Contribution or Sacrifice?

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Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. ”  (Romans  12:1, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Not all contributions (time, talent, treasure) are a sacrifice, although many who contribute might like to think so.  On the other hand, most who make sacrifices, usually are not thinking about what they are giving up, but rather to whom or for what they are sacrificing.

In view of God’s mercy – Mercy is not getting the punishment that is deserved.  Considering what punishment is being avoided, is it worth a contribution to the Kingdom or a sacrifice for the Kingdom?

Living sacrifices – God, through His Son, made one sacrifice for all of our sins, past present and future.  Why should we not want to live out our days sacrificially living for Him?

Spiritual Act of Worship – It’s not that we are trying to pay Him back.  We could never come close.  It is a way of saying thanks, that goes beyond mere gratitude.  It is reverence and adoration.  But more than a state of mind.  It is a call to action.

My Advice –  A couple verses prior to the one cited above (that’s what the therefore is there for), Paul writes “who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”  (Romans  11:35, NIV 1984).  We are not looking for rewards, although there will be some.  But God doesn’t want us to pay Him back either.  He wants us to pay it forward.  “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40, NIV 1984).

The Life I Live…

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“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, NIV 1984).

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20, NIV 1984).

My Musings – A couple well-known verses, with interesting paralells:

  • Deny Yourself – “I no longer live.
  • Come After Me – “Christ lives in me.
  • Take Up Your Cross – “I have been crucified with Christ.
  • Follow Me – “I live by faith in the Son of God.

My Advice – Christ gave up so much (denied Himself) to pursue (come after) us.  This took Him to the cross (crucified), so that we might live (by faith).  The cross we are asked to bear pales in comparison to the one He bore.  Let’s deny ourselves, our path, and follow Him.  Though it might lead through the “valley of the shadow of death,” it ends up in “green pastures.

 

Lying, and Testing, and Baiting, Oh My!

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Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.  (Matthew 4:1–11, NIV 1984).

My Musings – We can learn a lot from how Satan came after Jesus, and how Jesus responded.

  • Lying – While it is true that Satan is a liar and the Father of lies. He is also a master at it.  Rather than a direct “frontal attack” bald-faced lie, he used a subtler indirect approach.  He did not claim that Jesus was not the Son of God.  He attempted to plant doubt in Christ’s mind when He was weakened from forty days of fasting. “If you are the Son of God?”  And how did Jesus counter the lie?  With truth – “every word that comes from the mouth of God.
  • Testing – Similar approach. “If you are the Son of God?”  Kind of like, “since you are the Son of God, He’ll take care of you right?  Make Him prove it.”  More seeds of doubt. And the response. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  God has nothing to prove, and we shouldn’t need Him to prove it.  The cross says it all.
  • Baiting – “Here’s an easier way.”  Not true.  Remember, Satan is a liar.  The old bait and switch.  “Isn’t this what you want?”  Not that way.  bow down to someone other than the Father.  Being “given” kingdoms instead of building His Kingdom?  Being “given” subjects in these kingdoms rather than the subjects voluntarily entering into His Kingdom?  Hollow deceptive promises that result in just the opposite of what was offered.  Abdication of the Kingdom.  What is Satan trying to get us to abdicate?  How should we respond?  “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.

My Advice – Learn from the Master.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”   (Hebrews 4:15–16, NIV 1984).   Confidence, and mercy, and grace.  Oh my!

 

Sent Into The World

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I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.  My prayer is not for them alone.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”  (John 17:9, 15–18, 20, NIV 1984).

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33, NIV 1984).

My Musings – It is a human trait that we often say things with equal passion and deep conviction that are contradictory.  A first impression of the two passages above, quotes from the lips and heart of Jesus, that they are also contradictory.  We might dismiss this as merely a manifestation of His fully human nature but not a reflection of His fully divine nature (perhaps we’ll discuss this apparent contradiction in a future musing).  But we would be missing the point altogether.

In the first instance, Jesus speaks about protecting us from (insulated in) the evil one, while not praying that we be taken from (isolated from) the world.  He is, in fact, intentionally sending us out into (included within) the world while not being part of (integrated into) the world.  In sending us out as “aliens” into the world, He us sending out into hostile territory.  There we will encounter natural dangers (curses of a fallen world) and be confronted by supernatural dangers (curses from a fallen angel).

Jesus does not pray that we be protected from natural dangers.  Some He will prevent and some He will permit, according to His divine will. But not without eternal purposes.  But He does pray for protection from supernatural dangers though a new divine nature (“if anyone is in Christ He is a new creation” – 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984) and indwelling by the Holy Spirit (“I will not leave you orphans” – John 14:18).  This does not mean we will never give in or bow down to supernatural confrontations (temptation, persecution), but it does mean that we do not have to give in (“for the grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live upright and Godly lives in this present age” – Titus 2:12, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Just say no (by the grace of God).

Be Strong In Your Weakness

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When the apostles returned…Jesus…took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.  Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” (About five thousand men were there).  (Luke 9:10–14, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “You give them something to eat.”  If there were about five thousand men there, the total crowd may have exceeded ten thousand, when you include women and children.  Jesus was giving the disciples a task that they had inadequate provisions (five loaves and two fish) to complete and no apparent solutions for (insufficient funds to buy the food).  But He took what they did have, blessed it, multiplied it, and made it work.

My Advice – Whenever you are facing a seemingly insurmountable task that God has placed on your heart, do not be discouraged.  Do not focus on the problem, focus on the One who gave you the “problem.”  Is He faithful?  Is He Able?  Is His grace sufficient?  God will not call you to it, if He will not see you through it.  You may feel inadequate to the task, but maybe that is the point.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  (1 Corinthians 1:26–29, NIV 1984).

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7–10, NIV 1984).

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.”

Where Have You Settled?

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The LORD had said [past tense]to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”  (Genesis 12:1, NIV 1984).

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. (Genesis 11:31, NIV 1984).

Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. (Genesis 12:4–5, NIV 1984).

The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”  (Genesis 12:7, NIV 1984).

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.  (Genesis 12:10, NIV 1984).

My Musings – God instructed Abram to “go to the land I will show you.”  Presumably this was Canaan, for once they finally arrived there God told him “to your offspring I will give this land.”  But along the way, “when they came to Haran, they settled there.”  Sometime later, after Terah died, “they set out for the land of Canaan.”  Later still, “there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while.”  While in Egypt, fearing for his own safety and relying on his own wisdom rather than on God, Abram deceived Pharaoh into believing Sarai was his sister, which only led to further trouble with Pharaoh and expulsion from Egypt.

God said go (presumably to Canaan), but Abram settled in Haran.  There is no indication that this was God’s will.  Once in Canaan, they left for Egypt due to the famine.  There is indication that this was God’s plan or Abram’s.  What we do know is that Abram got into some difficulties he would not have encountered if he had never left Canaan.

My Advice – Sometimes, even though we intend to follow God’s direction, we find things more to our liking (Haran?) and decide that it is better than what God planned for us.  At other times, when in the midst of God’s plan for us (Canaan), the slightest sign of trouble we set to solve our own problems which only takes us outside (Egypt) of God’s plan.  This usually causes grief that we could have avoided is we inquired of and waited on the Lord.  Stick to the plan.