2 Corinthians 11:16-33, 12:1-11
Yes, everybody plays the fool sometimes. Here you see Paul playing the fool, illustrating for the early church two things: first the foolishness of bragging about what God has done through your life, and second the fact that the best thing we have is our weakness and dependence on Christ. It reminds me of the story C. S. Lewis tells at the end of the chapter titled Faith in his book, Mere Christianity.
"It is like a small child going to its father and saying, 'Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.' Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child's present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction."
The fact is, as Lewis makes the point, everything we have is given from God. How can we boast of what we have received?
But, Paul continues to explain that the strength of Jesus is illustrated best in our weakness. So, when we are compelled by our own need to turn to Christ, we then end up with more strength than we would have had, had we not been deficient to start with. This too can be illustrated with C. S. Lewis' anecdote of the six pennies, for the boy now is six pennies and/or a gift for his Father richer in the deal. That is all we have to boast of, the pleasure in sharing the gift, is it not?!
Summer Sun standing still in my sky, I freeze in the sun because the warmth is so far away. Extreme positions north and south notwithstanding, today has been a sad day filled with memories. God is the creator of our emotions, and the One who fills our hearts with blessings. Is it any wonder we learn to love these blessings, and then ache when they are taken away?
Suffice it to say, the lord gives and the Lord takes away, and His name is blessed. Everything good comes from the Father above, and when the sun sets on another day, or season, or year, we close our eyes in thanks to the God who knows all things. So, it is without reservation that I can say, it's been a good day.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and
comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither
shadow of turning.
The sun may turn in her seasons, casting shadows of light and then darkness, but God has no seasons.
I mentioned the sermon that drew me to the altar titled, Ragman in my blog titled, “The Gospel According to Me.” The sermon moved my heart, but it didn’t move my clenched hands from the back of the chair I grasped in front of me, at least not immediately. I made the decision in that altar call. It just took me 24 hours to let go of the chair. I decided that I would wait till the next night’s altar service, since this one was almost over. Or, at least that was my thinking. I knew I had a hard time moving mentally. It took so long, I knew people were ready to leave. Waiting did give me time to build my courage to walk down the aisle, and I did just as soon as the call was given the next night. I was afraid I wouldn’t have the guts to do it. But, when I began to pray, I saw Jesus and I heard Him speaking to me. He said, “I love you, Vicky… I love you, Vicky… I love you, Vicky…”
The fortune of the prominent early American Vanderbuilt family was made by an immigrant named Cornelius, in the railroad industry. Vanderbuilt’s fortune was inherited by sons and grandsons, some who invested his fortune in horse breeding and yacht racing. But, sadly, some wasted on drugs and alcohol addictions. Only forty-eight years after his death, one of his direct descendants died penniless. All ten of the mansions his descendants built were torn down within 70 years of his death.
America has seen both old money and new money fortunes. Whether the fortune is old or new, blood will buy the fortune. My natural father left me a legacy… he left me. When I was two. My mother was pregnant with my middle sister. He abandoned us. My blood is worthless and I have no ancestry to trace. I was born penniless and will die with empty pockets. My only heritage is my Father, the God of the Universe. Aye, but He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. I am investing my fortune wisely, in the hearts of children who are my reversed heritage. I have accumulated close to 1,000 students over the years. In that, I have a rich heritage. I didn’t say they all valued me. I valued them. Or rather, I placed a value on my time with them. It has been said that time is money. Accordingly, I have spent all of mine. I don’t plan to have any time left over “in the bank” so to speak, when I die. You can’t “save” time. You can only waste it or spend it.
Alexander of Greek fame conquered much of the known world, in his time. He inherited the smaller empire of his Father Phillip…by blood rights as was assumed, by his Father. He purchased the submission of parts of three continents with the blood of the citizens of Thebes and Tyre. Much more blood was shed along the path of conquest, as far south as Egypt, where he was crowned pharaoh and called “the son of God.” (Referring to the Sun-god Ra.) He signed his name, “Lord of Asia.” He also called himself the King of Kings. He purchased these titles, and a claim to divinity and worship, with the blood of the conquered a few centuries before Christ.
In Alexander’s time, lived three great civilizations; the Greeks who gave us much of our culture, the Romans who gave us the base of our politics and government, and the Jews who gave us God. And, the Jewish race gave us the uniquely Hebrew phenomenon of prophets. Why was the Jewish race so strongly a religious race? The Jews were planning to bring salvation to the world. And, they produced a Messiah. Strange…the fact that they were looking for a Messiah like “Alexander the Great.”
What they got was Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of the whole earth. He bought his empire with blood, His own. Blood, after all, will buy. What did His blood buy? His blood bought back our eternal life, after the curse of death in the garden. The blood of Jesus bought healing from sicknesses and diseases. His blood bought our salvation. The blood Jesus shed on Calvary bought His rights as our Father.
Isaiah 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. Jesus, a Jew, had no children when He died. This was a tragedy in the mind of the Jew. Jesus considers us His children by blood inheritance. We are generated into his Kingdom from his blood, much like children are generated from their parent’s blood. We are the generation, or descendants of Jesus. That makes us His children. His blood bought our right to be near Jesus.
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.
One day Jesus will rule the earth as a conqueror of all. He will rule by conquering. He is already conquering through the work of His Kingdom that is being ushered in. He will be Lord of all. Blood after all, will buy. As His children, we are the sons and daughters of a King. I went, in the course of one altar service, from rags to riches. I gave my rags of sin to the Ragman. I took on eternal riches in Christ. My riches are the Glory and Grace of Jesus. Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
Ephesians 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
Ephesians 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
And, there are more.
"I AM," said God to Moses. And, that great I AM applies to God's children as well. I AM a Child of God. I belong to Him and that makes Me a daughter of the King. If you have been reading the Gospel According to Me, then this is the sequel for you.
Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD that created you, O Jacob, and he that formed you, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine.
Here we have God saying "YOU ARE." Knowing God means knowing who you are to Him and in Him. You see, nothing that I was before God matters, because it no longer exists. God has forgotten everything. This is why I can know that I am a wonderful creation of God.
Micah 7:19 ...and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
Sometimes we feel so far away from the God who came to earth to be nearer to us. That is unneccessary. All it takes to feel His presence is to realize who you are. An important man may be a corporate giant, or a heavyweight champ that men feel small in the presence of, but ironically, when their small daughter enters the room, that giant becomes a gentle Father. And, the smallest daughter will breeze into her dad's office without trepidation or hesitancy. She knows who her Dad is and all of the roles that He plays are nothing like the role of Daddy to her.
I've heard it said that God has no Grandchildren. That is a profoundly true statement. Do you realize that you came to God on your own two feet. No one else allowed you into His presence, but God Himself was inviting you to come to Him. It's not about who your parents are. It's all about you. Listen to Jesus' words to Nathanael.
John 1:48 Nathanael said unto him, Where do you know me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.
On the surface, it looked to Nathanael as if He was only there on Philip's call. But, Jesus is letting Nathanael know that He was the originator of the call. Jesus wanted Nathanael to follow Him. Yes, you are God's child because He purposefully invited you into His kingdom. He does that for us each and every one, because he created each of us. He knows us as a father knows His children. All of this makes you special to God. It certainly makes you special to Satan, who is jealous of our position a little lower than the angels, and above the animals; yet we are God's children. Satan can never occupy that spot, he never could. And, now, we will occupy eternity with God, while satan occupies eternity in hell. There is nothing Satan can do to stop our future. Only we have that power. We were created in God's image, and that image entitles us to certain inherited rights of birth. We look just like our Daddy. Everytime Satan sees our faces, he cringes. Yes, I Am special.
Hold onto the Gospel that holds onto you. You are unique in all of creation, because God made you.
Look at my blog from chapter 13 of Luke, two nights ago, and find the crooked little lady Jesus called to Him for healing. Luke 13:12 "And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity." This part of the story touches my heart. I noticed that Jesus could not bear to see her pain, even from a distance, but called her to His side for healing.
I noticed the words He said to the hypocritical ruler: Luke 13:16 "And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" ...being a daughter of Abraham...whom Satan has bound... be loosed. So much love for mankind is portrayed in this sketch of Luke's. Jesus cared so deeply for those around Him. And, I noticed that His enemies were all ashamed after He rebuked them, because the people rejoiced at the things He said.
But, at the point Jesus called the healed, loosed woman, "a daughter of Abraham," my heart makes a mad dash through the New Testament, charges over to where John heard a voice from heaven proclaiming,
Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
...and falls among the words of Jesus on the throne... Revelation 21:7 He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Here you have it all...the climax of Scripture...the home of every heart... a pool of love where the heart of mankind swims in God's Divine love and acceptance. Here I see that...like that daughter of Abraham... God sees me as His child. He whom God cherished is loved indeed. This agape love is the source of God's grace and provision for His children. It is this love that causes Jesus to say... ought not this woman... to be loosed...? It is this Divine care that merits us everything that God bestows. We are entitled... entitled by right of birth into His family.
1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God..."
Do you remember singing this in grade school...?
Go tell Aunt Rhody, Go tell Aunt Rhody, Go tell Aunt Rhody, The old gray goose is dead.
The one she's been saving... (x3) To make a feather bed.
The goslings are mourning... (x3) Because their mother's dead.
The old gander's weeping...(x3) Because his wife is dead.
She died in the mill pond...(x3) From standing on her head.
It's good to see that someone is concerned enough to send Rhody the news. Oh my, what should Aunt Rhody do?
A. Cook her goose
B. Make that new feather bed now
C. Invite company over for dinner
D. All of the above
E. What can she do? The Goose is dead!
While you finish that question, I'll turn to Luke, chapter 13. Just reading through the chapter, I find there is a vast theology of Jesus contained in this one chapter. If I could read only this, then it would be enough to explain the Gospel in totality. Let me break it down this way first. I see twelve parts:
1. Some people asked Jesus about the recent atrocious act where Pilate killed some Jews who were in the act of sacrificing an offering on the altar. Their human blood ran down, mingling with the blood of the beasts...making the appearance that the act was done, "for God's glory." Pilate believed the worshippers were actually insurrectionists, so he wanted them dead. He was paranoid with good cause. The men in the crowd around Jesus were concerned about whether this was a visible sign of the wrath of God on those men. Was their death a punishment for sin? (verses 1-3)
2. Jesus compared the act to the recent fall of a tower in Siloam, probably during one of the aqueduct building projects, which killed 18 men. Jesus asks were these men more sinful than others? (verses 4-5)
3. Jesus tells them a parable about a fig tree that doesn't give fruit for three years in a row, and the boss orders it to be cut down. But, a gardner intercedes, offering to fertilize the tree and asks for one more year to see fruit before chopping the tree down. (verses 6-9) (There is so much Christology in that! )
4. Jesus heals a bent lady in the synagogue on the Sabbath, to much consternation of the rulers. The rulers rebuke the woman, but Jesus in turn rebukes them, asking whether it is right for a "Daughter of Abraham" to be healed on the Sabbath. Now, by calling her a daughter of Abraham, you could say He was calling her a daughter of the law. And, the Sabbath was Law. So, I see this as Jesus' way of saying that it was lawful to help the children of the law, despite the law. (verses 10-16)
5. The people all rejoice over this kind (and somewhat revolutionary) saying of Jesus. (verse 17)
6. Then Jesus tells the crowds some parables to explain what God's Kingdom was all about. He compares the Kingdom to the planting of a mustard seed growing into a great tree, and then to leaven, or yeast kneaded into three bushels of meal, which spreads out and leavens the whole pile. That is a lot of bread!
7. Then Jesus is asked the question about how few people will be saved. He tells them to work hard at entering into the straight gate because many people will try to be saved, but few will make it. (verses 22-24)
8. Then, Jesus tells them a parable of a man of the house who closes the door at night and refuses entry to anyone not "in the family." (verses 25-27)
9. Jesus tells that many Jews will see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in Heaven, but themselves in hell. What a shock for the blood descendants of Abraham! (verses 28-29)
10. Jesus explains that in His Kingdom, the people who are last on earth will be first, and vice versa. (verse 30)
11. The Pharisees warn Jesus that He should leave Jerusalem before Herod kills Him. Jesus replies:
"...Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. "
Jesus called Herod a fox and insisted on keeping His previous itenerary of speaking and healing engagements in Jerusalem, despite their rejection. It seems quite shocking that Jesus would mock Herod and tell him where to find Him, almost daring him to do something about it, because He knew Herod could do nothing until he was allowed into the barnyard. (verses 31-34)
12. Finally we see Jesus proclaiming that Jerusalem will see Him proclaimed as Lord in the end. (verse 35)
Quite a lengthy chapter, but full of explicit, systematic teaching on what to expect from the Kingdom of God. Jesus was a great teacher! But, all of these twelve parts tell the Gospel when put together. The numbers below refer to the same parts as above:
1. Evil in this world
2. Answers in the face of calamity
3. Responsibility of sin / Call for repentance / Intercession and bearing fruit
4. Children of God deserving of God's blessings because of Grace
5. The rejoicing of all humanity over Grace
6. The continuing expansion of the Kingdom (That is a lot of bread! It seems symbolic of the size of the world. God is showing us how the Kingdom is expanding. His Kingdom message of the Gospel will expand and cover the world.)
7. Seemingly contradictory limits placed on entry into God's Kingdom
8. Defining answer to entry into the kingdom: blood rights prevail!
9. Whose blood? Not blood of Abraham, but blood of Jesus. Are you covered by His blood?
10. The saints will be exalted in Glory in the coming Kingdom of God
11. A Glimpse of the Battle between Jesus and Satan
12. Triumph of Jesus over all
There now. You have the Gospel in a chapter. Don't we have Christ crucified and risen in verse 32? Yes! He is Lord over all! No foxes in the barnyard will change His plans.
It's high time for Aunt Rhody to make that feather bed. Why wait any longer...the goose is dead. And, if her goose is cooked, all the better to share with company I say! But the chapter doesn't end with the resurrection of Christ. There is glory to come. Meanwhile the battle rages! The fox is in the barnyard. Make sure your goose doesn't get cooked lest Satan uses your plucked glory to feather his bed.