Yes I Will, No I Won’t

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As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:57–62, NIV 1984).

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”  (Matthew 21:28–31, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Truthfully, I think I have been all three over the years – having other priorities, breaking commitments, and giving in.  How much better if our priorities are His priorities, our commitment (faithfulness) to Him is unbreakable, and that our devotion to Him was out of love and wanting to please Him rather than reluctantly, out of compulsion or guilt.

What if:

On His final trip to Jerusalem (putting “His hand to the plow“), Jesus turned back?

When facing (“I will Sir“) the cross “He did not go?”

Refused (“I will not“) the way of the cross, “but later he changed his mind and went?”  Would His initial disobedience have disqualified Him as a sacrifice without blemish?

My Advice – Because of God’s grace and mercy, we can be forgiven when we look back to our former way of life, when we initially say no, and when we break faith when we said I will.  But there is a fourth alternative: “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

Serving God’s Purpose in Our Generation

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Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid.” (Genesis 50:19–21, NIV 1984).

For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you [Pharaoh] and your people [Egyptians] with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:15–16, NIV 1984).

Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”  (Esther 4:13–14, NIV 1984).

For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” (Acts 13:36, NIV 1984).

Musings of Others – “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” – President John F. Kennedy.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here so nobly advanced.” – President Abraham Lincoln.

“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” – Sir Winston Churchill

“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela.

My Musings – A few among the great people of history who made their mark on the world. And whether they knew it or acknowledged it, they served God’s purpose in “his [or her] own generation.”  But it is not just the great that serve God’s purposes.  God has called us to a specific time and place to serve His purposes too.  The world may take “little note, nor long remember ” what we do, but God will.  We may never fully “know what results come of [our] actions,” but God will.  The “significance of the life we lead” may seem insignificant to others, but not to God. Each of us can serve God’s purpose in “our own” generation and “for a time such as this” and then pass the torch to a “new generation.”

My Advice – Only the purposes of God will count for eternity.  Isn’t that the kind of mark you’d like to make?  “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”  (Acts 17:26–27, NIV 1984).  Seek Him.  Reach out for Him.  Find Him.  He is not far from you.  This is your generation.  This is your time.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

 

We Must Obey Who?

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Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!”  (Acts 5:27–29, NIV 1984).

My Musings – A time is coming, it may be sooner rather than later, when we may be commanded “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

My Advice – We must “judge for [ourselves] whether it is right in God’s sight to obey [men] rather than God.”  When it comes right down to it, what will we do?

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  (Acts 4:13, NIV 1984).

Let’s hope that having spent much time “with Jesus,” “the courage of Peter and John” will shine through us and astonish all who take note.

Will I Proclaim? I Will Proclaim!

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Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.  One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.  They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”  (Psalm 145:3–7, NIV 1984).

My Musings – What strikes me about these verses is the phrase “One generation will commend your works to another; will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty.”  Is this a generation that speaks of the glorious splendor of God’s majesty?  If not, does the fault lie with this generation or the previous generation for failing to commend His works to the succeeding generation?  Trick question.  The fault lies with both.  Certainly, a generation is handicapped when the previous generation is lax in their responsibility to pass along the glory of God.  However, “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:19–20, NIV 1984).

My Advice – As is often (always) the case, my advice applies as much to me as it does my readers.  So, if you are of my generation (more years behind you than ahead of you), recommit to sharing the glory of God and the Gospel of His Son to all, but especially to those who will be left to pass it along to the next generation when you are gone.  This model has worked remarkably well for 2000 plus years.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:1–2, NIV 1984).

If you are of the younger generation, with much of your “three-score and ten” left, stop making excuses.  Today is the day of salvation if you do not know Christ as your personal Savior.  But, if you already know Him, there is no better time than today to begin being accountable to the Great Commission.  Become a believer and follow Him.  Then become a disciple and teach others to follow Him.

How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if [fill in the blank] is God, follow [it].”  (1 Kings 18:21, NIV 1984).

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

These Are The Words I Would Say

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Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18–20, NIV 1978).

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).

My Musings – If you knew what you were saying to a loved one would be the last time you would say anything to them at all, what would you say?  You can bet they would not be idle words.  They would most likely be very important words.  To you, and to the person receiving them.  The sad thing is, we go through life not speaking to one another as often as we should.  Leaving unsaid the things that we should be saying, and saying things we later regret and cannot take back.  And when it comes to last words, they are usually not what we would have intended to say if we knew they were our last.

Jesus knew.  And while all of His words are important, the above words are the last ones He knew He would speak to the ones He chose to carry on His mission – it was His Great Commission.  His prime directive to His Disciples.  Words that were carefully chosen and of great importance.

A commission can include the following elements. A task or matter entrusted to one as an agent for another, including the authority to act for, in behalf of, or in place of another, and granting the power to perform various acts or duties.

A task or matter entrusted – “go and make disciples.”  This includes the following sequence: becoming a disciple, being a disciple, making disciples.  Disciples making disciples (a person who follows another in regard to his or her ideas or belief).  We do not make others our disciples.  We make them disciples of the one we follow – Jesus Christ.

As an agent for another – “you will be my witnesses.”   A commission is a co-mission.  Co, a prefix meaning jointly, common or together with another; and mission meaning an important assignment.   We are not alone in our mission.

Including the authority to act – “all authority in heaven and on earth.” The right to act in a specified way, delegated from one person to another.  Let’s not miss something very important here.  All authority (in heaven and on earth) has been granted to Christ, and he is conferring that on us to act on His behalf.  But authority is pointless if it is not exercised.

And granting the power to perform – “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”  One can be given an assignment, along with the authority to act, but without the power to perform, it is merely words.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit.

We have the assignment, we have the authority and we have the power.  What we don’t have is an excuse.

My Advise – What is the most important thing you could tell your friends or family. Don’t wait until the last.

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Today’s musing was inspired by Lead Teaching Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on January 12, 2020. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

Erasing Adjectives

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Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:24–28, NIV 1978).

My Musings – Imagine your worst failure or lapse of judgement.  Now imagine that is how you would always be remembered.  Thomas was hand-picked by Jesus to be one of the twelve.  When Jesus indicated His intent to go back to Judea (when Lazarus died), a place where the religious leaders tried to stone Him, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  (John 11:16, NIV 1984).   According to Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Thomas preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.  Yet, despite all this, down through the ages Thomas has been known by the adjective “doubting” (expressing or feeling uncertainty or lack of conviction).  Lack of conviction? “My Lord and my God!

My Advice – The beginning of a new year, is routinely thought of as a time of new beginnings.  A time to wipe the slate clean and start anew.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984).  If you are not already “in Christ,” there is no better way to start anew.  If you are already “in Christ,” but feel that past failures are too terrible to be wiped clean, we are promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9).  Either way, make 2020 and time of new beginnings in Christ.  We need not be defined or remembered by our failures or lapses. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:11–12, NIV 1984). Happy New Year!

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Want to become a Christian (start anew)? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ (wipe the slate clean)? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

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Today’s musing was inspired by Elder Keith Miller’s sermon on December 29, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

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Enoch walked with God, then he was no more, because God took him away.  (Genesis 5:24, NIV 1978).

Musings of Others – “Walk” is the biblical expression for fellowship and obedience that results in divine favor.  (Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 36). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books).

My Musings – There were no written scriptures to indicate what this “walk” should be.  What we do know, is that after the fall, Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord.” (Genesis 3:8, NIV 1978).  They hid because they heard Him, not because they saw Him.  There were many creatures in the garden that the sound could have been attributable to, but they distinctly recognized that it was God making the sound.  This implies familiarity, indicating that it was likely a frequent occurrence.

We are not explicitly told of what the fellowship between God and man was like before the fall, but somehow Enoch (the seventh from Adam) knew enough about it to learn how to walk with God all those generations later.  I am reminded of a TV mini-series from the ’70’s called “Roots,” from the book of the same name, that recounted the experiences of a family of African-American slaves that were carefully handed down and faithfully remembered over multiple generations. This is likely how Adam and Eve’s walks with God in the Garden were passed down.  And, of course, God “rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV 1978).  At any rate, “Enoch walked with God.

My Advice – “Then he was no more, because God took him away.”  We learn (also in Hebrews chapter 11), that this means that Enoch “did not experience death.”  God took him home with Him, “for before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”  God enjoyed his walk with Enoch so much he did not want to part with him.

A former pastor from my youth, as best as I can remember it, liked to tell it this way.  One day God and Enoch were on one of their walks together.  They were enjoying the walk so much that time got away from them.  As the sun sunk lower in the sky, and the shadows lengthened, God said to Enoch, “we’re closer to my house than we are to yours, why don’t you just come on home with me?”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a close walk with God?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”