My memory verse this week:
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24, 25 NIV)
NTC Day 8
Matthew 15-16 and Acts 22-23
After reading the Acts chapters today, it felt rather like I just watched an episode of Law and Order! There is so much intrigue regarding Paul's imprisonment and his trials. The Jewish leaders are so worried about Paul's teachings gaining a following and making them look bad, they plot to kill him. Hmmm sounds familiar, doesn't it? Those Jewish leaders of that time just tried to get rid of who they didn't like instead of dealing with them.
Paul tells the story of his conversion to the Jewish leaders and the people. They listen to his story until he mentions that God sent him to the Gentiles to protect him from the Jews. Because they didn't like what he said, the screamed for him to be put in prison.
I hadn't realized how similar Paul's story was to the "trial" of Jesus and the Jews. A Centurion felt that Paul was being unfairly accused and sent him, along with a letter explaining his opinions, to Governor Felix. The buck is being passed yet again. While Felix agrees to a point that Paul is being railroaded, he still keeps him in protective custody. During this time, Felix and his wife listen to Paul talk about his faith in Christ. But when Felix heard Paul speak of righteousness, self control and judgement, he was afraid of the mistakes of his past...he didn't want to hear anymore, and he kind of blew off Paul.
Oh you of little faith...how many people today turn away from God, or refuse to get closer to God because they are afraid or don't want to give up control of their lives?
The Matthew chapters let us hear Jesus' words about our lack of faith. In Matthew 15, AGAIN Jesus feeds thousands of people with just a few loaves and fishes. But later, when Jesus is trying to give his disciples real advice and warnings, all they can think about is how will they feed the people. Jesus scolds them...didn't they remember what he has already done? TWICE he fed thousands with many left overs!
And when he was telling his disciples what was going to happen to him in the near future, Peter doesn't WANT to believe him and says that would never happen. Again Jesus scolds him! This is Jesus, the Son of God speaking...if he says it is going to happen, you can have faith that it WILL happen!
My memory verse says that we should take up our crosses and follow Jesus. Picking up that cross means giving up...surrendering your life...Many are not willing to do that, or even try to do that because they are afraid and fear the unknown. Just as Felix was enjoying hearing about Paul's faith until he heard about judgement....many of us fear God's judgement and fear the loss of control. Fear it so much, we stay away from God instead of drawing near.
Yes, it is hard to lay down your life and have enough faith to trust in Jesus to take care of your life. I have faith and I believe...but many times I find myself picking up the control again... not totally trusting enough to fully surrender. It is usually the times when I go out on my own...making selfish decisions that I find myself in trouble.
But I realize that God never leaves me...even when I make bad decisions...he is always there. And when I give my problems back to God...when I give up control of my life...he helps me find the purpose of my life once again and I find peace. In this life, it seems that this is a pattern of struggle that we must go through and one day all the wrongs will be made right and we won't have to struggle any more! I have that faith and it will see me through!