Monday, December 26, 2011

Fool's Gold

Fool's Gold
Dec 26, 2011
Rev 21:21 ". . . The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass."

Gold is a naturally occurring element, and in its purest form can stand alone without any other chemical element added to it. Gold is considered extremely valuable; pure gold is rare. It has been used since the history of mankind as a form of currency, which also adds to its intrinsic value. It is extremely malleable, conducts electricity very well, yet resists corrosion and maintains its luster. It currently has a market price of $1,600 USD per ounce (it's very heavy, so that's about the same volume equivalent as two teaspoons (10ml) of water). The gold used in making jewelry usually has a mixture of nickel, zinc, and other metals, bringing the cost down and adding strength. Gold is not a good construction material for buildings because it is one of the softer metals. It dents easily, and you certainly wouldn't want to be touching gold if it was struck by lightning.

The Bible declares that the walls and streets of Heaven are made of gold. Well, sort of. The Bible states that the walls and streets of Heaven are like gold. If you want to translate the Bible literally, then you can read that the streets of Heaven would be made of a pure substance as we understand it on our periodic table of elements (Au). But I would argue for a moment that the depiction of Heaven with streets of gold is a metaphor for the vast richness and glory in comparison to earth. The passage in Revelation depicts one of the most valuable substances on earth as common and even something that is tread upon. Back when the Bible was written, the construction material for walls and roads was brick (usually made of dirt and clay). In writing the Bible, God wasn't trying to convince us of the building materials that are used in Heaven, He was trying to convince us that Heaven is a place we should want to someday live because of its richness. He also made clear that something we value here on earth is not so important in Heaven, especially if we can walk on it like dirt.

There is another substance on earth that is nicknamed "fool's gold". At first appearance it looks like gold, but in reality it is far from being a close cousin to it. "Fool's gold" is iron pyrite, made of iron and sulfur. Many people looking for gold think they have found it, but end up with iron pyrite, which has hardly the same value and properties of gold. Depending on its form, iron pyrite is worth less than $1 USD per ounce, sometimes even less than a few pennies. You can imagine the disappointment if a person thinks he has found a few ounces of gold and it turns out to be iron pyrite. This is why it is nicknamed "fool's gold".

The Bible says that you and I are easily fooled into believing what is truly valuable on this earth. You and I like to place value on what we have in comparison to others: possessions, status, activities, etc. Nothing we have on this earth has any value in Heaven, though. The only things of worth in Heaven are what we do on this earth that give glory to the Lord. The Apostle Peter writes it this way, ". . . the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." In other words, Peter was saying how you respond to situations in life and what you do for the Lord are the only things that matter on this earth. This is hard to swallow, as we like to have nice things sometimes, we like feeling good about ourselves, and we like being respected and important. The Lord would say that this is a fool's pursuit, trying to attain things in life that are worthless in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It takes a mature Christian to find real value in life, the value in all that is done in the name of the Lord. Everything else is worthless, even an ounce of gold.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Prov 8:11, Acts 14:15, Rom 8:18, Phil 3:8, Col 1:10, 2 Thess 1:11, James 1:26, 1 Peter 1:6-8, 1 Peter 3:4, Rev 21

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Elusive Contentment

Elusive Contentment
December 19, 2011
1 Timothy 6:6 "But godliness with contentment is great gain."

It is hard to be content sometimes. Being content means being satisfied with your current level of "it." "It" would be defined uniquely in every given circumstance. When the Bible discusses the word for contentment, it is talking about physical things (possessions, wealth, & income). You and I have struggled with this since we were little, always wanting more than we have. This longing for more is built into us because of sin. If we did not have a sinful nature, we would not be greedy or selfish, and would therefore always be content. Some Christians, in an effort to justify wanting or having more than enough, tout Scriptures about the Lord wanting to richly bless us if we serve Him. The word for "bless" appears almost 400 times in the Bible. It is easy to find a Bible verse that enforces our desire for physical blessing to mean being rich, wealth that is bestowed upon us by the Lord.

But the Bible actually refutes us if we misinterpret Scripture into teaching that we will get rich if we live a Godly life, awaiting for His earthly prosperity. It says very clearly that people are robbed of the truth if they believe that living a Godly life will grant them physical blessings of richness and wealth (1 Timothy 6:1-5). The Bible goes on further to say that we should live a Godly life and find contentment with whatever we have. It doesn't say we should search for contentment in different things, seeking for it through lifestyle changes or taking new directions. It says we should live a Godly life, then be content with where that leads us, wherever it takes us. If we do that, we will have gained more than we realize. Let me expand on that.

If you read through Scripture, it says to live a Godly life (which is defined as adhering to Biblical directions and following the leading of the Lord). If you do this, you will find yourself inevitably in God's will for your life. The Lord's will for your life will not only lead to satisfaction and fulfillment but a greater gain than you can understand. Scripture says that by following the Lord, by doing His will and following His commands, you will store up for yourself treasure in Heaven. It is a future reward system that, though we cannot understand, we must accept in faith. We must believe that a future reward will be worth more than having riches and physical blessing today. If we are left to define the level of "it" we think will make us content, then we will never stop with wanting and pursuing more. This is why contentment is always elusive. If we chase after more in an effort to feel content on this earth, we will never have enough nor will we be storing up future rewards in Heaven. In searching for the degree that will make us content, we actually find ourselves in an empty pursuit, permanently elusive.

Instead, we should pursue Godliness, finding contentment in doing the Lord's will. This will not necessarily lead to physical blessing, but emotional satisfaction in knowing the Father's heart will be pleased and that He will place Heavenly deposits into your account for future benefit. The contentment is in knowing your current situation is actually part of the Lord's will for your life, if you've been following Him. This will change your perspective on your situations in life. If you can find contentment today, then you have found yourself in the Lord's will. This is the best place to be and far better than any amount of physical wealth. If you are currently not content, then you have not found the Lord's will for your life and are searching for the wrong things, a pursuit that will leave you empty.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Joshua 24:15, Prov 19:23, Ecc 4:8, Phil 4:10-12, 1 Tim 6:1-20, 1 Thess 4:2-4

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Show Up

Show Up
December 12, 2011
Luke 12:11 "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say. . ."

Sometimes it is easy to shun away from activities because we are afraid. We fear embarrassment, we fear humiliation, we fear failure, we fear what others will think, we fear everything imaginable. It is far easier to not do what we believe the Lord wants us to do, that way our fears can never come true. Inactivity is much more cozy than taking a step forward, possibly out of our comfort zone. We even reserve most of our hearts, not giving everything over to the Lord for fear He would ask us to do something crazy that we just can't do. We avoid engaging in doing good things because we aren't sure what all we should be doing anyway.

But the Lord is not going to ask you to do something He has not equipped you to do. Let me clarify that. The Lord is not going to ask you to step forward and yet leave you stranded. If He has something for you to do, then He has either equipped you fully or will being picking up where you lack. The Lord already knows the end result of all your activities but you might only be aware of the initial starting point, the first step you feel in your heart you should be taking. Take that step. Don't be fearful of falling on your face or worry about about the next step. Your job is to simply show up everyday into the Lord's presence and take the one step He asks of you that day. You don't have to save the universe, you don't have to have it all planned out, you might not even know what you are going to say. The Lord would ask that you trust in Him to give you that next step, to show you what you should do, and tell you what you should say in each and every circumstance.

The disciples had the same fear of not knowing the future or being fully prepared for everything that could arise. The Lord wasn't scared, though. He told the disciples to simply show up in His name, to take the first step. He promised to give them the next step and when they got into a predicament, lacking the words, He would empower them with the right wisdom and words at the right time. In fact, the entire book of Acts is full of the disciples simply showing up. They showed up each and every day, their hearts committed to the Lord. The Lord was faithful to lead them to the next step, show them what they should do, and tell them what they should say. He had everything already worked out, all they had to do was show up.

Your job is not to plan out the rest of your life; your job is to simply show up. Let the Lord do the hard part and reveal the critical pieces at the critical moments. If you let the Lord lead, you can rest all your fears aside, knowing that they won't matter. All your fears cannot possibly come true if you are allowing the Lord to lead. If you submit your heart to Him then whatever happens will happen. The outcome becomes the Lord's responsibility, regardless of what you do. And when you show up you still might find yourself in a predicament. The Lord would say to you the same thing He spoke to the disciples, "do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” When you show up you might not have a clue, but it will be clear, crystal clear, in the exact moment it matters.

Acts 4:8 is an example of perfect fulfillment of Jesus' words in Luke 12:11-12. All Peter did was show up, the Lord did the rest. Read it for yourself.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 10:19-20, Luke 12:11-12, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:14-21, Acts 3:1-7, Acts 4:8

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Island Exile

Island Exile
December 5, 2011
Revelation 1:9 "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."

If Jesus ever had a best friend while He was on this earth, it would have been the Apostle John. This isn't John the Baptist, but the one called the "beloved of Jesus," who also wrote five books of the New Testament (the most controversial of those books being Revelation). You'd think that by being the best friend of Jesus you might get special privileges, maybe an extra watchful eye on your life by the Almighty Himself. Not so. John, though Jesus loved him as a dear, close friend, was not spared difficulty, suffering, or even loneliness in his lifetime. In fact, for being bold in speaking up about the Christ, John was imprisoned. He was sentenced to imprisonment on a deserted isle, an island only for criminals. John was not a criminal, however; he was allowed to be there by the will of the Father.

While in exile on this island, John had nothing but time, time to be alone with the Lord. It was during this alone time that John was inspired by the Holy Spirit and given the words for the book of Revelation. John wrote, and wrote, and wrote some extremely weird stuff. If you've ever read Revelation, you understand that it is different from any other book of the Bible. But it contains very important information from the Lord, so important that it took John's devoted time in exile to accomplish the writing of it. John thought he was in exile because of speaking boldly about the Christ, but John's exile was used by the Lord to accomplish the important task of writing the book of Revelation.

In fact, if you've ever read the entirety of the Bible from cover to cover, you'll find that every man of God who was used mightily for His purposes, was in exile at one time or another. Abraham, Daniel, David, Elijah, Jesus, Paul, Samuel, this list could go on. That time of exile, either forced or self imposed, was critical for the Lord to change that person or to communicate vital information. This time alone, where the individual had no one but the Lord, was a time for the Lord to speak into his life, molding him for the future. These times of exile were never meant to be permanent, but intended as a launching point for something greater in the near future.

You've perhaps been alone, but this alone time was not, and is not, intended to be lonely. It is a time for the Lord to speak into your life, change your heart, empower you for the future, to launch you into something greater for your life and those around you. It might feel permanent, but the Lord did not abandon you. In fact, the Lord wants to have a deep relationship with you during this unique time. He wants to wash you of your past, inspire you, to bring you to a new place in life where you will do important things, things that are dear to the heart of the Father. But you cannot move forward from this alone time unless you've discovered the heart of the Father, listening intently to what He has for you. If you find yourself feeling lonely, it is a clue to be alone with the Lord and hear what He has for you, what plans He has for your future.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 147:2, Is 11:12, Is 17:13, Jer 24:4-6, Ezekiel 11 & 12, Daniel 5 & 6, Micah 4:6, Matthew 1:17, 1 Peter 1:1, Revelation 1