Mark R Lindsey

Agony & Escape: Preferring death to suffering

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2020 at 7:41 am

“Give me relief – or give me death!” How do we cry to God in our agony without grumbling and doubting?

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt [enslaved], when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” — Exodus 16:2-3

The Israelites were on a difficult mission, walking through the wilderness. But they were saying in their grumbling, “Keep me out of suffering, God! I’m ok if you let me die — just be sure I’m comfortable while I go.” They paint a picture of dying gently at the fireside with a full belly….as enslaved people. They weren’t asking for relief and help in God’s goodness — but for escape from the mission. “In fact, I’m so miserable, it’ll be ok if you just take me out of your mission entirely, God.”

As he gives us work, God calls us to suffering and discomfort. But don’t make like of the suffering. Don’t imagine you can endure on your own. Don’t believe your suffering goes unnoticed by God. Follow Jesus’s example: ask Him for relief, trusting he will act, expecting to see him do good for you.

Immediately after this complaint from the Israelites, their kind God gave them a supply of meat, and bread from heaven. Though they were insolent, God DOES care about suffering.

For he [the LORD God] has not despised or abhorred

the affliction of the afflicted,

and he has not hidden his face from him,

but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;

my vows I will perform before those who fear him.

The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;

those who seek him shall praise the Lord!

May your hearts live forever!

— Psalms 22:24-26

Giving up your respect, power, ability to be generous — to follow Jesus.

In Matthew, Money on September 2, 2019 at 7:32 am

And behold, a man came up to him [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. – Matthew 19:16-22

It’s easy to dismiss the young man as a cartoonish Silas Marner, his only companions the many coins he hoards. But this young man was virtuous; he had wisdom to seek out Jesus. When Jesus ordered him to become poor, it would cost him respect, authority, and capacity to do good.

Loss of Respect

Think of how much respectability the young man would lose if he sold these things. He wouldn’t be able to dress as well. He wouldn’t have a big house where people could come visit him for help, or business meetings. People might criticize him for throwing away his good inheritance from his father, saying he foolishly gave it up. If he followed Jesus’s direction, that loss would mean people looked down on him as someone who had it all, and threw it away.

Loss of Authority

Imagine how he would lose authority when he sold all his possessions. When people have money, others know it, and are willing to work for that money. People with money have the ability to buy things that the poor don’t have. At time of this conversation with Jesus, the rich young man had earthly authority that Jesus didn’t evidently have. The rich young man, while he was rich, could order his servants to go and do things, good things  — to prepare rooms for Passover, to spread good news to all the towns, to go visit the officials. Without his money and the power it brings, it would be up to God to provide justice and do good.

Loss of power to do good

See how his poverty would remove his ability to do good. He wouldn’t be able to provide shelter and protection for the destitute widow who lost her only son. He’d have no home to invite Jesus and his disciples to a big meal, to hear Jesus teach. He couldn’t afford to give money so the poor Israelite pilgrims to Jerusalem could buy their temple sacrifice. He’d have no tomb to lend to Jesus. He couldn’t buy a single pound of ointment to anoint the Messiah’s body. He couldn’t do good for the beggar Lazarus, taking him off the streets to care for and feed him. In his poverty, he, and Lazarus, and the widow would all be entirely reliant on God — and not the wealth.

 

 

 

Strange Fire: Our attempts to serve God can be steps away from his clear plan.

In Bible Study, debt, Matthew on August 31, 2019 at 8:40 am

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Beware of your reasoning to “put God first”; your mind can trick you.

Matthew 15:1-6 – Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

 

By your act of sacrifice to God, you could disobey God. Is that the sacrifice God wants?  Certainly not.

It is first most important to honor God himself. This means understanding He has a plan — that is the one you were made to take. (That’s what “Obedience”: doing what you were perfectly fitted to do —by creation, life, experience, abilities.) Honoring God means agreeing He is worthy of obeying in every way he has a plan. 

If I invent a way to honor God that prevents me from actually follow his clear plan, I’m really not honoring God. God puts his clear plan for me in the Bible, the Word of God.  Jesus calls this practice of inventing my own holiness  “making void the word of God”.  The Pharisees decided to donate money “to God,” and then claim that they couldn’t help their needy father or mother because of their donation.   So they had invented a way to “be holy” that replaced God’s actual way. It wasn’t holy at all.

What could it looks like to “make void the word of God?” Maybe:

  • Ask for donors to support me when I could be working. (Eph. 4:28)
  • Putting in extra hours helping at the church building when I should be seeking to understand my wife. (1 Pet. 3:7)
  • Attend seminary or college instead of working to pay my debts. (Rom. 13:8; Eph 4:28)
  • Doing International missions in a dangerous place, while lacking compassion in the lost people of that area. (1 Cor. 13:1-5)
  • Stop gathering together in a Small Group of Christians so I have energy to cheerfully endure the school & work week (Heb. 3:13, Heb. 10:25).
  • Write another article for my blog instead of listening to what God says to me in His word (Psalm 119:147; Psalm 143:8).

Pray to ask God to show you where you are deceived by your attempts at holiness that override God’s instructions to you. If God reveals errors, thank him for helping you, and commit to fight the sin. Ask other of Jesus’s disciples to help you fight and warn you against the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13).