Tuesday, January 19, 2021

What is Understanding


“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,  “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.  Forsake foolishness and live and go in the way of understanding. – Proverbs 9:4-6

Wisdom is spoken of as a woman in the Bible.  In fact, in Greek, the word for wisdom is Sophia, a popular female name.  In this passage, Wisdom has prepared a table, and has sent young women to invite in those that need wisdom.  They speak in the passage above.

But there’s a difference in how the word “Understanding” is used.  Our Bibles have translated it into the same word, but in the Hebrew it is actually two different words.

In the passage “as for him to lacks UNDERSTANDING” the Hebrew word ‘leb’ is used (Strongs H3820). Here is its definition:

·         inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding

·         inner part, midst

·         midst (of things)

·         heart (of man)

·         soul, heart (of man)

·         mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory

·         inclination, resolution, determination (of will)

·         conscience

·         heart (of moral character)

·         as seat of appetites

·         as seat of emotions and passions

·         as seat of courage

 

In short, it speaks of the heart. If you look at the various parts of the definition, you can understand what the person without understanding is one with the weakest of all these.  It’s a weakness of mind.  It’s a weakness of control over appetites, emotions and passions.  It lacks knowledge, reflection, determination, and a good conscience. 

In the last of the passage above where Wisdom says “and live and go in the way of understanding”, the Hebrew word is ‘biynah’ (Strongs H998).  Its definition is:

·         understanding, discernment

·         act

·         faculty

·         object

·         personified

Biynah is focused on the use of wisdom, wisdom applied.  It’s no longer just in the mind, it’s a way of life.  A man or woman with wisdom uses the knowledge they have received.

Here’s an example.  If I know there’s a police officer watching traffic at the intersection of 139 South and 68/80, and I choose to take my chances and go 80 miles an hour through there, my wisdom about the situation has not been deployed.  I’m without understanding.  Head knowledge is as useless as an unread book on a bookshelf.  If you don’t apply it – it’s wasted. 

And that is why understanding is so important.  True understanding is applying wisdom to your life.

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. “ – Proverbs 4:7

"And when thou hast learned all within thy reach, know that thou knowest but little of the manifold wisdom of God. Let what thou hast learned humble thee, by showing thee how very little thou dost know. " - Adam Clarke
 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

God Our First Responder

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6


Since 9/11 I’ve heard the phrase “First Responders”.  I do believe that was the first time I heard it.  It refers to a group of precious people. They come from different occupations: our nation's Service men and women, Nurses, Doctors, EMT’s, Firemen, Police Officers, and many others.   

They are at the frontline of many of our current problems.  They tend to the patients with COVID, risking their own lives and that of their families.  They show up when there are bomb threats and move the innocent to safety.  They stand to defend the nation here and around the world.  First responders are the FIRST called when things go wrong.  I want to humbly give my gratitude for all the work they do.  For all the nights they are awakened from deep sleep and roll out of bed to help others. For the mornings when they leave home not knowing if they will make it back.  For their long mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting days.  For tenderness they express holding hands with a patient as their life ends, while the family watches over the internet.  Their sacrifices are endless!

Friends, these First Responders are taking care of all of us.  When we call on them they go and they serve. But they cannot control all that happens.  They cannot prevent death, destruction, hatred, violence, racism, brutality, and so on.  What they do is take care of the aftermath.

I heard something this morning that got me to thinking.  The phrase was “Prayer should be our first response – not a last resort.” I’m going to ask right now that if you are reading this, please do not be offended.  I’m not here to cause controversy or take sides.  I’m here to deliver God’s truth as gently as I can. 

Here are some other phrases I hear often:

“Well…at least we can pray.”

“All we can do now is pray.”

“I’m sending prayers and good vibes”.

“You’re in my thoughts.”

“It’s out of our hands.”

To those phrases, I just have a few questions:  What other than prayer do you think you need to do?  Prayer is not “all we can do”  it is the first thing we should do.  If God is almighty and in control, and the Bible says He is and He has proved He is, then isn’t a conversation, a plea, given to God the FIRST thing we should do.  And if all you’re sending up is “good vibes” and your “thoughts”…explain to me how that does anything?  Do you have some magical power that causes you vibes and thoughts to do great things?  And honey, it’s always been out of your hand!  I’m sorry, but there comes a time when we must try to correct those we love.  Please don’t be offended. But understand that prayer is what is needed instead.

Before our First Responders are called in to overcome the things of satan, should we not reach out to God.  Friends, spiritually and physically speaking, God is our First Responder.  No one can change the course of this life except God. 

You want to save a town like Nineveh?  Call on God. 

You want to be saved from the flood that rages?  Call on God.  

You want to weather the fire without even being singed?  Call on God

Do you need to flee from an enemy and the sea is not parting for you to cross over? Call out to your First Responder, God!

I get it. I even experience it. We all lose sight of who we really are and who is controlling this world. It’s easy to watch the news and become troubled, anxious, worried, and fearful.  Friends turn that mess off!  You’re watching it won’t make it go away, and it is affecting you in a negative way.  I can tell you – you will survive without watching the news, reading social media posts that trouble you, and listening to all the chaos that’s going on in this world.  In the long run, this is all TEMPORARY.  Let God have it, and don’t let it bother you.  Call on your First Responder and ask for peace.

Do you know that the absence of peace is?  Unrest.  Have you seen that lately? Have you seen it in those that are fearful of COVID, fearful of race riots, fearful of police riots, fearful of shootings at the mall, fearful of our country’s relationship with foreign countries, fearful of______ (you fill in the blank)!  That my friends is unrest. 

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Ephesians 2:14 says that “He Himself is our peace”.  Instead of living in unrest – give yourself over to peace.  NOTHING in this world will change without God ordaining it. Understand that it is not in your hands, but in the hands of God.  God changes hearts.  God removes plagues. 

I’m not saying stick your head in the sand and wait for the storm to be over!  That’s not how God’s people are to react to anything.  Matthew 5:13-14 Jesus describes the people of God saying, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Salt left available to the elements will lose its flavor.  We can too.  When our hearts and heads get tangled in the world’s events, we become overthrown by the fears we carry.  God’s word says we are then “good for  nothing” and are “trampled underfoot by men”. Friends, have they taken away your peace?  Is your heart in a state of unrest?  You and I have been trampled!

We are to be “a light to the world. A city that is set on a hill”.  But if we are living in the darkness of this world, the shadows of the depression and anxiety that all this has brought us, our light is dim.  Being the light means overshadowing the darkness of these times.  We must overcome our fear of the state of this nation, the racial divide, the political divide, and give it all to our First Responder, the ONE that is still on the throne!  We must silence the voices of satan which comes with fear from radio, tv, social media, and those obsessed with politics and current affairs, etc.  We must turn over our fears to the ONE who can do something about it – the one who can change hearts and provide peace: God, our First Responder.

Friends, the peace you have is quantitative to the distance you are from God.  A lack of prayer in your life starves your faith.  Set aside time to pray daily and pray over ALL that has you in unrest.  Fear not – isn’t that what God says over and over in His word? Drop those fears at His feet by trusting his omnipotent power.

In John 14:27 Jesus instruct us saying, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Where’s the instruction you ask?  He says not to let your heart be troubled.  It is up to you and no one else to shield yourself from the things that make you fearful.  Though you may hear of all that’s going on, you don’t have to let it invade your heart and mind.  Turn your eyes and your attention to God.  He saw all this coming, and He knows the end from the beginning. Be light by shining His light.  Be salt and flavor the conversations you have over these things with peace. 

Lord, I pray that your peace would spread like wildfire throughout our country!  I pray you silence satan and end all his schemes against us, your people.  I pray you lead us beside the still waters, let us lie in green pastures, and we will fear no evil because you are with us all the way.  I pray you drive out the plague of COVID as you did the plague of locust with a single wind.  Lord, lift our hearts with your peace.  Lift our hearts Lord and our eyes to focus on You.  Draw us to the shelter of your wings.  Let us be the city on a hill, bright and shining for all to see! Let us bring all who wander to you, Father.  In Jesus Name and because of Jesus, Amen.

(Inspired by the message God gave Pastor Mike Burnette this morning from LifePoint Church in Clarksville, TN. Thank you Pastor Mike!)

  

 

 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

 


“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Acts 2:21

I’m a very literal person and I’ve pondered at this one for quite some time. But today God opened my mind to the answer. 

“Trust in the name of Jesus” is just one of many phrases that give value to Jesus’ name.  Yes, His name was declared by the angel who came to Mary announcing his upcoming birth (Luke 20:21).  Yes, it is a special name.  But why is it so special that trusting in it would grant you salvation?  It seems I understood this all along but never applied it to the name of Jesus.

Think of the words below for just a few seconds each:

Turquoise

Dog

Hot

I guarantee you we all have different thoughts towards those words. 

When thinking of turquoise, did you think about the stone, or the color, or perhaps the ocean water that is that color?

When you think of dog, is it of a pet you had? Did you feel sad remember a pet that died?  Perhaps was it a fearful feeling? Or perhaps you related it to the odor of a wet dog and dog hair all over furniture?

When you heard Hot, did you think of a stove top, a campfire, or a sporty hot rod car?  Or maybe, like me, you thought a sun scorching day at the beach.

When I named my children, I didn’t want them to have common names.  I was adamant about it.  With common names come connotations of those you’ve known in the past with that name, much like how you feel about the word’s turquoise, dog, and hot.  I wanted my children to be known only for who they are.  I saw that as a wide-open door for them to chart their own life without a tainting of someone else’s deeds, personality, or skills. 

I named my son Levingston Mauries.  His first name is from my great-grandfather, a man I loved and admired.  His middle name was from his father’s grandfather, whom he cherished.  But those two people were gone, and with them most of the memories of who they were.  There would not be another “Lev” in his life, and that was what I wanted for him.  And true to the path I desired, he has made the name his.  When we think of that name, we think of nothing else.  We think of his humor, his heart, his skills, and the love he has given us.

My daughter came 7 years later.  I had picked out three names for her: Madeline, Gabriella, and Isabella.  They were beautiful names that – at that time - were not popular.  Her middle name would be Grace, because I desired the grace God to be part of her life.  But we could not decide so I told Lev he could pick which one would be her name. 

When he first saw her, he chose Isabella.  But a few hours later he came to me in my hospital bed and quietly said “Mom, I don’t want to call her Isabella.  I want to call her Gabriella.”  And there you have it! Her name is Gabriella Grace.  She’s been known as Gabby since she was a toddler.  Is she a talker as the name implies? Not at all.  Gabby is somewhat reserved.  Has she made the name hers? Yes indeed!  The name Gabby now refers to her strong character, which is graceful, loving, somewhat quiet, full of thoughts and ambitions, and empathetic to others – especially old people and children. Yes, I can see God’s grace on her!

Even thought I wanted my children to have unique names that they could “fill”, I didn’t understand that the name Jesus was made precious in the same way.

Jesus came into this world special.  The name may or may not have belonged to others at that time.  But throughout His life, the name Jesus became many things. He “moved” into His name through his deeds towards others as a healer, and a savior.  He showed the name Jesus to be righteous indignation when throwing the money changers out of the temple.  He brought compassion to the name of Jesus when he shed tears at the tomb of Lazarus.  On the cross, and many times before He filled his name with mercy.  And at His death, he became the cornerstone of our faith, and a stumbling block to those who do not believe. His name is great, powerful, precious, divine, and so many other things because it is the title given to who He is. 

The word NAME as used in the Greek text of Acts 2:21 is based on the word onoma.  Strong’s defines it as “the name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is aroused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, for one's rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds etc.”

The name Jesus isn’t a magical incantation, wizardly letters placed in a formula that causes miracles, healing, salvation, and inflicts fear on demons.  Taking it onto your prayer “in Jesus name” does not turn the wheels of heaven.  Instead, it is the BEING of Jesus Christ, all His works, all His feelings, all His love, and all His deeds.  Jesus, the name above every other name – because He has lived above all of us and sacrificed His life to free us.  

What a beautiful name!


Friday, December 18, 2020

Keep Calm and Walk through the Fire

 


My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  – James 1: 2-4

This is a testimonial.

A few months ago I posted two pieces of paper to the top of my monitors.  One says Wisdom, and the other says Patience.  They were to be reminders for me during the day to pray for both of these spiritual qualities. 

I should preface this by confessing that I have what a cook would call a “scant” of patience.  That’s why I’m praying for it.  Being impatient is hard! There’s no peace to be found when your patience is gone. 

The worst is the grocery store. If I’m in the grocery line, I’m internally panting like a dog for water in the summer heat for the person in front of me to just move along!  Walking through the isles marked “enter here” and “do not enter”? Oh for Pete’s sake! That takes too long when you’re not going through each isle and I must confess…I did not keep with the rules of the isles! And if you’ve parked your buggy up against the isle where I need something, I’ll let you know by pushing your buggy and saying, “excuse me”.  I don’t wait.

It’s also a problem at work.  If meetings go on and on about something I feel is important, I’ll multitask my way through the boredom.  If I’m waiting for someone to join a call, it’s all I can bare to wait 3 minutes past start time!  I prefer my conversations to go like this:  I ask a question, I get an immediate answer, the end.  I used to be much different, wanting small talk and friendliness.  But something has changed even in my communication skills, and I do believe it’s my patience.

When I posted the word Patience on top of my monitor I truly desired to pray and receive more patience.  Yes, I know that many of you will warn NOT to pray for patience because God will work you through tests to get it.  Yes, I know that even James 1 begins discussion on patience by noting “various trials”.

Here’s what I can tell you first had about praying for patience.  Yes, the trials did come.  I can only remember the big ones but there were many little ones too.  In July, I broke my leg and sprained the other.  Talk about having to have patience for yourself to be able to do what you normally do – that was a test.  Having to ask for help…what a test! But I did!

Then in October, the internet stopped working and two months later I have been to technical hell and back with three different carriers, and 4 different internet plans.  I now have four routers: 1 that is working, 2 that became too expensive to use, and one that won’t work no matter what I’m told to do, and an expensive smart mesh network that won’t work with three of those routers. (I’ve not had time to try it on the latest).

Small things happened along the way just to break open the scab on my healing frustrations, such as the microwave door not closing and therefore working.  I did remain “somewhat” patience in that one and fixed it myself with a paper clip!  I had a glass storm door I ordered to make letting our dog out easier delivered in August but could not find anyone to install it till November!  Also in August, I began having work done on the back yard which turned into a five-month fiasco.  We had to walk across an old door to get from patio to yard for several months and live with a muddy trench around our patio.  And just like the Egyptians, there were frogs! 

Then came a root canal in November, which was followed by COVID!  Covid I’m sure was to shake me up and try to scare me.  Friends, at this point my patience had grown callouses on top of callouses from being worked over!  I didn’t fear it because I know my God, and I know His love for me.  But…losing my taste buds…OH FATHER! Can I cry uncle now?

I can’t taste anything – sweet, sour, bitter, umami, nothing.  It’s either wet, dry, cold, warm, hot, chewy, smooth, or crunchy.  That’s all I taste – and I’m GRATEFUL even for that.  But I cannot cook without tasting what I’m cooking, and cooking is my go-to in the evenings to shed the work stress and get creative. 

So how did my patience grow?  SLOWLY like a stone being beaten by river water.  Am I there yet?  On no, not yet.  Will I know when I am full of patience?  That remains to be seen. 

But yesterday I had an incident, another trial, and I was very happy with how I responded.  Our heating unit (one of two) went out overnight Wednesday night.  I had to call yesterday morning to see when the service man could get here.  I was truly hoping for yesterday morning before I had to leave for a COVID retest (it was NEGATIVE!).  You know – I wanted it to fit within my plans because that’s how us control freaks like it.  But when I was told he could not get to it till today….hold on to your chair….I was calm!  I WAS PATIENT! I went to the store after testing and got a couple of heaters and we’re warm and toasty. 

The underlying question I’m sure everyone has is: Is it worth it to go through the trials to gain patience?  Oh Lord, I would say YES.  There is such a peace to be found in being patience with others and with situations that are out of your control.  Friends, the frustrations of this life are there to refine us, like fire to silver.  But a lack of patience spiritually will throw water on that fire. 

James 1:4 says “But let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” By lacking nothing we’re not talking about material things, we’re talking about something greater, something eternal.  You’ll be lacking nothing in your spiritual warfare, your spiritual fiber, your Christlike character.  Jesus is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).  When you grow patience, you open the door to allow that peace to overcome your frustrations and the chaos of this life.

Does that one incident, one spark of patience, mean I’ve arrived?  One does not proclaim victory in a war by winning a single battle!  But I will tell you this.  I’ll keep praying for patience and I’ll keep walking through the fire until my maker either takes me home or I meet his requirements for patience.  Why? Because I seek peace in this world. And I know those around me will have more peace when I am at peace.

Love to you all!

 

 

 


Friday, November 27, 2020

 


“And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” – Psalm 39:7

 As I read this verse this morning, I felt like a kid in a candy store!  Perhaps it was the translation of this verse which read “expectantly wait for”.  Perhaps it is just the fact that I have so much to pray about these days that I have to end my prayers with “and everything else I can’t remember”. 

There is something encouraging, lifting, and sparking joy in the heart about knowing that I am waiting on God.  He never fails!  I think that’s why prayer is so important.  It is a time when we communicate with Him and lay our burdens down.   

My question to you today is: What are you expectantly waiting for God to do?  Or better yet, what would you want God to do right now?  What is the one thing that you would like changed?  Maybe there is a financial struggle, a relationship to be made stronger, health issues, employment issues, addiction issues, a loss that has broken your heart – it doesn’t really matter how big a burden it is.  God has the answer. 

Think about that.  GOD has the answer.  Not just to resolve the problem, but to make you relax and feel peace about it.  He knows your very soul and has seen the struggle – to the end - as if it were written a history book. 

The second question is: Are you trusting Him with it?  Oh…I know.  That’s the hardest part.  Asking for help from God is relatively easy.  You just need to admit you need help and pour it out in prayer.  But can you expect God to work it out for you if you keep picking it up and trying to fix it yourself?  In all honesty I think His grace and mercy covers our desire to “own” our problems.  But at the same time, no peace can be found when dragging that baggage with you and letting it further affect your heart and mind.

Dear friends, let today be the day you GIVE it to God and leave it at His feet.  EXPECTANTLY pray for the resolution.  Begin to thank Him now for what you – in Faith – know that He will do. Live in peace, and the joy He gives. 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

 

 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Changing the Heart


For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. – Psalm 51:16-17


Psalm 51 is a prayer of David.  He is asking God to do three things.  He asks God to forgive his sins.  He asks God to allow him to be reconciled to God.  Lastly he asks God to renovate him, to change him. The verses above are near the end of the prayer when he requests that God change him.  David understands the process very well! 

Outward sacrifices will not do it.  What you give, what you do in service, what you say to others – these do not change the man or woman you are.  They are wonderful things, but even the most evil and vile person can do these things.  At the root of mankind’s sin is our heart.  The heart is created in original sin – the sin of all mankind. 

The heart of man is the source of our spirit.  Our spirit being our personality, which includes our wants, desires, hatred, anger, and every emotional element, as well as our will.  Our will causes our emotions to be played out in actions.  

In Genesis 6:5 it says that every intent of the thoughts of man are evil continually.  

Psalms 141:4 states “Do not inclined my heart to any evil thing”.  

Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”   

Without a change in the heart, man does not change.

David then speaks of what God will receive as a sacrifice for our sins: “A broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart.”  To receive God’s forgiveness, we must come to Him broken over our sin. When we’ve emptied our heart of ourselves, when we’ve seen who we are as God sees us, then we know we need forgiveness.  David also prayed in verse 10 of this chapter “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  A new heart is the beginning of renovation of our soul.  

In Ezekiel 36:26-27 God Himself speaks of this renovation saying: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Friends, I know a lot of folks have been asked to go to the front of a church, or maybe pray from their seats in an assembly and receive salvation.  If you are one of those, and do not have a renovation of your heart, and therefore your will, I would suggest you pray and seek God’s truth about your relationship.  Salvation is renovation – and it begins in the heart. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

God is GOD

These things you have done, and I kept silent;You thought that I was altogether like you;But I will rebuke you and set them in order before your eyes. – God, Psalm 50:21

“You thought that I was altogether like you”.  I believe it to still be true.  We have nothing in our intellect to fully comprehend God.  We have nothing to compare Him to, no scientific method or technical way to explain Him.  God is GOD.  There is none like Him.

Because of that, I believe we sometimes try to “fit” Him within the realm of our understanding.  We see God’s emotions as being the same as ours.  We see God’s love as ours.  We fear His wrath as we would fear mortal man.  But the truth is – we have no basis to compare Him to. 

The only way to truly know God, to even know a fraction of who He is, is to read the Bible and see His actions and words from history, and through His promises and His gifts to us. 

I used to see God much like a parent.  I saw Him peering around the corners at me waiting for me to make a mistake, tell a lie, act our on my anger, and then He would come an show His wrath.  But that’s not God.

I also have believed God to be all LOVE.  After all the Bible says, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8).  But God is also just, a corrector of those He loves.  He’s merciful but will condemn those who do not repent and be saved.  He’s far more than just LOVE.  In fact, His love is not just called love.  It’s called Agape - no earthly love can compare.

I also grew up believing God had the answers to all my questions.  But that was short sighted.  God has the questions I’m not even aware of to ask!  His wisdom is far about our own understanding. 1 Corinthians 3:19 says that the wisdom we have is “foolishness” in God’s sight.  Let’s face it – the creator is always wiser than the creation.

So here’s where I’m at today.  If I don’t understand God completely, then I should take God out of the box of my simple mind.  I can ask for the abstract, crazy, unthinkable.  I can ask for knowledge that isn’t “foolishness” in His sight.  I can ask Him to reveal Himself to me daily. 

Father, I want to know more of You.  I want to understand Your creation, Your purpose for crazy things like Volcanos and Stick Bugs.  I want to understand your thoughts toward me.  I want to comprehend Your intent in all things and know Your ways.  Reveal yourself more and more to me Father and let me love You for who You are, and not Who I imagine You to be.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Decide

Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.” – Daniel 1:6-7 

Being renamed when in captivity may have seemed like nothing but a language change.  But I found that it was much more.  King Nebuchadnezzar was looking to make these young men his mentees, his “cream of the crop”.  But in doing so, he was changing their identity, removing the lifestyle God had given them.  He wanted them to eat foods that were not kosher, not approved by God’s word.  He wanted them to become the people he sought them to be and leave behind who they were.  He gave them pagan names, and placed that characterization on each of them.

 Daniel’s Hebrew name meant “God is my judge”.  He was renamed Belteshazzar, which meant “lord of the straitened’ s treasure”.  Straitened is a characterization of poverty.

 Hananiah’s Hebrew name meant “God has favored”. He was renamed Shadrach, which means “royal, the great scribe, little friend of the king’.

Mishael’s Hebrew name meant “Who is what God is”.  He was renamed Meshach, which means “guest of the king”.

Azariah’s Hebrew name meant “Jehovah has helped”.  But he was renamed Abednego, which means “servant of Nebo, worshipper of Mercury”, a pagan god.

But Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself”.  He decided.  He decided he would rather die than give up the life he was living for God.   What did God do in return?  “Now GOD had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs”, which is the person in charge of these four young men. 

Friends, when you stand against the things of this world, and choose to, DECIDE to, stand for God, you will not stand alone.  Don’t be afraid to be a Christian who is openly a Christian.  We are who God made us, and He needs us to be who we are.  This world will try to make you who they want you to be.  They will try to rename you, label you, and give you a character they want.  STAND STRONG.  God stands with you.  Christians are not the weak minded, na├»ve, gullible uneducated people believing a fairy tale! 

What if Daniel and his friends had just gone along with King Nebuchadnezzar?  For one, Daniel would not have been God’s prophet.  We wouldn’t have the book of Daniel that speaks of the end times.  We wouldn’t have to story of Daniel in the Lions Den, and how God protects us.  Friends, each of us plays a specific role in this world.  That role was cast when God created you.  Live it out to His command. 

We are coming close to an election where out Leader will change.  We’re in a world that satan swarms with all sorts of evil.  Make up your mind, DECIDE now, will you stand with God knowing that He will stand with you?  Or will you let the world decide your life?  It’s not popular to be a Christian, but popularity is based on the favor of man.  I choose, I decide, to seek the favor of God.  What about you? 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Finding Strength in Joy

 

“Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10


After the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt and all guards in place, the people came together as one and asked Ezra the Priest to read the laws of Moses.  He read from morning till midday, and the people listened not only with their ears but their hearts.  Then they turned their faces to the ground, prayed and worshipped God.

 As they worshipped, the people began to weep.  Humility broke out like the common cold on those that heard the words God gave to Moses.  The priest then tells them not to mourn or weep, and he speaks the verse above, telling them something I’ve often heard myself:  the joy of the Lord is your strength.

So what is the joy of the Lord?  How are we to possess that joy that becomes strength? 

What makes our God happy, what brings Him joy, that is the joy of our Lord.  For it to become our strength, we have to live in God’s will, doing what makes Him happy.  If you’ve ever been there, knowing that what you are doing is pleasing to God, you know that joy that is your strength.  It fuels a fire in your soul that will energize the work you do and give you pure joy and peace in doing it. 

I found this years ago teaching a group of preteens.  Nothing got me revved up like knowing that I was going to teach them something God wanted them to understand!  I would leave work in a hurry, run and collect a bunch of teens, and head to church.  By the time I got home it would be just in time to tuck the kids into bed and fall into bed myself!  And looking back, that was one of the most satisfying times of my life.  Why?  Because the Joy of my Lord kindled a fire in me from the love I have for Him.

We have all felt at one time or another the great joy of loving and being loved.  Think back to your first love, your first crush.  Remember how that felt?  It kindled a fire in you that put a smile on your face, and perhaps made you feel giddy and a little silly!   Friends, find that love for God in doing His will, doing ‘the Joy of the Lord’, and feel that kindled love inside for Him!  There is no joy like knowing you are pleasing God.



Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A Mind to Work

 


“So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” – Nehemiah 4:6

Motivating people is one of the hardest leadership tasks to master.  Each person has a different motivation for the work they are to do.  But Nehemiah did it!  He motivated the hundreds who rebuilt the wall to complete their work – and quickly!

There are a few things to be learned as a leader from Nehemiah.  First, the word “mind” in the above verse doesn’t just mean their brain got fired up.  The word is Strong’s H3840 ‘leb’ and means far more than setting their mind to it.  They set their heart, their soul, their resolutions, their appetites for the work, and their courage all to the completion of this task. 

How did Nehemiah build this desire within their hearts?  In Nehemiah 2:17-18 he speaks to the people about the wall being broken down, but then he tells them ‘of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also the King’s words that he had spoken to me.’ 

This verse tells of two things.  First, he explained to them that God was with him.  Friends, when God is with you, you will not fail.  God had sent him to rebuild the wall.  It was God’s desire. 

Secondly, he told them what the King said.  The King was orchestrating all the supplies they would need to complete the job and had given Nehemiah his approval to build it. 

I’ve been a project manager for a couple of years and one thing I know for certain – if upper level management isn’t pushing the project – it delays.  Friends, Nehemiah had GOD on his side – and the King.  God influenced the King to provide the tangible goods.  Approval flowed down from the top level management just like that!

The second thing I’ve learned is that the tools to complete the job, whether it’s skills or tangible, must be present.  The King was supplying the tangible things, and the men chosen had the skills. 

Lastly, motivation in their hearts had to take place.  When you believe in a project, it will come to completion. The men working on the wall did believe in it.  Nehemiah knew that these men believed in their God, and he told them of God’s great favor on him and desire to have him rebuild the wall. 

When the men sat out to rebuild the wall, they also had specific areas of it to rebuild.  Each built a section, one after another, until the whole wall was complete.  As they built, they could look to their left and their right and see others working to complete the same task.  This created teamwork, motivation, and perhaps even competition!  All hands were into the work – and the work got completed quickly, and with quality.  The wall was sturdy, but not just a wall.  There were towers and steps and gates with beams. And the entire job was completed in 52 days!

In the body of Christ there are often tangible things that need to be done: the church needs painting, the mission trip needs funding, the youth need an outing, and so on.  I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but church folks can sometimes be the hardest to motivate.  Friends remember Nehemiah.  He shows us how to get things done.  And it all begins with building a team with ‘a mind to work’.