Monday, October 31, 2011

Choosing Your Chair

It's interesting what Jesus notices. He noticed how people gave their offerings in the Temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus noticed how the invited guests at a wedding feast were picking out the places of honor for themselves (Luke 14:7-11). They were scrambling to get to the most prestigious seats.

At these feasts, the guests sat on a couch that had 3 seats around a table called a "triclinium." Nine people could be seated at a time. The most important seat was in the exact middle, and the 2nd and 3rd most important were to his right and left. Remember, James and John wanted to sit on Jesus' right and left in His kingdom (Mark 10:37). Seats 4-6 were to the right side, and seats 7-9 were on the left. If you looked at the triclinium, you could instantly see who was #1 in importance and who was #9. People would arrive early so they could sit in the seats of honor. They wanted to look more important than others. Their self-esteem and significance was determined by their chairs!

We don't find significance in chairs today. Or do we? Yes, we still have chairs today, although they don't look like chairs. Here are some "modern-day chairs" that people sit in, trying to feel significant: Popularity, the brand of clothes you wear, your number of Facebook friends, the car you drive, the house you live in, your salary, educational degrees, your physical appearance, your success, your job title, and trying to be famous.  Although these things aren't wrong in themselves, many people use them to determine their self-esteem.

Jesus told the invited guests, "But when you are invited, go and sit in the last seat."  Why would He tell us to do that? It's because He doesn't want our significance determined by a chair. God wants us to find our self-esteem in relationship to Him. We'll talk more about that next week.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Prodigal Son's Repentance

In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-23), we see a process where God brings someone who has rebelled to the place of repentance.  Here are some of the steps:
1. Rebellion against the father (v.11-12) The son asked for his inheritance even though his father was still living. He loved the father's money more than he loved the father. We always rebel on the inside before it shows on the outside.
2. Rejection of the father's presence. (v.13) Not many days after this, he gathered his belongings and went on a journey to a foreign country.  It doesn't take long for the outward separation of a rebellious heart to manifest itself. His father didn't chase him down the road, begging him to return because he knew nothing he could say would change his rebellious son's mind.
3. Removal of God's provision. (v.14) After the son spent everything he had, a famine hit the land. It always does. God will remove His blessing and provision to bring the person to repentance. Some people don't realize what they have until it is taken away.
4. Realization of his true condition. (v.17) The son got a job feeding pigs, which every Jew despised. This wasn't what he had in mind when he left home. He finally "came to his senses" and realized he had made a big mistake.
5. Repentance in his heart (v.18-19) Repentance always produces a change in heart. People who repent don't point fingers at others and accuse them. The son took the blame and said, "I have sinned against heaven."
6. Returning to his father (v.20) The change in his heart changed his behavior. He decided to go back home to work as a hired man for his father.
7. Reconciliation with his father (v.20). When his father saw him coming down the road, he ran to embrace him. He didn't run after him when he left, but he did run to him when he returned because his heart was drawing toward him. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8). That's a direction where you're going.
Where are you in your relationship with God? Are you running away from Him or toward Him? If you will change your heart, He will run to embrace you!

Monday, October 10, 2011

God's Providential Will

There are three parts to God's will.
1. God’s Perfect Will
This is what God wants to happen. We are in God's perfect will when we obey Him.  Romans 12:2 says “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The greatest blessings are when we follow God's perfect will.

2. God’s Permissive Will
This is when God allows us to choose our own path. We are in God's permissive will when we disobey Him. Acts 14:16 says, “He permitted all the nations to go their own ways.” Everyone has a right to make their own decisions, even if it is a wrong decision!  God’s permissive will went into effect when Israel chose Saul to be their king. It wasn’t what God wanted, but He allowed them to do it. We always suffer the consequences when we choose our own way over God's.

3. God’s Providential Will
This is when God overrules the permissive will. Eph. 1:11 says, “We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, but God later promoted him to be a ruler in Egypt.  Years later, when Joseph was reunited with his brothers, he told them, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Gen. 50:20). The "big hand" and the "little hands" were both working at the same time. It's like a chess game that God is playing with people on earth. God uses evil people as pawns in His hand to accomplish His purposes.  It will be hard for you to see this until you totally submit yourself under His hand.