He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins

Judges 8:21
“So Zebah and Zalmunna said, ‘Rise yourself, and kill us; for as a man is, so is his strength.’ . . .”

We live in an interesting time, when big philosophical ideas are compressed into quaint little sayings and scattered across social media. We are bombarded with these phrases that often express a worldview diametrically opposed to the teaching of Scripture.

We hear things like “follow your heart,” “yolo,” or some of us might remember “he who dies with the most toys wins.” These phrases become popular, and in some cases, even become the mantra by which people live their lives.

This is not a new phenomenon, this has been going on for thousands and thousands of years, and one such case is recorded here, in the book of Judges. As Gideon stood before the enemies of Israel, he was exhorted by some of the people with a quaint saying that would probably find its way, today, into most of our Facebook feeds. They said “as a man is so is his strength.” It would’ve been a good idea for Gideon and those around him to examine that statement to see what it was really saying, and to see it in light of what the Bible teaches. Had they done so, they would have realized, their philosophy was actually teaching that all the strength we ever need will be found within ourselves. A worldview that is clearly developed by avoiding reality. In fact, Israel had spent years oppressed by the Midianites because they had no strength in themselves to withstand the vast armies of their enemies.

Regardless of the realities of life, there are many who hold that same view today. I recently came across this phrase on social media, “The task at hand is never greater than the strength within.” While this phrase, and others like it, might excite the emotions and stir us to action, they are simply untrue. If followed, they will even cause us to miss out on the true source of real strength; the Lord. There are plenty of tasks that are stronger than us individually, and there are plenty of tasks that are stronger than us collectively. There are things we will face in life which simply cannot be accomplished in the strength of man. We need to learn to lean upon the strength of the Lord. When I think I am strong enough on my own, I will neglect to seek the Lord for the strength, or I will try and fail, only to realize how weak I actually am. After a handful of attempts, that prove to be failures,  it won’t be long before I will neglect to venture out, because I realize my own weakness. On the other hand, if I realize my weakness and learn to trust in the strength of the Lord, then there is no task, no matter how great or seemingly impossible, that cannot be accomplished in the strength of the Lord. The Bible is filled with examples of people doing what they could never do on their own, because they trusted in the power of God.

Instead of clinging to things like, “as a man is so also is a strength,” I should cling to promises like, “man’s weakness doesn’t weaken God” or “my inabilities will never limit the ability of God.”

Perhaps we can learn even more from the statement that was made to Gideon. What if we learned to take any quote or phrase that represents an ideology and examine it? First, we could dissect it to see what it is really saying. Then we could examine what the Bible says about the statement.  Finally, we could counteract the statement with truths from Scripture that encourage us to live right and glorify the Lord. As you listen to music, watch TV, or peruse social media, keep a careful eye out for what is the truth behind the quotes, and always examine them in light of the teachings of the Word.

Pastor Jim

 

Turn Back Time 

Lamentations 5:16-17

“The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our heart is faint;
Because of these things our eyes grow dim”

Sin is a funny thing. It promises pleasure, but can only bring pain. Day after day the Word of God was presented to the people, and day after day they rejected it. It was not until the walls of the city were breeched, and the city lit on fire, that many realized their mistake. The sin they thought was giving them life, was actually leading them into bondage.

It is highly doubtful that an army is encircling your home, waiting for you to turn from the Lord for a pursuit of the flesh. But it is certain, fleshly pursuits will lead to bondage. Everyone who is enslaved to drugs, alcohol, pornography or any other vice, began their journey thinking their sin was bringing them pleasure. The key to ensure we do not end up bound to these things, is to never get started. I am certain, if you never take the first drink, you will never be bound to a bottle. But what about those who find themselves enslaved to sin? Is there any hope ?

Lamentations 5:21 “Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored; renew our days as of old”

The wonderful promise of Scripture is that no matter how far we have fallen, if we turn to the Lord, we will be restored. Like the thief on the cross, there remains hope for us as long as we have breath.

Don’t wait another moment, turn to the Lord today. His mercies are new every morning.

Pastor Jim

 

Self-Inflicted 

Jeremiah 44:7
“Now therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel:‘Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves…”

God warned the people not to flee to Egypt for help. He knew the Babylonians would soon defeat Egypt and any who were In allegiance with her. Despite these warnings, many of the people chose to depart from Jerusalem and Judah, making their way to Egypt. When questioned by Jeremiah as to why they chose to disobey the clear commands of God, they responded that life was easier when they worshipped the “queen of heaven.” The real reason they fled the commands of the Lord was they wanted to worship other things.

Often, an unbeliever or backslidden Christian will bring accusations against God and His Word. They will claim the Bible is difficult to understand or that there are many interpretations. While there are some Biblical texts that require careful study in order to rightly understand, most texts are plain, clear and simple. The real reason for abandoning them is not because we are not sure what they say, but because of what they clearly say.

God’s word is abundantly clear; worshipping other things is forbidden. His word is also clear that the lifestyles connected with these pagan worship practices are sinful and not pleasing to The Lord. The people did not worship false gods because they thought they were more believable than God, but because these false systems allowed them to behave in ways God had forbidden.

It is important that we do not follow the pattern set by those of Judah. These men and women chose to walk outside the parameters of Scripture, only to find they were sinning against their own souls. It would not be long before they found their sin had cost them their freedom, their lives, and their families.

Pastor Jim

 

Where Are You Headed? 

Ecclesiastes 2:24
“Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.”

A few years ago, I stumbled across a pretty cool website designed to help create photo albums. In a few minutes, I was able to design a picture book capturing a recent family trip. Ecclesiastes is a bit like a photo album, capturing the travels of Solomon, in pursuit of the meaning of life. Solomon had the unique combination of great wealth and intellect. As a result, nothing was beyond his reach as he searched for the meaning of life, in the midst of living. His journeys took him down many different roads. Sadly, he found no matter what road he traveled, he seemed to end at the same destination. A place he called “Vanity of Vanities.”

Ecclesiastes 1:13 “I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven…”

His first pursuit was to acquire knowledge. He thought if he studied more, he would understand more, and that would make him happy. Solomon became a student of life. His pursuits gained him great knowledge and prestige. People traveled great distances to hear him speak on a variety of subjects, including botany, biology, zoology, philosophy and astronomy. While knowledge is a good thing, and education has great value, Solomon discovered the meaning of life was not found in being the smartest guy in the room. He learned knowledge could not satisfy the craving of the heart; and the more he knew, the more it hurt.

Ecclesiastes 2:1 “I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure’; but surely, this also was vanity.”

When knowledge didn’t satisfy him, Solomon chose to pursue pleasure. Because of his great wealth, he denied himself nothing he thought might make him happy. He had any woman he wanted, threw lavish parties with the most exotic themes, drank, partied, and sought to have as much pleasure as money could buy. Sadly, at the end of that road, he found life was empty, and in his wake, he left a trail of devastated lives.

Ecclesiastes 2:4 “I made my works great…

If wisdom and pleasure could not make him happy, certainly stuff would. He decided to live by the motto of “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Solomon built palaces and stables throughout the land to house all the stuff he had acquired. The more he got, the more he wanted, and the less he was satisfied. He took a long hard road that ended in the realization, “life is not found in the abundance of things that one possesses.” (Luke 12:15)

Ecclesiastes 2:17 “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”

Poor Solomon. All his wealth, intellect, parties, and possessions could not satisfy; and he was left hating life. Solomon is not alone. History is filled with men and women who spent all they had in pursuit of life, only to come up short. Even today, with all the modern advances, people are coming to realize, there must be more to life.

1 John 5:12 “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Since we were created to know God, the true meaning of life will only be found when we are in a relationship with God, through Christ. Instead of spending your life in pursuit of something you will never find, come to Christ and experience abundant life.

Pastor Jim

 

What’s It Worth

1 Kings 21:20
“I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord”

This is certainly not the only record of Ahab’s sin. He was a man who long ago had given up on any desire to live a life that honors the Lord. This passage does however illustrate, quite strongly, the question asked by Jesus, when He said, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24)

We all know we will never gain the whole world. A few have tried, but none have succeeded. Many, however, have traded eternity for some temporal pleasure or possession. Like Esau, who gave his birth right for a bowl of soup, many give up eternity for something that lasts only a moment. For Ahab, it was a field. He wanted a garden he could enjoy from his palace window. There was however, a problem; the land was owned by another man. Instead of letting it go, he plotted to take the field by force. For a plot of ground, he took a life. In doing so, he revealed how cheaply he valued his own life.

The Bible tells us redemption of the soul is costly; our actual value is infinite. Peter explains we were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19), because no amount of silver or gold would do. Instead of sitting on the sale rack, selling yourself off to participate in a passing sinful experience, remember you are worth much more than that, and are a blood-bought child of the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

It’s Not Free

2 Samuel 19:4
“But the king covered his face, and the king cried out with a loud voice, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’”

I recently watched a news segment which focused on two teenagers who decided to rob a local business. One of the boys was reluctant to get involved, while the other boasted confidently that “no one would get hurt.” Sadly, as the story unfolded, one man lay dead and two young men were sent to prison for life. Sin is just like that. It promises to bring us happiness, and ensuring us that no one will get hurt. Regrettably, David found this out the hard way. One night, while allowing his passion to be distracted from the Lord, David made the choice to pursue his lust and begin a relationship with another woman. What he thought would bring him pleasure, continued to cost him over and over again. This chapter reveals some of those costs.

After what must have been the worst battle of David’s life, his son Absalom lay dead in the street. Because of David’s inability to deal with the pain, the nation was confused and susceptible. It did not take long for someone to seize the opportunity and take advantage of Israel’s vulnerability; the nation was divided, turning the cities into a battle field.

We must be clear, even though sin is confessed, repented of, and will always be forgiven, it never comes without cost. No man is an island, and we never sin only unto ourselves. When a man walks away from his family, his children and unborn grandchildren will be impacted. This will become a great mountain they will struggle to clim, for the rest of their lives.

If you are toying with sin because you have such a difficult life, believing you deserve the pleasure you think it will bring, remember the consequences of sin are far greater than you want to pay. You don’t want to observe all that you have built being ripped apart, as you weep at the loss of that which matters most to you.

Pastor Jim