Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pastor's Perspective - Two Brothers

‘Super Sunday’ is almost here!

For those many of us still shining in the afterglow of the Giants’ amazing World Series triumph, a 49ers Super Bowl appearance is the proverbial cherry on the cake. Our ‘City by the Bay’ is showing the world that we are indeed worthy of a new name - ‘Championship City’!

Besides the gazillion dollar commercials and the half-time show hype, there are many interesting story lines interwoven in today’s big game. One is the rise of second year quarterback Colin Kapaernick, who was just supposed to fill-in for the injured starter then pick his clipboard back up; but instead ignited his team, taking them as deep into the post-season as you can go. Another is the swan song of the inspirational leader of the Ravens, linebacker Ray Lewis. Whether you like him or not, his presence on the field for many years could never be ignored. But, perhaps the greatest sub-story is the match-up between two brothers – Coaches Jim and John Harbaugh – a first-time novelty in the long history of the NFL.

Over the years many players have played against or alongside their siblings. Growing up in Tampa, I remember the Bucs featured brothers Leroy and Dewey Selmon together on the defensive side of the ball. Other high-profile combinations include Peyton and Eli Manning, Ronde and Tiki Barber and many others. Likewise, many coaching brothers have faced each other in the league over the years, but never have two head coaching brothers faced-off in the spectacle-of-all spectacles – the Super Bowl.

As a local pastor, I cannot help but think about famous brother rivalries in the Bible. There are several to be found. My favorite was between Isaac’s sons - Jacob and Esau. These two completely different boys struggled against each other from birth – literally!

Esau was the firstborn. His name meant ‘red’ or ‘hairy’. He was a bona fide ‘daddy’s boy’ and an avid outdoorsman and hunter. In other words, as a hairy hunter he was Duck Dynasty before there was a Duck Dynasty! He was brutish and he lived impulsively for the present and temporary.

On the flipside of the pancake was his younger twin Jacob. His name meant ‘he deceives’ – a huge red flag! He chose manicures over hunting trips. He was a ‘momma’s boy who enjoyed the inside of the tent. There he religiously watched the Food Channel and raced to the mailbox daily to see if his subscription to ‘GQ’ had arrived (attempt at humor mine). Unlike his hirsute brother, he was a patient plotter and a schemer with an eye always fixed on the future – his future. In other words, Esau and Jacob were polar opposites – rivals in the big game of life.

One day Esau returned to the family tent after a hunting trip with a huge appetite - absolutely starving! Living up to his name, Jacob saw an opportunity to pry from his big brother’s hand something of great value – his birthright. Back in Bible days, the eldest son was given the cherished birthright. This entitlement offered a trifecta of enviable privileges. First, the birthright insured that the eldest would get twice as much of the inheritance. Next, the birthright gave the eldest total authority over the surviving family. Lastly, the birthright somehow secured God’s blessing over his life for a lifetime. Esau had it and Jacob wanted it!

Knowing his older brother lived impulsively only seeking to satisfy his temporary appetites, Jacob offered him a bowl of his homemade blue ribbon stew in exchange for Esau’s coveted birthright. Scandalously, Esau agreed! In my mind’s eye I imagine as Esau ate, Jacob quietly smirked. In less than five minutes Esau’s belly was full and his dirty bowl empty. And in a reckless moment on his brother’s part, Jacob became wealthy and powerful beyond his dreams.

Friends, how often have we impulsively and recklessly let go of God’s very best for our lives by living impulsively? How often have we regretted what we could have had if we would have said ‘no’ instead? How often have we released the meaningful for the meaningless? How many times have we laid something genuinely good and pure on the altar of the temporary? How often have we mindlessly gorged on worldly solutions as the devil smirks approvingly?

Face it! We all have appetites. We are born with them! And our appetites only know one word – “More”.

As a pastor, I find the biggest regrets people have that I pray for and counsel, are God-given appetites that were satisfied in ways that God never gave or endorsed – impulsively, improperly, prematurely.

So, what is your bowl of stew? What is that thing you want so badly that it consumes your short-term thinking?

The enemy of your soul knows our individual appetites. He, like Jacob, is the one who patiently plots and schemes, looking for an opportunity to defeat and destroy real lives by offering temporary no-waiting solutions that only lead to deep regret.

Esau lived only for the present and the temporary and it caused him huge problems throughout the rest of his life.

Don’t give up what will satisfy you eternally for that which only satisfies temporarily.

Friends, it is those who maintain an eternal perspective who walk away with the blessing.

Enjoy the game!

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