Monday, January 30, 2017

Made to Work

Made to Work
January 30, 2017
Genesis 2:15 "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."

I have the privilege to work with several new employees at my place of employment and they are both fresh out of college, now starting their first jobs. They have confessed it is their first job and I notice that right away to be true by way of their work ethic.  They understand they are there to work, slightly.  I say slightly because their interpretation of working requires very little productivity, a good deal of socializing, and frequent brakes for social media interaction throughout the day while on the clock.  While I won't label them, I will suggest they are the same age as the Millennial generation. They may not make it long at my place of employment, or maybe our mutual employer isn't paying them very well and not worried about a return on wages paid. I wonder who failed to instill a work ethic into them?  Or maybe they just don't realize in whose image they are made.

The Lord God made us in His image.  If you review the very first glimpses we have of the Lord, we find Him hard at work creating the universe, our earth, the plants and animals, and even man.  Before it was said that man was made in the image of God, it was found that there was no one to work the soil that the Lord created.  That was when the Lord decided to make man. And the Lord placed man in the garden to work.  We are made in the image of someone who works, and we were made to actually work.  That is how God set it up and that is how He made us.  We innately have the ability to work, carrying inside us a secret, almost animal instinct to work. My co-workers, along with many Millennials, have the ability, the instinct to work.  But somewhere along the line, someone convinced them of a lie, that they only need to be happy in life, doing whatever it is that makes them fulfilled. The problem is, no one ever thinks work can be fulfilling; only personal gratification can be fulfilling, they rationalize.

Ironically, personal gratification usually only leads to sin, demoralization, emptiness, and a continual search for meaning in life.  It doesn't ever make someone happy.  While work is sometimes, most of the time, work, it can be very satisfactory and fulfilling.  We were all made to work. Every child is somehow raised thinking he or she is special.  While every mother tells her child he or she is special, the reality of the situation is they aren't any more special than another mother's child. With a very loving attitude, I make sure I tell my children they aren't any more special than anyone else, and they are made to work. While this isn't something every child wants to hear, I'd be doing them a disservice if I said otherwise. It is part of discipleship, appropriate child rearing. Maybe the disservice we've done for the Millennial generation is that we've failed to remind them they were made in the image of God.  For some reason they think they are able to create their own image of themselves.  They were made to reflect the creator, just like you and me, which actually includes working.

Work somehow doesn't feel very spiritual most days. But the physical act of work is, in and of itself, a reflection of the Savior and joy to the Father. He looks down from Heaven at his creation, and sees all things doing what He created them to do, and He is blessed. Maybe you don't particularly like the actual work that you do, but maybe you could somehow see it as an act of praise, if you put your heart into it and did a job well done?  Maybe right now it might be considered a sacrifice of praise, but nonetheless your work is part of what the Lord made you to do. He cares about your work and you should be determined to praise Him through it. If you desperately desire different work, then work hard at what is in front of you and pray He gives you something different. If I'm ever allowed to mentor or lead these Millennials at work, the first thing we are going to do is have a good old fashioned Sunday school lesson straight out of Genesis.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 1-2, 2 Thes 3:10-13, Col 3:23

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Fatty Offering

Fatty Offering
January 23, 2017
Isaiah 43:24 "You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.  But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses."

Fat, in our culture, is a negative thing, carrying with it a bad connotation.  No one wants to be fat; kids are teased and bullied if they are fat.  As adults, we work hard to get rid of our fat; we have too much of it on our bodies and it is seen as undesirable.  But in the Bible, fat had a completely different definition.  The Israelites didn't deal with obesity; it just didn't happen.   It is doubtful there was ever an obese person wondering in the desert among them.  Back then, only the very wealthy could afford enough food and a lifestyle to have a little extra fat on their bodies.  It was seen as a sign of luxury (but again, it was probably just healthy looking rather than being gaunt from food scarcity). They even viewed the fat from their animals as a luxury item.

The fat of an animal was a sought after item.  First, it was hard to find a fat animal.  If food is scarce, you don't give extra portions to your animal; you keep it for yourself.  Animals didn't have an opportunity to get fat either. Second, not every animal was fattened up. You intentionally fed one or two animals differently to get them fat on purpose, hence the term "fattened calf" found throughout the Bible. You always kept the fattened animal and sold the other ones for revenue.  The fat of an animal was a luxury item, not to mention making the meat more tender when cooking.  Animal fat was used for so many things: oil for lamps, cooking and flavoring, perfumes, facial makeups and skin treatments, leather softening, healing ointments, etc.  If the fat of an animal was scarce, then the previously listed items were luxury items for certain. In short, you wanted fat animals, but it didn't happen very often.  To make matters worse, God wanted fattened animals as offerings to Him.

Why would the Lord want fattened animals?  He specifically asked for the fattened ones, and to make sure that ALL the animal's fat was attached when they made the burnt offering.  The Lord wanted it for himself, to be burned up so no one could consume it except for Him.  It seems rather selfish, especially in a food scarce environment. But the Lord wasn't doing it to be selfish, He requested the fat offering to give the Israelites perspective.  Even the fat belonged to the Lord.  The Lord didn't just want offerings, He wanted fat offerings.  He wanted luxury offerings, offerings that had very significant cost associated to the giver.  If fat was something you tossed away, why would it be a big deal to give it to God.  God wanted sacrifices that were sometimes considered expensive.

Today we think our tithe is expensive, that 10% is a lot, way more than we should maybe be giving God.  But think about your luxury items.  Would you intentionally buy an extremely luxurious item today, then light it on fire in front of the Lord for an offering.  No, of course not, it would be a waste of resources, a senseless and foolish thing. Or would it? Could you do it?  Could you take ten one-hundred dollar bills ($1,000) and light them on fire as an offering to the Lord? Not one of us would consider it, something so expense, then destroy it as an offering to the Lord.  It's easier to consider giving money to the church or a charity than lighting it on fire. There are starving people; burning money is foolish. There were starving people in Biblical times, too, yet the Lord wanted and accepted luxury offerings.  In the Bible, God allowed most of the offerings to be used wisely, but the fat offering was burned in fire so no one could have any of it.  Today we don't do that, but could you?  Could you give the Lord a luxury offering that no one else could benefit from?  Could you give the Lord something so expensive and purposely destroy it as a gift to the Lord, so no one else could benefit from it or enjoy it?

The fat offering was to prove you loved the Lord, that He was first and foremost in your life.  What offerings do you give Him today that prove He is first and foremost in your life? When was the last time you gave Him a luxury offering? When was the last time you gave God your best offering; what was it?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Lev 3, John 12:3-8

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Can You Follow

Can You Follow
January 16, 2017
Jeremiah 17:9  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure."

I have five children, several of them still small which makes them difficult to see in a parking lot of cars.  Walking through a parking lot is a scary thing sometimes, as I can be seen because of my height, but they cannot.  I must keep them close to me, making sure they follow me perfectly, lest I risk them getting hit by a car.  Sometimes, they don't listen carefully and dart across the parking lot against my advice.  Thankfully, they have not been hit by a car, but sometimes my heart stops beating from the stress of the situation.  They don't realize what they don't realize, and haven't a clue how many times they could have been killed.  I'm always leading, but sometimes they aren't following.

If you are following something, then whatever you're following is leading you.  While a stupid and obvious statement, evaluate what it means.  Whatever you are following is leading your life.  I'd like to think that I'm following Christ but sometimes I'm following my own heart.  You've heard is said a million times, follow your heart.  That is the worst advice in the world.  No where in the Bible does it say you should follow your heart.  Your heart, my heart, is full of selfishness, sin, and death. The heart of man needs redeemed and can easily lead you astray if you're not careful.  You do what you want to do most days; that's you following your own heart.  You following your own heart has probably gotten you in trouble more than one or two times.  Just like my kid, following her own heart in a parking lot, the risk too grave.

So, I'll ask you if you are following Christ or if you are following something else today?  I know you can follow; you've proven that you're whole life.  Some days you're following your heart, some days you're following your spouse, some days you're following your fears, some days you're following money, and some days you're following jealousy. I would reckon you follow Christ some of the time, but when you aren't following Him you are following something else. Every time you take your eyes off Christ you end up following whatever it is your eyes gaze upon.  What are you looking at?  Are you looking at your situation and following your own advice on the matter?  What IS it that you're following?  Are you following your perception of Christianity?  Are you following another Christian? You are welcome to follow a real Christian example, but be careful as to who that Christian is.  Just because he is a pastor doesn't mean he should be your example to follow in life.  I know plenty of selfish pastors; there will be more than one or two pastors that wind up in hell.

No matter how good you and I think our application of our Christianity is, it is still short of what the Lord requires of us and it is still short of our best effort.  Bottom line is, we are following something at all times, every minute of the day.  You can and will following anything, but start everyday following Him.  If you are following anything but Christ, just imaging a child darting across a parking lot and cars zooming fast. That's you.  The Lord is always leading, but sometimes you aren't following Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Josh 24:15, Pr 19:3, Jer 17, Rom 3:23, 1 Cor 11:1

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Year Wanted

New Year Wanted
January 9, 2017
Proverbs 16:1  "The intentions of the heart belong to a man, but the answer of the tongue comes from the Lord."

As this year is off to a new start, it is easy to set goals, plan ahead, and desire new things.  Its easy to declare what you want in life, what you want this year, out of it all.  It is a good thing if this is reference to bad habits or sin. No one can argue the Lord wouldn't want you to rid your life of everything sinful.  But what about the other things you'd like to change?  Is it OK to desire something, anything you want, especially if it isn't sinful?  Are you allowed to ask anything of yourself, ask anything of God, and boldly step forward with it all?  Can you pray for anything, just like that?  Can you work toward and for your own personal fulfillment? Are you allowed to be bold in your prayer requests?  After all, doesn't boldness impress the Lord, especially with regard to bold prayers?

As I scroll through Scripture, I cannot find a single verse suggesting that bold prayers impress the Lord.  There isn't a single verse suggesting you can decide or even get to decide what new things you'd like to have in your life this year. In fact, your life, as it turns out is not your own.  You were bought with a price and your life belongs to the Lord.  If you think your life belongs to yourself, then He is not Lord of your life.  If you think He is Lord of your life but don't allow Him a say in what you do, where you go, how you live your life, then you actually might be missing out on the greatest blessings possible.  Blessings aren't what you should be looking for, working for, or praying toward.  The Lord's will for your life is the only thing you are allowed to pray for, hope for, to strive for boldly.  If you accomplish this, then you have the blessings you were originally after in the first place.

The Bible says that man makes plans but the results of those plans are the Lord's determination.  You can determine all the new things you want or hope or pray for this year, but it doesn't mean it will come to fruition.  Making a bold determination of moving forward with what you want doesn't impress Him.  Making a bold determination to follow His footsteps for your life, that impresses the Lord.  Making a bold determination to pray for the Lord to change you into the man or woman He wants you to become, that impresses the Lord.  Making a bold determination to follow His plan or will for your life, that impresses the Lord.  Do you want new things for your life this year?  Try doing what He wants of you. Do you want blessings for your life this year?  Try doing what He wants of you.  Do you want answers to prayers this year?  Try doing what He wants of you.

Christian, the Lord's will for your life is the Lord's will for your life.  It is different and unique for each and every one of us, and it is known and planned by Him.  He has that plan for you to follow, a path.  That path leads to all the fulfillment you could possibly desire this year, all the new and goods things you think you want.  Stop desiring something new just for the sake of something new.  Stop desiring for something different, thinking you know what will make you happy and satisfied this year.  Start desiring for His will, His plan for your life. You want a bold new beginning, try the bold new beginning of following His will wholeheartedly. Try the bold new beginning for the Lord's plan for your life this year.  It will be amazing.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Rom 11:29, Rom 12:2, Eph 5:7, James 4:2-3

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Danger to Bystanders

Danger to Bystanders
January 2, 2017
Jonah 1:15  "Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm."

Recall the story of Jonah and the whale, you remember how his disobedience rendered him into the belly of the giant fish.  Jonah didn't want to do what the Lord wanted, so he tried to escape the plan by running in the opposite direction.  Jonah didn't get on the boat to where he was supposed to be going, he got on a boat to elsewhere.  While on that boat to elsewhere, the Lord sent a punishing storm.  Jonah wasn't on that boat to elsewhere alone, there was an entire crew aboard, possibly ten other men, who all had mothers, fathers, wives, and children. Those men didn't do anything necessarily wrong to wind up in that position but nonetheless they were bystanders to Jonah's decisions.

Jonah's own actions put the lives of those men, and the future of those men's families, in jeopardy.  Jonah's sin didn't just affect Jonah, it affected many others who had nothing to do with the story.  But in the midst of the punishing storm, Jonah revealed it was his own fault the storm was raging around them, threatening their lives.  Jonah told them to throw him overboard and the storm would subside.  The men were honorable and did everything they could to survive and to keep Jonah alive, throwing over their precious cargo in order to save his life instead, but it didn't work.  Jonah didn't have the guts to just jump, he stayed in the boat continuing to jeopardize his life and the lives of those around him.  Finally the men were left without an option, they had no other choice but to throw Jonah overboard.  As soon as they did, the storm subsided and the men got their own lives right with the Lord.  

It is interesting that the men on the boat were innocent bystanders to Jonah's sin, yet they were in jeopardy of death because Jonah stayed in sin.  Jonah could have just repented during the storm but he didn't.  It's sad he didn't have enough courage to simply jump overboard himself; he was a coward in following the Lord's initial instructions, he was a coward to repent of his sin, and was a coward in staying on the boat, putting the other men's lives in peril.  Jonah thought of only himself and it put bystanders in danger.  The only way the story ended well for those desperate around him was to do what Jonah was too afraid to do himself.  That's when the fish finally came into play.  The Lord never intended to kill Jonah but had no other way to finally get Jonah's attention.

The Lord is trying to get your attention at the start of this new year.  While you may not be directly headed in the opposite direction of what the Lord has asked you to do, you are not fully living the Christian life the Lord has asked of you and it is messing with your life and the lives of those around you.  Even just holding out a little is still a sin and it still affects those innocent around you.  Be the man or woman you wanted to be when you were younger and have enough courage to get it right, fully right.  At the start of this new year, you may not have a resolution to change anything significant, but how about your obedience level to the Lord, how about being fully obedient to what the Lord has asked of you.  Your life may not be going well because there is still some sin you've been holding onto; it's time to have the courage to get it right.  No amount of a New Year's Resolution will fix something if your sin is holding your back.  Or maybe your life may not be going well because of those around you in sin; it's time to have the courage to confront them of their sin.  This is the new year when you obey God fully and your life is changed finally for the fullest.  This is the new year when you have the courage to live how the Lord intended for you to live.  Stop endangering your life or the lives of those around you; don't risk someone else throwing you overboard.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Jonah 1, 2 Cor 5:17