Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Pain Point

Pain Point
2 Corinthians 11:24 "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one."
July 15, 2020

The Apostle Paul was an impressive individual, devout in his service to the Lord, and at great expense. Recall that before he came to know Jesus as Lord, that he persecuted the Christians, even participating in the killing of them. He oversaw the stoning of Stephen (with Stephen forgiving Paul while he was being stoned). Paul could have been considered an extremist in his service to the Lord. If anyone wants to claim they are dedicated in service the Lord, I challenge them to analog their life with Paul's life. When Paul became a servant of Christ, he carried over his same enthusiasm, not willing to be deterred by any obstacle.

Paul was bragging about the obstacles he overcame in his dedication to the Lord, trying to demonstrate or prove the depth of his service. He said five times he had received 39 lashes. This means he was whipped, on his bare backside, 39 times, on five separate occasions. In Deuteronomy, 39 lashes was the maximum penalty, falling just shy of a death sentence, allowable by Jewish law. Somehow it was determined that 40 lashes would kill a human, but 39 was survivable. Some argue that Jesus received the 39 lashes before He was crucified, but Jesus was scourged by the Romans, not necessarily in accordance with Mosaic Law. Nonetheless, Paul got whipped just to the point of being on the brink of death, a tortuous ordeal. These beatings were given in direct response to him preaching the good news of Jesus as Lord, considered heresy by the Jews.

The Jews were so angry in hearing the name of Jesus as Lord, that they sentenced Paul to 39 lashes and Paul took it. Not only did Paul take it, but it did not deter him. Think of the worst obstacle you have ever had in your and what it took to overcome that, and it likely does not compare to the first beating Paul endured, and yet he was still willing to preach the good news. Today, many are considered as delicate as a snowflake, at the first sign of an obstacle. I'm sure that if I had received the first 39 lashes, that I might be hesitant again to preach the name of Jesus in the streets. I'd consider an underground church, for sure, just to avoid preaching in the streets, remembering the beating. Paul was not deterred from the first set of 39 lashes and continued to preach in public. Paul was not deterred from the second set of 39 lashes, being brought to the brink of death again, and continued to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul was not deterred a third or fourth or fifth time, being brought to the brink of death, his backside so scarred his flesh was not likely recognizable. Paul continued to share the good news of Jesus as Lord. Clearly the Jews' beatings of Paul were not enough to deter him from serving the Lord.  The Jews never found Paul's pain point.

You and I may not have that same point. Some of you have been emotionally hurt, even by other Christians, that you are deterred in your dedication to the Lord. Maybe your pain points have not pushed you to the brink of denouncing the Lord but maybe you are not quite as zealous as you once were, or outspoken in your dedication to the Lord. Many of us have a tipping point, some lighter than others, that would deter us from serving the Lord. I'm not sure how I would recover from five sets of 39 lashes. I'm not sure my zeal would still be as strong as before the first one. Maybe you've not received 39 lashes but you've been harmed, Satan using that to deter you from serving the Lord to your fullest degree. Its time to revive your vigor in service to the Lord; I doubt you've received 39 lashes no matter how severe the persecution.  Are you willing to truly die for Him? Prove it by living for Him. What's your pain point? 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 25:3, John 19:1, 2 Cor 11:16-33

Monday, July 6, 2020

Here's Your Sign

Here's Your Sign
Matthew 12:39 "He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign. . . '"
July 6, 2020

In the Bible, many times the hero of the specific story asked the Lord for a sign before setting off on a big journey, a confirmation miracle to prove the authenticity of the revelatory command. Most of the the time, in the Old Testament, the Lord provided the sign. To be honest, the Lord set up the concept of a sign, a miraculous wonder to confirm the interactive spiritual awakening, and perpetuated it throughout the Bible. The Lord gave Moses a staff and told him to use it in front of Pharaoh and perform signs and wonders. Then the Lord even had Moses participate in the plagues, as a sign the Lord was taking part in the turn of events. Gideon asked for a sign. Even the 12 Disciples looked for signs, to confirm the Lord was actually present and speaking to them.

The Pharisees specifically asked Jesus to perform a miracle or for a sign to see if Jesus could back up His strong speech. It was actually inherent in the Pharisees' religious DNA to seek for a sign, since that's what was perpetuated for them in their readings. But Jesus was not about to give them a sign. The Pharisees wanted a sign more than they wanted the Lord. They wanted the sign so they did not have to faith. Jesus was not going to let the sign be the stumbling block to them and called them wicked for even asking for it. Jesus knew the sign was not going to fix their hearts. Their hearts were too focused on the human perspective and a sign would simply have reinforced their lack of maturity, the lack of faith or the need to have faith.

Jesus mentioned on several occasions that the only sign they would get was the sign of Jonah (referring to being in the belly of death for three days), as Jesus would be in the tomb for three days before resurrection. Further into the New Testament, when the Disciples were spreading the good news of the gospel, the gentiles (specifically Greeks), wanted the wisdom of the good news to be so overwhelming and enlightened that it made sense to higher reasoning. This, too, is opposite of what the Lord had set up. The gospel appears actually quite foolish, because it requires faith and because it requires knowledge of the unseen.  There is no wisdom in the unseen or higher state of knowledge to ascend to in order to reach salvation. Salvation cannot be attained through knowledge or understanding, only faith.

You are on a journey of faith, not signs and not wisdom. Some of you have been traveling well on that journey, but gotten trapped by the physical or human understanding of where your journey should be taking you. Every day is a fresh opportunity to assess if you are on the path the Lord has for you, the path of faith that signs and wisdom may not confirm. Some of you have been paralyzed, having enough faith to believe in the Lord, and stopped there, not moving forward with your Christian walk. It takes faith to step out into a treacherous journey, full of the unknown and alarming and the scary. You may be aware of the potential path but you've never started walking on it.  Maybe there is something that you are supposed to step out and do, or go, or become but you've been waiting for a sign. Here's your sign.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Judges 6:33-40, Matt 12:38-39, Matt 16:1-4, Matt 24:3, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Monday, June 22, 2020

Take a Second Look

Take a Second Look
June 22, 2020
Luke 9:62 "Jesus replied, 'No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the service in the kingdom of God.'"

Jesus taught several times that there would be a cost to following Him. Jesus lived a humble lifestyle, as He knew the things of the world were of no value in the Kingdom of Heaven. He was dedicated in his work on earth, not accumulating wealth or status or anything that would deter Him from the goal. His relationships were authentic, a small circle of those He tried to keep around Him,  shunning fame even. It would have been extremely possible for Jesus to do miracles so big and public, that Jesus could have become famous, even. He had power untold, and yet He kept it in check. He could have made himself huge in the world's eye, with lightning from His fingertips and force everyone to bow to Him, but He did not. That wasn't His goal or plan. He sacrificed more than we will ever understand, just in His daily life, for the sake of what He was called to do.

He said that we should be like minded in our work, not even looking back at the world around us. A man wanted to follow Jesus as a disciple and Jesus instructed Him to simple follow, but the man suggested he should return home first and put his affairs in order, making sure his father was buried. Some theologians believe his father was still alive, and this could have been years before the man was fully ready to follow the Lord. The analogy is in regard to salvation as well as the dedication in following the Lord after initial salvation. Jesus said the man who wanted to go back and bury his father was not fit for service. It was possible the man's father was a devout Jew that did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. The man would have disgraced his father by serving Jesus and so the man wanted to let his father die in peace, possibly, on good terms with each other. Jesus said this man was not fit to be one of His disciples.

As Christians, we understand who the Lord is and the message of His work, but do we fully realize the focus that Jesus is asking of us?  Jesus told the man he could not even look back and be fit for discipleship, forget about the huge task of going home to bury his father. Do we understand the urgency of following the Lord and the tasks at hand? Do we understand the focus Jesus is asking of us in our work for Him, in His calling on our lives? Some of us have not fully looked back but the deception in the church is to look sideways. We get distracted by the ease of going to church, the programs, the social aspect of our Christian friends. When we look sideways, we are not fully looking ahead and that slows our pace, detracts from our focus.

We should be disciplined in evaluating the things in our lives worth keeping and doing along with the things in our lives worth letting go. There are distractions in your life right now and that are keeping you from your focus, and the Lord is asking you to take a second look at those things. The Lord says if you are not willing to evaluate your possible distractions, then you are not fit for His kingdom. This seems harsh, but those are His words. Some of you have a ministry you are supposed to be a part of, and yet you've been putting it off, saying not yet. You are either fit for service or you are not, there is no middle ground. Its time for singular focus.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 19:14-26, Luke 9:57-62, Luke 17:20-37