Falling for the bluff

talent-lessons-from-world-series-of-poker

There you are sitting at the poker table with a pair of Jacks and a pair of 7s. You are feeling pretty good about your two pair until the player 2 seats to your right begins betting as if he has a royal flush. You are getting nervous but you still pretty confident about your hand. The betting goes around the table a few times and each time he raises. This guy must really have something, you think to yourself. At this point you are starting to crack, unsure if two pair is really going to cut it. Do you get out now or keep going? That’s when mister big stuff goes “all in.” You just can’t take it anymore so you fold. Someone else at the table calls him and it turns out he has a pair of 3s. Are you kidding me? You folded for a pair of 3s! Classic bluff. And you fell for it. The guy who didn’t fall for it, however, collected all the cash.

In Nehemiah chapter 6, Nehemiah found himself at the figurative poker table with a guy named Sanballat. This guy was trying to intimidate him and stop him from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In this particular chapter, Sanballat concocts a heinous story that he says is being rumored all around the land. Nehemiah didn’t fall for it, however. He called him on his bluff.

Nehemiah 6:8-9  I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

I can just see Sanballat staring across the table, peering into Nehemiah’s eyes: “I’m all in.” But Nehemiah won’t be intimidated. He sees through the charades and fanciful technique. “I call,” he declares. In that moment he exposes the truth. He finds that his opponent, no… his enemy, is bluffing!

Some of you are in the same situation that Nehemiah is in: you are dealing with a bluffing enemy. It may be a real person who is trying to intimidate you. Or it may be the devil trying to tempt you, discourage you, and weaken your resolve and your faith. I say to you today: “don’t fall for the bluff!” Listen again to Nehemiah’s reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” Or more elegantly stated, “liar liar pants of fire!”

Friends, don’t fall for the bluff! Call it out and then ask God to strengthen you. Ask Him to strengthen your hands for the work set before you. Ask Him to give you wisdom and discernment to see through the lies. God has placed before you a calling, an assignment. Don’t let a bluff take that from you!

In too deep

I’ve never been a big fan of swimming in the ocean. A key reason for that is probably because I live in Washington and the ocean here is cold. If I lived in Hawaii, I may have a different opinion on that. When I was a kid, I remember going to the ocean with my family and swimming through the waves. It started with a little wave jumping then turned in to swimming with the waves, through the waves, under the waves.  It was fun at first. That is, until I went in too deep. It was then I discovered how powerful the waves really were. I caught a big one… well, it caught me, actually. Under the water I went, unable to come up, as wave after wave pounded on me. It felt like I was in a wash machine. It was a scary moment, being held underwater, unable to come up for a breath. Fortunately, my dad grabbed a hold of me and pulled me up.

in-too-deep

The problem wasn’t the ocean. It was that I had gone in too deep. I had not treated it with respect. I had allowed the waves to tempt me, calling me into the power of their pull. In life, we can have the same kind of problems. Problems like allowing ourselves to be pulled into the power of temptation. We can get in over our heads, and we can get in too deep. In the book of Exodus, Aaron had the same problem. And instead of swimming for the shore, he went in deeper.

Exodus 32:22-24 22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

Before you read on, I’d encourage you to open your Bible and read all of Exodus 32 so that you can see what is really going on here. Because Aaron isn’t so innocent. The truth is, the people did come to him and ask him to make them a god. They did get impatient and wonder where in the world Moses had wandered off to. But he did absolutely nothing to be a leader in the situation. And I think that in the midst of this conversation, he knew he had blown it. He was busted. He made a stinkin’ calf out of gold for the people to worship!

Yes, Aaron was in deep. Instead of swimming for shore, though, he went in deeper. This was his moment to confess, to come clean. It was his opportunity to say “I blew it, Moses. I’m sorry. I was afraid and so I gave in.” But that’s not what he said. He told Moses that he threw the gold in the fire and a calf magically came out. There’s no way that Moses bought this lame story, but nonetheless, this is what Aaron’s brain told his mouth to say.

When we get in too deep, we have a choice to make. We can go in even deeper like Aaron and try to cover it up, or we can swim to shore and come clean. Don’t be lame like Aaron. Don’t start sputtering nonsense about a golden calf magically appearing. The people in your life aren’t buying it. Just come clean. Own it, deal with the consequences, and move forward. Everyone will be glad you did.