Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sell Your Right

Sell Your Right
January 27, 2014
Mark 8:36  "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"

A birthright in Scripture was the inheritance to be received based upon family lineage.  If a patriarch died, all assets, or control of assets, were handed down to the person with the first birthright (generally the oldest living son).  A birthright wasn't something that could be earned, it was bestowed upon a person by simply his birth order.  The oldest living son received a double portion and the rest was divided equally among the brothers.  It was a place of honor to be the oldest son AND you got double what your brothers received in addition to full control of the family.

Jacob and Esau were twins, firstborn twins.  However, Jacob was the second child to enter the world on their birthday.  Esau came out first, which gave him the right of the firstborn, the double portion of the inheritance as well as future control of the family.  It must have been difficult for Jacob, knowing his twin brother would eventually be in charge of the family.  It actually created division between the boys, a point of contention, competition, and discord.  In fact, Jacob used the birthright of his older brother Esau as a bargaining chip.  Esau had been out hunting for several days with limited success; he was hungry.  He arrived back home and begged his brother for something to eat.  Instead of showing brotherly love, Jacob suggested Esau could purchase the food with his future birthright.  Esau thought that seemed reasonable.

Selling a birthright was a shameful thing to do, but Esau didn't seem to care.  This story, however, has far more reaching implications than you and I realize.  It is a foreshadowing of what many people do every day.  Though most cultures now do not perpetuate the birthright of the firstborn, as Christians we have a Heavenly inheritance that is ours just for being born again into the family of the Lord.  When we become sons and daughters of the Living God, we have a birthright of eternity in Heaven and future rewards when we earn them while one this earth.  But, like Esau, we also have the ability to sell the rights to those benefits away.  In fact, we can sell those rights away, little by little, until there is nothing left for us in Heaven, not even a future home.

Every time we indulge in willful sin, we are exchanging future blessings for current and momentary pleasure.  We are selling our future inheritance for the current asking price of sin.  The devil is standing there willing to write a contract in exchange for your soul, your full birthright as a child of the Lord.  Some of you will, unfortunately, sign with the devil in full, like some of the angels who left Heaven with him.  Others will simply negotiate away pieces and parts of your future rewards.  Regardless of how it happens, very few of us will enter eternity with the full blessings and rewards the Lord intended for us.  We will have exchanged them for the short lasting pleasures of sin.

When life seems difficult, and we are famished like Esau, the temptation to sell off a piece of our future inheritance is great.  We think the moment of sinful satisfaction will possibly outweigh the future benefit in Heaven.  Our human minds justify it as a reasonable transaction, but the Lord would suggest that anything you gain for eternity is FAR more fulfilling and richer than any temporary benefits of sin.  Stop exchanging your future rewards for your current spending habits.  Store up for yourself treasures in Heaven that are way better than anything this world has to offer.  If you doubt it, consider Esau's regret when his father died and it was time for the blessing (he left a lot of money on the table).

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Gen 25:19-34, Gen 27:36, Matt 6:1-24, Matt 16:26, Mark 8:34-38

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dark Cave

Dark Cave
Jan 20, 2014
Jonah 2:1  "From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God."

Little needs re-told of the story about Jonah and the big fish that swallowed him.  Jonah was asked by the Lord to preach an amazing message to a people who really needed it.  Jonah refused and ended up in the belly of a whale somewhere deep in the ocean.  Surely, the moment Jonah was crying out to the Lord from the bowels of that fish, he was considering how wrong the situation felt.  Jonah probably wondered how he was so close to the Lord at one point in his life but ended up so far from his imagined potential.  He probably regretted all his mistakes, evaluated his current place inside the fish, and recounted how he got it so wrong in life.  The scenario was far from perfect and through mistakes of his own, the situation was messed up.  His reflections in that dark cave were an opportunity for advancement.

An opposing story to Jonah's is the one about the beloved of Jesus, John.  John was one of the Lord's closest friends while on this earth.  John was devoted to serving the Lord his entire life, and never refused an assignment to preach what the Lord desired.  He was the only apostle to have lived to an old age and he preached the Word until his dying day.  But John's life was far from perfect.  John was arrested for preaching the good news and sent to a political prison, abandoned on the isle of Patmos.  At approximately the age of 90, John was sleeping on the cold hard ground of a cave, deep within the belly of a mountainside.  Surely he had days of wondering how he could have ended up in such a dank, dark place.  He was probably wondering what went wrong, how his situation could feel so messed up despite working hard to do the right thing.  John made good decisions but they still led him into a dark cave.

If you know the rest of the details about John, you know it was in that deep dark cave where the Lord disclosed to him the visions and words found in the book of Revelation.  That dark cave was exactly right where the Lord wanted him.  John's situation may have seemed messed up, far from perfect, but it was clearly what the Lord had in mind.  John's life was not quite as opposite from Jonah's as you might think.  The only difference from John is the fact that Jonah had one moment of disobedience.  Other than that, both men were critical in conveying an important message from the Lord.  Both ended up in a dark cave as a result of their own actions, and both men were right where the Lord wanted them when it was critical.

The Lord used the moments in the dank, dark caves of these men's lives to advance the next step for each of them.  Jonah's cave was intended to set him back on the right course.  John's cave was to bring him to seclusion so he could pen the book of Revelation.  The caves were strategic, despite how the men got there.  The Lord used the caves to work perfection for His master plan.  The caves both felt wrong as far as we might perceive, but they were designed by the Lord to further His plan.  In Scripture, caves were symbolic of hiding places or burial places, but not a place of honor or a place you were meant to stay.

You, too, may experience a dark cave in your life as a result of your own actions.  Maybe you made good decisions your whole life like John, or took a wrong turn like Jonah.  Despite the dark cave, it is an opportunity for advancement, to experience the next part of the Lord's plan for your life.  In fact, if you read all the Scriptures, you'll find most heroes in the Bible spent times in dark caves: Gideon, Elijah, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, Paul....even Jesus.  Don't dwell on the time in the cave, figure out why you're there and move forward with the Lord's plan for your life.  It is never the Lord's intent for you to stay there.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 49:29, Josh 10:16-28, Judges 6:2, 1 Sam 24:3, 1 Kings 18:4-13, Ps 142:1-3, Jonah 1, Mark 15:46, John 11:38, Rev 1:9-11

Sunday, January 12, 2014


January 13, 2014
Galatians 3:28  "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

I used to work in a busy down-town district where parking was not easily attained.  Many of us had to park about a kilometer away from our work place and take a shuttle bus to the high-rise building.  Looking around on that bus, you could see all different kinds of people.  Some where wealthy and others not so much.  Some where educated and others not so much.  Some where dressed for the lime-light and others not so much.  The bus, however, was a great equalizer.  For the five minutes we rode that bus, we were all the same; we were all equal.  Education didn't matter on that bus, nor did it matter the style of clothes on your back.  The amount of money in your pocket wasn't a factor inside the equalizer; we were all neatly contained as similarly valued cargo as the bus carried us to our destination.  No one was greater than anyone else inside the equalizer.

As followers of Christ, the Bible teaches that the Lord is the Great Equalizer.  There is no socioeconomic status in His eyes.  Your body fragrance or the jewels adorning your fingers do not impress the Lord to be considered of greater worth than someone else.  There is nothing that could elevate you in the Lord's eyes above another human being.  The Lord does not consider any earthly scenario where you are more worthy than someone else.  And since the Lord considers us all equal, we must see each other the same.  We are to consider ourselves no more or less important than anyone else.  This is an easy message to say, as we all know we are not above others.  But it is not so easy to say when we sometimes consider ourselves much less important to the Lord.

It is common place to perceive the importance of others and feel debased.  We express this when we get excited upon seeing a famous person up close enough to get his or her autograph.  We put a few people on a pedestal, thinking they are somehow more important than ourselves, those rich or famous people we sometimes call idols.  We even do this within the Christian community, placing our pastors or mentors as generating more value in the Lord's eyes.  When we place importance on another human being over ourselves to the point of idolizing them, we devalue our own importance in the eyes of the Lord.  In a sense, we are communicating to the Maker that He made us like trash to be trampled upon.  When we compare ourselves to others in appraising our self-worth, we undo the Lord's work in our lives.

You are just as valuable to the Maker as anyone else and your earthly career or socioeconomic contribution is no less important than the next guy, even if he is rich or famous.  In the Lord's eyes, there is no slave or free-man, just humans in need of a savior.  In the Lord's eyes, there are no famous or unknown, just hearts that need the love of the Father.  In the Lord's eyes, there are no rich or poor, just sheep who need a shepherd.  If we are in Christ, we are all equal.  He has raised the head of the lowly man to equal that of everyone else.  Christ has made us all equals and if we consider ourselves less we reduce our potential effectiveness for Him.  He has made each and everyone one of us to serve Him in the place where we are right now.  Your position is just as equal as the perceived famous person you are considering of more importance than yourself.  You'll only reach half your potential if you sell yourself short.  Your contribution is just as important, even if no one else sees it.  The Lord has made you equal.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Rom 12:3-8, Gal 3:26-29

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hard Start

Hard Start
January 6, 2014
Judges 6:14  "The Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?'"

Starting something new is difficult no matter how you have prepared.  You may prepare for months, even years, but setting out on a new adventure is always a difficult thing.  Starting is the hardest part, often paralyzing.  Taking that first step is something many people never end up taking.  People like to wait until they are ready, or at least feel ready.  It is easy to rationalize why you should procrastinate on starting a new project or new adventure; there is always a valid excuse or reasonable explanation.  We are all good at coming up with excuses.  We reason we are too young or too old.  We define our finances and declare them insufficient.  We evaluate our education and decide it is inadequate.

But when the Lord is involved in your life, starting should not be a point of procrastination.  There is not reason enough to put off starting, especially when you have the Lord with you the entire way.  Gideon learned this the hard way.  The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and declared his success before he even started.  The angel declared that Gideon could do it, that Gideon was ready to lead.  But Gideon had all the excuses in the world.  He was insecure, and rightfully so.  Gideon did not have the preparation to do it on his own.  He did not have all his finances, education, and leadership skills to the point it would seem rational for success.  Gideon was insecure that he alone could pull it off.  He wasn't ready; it was a hard start.

Gideon argued with the Lord, tested the Lord, even tried to walk away from starting the new adventure the Lord had in store for Him.  But the Lord did not let him out of it.  The Lord did not allow Gideon to resist the start of something crazy but still amazing at the same time.  Gideon thought he wasn't ready, but the Lord knew otherwise.  The Lord saw the situation from the Lord's heavenly perspective, not from Gideon's point of view.  The Lord saw the situation knowing what important role the Lord would have to play in Gideon's new adventure.  The Lord was willing and ready but the Lord had to convince Gideon that Gideon was ready, too.  It was a hard start for Gideon's new adventure, but it did not have to be that way.  Though it didn't feel like Gideon was ready, if the Lord declared it to be true, then Gideon WAS ready.

You and I like to do what Gideon did, rationalize why we should not start something new, why we are just not ready yet.  There are a million valid reasons why we can't do it, except for one.  If the Lord is with you, then there is ABSOLUTELY NO excuse.  Though you might not feel like you are ready, if the Lord has started you on an adventure, then you're ready.  Ready or not, here it comes.  A little insecurity is actually a good thing, as it requires you to depend and lean upon the Lord.  If you felt confident and arrogent enough to start on your own, then you might not ask the Lord to go with you.  Your insecurity to start something new is an opportunity to lean heavily upon the Lord, depending entirely upon His strength.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he told Gideon to go in the strength that Gideon already possessed.  Gideon felt he did not possess enough strength, but the angel declared that it was at least sufficient to start.  The path wasn't always pretty and perfect for Gideon and it may not always be pretty for you either.  Life is not perfect and neither will your adventure be, but you have just enough strength to start.  You don't have to have enough strength to finish, just to start.  So go ahead and set out on that new adventure the Lord has for you.  Sure, you feel slightly insecure, but trust in the Lord for what you lack.  It worked for Gideon and it will work for you, if the Lord has asked you to move forward.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Judges 6-8, 1 Cor 27-29