SHABBAT, 3 Iyar 5777 — יוֹם שַׁבָּת ג אִיָּר ה' תשעז Saturday, 29 April 2017
The Frog In The Kettle

1 Corinthians 10:31 "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

You have all probably heard about how you can put a frog in a kettle of water, and slowly bring the water to a boil; and, once the frog realizes that the water's too hot, well, he's cooked!

I can just picture myself as that frog. Can you?

At first, the water is a bit too cool for my liking, but after a while it warms up rather nicely. I'm imagining doing backstrokes as I navigate the circumference of my "pond", first with my eyes open, taking in the sites of this lazy summer day, and then the next lap, eyes closed; now thinking I'm on some far-away tropical isle as my body basks in the world I have created for myself. Next, I can just picture myself placing my hands onthe back of my head, providing support like a pillow, taking some of this life's goodness in. I playfully take some water into my mouth, pucker my lips as if to whistle, and then, instead, I squirt a perfect arc of water that lands serenely between my feet, tickling my toes. The gentle splash causes just enough ripple to slowly massage weariness out of the last memory I had of my feet, moving that nice, warm, now hot water over my ankles in a soothing salve of distant pleasure. Oh, that feels so good! I'm thinking, man, this is really living!

Sometimes, I think that we live in that kind of dream world and don't even know it. We get comfortable with our surroundings and hardly notice any ripples in the pool of our existence, much less those of any others'. One thing's for sure, we seem to be surprised when tragedies or troubles encompass our being, like the deadly comfort that the frog basks in to a boil!

So, the question arises: Are we that kind of comfortable in our day-to-day lives? Do we find ourselves passing through life, moving from one comfort zone to the next, as if we haven't a care in the world? The next question is, do we ever stop our comfort clock to realize that's just not what we're made for? Do we ever stop long enough to see just what time it is?

Even if you are often in misery, or pain, do you ever find yourself comfortable in that existence? I know I do.

But, as followers of Yeshua the Messiah, do you suppose we should expect to have comfortable lives as our reward? We do, after all, share in His righteousness, don't we? Yet, in 2nd Timothy, the Apostle Paul says,

"Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Messiah Yeshua will suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12).

What? You ask, 'if I'm living from comfort to comfort, you say that I may not be living the godly life I am supposed to live in Messiah Yeshua?' I don't know anyone that would find persecution as a desirable way to serve out his or her time here. But, have you ever thought, "just what am I here for?"

Well, then, a good place to start, is to ask ourselves this question: As followers of the Lord, Yeshua, what is the chief end, the ultimate purpose, the end result of our lives supposed to be?

Another way of asking this is, what is the main purpose for mankind? Such a question presupposes that we have a purpose here in this life! When we ask ourselves, what is the end result of our purpose here?, then, when we discover it, we may begin to pursue that purpose!

Can Scripture help us out here?

In Romans 11, we read, "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36). And in 1st Corinthians 10, it says, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Now, I come back to the question, "Is our ultimate purpose in this life to have comfort, to pursue ease and pleasure? If not, do we ever act as if that is the case? Moreover, is it possible that we can have some of that, as it were a foretaste, but purpose our lives to something that is greater than where we find ourselves today?"

A passage from Proverbs 25 basically says, that for a man to seek his own glory, or search into it, "is not glory," but rather brings shame upon him! That passage reads, "It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory. He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." (Proverbs 25:27-28).

Isaiah 45:8 says, "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols."

I'm wondering back to the frog doing backstrokes in the kettle, seemingly without a care in the world. If, like the frog, we spend our lives in pursuit of one comfort to the next, or, from one moment of happiness to the next, we are likely just fooling ourselves if we think we aren't really working to bring some sort of glory to ourselves, rather than purposefully living our lives to bring glory to God alone. I will repeat Isaiah 42, verse 8, if you didn't get it the first time, "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols."

The question needs to be asked, what should drive our focus in this life? It has been said that, "the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever." Perhaps we should start there! But, how do we begin?

I would like us to explore this idea about our purpose to give glory to the LORD.

First, odd as this might sound, we can glorify God by confessing our sins! If it has been shown that we have reserved glory to ourselves, or rather, in fact, we have let anything have precedence over our purpose to love God, then those of us that are able to admit it realize that we have sinned. The question is, should we confess that?

Do you know the story of Achan, from Joshua 7? After the casting of lots, Achan was discovered to be the person responsible for God turning away from the children of Israel!

"Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me." (Joshua 7:19).

Do you think that by confessing, Achan would be excused from his sin? No! But the purpose of Achan's confession of his sin was to give glory to God .

When we acknowledge that we have sinned against God's laws, we are in affect saying, God's law is right, we were wrong. Confession of sin magnifies the justice of God's law.

A second way we can glorify God is by loving him above everything else! In comparison to the love we show to and for God, the love we have for our family and friends should pale in comparison! 'You justify yourself by thinking that your bountiful expression of love towards those that love you brings glory to the Almighty.' After all, how can you express your love to someone you cannot see, but out of the goodness of your heart you certainly show the love of God to others, right? On the contrary, if you cannot see God all around you, and glorify him often (so as to remind yourself of your basic duty!), then you are truly fooling yourself!

In Luke 14:26, Yeshua said,

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple."

In order to truly love God, we must, by comparison, appear to hate everything else, including, and probably especially, our own lives. We must love the Lord our God above everything else; we must love our saviour, Yeshua, above every other person. Asaph says in Psalms 73,

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalms 73:25-26).

Doesn't it appear that the psalmist's love for God, love for the Lord, was such that every other desire, every other love he had in this world, seemed as nothing to him? The fact is that we are commanded to love the LORD our God with our entire being: all of our heart, all of our mind and all of our strength. We declare this every week, in services, when we proclaim the Shema and the V'ahavta (Deuteronomy 6:4ff). Do we agree with the Psalmist, "And earth has nothing I desire besides you."?

To glorify God also means to trust Him, which is to believe that what He has said is true and faithful. Do you believe that? Let me ask, How would we know? How could we know? Would it be by our innate knowledge of Him? Are we so smart, or so 'together', that we know all about God through our apparent goodness? That seems to be the attitude we have at times, yet, if we so boldly claim to know Him, it becomes evident quickly that we have no solid ground to stand on, and it becomes clear when we have forsaken the reading of His word!

In Revelation 19:10b, it says, "worship God, for the testimony of Yeshua is the spirit of prophecy." Did you get that? I'll repeat it, "worship God, for the testimony of Yeshua is the spirit of prophecy."

Prophecy is nothing less than the forth telling of the word of God, which is, minimally, the testimony of Yeshua himself.

Now, how on earth would we discover the testimony of Yeshua? Hmmm. You say, 'I hear Scripture taught at services every week! I listen to a Christian radio program every day at 10:00 a.m. But, my life is so full, how can I do any more than that?' So, we justify ourselves?

I will say, unequivocally, that it is impossible to know Him if we do not make the time to know Him. We cannot know Him by casual observance, though, no doubt we can know somewhat about Him by nature itself; but I dare say, is that nearly enough? Hardly!

It is not about taking time for God, it is consciously MAKING time for God! I ask you, 'Can you make time regularly to draw close to your LORD?' I'm not talking about just hearing about the glory of God in services every week, listening to a radio program or some other casual endeavor. Those things are important, but they do not complete us. I'm talking about reading the Bible regularly. A good question, then, is, 'Do you read scripture on a regular basis?'

The question needs to be asked, 'Do you believe God? Do you so fully know the testimony of Yeshua that you have no need to look outside yourself or change anything in your comfort zone?'

Third, we glorify God by being jealous for His HONOUR. God is jealous for His own honour. In the second commandment, God tells us not to make any images or likenesses, nor to worship anything else. "You shall have no other gods before me." Worship here can mean nothing less than how we purpose our lives.

I beg to question, 'Can you honestly say that you have placed no other objects before God? Can you say that you have placed no seeking after comfort before seeking after the worship of the Almighty?'

I cannot say that, but you may, perhaps. If you do, I do not believe you any more than you should believe me if I said that! We should be jealous for the honour of God, for the truth of the Good News of the Salvation through faith in Yeshua. After all, God spoke audibly to Peter, Jacob(James) and John at what is known as the mount of transfiguration, saying, "...This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Here him!" (Matthew 17:5).

We are to honour God for His holiness and because He alone is PERFECT, HE ALONE IS HOLY, HE ALONE IS WORTHY TO BE PRAISED.

If we hear blasphemies, we should not allow ourselves to become hardened to that kind of speech. By ignoring blasphemy, the words that come out against God through the mouths of others, and God forbid, our own mouths, is to neglect the honour of glorifying God.

It is our duty to guard jealously the majesty of God. Being sensitive to God's honour, we then can pursue glorifying Him. When we hear God's majesty spoken lightly of, or even blasphemed and cursed, we should guard our ears and flee. In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul says, "Be not deceived, evil communication corrupts good manners." (1 Corinthians 15:33). And in another place, he says, "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." (2 Timothy 2:16).

The things that offend the majesty of God should offend us!

Fourth, we may glorify God by pursing the callings He has given us, by bringing forth the fruit of our labors in the application of the gifts He has blessed us with. In other words, we should glorify God in our livelihood. Hopefully, we have diligently pursued study to make full use of the gifts that we have been blessed with. The gifts of our innate talent are gifts that God has given us.

Do we acknowledge that we have not obtained anything that we have not received? Our Creator gave all of our talents to us. It is our duty to glorify God by being good stewards, being fruitful in our labors, using everything in our being to glorify Him, and acknowledging Him in those things!

Yeshua said, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." (John 15:8).

And, in the book of Jacob (James), we read, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
(James 1:17).

As we bring forth the fruit of the labor from the gifts of our livelihood, which is our calling, we make use of those talents and gifts that God has given us; and therefore, we honour and glorify Him through them.

Fifth, we glorify God by walking humbly. Only in our humility can we openly acknowledge the fact the He alone is creator, and we are created by Him. We did not make ourselves. No, He made us for His glory! We can only acknowledge Him for who He is, and ourselves for who we are, by being humble in the sight of others and in the sight of God. In Jacob (James) 4, we read, "But he gives us more grace, that is why Scripture says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

Who among us can debate the simple truth to one of the songs we sing on occasion, "Humble Thyself In The Sight of the LORD And He Will Lift You Up!" (James 4:10).

Sixth, we can glorify our LORD by being thankful. We express our thanksgiving to Him through our Shabbat worship. Of such things, King David wrote, "Yet Thou art holy, O Thou that are enthroned upon the praises of Israel." (Psalms 22:3).

As we are thankful to God, we glorify Him and acknowledge that He is the giver of all mercy, truth, and every good and perfect gift! In doing so, we glorify Him. I think that Psalm 100 is appropriate here,

"A Psalm of thanksgiving.

Shout unto the LORD, all the earth.

Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing.

Know ye that the LORD He is God; it is He that has made us, and we are His people, and the flock of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; give thanks unto Him, and bless His name.

For the LORD is good; His mercy endureth for ever; and His faithfulness unto all generations." (Psalms 100).

Seventh, we glorify God in being heavenly minded. This does not mean that we don't pay attention to the world around us. When we apply the Scriptures to all of life to the best of our ability, our focus is from God-> out. Again, in order for us to apply the Scriptures to all of life, we must know the Scriptures!

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee." (Psalms 119:11).

Scriptures speak to all of life. We should keep what we do in this life in the perspective of eternity. I assert, however, that we cannot glorify God in being heavenly minded if we do not hide His word in our hearts, be diligent and faithful to read and study His word, the Scriptures.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." (2 Timothy 2:15,16).

The Scriptures comprise both the Tanach (Old Testament) and the Brit Hadashah (New Testament). Together, they contain God's entire revelation to man. They are the complete and inspired word of God. Indeed, the Apostle Paul says,

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

I will conclude with a couple of poignant passages. First, I would like to remind us of the frog, his senses becoming duller as he soaks in his watery grave, never suspecting the furnace of death beneath him. Just as the frog slowly succumbs in the salve of his comfort, we can also be found to be unsuspecting and unprepared when the Lord returns for us.

"Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep; Arise from the dead, And the Messiah will give you light." See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:14-16).

"And to the angel of the congregation in Sardis write, "These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, and yet you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I shall come upon you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I shall come upon you." (Revelations 3:1-3).

In that day, wouldn't you rather hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your master."? (Matthew 25:21b).

May we, therefore, redeem our time now, may we awaken from our tombs of comfort and may we awaken from our slumber.

"Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2b).