Christ Came to Suffer and So Must We

The Savior Came to Suffer

Matthew 16:21-28

At this point Jesus reveals His mission to the disciples. First, his mission was going to shift from Galilee to Jerusalem. Historically it had been the capital of Israel. From the time of David it was the spiritual center of Judaism. Since the time of Solomon everything revolved around the Temple and the sacrifices performed there on a daily basis. Up to this point Jesus had primarily ministered in Galilee, i.e., in the country, on the outskirts – now he was going to the heart of Israel

Second, he was going to suffer at the hands of the spiritual leaders of Israel:  the elders, chief priests, and scribes. The elders were the ones in authority. The chief priests were the ones responsible for teaching the truth. The scribes were responsible for God’s Word. All three of these groups should have recognized Jesus for who He was. Instead of being recognized and worshipped by the spiritual leaders, Jesus is going to suffer. He would be arrested, brought up on false charges, spat upon, struck, ridiculed, and beaten within an inch of his life.

Third, he was going to die and be resurrected on the third day. We have already seen that he alluded to the sign of Jonah. The popular understanding was that the Messiah was going to come and liberate Israel from the Roman Empire—not die! Jesus came to die in order to pay the penalty for our sins. He had to die, there was no other way.  Otherwise we would still be dead in our sins. He rose again to prove that He alone had conquered death and set in motion the plan to reverse the curse. Had he remained in the ground he would have been venerated like every other major religious figure—but we would be living without hope; As Paul would write, As in Adam all die, so in Christ, shall all be made alive!

We Sometimes Follow Our Own Way Instead of God’s Way

Peter had just made his profound profession of faith – “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

Here, Peter falls into the trap and when Jesus reveals the rescue plan to the disciples he steps in and says, No way, Jesus! This will never happen to you! Though Peter was sincere in his statement  he had things all wrong—even though it didn’t make sense, Jesus had to die-it was part of the plan.  Peter wasn’t thinking about God’s plan, he was thinking about his own plan. Jesus rebukes Peter in about the harshest way, “Get behind me Satan!” meaning in his disagreement with Jesus over the plan Peter was allowing the enemy to use him to discourage Jesus from completing the plan.

We can sometimes follow our way instead of God’s way. We can start telling God what we will and will not do. We can start making decisions based solely on how It will affect our bottom line and not how it will affect us spiritually. We can trust in our own understanding instead of trusting in the Lord will all our hearts.


If We Are Going to Follow Jesus, We Are Going to Have to Sacrifice

We must deny ourself, take up our cross, and follow Him. To deny ourself speaks to discipline – it is hard to deny ourself sometimes. It also speaks to deciding who is in control.

We must take up our cross; this is a positive action. The cross is an instrument of our death. It means we are willing to die to self in order to live for Christ. It means we are willing to risk it all-our very lives.

Only after denying ourself and taking up our cross can we begin to follow Him. If you think you can follow Christ and it not cost you everything you are sadly mistaken. We must be willing to lose our life to Christ.

Sometimes the Reward Is Not in This Life

Many times we like to see immediate rewards. In school we want a check plus or a sticker. In our jobs we want a paycheck or bonus. We want the trophy at the end of the race or season. In following Christ, the rewards may not be as apparent  as in other areas of our life. We may serve the Lord and wonder if we are making a difference. We will not know the true impact of our service to God until after we’re dead and gone.  Christ will reward each according to what He’s done. I often joke to some people that have to put up with a lot in life that one day they are going to have a  “big, big mansion.” The biggest reward is that we will not have to suffer through death. Death is not a destination for the believer, only a door. We don’t follow for the reward, but know, believer, that your sacrifice and service may go unnoticed by the world, by not by its Maker.

Just as Christ suffered, so to suffering and sacrifice is part of being a Christian. As an American Christian this is sometimes foreign to us, but if our country continues in its current direction I believe it will not be long before we see the days when we will have to stand opposed to our own nation’s laws in order to stand for what we believe in. Are you ready to sacrifice and suffer for your Lord who sacrificed it all for you?

iPad 3?

Apple is expected to announce the iPad 3 on March 7th. That means we are a week and a half away. The following is a list of features that are rumored to be appearing in the new model:

  • 2048 x 1536 Retina display (as opposed to 1024 x 768).
  • 8  5 MP  camera (as opposed to 1 MP)
  • Quad-Core A5X Processor (as opposed to Dual-Core A5)
  • 4G LTE (as opposed to 3G)
Other Features
  • 1080p recording
  • voice dictation (though not Siri)
  • personal hotspot

I’m excited about seeing the updated resolution. I can tell a huge difference between the display on my iPhone 3gs and Amy’s iPhone 4, which is a Retina display. The sharpness just pulls you right in. This should also improve the airplay and video out capabilities. Will it now be able to play in HD to your HDTV?

I own the original iPad. As such I have no camera front or back, but I have heard people complain that their iPad 2 photos are grainy and this is a needed (and easy) upgrade to make the people happy. I can see using it to capture handwritten notes or handouts, importing them right into something like Evernote. Now that Amy and my mother have new Apple products, FaceTime is a feature I could see using in the future.

The processor bump is something that has been said to be necessitated by the updated display. My iPad, which is 16 months old uses the A4 processor and it is just as responsive as the day I brought it home. I will say that after having my iPhone 3gs for 32 months now (a dinosaur in tech-land) it is starting to show some lag in loading certain apps. . . come on iPhone 5!

My iphone is 3g, which seems to work fine. We get great 3g speeds where I live, but most of the time I’m using wi-fi. I can count just a few times where I had my iPad and wished I had purchased the 3G model. I don’t know that it’s really necessary, but if the iPad 3 has 4G LTE, then it would only give further credence that the iPhone 5 (of which I’m holding out for) will have 4G LTE as well. What will be really interesting is if there will be only one model that you can connect to either Verizon or AT&T.

It also remains to be seen what the pricing strategy will be, if the early success of the Amazon Kindle Fire will cause Apple to adjust their prices. My prediction is that the iPad 3 prices will remain in line with the current pricing structure and the iPad 2 will be offered as a discount model to better compete with the Fire.



Today was an emotional day.

While preaching is my number one passion in ministry, a strong second it providing pastoral care and hospital visitation. When one of my flock is dealing with physical tragedy I want to be right there.

This morning started with a text message while I was getting ready. One of my guys had flipped his car driving home from work early this morning. He was being rushed to the hospital. I made my way to the ER, upon arriving the ladies buzzed me back without directions because I know where I’m going. Part of pastoring means you know your way around a hospital and the staff can spot you coming. I find that they’ve taken him back for tests. Inside the room is his wife, dressed for work, but obviously not going in today on this Monday. She’s visibly shaken and bursts into tears as I approach. You would think that by now I would know just what to say. I find that in these times sometimes prayer and presence is more important than having the right words. We pray together and thank the Lord that his injuries didn’t appear to be more serious than they were and that we trusted Him in the midst of the unknown. A few minutes later my brother is wheeled in. He’s banged up a bit and in quite a bit of pain. He hasn’t received any pain meds until they rule out any internal bleeding. The scan comes back: some broken ribs and punctured lung, he’s going to have to stay overnight for observation and he’s going to hurt-but should be okay. There’s relief as it sinks in that in light of the situation it is no more serious than it is. Now time for me to move on with the rest of my day.

Before getting back to Hickory Tavern, I get a phone call about another one of my flock. One of my guys is about to receive bad news from the doctor and the family is gathering to let him know. In just a matter of weeks we have watched as the strength and mobility has been quickly taken by my friend.  First his speech was garbled, now he cannot talk. He has lost movement on his right side. Now he has trouble walking. The doctor has recommended the family call Hospice in. I’m on my way. This one hurts. We all shed tears as the news is shared and it is not good. We pray. I search my Bible and find Psalm 91. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . .” Do we need the Almighty right now. We have prayed for months that God would heal him. Today it things look hopeless-but our hope is in the Lord. Even if death is near, death is not the end for the believer, it is only a door.

It’s now lunchtime. I head home to hug my girls and kiss my wife.

After lunch it’s time to hit the road again. Another member has been at Memorial for almost a week. It’s a 35 mile drive one-way down a long stretch of road. I tune in to listen to Rush Limbaugh pontificate on the Republican primaries. Not even the golden mic of the EIB network can keep me from zoning out. It has been an emotional day and its only half over. I park in my usual spot and take my usual route to the elevators. I walk in with a few other visitors who hit the button for the 5th floor. I don’t have to stop at the desk because I was just here to see her a few days ago and I know right where to go. My church member is in the bed, the doctors still aren’t sure what’s ailing her. It doesn’t take long and she’s got me laughing. She’s speaking truth to me: God is in control! She’s in the hospital and is more concerned with the other two that I visited already today. A nurse sticks her head in the door and needs to do something. I place my hand on her head and we pray together. We pray for her and we pray for our church. I say Amen and its time to go.

I drive the long stretch back home, counting down the miles. When I pull in the driveway I’m emotionally drained. I crash on the couch with my two princesses playing around me. I know that I can’t carry the burdens of my church family alone. He has to carry the burden.

It was definitely not how I thought I would spend a Monday-but I would not trade it for anything.

Taking Risks for God: Esther

Esther 4:12-17

The second character who took a risk for God was a young Jewish girl named Esther. Living in exile, Esther was chosen as the unlikely queen to the Persian King Xerxes. After assuming her new position It came to light that there was a conspiracy within Xerxes’ government to exterminate the Jewish people. Esther finds herself in a position to make a difference, but at great risk to her personal safety.

God Doesn’t Need You, But He Wants To Use You (v. 14)

Mordecai reminds Esther that God placed her exactly in the position that He wanted her to be-not for her own benefit, but for the good of her people. Not to bring herself glory, but to bring God glory.

Mordecai also put her in her place a little bit-he reminded her that if she did nothing she was going to die and God would use someone else to accomplish his purpose. Some people think that life is a movie and they have the leading role. Well, life is real-it’s not a movie, and though God wants to do something amazing in your life, He doesn’t need you and if you choose to follow your own path-He will raise up another. This church does not revolve around your pastor, or any one person here. If we ever get the idea that this place would fall apart if we left-watch out! That’s not God.  God has been working in this church long before any of us got here and if He tarries, long after we are dead and gone.

But. . . God so wants to use us to accomplish His plan! I mean think about it. God could have called down fire from heaven and delivered the Jewish people-but He didn’t. He chose to exalt one of his precious daughters to the highest position she could attain, make her Queen to a pagan King, and use her to bring salvation to a nation. While there is only one way for God to provide salvation; there were numerous ways He could have used bring his message to the world. Instead He chose us! He chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.

God Has a Plan and Ultimately He’s in Control (v. 14)

One of the things that made Esther hesitate was her fear. She feared her lack of ability for the task and she feared what the king might do. -Were she to appear uninvited before the king, it was punishable by death. That was her first response to Mordecai-he could kill me unless he invites me, and he hasn’t invited me in about a month.

We can let fear paralyze us in following God’s will for our life; the fear of the unknown, the fear of the future, the fear of what might happen, the fear of failure. We must remember, however, that God has a plan and ultimately He’s in control. When we realize that God is in control; then it frees us to follow Him.

How do we discern God’s will for our life?

through Scripture; what does the Bible say about where you are in life? Don’t know? Is    it because you’re not spending time one-on-one with Him and His Word? It’s one thing to sit under biblical preaching and biblical teaching, but another thing to sit directly under the Bible. That is what Godly men and women in our past went to the death for-for the freedom that you and I have to hold a copy of the Scriptures in our hands.

through prayer; this involves asking God to show you, to speak to you; this involves talking to Him, but also listening. Are you listening?

through Godly counsel; have you surrounded yourself with people who are going to tell             you what you want to hear or are going to speak wisdom to you? Who are going to tell you how they feel about something, or what they believe God would say to you?

God has created you for a specific purpose and its not to eat, sleep, and breath air. It is to bring glory and honor to Him and be a powerful agent of hope to this dark world! How are you being part of God’s plan for you?

We Must Prepare for What God Wants Us To Do (v. 16)

Esther didn’t just jump right out-she prepared and earnestly sought the Lord. She called every believer she knew and asked them to fast and pray with her for 3 days. A fast is when you cease eating for a spiritual purpose; when you deny your physical hunger in order to focus spiritually on an important decision or task ahead. We sometimes wonder why as Baptists we don’t experience revival like we wish because saying fast to a Baptist is a four-letter word. Notice, though, she’s not fasting to draw attention to herself, but she’s fasting because she could die and all of her people if God doesn’t do a miracle.

We have to prepare for what God wants us to do.

-we have to prepare ourselves spiritually

-have we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior?

-have we dealt with any unconfessed sin in our life?

-are we walking daily with Him through prayer and Bible study?

-are we actively growing, serving, and giving in a local body of believers?

We Must Step Out in Faith (v. 16)

After preparing herself, Esther stepped out in faith and approached the king. As we continue reading we see how God used her in a powerful way. Like Peter who saw the Lord walking on the water and he stepped out of the boat, Esther stepped out with nothing but God to catch her should she fall. It’s not enough to know what to do, if we never step out to do it.

We must step out in faith once we have sought God’s will and prepared

We minister to a lot of firefighter and first responder families here who train and train and train and train; why do they do all the training? So when the time comes they can put their training into action and everything clicks-they have so trained their mind and bodies what to do that they don’t even have to think about what to do next.

Do they train so they can talk about how trained they are? We have one of the few swift-water rescue teams in the Upstate. If someone gets caught in one of our rivers or streams, our men and women are trained in how to safely get them out of the water. They have spent days, dollars, and a lot of time in the water learning how to do that; so that they can use that one day to save a person’s life.

There comes a time when training is done; it’s time to go and do what God has called us to do. It may mean that we step up this year in sharing our faith; being a verbal witness of what Christ is done. It may mean that we step up this year in ministry; in caring and serving others that need Christ.

One way you can train as you go is on our mission trip. God has blessed us this year and we have room. You’ve heard the testimonies from those who have gone before-haven’t you wanted to go? Right now if you can take the time off from work you can go on this trip. I know of few churches who do mission trips every year where about the entire cost of the trip is already paid for. We don’t go to go on vacation; though when we’re together we have fun. We are there to serve and share the gospel alongside each other; and bringing that same compassion and action back home with us throughout the year.

Whatever your next step is, are you prepared and ready to step out in faith, taking a risk for God?

Taking Risks for God

I don’t know about you, but I surely do not want to waste my life. I have one life to live, one life to give, and I want to make it count. I do not want to spend my life merely surviving, I want to thrive! God got my attention a few ways. First, I was introduced to a young Christian R&B artist named Lecrae and his song “Don’t Waste Your Life.” I would listen to it as I would run-it not only motivated me to get in shape, the deeper theological truth was sinking in, run-by-run. At the same time I started reading through John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life. In it he writes a chapter on taking risks for God. It sparked my interest as he mentioned several different Biblical examples of men and women who followed God and stepped out in faith. I took some notes and filed it away hoping to turn my study into a sermon series.