Wednesday, December 23, 2015

God Won't Give Us More Than We Can Handle

     I've been teaching a class on Sunday mornings on things the Bible doesn't say.  I admit, I stole the material from Rick Atchley.  But it is good stuff.   Last Sunday I talked of the common phrase that we use that says, "God will never give me more than I can handle."  Where does it say that?  A quick look at the verse we use is I Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.   

     There it is.  Does that sound remotely like God won't give us more than we can handle?  He said He would provide a way out of sin, but not of burdens.  In fact, a quick survey of Scripture tells us there will be suffering.  Ask Job about this.  Ask Paul.

     Paul says there were times in his life when he just couldn't handle what life handed out to him.  In II Corinthians 1:8 listen to what he says:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  

     See that?  He said they suffered far beyond their ability to endure.  They had more than they could handle.  I received a call this week from a deal soul who believed the original premise (God won't give you more than you can handle) was gospel.  The problems she had in life were handled just by repeating that mantra.  I feel like I destroyed her faith.  I read her the passage from II Corinthians, but I added verse 9 and 10 which says:

Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.  

     She seemed a little disappointed.  But she was relying on herself and not God.  God says, when all else has failed, when there is nowhere else to turn, it's God who will save us.  And Paul calls it "gracious favor" here.  When talking about his thorn in the flesh, he says, "God's grace is sufficient."

     God didn't say he wouldn't give us more than we could handle.  He did say, I will handle it for you if you just let go.  It reminds me of an song we sing...."He is able, more than able......."


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Change

     We're all resistant to change.  A friend of mine took a graduate class in ergonomics after which he decided to implement all things he had learned.  His big mistake was the changes he made were in the kitchen.  He used all of his expertise to put the dishes where the dishes should be and the glasses where the glasses should be.  He even rearranged the drawers.  Only problem, that was his wife's domain.  You don't mess with the arrangement of the kitchen especially if the wife set it up the way SHE wanted it.  Needless to say, everything was returned to its initial place regardless of the fact it may have made more sense to put it somewhere else.
     Change is a part of life.  All of us look very different from the way we looked on the day of our birth.  We've changed!  Isn't learning changing?  You learn certain facts and then you learn to apply them.  In problem solving you learn to apply what you have learned to change certain things.  Change not only is a fact of life, we must change to survive.      
     Jesus entered the world and everything changed.  Shepherds couldn't contain themselves, but had to go to Jerusalem once they were told by the angel hosts that the Messiah had been born.  Magi travelled many miles just to see the Holy One of God.  Herod murdered all the little boys of Bethlehem because of his fear of the Christ.  Simeon sees the baby Jesus in the temple and praises God and tells Him that He can now let him die.  The prophetess, Anna, calls the child "the redemption of Israel."  Twelve years later Jesus comes to Jerusalem and is left behind by His parents. They return only to find Him discussing spiritual matters with the teachers.  The Bible says they were amazed at His understanding.  Literally, the Greek language means "to lose one's wits" or "to go out of one's mind."  That's the kind of effect he had on them.  But the one that always gets me is when the chief priests and Pharisees send the temple guard to arrest Jesus.  They come back empty handed.  When questioned, their response is an interesting one.  They reply, "No one ever spoke the way this man does."
     So what does all of this mean?  My point is this.  When you come face to face with Jesus, you are changed.  If your life isn't different because of your relationship with Jesus, then you never really had a relationship with Him at all.  I'll end with this passage from II Corinthians 3:12-18:

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.  We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.  But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read.  It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.  But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Word Became Flesh

     John doesn't even mention it.  He begins with John the Baptist preparing the way and then the temptation of Jesus.  Matthew does, but not until he establishes the Jewishness of Jesus.  Luke does, but he first tells the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and the birth of John the Baptist.  John, however, goes back to the very beginning--to the creation.  He starts his books just like Genesis.  "In the beginning..."  I would encourage you to go right now and read John 1:1-18.
     Once you have done that, notice several words with me.  The first is WORD.

WORD--"In the beginning the Word..."  The word in the original language is logos.  To the ancient mystic it encompassed everything.  It was life itself.  It was everything under a rational structure.  It was physics and math all combined into something that made sense.  John uses the term to describe Jesus.  Jesus is the reason.  Jesus is everything.  Even Paul tries to describe Jesus in Colossians 1 by saying, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."  He goes on to say, " him all things hold together."  My assumption is, outside of Him all things fall apart.

LIFE--John 1:4 says that in Word was life.  Not physical life.  Not the heart beating and the brain functioning.  But the best that life has to offer.  Even Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest."  John 10:10.  It's the peace that passes understanding.  It's the joy that comes when all else around us is falling apart.

LIGHT--There's nothing worse than trying to walk in darkness.  Ask any parent who gets up in the middle of the night to check on his/her child.  They are able to find the Lego with their foot every time.  Light dispels darkness, not the other way around.  Jesus is that light and He calls on us to let our lights shine.   Paul says in Philippians 2:14, 15--"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like starts in the universe."

FLESH--This is perhaps the most amazing term in this passage.  The word became flesh.  The Message paraphrases it this way, "The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood." When God wanted us to see what He was like, He sent Jesus to become flesh.  The apostles pled with Jesus to see God.  He told them if they had seen Him, they had seen God.  The Hebrew writer calls Jesus the "exact representation of his being."  All man, all God.  Hard to fathom, isn't it?

     But the sad thing about all this is that Jesus came and His own didn't see Him.  Only a few smelly shepherds were witnesses.  Some mystics came, but His birth was generally missed.  John said, "He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not recognize him."  Another version said, "...but his own received him not."

     May that never be said of us.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Tomb is Empty

     One of the greatest joys of my preaching life has been to be able to talk of Jesus resurrection.  So many times we focus on His death and burial, but the most important thing was His resurrection.  Paul says so in I Corinthians 15:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and hat he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.  vss. 3-8

     There are those who say the resurrection is a myth.  Let me offer four things that settle the issue in my mind.  First, it was claimed that the apostles stole Jesus body.  If that were the case, then why weren't the guards killed.  The loss of a prisoner was a capital offense.  Life for life.  Instead, the Bible says the guards were paid to say that.  Second, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, why didn't the officials produce a body?  That would have ended all speculation there.  Three, did you see all the people to whom Jesus appeared?  Peter, the Twelve, five hundred brothers, James, the apostles, and then to Paul himself.  It would be hard to dispute that many eye witnesses.  Fourth, if this was all a hoax, why did the Twelve allow themselves to be martyred?  Why would you die for a hoax?

     In John's account of the resurrection, the word "saw" or some form of it is used three times.  Yet in the Greek language three different words are used.

V. 5--"Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there but he did not go in."  The Greek word for "saw" there is to see without understanding.  He was puzzled.

V. 6--"Then, following him, Simon Peter came also.  He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there."  This time the word "saw" means that it was examined for the purpose of investigation.  The word is the word we get our word "theory" from.  That makes sense, doesn't it?  Peter has his own theory about what happened.

V. 8--"The other disciple who had reached the tomb first, then entered the tomb, saw and believed."  This time, the word "saw" means to perceive with understanding.  He got it!  Jesus was alive!  He remembered all the times Jesus told them what was to happen.  How many times had he heard it?  But now it clicks!

     Doesn't this describe our Christian walk, our journey?  We see Jesus and we really don't understand Him.  We don't know why He would love someone like us.  Then we start to delve into His word and start to examine our lives and to reason why He would die for us.  Then, finally it clicks.  Although we may not completely understand, we fall at His feet and proclaim Him as our Lord.

     The resurrection was the theme of the early church and it should be ours.  Paul said it's the gospel on which we make our stand.  And Paul makes a bold proclamation that excites me and should excite you, too.  He says these words:

"By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also."   I Corinthians 6:14