Aloha Friday Message – February 21, 2014 – A Star Witness – Paul

1408AFC022114 – A Star Witness – Paul

Read it online here, please.

KJV Galatians 6:17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

NRS Galatians 6:17 From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.

NLT Galatians 6:17 From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! I hope you are finally enjoying some relief from all the incredible weather we have had. It has been so hot and dry in the Southwest and so frigid and miserable in the rest of the country! Here on Kauaʽi we have had lots of rain, cooler temperatures (all the way down to the high 50’s!), and vog – a combination of volcanic ash/smoke and fog. It makes us a little uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as our family and friends back on the mainland. There seems to be so much suffering because of the weather!

We know it is difficult to go for days – even two or more weeks – without electricity so that it is impossible to run a household and do the simple things we take for granted – fix a meal, use the restroom, watch  TV, make a phone call, or heat the house. We also know it is difficult for other people in the world who don’t have things as nice as we do in America. Take a look at this list of cities: Beirut Lebanon, Atlanta Georgia, Islamabad Pakistan, Fukuoka Japan, Damascus Syria, Baghdad Iraq, Los Angeles California, Wilmington North Carolina, Phoenix Arizona. All of these cities are around 33 DEG N. Latitude. In many of those places there is war. In some there is really bad weather. In others there is unprecedented drought. In a small number there is even aggressive persecution of Christians. In all of these cities, there are people who are suffering in many ways. If we look just in the Northern Hemisphere, we find dozes of armed conflicts, terrorism, famine, disease, persecution, government corruption, crimes against humanity, and all manner of unspeakable evil.

It makes my little backaches look pretty tame by comparison. Still, I moan and groan, limp and creak, and whine my way from the TV in the living-room to the TV in the bedroom. Poor little me. As I see my brothers and sisters in Christ, as I see innocents around the world, as I see “regular Americans” going through huge adversity, I wonder how far Christianity would have spread if the early church were like the church in America today. That usually prompts me to think about the Apostle Paul and what it takes to be a Radical Christian. I think I could sum it up in three words: Pain and Suffering. Of course Paul knew that pain as suffering was part of his life; after all, it was a huge part of the life of Jesus, so – as Jesus himself said – it would be part of the lives of his followers, too. Many of us have some pain and suffering in our lives – cancer, mental illness, family problems, betrayals, other chronic illnesses, injuries in body mind and spirit, even persecution for our faith for a few of us. But when you look deeper into Paul’s, you begin to think, “Maybe I have it pretty good after all.” Here’s a summary he himself provided when writing to the Church in Corinth:

2 Corinthians11:24-29 – Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant? Paul was the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” and that was clearly a dangerous job to have. Now, I’ve worked at some difficult jobs, but never that difficult.

Can you imagine being flogged 39 lashes 5 separate times, beatings with rods three different times, stoned to the degree that those persecuting him presumed him dead. Shipwrecked and in danger of drowning in a storm, bitten by a poisonous snake, and on and on. And yet he kept going, kept preaching, sometimes for months or years at a time. He always worked as a tradesman or craftsman – traditional sources say he was a tent-maker – and still found time to teach, testify, argue, persuade, and live the exemplary Christian life. If you and I were to take stock of our Christian witness and look at Paul for the “yardstick,” we might not take as much pride in the durability of our faith and the power of our convictions. I can tell you, my testimony looks pretty feeble compared to Paul; in fact, compared to many of the people I know personally, my testimony, my faith, my living-the-life of Christ is … pitiful and pretty much ridiculous.

We started off with at verse from Galatians about Paul having the marks of the Lord Jesus on – or in – his body. Some folks take that to mean what are called the “stigmata,” wounds in body caused by piercing, burning, or both. It is like branding and cutting at the same time. We don’t have any direct proof in the Bible that that is precisely what Paul was referring to here, but think of this: how scarred would our bodies be after the kind of abuse Paul described? Would the flesh on our backs bear welts and multilayer scars after all that? I think at the very least that is one way to understand what Paul was writing about. Paul was all about doing everything he can to make sure that anyone who knew him or hear his message had full access to the entire Gospel – no matter what it cost him personally. Some of us have friends who are shocked to find out that we are Christians. There’s a real disconnect there. It could be a fatal disconnect – not so much for us, but for those whose lives could be changed by our testimony, by our fearless way of living-out the Gospel. There is a Day of Judgment coming when good will be rewarded and evil will be recompensed. Another quote from Paul when he address Felix at his trial: Acts 24:15 –  I have the same hope in God as these men (the Pharisees), that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

Jesus knew he would suffer greatly. Remember in Mark 8:31-32a we are told, “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly.” We are also told that Peter could not accept the idea of a suffering, dying Messiah, and rebuked the Lord for talking like that. It was then that Jesus rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking in human terms, not as God thinks.” And there’s the rub, Beloved. We think in human terms when we measure our suffering; even when we measure the suffering of others, we think in human terms. We do not find suffering in any way, share, or form to be something that causes rejoicing. And yet, Paul writes to the Colossians (See Colossians 1:24-25) “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking* in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” Perhaps Paul’s deep spiritual unity with Christ allowed him to identify so closely with him and even the Church – the body of Christ in the World – that he could understand how plainly Christ had foretold we would have the opportunity to testify – to be martyred – for the sake of his name. Paul was willing to go to the complete extreme of that prediction. Let us pray to God all of us might stretch a little father in that direction whenever we have an opportunity to preach the Gospel through what we do and how we live – even perhaps as much as Paul did. But I have yet to find a scar on or in me that is attributed to my testimony. I haven’t tried as hard as I could, then, have I?

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved

 

chick

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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