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’. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Knowledge of your Elders


Then the king answered them roughly. King Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!” - 2 Chronicles 10:13-14


Rehoboam, son of Solomon, had begun to reign as King when Solomon had died.  Being young, he had a lot to learn about leading a kingdom.  He also had a lot to learn about people, and how to communicate and be a leader.

Jeroboam and the Israelites had been made to work hard by Solomon.  So when Rehoboam took the throne they came to him and asked that the workload they had been given would be lightened.  Rehoboam, not knowing how to answer, requested they return in three days.  Three Days.

During that time, he consulted with his elders, those older wise men that knew his father.  No doubt these men had gained wisdom from Solomon on how to relate to the people of the kingdom.  They told Rehoboam “If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever.”

Now why Rehoboam didn’t take their advice I will never understand.  But do we ever understand why we decide to go against the advice of our elders?

He went next to the young men that were his friends.  Asking them the same question, their reply was to be mean and threatening, most likely thinking that a show of power would cause submission.  Their advice was to say ““Thus you should speak to the people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist!  And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with [a]scourges!’ ” (2 Chronicles 10:10-11)

Rehoboam, young and unyielding to his elders wisdom, spoke to the Israelites on that third day, giving them the harsh words of his friends.  What happened?  The revolted!  They went to their tents and refused to work for him or to even pay taxes!

When we’re young, toddlers to adults and forward, we must learn how to respect people and communicate. 

A toddler learns that taking away another child’s toy makes that child cry, and possibly gets them punished.  And from that they learn.

Children learn that telling lies breaks friendships and trust that may not be rebuilt.

Teens learn that their words can cut to the core, and that friendships can be permanently broken.

Adults learn that speaking to authorities is not to be taken lightly, and that communications are to be formed and framed – rather than words tossed about lightly.

With all that said – our Elders – no matter what the age – are wiser than we simply by the experiences they’ve had with people and communications.  If there was ever a time when we should consult our elders, it’s when we have relational issues with other people.  Their experiences may provide insight.

The moral of this story, as I see it, is never underestimate the wisdom and knowledge you can gain from your elders.  And since relational situations can arise without a three-day period of forming an answer, it’s best to sit in their company often and grow your wisdom before you’re required to have it.




Sunday, April 26, 2020

Righteous, Dude!




“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” – Romans 1:16-18

I believe there’s a connotation attached to the word Righteous that, at least in my heart, makes me feel unworthy to call myself righteous.  That connotation came about through the slang meaning of the word.  Merriam Webster puts it perfectly saying:

“Righteous is an old word living a double life: a marker of moral goodness, and undercover slang for "excellent." ... According to our evidence, righteous did not start out as a surfer term of the 1980’s, as many people assume.

In my head I can still hear the secretary telling the principle on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that Ferris “is a righteous dude!”.  I can also hear Wayne and Garth saying it was “totally righteous!” and talking about “righteous babes”. 

I’m disqualifying their meaning of the word and suggesting we Christians take it back!  Righteousness is a gift from God through Jesus Christ! It’s something to be proud of.  Yet with the meaning of it being so twisted to mean so many things, it’s hard to put it on and wear it. I mean, what will people thing if I tell them I’m righteous? Eh? The meaning of the word has been suppressed, just as Romans 1:18 states.

Why care so much about a word?  Because that word represents a lot of power, and many gifts!

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” – Romans 5:19


(Warning: I’m about to use the word BLOOD.  Don’t cop out on me when I use the word.  I know some folks see it as gross, and disgusting.  You just have to see it for what it is and you’ll love it. The BLOOD of Jesus was who He was in God, just as your DNA proves who you are and it’s in your blood.  He was God’s son, and the BLOOD proved it.)

By Jesus’ obedience to the cross, to shed His blood (there it is!) and His life for us, we were given the hope of attaining righteousness.  And yes, even being covered in righteousness!  When God looks upon me, He does not see the person I used to be.  He sees a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)  He sees the blood of Christ as my sin covering. (You’d have to study the old sacrifices to fully get why this is important.)

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” – Isaiah 61:10

And because of that covering, we resemble the Lord Jesus Christ! It makes us different in the eyes of God!  We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” as stated in 1 Peter 2:9.

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – 1 Peter 3:12

But even in that we should still be humble!  Our righteousness is NOTHING we can brag about ourselves, and I think that’s where the difference in the slang use of the word and the Christian use of the word lies.  We have it as a gift – given freely – never earned.  I’m not a righteous dudette because of something I did or the way I comb my hair or how I dress! 

For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. – Ephesians 2:7-9

The Bible talks of Gentiles and Israelites.  The Gentiles didn’t try to attain righteousness on their own, but the Israelites did.  They tried to keep 613 laws throughout their entire life.  But God’s word says they STILL did not attain righteousness.

“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;  but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.  Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.  As it is written:  “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”- Romans 9:30-33

Now picture a world where God would give us righteousness because of our good works, our kindness, our gentleness, our love for others, our clean language.  Exactly how much righteousness could you have compared to someone else?  Would God give the same to you as He gave to the most corrupt person you know?  What would be the scale for earning righteousness?  Does 10 good works a year give you 10% righteousness?  

You see, the belief that the righteousness of God can be earned is flawed.  There’s no program to get you there.  There’s no diploma of righteousness to earn – or anyone worthy enough to give it on this earth!  Even with the 613 Levitical laws, no one attained it!

God grants us faith as a gift.  We can choose to believe in Jesus – or not.  That’s the free will He gave us that prevents us from being slaves to Christianity.  We become His children through faith, and our own free will to accept Jesus.  God does not want slaves – He want’s children.  And through faith we become as children to Him. (Again, remember the BLOOD makes you children!) And THAT and that alone makes us righteous.

What’s the big deal with righteousness?  For me it’s in one verse.  This one:

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availmuch.” - James 5:16

To be found righteous in God’s eyes, God who looks on the heart, you have an open portal to the maker and keeper of all things on this earth and beyond.  You have an open line to the God of the universe, the God of peace and understanding and all wisdom.  I dare say, I would not last a day without Him.  But, even if I didn’t last another day here with Him, I have eternity WITH Him.  Can you top that?  Nope! Righteousness is righteous, dude!








Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Sin - The Repercussions



“So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this [a]shall surely die!  And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!  Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. – 2 Samuel 12:5-9

2 Samuel 12 begins with the Prophet Nathan coming to David.  He was sent by God to talk to David about the repercussions of his sin.  David had taken the wife of Uriah in adultery while Uriah was at war, and then caused the death of Uriah and several others by having him killed at war.

Reading this passage this morning, God spoke to me about what He truly hated about this act.  It’s the same thing I believe He hates about every sin.  This sin hurt someone innocent.

Notice that even in David’s reply to Nathan, David sees the sin in the heart as “he had no pity”.  David didn’t recite a law not to kill another man’s sheep, but directed attention to the root cause.

Jesus spoke in Mathew 22:37-40 about the greatest commandments of all.  They’re not actions that God hates, such as adultery.  It’s the effect they have on others.  The passage reads: “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

These two commandments were the basis of all 613 laws given in the Old Testament, meaning if you follow these two – you won’t break the others.  At the core of both are one thing – LOVE.  Love is from the heart, and God looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Without love, you can do some terrible things, things that hurt those around you!  But with Love, the kind of love God demands from us, we can only do good by others. 

Friends, if God looks upon our hearts, shouldn’t we carefully examine the love we have for others?  Our lives are happier when we live as God has asked us to, instead of dealing with the repercussions our sins can create.

What was David’s repercussions into his own life?  The child born out of that adulterous night died.  God promised that “the sword would never depart” from David’s family.  Murder plagued David’s ancestry. His many wives were taken by other men – just as David had taken Bathsheba – and not secretly has he had done but in broad daylight.  Enemies were raised against his house.  It’s and eye-for-an-eye kind of punishment David received. 

What would eye-for-an-eye punishment be like in our own lives?  Think about that for a while.  Meditate on it.  If that troubles you, ask forgiveness from those you harmed and from God.  God is ready and waiting to offer mercy and forgiveness.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

“…but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Power of Self-Control



“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control“ - Galatians 5:22

I am truly stubborn.  I don’t say that out of pride, but humility.  I’m stubborn in the worst way – the strong-willed child of God way.  I know to do good, and don’t do it.  What I often do is let my inner me overcome the me I want to be.

This morning I was reading in Judges how the Israelites moved into the Promised Land, and within one generation they turned to idols, and forsake God.  I sat here thinking, “How could they? What was it they saw in these idols that God did not give them?”  The answer was immediate. 

Rebellion feels good.  Admit it – that’s why most of us were troublesome in our teen years.  Even now, those tiny things we hide are our pleasures.  Sneaking the piece of chocolate while we diet. Taking a break from social media but checking it anyway.  Telling a lie just for the sake of telling it.  We love to rebel. It’s in our nature.

Jesus warned us that our will would get in the way of our work for Him.  Matthew 26:41 he said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  The spirit He speaks of is with a small “s” – meaning our spirit – not the Holy Spirit.  While we’re willing to do good, our flesh is so very weak and inclined to sin.

There’s a battle raging inside every child of God.  It’s the battle of wills – God’s will for you, or your own will.  Paul describes it in detail in Romans 7:15-25 (NLT):
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.   And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.] I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.   I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

I know that’s a brain twister when we first read it with 10 Do’s and 5 Don’ts, but Paul explains the battle inside so well!  The condensed version is this:  Yes, there’s a battle of wills inside us. But through the Holy Spirit given by Jesus Christ at salvation, we can be free from the chains of sin. That Holy Spirit gives us a fruit called self-control.  Self-control is our weapon against temptations. 

I used to pray that God would give me more love, the first fruit of the Spirit. But now I realize that if I have self-control, I can become a fruity Christian!  I am able to love when my nature wants to hate, make peace when I indeed want to lash out, be longsuffering instead of spiteful and grudgeful, be kind (even at Wal-Mart!), show good to others, be faithful to my God’s will, be gentle instead of rambunctious like a bull in a china store!  With self-control, I can be obedient to God’s will.

Lord, grant us an abundance of self-control! Holy Spirit remind us with that internal nudge when we are going off track that we have control – we just have to surrender, and choose to do what is right.  Remind us of the blessings, the fruits that can be born from our obedience in our lives.  And Father, thank you for your undying love and patience. Amen.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Receiving the Counsel of God



Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord." – Joshua 9:14

Joshua and the Israelites had defeated many of their neighbors as they moved into the Promised Land.  This caused fear to rise among all the nations that remained.  They had heard of the power of God, how the Jordan River was heaped up to stand while they all walked across on dry land.  They had heard how they defeated mighty armies and burned Jericho.

In a scheme to try to befriend them, men from Gibeon disguised themselves as travelers from far away.  They work old torn clothes, carried moldy bread and torn wineskins, and broken sandals to appear as if they’d travelled very far.  They spoke to Joshua and stated they had heard the work of God and how He delivered the Israelites and wanted to make a treaty with them.  They asked to be their servants, trying to find a peace treaty with Israel.  Yet, the Gibeonites were an idolatrous nation, a very large nation, and God had asked them to tear down all idolatry. 

What happens next changed the course of history.  Without seeking God’s wisdom, which knew the scheme these men had created, Joshua made the treaty with them.  Only days later as others in the camp had searched out the lands around them, they discovered these men were liars.  After swearing to them by the Lord God of Israel, there was no turning back on the treaty.  This treaty ended up putting the Israelites at war with the Amorites trying to protect Gibeon.

Friends, our God knows the future as history.  He knows every lie told, every obstacle in our future path.  Nothing in this life is more important that asking God for His will in our day to day decisions.  This is where the men of Israel messed up with Gibeon – “but they did not ask counsel of the Lord”. 

Let us never forget the great wealth of information God has regarding our lives.  He knows our life, our relationships, our health, our wealth, our past, our future, and more.  Let us never fail to ask Him to deliver us from the lies of mankind and the obstacles He already has seen.  When we make our own choices based on what we believe to be true, we risk more than we are aware. Our loving Father is just a prayer away.