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Author Archives: TJ's Man

About TJ's Man

Began working with the Sunset Avenue church of Christ in Madera, California on September 8, 2013.

Faith in the Fire: God’s in Control #4 – When They Call For Truth – Daniel 4


truth-3I spend a great deal of time daily pondering the requirement as a teacher to tell the truth about important spiritual matters…even when it isn’t popular. That is something that’s expected of teachers/ministers, but not always appreciated.

Think of a circumstance when an individual would suddenly grab his side in pain, double over and fall to the floor. Paramedics were called and he was rushed to the hospital. After a battery of tests and X-rays they found he had a cancerous tumor the size of a small football in his stomach. The doctors give radiation treatment and 3 months later they
operated to remove the tumor, now shrunken to the size of a golf ball.  

Many people say sin is a negative subject. So is cancer. If you have a cancerous tumor in your stomach the size of a football and they rush you to the hospital, you don’t need the doctor to tell you, ‘It’s just a stomach ache. Take some Mylanta and you’ll be OK.’ You need to know the truth.

How would you like to be the doctor who has to deliver such bad news? It probably wouldn’t be on anyone’s list of favorite things they like to do.

What is true of physical life and the threat of cancer it also true in the case of spiritual life and the reality of sin. Before people can understand and accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and salvation, they need to hear from us the bad news of their condition before God in their sins.

Because telling the truth about sin is quite similar to the doctor who must break the news about cancer, many people shy away from it. They prefer either to say nothing, or to water down the truth so as to somehow soften the blow.

Sadly, preachers and other Christians can become pretty good at watering down or disguising the truth so that it no longer appears to be bad news. Perhaps it is the reason why so many sense no joy in their salvation – they’ve no idea how bad their condition was so they don’t appreciate their deliverance from it.

Delivering good news is a joy. Delivering bad news is unpleasant. Yet it can get even more complicated than that. Imagine delivering bad news to a superior with a penchant for temper tantrums and the power to kill you. Surely the temptation in such a situation would be to tell a little less than the truth, or perhaps some version of “what they want to hear.”

That is the situation for Daniel in the fourth chapter of the book we’ve been studying. Daniel is the “doctor.” The “patient” is Nebuchadnezzar and he has a deadly sin in his life called arrogance. God has decreed his judgment and it is about to come upon him unless he changes his ways. Daniel must deliver the bad news.

This is sermon number four in our series from Daniel called, “Faith in the Fire: God’s in Control.” We’re looking at dealing with calls from the world. This message is titled, “When They Call for Truth.”

Daniel 4:1-37 (ESV)
1   King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you!

Notice that this chapter differs from the previous three in that it is written by Nebuchadnezzar himself in the first person. It describes what brought him to become a believer in the God of heaven. It involved some bad news. Penned after the fact, this was either a decree he sent out across his kingdom after the events described, or something he wrote in his memoirs for posterity. Note his high praise for God in the next two verses.

2  It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
3  How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

It wasn’t always that way. Listen as he describes what happened”
4   I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace.
5  I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me.
6  So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.
7  Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation.
8  At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying,
9  “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.
10  The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great.
11  The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
12  Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
13  “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.
14  He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches.
15  But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
16  Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him.
17  The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’
18  This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

 

What a story!

Recall now what we are looking for in this passage. We’re looking to see how we should deal with a situation where someone from the world asks one of us for the truth. A careful look reveals four necessary things for the truth-teller to get his message across. The first is…

1. Credibility
Notice back in verses 7 and 8 that Daniel was one of Nebuchadnezzar’s leading advisors. By this time, Daniel had established a track record in the palace, not only of telling the truth, but also knowing it. I have no idea why the king chose to call Daniel in last, after he had consulted the others, unless he wanted to evaluate his advisory team the way he did back in chapter two.

Look at his description of Daniel: “in whom is a spirit of the holy gods.” Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a believer yet, but he recognized Daniel had something the rest didn’t. From his previous encounters with Daniel, he must also have known that Daniel wouldn’t back away from telling him the truth.

When the world calls on one of us for truth, it will likely be because their observations of our actions have built credibility in them. We have become authentic. Usually unknown to us, the unbeliever has been watching and evaluating us in other circumstances. They’ve noted it when we had the courage to tell the truth and they’ve also noted it when they saw us
hedge. That is why it is so necessary to be truthful in all areas of life, big and little.

Who do you suppose if watching you right now, evaluation your truthfulness? It might surprise you to know who and how many!
If we expect the world to listen to the truth when we tell it, we don’t get there by waiting until they ask before beginning to tell the truth. We tell it now, in the little things that we face every day, knowing that the world is watching. We also don’t go to the world’s shifting standard of truth to learn how to do it (like the Indians learning to make smoke
signals from the movies.) We must be in God’s eternal source of truth, the Bible.

If you were called upon by the world to tell the truth today, would your message be heard or ignored? A lot depends upon your credibility.

  1. Concern
    Though it has been repeated to the point of being trite, it is still true that “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
    We see here in the example of Daniel a genuine concern for Nebuchadnezzar.

    19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

    Daniel could have said, “Well, it’s about time God dealt with you, you Pagan, for what you did to my people and my family back in Jerusalem!”

    We must tell the truth, but we must tell it with compassion. We should preach and teach “as dying men to dying men.”

    Our message isn’t delivered from a place of condescension! Without God’s offer of grace to us, given while we were still in our sins, we are no better off than this pagan king! We must never forget it.

    3. Candor
    Candor is forthright honesty. It’s what you want from your doctor. It’s what you should want from those who teach you. It is what the unbeliever who comes to you seeking truth, needs desperately from you.

    When you arrive at the absolute truth about a matter, things that contradict it cannot be right! That makes them wrong in case anyone needs some help figuring it out.

    When we speak of telling the truth with candor, we mean telling it like it is, not like we want it to be or we wish it were or our favorite version of it!

    From time to time there are people who are with us in the church for a while, then they leave. Often it is because they run aground on this very issue. They get upset because the leadership of this church will not go against the clear commands of scripture to accommodate their situation.

Those of you sitting here this morning don’t always know the issue behind some folks leaving, but you may hear them as they go mumbling things like how “unfair” the shepherds/minister are. My experience has been the “unfair” they are talking about is that these shepherds, who will account to God one day for their stewardship in this place, would not change the absolute truth of the situation to make it convenient for them to disobey God.

In those statements, I said you don’t always know the issue. The reason is that we don’t usually parade people’s personal lives before the church. If you have a question about something said about the elders, though, the best approach is to ask. They are open to questions and not above accountability for their actions. It is just that I can say with certainly that they (and I) are more afraid of some twisting the word of God than they are of someone’s threats to leave.

Candor – forthright honesty – is what is needed when the world calls for truth. We dare not let them down. To do so is fatal.

Though he risked the king’s wrath, Daniel told the truth with candor.
20  The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth,
21  whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived—
22  it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.
23  And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’
24  this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king,
25  that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.
26  And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.

To the person in the church, we need to tell the truth about the need to obey God. To the outsider, we need to tell the truth about their sin and the coming effects of it.

Those of you who have used “Sin-Savior-Salvation” lessons to teach someone else the gospel: that is why the lesson on “Sin” comes before the one on “Salvation.” People need to know the truth that, because of their sin, they are lost and could be bound for Hell. Only then will they be interested in Jesus as a Savior and not just a nice man.

It is also true of those of us who have been baptized for remission of sins…our refusal to ‘walk in the light’ and to confess the willful sin in our life…puts our eternal condition in peril.

Credibility, Concern, Candor. These are all things we need when the world calls for truth. It is not the time to back away.

  1. Correction
    The call from correction is a call to fix what is wrong. It is the instruction to make straight what is crooked.
    Here it is from Daniel. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

    That is our ultimate goal when the world calls for truth. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all, likewise, perish.”

    Sin separates and alienates people from God. If it isn’t forgiven, they will go to hell. That is the truth. Repentance is the first step back toward God. It is the point where they change direction. They quit living for themselves and make up their mind they will start living for God.

    Repentance is the hardest part of the message because it means a person must stop doing things only to please himself and start doing what pleases his Maker.

    For the king it involved abandoning his arrogance and helping other people. It involved getting off the throne of his own life and putting God in His rightful place.

    To those seeking truth it is no different. When we tell a person the bad news, that is, his sin has him bound for a fully conscious eternity in hell and that he cannot save himself, we show him God’s answer to his problem. Christ has died to take away his/her sin.

    But he must turn from his sinning and accept Christ. He must be baptized to have his sins washed away. He must strive from then on to put God first in his life. In these things we cannot afford to be unclear or try to slip it by.

    Daniel 4:28-37 (ESV)
    28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30  and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31  While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32  and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33  Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

34  At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” 36  At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

What Preaching is All About? By Wes McAdams

Preaching is the proclamation and explanation of God’s word. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of men who stood before God’s people and explained, “This is what God says, this is what it means, and this is how it applies to us today.”

The church needs to hear the proclamation and explanation of God’s word. We need to hear what it says, what it means, and how it applies to our lives today. When God’s word is proclaimed and explained:

  • it brings glory to God.
  • it unites God’s people of the present with His people of the past.
  • it makes us into a knowledgeable and disciplined community, by encouraging us to stretch our attention spans and develop an ability to hear the word of the Lord.

How We Turn Preaching Into a Competitive Performance

With singing, we often misplace our focus. We focus on the tune and the tempo, when the focus should be on the words of praise. With preaching, we focus on the preacher’s style and delivery, when the focus should be on accurately proclaiming and explaining the word of God.

But think about it, when we sit in the pew and make the sermon about the preacher’s performance – rather than our own walk with Jesus – it takes the pressure off us and puts it on the preacher.

When we have the luxury of sitting and measuring the length and style of the sermon, comparing it with other sermons we’ve heard, our job in the pew is easy. It’s much more difficult for us to accept our God-given responsibility to look beyond the flaws, shortcomings, and human limitations of the preacher in order to discern and apply God’s holy word to our lives.

Pride, Ego, and Self-Esteem

It’s easy to see the harm we do to those we criticize. It’s easy to see how it hurts a preacher’s feelings when we criticize his style; but we might actually be doing more harm to those on whom we constantly brag. When we constantly brag on a preacher’s style and performance, we might very well be stroking his ego.

 

How To Encourage a Preacher

So how can we show appreciation to our preachers, without being stumbling blocks? Here are a few of my favorite kinds of encouragement:

  • “That message really made me think. I’m going to have to go home and study some more.”
  • “I’m convicted. I’m going to make some big changes in my life.”
  • “God’s word is so powerful.”
  • “Thank you for telling us the truth.”

Conclusion
Some years ago a terrible railroad accident occurred, killing many people. A commuter train had stalled on the tracks just a few minutes before a fast freight was due to arrive. A conductor was quickly sent to flag down the approaching train. Assured that all was well, the passengers relaxed. Suddenly, however, the speeding freight came bearing down upon them. The crash left a ghastly scene of horror.

The engineer of the second train, who escaped death by jumping from the cab, was called into court to explain why he hadn’t stopped. “I saw a man waving a warning flag,” he said, “but it was yellow, so I thought he just wanted me to slow down.” When the flag was examined, the mystery was explained. It had been red, but because of long exposure to the sun and weather it had become a dirty yellow.

When the world calls for truth, our message must be clearly red, not yellow. It must be held up with confidence, waved with concern and candor, accompanied with a message of correction.

 

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

Faith in the Fire: God’s In Control #3 – When They Call For Open-Mindedness


in-the-fireWe live in strange times. Everybody wants a piece of the action when it comes to making everyone else recognize and accept their way of doing things. Years ago, when an immigrant stepped off the boat at Elis Island, his first concern was learning American English and American culture. Today his greatest concern is learning to manipulate the political system to his own ends.

And our response to all of this? We’re supposed to welcome it. You’ve all heard of it. It’s described by words like “tolerance,” “broadmindedness,” “open-mindedness,” and the latest social retread: “multiculturalism.”

The idea seems appealing on the surface. We must be tolerant of others and their belief systems. After all, anything less is bigotry and who wants to be a bigot?

The Bible does teach us to be tolerant of others. “And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way.” It also indicates we should be open to learning new truth. “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…”

The blindness brought on by arrogance and a closed mind can prevent one from seeing God’s truth. But this new “tolerance” and “open-mindedness” goes beyond that.

(Please listen to this statement.) It not only demands that we be tolerant of the rights of others to believe what they want, it teaches that the ways of each culture must be recognized as equally valid and right.  It’s a mindset that says that no culture is better than any other, no matter what strange or destructive ideas it holds. If you say anything different, you’re a bigot.

Of course, the highway doesn’t go both ways.
· Have you noticed lately that some of the gurus of tolerance and multiculturalism seem just a bit intolerant of your Christian belief structures?
· Have you noticed that in today’s social climate, you can say and do almost anything you want as long as you don’t express your view that someone else’s belief or behavior is wrong?
· Why is it that those who scream “tolerance” so loudly today are so intolerant of the moral base on which this country was built and the people who represent it?
· Everything is tolerated, it seems, except the good old “Judeo-Christian ethic.”

Have you thought very long about what is happening? In first century Rome, people were allowed to believe and worship whatever they chose, much the same as we are today, as long as they first burned a pinch of incense in the name of Caesar and pronounced the words, “Caesar is Lord.”

It seems to me that we may be coming around full-circle. Many people today believe that all religions are true. “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere,” they say. It doesn’t even matter if the teachings conflict with one another.

No, the “Caesar is Lord” idea probably wouldn’t work. We’re too critical of our public leaders and know their faults too well. It isn’t likely we’ll be unified by consenting to view our president as a god.

But what about a unifying idea? What about an idea we enthrone like a god called “multiculturalism.” As long as you recognize that all cultures and religions are equally right, you are free to worship any way you choose. Note what I did not say. I did not say “as long as you recognize that all religions have a right to exist and compete for attention.” I said, “as long as you recognize that all religions are right.”
When the early Christians faced this issue, their belief in one God made them realize they couldn’t bow down to Caesar or say that all other religions were equally right. This put them on a collision course with their government.

If you’ve heard of the lions and arenas of that era, you know the results. I wonder how it will be if we end up facing the same choices? If the “god” of multiculturalism continues to be held up for admiration and worship until it is so socially acceptable that nothing else is tolerated, will Christians bow down and concede that every religion and lifestyle is true and their faith in one God who calls some behavior “sin” is the only remaining falsehood?

I cannot see the future. Whether such a thing as I have implied will happen in our day remains unknown. I believe, though, that we must be ready for it. We must clearly understand that we cannot bow down to the God of heaven and the god of multiculturalism, too.

So how does a Christian stand in the face of a world that is lining up against absolute truth? How does he/she resist being overrun?  There are answers in the third chapter of Daniel that I want to consider with you this morning. There we find three very brave young men who worshiped the God of heaven. Their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Through God’s providence, they were members of a Babylonian king’s advisory cabinet. They lived in a culture that recognized many gods. One day the king set up a god for all his subjects to worship. He gathered them all together at a place called the plain of Dura, struck up the band, and told them all to bow down. The three young men refused. The king threw them into a furnace, then something very remarkable happened.

We’re continuing our series called “Faith in the Fire” from the first six chapters of Daniel. This is the third message. I’m calling it “When They Call For Open-Mindedness.”

Daniel 3:1-30 (ESV)
1  King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
2  Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
3  Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
4  And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages,
5  that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.
6  And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
7  Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8  Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews.
9  They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever!
10  You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image.
11  And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace.
12  There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13  Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king.
14  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?
15  Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
17  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
18  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
19  Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated.
20  And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
21  Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace.
22  Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
23  And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
24  Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
25  He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26  Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.
27  And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
28  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.
29  Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”
30  Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

What can we learn from the experience of these three men that might be helpful to us in sorting out the confusion of multiculturalism today? I’d like to point out five qualities they had that we should develop. The first is:

1. Clarity.
These men knew what they believed. When the king announced the requirement of bowing down to the image, they knew immediately that they could not do it.

One of the reasons so many Christians are so gullible and identify with the ideas behind multiculturalism is that they are not clear on what they themselves believe. They don’t realize that such a proposition is contrary to the faith they espouse. No wonder they’re confused!

Though I have been reading this chapter in Daniel off and on for nearly 33 years, it was only this past week that it occurred to me what must have really happened there on the plain of Dura. I had always assumed that when all these musicians got together, they all played the same thing, perhaps “Hail to the Chief” of something similar. But look back at
Daniel’s description of the music that was played before the people bowed down to the image.

7  Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

It is probable they weren’t all playing the same song or at least they weren’t playing it the same way!

What a striking illustration of multiculturalism! That is what it sounds like when everyone’s philosophy and belief is viewed as being equal and you’re not allowed to sort it out in the competitive free marketplace of ideas!

We need to know what we believe and why we believe it. Further, we need to know with razor sharp clarity what are the absolutes and what are not.

Have you noticed that in today’s political-religious climate, people who see anything clearly as an issue of ‘right or wrong’ are ridiculed and looked upon as backward?

“There are no absolutes,” we are told. “Everything is relative. We live in a gray world. Everything is fuzzy and unclear. It doesn’t matter who is right, because there really isn’t a right and wrong. That’s the trouble with you Christians. You see everything as black and white.”

Abraham Lincoln seems to have been one who loved wit and wisdom. I’m told that one of his favorite brain-teasers used to make a point with his constituents was to ask, “How many legs would a sheep have if you called his tail a leg?” Naturally, they would respond, “Five.” “Wrong!” Lincoln would reply. “The sheep would still have just four legs. Calling
something a leg doesn’t make it so.”

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! Front and center. How many gods are there in the world?” “Only one God.” “Well, we want you to bow down to a different god than that One.” “We can’t do that.” “Well, then you’re gonna burn ’cause we don’t like you saying we’re wrong!”

These young men knew what truth was and knew how to describe it. We should know the same.

2. Constancy
This was not the first time these young men had resisted giving in to demands that would compromise their faith. We saw them back in the first chapter when the issue was eating the king’s choice food. Remember?

Too many Christians today lack constancy. They’re on-again, off-again. They’re hot, then they’re cold. They’re up, then they’re down. They’re in, then they’re out.  Oh, how we need that today!

  1. Conviction
    AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY says of the word “conviction,” “a fixed or strong belief.”
    We sometimes say of a person, “He has a strong moral conviction.” What we mean is that his belief is deep enough to have become rooted and firmly established. It isn’t a passing thing. Then the dictionary gives another definition that suggests the way a person gets to that fixed or strong belief. It says, “the act or process of convincing.” When you or I hold a conviction about something, what it means is that we have weighed it and measured it to the point that we have become convinced that it is true beyond a reasonable doubt and that anything that goes against it is false. It is no longer something we hold in the realm of possibility. We have found it to be truth worth defending.
    With that in mind, let me ask you, what religious convictions do you hold? I’m not asking you which convictions you’ll allow me to stand up here and promote. That is quite another thing. I’m not asking you about my convictions. I’m asking about yours. What principles are so settled in your mind that they have become facts that cannot be denied and must be defended?

    One of the reasons a philosophy like multiculturalism can be so widely embraced today is that it takes no conviction to hold it. You don’t need to know anything. It’s a brainless, gutless choice.

    You don’t have to stand up and defend it. You don’t have to consider the fact that it is illogical and doesn’t add up. It’s popular, so you can even congratulate yourself for being in such a broad stream of prominent people.
    · Multiculturalism is the lord of the lazy.
    · It is the deity of those who don’t think.
    · It is the supreme being of those with no sense, who put their feelings ahead facts.
    · Their common sense is on standby.
    · It’s the adoration of the apathetic.

    Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”

    4. Confidence
    {17} If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. {18} But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

    These young men believed that God could rescue them if He chose to do so, even from a blast furnace so hot it burned bystanders. But even if God didn’t deliver them, they weren’t going to bow down. They were convinced that He would deal with them fairly even if they ended up dying for their faith.

    To stand against the idol of multiculturalism that is being erected today, we too need confidence. We need to know that we are on God’s side. The only way we can have that assurance is to get on God’s side. Don’t expect God to come to your side. Get on His side! The only way you can do that is to get in His Book and learn what God’s side is!

    5. Courage
    Saying you believe something or have a conviction about it is one thing – standing by it is another. Do you suppose these young men were scared? I cannot imagine it any other way.

    During World War II, a military governor met with General George Patton in Sicily. When he praised Patton highly for his courage and bravery, the general replied, “Sir, I am not a brave man — the truth is, I am an utter craven coward. I have never been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my whole life that I wasn’t so scared that I had sweat
    in the palms of my hands.” Years later, when Patton’s autobiography was published, it contained this significant statement by the general: “I learned very early in my life never to take counsel of my fears.”

    Jesus said this on the subject: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Do you want to master the fear of men? Work until you have a greater fear of God.

    Conclusion
    Let me challenge you with a pledge I found by an anonymous disciple of Jesus. It is called “The Fellowship of the Unashamed.” Perhaps you can find yourself in his words.

     
    “I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals! I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.

    “My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, let go, or slow up until I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.   “I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops. And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.”

    Be sure your colors are clear.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

Faith in the Fire: God’s In Control #2 – When They Call For Help


faith under fireWhen They Call For Help

“…everybody has something that isn’t working in their life somewhere.”

Most of us in difficult conditions turn to our tried and true solutions first – you know, those little shortcuts and dodges that have bailed us out of trouble before. When these don’t work, we may confide our problem to a trusted friend or two. That failing, we may become desperate. We begin to entertain a willingness to open ourselves to things we haven’t considered
before.

In that condition, some of us are, perhaps for the first time, willing to listen to what God might have to say. If, at that point, there is a Christian near us whom we trust and who is ready to help us understand, we find ourselves listening with a new level of attentiveness. For some this can result in becoming lifelong disciple of Jesus.

This process of a crisis bringing the unbeliever to the believer for help has been repeated over and over. It seems to be a prime method God uses to call men and women to Himself.

In the Bible narrative we’re going to consider this morning, we have one of those “turn-to-God-in-time-of-crisis” stories.
This message is the second in a series based on the first six chapters of Daniel. We’re considering how God’s people should respond to the different calls of the world. The first message, based on chapter one, was called “When They Call For Compromise.” In it, we saw that we must resist the world’s attempts to homogenize us into its system.

This lesson: “When They Call For Help.” How should we respond when someone who doesn’t know God comes to the end of his/her rope and reaches out to us for help?

As we’ve noted already, often an unbeliever’s first serious consideration of his Maker comes in a time of crisis. In this case the unbeliever is the king of Babylon 600 years before Christ – a man named Nebuchadnezzar. The crisis is a dream he had (to him more like a nightmare.) We begin then, with the crisis of:

I. A Rattled King.
Daniel 2:1: “In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.”

Because they possessed almost unlimited power and authority, Oriental leaders were notoriously temperamental and unpredictable, and here Nebuchadnezzar reveals this side of his character.

 

The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a vivid dream that he couldn’t understand, and it distressed him. That the Lord God Almighty would communicate truth to a pagan Gentile king is evidence of the grace of God.
That word “troubled” in this verse in the original language means “to be beaten, compelled, or pushed.” It was the kind of dream that causes one to sit up suddenly in bed, heart pounding, eyes wide, utterly terrified. It was so troubling that the King couldn’t go back to sleep. The plural “dreams” suggests that perhaps this same dream persisted night after night.

The King did what all people do when they hit a situation they cannot control. He turned to his familiar, tried and true solutions first.

Daniel 2:2-4: “So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, {3} he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” {4} Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.””

Now get ready. The king is about to put these men to a test that will expose the limits of their power.

Daniel 2:5: “The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.”

The king wants not only the interpretation of the dream, he wants them to describe to him the dream itself! Without some sort of supernatural power, that is going to be impossible for them. As you can probably imagine, it didn’t take long for these Chaldeans to realize they were in deep trouble!
This in itself set the stage for Daniel to exalt the true and living God of Israel who alone can predict the future. By issuing this impossible challenge, the king was unconsciously following the plan of God and opening the way for Daniel to do what the counselors could not do.

 

Daniel 2:6-10: “But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.” {7} Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” {8} Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: {9} If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to
tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” {10} The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer.”

What a revealing statement of the limits of human resources in the face of some crises! “There is no earthly solution to a problem like that, O king!” That was the best their most advanced wisdom of their day could produce.

Daniel 2:11: “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.””

“Your predicament, O king, is outside the realm of man’s abilities.”

There is nothing surprising about such a declaration from our perspective. Most of us here have realized that there comes a point when man’s solutions run out. You have to wonder, though, what these guys had been claiming to the king about their powers and abilities prior to this that would provoke such a violent threat.

What we’re talking about here is this: all people, sooner or later, sense the limitations of human resources. The Chaldeans state it well: “It would take a god to do what you are asking!”

There comes a time in the life of every person when you realize you can no longer dodge the bullet. You can no longer get off easy. You can no longer sidestep or ignore the problem or dig yourself out of your predicament. You’re in trouble and unless there is something beyond the power of man, you won’t escape. At that point, sometimes for the first time, the possibility of a Supernatural Being who transcends human ability becomes relevant. You think, “perhaps there is a God.”

Zig Ziggler quips that there are three things that are hard to do. One is to climb a fence leaning toward you. Another is to kiss a girl who is leaning away from you. The third is to help someone who doesn’t really want to be helped. That is how it is most of the time we deal with unbelievers. They don’t want to be helped. But in time of crisis in the unbeliever’s life, that changes.

Those of you who have turned to God because of a crisis in your life, think back to the time you first changed your attitude toward the possibility of God in your life. How then do we respond to the world’s call for help? We must first:

1. Realize that unbelievers will come to us in time of crisis.  To borrow from a recent popular advertising slogan, “If you build it, they will come.” If you build an authentic, consistent Christian witness, unbelievers in the time of their crisis, will come to you. God will see to it, just like He did here.

As one poet reminds us: “If each man’s care were written on his brow, how of them who have our praise would have our pity now!”

You never really know what is going on in the life of that unbeliever next to you until a crisis brings it out into the open. Realize that unbelievers will come to you in time of crisis.

2. A Ready Witness.
With the things we’ve said so far in mind, it seems rather obvious, doesn’t it, that God, who is seeking lost mankind, would step in to provide a witness to help such a person? In that day it was Daniel. Today it just might be you or me.

That God would provide a witness is no surprise. What is always surprising to me is how He goes about it sometimes. That is what we see next.
Daniel 2:12: “This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.”

If you’ve ever heard or made the statement, “God works in mysterious ways,” you’ll recognize the truth of it here. Those words “destroy all the wise men of Babylon” would include Daniel and his three Hebrew friends who proved so faithful to God in chapter one. The King’s edict amounted to a death warrant for them. What is God up to? Mysterious ways indeed!

Daniel 2:13: “So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.”

The Evil One is willing to sacrifice all his false prophets in the city of Babylon if he can destroy four of God’s faithful servants. Satan’s servants are expendable, but the Lord cares for His people.

 

Doesn’t it seem a bit strange to you that God would use a death warrant and the fear it would provoke in the minds of Daniel and his friends to bring the seeker and the witness together? Yet that is the way God did it.

Don’t ever think that the difficult circumstances in your life are without purpose in God’s scheme of things. We’ll see here that God can even turn a threat to your physical life into a blessing and an opportunity.

So Daniel got word of the edict. When the king and his soldiers knocked on his door, he was ready: Daniel 2:14-16: “When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. {15} He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. {16} At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he
might interpret the dream for him.”

Those words in verse 16, “asked for time” are translated: “requested that he would appoint a time for him.” We saw back in verse 8 that the king had already denied the Chaldeans additional time to collaborate. What Daniel is discretely and wisely asking for here is an appointment with the king. Rather than just sit there like a dumb ox at the slaughter,
oblivious to what is going on around him, Daniel did the second thing we need to do when an unbeliever is in crisis: take the initiative with discretion and discernment.

Before I elaborate on that point, will you recognize what I didn’t say? I didn’t say, “call the preacher and turn the unbeliever over to him.” Of course, in some cases that might be appropriate, but I need to say a couple of things here. First, the unbeliever likely doesn’t know your preacher. He knows you. If your witness was authentic enough that he was
attracted to you he needs to hear what you have to say!

“What on earth could I say?”

You could tell him how God has made a difference in your life. You could promise to pray for him. If he sees the need for salvation you could have a few verses handy and show him what he needs to do. You could enlist a few other Christians to help you hold him up before God in prayer. You could spend time with him and encourage him to hang in there and not give up.

God has given evangelists and pastors and teachers to equip you for service, not to do your service for you! What am I saying here? I’m talking about taking the initiative with discretion and discernment.

When we recognize that God does things this way, that is, He brings crises into the lives of unbelievers so they will seek Him, and that He uses believers like you and me to deliver His message, we can move forward with enthusiasm knowing that God is with us. He can even help you in your ineptness!

What has always amazed me in reading Daniel’s response to all this is the degree of confidence he had in God – not in himself. “Before you kill us, Arioch, can you get me an appointment with the king?” He didn’t know what God was going to do! He hadn’t read the book of Daniel like we’re doing. He just knew that the king’s life was spinning out of control and that God was more powerful than any man or circumstance.

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY says of discretion: “showing prudence and wise self-restraint in speech and behavior.”

When an unbeliever is calling for help, it’s not the time to go out and club him with you trusty Bible or hit him and shoot him with your ever-ready ax and two thirty-eights. Yes, Scripture will ultimately be important, but remember, the situation calls for discretion and discernment. These twin qualities are some of the most important characteristics of an effective witness for Christ.

Of course, we should never face a situation like this alone. Intercession from the rest of the body to invoke God’s help is important. That is how Daniel saw it.

Daniel 2:18-19: “He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. {19} During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven”

3. Solicit support from God’s people.
In this case we’re talking about prayer support of others which led ultimately to answered prayer from God.

If God is instrumental in bringing crisis to the life of the unbeliever and brings the unbeliever into contact with the ready witness, we must recognize that this whole procedure is primarily His, not ours. We are simply His tools. It is only reasonable that we should go to God and seek his help and guidance through it.

We need strength to do it right. Someone has written, “In relation to his people, God works only in answer to their prayer. In prayer we exchange our natural strength for the supernatural strength of God.” I like that because at times like we are discussion, we need that supernatural strength!

Solicit support from other believers and God.  O.K. An unbeliever has hit a spot where he has realized his need for God. You or I, realizing this, take the initiative with wisdom and discernment. We are confident God can help them, indeed, He has probably allowed the circumstance for this very reason. Then, God steps in and delivers them with a mighty hand! What now? I’ve called this next section,

3. A Revered God.
Let’s look again to see what Daniel did.

Daniel 2:19-28 (ESV)
19  Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
20  Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.
21  He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22  he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.
23  To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
24  Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
25  Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”
26  The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”
27  Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked,
28  but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:

 

  • Daniel 2:29-45 (ESV)
    29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.  30  But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
    31  “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.  32  The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33  its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
    34  As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.
    35  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
    36  “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37  You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38  and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

39  Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40  And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these.
41  And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay.
42  And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle.
43  As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.
44  And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45  just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

 

To sum up what the large image represented: four Gentile kingdoms:

  • The breast and arms of silver—The Medo-Persian kingdom (539-330 B.C.). Darius the Mede conquered Babylon ( 5:30-31).
  • The belly and thighs of bronze—The Grecian kingdom (330-63 B.C.). Alexander the Great established what was probably the largest empire in ancient times. He died in 323 B.C.
  • The legs of iron and feet of iron and clay—The Roman Empire (63 B.C.-ca. A.D. 475). Iron represents strength but clay represents weakness. Rome was strong in law, organization, and military might; but the empire included so many different peoples that this created weakness.
  • The destruction of the image—The coming of Jesus Christ, the Stone, to judge His enemies and establish His universal kingdom.

 

Nebuchadnezzar saw that his own kingdom would fall one day and be replaced by the Medes and Persians. This happened in 538 B.C. (Dan. 5:30-31).

When we consider these truths, our response ought to be one of joyful confidence, knowing that the Lord has everything under control. While God’s people should do everything they can to alleviate suffering and make this a safer and happier world, our hope is not in laws; political alliances, or moral crusades. Our hope is in the Lord.
What started out as possible tragedy—the slaughter of four godly men—was turned into great triumph; and the God of Daniel received great glory. Daniel gave the glory to God!

  1. Pass on the praise.
    It is a heady experience when God uses you to make a difference in the life of an unbeliever. It gets even headier if that unbeliever has fame or celebrity status like the king here. What do you think the temptation is at that point?
    Yeah, the temptation is to take the glory for yourself. This would have made an excellent opportunity for advancement in the king’s court for Daniel. Had he simply claimed to have power and special abilities himself, from human perspective, look at what he would have gained.

    Ah, but Daniel realized that his purpose was to glorify God, not himself. In so doing, ultimately, God would honor him.

    Daniel 2:46-48: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. {47} The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” {48} Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.”

    Have you come to the place in your Christian maturity where you are willing to pass on the praise for anything you might accomplish to God and leave your advancement in the ranks of life to Him? That is really what this is all about. It is to call attention to God, not us! It is His power the unbeliever needs to see, not ours.

    Do it that way and God will promote you. Do it any other way and you fail to accomplish the purpose of God.

    Conclusion
    Everyone has something that doesn’t work someplace… Everyone faces the reality of a crisis in their life sometime. …Everyone has a need somewhere, regardless of how together they seem to be.

    It’s true of people right in the sphere of your influence. People who have been watching your life and listening to you for weeks, months, or even years. When the crisis comes, you need to be ready. Because we build a credible witness of Christ in your life, they will come.

    Perhaps there is someone here among us this morning who is in a crisis but doesn’t know Christ. You’re the person who is listening to talk about God for the first time. I don’t want you to leave this building this morning without an opportunity to get help.

    If you would like to talk to one of our ministers or elders, please take one of the attendance cards from the rack in front of you and write your name, phone number, and anything pertinent to your situation and hand it to one of these men. One of us will call you privately and discreetly this week. We want to help you.

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

Faith in the Fire: God’s In Control #1 – When They Call For Compromise


faith under fireWe would need to go to the grocery store to find the opening illustration for the sermon series I want to begin today. Rummaging through the items there, you would found the analogy on the side of a half-gallon carton of milk. The words: “Grade A, Pasteurized, Homogenized Milk.”

Pasteurization has to do with heating the milk to a certain temperature and holding it there until certain harmful bacteria are killed. Before the days of pasteurization, people would occasionally die from drinking a glass of milk. Homogenization is the process of mixing up the milk until it has a uniform consistency. We might say it is fully blended. You can always recognize non-homogenized milk because the cream separates and comes to the top.

It occurred to me this past week that homogenization is exactly what the world wants to do with Christians. The world wants to shake us up and blend us so effectively that there is no longer any difference between us and them. The cream no longer comes to the top. It is no longer a separate substance.

Once you’ve been a Christian for awhile, of course, you realize that, while that is what the world around you wants, it isn’t what God wants. He doesn’t want the cream so mixed up with the rest of the milk that there is no difference. He wants us to resist becoming “homogenized” with the world. Yet, staying with our analogy, He hasn’t called us to leave the bottle of milk either. (I believe somewhere I’ve heard the phrase, “In the world but not of the world” used among Christians.) In our day, that is no small assignment. But then again, it never has been.

So how do you pull something like that off? How do you maintain a dynamic, no compromise faith in a deluded world that wants to homogenize you?

This morning we begin a new six part sermons that I’m going to call “Dynamic Faith in a Deluded World.” The idea behind it is this issue of not becoming homogenized with the world. In the process of the world shaking the Christian up, God wants the cream to come to the top, and not to be reduced and dispersed so it is no longer seen.

We’ll turn then, to the first message, which I’ve called “When They Call For Compromise.” Compromise is the most common and straight forward means used by the world to homogenize Christians.

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY gives as the third definition under the word Compromise, “A concession to something detrimental…”

If you can be made to abandon key aspects of your faith by compromising what you believe, homogenization will be simple and complete. Watch for the call to compromise as we read the story in Daniel, chapter one.

It begins with the military defeat of what remained of the once powerful nation of Israel and the deportation of certain young men who survived the siege of Jerusalem. The time was 606 B.C.

A. A new home (vv. 1-2)
Daniel 1:1-2: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. {2} And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god

No longer were they surrounded by the things of God in Jerusalem, and no longer would they have the influence of their godly parents and teachers.

B. New knowledge (vv. 3-4)

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility–{4} young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.”

Imagine four Hebrew boys, teenagers, being snatched from their lovely homes in Jerusalem and moved to faraway Babylon. Since all of them were princes, belonging to the royal family, they were probably not accustomed to this kind of treatment.

It is too bad when the youth of the land must suffer because of the sins of the parents. The Jews had refused to repent and obey the Lord, so (as Jeremiah had warned) the Babylonian army came in 606-586 B.C. and conquered the land.

The policy of taking the youngest and strongest among the survivors of a defeated nation was common in that day. It insured a good flow of slaves for the conquering king to employ in his service and also made it certain that the defeated nation could not rise again against its conquerors.

The old Jewish wisdom had to go; from now on it would be the wisdom of the world, the wisdom of Babylon. They had to learn the wisdom and the language of their captors. The king hoped that this “brainwashing” would make better servants out of them.

In v. 3 we see what fine specimens these four lads were: they were physically strong and handsome, socially experienced and well-liked by others, mentally keen and well-educated, and spiritually devoted to the Lord.

Conservative scholars have placed Daniel and his friends who were among these captives somewhere in the age range of early teens. The next verses describe the plan for re-socialization. It was a clear, out-in-the-open effort to homogenize believers.

But a difficult trial lay ahead of them: the king wanted to force them to conform to the ways of Babylon. He was not interested in putting good Jews to work; he wanted these Jews to be Babylonians!

Christians today face the same trial: Satan wants us to become “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:1-2). Sad to say, too many Christians give in to the world and lose their power, their joy, and their testimony. Note the changes that these young men experienced:

C. New diets (v. 5)
“The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

For the next three years, the four youths were supposed to eat the king’s diet, which, of course, was contrary to the dietary laws of the Jews. No doubt the food was also offered to the idols of the land, and for the Hebrew youths to eat it would be blasphemy.

D. New names (vv. 6-7)
Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. {7} The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.” The world does not like to recognize the name of God, yet each of the four boys had God’s name in his own name:

Daniel (“God is my judge”) was changed to Belteshazzar (“Bel protect his life”). Bel was the name of a Babylonian god.
Hananiah (“Jehovah is gracious”) became Shadrach (“the command of the moon god”)

Mishael (“Who is like God?”) became Meshach (“who is like Aku,” one of the heathen gods);
Azariah (“Jehovah is my helper”) became Abednego (“the servant of Nego,” another heathen god).

The Babylonians hoped that these new names would help the youths forget their God and gradually become more like the heathen people with whom they were living and studying.

The Babylonians could change Daniel’s home, textbooks, menu, and name, but they could not change his heart. He and his friends purposed in their hearts that they would obey God’s Word; they refused to become conformed to the world. Of course, they could have made excuses and “gone along with” the crowd. They might have said,  “Everybody’s doing it!” or “We had better obey the king!” or “We’ll obey on the outside but keep our faith privately.” But they did not compromise.

They dared to believe God’s Word and trust God for victory. They had surrendered their bodies and minds to the Lord, as Rom. 12:1-2 instructs, and they were willing to let God do the rest.

Daniel 1:8-16 (ESV)
8  But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.
9  And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,
10  and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”
11  Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12  “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13  Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”
14  So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.
15  At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.
16  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

Daniel asked for a ten-day test, which was not very long considering that they had three years of training ahead of them; the head servant agreed with their plan.

The servant was afraid to change the king’s orders, lest anything happen to the youths and to himself, so Daniel’s proposed test was a good solution to the problem. Of course, God honored their faith. The boys were fed vegetables and water for ten days, thus avoiding the defiled food of the Babylonians. At the end of the test, the four lads were healthier and more handsome than the other students who ate from the king’s table.

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7).

Daniel 1:17: “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.”

A test for ten days is one thing, but what about the three-year course at the University of Babylon? The answer is in v. 17: “God gave them . . . ” all that they needed! He enabled them to learn their lessons better than the other students, and He added to this knowledge His own spiritual wisdom.

Daniel 1:18-21 (ESV)
18  At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19  And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king.
20  And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.
21  And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

The “magicians and astrologers” in v. 20 were the men of the kingdom who studied the stars and sought to determine what decisions the king should make. They also claimed to interpret dreams.

Certainly Daniel and his friends did not believe the foolish religion and practices of the Babylonians, but they studied just the same, just as a Christian student must do when he attends a university today and is told to learn “facts” that he knows are contrary to God’s Word.

The king himself had to admit that the four Hebrew lads were ten times smarter than his best advisers. Of course, this kind of reputation made the astrologers envious, and it is no wonder they tried to do away with the Jews in later years.
What we have, then, in this passage is clearly a call from the world to compromise and it is no different in principle than the world’s call for God’s people to compromise in any other age, including our own. Yes, the circumstances are usually different, but the issue is always the same.

Someone has written, “Compromise is always wrong when it means sacrificing principle.”

Not all compromise is wrong. There are times when compromise is permissible or even desirable. Remember the dictionary definition of compromise? “A concession to something detrimental.” Note that Daniel and his friends didn’t object to the classes they were assigned to take or the new names then were given. Though they probably didn’t like being given pagan names in place of the ones their parents had given them, they were willing to concede these things. But eating the King’s choice food
was a clear violation of God’s law. That concession could not be made.

When the world calls on us to compromise then, we need to:
1. Be Reasonable. Know the difference between wrongful compromise and allowable concession. Every call for compromise need not be met by strong opposition by God’s person. A Christian should pick his battles carefully. It is only when God’s principles are at stake that we can refuse to be conformed.

When we are called to compromise, we need to know the difference between wrongful compromise and permissible concession. We see it illustrated here in Daniel. These men didn’t object to all that was put upon them. Only the thing that caused them to violate the law of God.

2. Be Resolute.
Look back at verse 8: The words to note there are those translated “made up his mind” or “resolved.” The Hebrew word behind that phrase was one often used to describe the making of a rope. Individual strands or fibers are gathered up and placed side by side, then twisted into a rope. Their combined strength makes a strand that is difficult to break.

The time does come to make up your mind and take your stand. When that time comes, stand!

After Daniel determined that this was an issue for which there could be no compromise, he gathered up every strand of his resolve and made a decision.

A big reason why many compromise, even when they don’t want to, is that they never come to this kind of decision. They know something is wrong, but they beat around the bush, hoping the unpleasant decision will somehow go away. Or, perhaps they try to somehow accommodate the best of both worlds.

It reminds me of the guy Paul Harvey described one time. His words were, “Remember the uncertain soldier in our Civil War who, figuring to play it safe, dressed himself in a blue coat and gray pants and tip-toed out onto the field of battle. He got shot from both directions.”

We need to be resolute. We need to make up our minds. If we don’t, we’ll soon be homogenized. We’ll be no different than the world.

3. Be Respectful.
1:8: “…so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.”

I suppose that Daniel could have gone on some hunger strike or something, but he didn’t. He could have protested loudly. Instead, he sought out the commander and respectflly told him his dilemma.

Remember that unbelievers around us need to see a good example so they, too, can be saved. A resolute stand doesn’t mean you should be mean-spirited and disrespectful. This is precisely where many Christians lose the battle and become just like the world.

I’m told that between two farms near Valleyview, Alberta, you can find two parallel fences, only two feet apart, running for about a half mile. Why are there two fences when only one would do? It seems two farmers, Paul and Oscar, had a disagreement that erupted into a feud. Paul wanted to build a fence between their land and split the cost (a reasonable thing to do) but Oscar was unwilling to contribute. Since he wanted to keep the cattle on his land, Paul went ahead and built the fence anyway.

After it was completed, Oscar said to Paul, “I see we have a fence.”  “What do you mean, ‘we'” replied Paul. “I got the property line surveyed and built the fence two feet into my land. That means some of my land is outside the fence. If any of your cows set foot on my land, I’ll shoot them.”

Oscar knew Paul wasn’t joking, so when he eventually decided to use the land adjoining Paul’s pasture, he was forced to build another fence, two feet away. Oscar and Paul are both dead now, but their double fence stands as a monument to their stubbornness and uncalled for disrespect. Being right and doing right does not give us a license to be disrespectful of others. There really is no place for a cantankerous saint of God.

Daniel first sought permission from the commander of the officials to be excused from eating the king’s food. Does that mean if the commander had said “no” he would have gone ahead and defiled himself with the food? No! But it does indicate that, whenever something can be done respectfully, it should be.

Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

4. Be Resourceful.
Don’t you think that proposal reflects some careful deliberation and wise, resourceful consideration? I think it is reasonable to believe that, after Daniel made up his mind he would not defile himself with the king’s food, he spent some time considering how to approach the overseer.

Even when intentions are good and God is please with a decision, we must be wise in our approach to the world. You might remember Jesus’ words  were “wise as serpents and cautious [innocent] as doves.” (4)

Being on God’s side doesn’t excuse us from seeking a wise approach to dealing with the world. We must not be reckless in this area. Such seeking of wisdom is based at least partly, on human effort and concern for what is wise.

Two New Testament verses come to mind that are directed to Christians today on the subject of giving a wise response to the world when we have the opportunity:
Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

You don’t avoid the world’s homogenization by being a willful dim-wit to wisdom.

I don’t believe God hands a person wisdom like Daniel and his friends exhibited here without their human effort being involved. Do you seek wisdom to know how you should respond when the world calls for compromise?

Conclusion
An interesting thing to watch for from the window of an airplane is the winding path of the rivers below. No two waterways are alike, but they all have one thing in common: they are all crooked. They get that way because they conform to what stands in their way. Another way to look at it is that they follow the path of least resistance. Yes, rivers are crooked because they take the “easy way.”

We, too, can become crooked if we always take the easy way. The things that have been suggested here today from Daniel 1 are not the easy way. They take courage, conviction, and commitment. But if we practice them, they will yield a life that is straight as God intended – and we won’t be homogenized.

 

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

Going Nowhere Fast” Series #2 “The Perpetual Busyness Life” Joy (spiritual gladness)


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It says in the Declaration of Independence that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those words are the preamble to the American dream. But more than 225+ years later, the innocent, hopeful intentions of our founding fathers have become blind and dangerous compulsions.

We all know we can’t buy happiness, and we are often surprised by what brings us happiness and frustrated by what we believe should make us happy.

It has been suggested that we are becoming a nation of men and women who, in the quest for happiness, all too often fall short of achieving any kind of inner peace. Instead of life’s journey being an exhilarating adventure into the unknown, for many of us it is a compulsive and tiring trek, an exhausting journey where the next stop for replenishment never seems to arrive.

George Santayana: “A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in an imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.”

“Many apparently successful people feel that their success is underserved and that one day people will unmark them for the frauds they are. For all the outward trappings of success, they feel hollow inside. They can never rest and enjoy their accomplishments. They need one new success after another. They need constant reassurance from the people around them to still the voice inside them that keeps saying, “If other people knew you the way I know you, they would know what a phony you are.” – Howard Kushner.

 Happiness is not about having what we  want…but wanting what we have! In many ways, happiness is within us waiting to be discovered.

 In the grand and deeply moving prophesy of the ancient prophet Isaiah, it was foretold that when Christ comes He would impart to His people “the oil of joy” for mourning (Isaiah 61:3). Joy has always been one of the most significant hallmarks of God’s people. Joy springs from the presence of God in a person’s life!

Millions of men and women across the centuries attest to a transformation in their lives. It is what is meant by Paul in Romans 14:17: “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” God is here! He is alive! He is in charge!

I ask you, “Do you have that joy?” It’s obvious that many people don’t. And you’ve been around them, haven’t you? They’re grumps, they’re gripers, they’re very negative about virtually everything that happens in life, complaining almost all the time. As a result, they just aren’t much fun to be around.

One of my favorite stories about a person with a grumpy personality begins with a man going into the doctor’s office. As he walked in, he was met by the receptionist. He told her that he had a sore on his chin that he want-ed the doctor to examine.

She said to him, “Down the hall, first door to the right, & take off your clothes.” “But ma’am,” he said, “it’s just a sore on my chin. I don’t think all that is necessary.” She repeated, “Down the hall, first door to the right, & take off your clothes.” “But ma’am,” he said. “Down the hall, first door to the right, & take off your clothes.”

So he went down the hall, took the first door to the right, walked in & saw another man already sitting there in his boxer shorts, shivering. He said to him, “Boy, that receptionist is really something, isn’t she? I just have a little sore on my chin & she told me to come down here, go through this door & take off my clothes.” The man in the boxer shorts said, “You think that’s bad? I’m the UPS delivery man.

There are some difficult people, aren’t there? “Some cause happiness whenever they go; some, whenever they go.”  And what they need is a personality transplant.

Let me give you a definition of “joy.” “Joy is an evidence of the presence of God in your life.” If God is in your life, if you are filled with the Spirit of God, then this fruit of the Spirit will be obvious in your life.
(Jesus Others You)

Now don’t mistake happiness for joy. It’s easy to do that. The Bible mentions “joy” or “rejoicing” 330 times. But it only mentions “happiness” 26 times. Happiness depends upon what happens to you. So if all the circumstances are right, then you can be happy. But joy comes from inside.

The Workaholic Test

  1. Is work the primary source of your identity.
  2. Do you believe work is good, and therefore the more you do the better person you are? Do you brag about the “long hours?
  3. Do you feel you are unworthy unless you are pushing to the point of fatigue?
  4. Do you think you are indispensable; do you often work while you’re sick?
  5. Do you control your work or does your work control you?

 The Eight Characteristics of a ‘Driven’ Person

  1. Are you gratified only by accomplishment, and the need to acquire more?
  2. Are you preoccupied with the symbols of accomplishment, status symbols like: titles, office size, flow charts and special privileges?
  3. Are you obsessed with growing “it” bigger, faster?
  4. Does your personal integrity sometimes lose out to your ambition?
  5. Do you sacrifice people and people skills for the job?
  6. Do you find ambition is a competition to have and hold onto more than others?
  7. Do you have a temper when things don’t go your way?
  8. Are you abnormally busy, and too busy for the pursuit of ordinary relationships in marriage, family and friendship – even God?

 A treadmill becomes a treadmill because it doesn’t answer our real needs. It carries us along, gathering momentum because we’re secretly feeling worse – we secretly give up hope, as feeling better seems increasingly elusive.

 Asking the Age-old Question: “What are you looking for?”

(Eccl 2:10-11)  “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. {11} Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

 We are all looking for something that brings JOY. Our perpetual busyness rat-race is a search for JOY!

  1. We are trying to find a spiritual experience within the material world.
  2. We are trying to find something that validates our life.
  3. We are trying for an eternal reality in every day life.
  4. We are trying to find “God-with-us” in the material things of life.

Biblical truth: True joy is found only in Jesus Christ!

(Gal 5:22)  “But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy…”

“Joy” (chara) is the virtue in the Christian life corresponding to happiness in the secular world. On the surface they seem related. But happiness depends on circum stances, whereas joy does not. In the NT a form of the word “joy” becomes a typical– and the most popular–Christian greeting (Matt 28:9; Luke 1:28; Acts 15:23; 2Cor 13:11; James 1:1). Joy is particularly full when what was lost spiritually is found (Luke 15:6, 7, 9, 10, 32).

Joy: Defining Our Terms (Old Testament Style):

Expressions for joy and rejoicing used most in the OT are sounds of singing, shouting, noise, uproar, a loud voice, singing praise, musical instrument words, dancing, clapping, leaping, and stamping feet. The most frequent occasions for joy are feasting and sacrifice (Deut. 12:12), celebrating harvest or victory (I Sam. 18:6), enjoying prosperity (Psm 31:7) or rejoicing as part of public worship (Psm. 33:1-3).

 Joy: Defining Our Terms (New Testament Addition)

Of the 326 occurrences of the words for joy in the NT, 131 are found in the 10 letters of Paul (40%). The main word for joy is “charis” which is used 146 of these times. The message of the whole NT is “good news of great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10).

Luke’s gospel is the gospel of joy, while Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the epistle of joy–even though it was written from prison.  The New Testament continues to stress OT usages of joy, but also adds the thought of “joy in suffering and pain.”  This idea is made clear in James 1:1-4, I Peter 1:6-7 and Romans 5:2-5. The joy of service is also stressed to a greater degree in the teaching of Christ and the apostles.

 Defining Our Terms: (Webster Style)

Happiness: the enjoyment of agreeable sensations, pleasure or good luck; fortunate or well-suited. Based Upon: CIRCUMSTANCES.

 Joy: pleasure caused by the acquisition or expectation of good; delight; exultation. Based Upon: HEART.

 Every Life Needs Joy More Than Happiness:

Happiness is external                               Joy is internal

Happiness is based on chance                  Joy is based on choice

Happiness is based on circumstances   Joy is based on Christ                 

  1. The Secret of True Joy: Knowing and Trusting God (Rom. 5:1-11)
  2. Joy comes from understanding the TRUTH on which we stand. (v. 2)
  3. Joy comes from understanding our STANDING or status before God. (v. 11)
  4. Joy comes from REALIZING what God did for us. (v. 6-8)
  5. Joy comes from knowing our eternal DESTINY . (v. 9)
  6. Joy comes from realizing God’s MATURING process. (v. 3-5)
  7. Joy comes from having CONFIDENCE or hope in the future. (v. 2)

 Four Keys to Living a Life of Joy Amidst the “Rat-Race”

“For the Kingdom of God does not consist of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17)

  1. Determine to be motivated by a different STANDARD.
  2. Discover what it means to live your life RIGHT.
  3. Decide that you will live your WHOLE life.
  4. Dedicate your life to seeking JOY rather than happiness.
 
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Posted by on February 21, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – Sins of the Tongue


9780825425424For too long the myth has been circulated that old speech habits can’t be broken:
· I can’t help it…I’ve always been a sarcastic person
· …always told little white lies
· …always used profanity
· …always been a gossip
· …always said nasty things when I get mad

IF we have a problem of speaking ‘what we think,’ we need to be careful about what we think!

In the beginning, God created man and woman to communicate powerfully, lovingly, and constructively.

In Christ he gives the recreated man and woman assurance of the same magnificent possibility.

 Sins of the Tongue
Proverbs 10:21: “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.”

Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:4: “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 16:24: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Do my words bring healing or harm? God expects us to know the answer to that question and to make the necessary changes if needed!

When we might suggest that our words are not that powerful, we would do well to remember the verbal integrity of many early Christians. They were commanded to speak these words: “Caesar is Lord” as they were ordered to “make your incense offering to the genius of Rome.” If they would not say such words, they were definitely put in prison and, on many occasions, they were even put to death!

Sins of the tongue
The New Testament has much to say about the ways we can abuse the gift of speech:

1. Angry talk. Words uttered in a fit of temper; a sudden outburst of wrathful speech (2 Cor. 12:20; Col. 3:8).
2. Boasting, arrogant talk. Bragging; conceited, self-centered, self-glorifying speech (2 Tim. 3:2; James 4:16).
3. Blasphemy. Speaking contemptuously of God or of Jesus Christ. (1 Tim. 1:20; 6:1).
4. Coarse joking. Vulgar humor; particularly the mocking of human sexuality (Eph. 5:4).
5. Deception, distortion. Mingling the truth with false ideas or unworthy motivations. Paul spoke of some who “peddled” God’s Word, corrupting the gospel for personal gain or advantage (2 Cor. 2:17, 4:2).
6. Flattery. Excessive or untrue praise; insincere complimenting of another to gain some personal advantage (1 Thess. 2:5; Jude 16).
7. Godless chatter. Profane or empty babbling; conversation which is irreligious, misleading, or worthless (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16).
8. Gossip. Spreading idle talk, rumor or even truthful/factual personal information about others; betraying a confidence (2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Tim. 5:13).
9. Lying. Making false statements with intent to deceive or mislead (Acts 5:4; Col. 3:9).
10. Obscenity. Using profane or vulgar language; unwholesome conversation (Eph. 5:4; Col. 3:8).
11. Quarreling. Heated verbal strife; unkind argumentation or debate (1 Cor. 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:23-24).
12. Slander. Damaging someone’s reputation by speaking malicious or untrue things about them (Eph. 4:31; James 4:11).

2 Corinthians 4:2: “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

2 Corinthians 12:20: “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”

Ephesians 5:4: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

Colossians 3:8: “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”

James 4:11: “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”

The common effect of all the sins of the tongue is destruction. Speech infected by sin destroys truth, destroys trust, destroys reputation, destroys love, and destroys love for God and man.

Yet the abuses of language mentioned above are commonplace in our offices, around our neighborhoods, on our campuses, and even within our churches.  We need someone to redeem our speech, to tame our tongues.
“The rabbis used to say that the tongue is more dangerous than the hand because the hand kills only at close range while the tongue can kill at great distance.”

Man can tame the great creatures but not his own tongue.

Lehman Strauss says: “While no man can tame the tongue, there is One who can. The Lord is no less able to control a lying, blaspheming, slanderous, gossiping tongue than He is to deliver the drunkard from alcohol, the gambler from the game table, the narcotics addict from drugs, or the lustful person from adultery” (James Your Brother. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1956, p.134).

Matthew Henry says: “‘No man can tame the tongue without supernatural grace and assistance.’ The apostle does not intend to represent it as a thing impossible, but as a thing extremely difficult, which therefore will require great watchfulness, and pains, and prayer” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Vol. 6, p.985).

I grew up in a faithful, church-going family. I think I learned early in life what a Christian is to sound like….pious words on Sunday don’t offset the gossip of Monday, the profanity of Tuesday, or the harsh words on Wednesday.

Do we realize the power we possess to strengthen another person with simple words: “good job” “I’m sorry” “Forgive me” “I love you” “I’m praying for you”

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2018 in Sermon

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – Giving Thanks When You Don’t Feel Like It



9780825425424It should go without saying that Christians are commanded to give thanks.

(1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV) 18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ephesians 5:20 (ESV) 20  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But this is where the rub comes. Even in those times when we should feel like giving thanks we can neglect to do so because of our own sin:

Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (ESV) 10  “And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11  and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12  then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Such forgetfulness can have serious consequences:

Deuteronomy 28:47-48 (ESV) 47  Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48  therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

 

Romans 1:20-21 (ESV) 20  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 

But these commands to continually give thanks become even more problematic to us on those occasions when God’s blessing is not immediately apparent. To take an extreme example, how can we give thanks when we read that a terrorist group has just attacked a Christian school and kidnapped several hundred school girls?

How do the Scriptures enable us to think biblically and thus to thank God when such an atrocity or tragedy occurs? The answer is much more complex than what will be suggested in the next few sentences; but let us at least make a start by pointing out how biblical thinking responds to the evils of this world.

First, we can thank God that the Bible squares with reality, so that the atrocities of this world should not come as a surprise to us (so-called prosperity preachers will struggle here). 

The Bible begins with the creation of a perfect world, but by the third chapter it is describing the fall of man and its devastating repercussions for the world in which we live; affirmed over and over again.

Romans 8:18-25 (ESV) 18  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Man’s sin is never minimized, as we see in Romans 3:10-18 (ESV) 10  as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11  no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13  “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16  in their paths are ruin and misery, 17  and the way of peace they have not known.” 18  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

What we see going on in the world is what we should expect from reading the Bible. An accurate diagnosis is foundational to an adequate remedy, and for the Bible’s accurate diagnosis we can give thanks.

Second, we can give thanks to God for revealing to us that our sin and the brokenness of our world is not something that we can remedy.how_do_you_feel_chart-final

Romans 3:19-20 (ESV) 19  Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin

Third, we can give thanks to God because He provided the solution for our sin and its disastrous consequences.

(Romans 3:21-26 (ESV) 21  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Titus 3:3-7 (ESV) 3  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

God sent His Son into this world as the perfect God-man, who died in the sinner’s place, bearing the penalty for his sin. In exchange for our sin and condemnation He offers us His righteousness and the gift of eternal life. Jesus is the cure for the consequences of sin for all who will receive His gift of salvation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (ESV) 17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Fourth, we can give thanks that Jesus is coming to this earth once again, this time to punish evil doers, to put away sin, and to establish a kingdom in which righteousness dwells.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (ESV) 6  since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7  and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8  in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10  when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Fifth, we can give thanks that God is sovereign over all creation, and over all heavenly and earthly powers

John 16:11 (ESV) 11  concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV) 13  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Sixth, we can give thanks that our God is a God who “causes all things to work together for good.”

Romans 8:28 (ESV) 28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.) and thus He even uses the sinful acts of men to ultimately achieve His good and perfect purposes. 

We see that with the sins of Joseph’s brothers.

 (Genesis 50:20 (ESV) 20  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Seventh, we can give thanks that our God is mindful of the sufferings of those who are innocent, and that He will always do that which is right.

(Genesis 18:25 (ESV) 25  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

God’s wrath abides on those who are stumbling blocks to “little ones”

Matthew 18:5-7 (ESV) 5  “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7  “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

Eighth, we can give thanks that our struggles with the success of the wicked is one with which other saints have wrestled.

Psalm 73:1-28 (ESV)  Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4  For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.

10  Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. 11  And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12  Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.

13  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14  For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.

16  But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17  until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18  Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19  How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!

20  Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. 21  When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22  I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28  But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

This give us instruction as to how we should handle our adversities.

Ninth, we can give thanks for the character of our God, which assures us of His mercy and kind intentions, and informs us that His desire is that men be saved, rather than to face eternal judgment.

Exodus 34:6-7 (ESV) 6  The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7  keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Ezekiel 18:23 (ESV) 23  Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)  9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2018 in Encouragement

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – Dealing With Emotions


how_do_you_feel_chart-final“So what is your gut reaction? Tell me how you really feel.”

“They are a perfect match—they’re madly in love, and she has nothing but good feelings about him.”

“Let’s go for it! My sense is that we’re doing the right thing.”

These familiar sound bytes indicate that our modern world is deeply sensitive to human emotions. In fact, more often than not, our feelings are our compass, guiding our decision-making process. We call it “following our hearts instead of our heads.”

Of course, we know that emotions are a God-given part of our lives, allowing us to vividly experience the world. But as Christians, we have to ask ourselves if emotional satisfaction should be our primary goal in life.

The answer is clearly no.

The evidence around us suggests that modern emotions are creating subjective standards that aren’t the least bit trustworthy. Broken marriages, abused children, and teenage suicides proclaim out-of-control emotions.

Wants that are falsely identified as needs keep family credit cards maxed out and finances in shambles. And “if it feels good, do it” was a deadly motto for thousands of people now suf­fering from sexually transmitted diseases.

God’s Word provides an objective set of stan­dards for daily living. Naturally, these standards don’t always “feel good” when we first confront them. For example, when God calls upon us to treat others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, personal sacrifice is nec­essary.

When He requires us to obey His commandments, doing so may conflict with our deepest cravings. Most dis­turbing of all, He firmly challenges us to set all else aside when we submit ourselves to His sovereign will.

Why is dealing with our emotions—facing our feelings—so important?

While positive emotions add luster to life, negative emotions can be very damaging.

If we ignore them, become obsessed with them, or refuse to confront them, they will stunt our spiritual growth. The truth is, we cannot be spiritually mature unless we are emotionally mature.

  1. 1. God made us with emotions and has given us many instructions about them.
  2. 2. We have often neglected emotion in Bible study, thinking, discussion, and practice.
  3. 3. Many of us fall short of pleasing God because we have not properly addressed our emotions. We do not respond fully to God because we are deficient in positive emotions, and we also wreak havoc on ourselves and others because we are unduly influenced by negative emotions.

Nurturing Our Spiritual and Emotional Growth

When God created us in His image, that image included our emotions. God gives us all things to enjoy, and healthy emotions bring color and zest to our lives.

1 Timothy 6:17 (ESV) As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  

We’re also told in Scripture to enjoy our work, our mates, our children, our good health, our material blessings, and our God. Without emotions, that would be impossible.

We enjoy God. We enjoy our families and our friends. We enjoy the opportunities God gives us to use our abilities to serve others. Life has purpose and fulfillment. Our spiri­tual life matures and deepens as we appreciate God’s blessings.

When everything is working out—when we move into a new home, when our children finish college and find a good job, when they marry the right woman or man, when we have a good report from the doctor, when we actually have money left over at the end of the month—these occur­rences make us happy. Our emotions respond and react to our physical circumstances.

Our emotions also react to our spiritual circumstances. When a person, overwhelmed with guilt, finds forgiveness by trusting in Jesus Christ, he or she feels cleansed and free.

We often see this happen in women who have carried the guilt and pain of abortion for years; they have found emotional and spiritual healing through Christ’s forgiveness, particularly within the context of a support group for abortion recovery.  (news of Emmanuel’s baptism and 10 baptisms in Kigali, Rwanda at Centre Marembo).

After immorality has destroyed their self-worth, women renounce their unhealthy lifestyles and find joy in obedience to the Lord.

But what if our emotions become a runaway train we can’t control? Perhaps you often feel overwhelmed by your emotions and you see yourself in the following descriptions:

  • Have you experienced rejection or been treated unfairly, or are you struggling with emotional devas­tation from the past—were you molested or neglected?
  • Are you in a marriage that has soured and you feel hopeless?
  • Do others say you seem to “have it all together,” but underneath the surface you are seething with anger and bitterness, unable to forgive things that were done to you?
  • Are you overwhelmed with guilt and regret for things you have done and you just can’t forgive yourself?
  • It is clear to me that people with self-love issues have a hard time with confidence issues.

When we face uncertain, painful, or tragic circumstances in life, we feel sorrow, confusion, anger, and pain. These emotions are also God-given; our Father uses these feelings to push us closer to Him.

Just as physical pain tells us some­thing is wrong with our bodies, so emotional pain may be God’s way of telling us all is not well with our spiritual rela­tionship with Him.[1]

When emotions become destructive, they can make us miserable, ruin our relationships with others, and stunt our spiritual growth. They build a solid wall between us and God, and between us and other people.

In our misery, we can’t help but feel that God is somehow to blame for the tragic events of our past or the unhappiness of our present, and it’s hard for us to trust a God who allows such tragedy to happen to His children.

So we keep our distance from Him. We do just enough to keep our membership in His “club,” but there’s no sense of con­nection, no real enjoyment of God’s presence, and not a lot of honest fellowship with other believers.

These untampered, destructive emotions—selfishness, guilt, fear, worry, inability to forgive, anger, envy, rejection, greed, pride, feelings of inferiority, disappointment, discontentment, grief, and lone­liness—can hinder our spiritual growth and keep us from having a close, trusting relationship with our Creator.

Maybe you’re thinking no one could ever understand the misery your emotions have led you to feel right now. Maybe you secretly think your situation is past healing. If so, please remember what the prophet Jeremiah prayed as he watched his world crumble before his eyes: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17 emphasis mine).

God’s clearly stated purpose for all of His children is that we grow into spiritual maturity. He can take us around, over, or through any obstacle that has retarded our spiritual growth.

Nothing from our past or in our present is too hard for Him to handle. God created our emotions, and He is able to stop their destructive effect on our lives. He can make our emotions work for us, giving us peace and joy as we learn to respond to our relationship with our Lord rather than react to our circumstances.

The task may seem great, but with God’s help it’s really not all that hard.

Myth#1: Christian love is not a feeling but a duty and action.

Truth: Christian love is a feeling that leads to right actions.

Our heavy emphasis on the actions of love has demoted love. Do we really believe God loves us dutifully but not from his heart?

Deuteronomy 7:7 (ESV) It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,

Jeremiah 31:3 (ESV) …the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Philippians 1:8 (ESV) For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:1-2 (ESV) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Then why would he want us to love that way? Because genuine Christian love will lead to obedience and service.

1 John 3:18 (ESV)  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 5:3 (ESV) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

2 John 1:6 (ESV) And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

Apparently, some people in their day were not expressing love in actions and so needed to hear that emphasis.

Still, God wants us to have his love in our hearts.

John 5:42 (ESV) But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.

Many Scriptures show that there is a difference between love (the emotion) and the actions it leads to

1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV) Let all that you do be done in love.

Ephesians 4:2 (ESV) … with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…

1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV) So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Hebrews 10:24 (ESV) And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…

1 John 5:2 (ESV) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

This genuine emotion of love will lead us to the right actions

John 14:15 (ESV) 15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

The greatest commandment is to love God with everything

Mark 12:28-34 (ESV) 28  And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32  And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

We have rightly emphasized soul, mind, and strength, but we must not neglect the heart.

In the Bible, the heart includes our thoughts, desires, will, and emotions. God wants us to feel love for him.

If you have strong feelings of love for someone, you are much more likely to treat them well. Our commitment to them should lead us to do right by them regardless of what we are feeling at the moment, but a healthy emotion of love is a very powerful motivation for treating them right.

So with God. Heartfelt love for God will lead us not only to obey him but also to extol (praise enthusiastically) him, celebrate with all our might before him, kiss his feet and wash them with our tears, and seek him earnestly

Psalm 34:1-3 (ESV) I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2  My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 3  Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Psalm 63:1 (ESV) O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
How different would your relationship with God be if you had a deep, heartfelt, emotional love for him? What difference would heartfelt, passionate love for God make to our vision of Loving Like Jesus? … to our purpose of being Joined Together in Love?

Myth#2: Follow your heart.

Truth: Our hearts can easily lead us astray Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10  “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

If our hearts are pure, they have a valid place in making decisions. Healthy emotion can keep us from making cold, unfeeling, Pharisaical decisions. But the notion of following one’s heart, while paraded as integrity, often means following one’s sinful desires.

If you “have feelings” for someone that you should not be in a love relationship with, do not follow your heart. Instead, put a stop to the thoughts and actions that are generating those feelings.

Will Harley (His Needs/Her Needs) says marital affairs result from creating emotional bonds with someone other than our spouse. Likewise, emotional bonds (love) with money, pleasure, praise, etc. will lead to spiritual affairs against God.

Pathway #1: One pathway to healthier emotions in general and loving God in particular is grasping God’s love more fully. This will help create love in us (1 John 4:19 (ESV) We love because he first loved us…) which will make us healthier emotionally. Having more love will also choke out some of our unhealthy emotions.

Ephesians 3 teaches us that prayer (v. 14), God’s Spirit (v. 16), and other Christians (v. 18) can all help us grasp God’s love more fully. If we can continue to do it mindfully, we should add this to our ongoing prayers

[1] Erwin Lutzer, Managing Your Emotions (Chappaqua, N.Y.: Christian Herald Books, 1981), 17.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2018 in counsel, Encouragement

 

Our Life Together Series: The Meaning of Loyalty (1 Corinthians 12:26) 


“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Most of the communities to which we belong are voluntary organizations. Because we share a common interest with others, we join them in forming a community based on that common interest. If we have children in school, we may join with others in forming a chapter of the P.T.A. If we are in business, we may join with others who share this particular interest. Our association with the group lasts as long as we share a common interest with it. When our situation changes, causing us no longer to share common goals with the group, our loyalty to it is likely to disappear. We enter voluntarily and leave voluntarily, because our loyalty and support depend on our shared common interests with the group.

We need only to take a cursory look at some texts of the New Testament to see that the church is quite unlike the voluntary association. When the New Testament speaks of the community, it has a rich and suggestive word in Greek for developing this idea. It is the word koinonia, which we translate as “fellowship” or “participation” or “partnership.” The church is not a voluntary association of like-minded people alone! It is a community of people who have first been called into fellowship with Jesus Christ. We belong to each other because we first belong to Jesus Christ.

Fellowship did not originate at our own initiative: We were called into fellowship: (1 Corinthians 1:9)  “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” Our fellowship with him is not the result of our own goodness. It is his gracious summons that has made us his partners.

See how these verses express this idea: The Lord’s Supper is a participation in the body and blood of Christ: (1 Corinthians 10:16)  “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”

A disciple shares in his sufferings: (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)  “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. {6} If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. {7} And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

Paul described himself this way: (Philippians 3:10)  “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” We have been called as his people into a life of sharing his way, the way of the cross. To be in fellowship with Christ is to adopt his kind of life.

We are brought together as one body: (1 Corinthians 12:12)  “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

Paul’s words should help us realize that there is no relationship to Jesus without our being members of his body, the church! And fellowship is real only when every one of us, like parts of a body, contributes to the ongoing ministry. Even those members who seem not very gifted are vital to the fellowship, for the body cannot exist without the cooperation of its tiniest part.

Fellowship is never a reality unless the work is shared by all members. There is no justification for any church and its ministries to be carried out by staff members only. Christians within the body should not become spectators to the work of the church. Nor is their work to become simply that of financial benefactors.

Jesus established and loved the church. He commanded his people to be loyal to it and to always give it priority affection and faithful support. Loyalty has a martial ring to it. We think of our country and the nation’s flag. Loyalty stirs within us something high and holy. We like to think of ourselves as loyal, stalwart, and true.

The Place of Loyalty. Loyalty is the willing, practical devotion of self and substance to a person or a cause that is believed to be supremely worthwhile. It carries with it faithfulness, trust and confidence. I would suggest that church loyalty runs much deeper: it calls for devoted allegiance to a Person and a cause. It involves decision, devotion, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and sacrifice.

An individual without loyalty is like a ship without a compass. There may be much activity and much “going about” but it will often have little purpose and be unprofitable. Loyalty gives purpose, direction and drive to life. In any list of Christian virtues, loyalty ranks high…we recognize it in scripture as faithfulness:                            (over)

 (Mat 23:23) “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

(Rom 3:3) “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”

(Gal 5:22) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

(3 John 1:3) “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.”

(Rev 13:10) “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.”

In our daily lives, there are numerous ‘loyalties’ clamoring for devotion and interest. We must stand firm in our efforts to be loyal to God, to the faith, to the church, to friends and family, and to self!

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in Our Life Together

 

Our Life Together Series: The Medium, Measure and Means of Loyalty — Ephesians 5:24-27.


These verses raise a very high standard for relationship between husbands and wives and the church toward Christ.  If the husband makes Christ’s love for the church the pattern for loving his wife, then he will love her sacrificially. Christ gave Himself for the church; so the husband, in love, gives himself for his wife.

The husband’s love will also be a sanctifying love. The word sanctify means “to set apart.” In the marriage ceremony, the husband is set apart to belong to the wife, and the wife is set apart to belong to the husband. Any interference with this God-given arrangement is sin.

Our Christian homes are to be pictures of Christ’s relationship to His church. Each believer is a member of Christ’s body, and each believer is to help nourish the body in love  We are one with Christ. The church is His body and His bride, and the Christian home is a divinely ordained illustration of this relationship. This certainly makes marriage a serious matter. The root of most marital problems is sin, and the root of all sin is selfishness.

Submission to Christ and to one another is the only way to overcome selfishness, for when we submit, the Holy Spirit can fill us and enable us to love one another in a sacrificial, sanctifying, satisfying way—the way Christ loves the church.

A Glorious Church — The church has a history with God in it: it is the church of the living God; it is the church for which the ages waited and God prepared; it is the church of God’s redeemed and of martyrs. Jesus built a church to withstand the ravages of time, the persecutions of men, and the destructive power of the devil.

It is the most sacred thing in the world: it is the body of Christ, the light of the world; it is commissioned to proclaim the truth; it is dependent for its success upon Christ as its head, the Holy Spirit as its guide, and the willing ministry of redeemed men and women.

An All-Inclusive Message — The message of the church is inclusive:  it is a message of salvation for all souls, of enlightenment for all minds, of comfort for all hearts, of relief for all needs, and of challenge for every life. It has a message from God and stands for a Redeemer with a message of liberty and a dispensation of grace. It is the guardian of human rights, the hope of humanity and of peace. It has not come without a high price. The cost of the church has been faithfulness and loyalty under persecution. The price has been paid in blood, from that of Christ and the first century Christians to hundreds martyred since.

We have a sacred obligation. The church is God’s tool for proclaiming Christ’s ideals and principles for life. It is founded on sacrifice and maintained by sacrifice. It appeals to the highest instincts of the human heart.

THE MEASURE OF LOYALTY — If our supreme loyalty is to Christ, then self and others will find their rightful place. Christ demands and deserves first place in our life. Read Matthew 10:32-42.

A tragedy of Christianity today is that, unlike the people in Jesus’ day, the shepherd-less masses look elsewhere for a savior.  The real peril is from within: “The compelling need of our churches is neither larger numbers, more money, nor different programs, but a fuller consecration of the lives of individual church members to Jesus Christ.  Carelessness, prayerlessness, indifference, lowering of ideals, and open inconsistency of professed Christians within the church constitutes a greater menace to the cause of our Lord than indifference, opposition, infidelity, atheism, or other issues without the church. “The neglect of the devotional life brings flabbiness, indifference and unhappiness. Church discipline seems to have been largely discarded. The standard of Christ is the demand of the times.”

THE MEANS OF EXPRESSING LOYALTY — If a husband and wife belong to each, or as children belong to parents, the church will have a real claim upon my personality, my powers, and my possessions.  We ought to be ashamed of ourselves when we put our children’s sports, homework, or recreation activities ahead of our worship and Bible classes!  We ought to be ashamed of ourselves when we work all week no matter how we feel and use a headache or the “fear of getting sick” as an excuse to miss worship!

Loyalty to the church would cause us to pray for each other; would lead us to want to meet together and make the necessary plans ahead of time to be ready to worship when we get here; would cause us to take positive stands against those things which would interfere with our worship and work. Jesus demands from each of us a high standard of moral and ethical conduct.

He demands personal purity…” Eph 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”  We might not see ourselves as flattering pictures of Christ, but in the things we say and do, we remind people that Christ dwells upon earth.  “Christianity is more than a vision…it is a life, a power, a mission for God. It is going somewhere; it is accomplishing something; it is increasing the forces of righteousness; it is translating routine into duty; it is making drudgery divine; it is finding out God and cooperating with Him in everyday life.”

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2018 in Our Life Together

 
 
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