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.