Monday, December 31, 2018

Smooth Future

Smooth Future
December 31, 2018
Genesis 37:7 "We were binding sheaves in the field. All of a sudden my sheaf rose up and stood upright, and your sheaves stood around it and bowed down to my sheaf."

The life  of Joseph, son of Jacob, started out as favor and privilege and then traveled through much heartache before finally having his life restored. His life was not a gradual path with a steady increase.  In fact, Joseph had no stability whatsoever. His life was nothing but a roller coaster, with heartache and joy and heartache and joy. He had a dream in his teenage years, a promise and a glimpse from the Lord for his future. The dream was that one day his father and brothers would have to bow down to him in respect. The promise was from the Lord, and would be fulfilled, but the path to get there was never disclosed by the Lord. 

It was no surprise to the Lord when Joseph's brothers were jealous of Joseph's future. It was no surprise to the Lord when his brothers sold Joseph in slavery. While no one wants to think that Joseph being put into slavery was part of the Lord's design, you have to know that the Lord had His hand in it. The Lord knew what was going to happen, protected Joseph in it, but allowed it nonetheless. Joseph, in slavery, before being elevated to the status of a king, was never outside the Lord's reach. Joseph was also never outside the Lord's plan, though the incredible hardship. The Lord was able to pluck Joseph out of that rotten awful situation and still fulfill His promises to Joseph, still fulfill Joseph's destined appointments. My guess is that not only was the Lord able to pluck Joseph from slavery and elevate him to that status of a king, but He was able to use the horrible experiences to shape him into the man he became.

Like Joseph, your path is not going to be smooth. Your future is there, already written by the Lord, a promise that maybe He has not revealed to you yet. But just because He has written the destination, does not mean to path is going to be smooth. It is possible the road is bumpy by design. It may feel like a roller coaster, but as long as you stay true to the Lord, He will remain true to you and the plan that He has for you, if will come to fruition. Your future is there, just that the path may not be smooth.

As you look into what this next year could hold for you, it is possibly you are hoping for a smooth path upward. This next leg of your journey may certainly look like that. This next leg of your journey to the Lord's complete fulfillment for your life may look like a broken road, but none of it matters. What matters is your relationship with the Lord and your intent to remain true to Him. Don't make plans this year you have no control over, instead make plans to deepen your walk and relationship with the Lord. If you do that, what happens this year won't matter, roller coaster up or roller coaster down. If you don't deepen your relationship when the leg of the road seems broken, then how are you going to deepen your relationship with the Lord when the path feels like euphoria. My guess for Joseph, is that the prison sentence of slavery was a test for his character, whether or not Joseph would serve the Lord regardless of circumstances. If Joseph couldn't serve the Lord in the jail cell, how was Joseph going to serve the Lord as a king?

Remember Joseph's initial dream. In it Joseph rose in stature above his father and brothers, as the Bible says, "all of a sudden." Your path can take a turn at a moment's notice.

May the Lord bless your path this year, full of relationship with Him regardless of what the path looks like.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 37-46, Deut 31:6, John 15:4-7, Heb 13:5-6

Monday, December 17, 2018


December 17, 2019
Genesis 1:11 "Then God said, 'Let the earth produce vegetation: plants yielding seed and fruit trees on the earth yielding fruit after their kind with seed in them.'"

In the account of creation, the Lord created the plant life and vegetation. He instructed it to be fruitful, producing fruit in keeping with its kind. In science we understand that the fruit comes forth from the flower of the plant and the fruit itself carries the seed for more plants of its kind. When the Lord instruction the vegetation to be fruitful, He was instructing it to not just bear fruit, but bear fruit with seed, that would yield more fruit. The idea would be proliferation of each respective plant. Several verses later, the Lord made mankind, also instructing them to be fruitful. The idea, again, was that the fruit would contain seed for further creation of its kind.

The continuation of fruit with seed has been working for thousands of years. But the Lord warns us to be careful in the kind of fruit we each produce. In the Scripture, there are certainly examples of bad fruit. What is worse, however, than the bad fruit, is that the bad fruit also has seeds, perpetuating more bad fruit. There is an expression that the apple does not fall far from the tree, meaning the fruit will resemble the kind of specific fruit produced by that tree. And that fruit that fell from the tree, remember it contains seeds for more fruit of its kind, good or bad. 

You and I right now, are producing some kind of fruit, whether you'll admit it or not. Some of the fruit is good and some of the fruit is bad. All of our fruit has seeds that get sown. You show your fruit and the seeds of that fruit get planted in peoples lives around you, good or bad. When you are kind and polite, you sow those seeds into the people in your life, affecting them and those they come in contact with. When you are rude and intolerant, you sow those seeds into the people in your life, affecting them and those they come in contact with. This is all particularly true with the young and impressionable in your life. Maybe these are children, maybe these are new Christians.

You and I have bad habits, even fruitful sin, that plants more sin seed. Whether you admit it or not, you are planting that sin seed in the lives of those around you. You have more influence and affect on people than you realize. Your fruit is affecting those closest to you, the ones you love. And when you sow your sin seed in their lives, you are impacting their life and the lives of their future loved ones, as well. Your sin does not just affect you, it affects everyone you come in contact with and echoes into the future; your grandchildren will even see the seeds of your sin in their own lives some day.  

This is our opportunity to cut out the bad fruit in our lives, to stop sowing the seeds of that bad fruit. It isn't easy and the Lord says the only way to do it is to cut off the branch that produces the bad fruit. You cannot just pick the fruit and throw it away, you have to cut out the thing that is enabling the bad fruit. This might mean cutting out individuals from your life, unfortunately, that are helping you to produce bad fruit. This might mean changing jobs or even careers because it is helping you to produce bad fruit. This might mean throwing away your tv or deleting apps from your phone, because they are helping you to produce bad fruit. The Lord says, whatever it is, you have to cut it out of your life. He uses very aggressive language, saying that if your eye causes you to sin then you are to gouge your eyes out.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 1:1-28, Matt 3:8, Matt 5:29, Matt 7:15-20, Matt 18:6, Luke 17:2, Gal 5:22

Sunday, December 9, 2018

On Your Behalf

On Your Behalf
December 10, 2019
Matthew 2:9 ". . . And the star which they saw in the east went before them until it came and stood over where the young Child was."

If you re-read the story of the nativity, between all four Gospels, you'll find some details that are far more critical to the story than most realize. Aside from the Savior's birth, there are some amazing examples of the Lord's workings. Recall that three magi traveled from the East. No one knows for sure how far they traveled, possibly two or three months, following a star. The Lord had to put that star in place, months in advance of Jesus' birth, just to get those men moving. Mary was likely still only six months pregnant when these magi were studying the stars and decided to read through the Scriptures to understand prophecy enough to commit to the journey and bring the Christ child important gifts. Joseph and Mary had no idea these men were following a star in the sky on their behalf.

When the magi got into town, they presented themselves to the ruler of the land, Herod, as non-hostile visitors. Herod was nervous about this new child being born, a threat to the throne. Herod plotted to kid this baby Jesus, with Joseph and Mary having no idea Herod perceived the child as a threat. But the three wise men were led by the Holy Spirit to throw Herod off the scent. Again, Joseph and Mary had no idea these three wise men were working on their behalf. Then Herod issued an order to kill all the babies two years old and younger, born in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary escaped with Jesus, but countless other mothers had their babies ripped from their side and killed. 

Joseph and Mary were willing participants in the birth of Jesus, but that does not mean Joseph and Mary were working to protect and manage the entire situation. Someone else was orchestrating it all behind the scenes, on their behalf. The Lord was in charge, managing the magi following the star. The Lord placed that star there and the Lord coached the magi. The Lord protected baby Jesus from the decree that killed countless other babies, saving Joseph and Mary from the grief of losing a child. The Lord sent His angels to appear before the shepherds in the field, telling them of the wondrous thing that had been done. After the shepherds honored the baby Jesus, they went off and spread the word about the Christ-child; they were the first evangelists. These evangelists made it far easier for Joseph and Mary to be walking around with the Savior of the World tucked in their arms. Joseph and Mary did not have to do but a fraction of the work surrounding the birth of their Child. The Lord prepared the place for Mary to give birth, preparing in advance the exact time and location. The Lord orchestrated it all on their behalf. Joseph and Mary possibly thought they were doing all the work, but remember that the prophecy was that the Christ child would be born in Bethlehem. Had the Lord not coaxed the rulers to require a census, Joseph and Mary would not have had to travel to Bethlehem when she was nine months pregnant. Again, the Lord orchestrated all this on their behalf.

If you want to argue that the Lord did all this because it was Jesus and was only working behind the scenes to protect His son, and would not do the same for you, then you'd be playing the part of a fool. The Lord is working on your behalf at this very moment. Remember the reason WHY Jesus had to come to earth in the first place, to die in place of your sins. The Lord did all this on behalf of Joseph and Mary, all on account of you and me. The Lord IS working on your behalf, setting things in motion months, even years, in advance. Christian, there is so much work behind the scenes going on right now, a massive orchestration of a magnitude you cannot comprehend. The Lord is working on your behalf at this very moment, resolving some situations and starting others in motion, setting you up for the best possible success in regard to His plan for your life. Part of your worries are that you don't trust Him, trusting that He is actually working for you. The Lord loves you and wants you to understand that your life has been an integral part of His plan since the beginning. He IS working on your behalf right at this very moment. Be encouraged, because He is doing all of this out of His intense love for you. Jesus came as a baby, on your behalf.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 139:13-14, Matt 1&2, Rom 8:28

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Trust and Precedent

Trust and Precedent
December 3, 2018
Matthew 1:20 ". . . the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. . . "

Joseph, the man who married the mother of Jesus, was a righteous man. For the Bible to consider him a righteous man, he likely would have spent a good deal of time in Scripture, reading and praying, understanding the Lord's Word.  He practiced what he learned about in the Scriptures, living out his life as recommended by the Lord. You could certainly say Joseph worked hard at his relationship with the Lord. While Mary was the chosen mother of Jesus, it probably was no chance relationship between Mary and Joseph. Joseph was an important part of the equation, and a man with integrity, at that. When Joseph learned the woman he was to marry was with child, he decided to do the right thing and simply divorce her quietly, to end the marriage contract before the wedding ceremony could finalize the deal. But the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Stop right there. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to marry the woman anyway. How many times is it recorded in the Bible that an angel of the Lord appears to anyone?  The number is limited to just a handful of people. 

Review for a moment the difference of an angel appearing in person like when they appeared to the shepherds in the field after Jesus was born, to several of them in public. But this appearance by the angel to Joseph was private, and in a dream. Dreams can be confusing, sometimes. Did Joseph make it up? Did he eat spicy Italian food from the Romans? Could he be certain the appearance was real and legitimate? Nonetheless, the angel in the dream told him it was OK to marry the woman, and to raise the child, the Christ child. Yeah, that's right, the angel told him the child was going to be the savior of the world. Now the dream is getting weird. An angel appeared to him in a dream, telling him this fiance was with child even though never having been with a man, and now the child inside her was going to be the savior of the world. Can you imagine if Joseph had woken the next morning and taking that dream to his pastor? It is hard to believe, impossible almost. It was the most outlandish dream in the whole of the Bible, when you consider the precedent. The two things in the dream defied gravity, having never been done before. A woman, with child, though not by a man, AND the child would be the savior of the world. This dream was rather outlandish. But Joseph did not wake up and discredit it. He did not belittle the ideas in the dream as preposterous or impossible or even improbable. Despite the lack of precedent regarding the message, Joseph trust the validity of it. 

It was preposterous, but Joseph not only trusted in it, he lived it out. Joseph put feet to the message and walked out his life in faith, that which the angel told him was true. The resolve and confidence Joseph must have had was amazing, to trust that this child was the Christ child, that marry was pregnant without the assistance of a man. It must have been a pretty impressive dream, to endure the other church members likely judging Joseph behind his back. No one else was given the dream. Imagine the conversations behind his back, in front of his face even. Did Joseph defend his actions, his decisions to marry the woman anyway? Could he have told anyone; would they believe him? Regardless, Joseph believed the Word of the Lord and he walked it out in confidence.

You and I aren't quite that impressive, walking in the resolve of Joseph on an apparent dream. For Joseph to have trusted that dream with his life, he must have had an amazing relationship with the Lord, conviction in hearing His voice. Joseph maybe had his questions leading up to the birth of Jesus, certainly the looks from others, and maybe even a doubt or two. Regardless, Joseph trusted in the word of the Lord, the gravity-defying word of the Lord where there was no precedent. You and I want the writing on the wall before we are willing to walk in trust, for those things the Lord has ask of us. We want a sign painted in the sky, an angel to appear on our door step, and a letter in the mailbox before we are sure we've heard from the Lord. Joseph didn't require all that, though, just a gentle dream to boost his resolve. What does it take for you to step out in faith, to trust the Lord down a path that has never before been traveled? We look at Scripture and look for the precedent; has someone else been down this path before? But what if the Lord is asking you to do something that has never been done before?  Will you still move forward? What if the going gets tough, will you stick it out?  What if there is no precedent; can you still trust the Lord through it?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 1:18-24, Matt 12:39, Matt 16:4

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Intentionally Different

Intentionally Different
November 26, 2018
2 Timothy 3:12  "Yes, and all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."

Being a Christian is not popular, nor is it socially acceptable, if lived out correctly. In this day and age, no one is going to outright criticize you for a belief system that is only slightly different than their own. As long as you look the same, smell the same, and do the same things, then they will accept you as their own. Being a Christian, however, a true Christian, is not going to make you look or act the same. Following the Scriptural instructions for daily living, you will naturally look different than the rest of the world. You are going to dress more modestly in comparison, you are going to speak differently in comparison, and you are going to maintain different habits in comparison.

If you are living out your Christianity, you are going to be fully noticeable by any one who is not a Christian. Many people are socially polite and respectful, and this is a given if you are a Christian. But you are going to be far more different. You are going to be wearing forgiveness, compassion, gentleness, and self control. These elements are going to set you apart and you will be respected for them. However, if you obey the Scriptures to the fullest degree you are going to take a stance on gender bias marriages and the sanctity of life before birth. You are also going to take a stance on physical relationships outside of marriage and avoid many worldly vices. You'll stick out like a sore thumb, unable to hide the fact that you are a Christian. This is what the Lord desires, but it will also make you unpopular. This will actually invite criticism against you and make you slightly offensive to many. The Bible says that if they despised Him, meaning Jesus, they will despise you.

Being a true Christian, living it out, will actually invite persecution. If you live in a country free from religious persecution, you will not escape notice for your polarizing beliefs. You will be discriminated against because of your views, and you won't be able to hide them.  People will not invite you to be their friend, once they find out your true Christian stance. If you disagree with this statement, finding full acceptance of your Christianity, then you may need to evaluate your actions and beliefs. If your beliefs look too similar to the world's than you are possibly compromising more than the Lord would desire. 

Scripture is very clear that light can have no fellowship with darkness, yet most of us find a way to compromise what we believe and tolerate to be in the presence of darkness. We tend to accept the world, those who live in darkness, and actually have fellowship with it. There is a difference between being in the presence of darkness attempting to shine the light and having fellowship with the darkness. Somehow the church has bought in to mercy and compassion as if it means being tolerant of sin and having fellowship with that. Being a true Christian, however, means darkness will not invite the fellowship of the light. If you find yourself being invited into the fellowship of the darkness, then you may not be living our your Christianity correctly. Your belief system will be offensive and so will your lifestyle. You will be different, noticeably different, and this should be intentional. If you don't find yourself being persecuted, maybe you are doing it wrong?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 5:11-12, Matt 24:9, 2 Thess 1:4, 2 Tim 3:11-12

Monday, November 19, 2018

Fool's Gold

Fool's Gold 
November 19, 2018
Rev 21:21  ". . . The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass." 

Gold is a naturally occurring element, and in its purest form can stand alone without any other chemical element added to it.  Gold is considered extremely valuable; pure gold is rare.  It has been used since the history of mankind as a form of currency, which also adds to its intrinsic value.  It is extremely malleable, conducts electricity very well, yet resists corrosion and maintains its luster.  It currently has a market price of $1,200 USD per ounce (it's very heavy, so that's about the same volume equivalent as two teaspoons (10ml) of water).  The gold used in making jewelry usually has a mixture of nickel, zinc, and other metals, bringing the cost down and adding strength.  Gold is not a good construction material for buildings because it is one of the softer metals.  It dents easily, and you certainly wouldn't want to be touching gold if it was struck by lightning. 

The Bible declares that the walls and streets of Heaven are made of gold.  Well, sort of.  The Bible states that the walls and streets of Heaven are like gold.  If you want to translate the Bible literally, then you can read that the streets of Heaven would be made of a pure substance as we understand it on our periodic table of elements (Au).  But I would argue for a moment that the depiction of Heaven with streets of gold is a metaphor for the vast richness and glory in comparison to earth.  The passage in Revelation depicts one of the most valuable substances on earth as common and even something that is tread upon.  Back when the Bible was written, the construction material for walls and roads was brick (usually made of dirt and clay).  In writing the Bible, God wasn't trying to convince us of the building materials that are used in Heaven, He was trying to convince us that Heaven is a place we should want to someday live because of its richness.  He also made clear that something we value here on earth is not so important in Heaven, especially if we can walk on it like dirt.

There is another substance on earth that is nicknamed "fool's gold".  At first appearance it looks like gold, but in reality it is far from being a close cousin to it.  "Fool's gold" is iron pyrite, made of iron and sulfur.  Many people looking for gold think they have found it, but end up with iron pyrite, which has hardly the same value and properties of gold.  Depending on its form, iron pyrite is worth less than $1 USD per ounce, sometimes even less than a few pennies. You can imagine the disappointment if a person thinks he has found a few ounces of gold and it turns out to be iron pyrite.  This is why it is nicknamed "fool's gold".

The Bible says that you and I are easily fooled into believing what is truly valuable on this earth.  You and I like to place value on what we have in comparison to others: possessions, status, activities, etc.  Nothing we have on this earth has any value in Heaven, though.  The only things of worth in Heaven are what we do on this earth that give glory to the Lord.  The Apostle Peter writes it this way, ". . . the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."  In other words, Peter was saying how you respond to situations in life and what you do for the Lord are the only things that matter on this earth.  This is hard to swallow, as we like to have nice things sometimes, we like feeling good about ourselves, and we like being respected and important.  The Lord would say that this is a fool's pursuit, trying to attain things in life that are worthless in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It takes a mature Christian to find real value in life, the value in all that is done in the name of the Lord.  Everything else is worthless, even an ounce of gold.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Prov 8:11, Acts 14:15, Rom 8:18, Phil 3:8, Col 1:10, 2 Thess 1:11, James 1:26, 1 Peter 1:6-8, 1 Peter 3:4, Rev 21 

Sunday, November 11, 2018


November 12, 2018
Acts 10:42  "He commanded us to preach to t he people and to testify that it is he who has ordained by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead."

Ordination suggests a preacher or a pastor has been given authority by an official church organization to lead in church related matters of that office. While this is certainly the case, this limits those ordained to be a select few. It is healthy to have publicly recognized leaders of the church as long as they are functioning according to the law of Scripture. It does, however, limit those in service to the King to a small, almost elite, class of Christians. The more we make it official with ceremonies and certificates and recognition, the further we make it from its intended role. Being ordained, as per Biblical meaning, was more along the lines of a charge of service, official marching orders, if you will. But the marching orders always came from the Lord. 

The Lord instituted ordination. He ordained Aaron, the first priest. He also discusses in great length that Jesus was ordained to be the savior. But it goes further than that. Jesus ordained the disciples. They were given official charge, direct marching orders by Jesus to be ministers of the gospel. While it sounds official, with Jesus installing the disciples, it does not stop there. Paul writes that we are all ordained as ministers of the gospel. If we all are ministers of the gospel, it can take away from the apparent special nature of the office, but that is how the Lord meant it. If being in charge of ministering the gospel was only relegated to a select few then the church would be in a poor state, completely ineffective.

But somehow, we have all come to the conclusion that if we aren't directly in the employ of a church, then we are exempt from having marching orders. Marching orders are only given to those officially tasked. Most of us wait for someone to officially task us with work approved by the Lord. But the Lord would say to you today that you have marching orders from Him. Those duties, that which the Lord asked of you, requires no official certificate of validation from man, only deeply rooted motivation in your heart to act on behalf of the King. You are a minister of the gospel, either right where you stand or in the place the Lord is asking you to find.  If you lack marching orders, then you might be lacking in your relationship to the King. If you aren't sure of what your marching orders are, then maybe you haven't asked Him to be specific.

The Lord calls all of us to be ministers of the gospel, officially recognized by Him, to be called a Christian, and to carry on the work of the gospel, as ordained ministers. The Bible says all the days ordained for your life were written before one of them came to be in existence. Agree with it or not, but your life is ordained and you are ordained on behalf of the King, with marching orders. You are ordained by God.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Num 3:2, 2 Kings 19:25, Ps 81:5, Ps 139:16, Mk 3:14, 1 Cor 2:17, 2 Cor 3:1-6

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sin Vs Holiness

Sin Vs Holiness
November 5, 2018
Psalm 51:10  "Create in me a pure heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me."

There is a battle in your life and it is a battle over sin. You are likely aware of all the sin in your life. You notice it when you commit a sin and feel the regret, the remorse for your actions that you know were wrong. You resolve to do better, putting steel in your veins to win out over your sin. Next time, the intestinal fortitude will keep you from your sin, your grit and determination, sheer will power will reveal you as the victor. But somehow sin wins again and again and again. There is advice in the Bible on how to combat the sin, however, and it is not with resolve or any amount of determination. The Bible says the antidote for sin is holiness.

At first this seems difficult when contemplating it. Since holiness is the antithesis of sin, of course if you aren't sinning then you are categorically "holy." This is certainly the elementary understanding of it, but not revelatory in how to achieve it. Most of us are not trying to be the holiest, just win out over the sinful actions we wish to eliminate, for starters. In attempting to combat your sin with resolve, what you are really trying to do is combat your sinful actions using the resolve of a human being who is innately sinful. Sin in your life is what causes the sinful actions. Most of the time people are trying to simply rid their lives of the sinful actions, but do not realize they are born out of a sinful heart. You can be the perfect person in your actions, possibly for a day, but it does not mean your did not think or feel the sin in your heart, just that you overcame the action of the sin that day. Winning out over your sinful actions, successfully, requires winning out over the sin in your heart.

Your sinful actions are a result of your internal sin. A sinful heart will never be able to stop a sinful action, no matter how mentally and emotionally strong your are. Sinful actions are born out of sin, but holy actions are born out of holiness. In order to combat the sinful actions in your life, you have to replace them with holy actions. The only way to achieve holy actions is the through holiness in your heart. A sinful heart produces sinful actions, but a holy heart produces holy action. Peter writes, we are to be holy because Christ was holy. What he was saying is that you should commit holy actions because Christ committed holy actions. The heart of Jesus was innately holy, not sinful. You and I, we try to commit holy actions with a sinful heart and that will never work. If you want to rid your life of your sinful actions, it requires a heart change. You may think your heart is right, but clearly sinful actions are born of a sinful heart. So how do you get holiness in your heart, then?

That part is no so easily accomplished because it isn't just a one-time deal. It is a daily, on-going effort to die to self. It takes hiding the Lord's Word in your heart, it takes getting on your knees daily in prayer. It takes acknowledging your sin before the Lord and repenting. We don't really want to repent, we want to be sorry for that one, isolated, sinful action. We don't want to repent of the internal sin that caused the sinful action, repentance takes true remorse and a heart change. Most of us don't really want the Lord to change our hearts, just our outward actions. The Lord cares more about the repentance inside your heart than the sinful act you committed. The outward actions are just a symptom of what is going on inside. If you want to change your sinful actions, you have to be willing for the Lord to change your heart. Wanting Him to change your heart is different than seeking and asking Him to change your heart. It is time for a heart change, maybe even a heart transplant. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Lev 11:44-45, Lev 19:2, Ps 19:14, Matt 5:8, Matt 12:35, Heb 10:22, 1 Peter 1:13-25

Monday, October 29, 2018

Step Out

Step Out
October 29, 2018
Genesis 12:4  "So Abram went, as the Lord told him. . . "

If someone wins a race, it is because they worked hard to win. It is not just about working hard, though, they had to step out to begin with, and start somewhere. It sounds silly to say but everyone starts at the beginning. No one wins their first race; there are likely many races they have competed in. No one competes in a race without training, applying diligence in the practice beforehand. No one applies diligence in the training unless they have taken the first step in determining to begin. Winning a race always starts with the decision to take the first step, to make the the choice to move out from comfortable and start to compete. This is the same, not only with your decision to follow the Lord and compete in this Christian life, but also the same in stepping out in faith.

As I read through the Bible, there are several impressive individuals who followed the Lord when there was no precedent to do so, no reason for them to step out, no guarantee it would actually work out well. Abraham was told to step out and the Lord was going to make him the father of a huge nation. Abraham had to believe and had to determine to make the first step of faith. His son and his grandson had to do the same, stepping out even further to continue the journey, still not sure what it was they were working toward exactly. Moses had to step out in faith twice. The first time was to leave the sheep in the desert and step out in faith toward Pharaoh, asking him to let the slaves go free. The second time was when they were about to leave Egypt, slaves now free, heading out into the unknown. Then I read further and Elisha stepped out to follow Elijah has his prophet apprentice, not knowing what was in store. Nehemiah stepped out and asked the king if he could rebuild the wall; he stepped out to take on that hefty project. Then there is the calling of the first disciples. Jesus would walk up to these unsuspecting men and He asked them to follow Him. They did; they stepped out in faith and followed Him to the unknown future.

We have the luxury of reading all these men's stories and seeing that it worked out, that it was the right decision to step out in faith and follow the Lord down a bizarre and unknown path. But they did not have that same opportunity. They did not know how it was going to end, how it was going to work out, if the blessing was really going to be there or if the Lord could even be trusted if they embarked on the dangerous journey. These impressive men stepped out and the stories were unwritten. The Lord could not make their story amazing had they all not stepped out though. You cannot win a race without staring to run and you cannot reap the Lord's rewards if you stay sitting on the couch. Most of us are afraid to step out, the make the leap of faith. Sure, if we know for certain it is going to be profitable, then we'll step out, but the unknown is so......unknown. 

The Lord's path for your life is scary, don't be fooled. But some of you are so afraid of the future that you are paralyzed, unwilling to move forward at all. There are so many Christians who are afraid to step out and so they sit and do nothing, actually becoming lazy in their Christian walk. While I don't know what the path could be for your life, I do know there is no reward for sitting on the couch. There is no medal for those who refuse to compete. There is no reward for those who don't even start the race. There is no blessing unless there is first a leap of faith. The Lord cannot bless the couch sitter. While nothing will happen to you if you sit on the couch, nothing will reward you either. I cannot guarantee the future, but I can guarantee there is no potential outcome unless you step out in faith.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Is Gen 12:1-9, 1 Kings 19:19-21, Neh 2:4-11, Matt 4:18-20

Monday, October 22, 2018

Not Done Yet

Not Done Yet
October 22, 2018
Daniel 6:27 "He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions."

No doubt, one of the most famous stories in the Bible is the one of Daniel in the lion's den. To recap the story, Daniel found enemies despite not doing anything wrong. Daniel was upright and lived in exile under foreign rule. Daniel prayed to the Lord and served Him, first and foremost. His enemies plotted to get rid of him, as they were jealous of the favor Daniel had with the king. They set him up, to trap him, if Daniel prayed to the Lord in Heaven. Of course Daniel did the right thing, and prayed to the Lord in Heaven, but the law stated Daniel was now a criminal and had to suffer the fate of the lion's den. The king was furious at the trick from Daniel's enemies, but could not reverse the law. Thankfully Daniel was safe in that lion's den but it took the Lord's design to accomplish it.

Most depictions of that story, regarding Daniel, suggest he was of young age. Daniel was anything but young at the time. Daniel was pushing 80 years old at the time of this debacle. So what? What is the significance? Technically, Daniel had lived a full life and the Lord could have simply allowed Daniel to fall asleep and avoid the trial like He did for Stephen five hundred years later. Regardless of how it played out for Daniel, the Lord's design never intended it to end there and the reason was because of Daniels future, still. It is unknown the age at which Daniel actually died, but theologians suggest he was over 100, possibly pushing 120 years old. At 80, Daniel still had worked to do for the Lord.

If you read the book of Daniel, the story of the lion's den is the turning point in the writing and subject matter. The first portions of the book only comment on a few instances of Daniels walk with the Lord, but it encompassed more than 60 years of his life. Then the lion's den happens, and instantly the book of Daniel turns into prophecy and eschatology. For the later portions of the book, riddles and mysteries and prophecies are recorded that baffle theologians still today. The Lord will reveal the meaning of those prophecies in due time but the Lord needed them to be written down. The most crucial parts of Daniel's life were not before the lion's den, but after. The Lord rescued Daniel because Daniel still had work to do. Satan tried to thwart Daniel's life but his life wasn't over yet. The best of Daniel's life, the most important years of serving the Lord were not done yet. He did more in the twilight years of his life than most of us will accomplish from beginning to end.

The point is, Daniel wasn't done yet and the Lord still had so much for Him to do. The Lord rescued Daniel for a reason; Daniel was still willing to serve the Lord. His life wasn't over and there was plenty of work to be done. You may think you missed out on it years ago, that thing you could have done for the Lord, but your life is just beginning, even if you are in your 60's. You never get to retire from serving the Lord and your efforts are needed in your 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, and even 60's and 70's. There is a new work, not necessarily the old one, and the exciting part is you get to figure it out with the Lord. He has a plan and desires to use you because you are not done yet. Think you accomplished something big for Him already? Just you wait, the best is yet to come, if you let it. The story of Daniel speaks not just to the age of which the Lord can use you, but to the fact that no matter how much opposition from the enemy there is, nothing can stop the Lord's plans. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Is 54:17, Daniel 6, Acts 7:54-60, Rom 8:31

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Lord's Specialty

The Lord's Specialty
October 15, 2018
Isaiah 43:13 "Yes, and from ancient days, I am He. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?"

In Isaiah, the Lord speaks to the Israelites, but does so in slightly confusing verbiage. He says He is doing a new thing, making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. In hindsight we know He was specifically talking about making a new way for redemption through the coming Jesus Christ. And while it is important to keep the  Bible in context, there are some amazing attributes about the  Lord we can glean from this text. If you read the verses surrounding these words, you'll see the Lord reference the exodus from Egypt as slaves. He recounts parting the waters and taking care of them against Pharaoh's army. Recall that was a massive miracle, letting the Israelites walk on dry ground and then pulling the waters back over over the army and wiping them out. The Lord says to remember that amazing event and then says what He is about to do makes the prior miracle look like child's play. 

The Lord wanted to make a point, that He is in the business of doing amazing things, not just in the past, but an ongoing basis. This means new miracles, new and unexpected ways that He can show up. His words are specifically a path in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Both of those carry a degree of impossibility. In the wilderness, a jungle scenario, there are no pathways. It takes a trailblazer to have gone ahead, to make a path that is not there. And rivers in a desert are impossible. Water does not travel through sand to make a river. The two do not exist well together, as a desert absorbs all water because it is so dry. The Lord says He is able to sustain a river in the impossibility of the desert. The Lord is establishing He is not limited to the imagination of the past nor the impossibility of the future. It can be done, with ease. And in the same verses, He says that when we creates, when He acts, no man or force can reverse it. No one can combat the miracle of the Lord; He is unstoppable.

Your life undoubtedly has road blocks and deserts and wildernesses, and paths that seem impossible to traverse. I get it. No Christian will tell you their life was easy or perfect or without obstacle. But if you were to survey any Christian who has been a Christian for a duration of time, you'll find each one has a miracle story of what was seemingly impossible. I have a daughter who is unable to walk, paralyzed since birth. Her spinal cord is severed and no doctor can reverse it. There are days when I pray with her and I completely avoid praying for the healing of her legs; I don't want to get her hopes up of ever running or dancing or even feeling the sand between her toes on the ocean's edge. It's not that I doubt the Lord's ability, but sure, I doubt. I know He can do it. He has done it before. He specializes in making a path where none has ever been made. He can make a path to  channel her nerve endings and grow a new spinal cord for her. He can do the impossible. And so I pray for the impossible anyway. It may never come and she may never be able to feel the fresh summer grass under her feet, but still I pray. I pray to the God who is the way-maker, the doer of the impossible. The impossibility is His specialty.

I encourage you to stop limiting your imagination of what the Lord can and will do in your life. If you don't hope and pray for the big things then you've limited what God might do in your life. He can make a way in the wilderness and a river to exist in a desert. He can do the impossible in your life and no one can stop Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 18:14, Is 43, Jer 32:17 & 27, Matt 17:20 & 19:23-30, Luke 1:37, Phil 4:13

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Faith is Power

Faith is Power
October 8, 2018
Mark 5:34 "He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.'"

There is no doubt that Jesus has the power to perform miracles. A miracle can be defined as something that happens defying the laws of nature or science. You and I have no power to make miracles happen, that alone is held by the Lord. But despite our powerlessness, our faith has the ability to put us in a position to affect a miracle. There was a woman who was suffering; she needed healing. She had never physically met Jesus be she knew who He was. She also knew what He could do. The Bible says everywhere Jesus went, He healed anyone who requested it. The sick came to him and He healed them. This woman knew the power of the Lord, the legends about Him were real. She knew He was so powerful that all she had to do was touch the hem of this clothes and His power would heal her. She determined in her heart she would attempt the touch.

Jesus was in a crowd of people, a tight crowd of people huddled around Him, bumping up against Him. This woman, however, pushed close and reached her hand through the hoard. Jesus never saw her hand reach through the crowd, but she was able to extend her arm just long enough to brush up against His clothes. The Bible says instantly she was healed. Jesus felt the power leave Him to heal her and questioned who touched Him. This was a funny statement to the disciples, because so many people had been touching Him the prior few moments. But despite the several people huddled around Him closely, none of them received any disbursement of power. Only the woman who had faith in His power to heal her had any transfer of miracles happen to her.

She confessed it was her touch on His clothes and the Lord's response was interesting. He said that her faith is what healed her. Jesus did not directly exercise His free will to heal her. It was His power and her faith in His power that healed her. She did not have to ask Him to heal her, she had faith in His power and that was it. His power was and is there, and she had faith to receive that power for the healing. And immediately she was healed. Oh to have the faith of that woman. She is the only one recorded in the Bible to have received something by faith without asking for it. This speaks to several things. First and foremost, our faith has more power than we will ever realize. Second, there are many things out there from the Lord, extended to those who simply have faith to receive them. This also means we leave many things on the table with the Lord, as it takes faith to receive them.

It is impossible to know what all the Lord has for us if we just have the faith to believe in receiving it. But the point is not in what we could receive, the point is our faith and how firmly planted in our belief system. The woman who was healed, her faith was not a belief, it was a known fact, almost as if it was a known fact of science. Miracles are defined by human standards, but to the Lord, His power is scientific fact but it takes our faith to reveal it as such. The woman who was healed is not known by her name, she is known by her faith. Your faith has the power to affect miracles in your life, but it takes the kind of faith the woman had, the kind that understood it more like a fact than a belief. What is it you believe and what is it you know as fact? Should you 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Mark 5:21-43, James 1:6

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Leader Led the Way

The Leader Led the Way
October 1, 2018
Ezra 9:2  ". . .And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness."

Not ironic, leaders are meant to lead. There have been many successful leaders in the past few thousand years, leaders both good and evil. Nebuchadnezzar could have been considered a successful leader in Biblical times, building a vast empire, however he was not considered a moral man even by non-Christian standards today. There are many successful leaders that lead entire nations of people astray and down the wrong path. World War I & II are perfect examples of that, with successful leaders on both sides. In the end, good won out over evil, but not after many people were led down the wrong path and millions upon millions died unnecessarily. And those evil leaders convinced many their way was right, leading them to commit the unimaginable. Today, those unimaginables are obvious, but that does not mean the world is absent of leaders who lead many down the wrong path.

In Ezra's time, there were some Israelites left in-country, under occupation of foreign rule, and some who were carried off into exile, into that foreign land. Both groups of Israelites were still under the rule of the foreign king, though. One of the Lord's commands to the Israelites after they left slavery from Egypt was not to intermarry. This was not because of racism, but because of the propensity of foreign idol worship and the different religions and gods brought along with these different people groups. The rule of not marrying and mingling with them was intended to keep them pure from a religious perspective. The draw and influence from a spouse was, and is, significant if they serve another religion. The Lord wanted to stave this off. He instructed them to marry only other Israelites. But during the occupation by the foreign king, the Israelites intermarried with them. Not only were the general population intermarrying with them, but even the religious leaders, the Levites, were intermarrying. This frustrated the Lord, not because of racism, but because of the disobedience, as likely those foreign marriages resulted in household trinkets and symbols and practices to influence Judaism.

The Bible says the leaders led the way in these practices. If anyone should have known better, it was the religious leaders, but they compromised. That compromise enticed more people into what was somehow acceptable and they were led into that same sin. While each person is responsible for his or her own sin, the Bible is clear that leaders, specifically religious teachers, will be held to a higher standard. The way a religious leader leads will have a profound impact on each person's future, their eternal future. In Ezra's time, these leaders led the people into sin. From the outside perspective, it did not look to be an immoral activity, but it was against the Lord's rule book. There are millions of churches, that look to be completely fine from an outside perspective, not harming anyone. But are the practices in each church leading someone to live and act in a manner that does not line up with the Lord's rule book? Not all who call themselves Christians follow the Lord's rule book. What is more important, calling yourself a Christian or living according to the Christ standard?

While neither of us can judge, specifically, we are called to weigh everything according to the Lord's standards. We are called to live according to the way the Lord set up, the example led by Jesus, and the instructions left in the Bible. We are to hold the church, the church doctrine, and the religious leaders up to the litmus of those standards. While the leaders should know better, ignorance is not a viable defense before the Lord. Just because a leader is leading, does not mean it is the right way. You have an obligation to make sure you attend a Bible-believing, Bible-practicing church. You also have an obligation to weigh your pastor in light of the Bible, which requires knowing the Bible. Just because the leader is charismatic and seems to have good intentions, does not mean they are leading your down the correct path. Be careful of the doctrine you follow. Is it the doctrine of the church or the doctrine of the Bible?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ezra 9:1-4, Acts 17:11, Rom 12:2-13, James 3:1

Sunday, September 23, 2018

And There Was Light

And There Was Light
September 24, 2018
Genesis 1:3  "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light"

In the beginning, the Lord created the heavens and the earth. This is the start of the Bible, and we all can quote it so easily. The Bible opens that way to set a precedent and should not be glossed over The precedent is one of authority and responsibility. The Lord opens the Bible setting things clear that what unfolds in the Bible is a result of His creation, His handiwork in motion. It's all about the Lord. He created it and He is in charge. The opening of the Bible is swift, but very clear who it is about and what it is about. It is about Him and His relationship with His creation.

After the Bible leads at the opening, the Lord quickly establishes two more ground rules for the rest of creation as well as the rest of the Bible. Let there by light. The Lord spoke light into existence. This is critical, because the Lord is a creator. He is never referred to as the one who once created. He is referred to in the Bible, throughout, as the creator, one who creates. He formed the heavens and the earth and then He continued create. He does not stop creating. He did not create once and stop there. He continued to create and He continues today. And how He creates is almost just as critical. He speaks it into existence. When He said, "let there be light," there was light. He spoke it into existence and it could not be undone. It had to come to fruition. What the Lord declared is so, is so. If the Lord declared it, it will happen, it will come about. Nothing can stop what the Lord spoke into motion. And there was light. It happened, and it came about in the simplest of manners. The Lord just speaks and it is done.  

As Christians in this century, we often think the Lord is done creating. We fail to recognize how quick and easy it is for the Lord to create something out of nothing. We also fail to recognize that what the Lord speaks into motion cannot be undone. There are so many applications to our lives. Christian, the Lord is still creating in your life. He is speaking things into existence, and will continue to speak things into existence for the remainder of your life. It is that easy for Him, no difficulty in accomplishing the task with a simple spoken word. And furthermore, what He speaks into existence for your life cannot be undone. It is done. You cannot halt what the Lord has spoken, nothing can.

You may be trying to create in your own life, and understandably so as we are made in the creator's image. One thing is certain, however, and that is you have no ability to speak things into existence in the same manner. You cannot fight what the Lord wants to do in your life and what He has already spoken into motion for you. On the flip side, if you are struggling with facing a dead end, thinking the road cannot be made or an oasis in the midst of a desert, you would be wrong. The Lord can make a way where there seems to be no way. He can speak the situation into existence; He can create something from nothing. When He speaks something into existence, it will materialize. As sure as there is light, the Lord is speaking things into existence at this very moment. If you need a way in the desert, where there seems to be no way, pray to the One who can speak it into place.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Genesis 1:1-5, Proverbs 16:1

Monday, September 17, 2018

Write It Down

Write It Down
September 17, 2018
Ezra 7:10:  "For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel."

Ezra is a small book of the Bible, coupled with the books of the prophets. If you were able to ask Ezra, he would probably not have considered himself a prophet. He was, however, an impressive man of God. He was one of the Jewish leaders in the time of occupation. Much like in the time of Jesus the Romans occupied and ruled over Israel, the king of Persia was in charge. But Ezra found favor with the foreign king, and somehow found himself as the head of the Jewish state. A more correct interpretation of Ezra would put him as a figure head over the Jews, with no real authority. Not born as a king, Ezra was a priest, a direct descendant of the first priest Aaron. He was first a priest by occupation, and as a priest he was a scribe and teacher by default. The Bible says he was an impressive teacher, an expect in the Law of Moses. Researches, however, call him a scribe. He was both.

One does not simply become an expert by accident, or adept at anything difficult without trying. His resume, as suggested by the Bible, lists his skills as understanding scripture, living out scripture, and teaching scripture. Also noted on his resume was his ability to read and write, extremely well, able to take dictation and scribe letters, in several languages. Ezra was not a warrior, or a charismatic leader, he was a book worm. He devoted himself to the study of the Scriptures. Never intending to be a leader, he probably felt most comfortable with his books, some candle light, and maybe some paper to jot down notes. If you look through the Bible, though, he is most often associated with being a prophet and with being a scribe. The Bible calls him an expert in the law and a teacher but somehow he is not known to us in that way. If you consider his pathway, though, on how he become known, you must understand his beginnings.

Part of the priestly duties were reading the scriptures out loud and writing them down for others. The ink back then did not last long, so they had to constantly re-write out the Scriptures. As well, many smaller versions of the manuscripts were needed and used by the priests to teach others, so they often had to write out significant portions of the Scriptures over and over again. He spent many hours, by default, writing out the Bible, tediously and meticulously. If you want to guess how he became so good at understanding the Scriptures, you can understand that much of it came from patiently copying it over and over again.  He could not have been able to be an expert at applying Scripture if he first did not have such a deep understanding of it. He could not have been such an amazing teacher if he first was not able to apply it in his own life. Say it all another way. He was such a good teacher because he lived it. He was able to live it, because he knew it and understood it. He was able to understand it because he spent countless years of his life writing it down. He would not have become the leader he was unless he started out as a book worm and a scribe. He was an impressive leader because he first started writing out the Bible.

Translate that over into daily life and I wonder how much more impact full a Christian we would be if we wrote out Scripture, understanding it to the depth of Ezra. Sure, you might read it, maybe even study it a bit, but have you written it out on paper, tediously and meticulously, so you know it like the back of your hand? There is a strange connection with your cognitive understanding and ability to memorize something when you write it down. We know this when studying for a college exam, but how many of us have done this with Scripture, for no other reason than writing it down. If you look at how Ezra had to write it out, it was a slow process, making the characters with his ink pen after dipping it in ink multiple times for the same word even.  He didn't type it; he spent hours on the same page, literally hours copying down one page worth of material. Accept this challenge to copy down even one small book of the Bible by hand and see if it does not illuminate your understanding of Scripture and effect your Christianity. If you want to take your impact up a level, start copying Scripture down and see how much better you will be able to apply it to your life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ezra 7

Monday, September 10, 2018

Blood Money

Blood Money
September 10, 2018
Matthew 27:5  "So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself."

The story of Judas betraying Jesus is slightly confusing if you study it in depth. It takes several epistles to explain the whole story and then you have to piece together the parts to see the complete picture.  The Jewish leaders were the ones who wanted Jesus to go away. That was no secret. They just wanted Him to go away. There were some Jewish leaders who respected Him, but an elite band of leaders wanted Him out of the picture. Judas agreed to help the Jewish leaders capture Him. There were countless opportunities to nab Jesus, but they wanted to do it in the dark, in the secret, to make it all just go away quietly. Judas agreed to help that happen. 

Judas was tempted. It is baffling that someone can spend so many months and years in a relationship with the person of Jesus and decide to do Him wrong, intentionally harming Him. Judas knew who Jesus was; He understood Jesus was the son of God. How, then, could Judas conspire against Him? Were they not at least friends? Was the money really worth selling out someone you once considered your friend? Evidently, the money was good enough to sell Jesus out. Judas originally worked with ministry money, keeping the books. That was part of his giftings and service. Satan tempted him in the area of his giftings. The money was good, for whatever Judas needed it for and he fell for it. The price for Judas to sell out Jesus was 30 pieces of silver.

Judas took the money, turned over Jesus, and then felt the regret. The Jewish leaders who conspired with Judas did not truly need his help; they could have done without him, but it sure was easier with an insider. Judas became a part of the story and for that he felt regret. Judas knew what he was doing, and Satan helped him. Judas gave in to the temptation as put before him by Satan and his own fleshly desires. We judge Judas wondering how he could do that, but the reality is, we all might have our sell-out point. There might be a sum of money or temptation large enough for you to walk away from your relationship with the Lord. Judas regretting taking the money, in retrospect and threw it back on the Jewish leaders who conspired against Jesus. The Jewish leaders who took it back called it blood money and couldn't take it into the temple. They were a part of the conspiracy and blood money, yet they recognized what was wrong about the entire situation. They recognized it represented someone conspiring against the innocent. They also realized it was wrong, in retrospect.

It took 30 pieces of silver to sell out Jesus; what is your price? At what point would the money be good enough for you to walk away from the Lord? There are many opinions but the range of worth for 30 pieces of silver today is one to four months of income. Look at your income and calculate four months' worth of pay. Would you sell out Jesus for four months of your pay? It made sense to Judas at the time. You may not be willing to sell Him out for four months of income, but what about 400 months of revenue?  Would you do it for a million dollars? Would you do it for fame or status or privilege?  Maybe you would sell out in order to live without hardship. I've seen many Christians retain the name but have figured out how to remove anything difficult or uncomfortable about being a Christian. Many have a sell out point, maybe it is torture. Maybe if you were tortured you'd be willing to renounce your faith in Jesus? Blood money does not always come in the form of silver. There is much this world has to offer and Satan has all different types of currencies. He will tempt you in the area of your giftings and you might end up accepting a sum to turn away from Jesus. You might be surprised at the low price people accept to sell out Jesus. Take it from Judas, no amount is worth it, and in the end it is all blood money. Blood money is useless. He tried to return it but in the end it was too late.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 26:1-5 & 47-50 , Matthew 27:1-10, Luke 22:1-6, John 13

Monday, August 27, 2018


August 27, 2018
Daniel 1:20  "In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom."

The book of Daniel opens with a very brief background story. The background story basically states that a bad king came and carried off people and religious artifacts. The end. The Bible does not waste any time with too many details sometimes, because apparently those details were, and are, not important. The Bible does get in, rather quickly, to some details about Daniel's interactions with the bad king. Since the book of Daniel is about Daniel, focus for a few minutes on the person of Daniel. He was an exceptional human being. The exact age of Daniel is unknown, but he wasn't carried off by the bad king when he was in his mid-40s. No, Daniel was likely carried off into Babylon when he was a late teen, early 20s at most. By today's standards, maybe he was college age.

At any rate, Daniel was put into the kings service. He was basically a slave, and required to serve the bad king. This bad king, Nebuchadnezzar, gave instructions on a three-year indoctrination process. They were going to assimilate Daniel and the others, brainwash them, teach them the language, and integrate them as part of the empire. They wanted Daniel for his demonstrated intellect and that is exactly what they got, sort of. Several years into program, Daniel was doing exceptionally well. He was learning the language, putting his shoulder to the study, learning the culture, and figuring it out rather well. What is really impressive with Daniel is that he, despite the intense indoctrination, was able to maintain his dedication to the Lord and kept his Jewish beliefs, heritage, and traditions. Despite the strong foreign influences, Daniel remained true to his God; He was a Jew straight through to his core. He was able to learn the new culture, beliefs, language, and even religion, without it affecting his own.

Before Daniel was through his three-year program installed by the bad king, Daniel was called upon in service to interpret the kings dream. While the dream is critical to the whole of the Bible, to Daniel, it was part of what the Lord asked of him. Daniel interpreted the dream, as instructed by the Lord, in exceptional service to the bad king. It is a wonder what motivated Daniel internally to excel in this forced foreign program of integration. It is amazing to see this young man work so hard and diligently for his earthly master. He didn't try to overthrow the government; He didn't try to escape. He didn't even lay down and give a half-hearted effort. Daniel served the bad king, as a slave, exceptionally well. 

And though he was not complete with his three-year program, still a college aged man, he was called upon in an exceptional feat before the king in not just interpreting the dream, but telling of the dream when the king kept it a secret. The king was so impressed with Daniel, so impressed with the Lord inside of Daniel, that Nebuchadnezzar placed him in charge of all the wise councilmen of the entire nation. This man, Daniel, barely at the age of graduating college, was the lead wise counsel in all the land. What made Daniel so exceptional?  Was he truly just blessed with intelligence and wisdom? Could you attribute 100 percent of it to the Lord just giving all the insight to Daniel? You can attribute the Lord's blessing of intellect, in that he had the aptitude to learn. But Daniel had to put in the exceptional work, with exceptional dedication not only to study but to prayer and dedication to the Lord. Exceptional intelligence is more common than most will admit. Exceptionally hard work and prayer and dedication to the Lord is what made Daniel exceptional. Even more exceptional is Daniel's ability to be within a culture and not let it affect his dedication to the Lord.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Daniel 1&2

Monday, August 20, 2018

More Afraid

More Afraid
August 20, 2018
Ezra 3:3  "Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both morning and evening sacrifices."

The Israelites were disobedient and the Lord allowed them to be plundered and punished by the hand of their enemies. Their enemies scattered them and smashed all that was sacred to the Israelites at one time. After a humbling time of living in fear and shame, some of them started to come back from hiding and began to rebuild a small semblance of their lives. It took courage to come out of hiding as a Jew. They were specifically targeted for their race and their land and their wealth. But they began to come out of hiding and moved back to their old stomping grounds, after a time of repairing their relationship with the Lord. They once again feared the Lord, the kind of fear that instills reverence and respect, and wanted to honor Him with their lifestyle.

When they moved back home, and found their sacred places smashed to pieces, they began to rebuild. The Bible says when they rebuilt, they did so with the understanding that the enemy might come back and attempt to destroy them again. The Israelites understood that their presence back home, their presence rebuilding their land, was a direct stance against their enemies, a bold statement of their commitment. Their bold stance could have easily been interpreted as an act of defiance, an act of hostility, inviting further war. The Israelites were knowingly inviting a potential battle, that could cost them their lives. But they revered their relationship with the Lord more than they feared what their enemies could do to them. They were honest about their enemies' capabilities, knowing they'd likely lose, but they took their stance out in the open, regardless. They rebuilt the alter to the Lord in order to offer their sacrifices to Him, knowing that this public declaration was going to be noticed by their enemies. If they were going to be attacked, it was going to be at the place they were building, the center of their service and worship to the Lord.

Christian, your enemy is aware of your lifestyle and what you are doing. He notices who you are serving and how you are living for the Lord. The more bold of a statement you make in serving the Lord with your life and your lifestyle, the more you are likely a target for attack from your enemy. Your enemy does not want you to succeed or build or live or thrive or serve or care or love or forgive. Your enemy wants to see you fail, and fail in front of the Lord. The Israelites, however, were aware of this and they did it anyway. They put their shoulder to the work, knowing they were inviting a potential beating from the enemy, knowing the enemy could kill them during their efforts. 

But like the Israelites, we have to fear the Lord, out of reverence, and honor, and respect, more than we fear being attacked or killed by the enemy. The enemy can take your body but not your soul and the Israelites were willing to accept this in their stance to serve the Lord and rebuild their lives of worship unto Him. Your life should be a life of continual worship to the Lord, publicly. If you are ashamed of the Lord, scripture says He will be ashamed of you. If you fear the enemy and what the enemy can do to you, more than you fear the Lord, then you are not likely to stand for the Lord. Stand for the Lord, in front of the world, risking what the world can take from you, knowing it is better to fear the Lord than fear the world. Be more afraid of the Lord than you are the enemy's attack. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ezra 3:1-6, Matt 10:32-29, Mark 8:38, Rom 1:16

Monday, August 13, 2018

Lose Heart

Lose Heart
August 13, 2018
Galatians 6:9  "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary."

Paul writes to the Galatians and encourages them in their Christianity. He said, "don't lose heart." What does it mean to lose heart? It means to grow discouraged and give up. Surely the Galatians didn't need encouraged, right? You and I never need encouraged, do we? Only high-maintenance, insecure Christians need encouraging, right? We all know the right thing and just submit to that; doing the right thing is easy all the time, right? If that were true there would be no fallen Christians. Paul knew what most leaders need to readily grasp, that the saints need encouragement in doing the right thing at all times. It isn't easy, staying the course, doing the right thing, especially if you can't see the results of the hard work. Paul was telling them to to do the right thing, even if they don't see the results of their hard work, simply trusting in the good they are doing.

We all know the right thing to do, but it is easy to think no one is paying attention and the work doesn't really matter, that we can quit and it wouldn't change anything. After all, we aren't really having an impact on this world; no one's life is being changed for the better? This work, it does not matter. The small ripple in the pond has no effect on anything; it quickly dissipates without any true impact. When you can see the results of your work it is easy to keep going, doing good after immediate feedback. But what if there is no feedback loop? What if you know the right thing but there is no reward, no visible sign of the impact, no knowledge or understanding of the harvest? Can you keep going? How long can you keep doing goodness blindly? Can you do the right thing, day in and day out, without see a harvest, and still keep going? My guess is you're tempted to give up and quite sooner rather than later. I'd like to give up many times, as well. I think of quitting often, not my Christianity, but just the simple goodness from day to day sometimes, to take a vacation for an extended period of time, maybe not even getting back from vacation. My good work, it really doesn't matter to anyone, no one will miss it. Some days I can't even define what my good work is, or what it is supposed to look like. If I can't see it, then no one else can see it right? Paul says that argument would be wrong. He should know. He endured so much for doing good and barely saw the immediate feedback. Thousands of years later, his good work is still impacting the kingdom. He says not to lose heart.

People are watching you more than you'll ever realize. Your life is on display, so is the good work you are doing. People notice it, and are benefit ting from your good work, only they aren't telling you. You don't see the harvest, but the impact is real and people's lives are being blessed. Paul says to keep going, even if you cannot see the reward or the results. The point is not the results, the point is the work. We are trained to desire a feedback mechanism them, a reward system. If there is no reward then why do it? Paul said to fight against the lack of reward system, to not look at that but focus on the good work. If you look for the reward you'll likely quite too soon. Paul says to focus on the good, on doing the right thing. He promises the reward in due time, but the due time frame is up to the Lord. Don't lose heart.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Deut 6:18, Is 1:17, John 14:21 Gal 6:7-16, 1 Cor 10:13