Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Best Seat in the House Part III

He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honor, he said, "When someone invites you to dinner, don't take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he'll come and call out in front of everybody, 'You're in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.' Red-faced, you'll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left. When you're invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, 'Friend, come up to the front.' That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I'm saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face. But if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself." Luke 14:7-11  MSG

What Jesus is teaching here is the opposite of nearly everything we hear today about success. 
It is not easy advice easy to take, because according to Jesus…

1.    The Best Seat in the House is the Least Desired Seat.
We don’t find Jesus making a comment about competition for the seats with less honor associated; not the ones left when all had been picked over.  This teaching really is different than the way we think, isn’t it?

During the American Revolution an officer in civilian clothes rode past a group of new recruits busy repairing a break in a rampart. The work was really too heavy for the size of group working on it. Their commander was shouting instructions, but was making no attempt to help them. Asked why, he replied with great dignity, "Sir, I am a Corporal!" The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers himself. When the job was finished, he turned to the corporal and said, "Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this, and not enough men to do it, go to your commander in chief, and I will come and help you again." The officer in plain clothes was General Washington.

Most men think like that Corporal.  They want to emphasize their rank over others.  They want to push themselves as high as they can, even if it means stepping on others to do it.  It’s the law of the jungle.  It’s survival of the fittest.  It’s eat or be eaten.  But it’s not what Jesus is teaching here.
One of the reasons we shy away from humility and don’t want to take the last seat is that we fear humiliation.  We’re afraid they might find out what we are really like and think less of us.
This letter to columnist Ann Landers demonstrates how fearful people are of being humiliated and embarrassed by association with common things:

Dear Ann Landers:
I read an item in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE recently that stunned me. It said the most frequently shoplifted item in America's drugstores is Preparation H. I never would have guessed it

Apparently many would rather steal than be humiliated by going through the check stand with such a basic item.  That’s a great comment on human nature, isn’t it?

We cannot admit that we have the same problems as other people! They might think less of us!  Sadly, Christians who hide their fears, doubts, pain or problems project a false image of a faith that brings us through those very same problems everyone faces.  If real Christianity could be expressed, more people would believe it.  False fronts and facades hide nothing more than the reality that, as Paul said in Philippians 3, we are all from the same garbage pile.  We need to squarely face the fact that there are no titles that make us better as men than others.

Scripture to Claim:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; Philippians 2:3

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Best Seat in the House Part II

He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don't recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:7-11  HSCB

Let me set things up for the incident described here.  Jesus had come by invitation to the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath for a meal attended by the religious "who’s who" locally among the sect of the Pharisees.  When He arrived, He found one of the guests was a man who had a condition the Bible calls "dropsy."  This was an abnormal accumulation of serous fluid in the body’s connective tissue.  It caused terrible, painful swelling in the body of its victim.  The man was probably invited so the Pharisees could put Jesus to the test, but Luke doesn’t actually say that.  Over their known objections regarding healing on the Sabbath, Jesus cured the man.

Though I’m sure some of them might have liked to challenge Him as to His "right" to heal on the Sabbath, they all kept quiet, perhaps only verifying to themselves what they had already heard - that this rabbi violated their traditions.  Then as things began to settle down and the guests made their way to the table, Jesus noticed there was some jockeying for position going on at the head table.  The places of honor were quickly filling up.  Probably the places of greatest honor in that day would be those closest to the host.  Jesus, ever busy explaining the Father’s attitude about things like this, could not let this one get by. You probably recognize with me that what Jesus is teaching here is the opposite of nearly everything we hear today about success.

It is not easy advice easy to take, because according to Jesus…
1.    The Best Seat in the House is the Last Seat.   "But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place…"

I think it’s fairly obvious that Jesus had more in mind here than seating arrangements at weddings. Luke tells us in verse 7 that this was a parable.  The lesson of the parable is in verse 11 where it says, "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."  If you want to force yourself into the first seat, you’ll be humbled. If you willingly take the last seat, you’ll be exalted. Oh, how that goes against the grain of our culture!

I don’t remember who said it, but I do remember the quote. Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi quoted, "Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing."  In other words, being first is so important to some that it becomes the only thing they will settle for. Nothing else is acceptable. Everything else is disgraceful. I hope you understand that such a philosophy, while it might be useful in sports, chokes on Jesus’ words here. It chokes primarily on the means.  Doesn’t sound much like a winning formula, does it? You probably wouldn’t find it listed in the "Ten Most Important Habits of Successful People."

Do we see the difference in means? Our sports figure says, "go for first!" Our Lord says, "go for last." Both are telling us how to get to the top, but the difference of means is like night and day. "Recline at the last place," Jesus said. Then, when you’re asked to move up, it will be an honor.

Scripture to Claim:
"If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." Mark 9:35

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Best Seat in the House

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:7-11  NASB

It is human nature to want to sit in the best seat in the house.  At sporting events it’s the skybox seat, or the seat on the fifty-yard line or the seat directly behind home plate. These places command the best view and the highest price.  They also carry the greatest bragging potential. ("I have bottom deck, front row seats to tonight’s game!" "Wow! How’d you get so lucky!?")

This desire for the best seat in the house shows up in many places.  Watch people in a parking lot sometime.  The best parking places are usually the ones closest to the front door.  I’ve seen people nearly collide, competing for that one open spot near the door!  The spaces way out on the other end of the lot are seldom taken unless the lot is full or employees are required to park in them.

At a concert, the best seat in the house is probably the one closest to the musicians. Maybe and even better one might be a backstage seat where you get to meet the performers.  When you have a guest to your house and invite them to sit down, don’t you give them the best seat?  If one of your kids is sitting there, you ask him to move.

What do you suppose is the best seat in the church?  The back seat, of course!  I know that because it’s the one that fills up first.  We never have to hang "reserved" signs on the front benches.  Why? Maybe because it’s the farthest seat from the preacher.

Diplomatic negotiating teams spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars and many hours getting the seating just right so that visiting dignitaries are afforded proper honor by the placement of their chairs.  A slip here can mean that countries go to war!  People want the best seats…the seats of honor.

I seem to remember two disciples of Jesus named James and John getting into this "best seat" thing when Jesus asked them in Mark 10:36-37, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And they said to Him, "Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left."  They (and their mother) wanted the best seats in the kingdom - the places of honor and prestige. It’s a natural thing for the natural man.

Jesus had some specific things to say about the best seat in the house, and it’s what we will consider over the next few days.  It may surprise you to find that Jesus has a different idea about what seats we should look for when invited to a banquet.  And then again, if you know Him, it won’t be a surprise at all.

Scripture to Claim:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
 I Peter 5:6

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Inheritance of the Believer’s Living Hope

Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, he has given us new life and a hope that lives on. God has something stored up for you in heaven, where it will never decay or be ruined or disappear. You have faith in God, whose power will protect you until the last day. Then he will save you, just as he has always planned to do.  1 Peter 1:3-5  (CEV)

In this week after Easter it is only appropriate that we focus on the hope we have in living because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Today we discover the great gift we receive with the believer’s hope.  The inheritance is the eternal life that God gives us, but the inheritance of eternal life involves the most wonderful gifts imaginable.  Pause and reflect on what is yours as a believer:

·      Being adopted as a child of God
·      Being forgiven and made blameless
·      Being given eternal life
·      Being given an eternal spirit
·      Being given a glorious body
·      Being given eternal rest and peace
·      Being given the knowledge of Christ Jesus
·      Being given durable riches and righteousness
·      Being made priests
·      Being given incorruptible crowns righteousness, glory and life

Our inheritance is described in 1 Peter 1:4. It is most descriptive; an astounding picture of the new heavens and earth that are coming and of our life in God’s new and eternal world: To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…
This verse tells us our inheritance is imperishable. When you buy perishable items at a store, you know you have to use it up before it expires.  There is an expiration date.  Our inheritance from Jesus has no expiration date.  It is good for an eternity.  It never runs out or spoils and Satan cannot steal it from you.   

The word undefiled means that it cannot be polluted or defiled, dirtied or infected. It means that our inheritance will be without any flaw or defect; it will be perfectly free from sickness, disease, infections, accident, pollution, dirt—from any defilement whatsoever. There will never be any tears over what happens to oneself or over the damage or loss of some possession.

Our inheritance does not fade away. It will last forever and ever. The splendor and beauty of it all—of life and of all the positions and possessions which God shall give us—none of the splendor and beauty shall fade or diminish whatsoever.

Nothing, not even our energy and bodies, shall wear out or waste away.

Our inheritance is in heaven; it is reserved there for us. It is actually being held there by God for us. God is simply waiting for us to finish our task here on earth and to come to Him. Then He will give us our inheritance. 

Scripture to Claim:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints… Ephesians 1:18

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