Tag Archives: Sin

What is Your Cross to Bear?

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What is Your Cross to Bear?

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!

1 http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/10/how-isis-started-syria-iraq/412042/

You Are Loved

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I volunteer on the Prayer Team at my church. We’re a bunch of people who have felt the call of God to stand in the gap for those who are unable to do so themselves.  We pray for the pastors, the church, the lost, the service as it’s progressing; and we pray over all those prayer requests that congregants fill out and place in the collection plate.  Some of us also work at the altar, receiving those who come down for prayer.  Sometimes God even sends me up into the seats to pray for someone … but that’s a different story.

Recently, while praying at church, I was overcome by a sense that a lot of people thought that their past was so bad that they weren’t worthy of being saved … that their sin was so bad that God couldn’t possibly love them.

Their pain was raw.  I could feel it.

And it hurt.

I shed tears as I prayed for those souls, asking God to peel back the layers of their hearts and speak His life into them.  Let them know of His gracious love.

The anguish.  The despair.  The deep pit of lost … it was almost overwhelming.

I know that feeling.

The feeling that maybe you’ve done some things and lived a certain way for so long that there is no turning back … no help for you …

You think …

God can’t possibly use me.

God can’t possibly love me.

But suddenly you’re on your feet.  Something (someOne) drives you to answer the Pastor’s call to prayer and walk to the front of church after the service.

I see you walking down the aisle to the altar.  I see your eyes searching for a friendly face.  For acceptance.  For love.

That’s when I smile, hold out my hands, and take yours in mine.

And as you break down into tears, the whole of your journey following you to this point, I whisper gently …

Jesus loves you so much.

Not only has He been waiting for you your whole life, He is waiting to use you to fulfill His glory.

He knows exactly who you are.

He knows the road you have travelled.

He knows what your past looks like and He can see your future.

And still … he waits for you with arms flung open wide and a huge, goofy grin on His face.

He loves you so.

Listen carefully and you will hear Him.  He is crying out for you to turn to Him.

You wouldn’t have walked this path if some part of you wasn’t already leaning toward Him … searching for Him … straining to hear His voice.

Bring yourself to Him and sit at His feet.

… just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 

~ Romans 6:4(b)

Lay your whole history at His feet and say, “I’m sorry, Lord.  Forgive Me.”

The next feeling you will experience is His magnanimous mercy.

His everlasting love.

His astonishing joy.

You will never be the same again.

Your past will be forgotten.

You will begin to live a new life.

Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

~ Revelation 3:20

Jesus stands before you and asks the most important question you will ever hear,

“Will you follow me?”

Are you ready, dear one?

Open your heart.

Bring Him your sin.

He forgives.

Forever He loves.

(Parts of this article were originally published on January 16, 2012)