Sunday, November 23, 2014

Oh Holy Night

I know that a lot of us get disillusioned when we see Christmas lights and trees going up as soon as October 31st is over.  It is the commercialization of Christmas that disappoints me, and it seems to be a prevailing attitude in our ever more materialistic society. 

However, this year, I am looking forward to the lights and the music so much I thought about putting up our tree today! My wife vetoed that idea, and I will be content to wait at least until after Thanksgiving!

I happened to be on Facebook today and was introduced to an inspiring video of a music group called "Journey of Faith" as they performed a Christmas "Flash Mob" at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach.  You can watch the video here: 

One of the songs they sang was "Oh Holy Night," ("Cantique de Noël").  This song has a rich history, and was the first song ever broadcast over American radio!

One of the lines in particular stood out to me and inspired me:

 "Til He appeared and the soul felts its worth." 

Jesus Christ is the One who gives worth to each and every soul on earth.  Every human being is born in the image of God and therefore has intrinsic worth and value.  

It is truly only when someone comes to faith in Christ that they truly understand that value.

Jesus laid down His life freely to restore the relationship between God and humanity.  His death brought dignity and value to every human life. 

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  1 John 4:10

The fact that God loves you and chose to send His Son Jesus to take your place as a sacrifice for sin, makes you extremely valuable! Feel your worth today!

I hope that I can keep that song in focus this year amid all the hype about Black Friday deals, and a constant barrage of commercials from Madison Avenue.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Testimony

For the past few months I have been re-editing a book I wrote while we lived and ministered in Guatemala, so I haven't done a lot of blogging. 
As I was thinking about the blog, I realized that one of the most powerful tools we have is to simply share our story.  So I thought I would share my story of how I became a believer in Jesus. 
In the hopes that I don't bore you, I will try to shorten it.
Although I was raised in a home with believing parents, I was never taught about having a personal one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. 
I was taught bible stories as a small child in Sunday school and as long as I remember I believed in God, but I never knew anything about the idea of becoming born-again.
My folks split up when I was seven, and both parents remarried in a relatively short period.  We soon moved with our mom and stepdad from Iowa to New Mexico, and then to Southern California and eventually to Northern California. 

I was used to moving around because as a kid living in Iowa, I went to two different kindergartens in two different towns, one school for 1st grade in one town, another school for 2nd in another town, two schools for 3rd in two close by towns, the same school for 4th, then half of 5th in New Mexico, the other half of 5th in Southern  California, half of 6th in the same school in So. Cal., then the other half of 6th grade Northern California where we stayed for the next few years. Between my junior and senior year of high school, my brother and I moved back to Iowa to live with our dad.  Lots of moves as a kid, and so I learned to make friends quickly!
When I was 10, we lived in Long Beach, California, and one Sunday morning I got up and told my mother I was going to Sunday school.  We had not attended church anywhere there, but there was a church down the street near where I went to school. 
When I arrived, they had children's service instead of Sunday school, and  the teacher had a display board with three hearts on it; a black heart, a red heart, and a white heart.  She explained that the black heart represented a heart covered by sin; the red heart was a heart that had been covered by the blood of Jesus; and finally the white heart was a heart that had been cleansed and made pure by the blood of Jesus.
She then asked if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into their heart to forgive them of their sin, and I raised my hand and said I do.  I do not remember her leading me in a "sinner's prayer," I just remember simply asking Jesus to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins.  The children gathered around me and laid hands on me as I prayed.
After that the teacher wanted my name and address but I was always taught not to give out that information to a stranger, so I didn't give her my address.  

Soon, we moved to Northern California, and I never went back to that church. 
When I was 13, my folks thought I should go through confirmation. Even though I really wasn't paying that much attention, the scriptures that were taught by the pastor stayed with me. I can also remember being on a retreat in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and again asking Jesus be in my heart and to forgive me of my sins.
Also, when I was 13, I was walking down an alley on my way home from a store one afternoon when an elderly lady stopped me to talk.  I was always taught to respect my elders, so I listened to her.  

She asked about my family and if I were the oldest son, and then she began to speak over my life how the eldest son is to be given and dedicated to the Lord and His service, and how I would be a minister one day!  This was new to me, and I thanked her but didn't tell anyone about it.
Not long after that, my brothers and some friends and I were swimming in a lake near our home.  There were reeds in the lake and through the root systems of the weeds there were underwater tunnels.  One of my friends swam through the reeds and came up on the other side and so I thought I would try.

Somehow I got turned around in the tunnels and could not find the opening on the other side.  I started to run out of air, and almost started to panic, when a still small voice told me to "Go back the same way you came in."  I began to push myself backwards and shortly my feet hit someone's legs, and I popped out of the water.  My friends were pretty worried and were ready to send in a "search party" for me! I told them what had happened to me and they sort of laughed it off…
Unfortunately, when I was 14, I rebelled.  I was introduced to drugs, and for the next several years of my life I lived for "sex, drugs, and rock and roll."  Even though I was living the wasteful life of a prodigal, there were many times God intervened and spared my life.
Once when I was sixteen, a bunch of us went to dive off a train trestle into the Mokelumne River.  I always loved to do daredevil stuff when I was a kid, so the idea of diving off a 60 foot trestle seemed like a fun thing to do.  The goal was to get out in the middle of the trestle, climb down on some water tanks, and dive into the deepest part of the river. 

As I was walking on the trestle to get to the middle of the bridge, someone yelled, "Train!" and I thought they were joking.  I looked behind me, and it was a train!  Without thinking, I dove off the trestle, and landed in about 3-4 feet of water.  Fortunately, when I hit, I balled up, and I was not hurt badly.  My knees came up and hit my mouth so I got a bloody lip, but that was it.
Over the years, there have many times that I can see God's hand of protection in my life.  My mother told me that when I was 16 days old, I was dying, and she prayed to God if He would let me live, she would give me to him.  

I sat down one time and tried to think of all the times that I know God spared my life. I was amazed at how many times He had intervened in obvious ways. He is so faithful - even if we are faithless - He cannot deny Himself...  
By the time I was in my twenties, I was searching.  I moved back to Iowa via California and Texas, and moved in with the girl (Sue) who eventually became my wife.  With the Lord's help, we will celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary in March!
I had come back to Iowa, but I had no peace. 
When I was in Texas, Sue and I would talk on the telephone about the end times.  We had both read a book about the end times (even though neither of us were following Jesus), and we were convinced that the antichrist was just around the corner.  We thought about how we could move to a remote wilderness and live off the land…  Even though neither of us were living our lives for the Lord, He used the "end times" to draw us to Him.  In fact, Sue had asked her mother for a bible one Christmas, and the first book she started reading was Revelation!
So I was back in Iowa, but I had no peace.  So I started searching for something to fill the "God-shaped vacuum" in my life.  I thought I was searching for "truth."
In my pursuit, I began reading books on the occult and eastern religions, things that we now call "new age" material. People may call it the "new age," but it's the same old lie!  The same lie the serpent used to deceive Eve; "Ye shall be like God…" With new age teaching, people try to become like God, or attain a knowledge of God apart from blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!
So, I was reading all these books on astral projection, transcendental meditation, books by people who have familiar spirits, I even looked at a book on satanism.  
Most of these books talk about Jesus; How He was a "good man," a "prophet," a "messiah," but none of them recognized Him for who He really is. He is only begotten Son of God, God the Son! 

Many of those books talked about becoming "divine," or like "Christ."  I even read part of one book that said that Jesus had to be reincarnated 27 times to become perfect!  The fellow who said that supposedly had read through the bible once for every year he lived and was a Sunday school teacher. What deception!
One night I was invited to hear a Christian singing and drama group at a local church and I went.  After the presentation, one of the men in the group began to talk to me about the Lord.  

He asked me, "What is your relationship to God?" I told him I thought it was good, but I wasn't sure if Jesus was his son.  In other words, I did not really have a relationship with God because Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me." John 14:6...
The young man showed me some scriptures and wanted me to pray with him, but I was too full of pride.  I would not do it.  

I told him, "I'll go home and ask the Lord to show me the truth," and I meant it.
When I got to the apartment, Sue was sleeping, and I lay in bed and began to cry out to God.  

"God, you've got to show me the truth.  If Jesus is Your Son, Who do I worship, Who do I pray to?"  I began to weep, and I was laying on my back, but suddenly I heard a voice the voice sounded like it was behind me that said, 
"Praise God!"
When I heard the voice (not audibly, mind you, but a still small voice), several things happened at once: A wave of love, and joy, and peace sort of went "Whoosh!" right over me; and at the same moment, I could see in my mind, Jesus on the cross.  And I realized at that moment, that He was God, come in the form of man, and that He had died for my sins. And not only mine, but for the sins of everyone in the world!
I simply prayed, "Lord, take over my life," and He did! 
The next morning, Sue asked me what had happened to me because something was different about me.  I had peace!  In my searching, I had come across a bible tract ministry next to a printer's shop, and I walked in and asked what bible tracts were.  The lady handed me a bundle of tracts and sent me on my way.  

When Sue asked me what happened, I gave her a bible tract and told her to read it and pray the prayer on the back of it.  She went into the bedroom, shut the door, knelt down, read the tract, and prayed to received the Lord!
A few months later, we both received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and were both later baptized in water… God is good!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Does the Message of Grace Encourage Sin?

"You're preaching 'sloppy agape' and 'greasy grace!' You're giving people a license to go out and sin!"

I'm guessing that if a minister hasn't heard those accusations, he is probably not preaching a strong grace message, i.e., Hyper-Grace. I've written more on that subject, here.

But the question really comes down to "does the message of God's amazing grace encourage people to sin?

My answer is, "Absolutely not!"

 If anything, the message of God's forgiveness and grace causes just the opposite.

It causes us to want to know this God who "imputes righteousness apart from works," and who justifies us, "freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 4:6 and 3:24, respectively)

Titus 2.11-14 says, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works."  New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

What does this verse say that grace does?
Well, first of all, grace teaches us;

  • To deny ungodliness and worldly lusts
  • To live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age
  • To look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Wow! That seems like the exact opposite of teaching and encouraging people to sin!

Remember when King David sinned with Bathsheba? He not only committed adultery with her, but he committed murder by causing her husband, Uriah, to be killed by the hands of Israel's enemies.
Nathan the prophet confronts him with these two sins, both according to Moses' law, carry the penalty of death.

But something interesting happens.

First of all, David doesn't try to hide his sins, he admits, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Secondly, Nathan declares to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die."  2 Samuel 12:13

Whew! Dodged a bullet on that one, Davey! Talk about sloppy agape and greasy grace!

I'll just bet that David must have gone right back out and found another woman to have sex with, get pregnant, and have her husband killed!
What? No?

No.  Instead, we see a picture if God's grace causing the heart of a man to live soberly and thankful to the point that David is able to say,

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” Romans 4:7-8 NKJV

Not only that but David's heir, Solomon, comes from the union of David and Bathsheba.  Talk about amazing grace!
The message of grace causes us to be thankful for what Jesus did for us at the cross.  Grace points us to Jesus, not to our sin.

It causes us to be less sin conscious and more God conscious.

Perhaps people think the message of grace is "out of balance" because we do not focus on sin?  But really, wasn't sin the focus of the Old Covenant?

"For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year." Hebrews 10:1-3 NKJV
With the sacrifices, there was a reminder of sins every year. They could never have a conscience free from sin. Why?

Because the blood of bulls and goats could never completely remove the stain of sin!   It took the blood of Jesus to remove that stain!
"For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified." Hebrews 10:14 NKJV
The offerings under law were so defective that they had to be repeated. The offering of Jesus Christ was so perfect, that He only needed to do it once for all! 

"Even so it is that Christ, having been offered to take upon Himself and bear as a burden the sins of many once and [a]once for all, will appear a second time, not to carry any burden of sin nor to deal with sin, but to bring to full salvation those who are [eagerly, constantly, and patiently] waiting for and expecting Him." Hebrews 9:28  Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
The blood of Jesus Christ is the only thing that cleanses us from sin, and cleanses our consciousness of sin.  
The message of grace is the message of God's incredible love for humanity. 
The message of grace is a message that does not dangle our sin in front of our eyes as a reminder of the bad things we have done, but it causes our eyes to be focused on the One who removed our sins as far as the east is from the west!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Does Love Look Like?

It's been awhile since I blogged and so as I was thinking about it, I started asking some questions to myself. Questions like:
What would happen if we (the church) believed that the love and grace we found in Jesus Christ is available to everyone else too?
What if we begin to show mercy as we have been shown mercy?  What does that look like?

What if we were to reach out in love like God reached out in love to us when He sent Jesus? 

What would change?  

Would we treat people differently - Even those who we consider "big" sinners? 

Would we be as quick to judge and condemn others when we really understand the love and liberty we have in Christ? 

Would we walk out the ministry of reconciliation? What does that really look like?

A couple of things I encountered this week really stuck in my mind.  One of the sparks for this blog entry was the movie, "Holy Ghost" by filmmaker Darren Wilson.  Fortunately, I was able to see premiere this past weekend, and it was very inspiring and powerful.  I believe it is Darren's most evangelistic film to date, but it's not preachy.

It shows how the Holy Spirit leads people to minister love and healing to people.  People from Salt Lake City, UT to Varanasi, India.  Varanasi is the birthplace of both Hinduism and Buddhism.

The movie expresses that God's love is for everyone, and He is wanting to express His love through all of His church.

It is another influential film from the same man who brought us, "Finger of God," Furious Love," and "Father of Lights."

I do recommend it.  There will be other showings of it around the world during August and September, and you can find a location near you at

The other thing that sparked this writing is something I saw in the news about a church refusing to allow a man's family to have a funeral  for him because of his gay life.  It hit me because I had just read about the horrendous persecution of Christians in Iraq (and Syria) by ISIS.   It just struck me that there are so many more things that we could be concerned about in the church than the sins of a dead man.

I honestly believe that there is a "new wave" flowing in the church today that is causing believers to really reach out to others in love.  We are starting to lay aside all the prejudices we have against those who don't believe the same way we do, or even against "big" sinners.
How can we reach people for Jesus if we do not love them and how can we truly love people if we are holding their sins against them?

One of the scriptures that God has been ministering to my heart strongly  (I even use it as the main scripture for this blog) is found here...
2 Corinthians 5:19, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation   

I was thinking about passion the other day and I asked myself, "What am I passionate about?" 
I then asked the Lord, "What are you passionate about?"  The Lord spoke to my heart that He is passionate about people!  God is in love with people. 
He is so in love with the people of this earth that He sent His only Son to come and live a sinless life, not hold any of our sins against us; but rather  become sin for us, and died on a cruel cross for our sins!  
My hope is that I would become passionate about people the way the Lord is.  That I would not hold people's sins against them, but I would show the love of God in a real way.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Who Do Think You Are?

"Then a voice came from heaven, 'You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him." (Mark 1:11-13)

The very first thing that Jesus was tempted with by the enemy was His identity.

Before He had preached His first sermon, and before He had done a single miracle, a Voice from heaven declared, "You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

God was pleased because Jesus was His son. He didn't qualify His pleasure by measuring Christ's worth and say, "I am pleased with You because..." But the very first thing the enemy tried to tempt Him with,  was to doubt His identity and prove His worth. 

Twice the enemy said, "If You are the Son of God..." then do something to prove it!

The bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way we are tempted, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) And the very first thing the enemy tempts us to do is to doubt our identity in Christ, and then to try to prove our worth.

The enemy feared Jesus, and He fears a people who know who they are in Jesus!

I have a pastor friend whose used to often say,  "Keep giving the devil fits!" I like that.  Keep the enemy in fear, and keep giving him fits.

The best way I know to walk in victory is to understand and grow in our identity in Christ.  We can never grow in grace if we don't understand what and who God has made us in Christ. 

Who are you?

Just like a caterpillar turns into a butterfly through metamorphosis,  as a believer in Jesus, you are a made into a completely new creation.  "Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!" (1 Corinthians 5:17 The Message)  You are no longer who you were before becoming a believer, you are brand new!

If anyone ever asks you, "Who do you think you are?" You should ask them, "How much time do you have! Let me tell you…"

Let me share some vital scripture references regarding who you are in Christ Jesus.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 - You are the righteousness of God in Christ

  • John 17:43 - God loves you like He loves Jesus

  • Romans 8:1-39 - You are not under condemnation. You are free from the law of sin and death. The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in you. You have life and peace. You please God. You are not in the flesh. The Spirit of God dwells in you. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is in you! You are not a debtor to the flesh. You are led by the Spirit of God. You are a child of God. You are an heir of God - a joint heir with Jesus. The Spirit intercedes for you according to God's will. All things work together for good for you.  You are predestined to be conformed to Christ's image.  You are called. You are justified. You are glorified. God is for you, and He freely gives you all things. You are more than a conqueror. Nothing shall separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 - God has revealed mysteries to you, and He gave you His Spirit so that you might know the things that have been freely given you.

  • Galatians 2:20 - You are crucified with Christ, and live by faith in the Son of God.

  • Ephesians 1:3-12 - You are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. You were chosen before the foundation of the world. You are holy and without blame before Him in love. You are accepted in the Beloved. You are redeemed. You are forgiven.  You have an inheritance.

  • Ephesians 2: 4-10 - You  are made alive in Christ. You are seated with Christ in heavenly places. You are saved by grace through faith.  You are God's workmanship.

There are many, many more promises and scriptures that describe who and what we are as believers in Jesus. I would encourage you to search out the scriptures for them.  Look for those scriptures that say in particular; "In Him," "in Whom,"  or "in Christ," etc.  There are hundreds if not thousands of verses that tell us what God thinks about us, who and whose we are.

Have a great week!

Monday, June 16, 2014

No Greater Thing

Nothing compares to knowing Jesus.   

The Apostle Paul wrote about this in what some scholars believe may have been his final letter to the church from a Roman prison. 
Paul was facing the possibility of his own death even though he seemed sure he "would remain." (see Philippians 1:25)
Facing one's own death tends to cause a person to focus on the things that are most important in life; Faith, family, and friends.

All of the other stuff of life seems to lose its sparkle.

Paul seemed to have unique ability to put into writing the most important things. In addition to his instructions to the churches, Paul sometimes gave us glimpses into his own soul. 


"The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.." Philippians 3:7-9 The Message

If you knew this was your last week in planet earth, what would be most important to you? 
Would you spend time with just you and God praying and listening?

Would you tell your family and friends how much you love them?
Would you throw a party?
Or would you curse God and beg for more time?
I remember watching an interview of a man who survived a horrible fiery plane crash. He said that as the plane was going down, he heard people calling out to God. Some were begging for help, some were thanking Him for their lives, but some were cursing Him.
Much like squeezing a tube of toothpaste, at the moment of most stress, whatever is inside your heart comes out of your mouth. 
I said to someone recently that, "everyone wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die to get there "
Unfortunately, until Jesus comes back, there is only one way off this planet (unless you're an astronaut - but I digress).
So knowing that we are all terminal, what is most important to you?

This morning I've been thinking about the song "Knowing You" by Graham Kendrick.  Some of the lyrics really speak to my heart:
All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord
There is no greater thing, nothing compares to knowing Jesus...


Monday, May 19, 2014

You Are Valued

If you have ever doubted your value, let these truths help remove fear and doubt.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." Ephesians1:3-6

1)In Christ Jesus, we have been blessed with spiritual blessings, not just one or two but every spiritual blessing.

2) God chose us before the foundation of the world.

3) In Christ, God sees us as holy and without blame before Him in love.

4) We have been adopted by God as sons and daughters [not slaves].

5) We are accepted by God in the Beloved.

In the story about the father and his two sons in Luke 15:11-32, Jesus gives us a picture of how the sons (the younger prodigal and the older brother) saw themselves as slaves.

The younger (prodigal) saw himself as only being worthy of being a temporary slave, a misthios in the Greek, which is akin to a modern day "spot job" worker, a day laborer.

The older brother (who followed all the rules) saw himself as a permanent slave, a doulos, in the Greek.

Both brothers did not see themselves as their father saw them, that is, as sons, huios, in the Greek, and as long as they did, they could never enjoy what their father had for them.

So that begs the question, "How do you see yourself?" Do you see yourself as only worthy of being a day laborer in the Kingdom? Or do you see yourself as a permanent slave?

"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." Romans 8:15-17.

"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2 Corinthians 3:18

How we see ourselves is extremely important.  God wants you to see yourself as He has truly called you to be; that is as a son or daughter of the King.   Why?  It is important because as long as you see yourself as a slave, or an "old sinner saved by grace," that is how you will live. 
You are not just an old sinner, you are not a slave to sin.  You are a child of the Most High God, and He chose you!

I remember when I was a kid and we would pick teams to play football or baseball.  I was always a short kid, in fact, I was only 5' 4" when I graduated high school, so it was pretty rare that I wasn't one of the last kids chosen on a team.  That was always the worst feeling.  Knowing that you weren't really wanted, but a captain had to "take" you for the team since there was no one else.  But the beauty of the good news, is that God chose you!  And He didn't wait until you were the last one standing.  He chose you before the foundation of the world!

God chose you to be His own, and He paid a high price to redeem you. 

You are wanted.  You have value.  You have significance.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Daniel and his Three Friends

I love the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. To me, Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego) are excellent examples of men who maintained their faith and integrity in the midst of a perverse and wicked generation.

Nebuchadnezzar was a Babylonian king who captured Jerusalem when kings "who did evil in the sight of the Lord" seemed to be the norm...

He took some of the children of Israel, some of king Jehoiakim’s descendants, and some of the nobles (Israel's brightest and best looking young men) to "retrain" them in the ways of the Chaldeans.  Daniel and his friends were among them.

Daniel first distinguishes himself and his companions when he asks to not be fed the king's food or drink the king's drink - just veggies and H2O for 10 days. And it worked!

At the end of 10 days, Daniel and his friends looked healthier than the other young men. So the king's eunuch changed the meals for all.

They all got to eat veggies and drink water. I'm guessing Daniel might not have been real popular with any carnivorous friends at that point. But I digress.

God gives Daniel the ability to understand and interpret dreams and visions. Which comes in handy when King Neb gets stressed out about a dream that none if his magicians or sooth sayers can interpret, much less tell him what the dream was (which is what he commands them to do). When they cannot, he decides the best thing to do is kill them all.

Fortunately, Daniel and his friends pray, God answers, the dream is interpreted, King Neb is satisfied, and they all get to keep their heads.  Not only that, but Daniel is promoted with wealth and status, and he even gets great jobs for his three friends!

The in Daniel chapter three, King Neb then sets up a large golden image (some scholars believe it was of himself) that all the people are to bow to and worship whenever they hear music playing.

Being Jewish means that Daniel's three friends cannot bow and worship any graven image, and especially not an image of a heathen king!

They are accused of not bowing to the idol, and are brought before the king to see if they will obey. He tells them he will cast them into a fiery furnace if they do not bow.

Their reply is incredibly bold, not arrogant, just bold.  "If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Did you catch that? They believed that God was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace, BUT even if He didn't, they were not going to bow!

I love reading about that kind of faith!

It reminds me of how countless Christians have stood strong in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, and even when facing death, refused to bow to the idols if this world; they refused to deny the One who gave up His life for them. Many of them became martyrs, but refused this world's ways. If you are interested in reading some of their stories, Foxes Book of Martyrs is a good place to start.

In our day, I think of Pastor Saeed Abendini, who is an American pastor in prison in Iran. His crime? He is a Christian. He has been threatened with death, beaten, and dumped in the worst hell-hole of a prison you can imagine. Yet he will not bow. He will not deny his faith. May God deliver him soon to be with his wife and children here in the States.

When Rack, Shack, and Benny (thanks Veggie Tales®)tell the king they will not bow, he is furious! He commands them to be bound and the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual. In fact, it is so hot that the soldiers who throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego into the fire are burned to death!

Suddenly the king looks and declares “Look! ...I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Daniel 3:25

He calls them to come out of the furnace, and is amazed. "And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them." Daniel 3:27

Not only did God show up with the in the fiery furnace as the "Fourth Man," but the ropes that bound them were burned up, their hair wasn't singed, and the clothes they were wearing didn't even smell like smoke! When God delivers, He does it completely!

If you are going through a trial, or your faith is being challenged, remember that God is more than able to deliver you.  He will loose you in the midst of the fire, and Jesus will be that fourth man for you!  You will come through this, and people will be amazed because your clothes and hair will not even smell like smoke.

Well, King Nebuchadnezzar is pretty impressed by all of this and not only calls the men out, but he makes a decree, "That any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”  That may seem pretty sever, but King Neb was definitely impressed by the God who delivers from the fiery furnace!

God turned their situation around and changed the heart of a king in a moment.  All it took was a miracle! 

God can turn your situation around as well. 

Whatever you are going through, whether it is illness, or lack, or not feeling loved, or anything at all, God can change it.  He wants to change it.  He will change it.    He has not changed His mind about you.  He has set His love upon you and will not change His mind.  His gifts and His callings are without repentance...

"For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]  Romans 11:29  Amplified

Look to Him today.  Whatever your need, He is more than enough.  He will not let you down and will not turn away from you.  Trust Him.