Sunday, February 28, 2016

Jealous Blessing

Jealous Blessing
February 29, 2016
Genesis 27:35  "But he said, 'Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.'"

Jealousy, it causes us to do things we sometimes regret in hindsight.  The emotions it generates are second only to hatred; it is that severe of an animal.  The person you become when consumed with jealousy is not someone the Lord wants to bless, yet it is at that time, burning with jealousy, that you attempt to take a blessing not rightfully yours.  Jacob understood this when he stole his brother's birthright.  He deceived his dying father into thinking he was Esau, the firstborn.  The firstborn was due a double blessing and Jacob wanted it.  He wanted it real bad.  Aided by his mother's influence, Jacob pretended to be Esau while their father was on his death bed.  Jacob was nervous about the trickery, fearing a curse from his father if the ruse was uncovered, but nonetheless he moved forward with efforts to steal the blessing of the firstborn.

Jacob wanted what rightfully belonged to another.  He coveted the blessing so badly that he risked alienation from his father.  It is sad when a person values a physical blessing more than he values an upstanding relationship.  But Jacob persisted in his attempts to steal someone else's blessing; the jealousy was so strong, urging him to do something he knew was wrong.  Jacob pursued the blessing of someone else and while it worked in the short-term, it only created enmity into eternity.  Recall that Esau's descendants were the Amalekites, the dreaded enemies of the nation of Israel.  The Amalekites have always been at war with the Israelites, some say because the Amalekites want what the Israelites now have.  Many believe the modern day Amalekites are ISIS, who want nothing but to destroy the Israelites first and foremost.  The descendants of Esau are still trying to get back what Jacob stole from them, all because Jacob coveted someone else's blessing.

While Jacob received the blessing from his father, it came with the modern day price of war for thousands of years.  Jacob didn't deserve the blessing, but took it anyway, creating problems for himself that he never bargained for.  Though it may seem overreaching that ISIS is trying to take back their birthright, it is the same jealous reaction Jacob displayed so many years ago.  Nothing good can come from being jealous of someone else's blessing.  You know exactly how it feels, as you compare your life to others and think you deserve what they have.  It causes you to act and react in a way that attempts to get the same blessing, the one thing that rightfully belongs to someone else.  Maybe you're jealous of their job or house or car or spouse or children or a combination of all of the above.  Regardless of what you think you deserve it does not allow you to act in a manner not consistent with your Christianity.  The Lord determines your blessing; you will never have the same blessing as someone else.

My advice is to be grateful for what you have, not being jealous of someone else.  You will never know how or why the Lord decided to bless the other person, just know you will get what you deserve as well.  If you don't have a blessing and feel you deserve one, then this is a significant clue.  The Lord is just to bestow blessing without choosing favorites.  If you didn't get what you wanted, then figure out how to be grateful for that which you DIDN'T get.  Sometimes not getting a blessing is way better than getting the blessing that created your jealousy.  The Lord is in charge and He is more than fair to bless you as He sees fit.  If you didn't get it, then you don't want it.  Let me say that again.  If you are lacking your desired blessing then maybe it's actually a good thing you don't have it. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 27, Proverbs 27:4, Romans 13:13, Gal 5:19-21, James 4:2

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Business With God

Business With God
February 22, 2016
1 John 4:8  "Whoever does not love does not know God."

The Bible is full of conditional promises, similar to an if/then statement.  No matter which English translation of the Bible you read, you'll find the word "if" appears over fifteen hundred times.  An example of this is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "IF my people.....will humble themselves and pray.....THEN I will heal their lands."  It is an action by us that precedes an action from the Lord, but only if we complete the initial requirement.  This is also true in the negative sense with a consequence from the Lord.  He promises to bring discipline when we decide not to obey His commands.  A partial list of do's and don'ts along with the respective promises from the Lord are found in Deuteronomy 11.  He tells us what to expect from our actions, both positive and negative.  I am extremely appreciative of these statements from the Lord, because they actually give me a formula to live by, a code of conduct with benefits, so to speak.

But what happens when it appears we are only living our lives unto the Lord in relation to what we think we will or will not get in return?  Like in Malacahi chapter 3:10-11 when the Lord promises to pour out financial blessing if we tithe.  It is exact phrasing that suggests a guaranteed if/then relationship.  IF we tithe, THEN the Lord will bless.  While it comes from the Lord's mouth, can we live by it?  Can we comb through Scripture and find all the things we want and then determine what it would take, according to Scripture, to get what we want?  The answer is an emphatic no.  The Lord does not put these phrases in the Bible so we can live by a strict formula or code, but so we can understand how the Lord works.  If we are living our lives only according to a code of conduct, we are doing business with God and not having a relationship with Him.  This is the antithesis of what He desires.  He wants a relationship, but when you boil the relationship down to a few "gives" and "gets," then you are conducting a transaction.  The Lord is not transactional; He is relational.  In fact, He doesn't actually appreciate the transaction if done only with the expectation of the return.

While the Lord is glad to communicate the cause and effect status related to our actions, it should not be the basis for our behavior.  His behavior is predicated on love and set that example in place with freely giving us salvation.  He desires for our behavior to be based, not on the conditional promises, but on love and the desire to give back to Him.  This attitude completely changes the root of our behavior, where we are not endeavoring to get, but endeavoring to give.  Sure the Lord is more than willing to give in return, but you and I must temporarily forget the conditional promises when we are living for Him.  This allows our actions to be judged with the right heart.  Suppose you were never promised a blessing for tithing, would you still do it?  Suppose there wasn't a Hell, would you still live for the Lord?  Suppose the Lord never promised to rescue you from trouble, would you still trust in the Lord?

Most of us, when you strip away the conditional promises, might not be serving the Lord; we'd be living for ourselves.  If this is true, then your relationship with the Lord is not based on your love for Him, but your poor perception of who He really is.  God is love.  If you are tired of giving to the Lord and not receiving, then you have been trying to conduct business.  The Lord doesn't conduct business.  You have to completely administer your actions out of love, then and only then will you find meaning in what you are doing as well as finally realize the return on all those promises found in Scripture.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
2 Chron 7, Malachi 3, 1 John 4

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Forgiving But Judging

Forgiving But Judging
February 15, 2016
Luke 17:4  "Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them."

The Bible says we are to forgive one another.  This is no shock; you've certainly heard this a thousand times.  But how do you forgive someone who doesn't ask forgiveness, or even knows he needs to be forgiven?  Is it your job to point out how he offended you?  You are certainly allowed to tell your brother how he has wronged you, but only after you've made it up in your heart to forgive him.  Your forgiveness to him should not depend on him owning up to his mistakes.  Maybe he agrees that he offended you, maybe he does not agree.  If he is truly your brother he would realize the offense and ask forgiveness; no one intentionally wants to hurt his brother.  What if he seeks forgiveness and does the same thing again and again?  Here is where the Bible tells us that forgiveness is an ongoing requirement, even if it takes seventy times seven times in one day.

Hold on.  You mean that someone could actually commit 490 offenses against you in one day?  I think the Bible might be suggesting a hyperbole here, but the point is very clear that forgiveness is required as often as necessary.  Examine that for a minute.  What if someone sins against you once in a day and then asks forgiveness?  Then you forgive.  He commits the offense an hour later and seeks forgiveness a second time.  You forgive.  He commits the offense another hour later and requests forgiveness.....really?  Three times today and he is not figuring it out?  At about the third time; I am maxed out.  This guy is a jerk.  But you go ahead and forgive him.  Then an hour later, he fouls again and says he's sorry.  Do you forgive him?  We are required to forgive, but something goes off in your brain.  You judge the sincerity of his apology.  Statistically speaking, he is going to commit the offense in another hour.  He's not really sorry.  If he was sorry then he would change.  Forgiveness is easy if the offender is repentant, as in not going to offend any longer.  This guy  doesn't deserve forgiveness because this guy is just a loser.  You've now become his judge and desire to remove the clemency factor.

At what point does the Bible allow you to judge his heart, absolving you of the need to forgive the jerk?  That point does not exist.  You are required to forgive him without judging the sincerity of his heart, without judging him at all, even if he is not deserving of forgiveness, even if his penitence feels like a lie.  But why?  Why does the Lord require this of us?  This is not fair; this isn't even right.  The Lord should have instituted a three strike rule.  He didn't do that, though, not because the other guy deserves forgiveness but because you need forgiveness.  You forget how many times you've offended your friend, brother, mother, spouse, etc.  You forget how many times you've offended the Lord, needing forgiveness from Him for the same offense, for the thirty eighth time today.  The Lord is teaching you to be like Himself.  The Lord is showing you how He has to do the same thing with you.  The Lord is giving you a reflection of your own actions, your own heart, only you want to judge the other guy.  When was the last time you judged your own sincerity?  If you really were repentant; you'd not need forgiveness so many times in one day.  Right?

If you are holding on to unforgiveness, you have become a judge.  You are not allowed to say if a person is deserving of forgiveness; the Lord will deal with that.  You are supposed to forgive because it is in your own best interests, not because someone else actually deserves it.  You are thankful for that forgiveness for the sixty third time today; it's keeping you from going to Hell.  Do the same for someone else, lest the Lord decide not to forgive you someday.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 6:14, Matt 7:1-3, Eph 4:32, Col 3:13

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Not My Spouse

Not My Spouse
February 8, 2016
Genesis 29:25  "And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, 'What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?'"

Jacob fell in love with Rachel and wanted to marry her.  He asked her parents' permission and Rachel's dad thought it was a solid idea.  In exchange for Rachel's hand in marriage, Jacob had to work for seven years to pay for the opportunity.  He was excited to put his shoulder to the plow in order to earn his beautiful bride.  After the seven years were up it was time for a wedding.  And what a wonderful wedding it was; Jacob was thrilled with anticipation to finally be with his beautiful bride.  But Jacob didn't marry the woman he thought he was marrying.  Rachel's father had switched his daughters during the wedding and married off Leah instead.  Jacob felt so deceived.  His wife was not the woman he thought she would be; the morning after the wedding was not how Jacob had envisioned while he was patiently working for her those seven years.

I cannot imagine how Jacob felt, the moment he realized his wife was not who he had hoped for.  But then again, I talk to so many people who have complaints about their spouse, suggesting the person they married was not who they thought they were marrying.  While I don't know anyone who truly married a person of an alternate name and face, everyone regrets, for a few moments, the person they married (even if they've stayed married for 50 years).   You cannot be married for any length of time without questioning yourself, wondering if you knew the person well enough, or if you've made a mistake.  Even if you've married the person you thought you were supposed to marry, the person identified by God, you will still regret it at some point, thinking you've been deceived, tricked by God into marrying this person.  Or maybe you're not married, thinking this also to be a deception of how your life should and would happen.  Married or not married, you will feel deceived about the identify of the other person at some point, thinking there must have been some horrible mistake, thinking this, THIS, is not how you had envisioned it.

Marriage is possibly the hardest thing in this life, because it is often too easy to walk away from.  It takes you, not just being submitted to the Lord, but being submitted to the other person in an effort to make it work.  Marriage is not magical; it is hard work.  Jacob had to work hard in his marriage to Leah, even though Leah wasn't his first pick, even though it was the marriage of an apparent deception.  Jacob didn't walk away, divorcing Leah, even though it was an option for him.  Jacob didn't quit serving the Lord despite the Lord allowing the marriage in the first place (the Lord could have stopped it).  Jacob made the marriage work despite the regrets of getting there.  I doubt the marriage was full of roses, rainbows, and parades, but they made it work.  Both sides had difficulties.  Leah wasn't Jacob's first choice and the limited love for her was apparent.  Leah was jealous for her husband's affection at times and Jacob had to marry a woman he may not have started out loving at all.

Despite the trickery of Jacob and Leah's marriage, it was apparently blessed by the Lord.  Jacob and Leah's fourth son together was Judah.  Recall that Jesus came from the line of Judah.  Without Jacob's marriage to Leah, would Jesus exist as we understand?  I am not advocating for marrying the wrong person but I will present a point that you need to consider.  Once you are married, you are married.  Make it work.  The Lord doesn't call for divorces; He calls for self sacrifice, humility, and patience.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 25, Matt 19:5-6, Mark 10:8-9, Eph 5:22-23, 1 Cor 13:4-7