As Christians, we are part of God's Kingdom to come in the next life. But we are also part of that Kingdom now on earth. How can we live a life that honors God in the here and now while hoping towards what is to come?
All right. Hey it’s so good to be able to share this time with you. All of my friends and brothers and sisters online near our far, wherever you are, we’re together right now. And I’m really looking forward to what we’re about to be able to explore and learn and grow from. And you know, I’m gonna talk about,
as we are sitting with this series, the way of blessing. I want to talk about four keys for living well. And, uh, you know, I think that’s something God wants for all of us, no matter what we’re walking through. And I know this is a tough time for some of us. I got that. It’s been tough for me too, but even now, Lord, we welcome You in, we, we ask You to be with us in this moment.
We do pray for Your goodness and grace to, to flow, like a gift, like a healing stream yeah, in Jesus name. Well, I want to start by having us look at a verse Genesis 48 verse 21. The first part of that verse, it says, then Israel said to Joseph behold, I’m about to die now. Jacob Israel, that’s his name? Is nearing the end of his earthly journey and what he, what he is essentially doing is, is tying up loose ends.
I think many of us will find that, um, well, we may be in a similar position someday, gradually loosening our grip on the strings of life for some of us, you know, the time of our departure. Death will come more rapidly, with less warning. And there really will be no time or ability to tie up loose ends and share our heart.
And I know this is like, it’s not an easy conversation. It’s like, pastor, come on. You know, this is not blessing me. We were talking about dying. Um, but you know, Jacob has, at the end of his days and he’s being gift, given the gift of being able to die well, he’s, he’s having an opportunity to share his final blessings, as his, uh, body is giving out, the Spirit within him is preparing for what is ahead.
You know, I think that, uh, unless the Lord returns first, each one of us, well, I, know this it’s not just I think it. Each one of us is going to have to pass through the portal of death once. And that can be, even for a believer, a little unsettling. I know that I, I think we all understand, or at least I hope we do, that our lives on this side of eternity are gifts from God that have a beginning and an ending.
Right? I mean, there’s a, if you think of a calendar, there’s a calendar that marked our coming into this world into this life. And there will be a final calendar box, an end date. And what Jesus reminded us of was to never really actually forget that, but to, to view our life, not as some random meaningless expression that we’re just kind of here and then gone and nothing really matters.
Jesus taught us as God made clear in the scriptures that, you know, our life does matter. And the life that we live on this earth actually has a lot to do with what is ahead and that there is something that is ahead and it has everything to do with why Jesus came, that we might have that life and have it abundant, in this life and in the one to come, overflowing. You know, and I think that, um, all of us from the time that we’re born and remember, we
had no say in it. I had no say in the time that I was born and, um, and yet from the time of our beginning, we have been given a life to live and some of us have been living that life a little longer than others. Some of us, we are in our early stages of life and that’s, that’s pretty cool. That’s great. I call that the spring and summer stage of life.
And if you are, that’s a wonderful time to be alive. Don’t squander it, uh, with wasteful living and, uh, you know, try to enjoy life, but also don’t squander the gift of youth. Hmm. Others of us were maybe in our, you know, middle stages, just given the assumed duration of life. We might call it the autumn of life.
Right? And that’s a beautiful stage as well when, um, you know, things are changing. We note the changes, but yet there’s still enough life vitality in us too, to be able to make some good decisions and choices that can have a wonderful impact on the years ahead and on the people around us. And then there might be others of us right now that we are in what we would describe as the winter of our life.
And that has a very different feel to it. And from those I’ve spoken to. Either gone through, you know, I was talking to them as they went, were going through their winter years or some of whom are going through them right now. It’s, it’s a harder time, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be also a time of beauty in its own way.
And though it is a time of increased loss, it also prepares us for what is ahead and it gives us an opportunity still to finish well, which is high, is huge. Now, we’ve got to remember that each of those seasons, you know, the spring, the summer, the autumn and the winter, they all actually have their sub stages as well.
So we might think of them as having an early and a middle and a latter stage and we can kind of, sometimes, I see it could be helpful for us to go through the exercise of thinking about, well, what life stage am I really in? Again, assuming that we have an expanded life of, of, you know, normative duration.
Where do we think we are? Again, nothing is guaranteed, but it does actually help for us to ponder our life. The Bible invites us into that. I’ve pondered life. And as I’ve done it, I’ve become aware of a couple of things. One of which is that, you know, now I’m looking backwards a little bit, and I found that when we are younger, I think we tend to feel a little bit invisible.
And not all of us. So it’s a general statement, but we tend to feel invincible. We tend to make assumptions that we have a lot of life ahead of us. And, um, you know, I contrast that to when we’re older, because I think when we get older, we feel increasingly invisible and that, that is a different kind of challenge in, and in some cases we.
feel anything, but invisible, we feel very vulnerable and that vulnerability can create its own kind of fear that can stop us from growing and exploring and being optimistic about what is ahead of us. And the Bible reminds us, you know, so it’s, I, you know, for me, I, I do remind myself to honor the aged among us, because if we live a long life, we too will find ourself walking down that path.
That’s a humbling thing, but it’s also a reminder. The scriptures are very clear that we are to honor, you know, the, the, the widow and the elderly of among us, those who, you know, says the orphan as well. But th those that speaks of people who have, have less support and are more fragile and vulnerable, we are to come alongside.
And as far as those who are older in years, we are to give them honor that, that is a very different value than our culture seems to have. But the Christian way, the way of blessing is to honor those who are older and ah in advanced in years and not to disregard them, but to see that as part of our Christian responsibility and privilege.
And I want everybody to be aware of, you know, to the degree that we bless, we ourselves will be blessed. Right? So that sensitivity, that mercy, that patience, that long suffering that willingness to go the extra mile to honor those who are older and no longer able to take care, even of themselves that we’ve been accustomed to seeing them be able to do.
It’s still a good word. If we live long enough, we may be there as well. And so lay the good seeds, the good seeds. Right? But I, I’ve also found that as we hit midlife and certainly as we make our way into advancing years, it’s not uncommon or let’s put it this way, it’s less uncommon how about that. To have honest moments
where we wonder how much time we have left on this earth. None of us really knows for sure, but it’s certainly not uncommon to think about that as we recognize that the years ahead of us may be less than the ones behind us. You know, I remember reading something that Paul, Paul Powell wrote in his book.
Uh, he talked about when the hurt won’t go. And he says, each time I think about my own death. I asked myself three kinds of questions to help me do that. One, am I right in my relationship with God. Two, am I right in my relationships with my family, my friends, my coworkers? Are there any relationships that I actually need to reconcile?
Are there words that I need to say? And then three, am I investing myself into things that will last for eternity? And then he wrote this, which, I mean, I really connected with it. He said this, the more I looked to the life to come, the more nobly it makes me want to live the life I now have. Isn’t that powerful?
How true is that? It’s exactly what Jesus taught us to consider our frailty and our mortality. And remember that there will come a day when we will leave this short life and enter into an eternal life and that we are to lay up our treasures, not just on earth, in this limited space that we get to enjoy, but for heaven, which awaits us, there’s so much more far more ahead than what is behind us.
I, you know, and that’s exactly what CS Lewis in the, you know, the great Christian apologist, you hear me talk about CS Lewis all the time, is exactly what he was getting at in his classic, the Mere Christianity. You know, um, and that is a must read for any serious Christian. I just really would encourage you to read Mere Christianity.
But Lewis wrote this, he says, if you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world, and I’ve alluded to this before, were precisely those who thought the most about the next. And it is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this, Lewis, -‘s point is the more we are anchored in the assurance of a future of life in Christ, the more likely we will be willing to risk a radical, sacrificial life of love in the now.
The kind of radical life of blessing that was modeled by our Lord when he was on earth. And many of us, you know, many of us have life insurance and it’s a good thing to have it, but it’s better to have ah life assurance. And that is what Jesus makes available to us. I want life assurance. It’s a good thing.
Be a blessing for the people that I love and just a wise way to approach life in a modern world. But the best thing I can ever do is get life assurance. And that comes when I opened up my heart to Jesus and embrace His promise, the promise of life. And that really then invites us into this, um, discussion of what I call four keys for living well.
And the first one is just really connected to everything we’ve been sharing here. And that is this, to be honest about our mortality. And intentionally cultivate an internal perspective to regularly remind ourselves that we are just loved ones passing through. And, you know, we, we want to place the accent on the right place and keep making honest assessments and good adjustments, making sure that we’re keeping our priorities right,
that we’re seeking first the kingdom of God. For me, that also reminds me, you know me that I’m not supposed to get too overwhelmed by the negativity that’s going on around me, in the culture, in my nation. Um, that yes, in this world, there are things that aren’t going great. I can’t control those things. I can, I can control my own attitude.
And I think that is something that God wants us to do. And I can periodically remind myself that, you know, I won’t be here forever and that’s not. Cop-out. That’s not dropping out. That’s not saying whatever, whatever. No, that’s not what I’m saying. I just think that it’s good for us periodically to remember that God’s kingdom, there will be no end and that, you know, we’re, some of these things that were so tightly wound up about they will pass and the years will pass and we will
leave and so let’s not let these things, temporal things, define us. Let’s remember to also think about the things which are eternal, which are not seen, but are more real. You know, so much of what we now know about the things that are going on is that, you know, just from a scientific standpoint, there are so many more things that we do not see than what we do.
And the Bible was spot on thousands of years ago when it told us that. You know, but that’s okay. So the first key to living will is kind of a big picture item, keep that eternal perspective. But now I want to, I want to talk about the other three. Um, and uh, I want to do that by looking at how Jacob blesses his sons or his three oldest sons.
Okay. You know, it’s something that he did with his waning breaths on his death bed. And he assesses them and in his assessments are, is his wisdom for us. And three of the keys are to be found there. So let’s talk about them, but let’s first read the passage. Then Jacob Genesis 49 called his sons and said, gather yourselves together that I may tell you what shall happen to you in the days to come.
So he’s giving them a blessing about what lays ahead for them in a general way, connecting to their descendants. So big deal. He says, assemble and listen to the sons of Jacob, listen to Israel, your father. And then he turns to Rubin and he says, this Rubin, you are my firstborn, my might. You’re the beginning, the first fruits of my strength.
I was a man of strength. In those years, you are preeminent in indignity and preeminent in power. There was a privileged position of being the eldest son, especially in that case. All right. It was a position of great honor. Ruben was Jacob’s firstborn. Uh, second in authority, only to his father. And this should have been the moment when Ruben steps to the floor and assumes headship.
Right. But Jacob goes on to say, Israel goes on to say, my son. You are as stable as water and you shall not have preeminence. No, because you went up to your father’s bed and then you defiled it. He went up to my couch. You know, Rubin had slept with Jacob’s handmaid Billa. It was a sorted act recorded in all its shamefulness in Genesis 35.
And it was more than just a point of immorality. It, it was a violation of Jacob’s authority. It was, it was, it was deeply respectful and, and, uh, Jacob connected it to a flaw in Rubin’s character, didn’t he? He says you are as stable as water. You lack restraint, stability, judgement. You go by how you feel, your passions rule you.
And there is no telling how you will flow. No, Ruben, you cannot be trusted to lead. No, you’ve disqualified yourself with your lack of self-control and that’s our second key life, key, life key. I call it the value of self control, which in Galatians five is listed as a portion of the fruit of the spirit. Loved ones, our capacity to excel let alone to live well,
will always be connected to our willingness to exercise restraint and not just go by how we feel in a moment or at a particular time in our life. One of those emotions are making a supercharge. That’s how we get ourselves into big trouble and do incredibly foolish things, you know, excellence in any field,
if you study it out, that the people who achieve it requires discipline, whether it’s in athletics or studies, uh, you know, careers, relationships, especially in our life with God. It’s true. And it’s one of the reasons Jesus calls all those who would follow him, disciples. What is a disciple, but a disciplined one, a committed follower, a disciplined one.
And we were all reminded Jesus, not only modeled it. He, he charged us to practice self control and denial. Uh, and then I know a lot of us are weak there at times. May the Lord be merciful and gracious to us. Right? But, uh, but I wouldn’t, even when Jacob was saying these words to, to Rubin, I imagine the room was filled with kind of a stunned silence.
I mean, the blessing had started so well. Right? You know, he’s described as, as my son and my strength, but then it ended. A huge non blessing. That’s the best way I can describe it. And then watch what happens next. He turns then to these second and third sons, he turns to Simeon and he turns to Levi and he puts them together.
And there was a reason for that liquidy. He says in the fifth verse, he says, Simeon and Levi are brothers. They are weapons of violence. Weapons of violence are their swords, but my soul come not into their council. Oh, my glory be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men and in their willfulness, they hamstrung oxen. Curse -ed, be their anger for it is fierce and their wrath for it is cruel.
I will divide them in jacob and scatter them in Israel. I mean, if you read Genesis 34 and go back, heh you realize that Simeon and Levi had been involved in a vengeful, the only way to describe it as a vengeful. massacre in which innocent blood was spilled. Three things jacob said characterize these two brothers and they had their justification for what they did.
But Jacob described them in this way. He said your dominant characteristics are fears, anger, and a violent temper. You are self-willed and you have a capacity to, don’t underestimate this last one, you have a capacity for cruelty that is displeasing to God. And I find is, you know, Jacob’s, Jacob’s tone describes it.
Unacceptable. You know, we would say in today’s vernacular, they had anger issues. These two brothers had anger issues and something else, they’re linked together. I don’t think, I think it’s pretty clear this is the case. They didn’t bring out the best in one another. And that. is what I will call life key
number three: exercise, relational discretion, loved ones. Seek healthy relationships as the dominant relationships in our life. I’m talking about positive synergistic ones that bring more peace to us and make us better. They make us less angry, less destructive, less self-destructive as well. You know, some friendships
are not beneficial because instead of helping, they actually hinder, they actually hinder, hurt and harm. That’s what, that’s what, you know, Sim -eon Simeon and Levi did for one another. They actually hurt each other in their commonality. You know, Hebrews 10: 24, let us, the older version puts it, let us consider one another to provoke un -to love and good works.
Ya know, the another version says, let us spur one another on to good deeds. Um, but you know that, and that’s what God wants in our lives. Relationships that move us in a positive direction, in a, in a more Christ-like direction. But as I was thinking about this, I was going, wow. Relationships that provoke us to bad works.
They are. not helpful. No, no, they’re not good relationships that create negative synergy where we actually be -come worse together. That’s like, like we, like it, like if we were just on our own and another person was on their own and we were just, you know, conducting ourselves in a poor way. That would be, you know, if you, if you put them together, that would be something that isn’t good.
But the idea of negative synergy is that when they’re put together, when we’re put together, we actually spur each other on to even worse things and it makes it a net even an increased negative thing. And I think that, you know, we, we, if we have negative relationships like that at work in our lives and we need to adjust them and maybe even, and I don’t want to say this even end them, because we may find that we just don’t do well.
We don’t do well. We could be, uh, it could be because of the life stage that we’re in or the season of life that we’re in, but, or it could just be because of our personality, that man, when we get around people, friends, companions, co- I don’t coworkers, I don’t know, relationships that don’t help us, but hinder us.
And, you know, First Corinthians 15:33 says this: do not be misled. This is the NIV: bad company corrupts good character. So the key is to make our closest relationships positively synergistic that we bring out the best in one another, but here’s life key number four, the final one for well living. And I’m just drawing it right off of this. Manage anger because there, my anger was out of control.
Manage anger. Don’t let anger manage us. Remember some of us struggle in the way in which we express anger. We’re to be a peaceful people, have peace within and a peace with others, as much as lies within us, Simeon and Levi, they, they got out of control and some of us can relate to that. Cause when we get out of control, we, we damage, we do damage.
Uh, we came maybe from a background where that was something that we witnessed growing up and, and, you know, we can, we can do damage in our anger, in our words, even the people we love. In our words and in our deeds, maybe we have done this recently. Ya know? So there are some of us, our anger gets out of control and we just lash out.
But then there are others of us that we suppress our anger and it either, you know, explodes or it eats away at you. Inside. Like, it’s just easy. It’s going out us. It’s, it’s corrosive. It’s, it’s like acid, uh, acid reflux, you know, it’s like, it wants to dominate our lives and it leaves an awful taste. And I just, yeah.
Anyway, you get what I’m saying? Stop it. But the Bible reminds us in James one that we are to be angry, but not sin, to be angry and do not sin. That is, do not let sin take you down a destructive path. I actually think principles two, three, and four principles for living well, the keys, the three keys, two, three, and four are actually summed up quite well in Proverbs 16:32.
And we put this up. It says, whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty. Look at that. And the one he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. You know, years ago I was reading, uh, you know, as a younger man, I actually was introduced to this book. It was by a man named J w- Wallace Hamilton. It was called Riding the Wild Horses and, uh, the title got my attention.
It did. It really did it. And. And the book Hamilton wrote, there are many ways of describing or divine defining conversion, that is being born again or experiencing a new life in Christ. I like to put it like this, Hamilton said, conversion is that process through which the redeeming power of God brings all the powers of your being into
perfect focus and coordination by which he harnesses the wild horses of your nature to his majestic purpose and makes them servants of the new life in Christ. Man. I love that. He harnesses the wild horses of our nature for His majestic purposes. I’m not sure we ever outgrow the need to have the Lord harness those wild horses within us, within our minds, then our body within our nature, whether.
The lust of the flesh, the pride of life, uh, our fears out of control or our anger or our re -grets those wild horses running rampant inside of us. It could be, uh, an, an unwillingness to get, let go of, of the hurts that a wild horse can be, that feeling of bitterness within that is also so hard in terms of what it does to us and how challenging it can be to, to forgive and let go of our hurts and wounds and lay them at the feet of Jesus.
And yet th that horses, those horses are, you know, running inside of us and trying to define us, you know, I, I don’t think we’ll ever have. Look that’s the case. I just need Jesus. I, you need Him. And I need Him. I don’t think we’re ever going to stop needing Jesus. Cause all of us have some wild horse running within and I’ve got more than a few I think.
And uh, that’s where I, I just want the Lord in my life and I’m going to need him nearby till the day I die because I want to live in the way of blessing. And I want you to live that way too. And, and, um, you know, between the now and the then. You know, the now of my life and the then of, of the end of it. Um, I’m always going to need His love and His mercy.
And may He give you that gift as well. So, you know, keeping that in mind, I’m going to come back around and sum it all up after our song, our song is actually a really great reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness, even in our places of struggle. Now He wants to guide us into that way of. blessing. I’m gonna talk a little bit more about that in a moment.
I do want to remind all of you, my friends, my brothers and sisters, faithful church, you have been from afar and I am talking to the church right now, reminding you that your giving matters, your faithfulness to God matters, your tithes and your offerings that you, you give, whether you send it in, or you go through the online option or you do it as I do through our app, um, you know, it speaks of what really matters.
Laying up your treasure in heaven. It is a big deal. It matters, right? Our finances, we give our life, we give our time and what we give back is our income. And so when we give that, we are giving a part of our life back to the Lord and we’re honoring what He is doing. Anyway. Lord, just be with us as we share this beautiful song.
We thank you for what we’ve shared already in Jesus name.