Friday, May 25, 2012

Wish I'd Known You Were Leaving...I'd Have Stayed

I recently found out I left a church too early.  If only I'd been more patient.  Drat.

My family and I left a church in Brentwood.  The worship leader, Mike, recently left to take a position at another church closer to where he's from.  I just hate that I wasn't there to see him off.  If I'd know he was gong to be leaving, I'd have stayed to be part of his going away party.

God bless you in your minisry, Mike.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pathetic Jealousy--What it looks like.

When some people have what they perceive as a kingdom, they will do whatever they can to protect it.  Often times, they'll use threats, intimidation, lies, and other various kinds of bully tactics to steamroll over those they believe are a threat to them.  It's pretty sad and pathetic really to see the lengths these people go to in order to protect their position, power, or whatever else it is they are clutching onto like a security blanket.  In fact, we don't have to imagine a hypothetical person here.  We can simply look in Matthew 2:3 and see just this kind of person and how they operate.  Just seeing how Herod reacted to the news that the Messiah had been born is a great object lesson for dealing with these kind of people.

Matthew records that when Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled. The word, translated troubled is the Greek word tarasso and it means to agitate, disturb, or stir up. It is used to describe the emotional condition of the disciples when Jesus walked on the water to meet them in the boat during a storm. It is also used in John chapter 5 to describe water being stirred. One might say that the things he heard from the questioning magi caused him to fret. We should ask ourselves “Why?” Why would news of this sort cause this man to be agitated?
The answer lies in history. The Jews had been under foreign rule since about 500 years before Christ’s birth when the Babylonians invaded Judah and conquered the people, Rule passed from Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece and, finally, to Rome. The Jewish people hated being under the control of a foreign ruler and, as such, were somewhat difficult to control. Occasional revolts against their rulers were not uncommon. So Herod was in a tense political environment, to say the least. He was a descendent of Esau and, therefore, a foreigner. Therefore, the Jews hated him and he knew that.
In addition to the tense political situation, we have to remember that Herod was a ruthless, power mad despot. He killed two of his sons and their mother because he feared they were a threat to his power. Upon being promoted to king in Jerusalem by the Romans one of his first official actions was to kill many religious leaders in Jerusalem. The Jews knew him to be ruthless. He was also wildly ambitious and jealous. Therefore, when he heard the magi were asking about the one who had been born King of the Jews, he was thrown into a jealous fit. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone else bearing his title and he feared the people of Jerusalem would support the usurper.
We see, however, the people did not have the reaction he feared that they would. In fact, Matthew records that all Jerusalem was troubled with him. Of course, we know that they were aware of the evil this man who had been set over them as king was capable of because of his ruthlessness and cruelty. However, all Jewish people were expectantly hoping for the arrival of the Messiah. They knew His arrival was imminent because of the prophecy in Daniel 9:25. Their hearts longed for what they expected to be a political emancipation from foreign rule. Instead of rushing out to find where this Messiah was born, we see that they are troubled. In contrast to Gentile philosopher kings who brought word that the promised Messiah had been born and traveled many hundreds of miles to do so, God’s chosen people, the Jews, wouldn’t so much as travel less than 20 miles to their south to find their true King. Their fear of this Gentile king led them to ignore their Messiah who was God in human flesh. Instead of turning in faith to God, they kept their eyes on their circumstances and robbed themselves of the joy of greeting their Messiah.
Which side do you and I fall on? Are we like the Jews who were so worried about their circumstances to seek after God? Or do we have the faith of the wise men who followed a star on a treacherous journey because they were desperate to find God. Do we allow worldly concerns to become more important than seeking God and His Truth, no matter how hard the voyage.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Habakkuk 2:6-20 A Song of Woe Part I

Pride can lead to people doing some pretty awful things to other people.  I’ve read information about serial killers and one trait that many of them have in common is the belief that they are better than other people and therefore their actions are justified.  Even people who aren’t psychopaths can delude themselves into thinking that they are privileged and can therefore treat other people however they want (“Taxes are for little people” “Let them eat cake”).  We know from history that the Babylonians were cruel conquerors who mistreated the people they defeated.  In fact, Habakkuk knew that as well, which probably explains his reaction in chapter one when God said He was going to use them as agents of judgment against Israel.  Here, we read how the Babylonians would ultimately suffer for their sins.  They were able to live in luxury for a while, but through a prophetic series of “woes” pronounced on them, we see their end is ultimately a sad one as they are defeated. 

The first woe pronounced on them in this song (vs 6 “taunt”) describes them as being covetous.  Notice the speaker (which doesn’t appear to be God although He obviously inspired it or Habakkuk though he wrote it down) in verse pronounces the woe on “him who heaps up what is not his own”.  Obviously, underlying the boldness of taking something that doesn’t belong to you and the covetousness to desire it is a pride that says you have a right to it.  J. Vernon McGee observes, rightly, that God intended for people to work for what they get.  So, when these Babylonian conquerors took what was not theirs they were enriching themselves from someone else’s labors.  Now, we’re not talking about management where you direct someone else to do work, we talking about piracy where you take what belongs to someone else.  

When the Babylonians would conquer a nation or town, they would take spoils—food, clothes, people, cattle, land.  Because the Babylonian empire was the first real world empire, they had amassed lots of loot from lots of people and left those people with nothing.  They not only took their stuff but they also required tribute (vs 6 “loads himself with pledges”).  So not only did they take your land, they required you to farm it and pay them with your crops from your land.  While I don’t know how much they made the conquered people give them in tribute, in whatever form it was they took it, it seems clear that they enriched themselves while they impoverished the people they subjugated.  

Oh, hai.  We iz here for teh party, k?
However, as we read verses 7 and 8, we are reminded of a universal principal.  If you plant corn, you will end up one day reaping a crop and it won’t be a crop of watermelons.    You reap what you sow.  Because the Babylonians had taken so much from so many, they would eventually suffer retribution because of the number of people they had stolen from.  In fact, we read in Daniel chapter 5 where the Babylonians were conquered (while having a wild party, I might add) by the Persian empire who dammed  up the river that ran through the capital city and walked right into the middle of it—probably one of the easiest military victories ever.

Because the Babylonians were prideful, they felt like they had a right to take what wasn’t theirs.  That pride led them to a swift defeat as they tried to bully one nation too many.  God’s justice on their sin was swift.  Let’s take that as a warning against pride in our heart should we see it there.