you come to Jesus you will be given hard assignments and trials to grow your character and just when you’ve passed one test you are given a new one you have to study for.

I’ve been accused of making Christianity sound easy at times. Just come to Jesus and pray this prayer and you’re his child. That decision is simple but it’s not easy. You will have to pick up your cross and follow Jesus.  You will feel Gods nudge to put down things like habits and addictions. Other people may criticize you for trying to live right. All of a sudden you have to make hard decisions about what you watch and smoke and drink.

Easy is not a word I would use to describe what Jesus calls us to.  But it is a word that Jesus would use. This has to be in my top five quotes of Jesus. It’s one of my all time favorites

“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.”” Matthew 11:25-30

These verses describe life as I know it. There are seasons of weariness. Two a days. Hell week.  Try outs. Finals week in high school, then college.  When that’s over we start work with deadlines and tax days and quarterly reports. Add to that a marriage and then a first trimester and a second trimester and A last trimester and then every trimester after that. Parenting is weariness . Diaper changes, midnight feedings, potty training, teaching manners and homework and tooth brushing and sex education. It’s not just parents of young kids who are sleepless. When your kid gets older the stakes get higher. You lay in bed thinking, where is my kid, who’s he with, who’s she dating, are they serious, how can I afford this wedding, I hope this marriage works, what about a job, will they know how to raise their kids.

Do you know the definition of a grandparent. They think there grandkids are perfect even though they are pretty sure there kids are raising them wrong.

We know weary. Many of you are living weary right now. You’re not getting enough sleep, you’re waking up in the middle of the night worrying, you can’t balance work and marriage and zoom school. Weary we get. What we don’t get is that last line.

My yoke is easy and my burden is light

Don’t get that. Easy and light doesn’t describe life as we know it. But we would like it to. We long for it. We want to go to bed and sleep soundly. We want to wake up refreshed. We want to carry less.

How is that lifestyle possible. There are two ways we can get to easy and light.  The first way is to live a life without problems. Your born into wealth and privilege, you don’t have any financial needs.  You’re handed everything without having to work real hard. When money gets a little tight you win another lotto. Let me say a couple things about people who live that lifestyle. People who are given everything don’t generally turn out to be great people and I would really like to give that lifestyle a try. Who’s with me?

The other way we can live easy and light is to somehow learn to remain easy and light on the inside despite the crazy circumstances that life puts us in.

Quick question. What is the movie that when you are flipping channels and you land on it you can’t stop watching?  I’ve got two. The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. What does it say about your pastor that the movies I can’t we’re both written by Stephen King. This verse reminds me of how Red described Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption.

I could see why some of the boys took him for snobby. He had a quiet way about him, a walk and a talk that just wasn’t normal around here. He strolled, like a man in a park without a care or a worry in the world, like he had on an invisible coat that would shield him from this place. Yeah, I think it would be fair to say… I liked Andy from the start.

I can’t promise you that in this life circumstances will align for you to live a life of ease. I can almost 100% promise the opposite. In fact God promises the opposite. Look at this one line in John 16

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

These two lines by Jesus could not seem more opposite. Here’s what’s happening. Trouble describes the world on the outside. Easy is what is happening on the inside. Light is what is going on in my heart. If you think about it this is the only promise that you and I could ever take advantage of. Because experience tells us Jesus words in John 16 are right. Life is difficult. Parents die and friends get sick and children grow up and leave us. There are so many difficult aspects of life that make it hard. On the outside.

But if there was someway that I could keep the inside easy and light than I could go through almost anything. Only if I learn this kind of soul peace can I truly have peace. The other kind of peace is one that is simply waiting for the next shoe to drop or market to crash or pandemic to hit.

Fortunately for the rest of us working stiffs there is another way to get to easy and light. There is a key in a word we seldom use. A yoke is a device that is put on two oxen. It’s a big piece of wood that keeps the two oxen walking together while the farmer plows the field. A yoke is a tool for work. What Jesus is saying here is, the work that I’m going to put on you is easy. The burden you will carry is light.  How is that possible? Let me ask you a question. Who’s yoke is it?  Jesus says my yoke is easy, my burden is light. 

Turns out that many of the burdens and responsibilities and duties we are carrying aren’t really ours to carry. Is it possible you are carrying burdens that you weren’t intended to carry?

I’m going to bring Lesley up right now to teach our kids a lesson.  Maybe the parents will get the lesson as well. If they don’t, kids you may have to explain it to them.

Lesley Kids race with backpack

Hebrews 12 put it like this

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.  Hebrews 12:1-2

We all know that if we are going for a run it’s time to find the lightest clothing we own. We would never run with a heavy backpack like this. Or would we. Let’s find out what’s in the backpack.

Look there is a Miller light in here. Lesley I’m ashamed of you. Having our kids make a beer run. Wow. It’s hard to run with a backpack full of beer. Years ago I took a group of high school kids on a backpack trip and one of the kids couldn’t make it up the hill on the first day. So I carried his backpack. I found out when I got the top that he had packed a six pack. He was more appropriate than Lesley and only brought Coke but it became very obvious to me that hiking with that extra weight is not a good idea. Just an FYI when we got up to the top of the hill he busted out the cokes and didn’t offer me one.

Those of you who are holding onto an addiction understand what I’m talking about. What started out as something cool to do at a party or some meaningless images on a screen has now taken over and is calling the shots. It’s like dancing with a gorilla. The dance is over when the gorilla says it’s over.  If you have an addiction you know the weight of that.

There is a bag of coins in here. Oftentimes when money is talked about in church it’s made to sound like the reason we are money seekers is because we just want more stuff. Maybe that’s true. But it doesn’t sound like you people. My guess is that for many of you money is important because you want to take care of the people in your life. I remember reading a biography of Frank Sinatra that talked about his tireless desire to work hard. He worked up until his death but not for the joy of it. He was panicked that his family would not be taken care of so he worked until the very end. 

Look we also have some weights in here. Personal fitness and health is good but it can also be an extra weight. It sounds like this. I don’t look good enough. I weight too much. My body isn’t shaped right. Let me say one more thing about that battle. You will ultimately lose it. We all get wrinkles and sag in places we don’t want to sag. Work out and stay in shape. It’s a good life habit. Just don’t get sucked into the lies that our culture tells you about how you should look and weight.  It’s a heavy weight.

What else is in here. Look it’s a family album.  Man my kids are so good looking. I know you’re family is attractive but not as.  Surely this is not something God would want us to take out of our backpack.  How can that be. Let me read you a weird statement that Jesus made.

 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26-27

What’s Jesus talking about. Does he actually want us to hate our families?  Only in comparison to how much we love him. The Gospel of Matthew puts it in a little softer.

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:37

It’s very easy In this community to put family needs above everything else, and I absolutely mean over everything including God. No question in this community overall it’s easy to slip into family first and everything a distant second.  Sometimes it’s just the extreme busyness that family first can drive us to that weighs us down.  Let me read you a quote from a family who decided to lighten their load as a family. This by my personal idol Brene Brown

Her family attempted to stop running around and start living in the moment. This meant cutting back on sports and activities and extra work. While this experience may sound great, it was terrifying for me as a parent. What if I’m wrong? What if busy and exhausted is what it takes? What if (my daughter) doesn’t get to go to the college of her choice because she doesn’t play the violin and speak Mandarin and French and she doesn’t play six sports? What if we’re normal and quiet and happy? Does that count?

Maybe the heavy object in your backpack is your family.  What’s weighing you down is trying to keep up with everyone else’s expectations.  Perhaps sports and dance and academics has risen above God in your family. 

Let me see if there is anything else in this backpack. It’s a Canyon Springs Bible.  How can that weigh you down.  In these verses Jesus is talking about how the people were burdened and heavy laden and it is most likely that he’s talking about religion. The religious leaders who were in charge of the church we’re heaping up all kinds of rules and regulations on churchgoers. They were burned out on religion. Every time I mention something about being burned by church in a message I get people telling me that’s their story.  Next week we will unpack what it looks like to be burned out on religion.

Let me share with you what that has looked like in my life. 22 years ago my wife and I moved down here to plant the church. We had no idea what we were doing. Still don’t. But we went through lots of training. These are the kinds of lessons that you get hot when you’re starting a church. It’s not just a church, it’s a business. You have to consider what consumers want and cater to their needs. Once you figure that out you have to do some marketing to let people know that what you are offering is better than what they can get at some other church. I realize this sounds very business savvy but our heart never changed for what we really wanted. We wanted people to come to find Jesus and we would do whatever it took to help introduce them, but there seemed to be a lot more business than I thought there would be in pastoring.  I wasn’t sure I was doing either very well. 

I’ve had a mentor who has helped me learn a new peace in ministry. His name is Eugene Peterson. I’ve never met him and will have to wait until heaven to be introduced because he died several years back. I got to know him through several books he wrote. This is from the book The Pastor.

The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans. I love being an American. I love this place in which I have been placed. But I don’t love the American way, it’s culture and values I don’t love the rapid consumerism to treat God as a product to be marketed. I don’t love the competitive spirit to treat others as rivals and even as enemies.

I will be honest.  I got caught up in that.  I wanted to be a businessman and a marketer and entrepreneurial leader.  Turns out I was carrying more jobs in my backpack then I needed to.   Then I started listening to Eugene when he said things like this.

“Who else in the community other than the pastor has the assigned task of greeting men and women and welcoming them into a congregation in which they are known not by what is wrong with them, but by who they are, just as they are?

Was it realistic to think I could develop from a competitive pastor to something maybe more like a contemplative pastor—a pastor who was able to be with people without having an agenda for them, a pastor who was able to accept people just as they were and guide them gently and patiently into a mature life in Christ but not get in the way, let the Holy Spirit do the guiding?”

So let me ask you, what’s in your backpack that doesn’t need to be there?  I’m guessing there are some jobs and duties and ideas that have snuck in and are weighing you down.  I made a list.  Let’s do a little inventory on where you and I are at.

Have you taken on any of these roles

Self appointed jobs that people give them selves

You are the savior of your kids soul

You are the irreplaceable piece at your work

You are the advocate voice that keeps your kids school straight

You are the yelp review that keeps businesses honest

You are the parenting corrector. You usually find these people at the grocery store or Walmart.

You are the political advocate that keeps people on Facebook honest

You are the honked horn that helps remind drivers to obey all laws

Your voice needs to be heard. Your opinion matters. Your side needs an advocate.  Your rights need to be recognized

Maybe it’s time to take some items out of  your backpack.  As we close I want to read you something.  It was written by my mentor Eugene.  When he was a pastor he got in the habit of giving his congregation the word of God translated into what he called American.  He would take the words of scripture and put them in language that people spoke on a daily basis. After he retired from pastoring Tyndale House asked him if he would do a translation of the bible into American.  He never considered himself a translator, but he wanted people to hear Gods word in words they used.  So he said yes and because of that we have the book The Message.  It was never intended to be a translation.  It’s the bible in modern language.  There is one set of verses that Eugene wrote that my staff and I found especially profound.  It’s based on these verses in Matthew.  These words speak to my soul.  Let them do that to you in the time we have remaining. 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:25-30