"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Raising the Standard: Resourcefulness Is Recognizing That Valuable Resources Come Out Of Right Relationships

"Honour thy father and mother... that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." ~ Ephesians 6:2-3
"House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord." ~ Proverbs 19:14
"Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." ~ Psalm 127:3
Living Lessons on Resourcefulness From the Pages of Scripture:
Giving must be based on receiving. We came into the world with nothing, God asks, "... What hast thou that thou didst not receive?..." (1 Corinthians 4:7). Valuable resources are received by maintaining God given relationships. God will enable a wise receiver of these resources to give to others. Just as valuable resources can be gained by maintaining right relationships, tragic losses will occur when important relationships are broken for selfish purposes. God provides an awesome illustration of this principle in Scripture. Who gained great resources by standing "shoulder to shoulder" with his father and with God but later "broke rank" for selfish reasons and passed a legacy of deception and division to many generations? Isaac. In the year 1965 B.C. a caravan arrived at a distant city. The leader of the caravan nervously watched as several men approached. The men responded exactly as he had feared. As they gave him a quick greeting, their eyes were attracted to his beautiful wife. Their attention deepened his alarm as he thought to himself, "They will kill me so they can marry her." One of the men interrupted his thoughts, "Who, may I ask, is this beautiful woman?" "She is my sister," he quickly responded. Immediately their attitudes changed toward him. They treated him like a long lost brother and offered their help in any way he could use it. He declined and finally the eager men left. In the months that followed, his sensitive conscience forced him to justify the lie that he had told. "After all, " he concluded, "I'm only following the example of my father". He was a Godly man, and he gave the same response. Nothing ever came of it. And besides, what good would I be to God if I were dead? For a long time he was careful to conceal his deception in public, and his family cooperated with his scheme. They cooperated too well. Years later, the eyes of that man grew dim. He called in his firstborn son and said, "Go out into the field and kill a deer. Make me a venison dinner --- the kind I love! Then I will give you a special blessing." The son left with eager anticipation. Soon the father smelled the savory meat that he loved. But when the meal was brought to him, something seemed to be wrong. "How is it that you found a deer so quickly? he asked. "Because the Lord thy God brought it to me," he responded his son. The answer increased the old man's apprehension. "Come here, my son, so that I can be sure that you are my firstborn son." His son obeyed and satisfied the father's concerns. The father then ate the meal and gave the coveted blessing. The son had no sooner left the room when a voice rang out to the father. "Let my father arise and eat of his son's venison and bless me." Panic gripped the father's heart as he asked, "Who are you?" and heard the reply, "I am your firstborn son." At that moment the old father began to tremble. Immediately the father realized what had happened. His second-born son had done to him what he had done to others --- pretended to be a brother that he was not! Isaac's lie continued a legacy of deception and division for generations to come. [From Genesis 20,27]
How Did Isaac Receive A "Mixed" Heritage?
Isaac received a full and rich inheritance from his father, since he was the son of promise. (See Genesis 25:5.) Also because of Isaac's submission to his father's direction for marriage, he received a beautiful wife whom he loved. (See Genesis 24:67.) However, God explains that the sins of the fathers are also passed on to the children to the third and fourth generation. (See Exodus 20:5.) Abraham not only passed on to Isaac the general sin nature from Adam, but he also passed on his own special tendency of deception. Isaac's father was a great man of faith. He was the friend of God. However, Scripture records his "half lie" about his wife to protect his own life. (See Genesis 20.)
Why Was Isaac Responsible For His Own Responses?
Isaac received God's empowering grace to overcome the sins of his forefathers --- just as all of us do through the faith in Christ's sacrificial work: "...Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20). Isaac was therefore fully responsible for engaging in the same deception as his father. He too lied about his wife in order to save his own life, and by so doing he placed her in moral jeopardy. (See Genesis 26:6-11.) His actions were directly contrary to God's design that a husband should lay down his life for his wife as Christ did for the Church. (See Ephesians 5:25.) God used a Philistine king to rebuke Isaac for his deception. (See Genesis 26:10.)
How Did Isaac Lose His Most Valuable Resources?
Isaac was of a sensitive spirit. When conflicts arose over the wells that his servants had dug, he refused to fight over them. Instead, he turned them over to the contending herdsmen. (See Genesis 26:19-22.) The loss of two valuable wells to Abimelech could be considered restitution for the gifts Isaac received from him under false pretense. However, Isaac also diminished the potential of his own marriage and family to be a Godly influence. His wife and son used deception on him to steal the blessing from his favorite son, Esau. Esau caused his father and mother grief by marrying a Hittite girl. (See Genesis 26:34.) Isaac's greatest loss, however was in the ranks of his grandchildren. They were his crown since "Children's children are the crown of old men..." (Proverbs 17:6). The deception multiplied in his grandchildren. The sons of Jacob sold Joseph into slavery and deceived their father into believing that Joseph was slain by a wild beast. That action resulted in God's discipline of the grandchildren and their descendants. for 430 years they served as slaves in Egypt --- the high cost of broken relationships through deception!
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
Musk oxen live in the Arctic where the summers are but one long day, and the winters are an endless night. They roam in the treeless tundra in small herds of less than one hundred. Their compact bodies and short legs, which help conserve vital body heat, are covered by a thick outer layer of coarse, dark brown hair. The coat is so thick that it sheds both snow and rain. The inner coat of soft brown hair provides insulation against temperatures that approach -100 degrees Fahrenheit. Musk oxen do not migrate but seek exposed, windswept slopes where the snow is shallow and food is more easily accessible.
How Are the Resources of Right Relationships Illustrated in the World of Nature?
Shortly after daybreak an arctic explorer stood at the base of an eight thousand foot mountain. The temperature was thirty degrees below zero. He studied the frigid environment approximately six hundred miles from the North Pole. Suddenly, a strange feeling overcame him and he considered turning back. His uneasiness was heightened by an unusual pattern of tracks in the snow. He quickly recognized that most of the prints belonged to arctic wolves. As he climbed the mountain, the wolf prints disappeared. However, he still sensed an eerie presence. Something was watching him. Pulling himself up to the next snowy rise, the explorer was stunned by a rush of fur that flashed by his face! Wolves!? No. Musk oxen. The shaggy animals swiftly formed a defensive circle. With their long "guard hair" flowing in the arctic wind ,they stood shoulder to shoulder facing forward with heads and horns lowered. The young calves huddled safely in the center of their impenetrable wall. The awestruck explorer backed away, photographed the amazing sight, and hastily retreated down the mountainside. Along the way he again noticed the wolf prints. He tried to reassure himself as he frantically stumbled through the deep snow. "Wolves don't attack humans! Do they?" After four hours of struggling through the snow, the exhausted explorer reached his snowmobile. Now he was safe -- he thought. His base camp was still twenty-six miles away and he remembered that he had experienced trouble with his drive belt slipping on his way to the mountain. In fear and apprehension he nervously turned the ignition key. He revved up the engine and started out over the white expanse of barren tundra and frozen lakes. A half mile from camp, out of the corner of his eye he spotted a bolt of white fur on the move. His first thought was "polar bear," but a split second later he knew it was a wolf. He then spotted another wolf in the distance and realized that they were running full speed at him. Under full throttle he sped toward his camp, he hit the kill switch and dashed into his flimsy shelter. He blocked the door and peered through the small window of his shack. Only five feet away stood the huge wolves. Their fearless expressions sent a wave of terror up and down his spine. He knew that it would have been no contest between himself and just one wolf. His knees shook uncontrollably for an hour as the wolves encircled the cabin. During the four day siege, he began to understand why the wolf tracks had stopped on the mountainside. The wolves were no match for the combined protection that the musk oxen gave to each other. But the wolves were fearless against one man who tried to make it on his own. (A true story that took place in Canada's Northwest Territories in 1984 during preparation's for a historic walk to the North Pole in 1985.)
The Characteristics of the Musk Ox in Scripture:
The mutual defense that musk oxen provide is a significant illustration of the protection which Christians are to give each other. The musk ox knows that the wolf is out to destroy the weak and the young among its ranks, and the entire herd resolutely refuses to let this occur. Christ warned his disciples, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves" (Matthew 7:15). Paul further warned, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29). Other herds and flocks flee from wolves, allowing them to destroy the weak and the young. The musk oxen unite, stand shoulder to shoulder, and face their enemy. Similarly, Christians are to strengthen one another, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is..." (Hebrews 10:25). When it comes to standing and facing our enemy, we are commanded to "... stand against the wiles of the devil... and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:11, 13). Outside enemies should only reinforce the awareness of our need for one another. (See 1 Corinthians 12:20-26.)

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