Commandments, Burdens, Freedom & Obedience

Remember my last post? The one on hindrances and what encumbers us? I left a bunch of information out of that post. I decided to go further when I found that encumber, hinder and burden were all similar words. I searched for “burden” in the Bible. Here’s what was quickened to me:

  • Matthew 11:30 “My yoke is EASY and My burden is light.”
  • 1 John 5:3 “His commandments are not burdensome
  • Psalm 38:4 “For my iniquities are gone over my head; as a HEAVY BURDEN they weigh too much for me.”
  • Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you.”
  • Psalm 68:19 “Blessed be the Lord who daily bears our burdens.”
  • Matthew 23:4 “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders.”
  • Acts 15:28-29 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden that these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.”

In this list, there are different kinds of burdens:

  • The light burden of knowing Him that Jesus asks us to carry. As 1 John says, Jesus’ commands are not a burden to us. They are wonderful!
  • The burden of sin. This burden is too much for us to carry on our own. As Psalm 68:19 says, God bears our burdens, and this includes the sin we have committed. We must commit our sins to Him that He can take them from us and bring us the freedom Jesus died to give us!
  • The burden of rules that the Pharisees and some leaders today put on others. All the “you must nots” that are not actually in the Bible! And in Acts, the disciples wrote to the Gentile believers telling them that there were only THREE requirements (or burdens) that God had for them—
    *abstain from eating what was sacrificed to idols
    *don’t eat food that has been strangled
    *don’t commit fornication.

Only three requirements. As 1 John says, certainly God’s commands are not burdensome. And He tells each of us what He holds us to as well. For example, not having a TV is something we have chosen to do because we felt God calling us not to. Is this is a hard and fast rule for all Christians? No! Rules and requirements that everyone must follow are a bare minimum: in Acts the Jewish Christians wrote to the Gentiles: only don’t eat meat from strangled animals, don’t eat food sacrificed to idols, and don’t have sex outside of marriage.

That’s it?! Why? Because being a Christian is about our relationship with God, and hearing what He tells us to do. Do not waste time living with guilt when you mess up. Repent and move on. Don’t just be a strict rule follower.  That is what He has rescued us from! Have a clean conscience. Thank You God! Honestly, I think He has given us so much freedom because, well, as Galatians says, once Christ came and sacrificed Himself for us, we outgrew the system of the Law! (See Galatians 4:1-7). We are now children of God—“you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:7). 

But now–(and check this out):
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

God allows everything. He forgives, yes. But everything is NOT profitable! Everything you do will not benefit you! This is why it is so important to pray before decisions, to pay attention to the twinge of conviction you feel. To obey what God is calling you to do in the moment! He will give us wisdom, He will tell us what is right and wrong in our own conscience. Listen to Him and do not submit yourself to unnecessary burdens!

Has you ever sensed that God is calling you to do something, but you didn’t want to give it up simply because the Bible doesn’t say anything about it???

God has given us so much freedom.

  • Galatians 5:13:
    “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
  • Galatians 5:1
    “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

If your first desire is to follow the Law, you are adding burdens to yourself! You become enslaved to what you think are requirements for salvation, when they are wonderful guidelines that God has given to us.

But God still does ask us to obey His Spirit. There have been many, many times that I have misused my freedom.

For example, in 2010, I got the PC game The Sims 2. At first I would play it infrequently. But then…I started to play it more and more frequently. It started to suck up my time, my energy, my focus. I couldn’t pray without thinking about The Sims and the families I had made in them. I was always thinking, “Oh, I can’t wait to get back home, I’m going to do this-or-that with them!”

Yikes. I even felt foolish putting so much planning into a game! So, for months, (literally!) I felt God’s very, very small voice (it was so small because I was crowding my head with so much else!) saying, “This is not what I have for you.” But because there was “nothing in the Bible about this!” it was easy to shrug off what He was saying. You know that verse, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30)? That’s exactly what I was doing. I was willingly IGNORING the voice of the Holy Spirit!

One day, it finally caught up with me. This is our conversation went (quoted from my journal). I spoke, asked questions, and He replied.

I feel this is what You are saying:

 

No more Sims. I have work for you to do.”

 

Father, o God help me obey. Is this truly what You are saying? I want to follow You, I want to make sure this is what You’re saying.

…then again it probably is what You’re saying because I’m fighting it so much.

Oh Jesus, it should be simple to give up a game for a nearness to You. Yes Lord. Help me finish my work.

 

“There will be more work.”

 

So it’s not just what I know now?

 

“No. Your work for me is everlasting. I will always have more. And you can always rest. But I need you ready to follow me at the drop of a hat, and not be so connected to a game that reaps no lasting rewards. I want what is best for you—you said it yourself earlier. I love you. I want the best for you. I am tired of waiting. Come, my love, come away with me. Love me, and I will help you love others again. You are more than you think. You are perfect for yourself, and you must grow into that perfection through My love. I will help you overcome. Like you said, you have not yet sweat blood to fight sin. Follow me, away from the world.”

 

Lord forgive me, for I am fearful. I should have it removed from the computer then, yes?

 

“It takes so much of your time away from Me, away from fulfilling My plans for you. I want your life to be wonderful, I want you to follow Me. Fight the urge to do ‘easier things’. Those easy things have no lasting reward, remember that. Your actions now determine your life with Me later. I have so much more for you. You are so beautiful and dear to Me. I want you to know Me better. Come near, my Beloved daughter. I love you, My princess. My commands are not burdensome. It is just a game. But this is real life.” 

 

Lord, how do I find recreation?

 

Like you played with your brother on Sunday. Find recreation in My people, in friends and family. In reading. In my presence. I know it will be hard to pry yourself away, but the benefits are large! Know that My plans are perfect for you and you will not fail when you obey Me. Follow Me. I told the fishermen to drop their nets and follow Me. They left everything. I am calling you to leave a form of recreation. I told the fishermen to be fishers of men instead of fish. I want you to leave the game to bless real people, to make a real legacy, as you heard … yesterday.

 

Phew! This is a perfect example of God commanding ME to do something. He said “My commandments are not burdensome” – just as 1 John 5:3 said.  He said “I know it will be hard to pry yourself away, but the benefits are large!” just like we read in 1 Corinthians 10:23- God allowed me to play the Sims, but it was just not profitable! Would He have punished me for continuing to play? I don’t think He would have…but He wanted me close to Him and ready to obey instead of being tied to a game that has no everlasting benefits. If I continued to ignore His voice, I am certain I would have drifted away from Him. I felt like this was the last chance before it would become increasingly difficult to hear His voice.

Isaiah 59:2
“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”

I had already disobeyed–Scripture says, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” I had been hearing His voice, and hardening my heart in the process!

Choose to obey today! If you have been struggling with something, please leave a comment! I would love to pray for you to have God’s strength to obey Him!

With His love,

Jennifer

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Hearing God’s Voice: Distraction

This year for lent, I’ve been setting ten minutes aside to simply listen to God’s voice. I actually set a timer on my phone. I record whatever I see, hear, or feel an impression of. Sometimes I do this with a blanket over my head to stop me from being distracted! Sometimes God talks to me about me, sometimes about my daughter, sometimes about others. One day last week, He reminded me of a friend of mine, and then He spoke concerning her. As I was recording what He was saying for her, I realized that what He was saying was also for me! And now I’d like to share it with you, too!

  • I was impressed to pray that God would push aside all the junk that keeps her from Him
  • I thought of the Bible verse: Hebrews 12:1 “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with the endurance the race that is set before us.
  • I thought of the song lyrics from “In the Secret” — “I want to know You, I want to hear Your voice, I want to know You more… I am reaching for the highest goal that I might receive the prize. Pressing onward, pushing every hindrance aside out of my way cause I want to know You more.”

I felt inclined to look up the definition of “encumbrance” (from Hebrews 12:1).
Encumbrance = “A burden or impediment.”

I looked it up in Strong’s Concordance too, and it means:

“1. Whatever is promient, protuberance, bulk, mass
a. Hence, a burden, weight, encumbrance.”

Synonyms for “hindrance/hinder” : “impede, obstruct, …block, thwart, bar, clog, ENCUMBER, burden, cripple…” 

So, that verse in Hebrews means: ” Let us lay aside every hindrance...and let us run with endurance the race set before us

What hinders you from running the race God has set before you?
There are an infinite number of answers!
I asked Him the same question for myself.

My answers:

  • The line up of never ending household chores
  • a desire to work FIRST and have “fun” later (“fun” here being time with Jesus). What a burdensome feeling!
  • SAW: a fence–I anticipate that hearing God will be very difficult, a big hurdle, so I am afraid of trying! (how many of you feel that way?) (It never is that difficult!)

Other things that burden people from spending time with God may be:

  • Addictions
  • The television
  • The mindlessness of surfing the internet & facebook
  • Video Games
  • A feeling of hopelessness & defeat before you even start listening. For example:  “I can’t ever focus” or “I’ll never hear from Him…”

…and even important things, like:

  • Making dinner
  • Taking care of the kids
  • Being too exhausted to focus at the end of the day
  • Household chores (like me!)
  • Time with friends

Phew. The list could be never-ending.

But look again at the definition of “encumbrance”.

“A burden or impediment”

I started thinking of Scriptures with the word “Burden” in them:

  • Matthew 11:30 “My yoke is EASY and My burden is light.”
  • 1 John 5:3 “His commandments are not burdensome

Hebrews 12:1 “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with the endurance the race that is set before us.”

So again, what is the encumbrance that hinders you from seeking the face of God?

If you don’t spend time listening & talking to God, you will not be able to run that race set before you with endurance.  So how do you do this???

Here are some of my tips!

  1. Set a timer. I love this. Because I can always find just ten minutes! I think sometimes another hindrance that keeps me from spending time with Him is thinking “I don’t have time! It takes so long!” Honestly, that’s baloney. Setting a timer for ten minutes is so wonderful because after the alarm goes off, I usually want to spend more time with Him, but if I have to get up and do something else (like check on that sleeping baby!), I know I’ve listened and I don’t feel burdened that I have to spend more time! I mean, if you don’t have more than ten minutes, you don’t have more than ten minutes!
  2. Be in the right place. I lay across my couch with my feet up, sometimes I put a blanket over my head to block out possible distractions.
  3. Have the right tools. Pen & journal in hand is essential, and I usually keep a searchable Bible website open on my computer in case God tells me a word (like in this case “burden”) that I feel the need to look up.
  4. Write down EVERYTHING. If I think of a friend, I write down her name. If I think of a Bible verse, I write it down, even if I don’t know the exact reference, I just write what I remember. If I see a fence, I write it down. If I have a vision, I write it down. If I don’t hear or think of anything, I write that down too!
  5. Follow God’s lead. If He tells you something out of the blue, be willing to stop listening and instead do some praying! You can always add to the time you’re spending with Him! Everything He says to you is important and you should always obey what you think He is saying!
  6. Just do it.

Next time you think you can’t spend time with God, remember this verse:

“Let us also lay aside every encumbrance & the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 

RUN THE RACE! But first, you need to get on the right track (pun intended!) by pushing aside everything that hinders/distracts/encumbers you! You can do it!!

With His love & encouragement,

Jennifer N. Buczynski