The Cross You Bear

If we are children of God, then we are also heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8:17).

Years ago a man became very agitated during a Bible study on the subject of suffering and erupted: “I have never suffered for my faith and I’ve never suffered with Jesus!” Yet in Romans 8:17, the Apostle Paul assures you that if you’re saved, you’ll suffer “with” Christ.

How did Jesus suffer? He was rejected by men, denied by His friends, ridiculed by His family, mocked, persecuted, beaten, and finally crucified.

Your suffering won’t be identical to His. He never called you to bear His cross, but your own (Mt 10:38). Not all suffering is equal and not all suffering is “with” Him. You’ll suffer because you live in a sinful world full of ungodly people. Sometimes you’ll suffer because you or someone else has done dumb, illegal, or sinful things.

Is your faith in Christ leading to suffering “with” Christ?

A Christian will suffer “with” Jesus because of his union with Him. There’s no way around it. No suffering for Christ? Then you’re not in the faith. Anyone claiming to live a suffering-free life because of his ginormous faith is peddling a lie. Suffering for your faith is one of the means by which the Bible says you know you are a child of God (Mt 5:10-12; Lk 12:11; Jn 15:18-21; Acts 5:41; 14:22; Phil 1:29-30; 1 Thess 3:2-5; 2 Tim 1:7-8; 3:12; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 2:20-21; 4:12-15).

But there’s good news: you don’t suffer alone but “with” Christ and there is an eternal benefit to that suffering. Jesus said that the more you suffer in this life for His sake, the greater your honor in Heaven (Mt 20:21-23).

How you react to the cross you carry reflects the condition of your soul. Suffering drives the child of God to greater dependence upon Him and His grace. Suffering is a reflection of your faith today and works as a kind of preparation for glory “with” Christ in Heaven.

Advertisements

What is a Christian?

Kimberly Mathembe

And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26).

My friend and brother from another mother became a father for the third time almost a year ago. When Isaac and Tabitha found out they were pregnant, they decided to name the baby after either myself or my wife Kimberly, a name rarely heard of in Kenya.

And so little Kimberly Mathembe was born last May.

It is a great honor to have someone named after you. It signifies a bond between the two people of the same name and even between two families. That bond endures as long as the name continues. It is my hope and desire that little Kimberly will grow to be a godly woman like her namesake.

Christians are so named, not because they were raised going to church or believe in God. The name Christian literally means one who is like Christ. A Christian, then, is one who is like Jesus.

The Bible records that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians in the city of Antioch in present-day Turkey, as a term of ridicule. Soon after, believers gladly took the name as a symbol of being persecuted and martyred like Jesus.

What does it mean to be a Christian, but to follow after Jesus and be made day-by-day more in His likeness.

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Symbol of Water Baptism

Like many American corporations, the company my wife works for pays its employees to take time off work to volunteer for community charities. A few months ago Kim took the day off of work to help build a house for a low-income family. When Kim arrived at the Habitat for Humanity site, she was assigned to a task with two other ladies.

When Kim arrived home, I knew that she’d been busy all day with interior painting. She had white flecks in her hair, white smears on her arms and face, and her jeans and t-shirt were splattered with the same.

While the paint didn’t change Kim, it has forever identified the outfit she wore with painting. When we see her outfit in the closet, it reminds us of her painting day; it’s an outward symbol of association.

Water baptism is a Christian symbol of association or identity. Water does a lot of things, but it can’t wash away sins. If water could remove sin, there would be no need for the death of Jesus. The waters of baptism are only a symbol of the washing away of sin through faith in Jesus.

As the believer goes down in the waters of baptism and is then raised out, it symbolizes a believer’s identification or association with Christ Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

The Blind Man

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).

Today I waited at a stop light and watched a blind man walking on the sidewalk. His telltale, long white cane tapped the pavement in front of him, first on the right, then on the left, then back again. Each tap sounded out what was in front of him.

I wondered what he would do when he reached the pile of dead leaves in his pathway. He neither stumbled nor hesitated, but kept tapping his stick in front of him.

The red light changed to green and I continued on to my destination, just as the blind man was doing. Our journeys really were not different. We were both headed somewhere. I was traveling by sight and he was walking by faith.

For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus – Louisa MR Stead

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word.
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know: “Thus saith the Lord.”

Refrain
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood,
Just in simple faith to plunge me
‘Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease,
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Saviour, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Lyrics by Louisa MR Stead (1882)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

 

 

The Joyful Shepherd

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (Matthew 9:12-13).

The four Gospels reveal a continual conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. They believed that because they were physical descendants of Abraham and kept the outward appearances of the Law, they were in right relationship with God and citizens of His kingdom. They didn’t need a Saviour because they weren’t lost, nor a physician because they weren’t spiritually sick. They didn’t need Jesus.

One day Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God with a group of tax collectors and sinners. Some religious leaders arrived, complaining how Jesus spent His time with the rabble of society. He replied to their complaints with a story from ordinary life to make a point. With His parable He pointed His finger straight at the religious leaders.

A shepherd had 100 sheep but one wandered away and got lost. The shepherd left the 99 to find the lost one. He rejoiced at finding the lost one, put it on his shoulders, and carried it home. Then Jesus said, I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (Lk 15:7).

This parable isn’t about evangelism or a pastor’s duties. It’s about Jesus, His work, and His joy.

Shepherds were a despised class of people in the days of Jesus, responsible for guiding, providing, and protecting the sheep that belonged to others. This shepherd left everything to save one lost sheep and was then joyful when he found it, safely carrying it upon his own shoulders to his own home.

Jesus left the glories of Heaven to seek and save that which was lost (Lk 19:10). He graciously carries the lost sinner upon His own shoulders, bearing the weight of the sins of His sheep even to the point of death on the cross (Jn 10:14-15; 1 Pet 3:18; Col 2:8). He endured that cross for the joy that was set before Him, the joy of redeeming sinners who will live with Him forever in His home (Heb 12:2; Jn 14:3).

The religious leaders didn’t think they needed the good Shepherd to find them, save them, and bring them home. Do you need such a Shepherd?

The Monster Within

Janice pressed her back hard against the window and held her breath. Hiding in the shadows, the terrified woman was sure the monster would crawl past her and she could escape its hungering belly. She waited silently, one minute and then five.

Since a teen, Janice had been fully aware she was being hunted by a blood-thirsty creature that seemed to shadow her every move. No matter where she went, how far or fast she ran, the monster was always as near as her own shadow. Tonight she knew it had followed her yet again.

The past 25 years had been a whirlwind of travel and attempted disguise. She couldn’t hide among the masses in New York. Neither the empty open prairies of Wyoming nor the sky rise flat in London sheltered her from the creature that stalked her every move.

Deep down, Janice knew there was no escape from the creature. She’d put it out of her mind or try to mask it with a substance or a relationship, but in the still moments of the night it was so close she could feel its heart beating in her own chest. In those moments she recalled her mother reading stories from a black book about the monster. Mother said it had been following Janice since before she was born and there wasn’t a soul on earth strong enough to slay the creature and set her free. But she decided that if the monster was going to kill her, it was her life and she’d go out fighting on her terms.

A few years earlier she worked with a woman who knew all about the creature. She’d been terrorized too, and claimed Janice couldn’t run away or hide from it because it actually lived inside of her. Like her mother, this woman said a Saviour had come from Heaven a long time ago and gave His own life to defeat and set her free from the creature and its power. Janice just needed to trust that by His sacrifice He’d become the Victor over the monster she knew as Sin.

Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. (Genesis 4:7). If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).

When the Work is Done

Every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:11-12).

During the summer break from school, before I became a teenager, I’d go to work with my grandfather. He was in the business of repairing and remodeling homes and businesses. It was hard work, but I loved it because I got to spend the day with my grandfather.

Time is a constant, but the way it feels to move is never the same. Sometimes the day marched along like a tireless battalion of US marines; but the afternoons often trudged like the comatose Dunkin Donuts guy. When I was ready to quit and take a rest, my grandfather would say, “There’ll be time to rest when the work is done.”

Before dying on the cruel Roman cross, Jesus cried out, It is finished! (John 19:30). He had done everything that could be done to save sinners. The work for which the Father had sent Jesus into the world was complete. Jesus paid it all.

The Bible says that three days later God the Father raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:20). God the Father revealed the standard of all miracle-working power by resurrecting and causing Jesus to sit down in Heaven. Christ’s work was done.

All that’s necessary now is for you, by faith, to accept the work that Jesus did by for you.

Gold Fever

Big Thunder Gold Mine, Keystone, South Dakota RLR 2014

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44).

Gold fever still infects visitors to the America West. At the Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone, South Dakota, we explored the lives of men a century ago who gave up their worldly possessions, their health, and their lives for the chance of striking it rich. On our visit in 2014, we watched men, women, and children panning the sands for flakes of gold or even that rare nugget.

A quirk of human nature is that we’ll willingly sacrifice things of value for the potential of greater value. We’ll risk everything on a roll of a pair of dice or turn over our paychecks to a lottery scheme promising that one out of 100 million tickets is a winner.

Jesus told a short story about a man who found a treasure buried in a field. This man didn’t suspect a treasure, he actually found it! He then sold all that he had so he could buy the field where the treasure was hidden.

God the Father provided His Son as the salvation for the sins of the world. His forgiveness can’t be bought with gold or silver or hid in hole in the ground. God’s salvation must be accepted by faith, trusting that Jesus has done all that is necessary to save the sinner. This priceless gift of eternal life isn’t a gamble, but when possessed, is a source of great joy.

Save me, and I Shall be Saved

Papa being led across the Athi River at Fourteen Falls Park, Kenya

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps (Psalm 40:2).

A few young men offered us a short guided tour along the Fourteen Falls Park near Thika, Kenya. We crossed the river in a rowboat then climbed across boulders ever vigilant for water snakes and crocodiles.

We followed up the face of the falls and then learned we needed to cross the river on the submerged rocks along the upper edge of the falls. The guide firmly grasped my hand. “Papa, I’ll hold your hand and go before you. I’ll use my foot to clean the algae off the rocks, so be careful to only place your foot where I’ve already walked.” I took a short swim at one point, but my guide upheld me with his strong hand.

Salvation isn’t about the prayer we repeated, the ritual we undertook, what our family did, or the preacher we met. Salvation is about who Jesus is and what He did for those who place their trust in Him.

I did not save myself or contribute anything to my eternal life. Jesus is my Saviour and He keeps and satisfies me. If He were not holding me and guiding me by His strong hand, I’d have been swept over the falls of life and downstream a long time ago.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved. For You are my praise (Jeremiah 17:14).