Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Good Break

A Good Break
September 25, 2017
Genesis 2:3  "The God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."

On the seventh day He rested. The story of creation is easy to remember. Sure, we may forget the exact order in which He created things during those six days, but everyone remembers He created everything during the course of six days and on the seventh day He rested. The seventh day, as we call the Sabbath, was the the first example we were told to follow. The Lord's first act as a Heavenly Father was to demonstrate rest. Not only did the Lord demonstrate rest, but He demonstrated a rhythm to the rest, an actual schedule. There is far more to that rest, though, than many people realize.

As the Lord decided to rest on the seventh day, it became set apart. Anything in the Bible referred to as set apart meant that it was Holy. The Bible specifically calls the seventh day, a day of rest, Holy. Recount the story again. The Lord created the sun, the earth, the animals, and mankind but none of them ever received the description of Holy. In fact, it wasn't an actual thing that was called Holy, it was the act of resting on a schedule, because the Lord rested, that was called Holy. If you re-read all the creation details, after every day of creating, the Lord reviewed His handiwork and called it, "good." The act of creating and the things that He created were good, but the act of rest became Holy. This demonstrates the importance the Lord wanted to place on a scheduled day of rest.

The Lord never told us to create, like He did, but the Lord told us to rest like He did. Ironically, we attempt to create every day, but seldom to we actually rest on schedule, maintaining complete holiness. We work, six days, and then some more, many times doing good works. Most of the time, the work that we do is Christ-centered, well intended and even on behalf of our fellow man, but the Lord says despite it goodness, it isn't Holy. Resting on the seventh day is Holy.

Just as we do acts of kindness for our fellow man, even on behalf of the Lord, we rest on schedule, even from those acts of kindness, to be Holy. We do good works, that is required, but the good works are not Holy, despite the righteous intentions. Resting on the Sabbath, however, that is Holy. The Lord set this up. He goes even further to make sure that the Sabbath is blessed. Not only was it emulated by the Lord, required of us, and Holy, but it is also Blessed. I'm not sure how you can bless a schedule of time, but the Lord declared it so. The Lord declared that our time of rest is blessed, as in it blesses not only Him but ourselves, when we take a scheduled rest from doing good works. So often we think of our good works as something to bless the Lord, but resting somehow from those good works, on a regular schedule is also blessed. The Lord knew of our propensity to burn ourselves out, even in doing good things. Many times we feel guilty, or even lazy, if we stop doing good works for a short while, but the Lord says it is actually blessed to schedule a break from good works. He even requires it. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 1, Ex 20:11, Eph 2:10, Phil 2:13

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Try and Fear

Try and Fear
September 18, 2017
Matthew 25:25  "So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground...."

In the parable of the talents, when the Master gave the servants a portion of money to invest, the Bible says he gave to each one according to his own ability. The man who was given five talents to invest clearly had the ability to manage those five talents. The man who as given two had the ability to manage two. Obviously the man who was given only one talent had the ability to at least manage that one talent. So each went to work, according to his ability. I imagine, though, the one who was given five, when he put it to work, still had to work at it. Just because he had the ability to manage five talents, does not mean it was easy. In today's dollars some would estimate that five talents at just over $7 million. Managing $7 million is not an easy task, especially considering the man doubled it and turned it into $14 million. The stress of that much money, making sure it does not experience any loss, must have been great. The man had a healthy fear of the Master and had to work hard; he at least had to try. The story is the same for the man who was capable of managing two talents. He a healthy fear of the Master; he had to work hard and at least try to the best of his abilities.

The man who was given one talent, though, should not be looked upon as a basket case. He was given, by some estimates in today's dollars, $1.4 million to invest on behalf of the master. The man was still a business man, and knew how to invest wisely. He was capable of managing $1.4 million and turning it into almost $3 million dollars. I've never been given $1.4 million, but I doubt it is easy to double that into $3 million, at least not overnight. It still takes a degree of diligent work and even risk. But that man, he was so ruled by fear that he buried it. He did not even try. According to the Master, the man had the capability of succeeding. The Master was at least expecting effort, something, anything. The man was so afraid of the consequences of failure, that he didn't even try. The Master knew if the man tried, that failure wasn't likely; the man had skills to manage a large chunk of money still. The other men, with the five and two talents, surely had a healthy fear of failure, too, but they at least tried to the best of their abilities.

The point of the story is not about doubling money or making millions. The point is that we are supposed to do something, anything, with what we've been given. We are supposed to try, despite a fear of failure. Fear has the ability to paralyze people; that's what it did to the man who buried $1.4 million. Interesting to note in the story that the Master's response to the man who buried it was that the measure of success was not to see if he doubled it, just that he put it to work, just that he tried to the fullest extent of his ability. The man was afraid of the wrong thing. He should not have feared failure, he should have feared failing to try. If you don't even try, failure is already certain. The man feared an unknown end, so he submitted to it and failed instantly. The Master already knew the man given one talent could not have returned five. The Master had realistic expectations of the man's abilities.

You've been given much to work with in life, however little you think it is measured. But the Lord has given you something to manage, something to do on behalf of Him, and He is asking that you try. The Lord's expectations of you is realistic with regard to how He has equipped you. He does not compare you to anyone except you. You are different than me and everyone else in the world. The Lord does not require that you measure your success by the accomplishments of others, but only that you try to the best of your ability. If you are afraid to start, however, then you've already failed. Don't be afraid of failure, be afraid of not trying. If the Lord has faith in your abilities then it is OK to step out. Success is not measured in the outcome, but trying to the best of your abilities. Interesting to note the Master's response to the man who buried his effort. He called the man lazy. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10, Jeremiah 18, Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-28, Romans 19:21 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

If I Die I Die

If I Die I Die
September 11, 2017
Esther 4:16  ". . .And if I die, I die."

The story of Esther is famous enough that little needs told of it. There is a poetic portion of the true tale that reads, "such a time as this." Those words, suggesting that Esther was placed as queen by Divine providence to save her people from destruction were never spoken by Esther. Those words were spoken by Mordecai, her uncle. Mordecai feared for his own life, but not just his own life, his entire family and people. He was a good man and knew thousands of innocent people were going to die. Mordecai put on sackcloth when he heard the news of the impending death. This sackcloth not only signified mourning, but signified he was on his knees before his God searching for a way out of the mess, insight only gained through prayer. Esther, on the other hand, was slightly selfish and insecure enough to hope that hiding her identity would at least keep her alive. Esther was self-serving at this time.

Mordecai convinced her to consider those poetic words, that she was place there for such a time as this, to save the people from certain death. Esther needed this encouragement, but the encouragement was not enough to make her bold or give her the insight as to how to attempt to save everyone. The encouragement for her to consider her position was just enough to put Esther on her knees in prayer. Mordecai was already prayed up but could not act on Esther's behalf. She had to be encouraged to seek the Lord for herself on the matter. And so she did. She did not just take Mordecai's word, she prayed earnestly for divine wisdom into the matter. You cannot say Mordecai convinced her, influencing her to sacrifice her life, she had to come to that consensus on her own, consider some other words Mordecai spoke to her. He told her that if she kept quiet, the Lord would have to find another willing vessel to accomplish His will.

Esther, through this encouragement to consider the Lord's plan for her life, realized her relationship with the Lord and serving Him was far more important that staying alive. She finally came to her own resolve and personal statement. Esther mounted her courage and her famous lines are not quoted nearly as much as Mordecai's, if at all. She resolved to move forward with a plan, after seeking the Lord's face, and said, "If I die, I die." She realized it was far better to die serving the Lord than to live serving herself. 

When the Lord has something for you to do, it may seem very scary, something you may not want to consider. It will end up costing you something greatly, your status, your friendships, your wealth, maybe more. It won't be easy and the only way you'll have enough courage to attempt it is by first getting on your knees before the Lord in deep personal prayer. When you have your resolve and courage, you'll realize that the worst possible outcome of any situation in this life is death, which amounts to being with Christ in Heaven. But more importantly, you'll realize that serving the Lord and His will, no matter what the cost, is far better than ignoring Him and serving yourself. At some point you'll have  to answer to Him for your unwillingness to head His call for your life. What will your answer be? That it wasn't comfortable to serve Him? That it didn't profit you to serve Him? That it could have cost you your life to serve Him? I challenge you to consider following the Lord at all costs and come to the same resolve Esther did. If I die, I die, but it is better to die serving the Lord than to live serving myself.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Esther 4, Luke 19:40, Romans 9:21, Romans 14:18

Monday, September 4, 2017

Before Zacchaeus

Before Zacchaeus
September 4, 2017
Luke 19:4  "So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way."

The story of Zacchaeus has more to it than any song you might have learned when you were younger. The short of the story is that he was not a tall man, nor an extremely moral man. Zacchaeus was disliked by his peers, by the general public, and especially by the Jews. He was a tax collector and had become very rich at the expense of others, dishonest gain. Not a single detail about Zacchaeus matters when you realize he was just a human being, though, a sinner needing a Savior. Zacchaeus obviously knew something was different about the man named Jesus and his heart was not only curious but possibly desperate to have what Jesus offered. Just to get a glimpse of this man named Jesus, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to see above the crowds.

Sycamore trees grow between 60 and 100 feet tall. They are big trees and some species can grow to a very old age. Sycamore trees live, on average 200-250 years. Some species of sycamore can live for more than 500 years. Something else unique about a sycamore tree is its bark. The bark of a sycamore tree is slippery. A friend of mine was telling me he likes to hunt and he put a tree stand in a sycamore tree one time. The tree stand fell down, sliding right down the sides of the trunk with him on it. He said you would not pick a sycamore tree unless you had no other option. It is not an ideal tree to climb. Zacchaeus must not have had any other option to see Jesus but that sycamore tree. He had to climb it. He had no other option because Jesus was passing by, it was that tree at that moment or possibly nothing else.  Zacchaeus had to work hard in order to see Jesus. He was desperate to see Jesus. And before Zacchaeus could climb that tree, someone had to plant it there. Zacchaeus could have been climbing a 200 year old tree. Before Zacchaeus, there was a tree.

Jesus prepared the way for that tree, a way for Zacchaeus to see Him. But just because Jesus prepared a way, in advance, Zacchaeus still had to want it badly enough to work for it. The Lord has always promised if you look for Him, if you seek for Him with all your heart, you will find Him. Zacchaeus was searching with all his heart and he found Jesus. The Lord has made a way for each and every one of us to see Him, to find Him. He prepared a way in advance, long ago, so you and I could be able to have a relationship with Him. Finding Him takes work, not because He is hidden, but because there are distractions obstructing your view of Him. Zacchaeus' view was hindered by the world; he had to rise above the obstacles to see Jesus clearly.

There are so many things trying to get in your way. There are distractions in your life that will try to keep you from Jesus. Your job is to rise above the crowds, the distractions, and search for Jesus, seek Him while He may be found. Jesus honored Zacchaeus because of his effort. Jesus knew Zacchaeus' heart was trying to find what Jesus had to offer. Despite the tax collector's storied past, Jesus was thrilled with the man's effort. He took great lengths to find Jesus, taking advantage of the opportunity that tree afforded him. What obstacles are in your way of finding and seeing Jesus? What efforts do you take to seek Him out?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Chronicles 21:24, Jer 29:12-14, Luke 19:1-10