Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Last Straw

The Last Straw
April 24, 2017
Exodus 5:22 "Moses returned to the Lord and said, 'Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on these people?  Is this why you sent me?'"

When the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, Moses was sent by the Lord to tell Pharaoh to let His people leave. Moses was supposed to free the slaves, and the brilliant idea of walking into Pharaoh's court just making the demand for freedom didn't work. Pharaoh didn't want to let the slaves free; he benefited greatly from their labor. To punish them for the attempt on freedom, Pharaoh made their tasks harder when he required them to make bricks without straw. The slave drivers beat them with whips to drive them to produce the same number of bricks while gathering their own woody stubble from the fields to use as straw. Their work load doubled. The Hebrews were wondering why they thought it was a great idea to follow this God of theirs who took an already bad situation and make it worse. Their lives were supposed to get better, not cause them to rethink the benefits of serving the Lord.

While in hind-sight, the Lord knew what He was doing, it seems rather harsh to allows the Hebrews' lives to get harder. The Israelite overseers didn't deserve to get whipped for their quota of bricks without straw; and the Lord caused it, in a sense. The Lord knew the Pharaoh would punish them and the Lord allowed it. The Lord allowed their lives to get harder while they attempted to serve Him deeper. It did not seem like a win-win situation. Aren't our lives supposed to get better when we serve the Lord? Why would the Lord allow such treatment of His people who just wanted to worship Him? To what benefit did it serve the Hebrews to get punished for trying to serve the Lord? They continued to have to work harder and longer way before it ever got better.

In the story, the bricks without straw was actually the only thing that negatively impacted the Hebrews during the entire freedom from slavery movement. The term "only" suggests it wasn't that bad even though it was truly rotten. But if you remember the story, there were plagues after plagues on Egypt and the Bible makes clear the plagues were there to punish the Pharaoh for not letting them go. The Egyptians got punished far more than making bricks without straw. The Hebrews were immune to the affects of the plagues. The plagues on the Egyptians were the Lord's retribution for not letting them go, for the whole bricks without straw fiasco. In a sense the Hebrews' lives got harder, but the Lord went to work on their behalf to punish those who would dare take a stab at His children. When the Hebrew's lives got harder, the Lord promised to vindicate them, that it would all be worth it.

You may be trying to serve the Lord right now and it seems your life is harder. While I have no clue what's going on in the background or the spiritual battle over your life, I do know the Lord does not take delight in your life getting harder for serving Him. He does allow it, for whatever reason, but I've never read a time in Scripture when the Lord completely allows the unjust situation permanently. The Lord has always resolved the story for His heroes who serve Him on the earth. You and I may not perceive it, but the Lord honors those who honor Him. Sometimes it happens in this lifetime and sometimes the medals of valor are awarded on the other side of Heaven. But I do know there is no such thing in the Lord's eyes as acceptable harshness towards His children. Bricks without straw is never permanent, though right now it's difficult. The last straw is never the last straw.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Exodus 5-6, Rom 9:14-15, Heb 6:9-11, 1 Peter 2:19

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Your Own Race

Your Own Race
April 17, 2017
Hebrews 12:1 ". . . And let us run with perseverance the race marked before us. . ."

Jesus was, when He breathed His last on the cross He said that it is finished. When He said that, it was in reference to many things: the plan God had for His life, His suffering on the cross, the sacrifice for all sin, His human walk upon the earth, the need to sacrifice animals. It was the culmination of so many things, but most importantly for Him, it was the completion of the race set before Jesus. The life of Jesus was set in motion and Jesus finished all that was required of Him as part of the Lord's design from the beginning with Adam and Eve, to the permanent redemption of all souls. It must be noted that not EVERYTHING was finished, because there was and is a great deal of work to do.  If everything was finished, then you and I would have no need for suffering yet still on this earth. No, our plan, our part in God's design is still before us and none of us can say it is finished until we breath our last.

The author of Hebrews says that each of us must run our own race. He uses the analogy of a race, because there is a beginning and an end. This represents your life, the start of it on this earth and end of it when you die. Your finish line is possibly a great deal off, far into the future. You are required to run your race with endurance, because your work is not done yet. It isn't finished for you. Thankfully, your salvation was already bought and paid for, but your work might only have begun, or the race in front of you might be very long. You are to run that race, the rest of your life, with perseverance. Jesus persevered when it was the most painful. Your life, though possibly difficult, will mostly likely be void of the crucifixion that Jesus endured as part of his race. Your race, though, is different. It is different from your brother's, it is different from your sister's, and it is different from mine. Most Christians, however, look at the race of those around and think their own race should be easier. No one's race is easy and none is impossible, only different.

Your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior is the start of your faith, and the rest of your life is meant to perfect that faith on your own endurance race. It won't be easy and you will certainly want to quit many, many times over. Jesus thought about quitting in the Garden before Judas betrayed Him. Nonetheless, Jesus persevered, and continued His race to the point when He could say it was finished. Your life isn't over yet, and your race is in the present, this very day of struggle. Judas failed his race; he dropped out. You are certainly welcome to drop out, but then your life might end up with the likes of Judas in Hell.

While you can quit, I'm telling you that you really can't quit now; it just wouldn't be worth it. You know the truth and you know your life is not about you. The race is long, and hard, filled with obstacles and pain of every kind imaginable. Some will cheer you on and some will forget they knew you, denying you like Peter did the Lord. There will be moments of rain and moments of sunshine and warmth. It will be worth it, though, in the end, when you can say it is finished. You are on your own race, even if you don't feel like you're doing very well. Keep going, keep running, keep moving forward. Jesus promises the reward waiting for you at the end, but you're not there yet. Your faith isn't made perfect yet, that's done at the finish line. Others have done it and you can, too.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 19:29, Luke 14:33, John 19:30, Phil 3:1-4:1, Heb 12:1-3

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Binding Jesus

Binding Jesus
April 10, 2017
John 18:12 "Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him..."

Jesus was and is the Son of God. This is easy for you and me to recognize, but to His contemporaries during His walk on the earth it wasn't always so easy to make the distinction.  In fact, many read about Him prior to His coming, but few recognized Him. If you were to follow His miracles while He was on the earth, you might at least be able to recognize Him as a miracle worker, certainly a prophet. But few recognized Him as the Son of God. This is why Judas had to betray Jesus with a kiss. It wasn't enough to lead the soldiers to Jesus, Judas had to identify Him as the one, the One, but in the dark it was important to get up close. Judas did so,  but not before Jesus identified Himself. Judas didn't even need to show them He was the one; Jesus did that for them. When They arrived to arrest Jesus they said they were looking for Jesus. Jesus wasn't hiding and He didn't try to disguise Himself.

When Jesus identified Himself He answered with the same answer the Lord used when Moses discussed with the Lord His identity. Moses asked Him what His name was, and the Lord used the words "I am." These are the same words Jesus used when He identified Himself. He said, "I am He." Then Judas still identified Him as the one and Jesus declared His identity yet again. I am He. And as Jesus willingly identified Himself, and volunteered to surrender, they bound Him. It is interesting that Jesus voluntarily came with them, yet they bound Him. It is interesting that Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God by saying, "I am He," and yet they still bound Him. The idea of someone binding Jesus is funny. Jesus had the power to zap everyone into oblivion, and some make shift hand cuffs were somehow going to stop Him. It is like using spaghetti to tie the hands of Superman after he told everyone he was superman, absurd especially if they knew who he was and the power he held.

They didn't have to bind Jesus; He went voluntarily. Somehow the soldiers felt as if the hand cuffs were going to stop Jesus. No one could stop Jesus; that's why He volunteered. Any effort to bind Jesus was just an effort to think they were in control, to try and exert power over Jesus and inflict their will upon Him. No one can inflict their will on the Lord. The Lord's will was done and they all fell perfectly into His master plan. Leading Jesus away in handcuffs almost seems cute in a pitiful way, like they thought they were really doing something. Jesus placated them and their silly device.

What's even more funny is that you and I think we can bind Jesus. We don't do it directly and overtly, but certainly try to inflict our will on Him, to get Him to do what we want Him to do. I've seen Christians try to manipulate Him, object to Him, speak on His behalf, and defy Him. But all Jesus wants is for us to submit to Him. Jesus has to power to zap us into oblivion yet you and I think we even have the right to talk back to Him as an equal. We recognize Him as the Son of God and yet we try to bind Him and His work in our lives. We call Him by name and still try to control how far He can go and what He can do. Jesus placated the soldiers with their trinket handcuffs and my guess is Jesus sometimes placates you and me.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 26:52-56, Luke 22:47-53, John 18:1-14

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Money Fixes Things

Money Fixes Things
April 3, 2017
Hebrews 12:7 "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?"

We have all day dreamed about the exact sum of money that would fix so many of our problems. Sadly, for me, the amount is upwards of $200,000 to finish raising monies for two foreign adoptions, to pay off old business ventures, and to delete my school loans.  For you the amount may be much, much smaller.  Even $10,000 has the power to change someone's life radically.  Some of you have a larger amount needed to fix the problems in your life. The day dream about money, or even the selfish transactions you have with your money, reveal you are trying to fix a perceived problem. If you just had enough money to fix the problem, then life would be so much easier, so much more hassle free. My argument for you today, is that no amount of money can truly fix your problem. Your problem isn't a physical one that can be solved with money, even if money is owed. Your problem is far greater, far more important than you realize.

For most of us, the problem needing riddance is creating hardship in our lives. Hardship is the direct result of two things: your stupid mistakes or something else beyond your ability to control. Neither of those things can be fixed with any amount of money. Hardship is there, in your life right now, and money cannot solve it. Money can temporarily fix the problem, but it is not a solution. Money is an effort to make the problem go away, bury it, put it in the past so you don't have to talk about it any longer. That isn't how the Lord designed this life. The Lord designed your hardship, your difficulty, to disciple you, to teach you valuable lessons so you'll be a more mature person. If you had all the money in the world, to fix your problems, you'd just be avoiding the reason for the problem in the first place. The problem is there, and the Bible says to view that problem as discipleship, meant to teach you and train you. If you've used money to get rid of it, you've actually gotten rid of your valuable lesson, failing to learn or be changed how the Lord intends for you. This actually causes more harm than good.

Maybe the problem you're trying to fix with money is the result of bad decisions and taking on debt. True, money is owed, but you have to learn the lesson of debt first before the money will be there to resolve it. Notice I said resolve, rather than fix. Money fixes things, learning your lesson through the hardship, that resolves it. The Lord wants to resolve so many problems in your life, but money ends up being a band aid type fix. Money can only change the circumstance temporarily, but the Lord loves you enough to let you experience it again and again until you learn the valuable lesson He needs for your to learn. If you've used money to get rid of the problem, then you'll find yourself in the same problem again. Money does fix things, but can never truly resolve them.

Maybe the problem you're trying to fix is the direct result of circumstances far beyond your control. Your desire to fix it or throw money at it to make it go away will not actually resolve it. If it happened beyond your influence, your desire to fix, wiggle any way out of it possible, it is an attempt to control things. You cannot control anything. If the Lord is still on His throne, and still in charge of what happens in this world, then the Lord allowed the circumstances beyond your control. Using money to fix a problem is an effort to circumvent the Lord's work in your life. My argument for you today is to learn from the Lord's work in your life and suddenly the barricade will be moved. The Lord has all the money in the world and can move that mountain to resolve your situation, but my guess is He won't until you've submitted to the work He is trying to do in your life.

That situation you are trying to get rid of, it will still be your problem unless you've learned all that the Lord needs for you to learn. Learn your lesson and my guess is He will resolve your situation.

I challenge you to read all the verses below.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 22:1-2, Exodus 15:24-26, Exodus 20:20, Deut 8:2, Deut 8:16, Deut 13:3, Judges 2:21-23, Romans 8:28, James 1:2-4