& Puah (Phua)
Questions to begin today! Do you fear God more than you fear man? If Christ is your Savior – If you truly understand how important it is to comprehend the Nature of God, you will fear God!
God holds solely within His hand the destiny of every person that has lived or will live. We all have been given a choice. Eternity with God or eternity apart from God? In the time our characters (we will talk about today), lived - God loved His people, but they still had to obey His laws or face judgement from the Almighty.
Who were these women? Simply put – they were two Hebrew midwives to whom the nation of Israel owes big debt of gratitude. And their example serves as a powerful testimony to all of us today.
Let’s set the stage! Joseph – the one with the coat of many colors - Yep – that’s the one – had single-handedly with God’s power and through an incredible series of events, mastered the most amazing peaceful relationship with the powerful Egyptians.
As years went by, however, this symbiotic relationship came to a screeching halt in the most cruel way. When Joseph and his brothers all died, ending that generation – and the King of Egypt who was in power at the time knew nothing of Joseph and the wonderful things he had done for the people of Egypt in the past. He only saw the Israelites flourishing and was convinced something had to be done about that. We pick up the story in:
Exodus 1:8-22 - 8 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. 9 He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. 10 We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.[b]” 11 So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. 13 So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. 14 They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.
15 Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shipporah (Shiphrah) and Puah: 16 “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver.[c] If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. “Why have you done this?” he demanded. “Why have you allowed the boys to live?” 19 “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. “They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.” 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. 22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.”
In order to squash the possibility of rebellion from the slaves who were growing more and more numerous and powerful, the horrible mandate was given to ruthlessly kill every baby boy as they were being born! When the King discovered a bunch of baby boys running around, he challenged the midwives as to their actions – the Hebrew midwives gave an answer – because they feared God more than King Pharaoh.
How significant was it that the Hebrew Midwives feared God more than the King? Let’s compare King Pharaoh to the Midwives to further comprehend how significant their actions really were as they acted to preserve their people. These differences are indeed dramatic!
King P – Great political and military power. Shipporah & Puah – None
King P – Official Prestige. Shipporah & Puah – Very Little
King P – He was a Man. Shipporah & Puah – Women
King P – He was King of the ruling people.. Shipporah & Puah – Slaves
King P – He was rich with the power to make others rich. Shipporah & Puah – Poor
They should have been intimidated – they were not. Why? They simply feared God more than man. Besides, as midwives, Pharaoh gave the order to the wrong people! They were all about preserving life, not ending it. They gave their lives to make sure the babies were born! They were not going against their standards.
Let’s Unpack the subject of the “Fear of God” at little more. What actually is the fear of God?
Let’s consult a theological writer, Charles Buck, who authored of the “Theological Dictionary” sometime before 1815. This book has been replicated in 2013 page by page so it’s system of divinity could be enjoyed by us today. Rev. Buck says this: Fear of God is that holy disposition or gracious habit formed in the soul by the Holy Spirit, whereby we are inclined to obey all God’s commands and evidences itself by:
1. A dread of His displeasure.
2. Desire of His favour.
3. Regard for His excellence.
4. Submission to do His will.
5. Gratitude for His benefits.
6. Conscientious obedience to His commands.
Does your fear of God include these things? If not, maybe you don’t truly fear God. Let’s look at three verses. Two in Proverbs & one in Psalms.
Proverbs 1:7 - Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 9:10 - Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.
Psalm 25:14 - The Lord is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant.
When the Fear of God is part of our DNA, we simply take Him and His Word more seriously than anything else in the world. When we do, we are able to hear from Him more effectively.
It was said of Lord Lawrence – an incredible force for good in India in the 1800’s – “He feared man so little, because he feared God so much!”
Dr. Hugh McMillan, Presbyterian writer, says it this way:
“If we fear God, we need know other fear. That Divine fear, like the space which the American settler burns around him as a defense against the prairie fire, clears a circle, within which we are absolutely safe…. The Citadel of a man’s heart that is set upon God, is impregnable! The Hebrew midwives, despise the patronage of a crown and set a king’s edict at defiance. There is no bravery equal to the bravery that is moral. Pharaoh may frown but his frowns will be unseen and un-regarded amid the light of an approving heaven!
Let’s Contemplate Lessons Learned from S & P by answering the following:
1. Do you fear God more than anything else?
2. Does obedience to God at any cost mean more to you than anything else?
3. Are you afraid of the consequences of doing the right thing?
4. Are you easily intimidated by people that would lead you away from God?
One time many years ago, the king of Hungary found himself depressed and unhappy. He sent for his brother, a good-natured but rather indifferent prince. The king said to him, "I am a great sinner; I fear to meet God." But the prince only laughed at him. This didn't help the king's disposition any. Though he was a believer, the king had gotten a glimpse of his guilt for the way he'd been living lately, and he seriously wanted help. In those days it was customary if the executioner sounded a trumpet before a man's door at any hour, it was a signal that he was to be led to his execution. The king sent the executioner in the dead of night to sound the fateful blast at his brother's door. The prince realized with horror what was happening. Quickly dressing, he stepped to the door and was seized by the executioner, and dragged pale and trembling into the king's presence. In an agony of terror he fell on his knees before his brother and begged to know how he had offended him. "My brother," answered the king, "if the sight of a human executioner is so terrible to you, shall not I, having grievously offended God, fear to be brought before the judgment seat of Christ?"
Shipporah (Shiphrah) and Puah could have easily been intimidated – they were not.
"Ittai the Gittite"
Listen to this sermon here
Takeaway: Are you a loyal person? Are you a loyal person to your friends? Will you stand by them no matter what? Are you a loyal follower of Jesus Christ? Will you stand by Jesus no matter the situation?
Bottom Line: You are a friend of God – Are you faithful and loyal like Ittai?
2 Samuel – 15:13-22 - 13 A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!” 14 “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.” 15 “We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.” 16 So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. 17 The king and all his people set out on foot, pausing at the last house 18 to let all the king’s men move past to lead the way. There were 600 men from Gath who had come with David, along with the king’s bodyguard. 19 Then the king turned and said to Ittai, a leader of the men from Gath, “Why are you coming with us? Go on back to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile. 20 You arrived only recently, and should I force you today to wander with us? I don’t even know where we will go. Go on back and take your kinsmen with you, and may the Lord show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.”
21 But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”
22 David replied, “All right, come with us.” So Ittai and all his men and their families went along.
Just who was Ittai? Why did he come to Jerusalem?
Ittai was from Gath – people from Gath were called “Gittites.” The Giant Goliath, was from Gath! The very giant David had killed as a young boy. Even though Ittai was a fellow Gittite to the legend Goliath, he was barred from his country and on the road with a force of 600 fellow mercenaries under his command. They came to Jerusalem with their families, basically on the run from their own country.
Why come to Jerusalem? It was not uncommon for David to have foreign, but loyal “non-Israelites in his armed forces. It is highly likely that Ittai and many of his fellow soldiers were friends of David that he had acquired when he was hiding from Saul many years before. The incredible gift of leadership and ethics given to David by God, obviously had a profound affect on Ittai and his countrymen. For that reason, they were ready to stand beside King David in spite of the pending rebellion led by David’s own son, Absalom.
Faithful Ittai wins the distinction for Most Loyal New Friend, encourages David, and secures the kickoff spot in our list of amazing, yet under-recognized biblical characters.
Ittai was faced with a situation that could land himself, his family and 600 fighting men and their families in a situation that could result in submission, slavery and even death.
In verse 21 we hear these incredible words spoken by Ittai in spite of that situation: “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”
Ittai’s loyalty to King David is quite remarkable for many reasons. Ittai was used to frontal attacks that he could see. But this time, Ittai was standing with David against a most formidable foe – David’s own son – which complicated matters considerably. Ittai more than likely didn’t know the extent of the complications this “son in rebellion” created for his friend David.
Just how formidable of a foe was Absalom? Let’s take a look!
In 2 Samuel 15 the beginning of the chapter, shows Absalom’s double-crossing intent of his own father, King David.
He was incredibly handsome and charismatic – a Bible-Times Rockstar! see 2 Samuel 14:25-27 - Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. 26 He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds![a] 27 He had three sons and one daughter. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she was very beautiful.
Absalom was a schmoozer! See 2 Samuel 15:5-6 - When people tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn’t let them. Instead, he took them by the hand and kissed them. 6 Absalom did this with everyone who came to the king for judgment, and so he stole the hearts of all the people of Israel.
Absalom was David’s son, but similarities stopped there – David was a King for his people, Absalom wanted to be a King for himself. He wanted to take Jerusalem because it was the capital city, full of government actions and businesses and culture.
Why didn’t David just “squash” Absalom and his rebellion as Absalom entered Jerusalem? Three probable explanations:
1. The rebellion was wide-spread and would not be suppressed easily.
2. He loved his son and didn’t want harm to come to him even though his son was bent on unseating him as king.
3. He loved his city, it’s architecture and its culture and didn’t want it destroyed during a historical battle.
Ittai was a true “loyal” friend. His loyalty extended as far as humanly possible.
What do we learn from Ittai?
If your commander is God – then serve Him without reservation or condition.
If your commander is God – then be faithful and loyal.
If your commander is God – then follow Him until you die.
The Reel Christmas
"I Know Him!"
Today is the final sermon in our Advent Series, “The Reel Christmas” a four-part series highlighting themes selected from favorite Christmas movies.
In week one, The Miracle on 34th Street highlighted themes of faith and believing.
In week two, How the Grinch Stole Christmas highlighted the fact that it’s all about the heart.
In week three, It’s A Wonderful Life highlighted how important it is to not compare yourself to others, but rather find your ultimate joy in what you do have instead of what you don’t.
Today, Christmas Eve, we learn a very important lesson from “Buddy the Elf” who understood a great deal about the true elements of Christmas – not the least of which was the ultimate excitement he showed when the announcement was made that “Santa was coming,” and he exclaimed: “I KNOW HIM!”
In case you haven't seen it - here is a short overview of this Christmas Comedy Classic:
Movie Synopsis (Gleaned largely from MHM.com <Movie House Memories – a Movie Review Blog>)
On Christmas Eve, a baby boy crawls into Santa Claus's sack at an orphanage and is unwittingly transported back to the North Pole. When discovered at the workshop, the elves name him "Buddy" because he is wearing "Little Buddy Diapers", and he is adopted by Papa Elf.
Papa Elf raises the little one as an Elf and names him Buddy. But the growing boy just doesn’t fit in because of his size and lack of elfish talent.
As Buddy (Will Farrell) develops into a discouraged man, Papa Elf decides that it is time to tell Buddy the truth about where he came from. Buddy learns for the first time of his deceased Mother and living Father that is on the naughty list. Buddy sets off through the candy cane forest to New York City to find his family.
In the Big City, Buddy is able to track down his Father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan) who never knew he existed and is not happy to meet this quirky man that eagerly calls him Dad.
Walter has a patient wife (Mary Steenbergen) and a son named Michael that come to accept Buddy as part of their family and force Walter to attempt a relationship with his long-lost son.
Buddy enthusiastically tours the city where he finds the world’s best cup of coffee. He lands a job at a department store where he meets and falls for Jovie (Zooey Deschaenel), who is working as an elf. Buddy loses this job when he calls out the fake and intoxicated store Santa and they get into a huge brawl.
Walter gives Buddy a job at his company where Buddy causes havoc for Walter and they have a falling out. Walter does not care about the quality of his books and only cares about making money. Buddy disrupts an important meeting between Walter and Miles Finch, a successful author who happens to be height challenged. Walter is infuriated and tells Buddy to get out of his life.
Buddy is hurt and runs away. As he roams the streets of NYC on Christmas Eve, he sees Santa and his team in distress in Central Park. Buddy tries to help Santa fix his sleigh but it won’t run because there isn’t enough Christmas spirit.
Jovie remembers Buddy telling her “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear.” Jovie begins singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and as others on the street and watching live news reports on television and even Walter join in, the sleigh begins to run. Santa’s job is saved!
Papa Elf updates the audience with the rest of the story. Buddy and Jovie marry and visit the North Pole with their “little one” and Walter is rehabilitated and founds his own successful publishing company. His first book is Buddy’s story. Everyone lives happily ever after and has a Merry Christmas.
I want to ask you some very important questions this morning.
Do you know Jesus, the baby born in the manger on Christmas Day?
Do you know Him?
How excited are you about knowing Him?
Why would we be ultimately excited about knowing Jesus and exclaiming like Buddy the Elf did, “I Know Him!?”
I want to unpack three reasons why we should be as excited as Buddy the Elf to be able to say: “I Know Him”
Reason #1: We should be excited because of Who He is!
John 1:1, 14, 18 - In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
In the beautiful Christmas Song, What Child is This? The author pens these incredible words:
What Child is this - Who laid to rest - On Mary's lap is sleeping? Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping? So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come Peasant, King to own Him The King of Kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him. This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing - Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary. This is incredible knowledge! This is life-altering, a true “life-event!”
Reason #2: We should be excited because what Christ did for us!
I John 2:2-3 - He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.
I Timothy 2:5 - For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity--the man Christ Jesus.
Jesus is it – He’s our only hope! And as a bonus, people all around, every year, celebrate His coming!
Reason #3: We should be excited because we can have complete access to the Christ of Christmas and to the “out of this world” benefit of having a personal relationship with Him.
Paul, while under house arrest in either Rome or Ephesus, wrote an incredibly encouraging letter to church in Philippi that he sent back with Epaphroditus after Epaphroditus delivered a monetary gift to Paul from the church. This letter, has been termed by man as having the main theme of “Joy.” In this letter, we find Paul’s reason for excitement!
Phil. 3:10-11 - I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
The reason why Paul was excited? When Christ enters our life through trusting in Him alone for our salvation, we experience the same power that raised Him from the dead.
Look with me at Ephesians 2:1-8!
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. 4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
This Gift? It’s Jesus! When we are born, we have to deal with spiritual death – being “dead to Christ because of our sin.” But the same power that raised Him from the dead has come to us. By accepting His Gift of salvation, we too can experience a resurrection from death to life eternal.
That knowledge is incredible! Do you know Jesus? Will you exclaim to everyone, everywhere – like Buddy the Elf when hearing that Santa was coming, – “I Know Him!?”
The Reel Christmas
“It’s A Wonderful Life”
This Advent Season, we are gleaning Biblical life lessons from all-time favorite movies! The first Sunday we considered lessons on believing and exercising faith, from Miracle on 34th Street. Last Sunday we gleaned a lesson from How The Grinch Stole Christmas about “heart problems and how small our hearts are when consumed by selfishness and hate.
This week we’d like to consider life lessons from an all-time favorite “It’s A Wonderful Life”
This week’s movie is considered a holiday classic. The gold standard of holiday movies. It was released in 1947 and bombed. It didn’t even making its production budget back.
It didn’t make many waves back in the day, but today this movie proves that sometimes even a mistake can’t stop from believing that it really is A Wonderful Life!
So full of energy, so full of hope, so full of optimism! But….. George Bailey never left town – never got to fulfill his life’s ambitions – instead he stayed in Bedford Falls and much to his chagrin, took over and ran his father’s Savings and Loan business. A rich, miserly, grouchy businessman in town, Mr. Potter, was constantly shoving his wealth around town and subsequently in George’s face.
George Bailey married his sweet heart and had beautiful children, but because George always put the needs of others ahead of his own wants and desires, the Savings and Loan could barely survive.
When $8,000 was misplaced by George’s Uncle Billy a series of events unfolds that causes George to lose it. George leaves his beautiful family and his old house in a huff believing that all was lost and only thinking about what a disaster life was. After getting drunk at a local bar, George gets in a fight and run out the door of the bar to a nearby bridge to contemplate ending his life. However, George’s guardian angel falls from heaven, Clarence who promptly dives into the river to prevent George from killing himself. Instead of jumping with the intent to end his life, George jumps in to save Clarence.
When George says to Clarence he wished he’d never been born, Clarence proceeds to show George an alternate timeline in which George had never been born. George is subsequently shocked and dismayed beyond words! One of the hardest things in life is to live in the present and simultaneously see a bigger picture. George Bailey went off the deep end, because he couldn’t see the bigger picture. How many of us, often feel like our life is just one despair from another and we might even wish we never would have been born?
King Solomon in Ecclesiastes says it well – let’s read from “The Message” this morning.
Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.] There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke. What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old planet earth. The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again—the same old round. The wind blows south, the wind blows north. Around and around and around it blows, blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind. All the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea never fills up. The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, and then start all over and do it again. Everything’s boring, utterly boring— no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There’s nothing new on this earth. Year after year it’s the same old thing. Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”? Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story. Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody’ll remember them either. Don’t count on being remembered.
Wow! What a dismal perspective! George Bailey felt just like the description of life in our Scripture today. How about you? Do you despair? Do you lack hope? Do you lack joy just in the fact that you’re alive? God has better things planned for your life than to live with that kind of discouragement.
You never realize how much you have until you lose it. Friends are better than anything you could seek. However, we tend not to let that be enough!
George Bailey gave of himself – gave up worldly pursuits to help others – but in the end, George spent so much time comparing his life to others that he couldn’t see what he had.
Comparison is one of Satan’s favorite tools. Jealousy, envy, comparison – they are thieves of joy!
James 3:16 -For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
Do you look at others… At what they have and what you don’t have by comparison? George let the sin of comparison take away his joy - his life appeared so dismal, he wanted to end his life. But George was offered a second chance at life. Let’s look at what happened when Clarence was instrumental in getting a second chance for George Bailey. George returns home with an entirely different perspective. And he was about to experience a surprise like he’d never seen. Even in the face of insurmountable odds, His heart was changed and he became so much more positive – and his financial situation was about to become miraculously different.
Let’s get Paul’s perspective:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
THE REEL CHRISTMAS
Is Your Heart Big Enough?
Our Advent Sermon Series this year is entitled “The Reel Christmas.” We’ve selected four very popular Christmas movies to assist us in relaying truths about Christmas. Last week Miracle of 34th Street showed us the importance and necessity of believing and having faith. Today, we look to the timeless legend, The Grinch, for our message theme.
“Grinch’s Small Heart”
The Grinch’s heart was simply too small. Too small to understand the concept of doing anything except that which was selfish and for his own personal gain. And because his heart drove his words and actions, his misery demanded company. So he set out to destroy that which fed those with bigger hearts.
In today’s culture, we hear a lot about the heart.
A popular saying today is: “follow your heart…” or “I have to follow my heart.”
One of the most successful people in the computer business was a man named Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computers. At the time of his death in 2011, Steve Jobs' net worth was estimated at $10.2 billion. From his early days at Apple, Jobs had been rich. He had a net worth of more than a million dollars by 1978, when he was 23 years old. Surely Steve Jobs would have been accurate with his quotes. Here’s what Mr. Jobs had to say about the heart: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
There is one simple inherent problem with following your heart and intuition. By your original nature, it will most often lead you away from God. Let’s look to one of God’s prophets to learn why.
Jeremiah 17:9 - "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
Dr. Seuss, in our movie today, created a character that embarrassingly mirrors our natural character. That character will plague us until the day we die!
Paul is clear in his analysis of our character challenge in his letter to the Romans
Romans 7:21-25 – “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart.23 But there is another power[e] within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
The answers to every challenge with the heart is found in Jesus Christ. But He has to inhabit our heart in order to do the work necessary. Jesus is the Light of the World and when He comes into our lives, He chases the darkness away.
God’s prophet Isaiah talked about this darkness and the need for Light hundreds of years before Christ came to earth.
Isaiah 9:2 – “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
Paul told the Romans plainly that he found the line between good and evil cutting through his own heart. Just resolving to do better, he said, didn’t produce the results he sought. John, too, wrote about the darkness within us, and our profound need for Christ’s light in our lives.
When truth comes, what happens?
The Grinch’s heart was too small - nothing could fit in it – only the darkness he was born with. But finally, he saw the light. And his heart grew!
Is your heart big enough for Jesus? Or do you have too many other things there?
Christmas will come, whether you have the light within, whether you make room in your heart and certainly with or without your celebration.
The Reel Christmas
There is a popular saying in our culture today – one simple word: Believe! You can find “Believe” on T-shirts, plaques, stationery, cups, magnets, buttons, pillows, posters, and even ornaments! It appears that within the psyche (that which is responsible for one’s thought, feelings, and conscious brain functions), that humans have a deep desire to “Believe” in something. Now we’re not talking about the “believing” in your favorite sports teams, or in your own or someone else’ abilities, etc. Mankind wants to believe in something they can’t see, something “magical” or “mystical.” To be able to believe in something you can’t see or have never seen is called “faith.”
Movies have been made, Books have been written, Cultural Phenomena followed and Religions established and followed – all because of this desire to “Believe” and to have and exercise “faith.”
When one struggles with believing and having faith, there is a cynicism that exists and continues to develop within the human “psyche.” There is good reason for this cynicism. It comes from the Enemy whose very existence is the anthesis of living a life of faith in the Jesus of Christmas. The Enemy does not want us to have faith… to “believe!”
Hebrews 11:6 – “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”
How important is it to believe… to have faith? Well, how important is it to please God?
Going through life without pleasing God is to live life void of the very existence He planned out for you, a plan that was made even before you existed.
Jer. 1:5 - “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you…”
We must believe!
There are however, many skeptics who find it extremely difficult to believe and exercise faith. They struggle, with the basic concept of believing in something they can’t see. Because they can’t accept something by faith, they cover their lack of faith by calling it a “crutch for the weak-minded” or a failure to exercise “common-sense.” They fail to incorporate into their “psyche” or “frame of mind” the concept of faith.
In the Movie: “Miracle on 34th Street” – we see an entire movie based on the subject of “Believing” and having “Faith.” In this movie, Kris Kringle, a.k.a. Santa Claus sums it up well with the quote: “If you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.” You see, the whole concept of Christmas, the birth of the Son of God, born of a Virgin, in a stable, none the less, is just too much for some to believe and accept in faith. And without God putting on flesh, you might as well forget the rest of the story. Christmas is meant to be incorporated into our “psyche”… into our “frame of mind.”
Kris Kringle says: “Christmas isn’t just a day… it’s a frame of mind.”
How is your frame of mind – your “psyche?” Have you embraced God’s plan for you? Have you exercised faith? Do you believe?
I can assure you today – it is God’s will, his “Gift” for you to believe, and receive eternal life. Nothing less will do. You will have “less”, period, if you don’t have faith and believe.
Romans 2:8-10 - 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Are you like some in the movie? You can’t believe?
John 20:24-29 - 24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),[c] was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” 26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
A line from the movie from George Seaton, the screenwriter for Miracle on 34th Street: “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” Today, through the eyes of faith believing, would you look into the manger? Would you look full into the wonderful face of Baby Jesus and accept Him as God’s Gift to you?
In times past, from the beginning of the Old Testament God spoke to us through prophets. But the gap that sin created between us and God still existed. The law could not change the sinful heart of mankind.
Then, in His timing, the Old Testament ended - words from His prophets ceased. For 400 years the priests went about their duties without any additional Divine Instruction or Inspiration. Then when God’s timing was perfect, His silence with Mankind was broken by a cry of a baby born in Bethlehem. And we who once walked in darkness have seen a great light.
And then the gap… closed – that is for anyone who believes.
Have you closed the gap between you and God by believing in Jesus Christ – only – for your salvation?
This can be your best Christmas ever!
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
~I Thessalonians 5:18
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How important is it to be thankful?
In all circumstances? Our text today, simply states it’s so important it’s actually God’s will for His followers.
As a follower of Christ, how are you doing with that?
One of my favorite “Paul” stories is found in Acts 16 – this account puts me in awe every time I read it
16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”
18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.
19 Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. 20 “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. 21 “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.”
22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. 34 He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.
Look back for a moment at verses 23-25. I mean, who does that? Who gets beaten, severely, and still singing hymns – obviously giving thanks to God in spite of their situation?
I mean, seriously – they had freed a girl from the bondage of both the enemy’s and human exploitation, they were blatantly lied about, they were beaten within an inch of their lives, yet they were singing and giving thanks to God.
Perhaps, if we were to living a life of “Thanks,” in everything, maybe we could actually live in victory too.
Max Lucado tells about living as an American in Brazil. One day, as he was walking along the street on his way to the University to teach a class, he felt a tug on his pants leg. Turning around, he saw a little boy about 5 or 6 years old with dark beady eyes and a dirty little face. The little boy looked up at the big American and said, "Bread, Sir." He was a little beggar boy and Lucado said, "There are always little beggar boys in the streets of Brazil. Usually I turn away from them because there are so many and you can't feed them all. But there was something so compelling about this little boy that I couldn't turn away.
So, taking his hand, I said, `Come with me' and I took him into a coffee shop." Max told the owner, "I'll have a cup of coffee and give the boy a piece of pastry...whatever he wants." Since the coffee counter was at the other end of the store, Max walked on and got a cup of coffee, forgetting about the little boy because beggar boys usually get the bread and then run back out into the street and disappear. But this one didn't. After he got his pastry, he went over to the big American and just stood there until Lucado felt his staring eyes. Lucado said, "I turned and looked at him. Standing up, his eyes just about hit my belt buckle. Then slowly his eyes came up until they met mine. The little boy, holding his pastry in one hand, looked up and said, 'Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.'"
Lucado said, "I was so touched by the boy's thanks that I would have bought him the store. I sat there for another 30 minutes, late for my class, just thinking about a little beggar boy who came back and said, `Thank you.'"
This young lad had an attitude of thankfulness and it was expressed. If we have this attitude, it will show. We will be expressive, we will be praising God; we will have joy in our hearts. Having an attitude of thankfulness is ultra-important in the life of a follower of Jesus.
How about you? Are you sitting here today and thinking; “yeah, but my situation is different – if you had to go through what I’ve been through, you’d know where I’m coming from. I just can’t give thanks in everything. I can’t and I won’t!
Pastor Troy Mason, Pastor of the Cherry Point Baptist Church Havelock North Carolina gives us some great perspective!
I am Thankful for.........
....the taxes I pay ....because it means I’m employed.
....the clothes that fit a little too snug ....because it means I have enough to eat.
....my shadow who watches me work ....because it means I am out in the sunshine.
....a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and ....gutters that need fixing ....because it means I have a home.
....the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot ....because it means I am capable of walking.
....my huge heating bill ....because it means I am warm.
....all the complaining I hear about our government ....because it means we have freedom of speech.
....the lady behind me in church who sings off key ....because it means that I can hear.
....the piles of laundry and ironing ....because it means my loved ones are nearby.
....the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours ....because it means that I’m alive.
....weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day ....because it means I have been productive.
How about this year, at Thanksgiving time?
Would you give thanks to God in all circumstances?
Let me leave you with this from Paul, the one who gave thanks after being beaten:
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[o]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
With this knowledge, firmly tucked in your mind – how you help but not be thankful – in all things!
Stories Jesus Told
Part 2: Great Victories
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11-12 Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ 12-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. 17-20 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’ 22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.
The story of the “prodigal” son!
Prodigal: spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.
I want to suggest this morning, that there is a bit of the prodigal son in all of us. Let’s focus on his story for a moment today.
One day, seemingly out of the clear blue, the youngest son asks for his “rightful” inheritance. So, being a good and kind father, he gives him a bunch of money. He takes what his father gives him, which, according to Jesus’ story is significant and proceeds to spend it foolishly. What the youngest son doesn’t realize, is while what he receives a sizable gift, it’s only a portion of what the father has. His father has a business that will continue to grow through the years and make more and more money – which in turn would increase the size of the inheritance. So what he receives at the time of his asking, is only a portion of what he would get if he would have stuck around to help work the family business. Not only is it just a waste of the smaller portion of what would have been his inheritance, he totally misses out on everything his father would have taught him about relationships – with a wife, with servants, with children and grandchildren – dynamics that were treasured beyond an earthly value.
But none-the-less, he took what he got and promptly wasted it.
The parallel for us, is simply, when we take what God has given us and don’t stick around to benefit from additional resources, let alone the incredible benefits of an intimate relationship with God, we waste our initial treasures.
In the Middle East, if a son were to ask for his inheritance before his father’s death, the son would be wishing his father dead. This culture has not changed much since the time of Jesus. People who have observed this culture have noticed that almost never does this happen – even today.
In Jesus’ story today, he is painting a picture of what our use of God’s gifts looks like when we live our lives – using what God has given us – and don’t stick around for the relationship. In fact, we, like the prodigal son, are, in essence, wishing God dead – telling Him we’d rather spend our time and resources with others, not thinking of Him.
To show God’s patience with us, let’s look at the reality of what happens in this story. If you were to stop the story at the point where the youngest son asks his father for his inheritance – Middle Easterners would say that more than likely the father would explode with anger and refuse the request.
However, this father doesn’t do that – he simply gives his son what he is asking for.
This answer, illustrates the difference between God and earthly, cultural relationships. God, like this earthly father, grants the request. God knows that blessing us without a lasting relationship could quite possibly widen the gap between us and himself. God could then choose – as He sees us going our own way, wasting the “life gifts” He has given us, simply turn His back on us and leave us to our own bitter end.
But that’s not what our Father does! In Jesus’ story, this earthly father (just like our Heavenly Father), suffers in silence – hoping against hope for future reconciliation. As the days stretched on and on – the father, in agonizing heartache, simply waits.
Then… one day, the son comes back to his senses and returns. He has no idea what to expect – in fact, all he wanted was just to survive, willing to be a servant – not even worthy to be called a son.
If this were to happen in Middle Eastern culture – the son would return home in shame. He had wished his father dead – and now, having lost everything – expected shame and rejection from his father.
Kenneth Bailey, author of The Cross & the Prodigal, explains that if a Jewish son lost his inheritance among Gentiles, and then returned home, the community would perform a ceremony, called the kezazah. “They would break a large pot in front of him and yell, ‘You are now cut off from your people!’ The community would totally reject him.
But that didn’t happen! IN fact – the father ran toward his son!
So, why did the father run? He probably ran in order to get to his son before he entered the village. The father runs — and shames himself — in an effort to get to his son before the community gets to him, so that his son does not experience the shame and humiliation of their taunting and rejection. The village would have followed the running father, would have witnessed what took place at the edge of the village between father and son. After this emotional reuniting of the prodigal son with his father, it was clear that their would be no kezazah ceremony; there would be no rejecting this son — despite what he has done. The son had repented and returned to the father. The father had taken the full shame that should have fallen upon his son and clearly shown to the entire community that his son was welcome back home.” --The Cross & the Prodigal (Kenneth Bailey – Intervarsity Press 2005)
God, our Heavenly Father, is like this earthly father! God has taken our shame of sin – and, through Jesus Christ who willingly faced death on the cross now runs toward us with This Gift!
There is no “kezazah” ceremony with God – no breaking of our cracked and dirty pot we know as our life – no yelling emphatically “you are no longer a part of my family” – just God with His arms open wide – willing to give us more of an inheritance we could ever dream of.
The son in Jesus’ story gave up His sonship. Sin has estranged us from our Heavenly Father. Only the father in Jesus’ story could restore full sonship to the prodigal. Only our Heavenly Father can restore full sonship to us.
Will you accept what God has for you and stick around for the relationship? If you’ve strayed far or even just a little bit – will you allow God to absorb your shame through His Son Jesus’ wounds?
God is waiting for us – agonizing for one single step back toward Him – and He’ll come running!
“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.”
Stories Jesus Told - Part 2: “Great Victories”
“Are You A Good Samaritan”
25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Parable of the Good Samaritan
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant[b] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[c] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
What is in your heart?
Would you say you are a person of compassion?
If the answer is yes, do you put “conditions” on your compassion? Or does your compassion flow… out of your heart - unmitigated by the human characteristics of the one needing compassion?
This parable is about helping others in need. Most of us, would, in crisis, help another human being, but are there some folks – other human beings, that we would have to think twice about how far we’d go to help them, maybe even whether or not we’d help them, period.
Why didn’t the first two stop and the third one did?
Would you stop to help anyone… everyone? Here’s why you should… here’s why you must!
Galatians 6:2 – “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
James 2:14-17 - “14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” - Augustine
Leviticus 19:33-34 - “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land.34 Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
James 2:8-9 - 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
What will you do? Will you reach out to other human beings regardless of their race, color, social status, appearance or economic status?
Accept the Challenge.
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Stories Jesus Told - Part 1: “Great Mistakes”:
Is Your Ladder Against the Wrong Wall?
Expert bible teacher, John Ortberg tells the story of a successful businessman. He worked 14 hours a day, even on weekends. He thought the 40-hour work week was such a good idea he would often do it twice a week. His goal was to be the best businessman he could be. Even when he wasn’t at work, his mind drifted toward his work so that it was not only his occupation, it was his preoccupation.
His wife tried to get him to slow down. She knew that they weren’t as close as they used to be. But because of his work, he hardly ever gave her any time. He gave at the office.
In the back of his mind, he knew that his kids were growing up, and he was missing it. His kids complained about the ballgames he missed, the meals around the table he missed, the school concerts he missed. After a while, they stopped complaining because they figured he was never going to change.
The businessman told himself, “I’ll be able to spend more time with them when things settle down. Besides, they will have a nice house and nice clothes and cool video games because of my job! Everything I do, I do for them!” Deep down, he knew that he would be living this way even if he didn’t have kids. But it made him feel better to say it anyway.
He also knew he wasn’t taking care of himself the way he should. His doctor told him he had some serious warning signs-high blood pressure, high cholesterol. The doctor told him to cut back on the sweets and the fast food.
But instead, the businessman stopped going to the doctor. He said; “There will be plenty of time for that when things settle down.”
His wife tried to get him to attend church. But he said “Sunday is the one day I get to crash! It’s the one day I get to sleep in! I don’t have room in my life for God and the church. There will be plenty of time for that when things settle down.”
One day, the president of the company said “We have a new account with the Kohler company! We’re going to be rich! We have a lot of work to do over the next year or so. But it will be worth it!”
Later that night, the businessman tells his wife “Do you realize what this means? We can relax! We can take life easy! We’ll be able to take that vacation you’ve been talking about!”
But his wife said; “I’ve heard this speech before.”
Besides, there was one small detail the businessman had overlooked. An artery that had once been as supple as a blade of grass was now as dry as plaster. The blood cells could barely squeeze through. Each day, while the man anxiously watched the stock market and stressfully did his work, the artery accumulated more and more plaque.
Later that night while he was hunched over the computer, his heart skipped a beat. Then another. Then another. He gasped for air. He clutched at his chest. And he fell asleep.
His wife woke at 3am wondering; “Where is he? Why isn’t he in bed yet?” She sees him slumped over his laptop. She says; “Figures. He’d rather sleep at his desk than come to bed.”
She touched his arm, and she realized how cold he was! She panicked! She called 911. They came to the house. They told her that he had a massive heart attack and that he’d already been dead for hours.
People came from all over to attend the funeral. His work buddies said; “He was a great leader! A dedicated worker! A good man!”
The company paid for the business man’s headstone. It said; “Here lies Barry: A visionary! An innovator! An entrepreneur!”
But later that night, God sent an angel to the headstone. There, the angel traced with his finger the word God had in mind to describe the life of this wealthy, successful businessman. Fool. God said; “You fool! This very night, your life will be demanded from you. Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
This is a modern version of the story Jesus tells in Luke 12. Jesus was very frank in his diagnosis. He didn’t say the man was wicked. He didn’t say the man was evil. He simply says; “You fool.”
Why does Jesus use this harsh word? The man didn’t deliberately set out to alienate his wife and kids. He didn’t deliberately choose to become a self-centered, greedy man. He never said that he didn’t believe in God. He simply devoted his life to the wrong things. He became too self-absorbed and too busy for the things that matter most.
Let’s look at the story Jesus told in Luke chapter 12
Luke 12:13-21 - 13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” 16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”
Let me re-emphasize this last verse – “…a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.!”
Do we even know what a rich relationship with God looks like?
Two weeks ago, we talked about building our lives on a firm foundation, the foundation that began with this relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at a few verses before that and see how to build this “rich relationship” with God.
45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. 46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
Without having good things in our heart, we cannot have a rich relationship with God.
1. We must have and keep good things in our heart.
a. First, put Jesus Christ there – that takes care of our sin up to that point.
b. Secondly, allow God continual access – that takes care of anything that would keep us from having a rich relationship with God, i.e. sin, distractions, poor choices relating to our appropriations of our time, energy and resources. Psalm 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
2. Once Christ has dominion over our heart and we have given God continual access, we can then begin to understand how to invest our time, talents and treasure into the obedience of God’s commandments.
a. Matthew 22:37-40 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[f] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Simply put – love God, love others.
b. Matthew 28:19-20 – “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Simply put – tell others how to have a rich relationship with God.
3. It seems simple – just love God, show love to others and tell others about God. And, for most of us, we would agree those three things are good, even great. But the stark reality is we never take time to develop the ability to truly do any of them because we just don’t take the time.
a. Hebrews 9:27-28 – “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, 28 so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”
I would like us all to accept a challenge. Let’s ask ourselves this question: If we were perfectly honest, how much time do spend preparing for eternity? This passage in Hebrew should tell us that our first priority in life should be to prepare for this appointment! How much time do you spend in things with eternal value?
It doesn’t take a genius to see that most people get it wrong – they spend all their time pursuing the things this world has to offer and miss the joy of preparing for eternity.
Jesus illustrates in our story for today, the futility of the farmer who gathers more and more so he can live the good life only to find out everything he’s gained - so one day he could live that life ends up being completely worthless because his earthly life was to end the next day!
There was a king who had all his world could afford. The thing he loved most, however, was to laugh. Once while being entertained a jester came along wishing to join in the festival of activities and also wishing to perform for him. His opportunity came and he put the best comical show together he had ever done and the king never laughed so hard.
Once the activity was all over the king wanted to hire this jester to be his personal jester. Once hired the king in humor handed him a small stick and said, "You are the most foolish man alive. When you find someone more foolish than you, then you give them this stick," and the king laughed heartily.
After many years had passed by the king lay sick on his death bed ready to go at any moment. He called for his jester, for he wanted to laugh one more time before he died. When the jester was through he asked to speak to the king personally. Once alone with the king the jester asked, "king where are you going?" The king responded, "on a far journey." The jester asked again, "and how do you plan to get there?" Again the king responded, "I don’t know." Then the jester pulled the stick from his back pocket and handed it to the king. The king was stunned and asked why he had given him the stick. The jester replied, "King, today I have found a more foolish man than I. For you see, I only trifled with the things of life, but you have trifled with things of eternity!"
What is your Relationship Status with God??
Determine to live your life developing a rich relationship with God!