Yes! We return to Kay and David Arthur’s bible study after an extended vacation where we visited Prayer Point and Peace Place. Thanks for letting me wander!
Today we’ll tackle locating our personal cross (or crosses).
Matthew recorded Jesus saying,
“And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
~ Matthew 10:38
But what does that mean? Are we to literally pick up a cross and carry it? Obviously, no. But Jesus is asking for His followers to take up their cross for the death march and be prepared to die – literally and figuratively.
Sadly, with what’s been occurring here in the United States and around the world, we Christians have had a chance to actually ponder, ‘Would I die for Christ?’ If a gunman in the classroom asks me if I’m Christian and tells me that if I say yes I should be prepared to meet Jesus … would I say yes? If I got ambushed by a member of ISIS and he asked me to deny Christ and bow to Allah or die, what would I do?
At no other time in my life have I had to actually think about my answer to these questions or even make these decisions. Isn’t that interesting? One might ask – why does God allow these things to happen? But what if it’s just another clue that we’re solidly in the end of times. It’s almost as if God is inspecting us – how steadfast is our belief – how strong our faith? Will we be a martyr for the Kingdom? Who is a true follower and who is not? The path through the gate gets narrower and narrower, doesn’t it? Because when these awful things happen and Christians stand around the watercooler, I keep hearing the phrase, “I’d like to think I’d …” say yes or no depending upon the situation.
Oh my friends, don’t wobble. Choose now to die for Christ. We have no knowledge of what tomorrow will bring.
But the Arthur’s are not asking about dying a literal death for Christ in this Bible study. They most likely don’t venture down that path because my edition was published in 2009 long before ISIS gained international notoriety in 2014 with their takeover of Mosul (even though they’d been in existence at that time for nearly a decade 1). No. The Arthur’s are examining our ability to figuratively die for Christ. Die on a daily basis. Die to self. It wasn’t long ago that I heard two important ideas (1) we need to preach the gospel to ourselves on a daily basis, and (2) we need to surrender on a daily basis. Both are great advice since we’ve proven to ourselves how easily we forget!
In order to give us the ultimate role model of dying to Christ on a daily basis, we take a look at the Apostle Paul. Next to Jesus, Paul is my second stop for an autograph when I get to Heaven. He is such a magnificent soldier for Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-31, Paul outlines the life he’s led in living for Christ. Please take a moment to read it this weekend and marvel about how he could be so spiritually strong. It is gut wrenching. The only way he could have endured was if God had sustained him. Which one of us wouldn’t have been eager at any point during his trials to call it quits? But Paul, having come in contact with the living Messiah, wanted to please God and knew he could count on God for strength until the end. Truly overwhelming.
Further, in 2 Corinthians 6:3 we see that Paul tried to avoid saying or doing anything that would cause offense or be a discredit to the ministry:
“We give no opportunity for stumbling to anyone, so that the ministry will not be blamed.”
Can I say I take the same great care in my speech and behavior? Sadly, no. The pages convict me and remind me of a recent incident.
I was on a road trip with my family. It started out well enough but with hot heads breeding with stubbornness (and producing me) a pleasant conversation had dissolved into muck and mire. I was trying desperately to not let a certain family member goad me into an argument and had already let a few choice tidbits escape through my clenched lips. In an attempt to stop the conversation from a further downward spiral I made myself busy shooting arrow prayers to God saying, “Help me keep silent, Lord, help me allow it to roll off my back,” and thought I was winning the fight against my flesh until we pulled over into a gas station. I got out to pump gas and realized too late that I had parked at a Full Service pump. Still though, I was hoping to just be able to pump without an issue.
I peered through the dirty station windows and could see my father speaking with a man who was gesturing wildly and who kept looking out the window pointing and glaring at me. I started getting agitated. If he’d just turn the pump on I could be done and out of there in a matter of minutes. Why I didn’t just pack up and move to another pump I’ll never know, but if the scene hadn’t played out the way it did, I would have missed a very valuable lesson.
Still watching the scene inside, the man finally pushed past my father and bolted out the door screaming at me. I lost it. All the clenched teeth in the world couldn’t keep a half-hour’s pent up anger sprinkled with new frustration from spilling out and covering the station manager with a torrent of abrasive speech. Eventually I got into my car and pulled it around to another pump.
So of course that’s not the end of the story. But this post has grown quite long and it’s best if we wait until Monday for the conclusion and how I’m trying to handle the crosses in my life. In the meantime, read that passage about Paul – you are sure to gain an even deeper appreciation for this amazing apostle from Tarsus.
Until Monday my friends. Thank you and have a great weekend!