Thursday, December 12, 2019

Helping the lost...

"And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." - Daniel 12:3
There is a real sense of satisfaction when we help someone find the way to their destination. The most meaningful way to provide direction is when we take the time and lead the way. Why do we find joy in such an effort? Probably due to those occasions when we were lost and needed help. There's no GPS that can take the place of the personal guidance of a good Samaritan. And there's no greater accomplishment than helping the lost find their way. 
When prophetic Scriptures come to fulfillment and bring about the coming Kingdom, who will be the most honored? As the scene is explained to Daniel, emphasis is placed on those who who were spiritually wise in choosing eternal life. Along with the wise, are the givers of direction. Many will shine because of those who turned them to righteousness. And there's no greater accomplishment than helping the lost find their way... to God. 
Everyday we meet someone who is lost. They may not know it yet, but they need someone to show them the way. It doesn't take a seminary degree to give directions. And, when we do, we find great joy. Paul the apostle wrote.. "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." (1 Thess. 2:19) Remember, there's no greater accomplishment than helping the lost find their way... to God

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The quality of mercy...

"O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy." - Daniel 9:18" 
"The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath."  - The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
As William Shakespeare worded this plea in his play, the characteristic of mercy was beautifully stated. This defense given for the merchant Antonio, explained that mercy blesses the one who gives and the one who receives, it's mighty, majestic, and divine. And, it was well noted in a that without mercy, no one would see salvation.
Now, why didn't this successful and high ranking prophet of God appeal from a life of personal righteousness? His record of total faithfulness and ultimate sacrifice could have been used to provide leverage in prayer. But, he confessed, early in his prayer, "To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him..." Daniel’s prayer was both forthright and totally contrite, fully resting on the mercy of God, without which he couldn't be saved or forgiven. 
This lesson begins with our first step of faith with God, as Peter the apostle mentions in 1 Peter 1:3...."Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Then, all along the journey... “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Psalm 103:8) So, don't try to go it on your own, because without His mercy no one can be saved or forgiven. 


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Superior Orders...


"When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously." - Daniel 6:10
Between November 20,1945 to October 1,1946, a number of military tribunals took place in Nuremberg, Germany. The surviving leadership of Nazi Germany were tried for the crimes committed in the holocaust and other war crimes. The repeated excuse for such crimes against humanity was "We were just following orders." This was a defense referred to as "Superior Orders". But, they failed to recognize the ultimate "Superior Orders" of God.
Daniel was informed of the "Superior Orders" of King Darius..."whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions." (vs 7). Still, he had a prayer practice like King David of old... “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice." (Psalm 55:17) While Daniel understood the Kings order, he continued with his daily prayers because he recognized the ultimate" Superior Orders" of God. 
Your life is filled with authorities in every corner. You are also surrounded by peers that challenge and often threaten you to take an ungodly path. "Superior Orders" come at you day by day with conflicting demands. If you fail to comply you might lose your job, friends or family ties. So, what should you do as a Christian? Peter the apostle provided the answer in Acts 5:29... "But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."" We are expected to recognize the ultimate "Superior Orders" of God.


Monday, December 9, 2019

Scales...

“‘TEKĒL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient." - Daniel 5:27 (NASB95)
Most Americans find that when they are weighed on the scales, they are found excessive. This is why they will avoid scales at any cost. These well designed instruments of revelation are only desired when one is prepared to discover the truth. You can fool yourself for only so long, but when your doctor weighs you on the scales, reality comes to light.
The Lord had previously chosen to bless Nebuchadnezzar with power and success. But, his audacious pride brought him to his knees before the Most High God. Sadly, his son failed to learn from his father's experience... "And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven." (vs 21-23) When weighed on the scales of God, reality came to light.
The selfish and sinful misuse of the Lord's blessings, without gratitude and  repentance, will eventually catch up to us. Paul the apostle put it this way..."For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth... For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:18, 21) Why wait for the scales of God to bring reality to light?


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Resolve...

"But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs," - Daniel 1:8–9
The New Year is soon approaching and with it will come many resolutions. Some will be to exercise more, while others will be to eat less. Most of these resolutions will last just long enough for the water to get hot. By March the treadmills will start to gather dust and bakery business will be booming again. Maybe we don't fully understand the meaning of "resolve".
Daniel was a young man of Biblical faith and understood the importance of obedience to God. It didn't matter that he was living in a foreign country with little possibility of ever returning home. The record tells us that "Daniel resolved" and he followed through to the letter. There was no question that resistance at such an early time could have been life threatening, but he stayed on course. Daniel fully understood the meaning of "resolve".
What are you willing to resolve for the Lord this coming year my friend... increased prayer, daily Bible reading or regular witnessing? The study of Daniel should help clarify your plans and strengthen your efforts to succeed. You will notice that the Lord gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of his unbelieving captors. If you take steps to improve your spiritual life and service, the Lord will give you the grace to succeed. But, do you fully understand the meaning of "resolve"?

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The "Who" of Hope...

"Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” - Daniel 3:24–25

Every Labor Day weekend, when I was growing up, we watched the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. It was entertaining and quite inspiring. We looked forward to the last few minutes of the show when Jerry would emotionally sing "You'll Never Walk Alone". The message was one of hope to all the MDA children that struggled with the disease. But, the lyrics never mentioned the "Who" of the hope.
The incredible story before us today centers on three men of strong conviction. They ended up in the worst situation imaginable and there didn't seem to be any way out. Simply put, their plight was hopeless. Then, everything changed when they were no longer "walking alone". They were filled with hope and delivered by "Who" of the hope. 
Hope is an inspiring and encouraging word. Songs and books of all kinds have been written about hope. We couldn't possibly face hard times without hope. Paul the apostle spoke often about hope, as in Romans 15:13... "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." But, most importantly, he knew the "Who" of hope... Do you? 



Friday, December 6, 2019

Jehovah Shammah...

"The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” - Ezekiel 48:35
We live in a lovely mountain community with a wide variety of homes tucked away in the woods. As you visit the area you will find well crafted signs posted at the entrances of many homes. There will be family names of course, but quaint references such as "cove", "hollow", "haven" or "retreat" are often found. Such names elicit inviting and pleasant thoughts about the location. Sometimes a name says it all. 
We've been reading through the dark and distressing history of Israel's drifting from God and the devastating results. The final chapters have shown a steady movement toward a promising future restoration. After all the predicted details of rebuilding and spiritual healing were given, a well crafted name was needed. And, "Jehovah Shammah" - "The LORD Is There" says it all. 
Do you have a quaint well crafted sign posted at the entrance of your home? The truth is, we all have a sign at the door of our lives. Some signs say "buzz off" or "beware". Other signs are more inviting, but the sign that says "The LORD is There" is the one that says it all. 





Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Source ....

"And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” - Ezekiel 47:12 
What kind of water do you drink? Is it right from the tap or are you the type of person who chooses to indulge yourself with bottled water from exotic places? Today you can find water on your local grocery store shelf from Norway, France, England, Germany, Italy, and even the FIJI islands. You can choose from sparkling mineral water to natural artesian water. You might enjoy the water that Elvis Presley drank or the H2O that the race horse Secretariat loved. Whatever your choice, it's the source of the water that makes it unique.
The passage presents a beautiful view of the promised millennial kingdom of Christ. A day is coming when our Lord will reign on earth as King over Israel. The Temple will, once again, be a place of worship and great blessing. A river will flow from that Temple and it will bring rich provisions for all God's people. And, the days of apostasy and godlessness will have passed away. Wherever this river will flow, it will bring life, because it's the source of the water that makes it unique.
You can look for water in a bottle or quench your thirst in many other ways, but there's only one way to satisfy the thirst of your soul. Jesus said ...“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38) Why choose water that leaves you thirsty moments after you drink? Why not take from the river of life, because it's the Source of the water that makes it unique.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Making a Difference ...

"They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean." - Ezekiel 44:23
When our grandson was a little younger, he expressed interest in what his two dogs were eating. He didn't understand the difference between people food and doggy food and thought the little K9 nuggets were yummy. Thankfully he was quickly discovered and corrected in his culinary choice. Well, even adults need a little help in food selection, as we find "best if used before 12/04/19" on many of our grocery items. Knowing the difference should make a difference.
From the very early days of Israel's history, the spiritual leadership was charged with the instruction of God's people. The wording was quite similar our passage in Ezekiel ... "You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.” (Leviticus 10:10-11) The Lord knew that people needed clear direction in distinguishing right over wrong because... knowing the difference should make a difference.
On a much more personal note, can you really distinguish between God honoring activities and dishonoring? Do you prayerfully read the Scriptures and listen to Biblical preaching with an intention to discern between good literature, internet surfing, movies, and even friends from bad? Once you come to a conviction about some unworthy practice or relationship, are you willing to eliminate it from your life? Knowing the difference should always make a difference.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Come near...

"And he said to me, “This chamber that faces south is for the priests who have charge of the temple, and the chamber that faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who alone among the sons of Levi may come near to the Lord to minister to him.” - Ezekiel 40:45–46
Our world is full of restrictions. We used to visit the statue of liberty anytime we wanted without notice. Now we have to have an appointment and background check. Only an approved few can visit this historic monument. It's the very same policy with visiting the White House or Buckingham Palace. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone were allowed to come near?
The Temple restrictions that we read about are based on the holiness of God and reverence of those who approached. Just a select group of levites were chosen to minister to the Lord. Any others would be in danger of a quick death. Those were times of select mediation for the many by a few. Wouldn't it have been nice if everyone were allowed to come near?
In a blessed contrast, we live in a day of open doors with the Lord. Jesus said in John 6:37, "...whoever comes to me I will never cast out." This invitation is further encouraged in Hebrews 4:16 with these words... "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Isn't it nice that everyone is allowed to come near? 



Monday, December 2, 2019

To know Him ...

"So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD." - Ezekiel 38:23 
On Christmas Eve, 1914, just five months after the outbreak of war in Europe, a most unusual event took place. British and German troops began singing Christmas carols to each other across the battle lines. In the early hours of Christmas morning, German soldiers left their trenches and came over the British troops to wish them a Merry Christmas. The event was the last of it's kind to occur during the war, but for a moment in time the world knew the reality of God.
In a very different way, the Lord's dealing with the enemies of Israel was intended to bear witness of a great and holy God who alone was the LORD.  This message was being sent to a world lost in a quagmire of dominance and war. The Lord was dealing with every nation under heaven to draw attention to Himself as the only answer for mankind. In the midst of turmoil and confusion He set His glory and justice before them, that they might know the reality of God.
Why did the Lord leave the disciples behind when he ascended into heaven? Why has there been the presence of God's people in every generation and country? Whether during war or peace, in wealth or poverty, in city or jungle, God has had a witness. Was that witness intended to only build churches, hospitals or other ministries? Or was it to achieve something greater? The living testimony of God's people has always been intended for the world to know the reality of God.

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Sunday, December 1, 2019

New Life ...

"And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” ...  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army." - Ezekiel 37:3, 10
 Our son Joel is now serving as a Federal Prison Chaplain at Fort Dix, New Jersey. After much prayer and heart searching, he was led of the Lord to enter this most challenging ministry to men who might never see freedom again. While the rest of society sees these inmates as "lost causes", Joel sees them as lost souls in need of a Savior and new hearts. When someone might ask, "can these bones live?", Joel is confident that by the power of the Lord, even the dead can live.
The condition of Israel seemed hopeless. They were dried up and lifeless, yet as the process moved forward, the bones took on life and an exceeding great army rose from the dead. Ezekiel didn't know where to begin, but when he said, "O Lord GOD, you know", he believed that the Lord's power could bring life to dry bones. The message to God's people was clear; when He makes a promise and begins a work, He will most definitely bring it to completion...even the dead can live.
No matter how dry your bones may be today, there is hope in the Lord my friend. He is in the business of taking totally dead souls and giving them a "new birth". He also takes those who have slowly dried up spiritually, and gives them a breath of new life. Our Lord is the God of second chances and there's no hopeless case with Him...even the dead can live.

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