Friday, January 20, 2017

The Final Awakening

And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept.” Genesis 2:21
We conclude, today, our look at sleep with the first mention of sleep in the Bible. Boy what a grand surprise it was for Adam to wake up the next morning. God had given to him more than he could have expected. He was no longer alone in the created world. There was Eve and joy and bliss abounded. At least it did for a while and then sin ruined everything. Then they had to sleep each night with the expectation of working hard in sorrow and toil the next day.
We see the last mention of sleep in the Bible in a different way. The last mention of sleep is in I Thessalonians speaks of sleep as a description of death. But there is still to be an awakening. And the awakening will be far more glorious than Adam’s that first morning with Eve. It will be an eternal day with Christ in heaven. We will all continue to exist after death. We must choose where we will wake up. The offer Christ makes is that in Him we find the bliss of heaven forever through faith in Him.
            Dear Father, Thank You for the hope of an eternal awakening with You. Amen.  

  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

The First Sleep

Then Jesus said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” Luke 22:46
A long day’s work often leads to a good night’s sleep. A lot of stress or a lot of activity can also lead to a need for sleep. We usually think this is a good thing, and it usually is. That is, of course, unless we have been specifically told to stay awake. Our boss my take exception to our proffered explanation that we had such a good time last night that we need to catch up on sleep in our cubicle today.
Jesus took exception to the disciples sleeping. He had given them a job to do (praying), and they were failing at the task. It wasn’t that He needed their prayers, it was that they needed their prayers. Tough times were coming and they needed to be supported by prayer when they came. We see that when the hour of true trial came, they were unprepared. Sometimes when life wears at us we need more than sleep. We need to spend time getting refreshed from God and then lay down in peace and sleep.

Dear Father, Let us first find our rest in you and then in our beds. Amen.  

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day of Rest

In the western world, we eagerly look forward to weekends.  Originally the idea of the weekend was to have one day off to worship.  That is how God set it up.  Man wasn’t content with that idea and expanded it to two days with one of them for good old fashioned time to enjoy oneself.  Neither idea seems to have been embraced by our modern culture.  Attendance at worship services in nearly every church is in decline.  Increasingly people are running hither and yon to catch up on everything neglected from Monday through Friday.  Big jobs, little jobs, shopping jobs, even turning pleasure into a job that must be done before Monday’s call to work returns.  Everything except resting and worshipping has filled our free time.
How is that working out for society?  People are all too tired to know or care.  The confessions of the populace are that they are stressed.  They are not relaxed.  Would better jobs with better pay solve that?  No!  Satan is always offering us counterfeit ideas to what God had in mind.  More money will not make us less stressed.  More money will give us more expensive ways to occupy our time instead of rest and worship.  Bigger jobs around the house, bigger shopping trips to buy bigger things to make our more expensive houses and cars provide us more joy; that is Satan’s plan.  It never works out well for people.  Satan, on the other hand gets quite a kick out of it.  Remember he is the thief who comes, Jesus said, to steal (our joy) kill (our bodies) and destroy (our souls). 
Jesus had a better plan.  He said to His disciples, “Come apart and rest a while”.  God had set up that program after the sixth day of creation.  He ordered rest not just for man but also for animals and the land in His laws to the Israelites.  He ordered even more than that.  God ordered three weeks of annual vacation time.  It was to be spent fellowshipping with friends and family while worshiping Him.  God had the whole plan laid out.  He laid it out with the love of His people in mind.  He cares about our bodies and minds as well as our souls.  He wants us to be refreshed in spirit and flesh.  Thank God for His care and plan a restful weekend meditating on the words of this new song.
Almighty God of peace and rest, guide us toward Thy will most blest
To do our toil when toil is due and then find Sabbath rest in you
And grant us peace when work is done and grant us joy found in Thy Son
              That all our life in work and play may your great love and grace display 

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Evening Song

I sincerely hope that all our talk about sleep this week has given you a few nights of better rest.  Psalm 127 says that God gives His beloved sleep.  Sleep is actually a gift from God!  How about that?  Here you thought you were wasting eight good hours each day and God says, “No, I am giving you the gift of sleep.”  Isn’t that a precious thought? 
It is part of a whole lesson God has about rest.  He hallowed the seventh day and said, “Rest.”  While the Sabbath day is particularly for the Jews, the day of rest concept is not just for them.  The day of rest is pre-law and given to us as a gift.  God does not want us to burn our candles at both ends.  He loves us and cares very much about our needs, including our need for rest.  God even ordained that the land would have a rest.  Every seven years the Jewish people were to let their ground lie fallow for a full year.  They were to trust God’s provision for the next two years.  They disobeyed this command and so God declared that He would give the land the Sabbath rests it had missed and He did so while the children of Israel cooled their heels in Babylonian captivity. 
And so we can see that God really is interested in our having a good night’s sleep.  He gives His beloved sleep isn’t just a poetic line, it is the truth of a caring God.  The prayers and meditations that have been used this week as bedtime aids are ones that come to us from very reliable sources of men of God and from God’s own word.  Another great hymn of evening came to us from the prolific author of the revivalist era Sabine Baring-Gould.  He is also the author of “Onward Christian Soldiers”.  And, since we are on the topic of sleeping, he also wrote a little used Christmas carol “Sleep, My Savior, Sleep”.  He also wrote the much more common hymn for evening “Now the Day is Over”.  The tune is very restful and will help lull you to sleep as you sing these trusting words.
Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh, shadows of the evening steal across the sky.
Jesus, give the weary calm and sweet repose; with Thy tenderest blessing may mine eyelids close.
Through the long night watches may Thine angels spread their white wings above me, watching round my bed.

When the morning wakens, then may I arise, pure and fresh, and sinless in Thy holy eyes.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Sleep On

Yesterday we looked at getting a good night’s sleep.  We considered some well known bedtime prayers and a great ancient hymn from St. Ambrose.  Since we spend a third of our life in sleep, there is room for more discussion about it from Biblical illustrations to Christian music.  How many mattress ads have you received in the paper in the past two weeks?  How many TV commercials have you seen for the “perfect night’s sleep” whether it be a pill or another mattress?  The world is talking about sleep all the time.  It should be no wonder that God does too and that hymnists have given us a rich heritage on the topic.
It was while sleeping on a stone, yes, how’s that for a prime sleep aid, that Jacob had the vision of the ladder to heaven.  God had revealed to him precious promises in his sleep.  Pharaoh had a dream that ultimately got Joseph out of jail and saved his family from starvation.  Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that elevated Daniel to a leadership position in the government.  Ahasuerus couldn’t sleep, probably because of all the pounding made by his next door neighbor Haman, and that led to the safety of Mordecai and the salvation of the Jews.  The disciples fell asleep when they should have been praying and were not ready to face the hour of temptation at Jesus’ arrest.  Those are just a few instances of sleep that are mentioned.  Doctrinal study on the issue would require more space than today allows.
Paul Gerhardt, who had endured the horrors of the 30 Years War, wrote two lovely evening hymns.  “Now All the Woods Are Sleeping” and “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow” both call for the comfort of God to watch over us at night.  Both are confident expressions of His grace and love that call the Christian to calm rest in the darkness of night or life.  The most famous hymn about evening to come from the Reformation period is one that we have forgotten was written for evening prayer.  We have kept the chorus and forgotten the song.  But here it is, the masterful work of Thomas Ken, who himself was suffering for his testimony for Christ.  “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night”.  It is sung to the tune of its more famous chorus, the Doxology.  Sleep well with these words. 

“All praise to Thee, my God, this night for all the blessings of the light.  Keep me, oh, keep me, King of kings, beneath Thine own almighty wings.  Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son, the ill that I this day have done; that with the world, myself and Thee, ere I sleep, at peace may be.”  

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Friday, January 13, 2017

I Will Lay Me Down in Peace and Sleep

The average person, if he is getting the sleep he really needs, sleeps away about one third of his total life.  ONE THIRD!  To sustain that one third of our lives we spend a small fortune on all kinds of special mattresses, sleep aids, fancy pillows and even sleeping pills.  With all that time, effort and money involved, how much time do we pray about sleeping?  Yes, pray about sleeping.  We pray for strength for our days, blessings on our work, safety in our leisure, health for our life, but what about praying for sleep?
One of the earliest prayers we teach our children is “Now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  Watch me safe throughout the night, and wake me with the morning light.  Amen.”  That is a great prayer, but after we get to be about age ten or so we believe we have outgrown it.  The psalmist David along with great church leaders like St. Ambrose and Martin Luther would disagree.  David said in Psalm 4, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only make me to dwell in safety.”  Now that is one confident bedtime prayer.  In Luther’s shorter catechism he teaches a simple bedtime prayer for children and adults.  His prayer reads, “I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”  Luther gives an afterword to this prayer.  “Then go to sleep at once in good cheer.” 
Ambrose was also concerned with a good night’s sleep.  He put his prayer into a song for the whole church to sing and find comfort.  For a bedtime song it has a rather odd name, “O Christ, Who Art the Light and Day”.  Still its words of trust in God’s care and appeal for peace in the night are probably better than all the sleeping pills and comfort mattresses we rely on for a truly blessed night of rest. 
All holy Lord, we pray to Thee, keep us tonight from danger free; grant us, dear Lord, in Thee to rest, so be our sleep in quiet blest.
Let not the tempter round us creep with thoughts of evil while we sleep, nor with his wiles the flesh allure and make us in Thy sight impure.
              And while the eyes soft slumber take, still be the heart to Thee awake, be Thy right hand upheld above Thy servants resting in Thy love.

  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

So be it! Praise the Lord!

How much do we really believe in a sovereign God?  Is He sovereign when things go “just right” for us?  Is He still sovereign when they don’t?  This is the great crisis of faith and mind when we meet with the difficult realities of life.  We are so surrounded today by a faith doctrine that God intends only good, implied “our idea of good”, for us that we wonder if He is true when “our of idea of good” isn’t realized.
We had a young couple visit our church.  They were quiet and sat in the back.  It wasn’t even a Baptist church, go figure.  Only Baptists may understand that one.  They were not very communicative when they went through the “receiving line” after church.  Yes, I am rather old fashioned and still stand at the back and greet everyone and visit briefly with all on their way out of church.  Then during fellowship time this couple was also less than socially interactive, even when approached by others.  Later I visited them in their home.  Yes, I believe pastors should still do this.  Finally they poured out their story.
They had both gone to a “name it claim it, God wants what you want” Bible college. They had both had hopes of future ministry.  Suddenly, God didn’t seem to want what they wanted and He held that course for some time.  They came to two possible conclusions, both wrong.  First, they were sinners so perverse that they could not please God (which if it had stopped there would be true) even though they trusted in His Son for salvation.  The truth is, in Christ we are pleasing to God by relationship with His Son.  So, they had the first point wrong.  Their second conclusion was that God was a lie.  They opted for the second conclusion and went on their unhappy way. 
The false doctrine they had been taught was that they were sovereign, not God.  Too many of us come to that conclusion at different points in our life.  We are frustrated that God does not answer our prayers according to our desires.  Since He is all powerful He can certainly do what we ask.  That is true, but He is also all wise and knows what is best for us at all times and, as all Goodness, He will only do what is good.  On our part must be faith in a sovereign God or unhappiness as that young couple chose to live and suffer in. 

There is a great song in Revelation.  It is really short and we can all memorize it without any difficulty.  It has only two words.  “Amen! Alleluia!”  That is literally, “So be it.  Praise the Lord!”  If you know Christ as Savior then the Good God is truly watching over you for good.  Sing a song of confident praise to Him today.  “Amen!  Alleluia!”  

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