Sunday, February 24, 2019

Returning to Victories

Returning to Victories
February 25, 2019
Judges 14:8 "Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he returned aside to look at the lion's carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey."

Sampson was a Nazarite, hence his long hair. Part of the Nazarite vow, besides not cutting your hair, was that you could not consume alcohol or touch a dead body. The first mention in the Bible of Sampson's strength was tearing apart a lion with his bare hands. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with Sampson killing the lion, no major sin or violation of his Nazarite vow, but that event created the opportunity for sin. Sampson was not a humble man and he slowly let the sin of pride and arrogance creep in. He slowly began to think he was invincible, and that transcended into being invincible over sin. He wasn't invincible however.

He came across the location of the lion's carcass, as he may have wanted to revel in his success over the animal. In looking at the carcass, he undoubtedly relived the moment in his mind, possibly feeling triumphant and heroic, rejoicing in the moment again. He saw that there was a swarm of bees in the carcass, not likely with flesh still on it, but a hive of bees inside the dried bones is documented. There was honey in the hive, meaning the bees had been working weeks, maybe months to produce the honey. Sampson felt he deserved some spoils from the bees and reached into the carcass to take the honey for himself. Sampson knew at that moment, in reaching into the carcass, that he was violating his Nazarite vow. He was now in sin, possibly the first time he broke his vow. The Bible documents that he did not tell his parents about the honey, demonstrating that Sampson was also now hiding his sin.

Follow his story further and you see he is now married to a Philistine woman and desperately wanted to brag about his endeavor with the lion. So he makes up a riddle, hoping to keep his sin secret still while being prideful of his victory. His wife finally gets the story out of him and tells the Philistines the meaning of the riddle, that honey came from the carcass of the dead lion. But in doing so, Sampson wasn't revealed for eating honey, his sin of violating his vow was now made public. This sets him on the path to maintaining his sin, violating all aspects of his Nazarite vow which eventually leads to his mighty strength being taken from him.

His mighty strength was taken from him, all stemming from the act of using his mighty strength over the lion. Sampson returned to that victory, but it was the start of his sin. He rejoiced in the spoils of his victory. He didn't stop there, and continued to return to his sin, all because of his success. He wasn't in sin regarding the death of the lion, but that moment of victory was enough to put Sampson on a path to hell, a path that he returned to time and again until the Lord was no longer willing to stand by his side for further victories.

Sampson returned to that victory, but it was the start of his sin. Maybe if Sampson had to reveled in the victory as his own but acknowledged it was the Lord who gave him that strength, maybe if Sampson had done that he never would have lost his strength. Was the victory over the lion Sampson's victory or the Lord's victory? Sampson made it his own victory, which lead to his sin. Sampson is not the only human in history to have physical or mental strengths and giftings. You and I have been given many abilities by the Lord, but do we revel in the success when those strengths are utilized or do we give honor to the Lord for those strengths? We both have likely made a mistake or two in regard to our strengths and victories, but do we continue in that pattern like Sampson or do we turn from our victories and turn from our sin?  Returning to your victories in life could be the most deadly thing you do.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ex 15:8-10, Judges 14

Monday, February 18, 2019

Therefore Gentleness

Therefore Gentleness
February 18, 2019
Philippians 4:5  "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near."

The letter Paul wrote to the church of Philippi is one of the most succinct books in the Bible, yet pact with so much advice for daily living. Paul was writing this letter while placed under arrest. He was jailed for preaching the gospel and the letter to the Philippians was to encourage them, yet give them key instructions on how to be an effective Christian. He constructs the whole book in perfect form, very clear to understand. He uses his life as an example and tells them what has been working. He knew from first-hand experience what as working.

In Chapter 1 he says we are to conduct our lives worthy of the gospel, meaning parallel with the teachings in the Bible. While this seems obvious to some, it must be said that if someone is not living in parallel with Scripture, and knows what the Bible says, they cannot truly call themselves a Christian without harming the name. Paul's reminds us not to bring harm to the name of Christ by our actions. In Chapter 2 he says we should imitate the humility of Christ, being humble is paramount in our walk and being an effective demonstrator of Christ. Along with that humility is to live life without complaining or grumbling. This is probable the biggest area of weakness for Christians. We like to complain and we like to get out of whatever it is we are complaining about. Paul says don't avoid the situation, walk through it with a good attitude. In Chapter 3 he warns against fakes, not to imitate them. Today there are so many overt Christians in social media and people think they are real and true. Paul warns there is a good chance that if they are keeping themselves in the public and getting glory for it, then they are fake Christians. Paul's warns against watching their lives to emulate them. He said to emulate his own life which was following the same road as Jesus, actually suffering for the gospel. Few of us even know what it means to suffer, surely the social media darlings may not either.

Then in Chapter 4, Paul says the word "therefore." This is his obvious summary statement of the letter, cleaning up his remarks. Immediately following Paul's word "therefore," you'll see the word "rejoice." He wasn't saying "Therefore rejoice" as his summary, the word "rejoice" can be confusing because he actually says "rejoice" many times throughout the entire letter. His summary really starts, "therefore, let your gentleness be evident." Paul was saying that the most effective way to live your life as a Christian, to display the gospel, was to live with an attitude of gentleness about you. This was part of his first argument in Chapter 1 when he said we are to live our lives parallel with the gospel. Jesus was a gentle man, not a blow hard or a jerk or a braggart or obnoxious. Jesus was not rude or arrogant or generally insulting. Jesus did not make others feel insecure or belittle them. Being gentle is being patient and kind at all times. Paul was saying that this is one of the most effective ways you can live your life in parallel with Scripture and one of the most effective tools in demonstrating your Christianity.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Rom 12:12, 1 Cor 13:4, Eph 4:2, Phil 4

Sunday, February 10, 2019

How Dedicated

How Dedicated
February 11, 2019
Matthew 5:19  "Whey they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus."

Jesus was in town, teaching to a packed house. It was literally in a house. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit was enabling Him to heal the sick, but the day He was in this particular house He was in teaching mode. Word had spread that He had been healing the sick, so four friends carried their paralytic friend into town, to request a healing. When they arrived at the packed house, they tried to find a way to push past the crowds to get to Jesus, but it was too difficult to get five people through such a tight squeeze. Rather than sending one of the friends inside to find Jesus and make the request which could risk being denied, they decided to figure out a way to present him the Jesus. They thought surely if the Lord could see him, Jesus would instantly have compassion on him and perform the healing. They rationed it was a good idea to lower him through the roof.

The house was not made of a normal roof with solid structure that we typically think. It was not a full, load-bearing roof. Some roofs you could walk on but this roof was described as having roofing tiles. Roofing tiles were not load-bearing, they were stiffened, clay shingles that kept the weather out, not to bear the weight of one or five humans. But the men risked walking on the beams of the roof, risked falling through with one poorly placed step, risked knocking tiles onto the people down below, in order to anchor their friend through a hole to get to Jesus. These four men dismembered the integrity of the roof to find a way to access Jesus. They couldn't lower him vertically, they apparently had to lower him almost lying down on a mat. There was significant risk to damaging the wholeness of the roof, with five men up there, but the risk was worth it to these men. They were desperate for their friend to be healed. The Bible mentions this paralytic as not necessarily having family. Back then this paralytic was likely a beggar. It wasn't his mom and dad that brought him to Jesus, it was a few dedicated friends. 

These men were determined to get their friend in front of Jesus, knowing Jesus would do the rest of the work. It was likely a daunting trek to get him there and an arduous task, risky, to lower him through the roof. But they were determined. They cared enough about this man to get him in front of Jesus.

If you were paralyzed, and there was a chance for healing, you'd want four dedicated friends to get you in front of Jesus. Surely you'd like to receive all that Jesus had to offer you. But what if you were one of those four friends? Are you like one of those four friends today, for someone else? If you were to write the tale of your exploits on behalf of putting others in front of Jesus, how long would it be? Would there be enough to write a full-length autobiography of all that you've done for others, to bring them to Jesus? Or would it be a short story, maybe a paragraph or two. How dedicated are you to others, to make sure they meet Jesus? What efforts are you willing to put forth, what dedication are you showing, what determination are you living out to bring people to Jesus? What have you risked to put others in front of Christ? Are you dedicated to yourself or are you dedicated to make sure others have all the opportunity in the world to meet Jesus? 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 5:17-26, Matt 9:35-38, John 15:13-17

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Called Away

Called Away
February 4, 2019
John 21:3 "'I'm going out to fish,' Simon Peter told them, and they said, 'We'll go with you.'  So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing."

Before meeting Jesus, Peter was a fisherman by trade. Fishing was his profession, and that was all he knew. Enter Jesus. Jesus called Peter away from fishing and told him he would no longer fish but now be a fisher of men. Jesus called him out of his vocation as a fisherman and put him into ministry. He was called away from his former way of life. For the next several years, Peter was a disciple of Jesus and in full time ministry spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus had so many plans for Peter; He said that Peter was going to be a rock upon which He would build His church. Forget fishing, Jesus had other plans for Peter. Peter was no longer a fisherman, he was a rock.

But after Peter denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion, Peter forgot the new plans that Jesus had for him. He forgot He was a rock. Peter, somehow, decided that it would be better to return to fishing, even though God had called him away from that life. (This is the exact same position Peter was in when Jesus called him away the first time.) You'll read in scripture that after Jesus rose from the dead, He went to look for His old friend, Peter. And you know where He found Peter? Back at his old profession, in a boat, trying to catch fish. Peter didn't catch any fish this time either. He had spent the whole night fishing but to no avail. He couldn't fish anymore. He had forgotten that God had called him away from fishing, and fishing was no longer what God wanted him to do. Peter's efforts were futile because that was not what he was supposed to be doing. God's call on Peter's life still stood firm, and fishing was not it.

God has called each of us out of something and into a marvelous light. That light is the knowledge of Jesus Christ as our Savior and with it comes a new life. You cannot go back to your old life; God has called you out from it. You'll find that it is unfulfilling, empty, and futile. No matter whom you were or what you did, that is no longer you. You are a new creation. You have a new identity and with it something you are supposed to do. I don't know what that is for you, but you do. You know, as you read these words, what the Lord has for you and are well aware of the old life to which you so easily return. Recognize that your old way of life is unfulfilling. Continue walking in what the Lord has for you. Even if you failed the Lord, like Peter did, you cannot return to your old life. God still wants you to follow Him.

You've been called away from something and called into something else, a form of ministry that only you can fulfill. Just like Peter was called away from being a fisherman to become a rock on which the church was built, so you have been called to be something different for the Lord.  Jesus went to look for Peter again, and found him at his old way of life. Not only that, but Peter had taken others with him. Be carefully, if you decide to return to your old way of life that you do not invite others along. They have been called away from their former way of life, too. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 7:6, Isaiah 43:10, Matt 4:18-19, I Peter 1:2, I Peter 2:9