Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Ant Colony

Jude 1:12 “They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit…”

Jude’s letter to the church is the shortest, but perhaps the most potent and scathing in the entire New Testament. In it, he contends for the faith once delivered to the saints and admonishes the church in regards to certain individuals that have crept into the church unnoticed. Incredibly, his warning is just as relevant today as it was over 1900 years ago.

The Ant and the Grasshopper, is a fable attributed to Aesop, providing a moral lesson about hard work, commitment and preparation. The fable concerns an apathetic grasshopper who has spent the warm months playing and singing his time away while the committed ants worked diligently in the colony to store up food for the coming winter.

A couple of years ago, Karlene gave me a dvd collection of classic Disney animation. Included in that dvd set was the classic tale "the Grasshopper and the Ants" as re-told in 1934 by Disney. In the Bible, Solomon said that we should learn from the way of the ants and get wisdom (Proverbs 6:6). So, I thought, maybe I would learn something from this animated short – and boy, did I ever.

The ants were busy working, harvesting and storing food in their colony during the season of plenty -- preparing for the winter season ahead. The grasshopper, however, had no intention of working, helping or being a part of the colony. He was unconcerned about the colony. He was apathetic towards work, involvement or commitment. Quite unconcerned about the future -- he just wanted to play and have a good time.

Jude was writing to the “colony” of believers – the church. He was warning them about a new danger in, and to, the church: the “grasshopper” Christian (note: In this instance I use the term “Christian” in the most liberal sense). Among many other metaphors, he called them “a spot on your love feast.” They come when they want, they eat what they want and then they leave. They don’t help the colony. They don't serve the colony, because they don't really care about the colony -- they care about themselves. Though they won't serve the colony, they sure want the colony to serve them! They are "takers," not givers, sapping the resources of the colony for their own benefit.

“Grasshopper” Christian's “reject God’s authority” (verse 8). They listen, but they do not hear. They tend not to give, but are always ready to receive for themselves. When they hear something they do not like, they reject the message and/or the messenger. Either through ignorance or insolence, they are not afraid to speak against Pastors, church leaders, or other Christians. When things aren't how THEY want them, they simply fly away, leaving the colony -- with their full-bellies and empty-spirits -- loudly proclaiming to any and all who will listen, “I’ve gotta go somewhere so I can be fed!”

Jude called the grasshopper-types “waterless clouds, fruit-less trees, and wandering stars.” They have the appearance of a Christian, but don't be fooled, it is only an appearance. It is akin the back-lot at Universal Studios. It is a facade. These are persons who “cause divisions, not having the Spirit.” Jude warns the church to beware of them. They are destroyers, not builders. Beware, indeed – for their end is “the blackness of darkness forever” (verse 13).

However, the colony -- God's Church -- continues on. It repairs the breaches to the body. It soothes and bandages the wounds. It picks up the pieces and rebuilds. It knows its mission and continues once again in fulfilling its God-given purpose.

The grasshoppers come and the grasshoppers go, but the colony – just like the one who established it – lives on.

God never intended us to be like the nomadic grasshoppers. Rather, we are called by God to be like the ants in the colony. Living, working and thriving for the good of the church. Giving, serving and sharing for the glory of God and the benefit of others. We are a part of God's divine design -- created for good works in Christ. We have been placed here to help God, help the church, help others and, in doing so, help ourselves.

The wisest man who ever lived said it; "Consider the ant."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Build Yourself an Altar

Genesis 26:24-25
24) That night the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham."
25) Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord.

It was a time of great difficulty for Isaac. God had greatly blessed him in the land of the Philistines where he was living, so that the Bible says (verse 13): “(Isaac) began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him”.

The envious Philistines filled in all his wells, and their king, Abimelech, said to Isaac: “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we”. So he began moving from place to place, encountering opposition and conflict all along the way, until he was finally pushed all the way into the desert area of Beersheba.

At Beersheba, which is located in the northern part of the Negev Desert, God reminded Isaac of his promised blessing. Immediately, Issac went into action. He began building upon that promised blessing of God by erecting an Altar and calling upon the name of the Lord! Verse 25 says, “So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord.” This action shows us the priority that God took in Isaac's life. His God-connection superseded everything else.


Isaac realized an important fact that many people miss even today. He understood that if he was going to be a priority for God, then God must be a priority for him. If he was to be honored by God, then he was going to have to honor God. If he was going to see the promised blessing of God become a reality for him, then he must make blessing the Lord the main goal in his life. The building of an altar symbolized that fact.

What is so important about an altar, anyway?

1) An Altar is a place of Consecration to God.
Leviticus 11:44; “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” “Consecration” means dedicating yourself to the service and worship of God. What have you given to God? What have you placed on the Altar? Is the Lord the priority in your life or is He somewhere down the list of your "top ten"?

2) An Altar is a place of Connection with God.
1 Chronicles 21:26 tells us that; “David built an altar to the Lord there… He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him.”
We personally connect with God at the altar. It is our point of connection. It is where we commune with Him and He with us! God is a personal God. He wants to connect and commune with His Son's and Daughter's. He wants to spend time with his favorite people -- His family!

3) An Altar is a place of Commission from God.
A “Commission” is an authoritative order, charge, or direction. We read in Psalms 37:23 that “The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives.” God is a personal God that will direct your steps, direct your future -- direct your life. We simply need to hear and heed His voice.

CONCLUSION: The Altar is about: Consecration, Connection, & Commission.

But most Importantly, that Altar is NOT optional. In Exodus 20:24, God said; “An altar… you shall make for me.” This is not something that you can choose to take or leave. This is a necessity. We must have a personal relationship with the Lord.
So the question begs to be asked... Do You Have an Altar? If not, build one today. It can be your couch, your bed, your chair or even just your own personal space. Turn it into a place where you can Call on God, Connect with God, and Commit to God and His direction for your life. Like Isaac, it can be the difference-maker in your life.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thriving in the Desert

The desert can be a harsh and even deadly place to be. However, in several places the desert has been made not just habitable, but thriving! Cities like Palm Springs, Las Vegas and others have turned harsh wilderness environments into oasis-like destinations. Places that, at one time, were endured, now can be enjoyed.

In the Bible, Abrahams' son, Isaac, settled in a desert area. It was called Beersheba in the northern part of the Negev desert. What caused Issac to thrive in the desert? Was it because of his father, Abraham, or his son,Jacob? No. Issac thrived in spite of his surroundings because of three things that he did.

In Genesis 26:25, we read ”So (Isaac) built AN ALTAR there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and he pitched HIS TENT there: and there Isaac’s servants dug A WELL”. There you go. The three things Issac did are quite significant for us today and are symbolic of spiritual necessities for anyone who desires to live a victorious life of faith. If you examine the life of any man or woman who is experiencing real spiritual victory, you will discover these three characteristics... An Altar, A Tent and A Well.

I will be back to share in-depth about how these three precepts took Issac from simply surviving to really thriving! Also, how that these precepts actually apply to the lives of Christians today. It is God's will for you to thrive, not just survive! This special series is beginning tomorrow at Cornerstone.

Good news... You CAN thrive, even in the desert-times of your life!