Archive for January, 2018

God’s Faithfulness

I have been thinking about “God’s faithfulness”. I have experienced it over and over and it is probably the one characteristic of God I think about and proclaim the most.

Psalms 119:40 “Your faithfulness endures to all generations.”

Lamentations 3:22 “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

History gives us something to look back and reflect on. History gives us a second perspective on life events.  History gives us our story to share with our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  History shows us our journey; some of it is good, some of it is tough and some of it we prefer to hide or throw away. History can not be changed but we can change the outcome of the future.

I think about the  song “Give Me That Old Time Religion” which we occasionally sang…”It was good for Paul and Silas… it was good in the fiery furnace…. and it’s good enough for me.”  Each generation has its own opportunity to pass on to the next their faith stories; stories of God’s goodness, stories of mountain top experiences and dark valleys. It is so important to tell theses stories to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Each generation has its own history, and its own uniqueness.  We live in a totally different world now than we did “back-in-the-good-ole days,”  but we are still people of faith and our God is still the same.  The important thing is can we see the goodness and faithfulness of God in the ebb and flow of life, the hard times, the good times, our griefs and losses. Looking back and telling our stories help us remember. The words of the Psalmist still ring true, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalms 23)  Like a Good Shepherd, the same God still walks beside us.

Proverbs 30 talks about a generation of people that…

  • Curses their fathers
  • Does not bless their mothers
  • Does what is pure in their own eyes
  • Are not washed from its filthiness
  • Whose eyes are haughty and glances disdainful
  • Whose teeth are like swords

Psalms 45:17  talks about a different kind of generation of people.  A people that remembers God and praises His name.

“I will remember your name to be remembered in all generations. Therefore the people shall praise you forever and forever.”

We can choose.   Joshua, the man God chosen to lead the children of Israel after Moses death, spoke pointedly when he said, “Choose today whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”   (Joshua 24:15)  Our decisions will have a profound impact on the generations that follow. Which generation will you be?  What heritage will you leave?

My challenge to us ….claim the faith of our fathers and make it your own.  Pass on to your children the goodness of God. Praise the name of the Lord, remember Him and you will raise up godly offspring that honors and serves Him.

Isaiah 25:1 “O Lord, You are My God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things, Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.”

Hopefully, when our time on planet earth is finished, we can say like the Psalmist (40:10) “I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness…I have declared your faithfulness…I have not concealed your righteousness and truth.”

 

Dare to Be a Daniel

A favorite song I learned as a child was “Dare to Be a Daniel” by Philip P. Bliss. We would sing the chorus with emphasis and gusto, “DARE to be a Daniel, DARE to stand alone, DARE to have a purpose firm, DARE to make it known”.

My favorite Biblical person of faith is Daniel. His story is tragic and sad, but it is also a bigger story of triumph and faith as Daniel and his three friends remained faithful to God even when all their other peers did not.

The story of Daniel unfolds in the Old Testament book of Daniel. The first six chapters are the story of Daniel. The last six are visions and fascinating prophecies that God revealed to Daniel, some of which have been fulfilled and some will be at the end of time.

Daniel was a young lad in Judah, somewhere between the age of 16-18 when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem, laid siege and captured the city. The temple was ravished and Daniel along with thousands of other young lads and residents were taken captive back to Babylon, in the area of modern day southeastern Iraq.

The king instructed the master of his eunuchs, Ashpenaz, to bring some of the young Jewish boys who were good-looking, without blemishes, smart and gifted in wisdom, knowledge and learning to be brought to his palace and trained in the Babylonian language and literature for three years so that they could serve his kingdom. In reality, the king planned to reprogram, indoctrinate, brainwash and submerse these young Jewish boys into Babylonian culture and foreign gods. The king is very clever as he dangles power and prestige and for starters he ordered that they be fed the best food of the land, the king’s delicacies and given the royal wine which he drank. Nebuchadnezzar did not want these lads to think about or miss their homes or their God.

We do not know anything about Daniel’s family pedigree except that he was from the tribe of Judah and lived in or close to Jerusalem.  As the story of Daniel unfolds, it is obvious that he had godly parents who had taught him well and ingrained in him a strong faith in God. Daniel was well rooted in the faith of his fathers.

Daniel had three other godly friends; Hananiah, Misheal and Azariah. When these young lads realized what they were facing, together they made a decision. They purposed in their hearts that they would not defile themselves with the king’s food. You see, to eat the king’s food was a direct violation of God’s law. They were not to eat unclean food or food offered to idols. (More details about clean and unclean food is given in Leviticus 11).  There was a spiritual purpose for this. God wanted his people to consecrate themselves to Him and to be holy, for He is holy, to be a separate people from the evil culture from which they came. Daniel knew this and saw the trap. If he ate the food, he violated God’s law and was relinquishing his identity as one of God’s chosen people.

Daniel and his friends handled themselves very carefully and wisely and God gave them favor with the chief of eunuchs. Daniel went to him and asked for exception so that they did not defile themselves. The chief said no. He feared the king and was afraid for his life if the king found out. So, Daniel went to the steward of the chief and ask for a trial, a ten-day only veggie and water test, after which they could be judged on their appearance to see if they were as fit as the other lads. The steward agrees. Ten days they would have eat only vegetables and drink only water and then he would examine them. I can imagine that these lads spent much time facing Jerusalem praying to their God.

At the end of ten days, Daniel and his friends were healthier, fatter and had much better appearance than all the other young men. This had to be a miracle, a ten-day food miracle.  However, if you also consider what teen boys do when given unbridled liberties without parental restrictions, they go on unhinged binges of drinking and eating. It doesn’t take long for bloodshot eyes, puffy faces and loud, drunken behavior to manifest itself. The contrast between Daniel and his friends to the other Jewish lads was so distinct that the steward was willing to risk his head and let the boys continue their diet for the three full years.

The Bible says that God honored and blessed Daniel and his friends with knowledge, wisdom and skill in learning the Babylonian literature so that at the end of three years when they were brought to an interview before the king, the king noticed. He found them ten times better in wisdom and knowledge than all the magicians and astrologers who were in his realm.  The Bible simply says, “therefore they served before the king”.  They were given positions of honor, serving with influence before the king.   Daniel and his three friends had figured out how to make the best of a difficult situation, even though torn from their families and culture and resituated in a strange land, they did not compromise on the important aspects of their faith. The rest of the captive lads are never mentioned again. Later in the story, Daniel was still serving when Cyprus is king.  According to history, that would have made Daniel about 85 years old. Daniel was never able to return to his beloved homeland, but God used the life of this godly man in a heathen culture that literally affected the course of their time and history and still challenges Christians today. Incidentally, there is not one word of wrongdoing written about Daniel.

Daniel resolved, purposed, made a contract with his heart, mind and soul, to stay true to God’s word, even if it meant standing against his peers.

Daniel chose godly friends who encouraged, supported and stood with him.

Daniel chose obedience, not knowing the outcome, but simply trusted in his God.

Daniel had a simple, uncomplicated faith. A faith that says God watches, God cares, and God acts.

Daniel embraced his new situation with a positive outlook, a gracious, forgiving spirit and a creative, willing mind.

Daniel made friends with his captors and gained their respect and honor.

Even though their Hebrews names which spoke of the true God were changed to names reflecting the Babylonian gods, it did not change the hearts of these Jewish lads. There is a saying, “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”  Daniel was taken away from his homeland where God dwelt, but they could not take God out of Daniel.

For reflection…

How important are your roots, your faith, your knowledge of God?

What does it mean to live counter to the culture of our times?

Are you willing to stand for truth in the midst of an ungodly society?

Do you know what truth is?

Is there a difference between the desires of your life to the desires of those who do not know the Lord?

Some thoughts…

If you scorn your roots and foundation, on what will you build? If you build foundations only, you will have width and length, but no height or depth. Choose the foundation you will keep and build wisely upward. A tree without roots cannot grow or weather a storm.

When we let culture dictate our values, we become our own god, becoming a servant to our own standards.

What may appear to be a wrong decision according to our culture, may reveal itself to be wisdom.

It is easy to make a commitment, but it is another thing to keep that commitment. Genuine commitment is staying true to what you say you are going to do, even if you risk losing.

Several Bible verses…

Romans 12:2 “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Proverbs 25:26 “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.”

A story from my faith journey…

When I was in the seventh grade, I left the security and comfort of a small rural elementary school for the big adventure and independence of middle school. I quickly found a good Christian friend, whose name was June, and adapted to the new routine, but lunch was a different experience.

Back in elementary school our teacher always prayed with us before we ate. Not here!  After several days of floundering over what to do, we happened to notice another student sit down at the table and bow his head and pray before eating. Conviction hit strong and June and I had a talk about what to do. We decided we had to do the same.  The next day we headed to the back corner of the cafeteria with our food tray and sat down at a table a long way from our peers. Just as we went to bow our heads, the door open and in came the principal and all his staff for lunch. We thought we were being brave by “hiding” when in fact we had just chosen a seat near the entrance door!!! God really had a sense of humor. We glanced at each other and with blushed faces bowed our heads and silently prayed. We didn’t talk much that day; it was a mixed feeling of embarrassment, relief, and insecurity.

The next day, just before the lunch hour, the principal came on the intercom and announced to the whole school that each day, a student would be asked to come to the office and pray over the intercom for the noon meal. I will never forget that experience and there is no doubt in my mind the principal saw us and being a Christian man himself, was convicted. One male student who quietly prayed alone, led to two girls praying, to a whole school openly praying for at least two years.

 

 

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