Sunday, May 26, 2013

Leave Behind

Leave Behind
May 27, 2013
Genesis 10:8  "Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth . . ."

When reading through the boring genealogies of the Old Testament, it is easy to fall asleep as it rambles on about so-and-so begetting so-and-so who was the father of what's-his-face who had a son named something-or-other.  Other than historical importance for tracing family lines, there isn't much meat in reading the genealogies, unless of course there is a random two sentence story peppered in between the list of names.  Occasionally you'll read one or two lines that seem to have either great importance or little value, but it's hard to tell the difference.  One such two line story is about Nimrod.  It reads, "Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth.  He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, 'Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.'"

The story of Nimrod seems extremely random in the midst of reading the genealogies of who had which son.  But it was important enough to place right in the middle of the family tree.  Why?  Family trees and genealogies are all about the legacy that is left behind.  Nimrod actually came from a poor legacy.  His grandfather was Ham, the rotten son of the famous Noah (remember Noah took this three sons with him in the Ark).  Nimrod overcame his embarrassing predecessor and became a mighty man before the Lord, something that is hard to do in any generation.  Nimrod rose to become important enough to get written about in the Bible.  He was a godly man who was blessed with great skill.  What an amazing story line!  Or is it?

If you keep reading, though, about Nimrod, there is one more half sentence that is important.  The Bibles says that Nimrod built cities, "The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon...."  The godly man had Babylon as the epicenter of his own legacy.  Recall that Babylon became the root of all evil in Biblical times.  In fact, if you keep reading about Nimrod's cities and children, He was the father of the Canaanites, Hitites, Amalekites, and Philistines.  Nimrod built Nineveh and his son built Sodom and Gomorrah.  His cities became the nations of Iraq and Iran and he was the father of the modern day Palestinians--all hostile toward the Lord to this day.  What a legacy, all left behind by a supposedly godly man.  Nimrod left nothing but evil after him.

The point is simple but magnanimous.  It is extremely important to do great things for the Lord during your lifetime.  But it is equally important that you leave behind a valuable legacy, one that will not embarrass you or undue all the good things your life represented.  Nimrod actually represents great failure, despite being a mighty and godly man.  While Nimrod did great things in the name of the Lord, he failed to leave a godly legacy by teaching those who would follow in his footsteps.  He failed to set goodness in motion by leaving values in place with those who would remain after him.  Nimrod, though a great man during his life, became a failure in his death.  What legacy are you leaving behind?  What goodness are you setting in motion so those that follow you will serve the Lord, too?  Don't be a Nimrod.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Genesis 10

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weapon of Choice

Weapon of Choice
May 20, 2013
1 Samuel 17:45  ". . . You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied."

The story of David and Goliath is one of the most famous and widely known tales.  It is so well known, it would be a waste of time to re-tell it to you.  However, there is a part of the story you might have forgotten.  Just before David killed Goliath on the battle field, David and the giant exchanged words.  Goliath mocked David's size and choice of weapon, then cursed David using the names of the giants own gods, promising to gut him on the ground he was standing upon.  David did not let the giant's words intimidate him; David offered a similar taunt in exchange of Goliath's promise to kill him.  David promised to kill Goliath, cut off his head, and feed him to the buzzards along with the flesh of his entire army.  Pretty bold words by David.   But there is something interesting that David declared before he spoke the death threat to his giant.

While Goliath pointed out David's poor selection of artillery, David first clarified his personal choice of weaponry.  David corrected the giant and said he had come out to meet Goliath with his most important weapon, the name of the Lord.  David recognized the giant's weapons were in his hands (sword, spear, and javelin).  But David's weapons were not in his hands.  Sure he had his sling and stones tucked neatly in a bag around his shoulder, but David was standing before his giant in the name of the Lord, not in the confidence of his skills with a sling.  David knew no matter how skilled he was with any weapon in any battle, he still needed the victory to come from the Lord.  David knew that no giant could stand in his way if the Lord was fighting the battle.  David spoke to his situation and declared that the Lord Almighty was going to defeat the giant.

Though you may not be fighting a large man holding a javelin, you are facing a giant even today.  Do not declare to your giant your intent to defeat it unless you have come to the battle in the name of the Lord your God.  Come to fight but don't come in the confidence of your weaponry unless your choice of weaponry is the Lord.  He alone holds the battle in His hands.  So go ahead and offer those death threats to your giants, but do so in the confidence that comes from standing with the Lord over your life.

I urge you to never go into battle without the Lord.  You are up against a hard fight, I know; plan and act in the same way that David did.  He came to the battle field prepared to fight, ready with weapons by his side, and speaking death to his opponent in the name of the Lord.  After David had finished speaking to his giant, the giant took a step closer to David in preparation for battle.  Notice David's next move.  Scripture says that, "David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him."  He made no hesitation but reached into his bag, pulled the first stone and made the first strike.  Since the Lord was with him, the first strike was all it took.  The giant fell in David's life and he cut off his head as promised, with his enemy's own weapon of choice, Goliath's personal sword.  To quote the Lord's own words:  "'No weapon formed against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,' declares the Lord."

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Deut 32:31, 1 Sam 17, Is 54:17

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Convince Yourself

Convince Yourself
May 13, 2013
Psalm 103:1  "Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."

King David was a passionate man for the Lord.  David's heart was in it all the way.  While David was a smart man, his loyalty to the Lord was heavily rooted inside in his heart, not just his brain.  It wasn't only a cognitive understanding of the Lord but a soul-deep conviction in his relationship with the Father.   Nonetheless, David still had to mentally recognize that the Lord needed honoring regardless of how he felt at any given moment.  He was human and there were times David was distressed, disheartened, and probably even apathetic toward the Lord.  David knew, even if his heart wasn't fully excited on any given day, the Lord still deserved honoring; there were so many valid reasons.  David made lists, just in case he forgot one or two of those reasons and penned them in poetic form for us to use, just in case we, too, forgot some of those reasons.

He starts out by ordering himself to praise the Lord.  Then he tells himself again to praise the Lord, in case he didn't hear it the first time.  THEN he recounts some important reasons WHY he should praise the Lord, just in case he wanted to debate his original order.  Then he orders everyone else to praise the Lord because of his convincing argument.  Here it is, written in my own, UN-poetic form:

Praise the Lord with everything you have.  In case you didn't hear me, I told you to praise the Lord and this time don't forget all the benefits He has given you.  He forgave your sins (the ones from yesterday and tomorrow).  He heals all your illnesses (the ones from yesterday and the ones still to come).  He brought you back from the filthy pit-hole you dug for yourself, cleaned you up, and then crowned you with heart-felt tenderness.  He satiates your longings with appropriate gifts, so you are refreshed and re-energized.  The Lord works out good things and brings to justice the situations that are oppressing you.  The Lord is gentle and generous even though you seldom deserve it.  He has a high tolerance for your stupidity while stilling showering you with love.  He does not treat you with disdain, even though that's what you deserve and He doesn't repay your wretchedness with wretchedness.  He actually has more love for you than is describable and copious amounts of compassion for you if you fear Him.  He understands you are made of sinful flesh and yet still loves you when you fear Him.  Live your life for Him and He will take care of you; He will even take care of your grandchildren, but remember to always walk in His ways.  He is established high above your situations and He rules over them.  Praise Him; everything praise Him!  Everyone, everywhere praise Him! In case you didn't hear me, I told you to praise Him.For a more poetic rendering, please read the original Psalm 103.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 103

Sunday, May 5, 2013

It Is Time

It is Time
May 5, 2013

Acts 20:22  "'And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.'"

Have you ever had a pressing feeling inside of your spirit that you were supposed to do something, a specific task out of the ordinary?  Maybe you've felt some strong urge inside of you, pulling you toward a goal you didn't set for yourself.  Some of you may have experienced an internal leading toward something, not knowing where or why you were going, but knowing you were suppose to follow that leading.  It is the voice of the Holy Spirit.  It is time we all start listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  But the voice of the Holy Spirit is not the same as listening to the Heavenly Father.  No, the Voice of the Holy Spirit is more like a leading in your own spirit, an internal compulsion that creates peace at the same time it creates questions inside of you.

The Apostle Paul was an expert at listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  While on his missionary journeys, the Holy Spirit was actually the one who set his schedule and itinerary.  Normally, people like to create their own time tables when traveling.  I'm sure Paul would have liked to have dictated his own schedule, but he left it completely in the hands of the Holy Spirit.  When it was time to go, Paul went wherever he was led.  When it was time to stay, Paul obeyed.  When it was time to avoid, Paul turned toward safety.  Whatever the instance, Paul listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit, always willing to go when the Spirit said it was time.

You and I need to be that same way, always willing to respond when the Spirit says, "It is time."  Except many times, what the Holy Spirit wants conflicts with what we have scheduled.  What the Holy Spirit has in store sometimes rubs against our comfort levels.  Where the Holy Spirit is leading often creates more questions inside than answers.  We like to know where we are going, why, to what end, and how it will benefit us in the long run.  But the Holy Spirit does not tell you any of that, maybe only bits and pieces if you are lucky.  No, the Holy Spirit simply creates in you an internal drive telling you it is time, and you are acutely aware that the leading did not come from your own ideas, imagination, or desires.

Paul said he was compelled by the Holy Spirit, meaning it was more like a debate that he submitted to, realizing his flesh wanted something different.  In one specific case, Paul was led by the Holy Spirit into a hostile and threatening place, knowing it would be the opposite of pleasant.  But the Holy Spirit told Paul it was time to go there, and Paul submitted, even though he faced the unknown and discomfort.  Paul listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit and it was the right thing.

You, too, have felt this same leading inside, though you don't understand what it is or why you are being led toward this specific journey.  I recommend following that compelling spirit, because it is the voice of the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit leads, it is ok to follow, not knowing what you are really doing or why.  If He is leading, then it will be the right direction and the correct course of action for your life.  It is time to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and go into that unknown, forgetting your plans and schedules.  He is compelling you even now.  It is time.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 143:10, John 14:26, Acts 20