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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Follow Me-A Judge With Issues

Read the full story of Samson here

Hebrews 11:32-34

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Well, Samson is certainly an interesting story, isn’t he? If one reads the thoughts of writers and commentators on Samson, you can actually find quite a bit of controversy. In fact, folks are pretty harsh on Samson, and many question his status as a man of faith at all. So, let’s dispel that thought right away; Samson is found in Hebrews 11 among those listed as men and women of faith. God inspired the writer of that book to put him there. God knows the heart of man, and God put Samson on that list. That really settles it, don’t you think?

It’s odd, but we don’t see Samson actually communicating with God directly until the end of his story; that certainly seems to cast doubts as to his faith. His call seems not to have come directly to him, but to his mother. As was typical, the Israelites had turned away from God and were being chastised once again. In this case, it was the Philistines. God, knowing they would need a rescuer, called Samson before he was even born to be the one to deliver them from the hand of their oppressors. The Angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Samson’s father, Manoah the Danite, with the following:

Judges 13:1-5 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

God called Samson, and God had a plan for him. I can’t help but think Samson knew all of this; that seems pretty self-evident, as his mother certainly would have shared with him what had happened to her. Samson would have been raised in a household of faith, understood what his God was about and understood the role God had called him for.

That didn’t seem to help much, did it? We don’t need to recount all of the sordid details here, but sordid they are. Samson’s list of transgressions is long, for sure. He disrespected his parents, he broke his Nazarite vows over and over, he chased women including prostitutes, he reacted out of anger, he killed, he was prideful of his strength and prowess and the list goes on and on.

There’s only a couple of brief thoughts I would offer here in regards to the life of Samson, as to really explore him would take an entire series.

First, God was not clueless about the nature of the man He himself had created. While this is no excuse for behavior that is offensive to God, God uses all things for His good and His sovereign plan. That includes even our flaws and mistakes. We see this in chapter 14 when Samson went to his parents regarding marrying the Philistine woman he had become smitten with. First, the Jews just weren’t supposed to marry gentiles, much less a woman of the enemy. Second, he disregarded the good advice of his parents. Under the absolute domination of his hormones and fleshly desires, Samson did what he always did: what he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted. It did not end well. Pride was hurt, violence ensued and folks died. Specifically, Philistines died. When God allowed this to happen, he was laying the groundwork for Samson to exercise God’s judgment on the Philistines.

Judges 14:2-4 King And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Samson certainly did his job well. Philistines continued to die at an alarming rate, he was betrayed multiple times by both a woman and his own people. Ultimately he ended up in the hands of the Philistines with his eyes gouged out grinding grain. What a sad ending right? No, we know the story didn’t end there. Samson finished well. Despite his failures as a man, despite his failures to adhere to the law he had been given, despite his failure in all the works he wrought with his own hand, in the end, Samson finished well. They brought him out before the Philistine elites in the Temple of their god, Dagon, to mock and humiliate him before all the people…some 3000 of the who’s who of the Philistines.

Judges 16:27-30 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

Friends, Samson believed God, and his inclusion in Hebrews 11 tells us that this was credited to him for righteousness. This in no way teaches us that we can just do as we wish for our lives, as that would be a serious presumption on God’s grace. But it does teach that we can’t earn that grace and that no one is outside the reach of that grace. In the end, Samson did what really matters. He believed God. Have you?

 

 

 

 

Follow Me-Andrew Who?

Matthew 4:18-22

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

Andrew who? What do we know about Andrew, really? Andrew and his brother, Peter, were born in the city of Bethsaida(John 1:44) and at some point moved their fishing operation to the city of Capernaum. This is where we see Jesus call Andrew and his brother Peter, and the brothers John and James to leave their fishing behind and become fishers of men instead.

Like the other fishing partners and friends, we know that the above was not the first encounter these men had with  Jesus. They had seemingly at some point been disciples of John the Baptist, left John’s fold to follow Jesus, then returned to their fishing business until called later by Jesus to come with Him.

In fact, it seems Andrew was the very first Apostle Jesus called to follow Him. We see that account here:

John 1:35-40  Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

Being first is pretty special if you think about it. Not only was Andrew the first, but he was likely part of the inner circle of Jesus composed of Peter, Andrew, John, and James. Yet we see relatively little of Andrew after this initial meeting with Jesus. Sometimes when mention is made of the inner circle, Andrew is actually left out. Outside of various lists of the Apostles as a group, Andrew merits less than ten mentions in all of the New Testament, and then it is mostly simply that: a mention.

Andrew who? As the story of Jesus ministry unfolds, we see quite a bit of drama unfold around the two sets of brothers. Of course, we all know of Peter: brave, reckless at times, outspoken to a fault and clearly the leader of the Apostles. We see John and James, the “Sons of thunder,” complete with their own drama. They clearly wanted to be leaders, as we see them embroiled in arguments about who was to be the greatest among them.(Luke 9:46). They both actually came to Jesus asking for a special place. (Mark 10:35-40) In one account of the previous, they even brought their mother along! (Matthew 20)John was worried about what Peter was going to do in the Kingdom.(John 21:21) John and James asked Jesus to destroy a city that did not receive them. (Luke 9:50-56)

Andrew was intimately in the midst of men who were very concerned about where they fit, their importance and their position. Yet, where is Andrew? Andrew who?

We might ask: what is the big deal about Andrew? Let’s pick up the story of his call at the at the preaching of John the Baptist and see what happens:

John 1:40-42  One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

Andrew had no time for drama; Andrew had things to do. The Bible never addresses this, but it must have been difficult for Andrew, living in the shadow of his more outspoken and strident brother. I think that is common in the world of brothers. He must have been used to Peter jumping in and taking his stuff so to speak. Here he was, the very first disciple of the Messiah; this was a chance for him to be special.

That’s not what happened, is it? No doubt Andrew loved his brother. He loved him so much that he immediately ran off the tell Peter the wonderful news. That’s what Andrew did. He introduced people to Jesus. We see that again in John 12:20-22, when two Gentiles ask to meet Jesus; it was Andrew who introduced them.

Friends, this is what evangelism is really about. Personal contact and witnessing are what brings people to Jesus. Of course, hearing the Gospel preached does, but most only ever hear that as a result of some person personally introducing them to the church and to Jesus; few would ever hear the Gospel preached if some person had not invited them to do so.

Just remember this, when you feel your role as a personal evangelist is insignificant as you watch some rock star evangelist bring thousands to Jesus: each of the greats was personally ministered to by one we may have barely heard of. Who can tell me who Edward Kimball was?

 

Follow Me-Straightaway They Followed

Matthew 4:17-22 

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

Here we see Jesus walking the shores of the Sea of Galilee forming His church from among those he chose. In this story, He chose and called Peter, Andrew, John and James, who were all commercial fishermen in the Sea of Galilee.

Even though this was probably not the first encounter these men had had with Jesus, their response was nonetheless astounding. It’s likely that they had all heard the previous preaching of John the Baptist. It seems Andrew at least had followed John the Baptist for a while. Whatever the full background, at the time of their calling, the four men were simply busy earning their living as fishermen.

Here is where I want to depart a bit from what I usually hear as the narrative concerning these four men. Almost without fail, I see them characterized as “ignorant, unlearned fishermen.” Wellllllllllll….maybe, maybe not. I don’t find anything to indicate that any of them were part of the intellectual elite of the time, but a reading of Scripture tells us that there was more to them than just the label of, “ignorant, unlearned fishermen.”

Fishing could be a lucrative business on the Sea of Galilee, and at least in the case of John and James, the sons of Zebedee, there is plenty of reason to suspect this is so. In the Synagogue at Capernaum, there is a bench or a furnishing if you will, apparently purchased by a man identified as a Zebedee. The family had purchased a pew in the church. Clearly, service in the Synagogue was a part of their lives. We see in Mark’s account of the calling of John that the family business had employees. (Mark 1:20) John seemingly had a home in Jerusalem, because after the Crucifixion he took Mary, the mother of Jesus, there. (John 19:27) John seemed to have known the High Priest because this enabled Peter to be in the courtyard of his home as Jesus was under arrest. (John 18:16) John, at least was from a family of some means.

How does this change the common narrative here? Well poor, ignorant and unlearned young men are ripe for the picking to join up with any radical movement that seems to offer them a way out; affluent young men from successful families…not so much.

Yet, in our story, we see that they DID give it all up. John, James, Peter and Andrew all dropped their nets, abandoned their family business, and took off into the unknown with the man they recognized as the promised Messiah.

They turned their backs on their entire lives and followed Jesus. Wow to this. What’s our problem then? We can’t even be bothered to read our Bibles, go to church more than twice a month, or be bothered to speak to another living soul about the man we supposedly know to be the promised Messiah!

Follow Me-A Judge With Issues

Read the full story of Samson here

Hebrews 11:32-34

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Well, Samson is certainly an interesting story, isn’t he? If one reads the thoughts of writers and commentators on Samson, you can actually find quite a bit of controversy. In fact, folks are pretty harsh on Samson, and many question his status as a man of faith at all. So, let’s dispel that thought right away; Samson is found in Hebrews 11 among those listed as men and women of faith. God inspired the writer of that book to put him there. God knows the heart of man, and God put Samson on that list. That really settles it, don’t you think?

It’s odd, but we don’t see Samson actually communicating with God directly until the end of his story; that certainly seems to cast doubts as to his faith. His call seems not to have come directly to him, but to his mother. As was typical, the Israelites had turned away from God and were being chastised once again. In this case, it was the Philistines. God, knowing they would need a rescuer, called Samson before he was even born to be the one to deliver them from the hand of their oppressors. The Angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Samson’s father, Manoah the Danite, with the following:

Judges 13:1-5 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

God called Samson, and God had a plan for him. I can’t help but think Samson knew all of this; that seems pretty self-evident, as his mother certainly would have shared with him what had happened to her. Samson would have been raised in a household of faith, understood what his God was about and understood the role God had called him for.

That didn’t seem to help much, did it? We don’t need to recount all of the sordid details here, but sordid they are. Samson’s list of transgressions is long, for sure. He disrespected his parents, he broke his Nazarite vows over and over, he chased women including prostitutes, he reacted out of anger, he killed, he was prideful of his strength and prowess and the list goes on and on.

There’s only a couple of brief thoughts I would offer here in regards to the life of Samson, as to really explore him would take an entire series.

First, God was not clueless about the nature of the man He himself had created. While this is no excuse for behavior that is offensive to God, God uses all things for His good and His sovereign plan. That includes even our flaws and mistakes. We see this in chapter 14 when Samson went to his parents regarding marrying the Philistine woman he had become smitten with. First, the Jews just weren’t supposed to marry gentiles, much less a woman of the enemy. Second, he disregarded the good advice of his parents. Under the absolute domination of his hormones and fleshly desires, Samson did what he always did: what he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted. It did not end well. Pride was hurt, violence ensued and folks died. Specifically, Philistines died. When God allowed this to happen, he was laying the groundwork for Samson to exercise God’s judgment on the Philistines.

Judges 14:2-4 King And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Samson certainly did his job well. Philistines continued to die at an alarming rate, he was betrayed multiple times by both a woman and his own people. Ultimately he ended up in the hands of the Philistines with his eyes gouged out grinding grain. What a sad ending right? No, we know the story didn’t end there. Samson finished well. Despite his failures as a man, despite his failures to adhere to the law he had been given, despite his failure in all the works he wrought with his own hand, in the end, Samson finished well. They brought him out before the Philistine elites in the Temple of their god, Dagon, to mock and humiliate him before all the people…some 3000 of the who’s who of the Philistines.

Judges 16:27-30 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

Friends, Samson believed God, and his inclusion in Hebrews 11 tells us that this was credited to him for righteousness. This in no way teaches us that we can just do as we wish for our lives, as that would be a serious presumption on God’s grace. But it does teach that we can’t earn that grace and that no one is outside the reach of that grace. In the end, Samson did what really matters. He believed God. Have you?

 

 

 

 

Follow Me-Andrew Who?

Matthew 4:18-22

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

Andrew who? What do we know about Andrew, really? Andrew and his brother, Peter, were born in the city of Bethsaida(John 1:44) and at some point moved their fishing operation to the city of Capernaum. This is where we see Jesus call Andrew and his brother Peter, and the brothers John and James to leave their fishing behind and become fishers of men instead.

Like the other fishing partners and friends, we know that the above was not the first encounter these men had with  Jesus. They had seemingly at some point been disciples of John the Baptist, left John’s fold to follow Jesus, then returned to their fishing business until called later by Jesus to come with Him.

In fact, it seems Andrew was the very first Apostle Jesus called to follow Him. We see that account here:

John 1:35-40  Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

Being first is pretty special if you think about it. Not only was Andrew the first, but he was likely part of the inner circle of Jesus composed of Peter, Andrew, John, and James. Yet we see relatively little of Andrew after this initial meeting with Jesus. Sometimes when mention is made of the inner circle, Andrew is actually left out. Outside of various lists of the Apostles as a group, Andrew merits less than ten mentions in all of the New Testament, and then it is mostly simply that: a mention.

Andrew who? As the story of Jesus ministry unfolds, we see quite a bit of drama unfold around the two sets of brothers. Of course, we all know of Peter: brave, reckless at times, outspoken to a fault and clearly the leader of the Apostles. We see John and James, the “Sons of thunder,” complete with their own drama. They clearly wanted to be leaders, as we see them embroiled in arguments about who was to be the greatest among them.(Luke 9:46). They both actually came to Jesus asking for a special place. (Mark 10:35-40) In one account of the previous, they even brought their mother along! (Matthew 20)John was worried about what Peter was going to do in the Kingdom.(John 21:21) John and James asked Jesus to destroy a city that did not receive them. (Luke 9:50-56)

Andrew was intimately in the midst of men who were very concerned about where they fit, their importance and their position. Yet, where is Andrew? Andrew who?

We might ask: what is the big deal about Andrew? Let’s pick up the story of his call at the at the preaching of John the Baptist and see what happens:

John 1:40-42  One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

Andrew had no time for drama; Andrew had things to do. The Bible never addresses this, but it must have been difficult for Andrew, living in the shadow of his more outspoken and strident brother. I think that is common in the world of brothers. He must have been used to Peter jumping in and taking his stuff so to speak. Here he was, the very first disciple of the Messiah; this was a chance for him to be special.

That’s not what happened, is it? No doubt Andrew loved his brother. He loved him so much that he immediately ran off the tell Peter the wonderful news. That’s what Andrew did. He introduced people to Jesus. We see that again in John 12:20-22, when two Gentiles ask to meet Jesus; it was Andrew who introduced them.

Friends, this is what evangelism is really about. Personal contact and witnessing are what brings people to Jesus. Of course, hearing the Gospel preached does, but most only ever hear that as a result of some person personally introducing them to the church and to Jesus; few would ever hear the Gospel preached if some person had not invited them to do so.

Just remember this, when you feel your role as a personal evangelist is insignificant as you watch some rock star evangelist bring thousands to Jesus: each of the greats was personally ministered to by one we may have barely heard of. Who can tell me who Edward Kimball was?

 

Follow Me-Straightaway They Followed

Matthew 4:17-22 

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

Here we see Jesus walking the shores of the Sea of Galilee forming His church from among those he chose. In this story, He chose and called Peter, Andrew, John and James, who were all commercial fishermen in the Sea of Galilee.

Even though this was probably not the first encounter these men had had with Jesus, their response was nonetheless astounding. It’s likely that they had all heard the previous preaching of John the Baptist. It seems Andrew at least had followed John the Baptist for a while. Whatever the full background, at the time of their calling, the four men were simply busy earning their living as fishermen.

Here is where I want to depart a bit from what I usually hear as the narrative concerning these four men. Almost without fail, I see them characterized as “ignorant, unlearned fishermen.” Wellllllllllll….maybe, maybe not. I don’t find anything to indicate that any of them were part of the intellectual elite of the time, but a reading of Scripture tells us that there was more to them than just the label of, “ignorant, unlearned fishermen.”

Fishing could be a lucrative business on the Sea of Galilee, and at least in the case of John and James, the sons of Zebedee, there is plenty of reason to suspect this is so. In the Synagogue at Capernaum, there is a bench or a furnishing if you will, apparently purchased by a man identified as a Zebedee. The family had purchased a pew in the church. Clearly, service in the Synagogue was a part of their lives. We see in Mark’s account of the calling of John that the family business had employees. (Mark 1:20) John seemingly had a home in Jerusalem, because after the Crucifixion he took Mary, the mother of Jesus, there. (John 19:27) John seemed to have known the High Priest because this enabled Peter to be in the courtyard of his home as Jesus was under arrest. (John 18:16) John, at least was from a family of some means.

How does this change the common narrative here? Well poor, ignorant and unlearned young men are ripe for the picking to join up with any radical movement that seems to offer them a way out; affluent young men from successful families…not so much.

Yet, in our story, we see that they DID give it all up. John, James, Peter and Andrew all dropped their nets, abandoned their family business, and took off into the unknown with the man they recognized as the promised Messiah.

They turned their backs on their entire lives and followed Jesus. Wow to this. What’s our problem then? We can’t even be bothered to read our Bibles, go to church more than twice a month, or be bothered to speak to another living soul about the man we supposedly know to be the promised Messiah!

Follow Me

My yesterday post from Church Set Free

 

We often have a tendency to think we have things really bad. This is true in both the non believing life, as well as the life of the believer. The fact of the matter is, nobody bears the burden that we bear; ours is always the heaviest, right? If you don’t believe me, ask, I will gladly tell you! Complaining seems to be the natural state of man.

Sadly, complaining also seems to be the natural state of many believers, and to compound this issue we often complain and moan about our Christian Service! All we need to do when we find ourselves trapped in a spiral of complaint and self pity, however, is remain focused on what Jesus did for us without a single complaint.

Matthew 16:24-27

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his lifeg will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Luke 19:23-26

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Mark 8:34-38

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

I traveled down a lonely road and no one seemed to care. All of us travel down lonely roads when it seems that no one cares. Yet, if we are saved believers, we are never alone as Jesus is always with us. We often think our burdens are more than we can bear. Yet our heavenly Father has told us The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit and the I will never leave you or forsake you. The burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair.  We all do have burdens to bear, that is just life. But, really why do we even think we have to bear them? How much peace and joy do we forfeit simply because we do try to bear our own burdens? What, then, are we to do? Jesus told us this: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. We are also told to Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me,  We will be treated differently if, in fact, we are living differently. Jesus warned of this during His earthly ministry when he taught His disciples that If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. Even though He warned we would be hated and mistreated, He also promised us a blessing if we are mistreated for His sake: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Just remember, dear readers, that nothing we bear compares to the burden our Lord bore as he faced His impending death on the Cross. His burden was a literal one as he carried His own crucifixion cross down the Calvary road. My feet were also weary, upon the Calvary road; The cross became so heavy, I fell beneath the load. and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.

I work so hard for Jesus” I often boast and say. I’ve sacrificed a lot of things to walk the narrow way, I gave up fame and fortune, I’m worth a lot to Thee. That’s us isn’t it? Are we valuable to God? Or course we are! For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God loved us in spite our ourselves; so much so that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. On the other hand nothing we do for God does anything to restore the separation that exists between Him and us due to our sin.

Why are we valuable to God? Look at how we were made, compared to all of the other living creatures who were made. Only for human kind did the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

So, yes we have value to God, and He loves us. Yet, due to our sinful conditions we are separated from a just and holy God, for  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. Yet, nothing we DO restores us to Him or restores that relationship. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. We are not restored to God because of our works for him, but we are certainly restored so that we can work for him: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Oh Jesus if I die upon a foreign field someday,‘Twould be no more than love demands, no less could I repay, “No greater love hath mortal man than for a friend to die” That is exactly what our  Lord did for us. God, come to earth in the form of a man, for no other reason than to sacrifice Himself, literally, as the payment for our sins. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death. Payment was made in full, and no other payment is accepted, for without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

It is finished. Our Lord said this as He hung there dying on the Cross of Calvary. It is done, full payment has been made. The debt we owe for our sin is erased, if we have accepted the terms of that payment, which are faith and belief.

‘Twould be no more than love demands, no less could I repay Love makes demands of us, not our feeble efforts to redeem ourselves. And really, love doesn’t demand it, as love doesn’t demand. Love produces it. We pick up our cross, and follow Him, not because He demands it, or because we have to in order to be saved. We do it because He first loved us, and we love him.

“If just a cup of water I place within your hand then just a cup of water is all that I demand.He told us, my yoke is light and my burden is easy. He will never ask of us more than He has given. In fact, we could never do more for Him than He has already done for us. Our song tells us that; if He gives us a cup of water, He will only ask for a cup of water in return.

But if by death to living they can Thy glory see, I‘ll take my cross and follow close to Thee. In the end, that is what it’s all about. God’s glory, and  His honor. We work because we love Him and are grateful to Him, but it the end it is to showcase His glory and power that He was even able to do these great things.

Where do you stand? Are you like a hamster on wheel, spinning in place trying to work your way to God’s Heaven? Stop it, because you can’t. Only the full payment made by Jesus Christ on the lonely Cross can do that for you. By grace you are saved, through faith. Do you have faith? Do you believe? If not, you can today. If so, then pick up your cross and follow Him.

I traveled down a lonely road and no one seemed to care.

The burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair;
I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me,
And then I heard Him say so tenderly,
“My feet were also weary, upon the Calvary road;
The cross became so heavy, I fell beneath the load,
Be faithful weary pilgrim the morning I can see,
Just lift your cross and follow close to me.”

“I work so hard for Jesus” I often boast and say
“I’ve sacrificed a lot of things to walk the narrow way,
I gave up fame and fortune, I’m worth a lot to Thee”
And then I hear Him gently say to me,
“I left the throne of glory and counted it but loss,
My hands were nailed in anger upon a cruel cross,
But now we’ll make the journey with your hand safe in mine,
So lift your cross and follow close to me.

Oh Jesus if I die upon a foreign field someday,
‘Twould be no more than love demands, no less could I repay,
“No greater love hath mortal man than for a friend to die”
These are the words He gently spoke to me,
“If just a cup of water I place within your hand
Then just a cup of water is all that I demand.
But if by death to living they can Thy glory see,
I’ll take my cross and follow close to Thee.

Lyrics by Ira Stanphill sung by Larry Ford with the Gaithers

Read the original post on Church Set Free

Daily Devotion-February 3, 2016-Matthew 9:9 Give Up Your Life and Follow Me

As seems to happen every couple of months, I have gotten way behind at both work and blogging. To fill this gap, I am going to run some Daily Devotions from my very first blogging days. This was originally published October 11, 2014

Daily

Matthew 9:9

“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.”


 

That passage is deceptively simple. To truly understand the significance of what happened, one has to dig a little into the culture and the times being described in it. It almost seems Jesus just wandered by, found Matthew sitting at a table and asked him to come along, which he did; however, there is much more to this than that simple verse relates.

Matthew was a tax collector; he was what we hear referred to a a publican. Basically, Matthew was appointed by the Roman Authorities to collect taxes from the Jews on their behalf. It was not a benign operation, however, as tax collectors did not just stroll door to door asking people to pay what they owed the Roman Government. Tax collectors were not paid employees; they paid themselves so to speak. As an example, imagine that a man owed the Roman government ten dollars in tax. Simply put, the Romans only wanted to get their 10 dollars; anything above and beyond that was the tax collector’s to keep.

Needless to say, the more a tax collector could collect, the more money he could make; additionally, nobody really cared how such a man went about his business. The more ruthless and demanding one was, the wealthier he could be. So, when our passage says Matthew was “sitting at the receipt of custom,” he was not just sitting at a table allowing people to kindly pay their taxes. This told a lot about who Matthew was and his life in general.

Matthew had been likely raised in a devout Jewish home, and surely knew all about the coming Messiah. He may have been hearing all about this man Jesus who claimed to be Him. He may have even known of the miracles and works Jesus was doing. He may have even seen Jesus in action or heard him speak. It’s doubtful that Matthew just jumped up and followed at one simple word from Jesus. But that’s not really the point here.

The point here is that Matthew literally gave up everything to follow Jesus; he relinquished his entire life and existence. Matthew was probably a wealthy man; the better he was at his job, the wealthier he would have been. Once he walked away from his life, he could never return. The Romans certainly would not allow a man to give up his appointed tax collector position then come running back when things didn’t work out. The tax collectors, although Jewish, were hated by the other Jews; they were seen as a sign and symbol of Roman oppression. Matthew, then, could not just go running back to his town and family if things didn’t work out. Matthew was literally turning his back on everything to follow Jesus, and he represents one of the more transformed lives we see in the Bible.

What are we giving up? Are we willing to sacrifice our entire existence to follow Jesus? Are we willing to turn our backs on everything that we  have and commit ourselves to Him? Are we willing to lead a radically transformed life for Him? Are we willing to place ourselves in a position where Jesus is all we have?

One last note about Matthew is applicable to us. Matthew was probably not concerned about what would happen to him if “things didn’t work out.” He followed on faith knowing that Jesus was the savior, and that Jesus would take care of him and his needs both in this life and eternally. Is that what holds us back? Are we too worried about what will happen to us if “things don’t work out?”

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