Thursday, September 17, 2020

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV)

[7] “Will the Lord spurn forever,

and never again be favorable?

 

The first nine verses of this psalm express absolute hopelessness. The psalmist seeks God, yearns for God, pleads with God, all to no avail. There is no word from God, not answer, no relief. No one but God can bring comfort, and God is not comforting. Psalms 77:3-4 express his despondency and despair:

[3] When I remember God, I moan;

when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

[4] You hold my eyelids open;

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

 

Nothing changes until the perspective of the Psalmist changes. Verses 10-11 pivot from a self-perspective to a God-perspective. They move from “Woe is me! When will God fix this?” to “I will remember the deeds of the LORD.”

[10] Then I said, “I will appeal to this,

to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

[11] I will remember the deeds of the LORD;

yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

 

In our dark hours it is amazing what changes occur when we simply stop thinking of ourself and center our thoughts on who God is rather than what he can do for me. I fear that I sometimes treat God more like a medicine cabinet than an eternal God. He is there to fix things, or to make me feel better when I have a pain or problem. When our thoughts turn from “When will God fix this and make me better?” to “Oh God, how mighty you are!” something changes in us.

 

Psalm 77 ends with the psalmist reflecting on the power of God. The very next psalm, Psalm 78, begins with these words, “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!” Now, we cannot know whether those two psalms were written together, but God intentionally put them together in our Bible. The Psalms move from despair, to reflecting on who God is, to teaching others about the “the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps 78:4).

 

Today, whatever darkness you are walking through, I challenge you to turn your thoughts from you to God. Don’t look to him to fix anything. Simply meditate on who he is. Reflect on his past works, and on the expressions of his greatness that surround us. Let your thoughts turn from you and your condition to the Majesty of God that shines through the darkest night. You might find that you even feel better. Or, to use C. S. Lewis’s words, you might find that you are even surprised by joy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Galatians 4:22

Galatians 4:22 ESV

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman

 

God’s promises are often not realized in a way that is expected. Israel was looking for a deliverer in Messiah. He came as a middle class teacher who offered deliverance by dying. The surprise, of course, was that he rose from the dead. About 2000 years earlier Abraham received a promise. God told him, “I will make you a great nation” (Gen 12:2). When Abraham began to doubt God’s promise because he had no children, God said, “Your very own son shall be your heir” (Gen 15:4).

  

Imagine the distress of Abraham and Sarah as year after year they got older, yet they remained childless. Maybe God needed their help. Maybe he meant for them to use alternate means. Finally, Sarah came up with a plan. Culturally, if her handmaid had a child, and if that child was born on Sarah’s lap, then the child would be considered Sarah’s. Maybe that’s how God would fulfill his promise. Sure enough, it worked. Abraham had a son. He slept with a woman; she got pregnant; he had a son. Thirteen years later, when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, God visited him again. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. He changed Sarai’s name to Sarah and said, “I will give you a son by her.…Sarah your wife shall bear you a son” (Gen 17:16-19).


For thirteen years they thought they had helped God. Now, he said that he would do something impossible. At ninety-nine, with a wife at ninety, God said he would give them a child. Four chapters later Isaac was born. God kept his word. Paul uses this story in Galatians to illustrate the Christian life. Often we live as though we need to somehow help God. Rules help. There’s nothing wrong with rules. Accountability helps. There is nothing wrong with accountability. Safeguards help. There is nothing wrong with setting up safeguards in our lives. Yet, ultimately these all amount to self-effort. If we act as though these are the means to holiness, then we are no different than Abraham and Sarah trying to help God by using Hagar. God promised holiness, but self-effort will never produce holiness.

  

It is the Spirit of God that produces holiness in us, not our self-effort. The promise of holiness from God is fulfilled in us as we believe him, not as we add rules upon rules to guarantee purity.

 Galatians 4:30 (ESV)

But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Gal 4:30-5:1 ESV).

  

But how does that work? “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Gal 5:5-6). Holiness works out in our lives “through the Spirit.” What is our part? “By faith.” Law, rules, self-effort, count for nothing. Following Christ is all about the Spirit of God working out the life of Christ in us by his grace, through faith. For Abraham the only thing that counted was the child received by faith, not the child received by human effort. For us the only thing that counts is faith as it works its way out in us through love. All of that is by the promise of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, by means of faith. Why then would we go back to self-effort to try and accomplish what only God can do? It is “for freedom Christ has set us free.” Never move away from that truth.

 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Reflections on Psalm 73 & 74

 Psalms 73:26-28 (ESV)

[26] My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

[27] For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;

you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.

[28] But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,

that I may tell of all your works.

 

I recently watched a television show that demonstrated the ability of people to push past their physical limits and do incredible things, but it also demonstrated that truth that people do have limits. We get sick. We get old. We are subjected to viruses like Covid-19, and diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. We are even affected physically by things like hopeless and loneliness. As indomitable as we like to think of ourselves, our flesh and our heart fail us as Psalm 73 says.

 

In this Psalm it is not disease that had stricken the Psalmist, it is was the feeling that he had given himself to something that turned out to be pointless. “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (Ps 73:13). He had done all the right things, yet those doing all the wrong things prospered.

 

I find myself reading the Psalms differently these days. Psalms of grieving, lamentation, and confusion are more real. I have been through some dark times in my life and ministry, but today I see a world I no longer recognize. Psalms 74:7 says, “They set your sanctuary on fire; they profaned the dwelling place of your name, bringing it down to the ground.” Verse 8 goes on, “They said to themselves, ‘We will utterly subdue them;’ they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.”

 

In my youth I was drawn to the nature psalms, the passages that celebrated the greatness and grandeur of God as demonstrated in the created world. Today I find these psalms of lament coming alive. Our world seems to be on fire both literally and figuratively. Between wild fires threatening thousands, riots, looting and destruction, politics gone mad, wars and rumors of wars, stories of Christians slaughtered and churches burned in China and elsewhere, our world seems to be on fire. In the midst of all that Psalm 73:26 takes on a whole new meaning for me. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

 

As indomitable as we like to think of ourselves, our flesh and our heart fail us. We need to learn to find our strength in God. It is his strength that will survive the dark times in life. It is his strength that will strengthen us when we have no strength. It is his wisdom that will guide us when we have no wisdom. It is his promises that sustain us when life feels hopeless. Our hope is not in this world. It will one day all burn. We serve here, but look beyond here for our hope and expectation. When our world is on fire we must embrace the truth that as indomitable as we like to think of ourselves, our flesh and our heart fail us. God never will. I encourage you to take a fresh look at the psalms of lament. You just might see God in places you never saw him before.

 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Reflections on Psalm 71

 Psalms 71:8-10 (ESV)

[8] My mouth is filled with your praise,

and with your glory all the day.

[9] Do not cast me off in the time of old age;

forsake me not when my strength is spent.

[10] For my enemies speak concerning me;

those who watch for my life consult together

 

One of my students shared a list of the top six things people fear. One of the six is a fear of old age and death. Yet these come to us all. Death is inevitable. Old age is inevitable unless death comes early. We fear that which must come to us all. The Psalmist starts Psalm 71 with these words, “In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!” (Ps 71:1). As many have said, “Old age is not for wimps,” but my fear is not old age as much as the fear that in my old age I might shame God.

 

In our youth everything seems possible. As we age we realize that we have limits. The Psalmist seems to have the same fear. Psalms 71:18 says, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” As we age, many talk about leaving a legacy. We talk about how we want to be remembered. When I was young I wanted to be remembered as one who tried to do what is right. That’s not a bad legacy. But the Psalmist was not concerned about how he would be remembered. He was concerned that the next generation hear about the might and power of God.

 

Maybe we should be less concerned about our legacy, and more concerned about God’s legacy. I recently watched a television show hosted by Bear Grylls called World’s Toughest Race. It ran over 400 miles of some of Fiji’s toughest terrain. One of the contestants has been running races like that for much of his life. Now he has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s, but he ran the race with his son. His biggest concern was that his grandchildren would know what kind of person he was. I get that. We all want to leave a piece of ourselves behind in our grandchildren. But how much better if our hearts desire is to leave a clear vision of God to our grandchildren?

 

Maybe I never saw the old age reference in these verses before, or maybe they just never stood out to me like they do now. But the Psalmist is facing one of the top six fears we all have, old age and death. His heart is not to be remembered, but to make sure his grandchildren know God. May that be my heart as well.

 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Reflections of Psalm 70 and 100

This morning I read Psalm 70 and Psalm 100. What a contrast! Psalm 70 is five verses of David crying for help. The last two verses are indicative of the whole psalm.

Psalms 70:4-5 (ESV)

[4] May all who seek you

rejoice and be glad in you!

May those who love your salvation

say evermore, “God is great!”

[5] But I am poor and needy;

hasten to me, O God!

You are my help and my deliverer;

O LORD, do not delay!

By contrast, Psalm 100 is five verses of, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!” (Ps 100:1). In Psalm 70, David is crying out for deliverance. He knows that God is his only hope, but he can see no deliverance on the horizon. Psalm 100 is only praise and worship. There is no hint of problems, difficulties, or threats anywhere. Which one is right?

 

The answer, of course, is both of them. We want to experience only the worship and praise times in our lives. We are willing to pray for those in the depths of despair. We are sometimes even willing to help those in the depths of despair, but we don’t want to go there ourselves, which is natural. In the pattern for prayer that Jesus gave his disciples, one of the lines is, “Lead us not into temptation.” The word temptation means troubles, testing, or adversity. We don’t want to go there, but when our path leads through the dark places, we need to have a way to express ourselves. That is the purpose of Psalm 70.

 

It is not sinful to feel fearful, anxious, or despairing. The question is: What do we do with that fear? We can try to be strong, act like we have it all together, and pretend that we are not fearful. When I was about 5 years old we lived in a one room log cabin with no bathroom. I recall one night when my brother said he needed to use the bathroom, but he was scared to go outside and down the path to the outhouse. My mother told me to take him. I responded, “I’m scared too.” To which she replied, “No you’re not. Take your brother.” So two scared little boys went to the outhouse in the dark of night. I didn’t know exactly what to do with my fear, but I knew I had to be the brave one. I wonder though, whether that is not what many of us are doing right now.

 

Our world seems topsy-turvy. It is not safe anymore like it used to be. We may need to be taught what to do with our fear. Psalm 70 can help us express it, while Psalm 100 is waiting for us when we exit the dark valley. Both Psalms have their place, but the lesson of Psalm 70 is to be honest with God about our angst. Don’t try to pretend you are brave, like that 5 year old boy leading his brother through the dark. Don’t respond by lashing out at those around you, releasing your fear on them. Learn to honestly express your fear to God. You just might find his calm assurance in the darkness.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Busyness

I wrote the following eighteen years ago. The technology has changed. Some of the challenges we face are new. But the truth remains. Even in the midst of Covid-19, busyness still plagues us. May we learn to truly listen to the Spirit of God.

 

If I were to choose an icon to represent our modern culture I think it would be “Instant Messenger.” I can think of nothing that so encapsulates the essence of the early 21st Century United States as well as IM. First, it is “instant.” We live in a time where “fast food” is considered slow, where three minutes at a traffic light is an eternity, where a 333 megahertz computer is considered outdated, where waiting is equivalent to the unforgivable sin, where we can’t live without a cell phone because it is unthinkable to have to wait until we get to a phone to make a call, where busy signals are anathema and yesterday is too late. How difficult it has become for our instant society to learn to wait on the Lord, to trust Him when we don’t see the answers immediately. We are an “instant” society.

  

Second, Instant Messenger is busy. How many young people do you know that only chat with one person at a time when they are on IM? I caught my son online awhile back and began chatting with him. It didn’t take me long to realize that he was also in a chat with someone else. Even I have ended up chatting with two or three people at once. It is busy, almost dizzying, to try to keep track of three separate, unrelated conversations going on at once. Even when you are chatting with only one person the chat can take on the semblance of two unrelated conversations as one person shoots off a second question or statement before the first is answered. Busyness characterizes our culture. We have a generation of children who are audio-visually over stimulated with no real physical release. We have a generation of adults who are over committed, under rested, wearing several hats at once and juggling multiple responsibilities. How difficult it has become to “come apart a rest awhile” in the presence of the Lord.

  

Third, Instant Messenger is often quantity rich and quality poor. I have “listened in” on several online forums, followed the threads of online “conversations” and IM’ed enough to realize that most of them have very little depth or quality. Most theological discussions I have followed online get mired in misunderstandings and petty differences before they ever get to the real issues. In my experience, most Instant Messages deal with trivia: “How are you?” “How’s the weather there?” Did you hear what Johnny did?” “Have you seen my Internet pet?” Lots of “conversation” goes on, but precious little rich depth of communication. How like our world, where we are too busy and overwhelmed to really listen, we are too scared to open up and share our hearts, and we are too isolated in the midst of the crowd to really connect. How difficult it is to practice the community God has called us to in the church.

  

We are an “Instant Messenger” society. It works against everything we say we believe as Christians. Yet, perhaps the very things we find so difficult are the things that will provide us relief from our IM world. We need to turn off the TV, shut down the computer, power down the cell phone, and come apart, learning again to wait on the Lord, listening and pouring out our heart to Him. Perhaps the solution to an “Instant Messenger” lifestyle is Psalm 46:10 "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (NAS)

  

Let us refuse to be squeezed into the mold of an “Instant Messenger” society. Rather, let us pray that we will learn what it means to cease striving and know that He is God, or as Jesus said to his disciples in Mark 6:31, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while." (NAS)

Friday, September 4, 2020

Daniel 5 (Pt 3)

Daniel 5:2-4 (ESV)

[2] Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. [3] Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. [4] They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

 

Belshazzar took that which was holy, golden vessels from the temple, and used them for common and unholy purposes. I had a conversation recently in which we were talking about holy places. Some churches and some forms of Christianity consider their buildings to be holy places. The architecture of the old cathedrals is designed to draw the worshiper’s attention upward to God. It is considered a holy place where one comes to meet God. For the Jews, the tabernacle, and later the temple were holy places in which the presence of God dwelt. More recent evangelical churches tend to have more utilitarian architecture. Part of the reason for that is theological. We believe that with the resurrection of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer, the holy place is now the believer.

 

Romans 12:1-2 calls us to present our bodies to God as a holy act of worship. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Peter 1:15 instructs believers, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” 1 Peter 2:5 says that every believer is a living stone and that as living stones we are “being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.” Matthew 18:20 says that “where two or three are gathered” in Jesus’ name, he is there among them.” Psalm 139 reminds us that wherever we go, God is there. In other words, wherever we are is a holy place.

 

 

Belshazzar came under the condemnation of God because he used holy vessels for a common purpose. He partied by using the vessels of the temple for drunken reveling. If God takes holy vessels seriously, how much more does he take holy people seriously? To be holy does not mean to be perfect. Holiness is conveyed not earned. The word holy means to be set apart for special use. The vessels of the temple were set apart for use only in the temple in worship of the holy God. As believers we are set apart for God’s purposes. We are called to live a set apart life because God, whom we serve, is set apart from the world. God is holy by his very nature. We are holy because God has made us holy. When we gather together, wherever we gather, that place is holy.  A hymn by Geron Davis starts out, “We are standing on holy ground.” The hymn talks about entering into a building, but the truth is, we are standing on holy ground whenever and wherever two or more come together in Jesus’ name.

 

How would it make our fellowship, our worship, and even our daily living different if we realized that wherever we are is holy ground because we are in the presence of God who dwells within each believer. How would it change our attitude toward others to realize that they are holy because the Spirit of God dwells in them? How would it change our attitude toward unbelievers to realize that there is a sense in which they too are holy because they were created in the image of God? Have we been guilty of treating someone holy as though they are unholy? Have we been guilty of using something holy for common purposes? Have we been guilty of Belshazzar’s sin?

 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Daniel 5 (Pt 2)

Daniel 5:22 (ESV)

And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this,

This is not an easy blog to write. There comes a time when God says, “Enough is enough!” God had blessed Nebuchadnezzar, but when his son, Belshazzar took over leadership of the kingdom something changed. God had warned Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2 that his kingdom would not last. Because of Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance, God had humbled him in chapter 4. Now, years later, his son, Belshazzar, took that arrogance too far. He partied using the gold and silver vessels from he Jerusalem Temple. That which had been dedicated to God was used for drunken reveling. There comes a time when God says, “Enough!”

 

We don’t always know where that line is, but we need to be very aware that it is there. When we were first married, we had a dog that was allowed on the tile in the house, but not on the carpet. He knew exactly where the line was. He would lay on the line with his paws over. When we were not looking, he would sneak over the line and eventually he would be sitting clear across the room on the carpet. He knew where the line was, but hoped he could get away with it.

 

God is a God of love, mercy, and grace, but he is also a God of justice, righteousness, and holiness. When an individual, a group, or a nation flaunts their sin and celebrates it, they are very close to the line. The lesson Nebuchadnezzar had been taught in chapter four was that Gods “works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Dan 4:37). We may not know where the line is, but we can be assured that it is there and we will not escape judgement.

 

In Revelation 2:21 God said of the church in Thyatira, “I gave her time to repent, but she refuses.” The Apostle Paul warned in Romans 2:4, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Too often we take God’s kindness to mean God’s approval. His patience with us is meant to lead us to humility and faith, not justify our sin.

What makes this truth hard is that we are quite willing to embrace it, teach it, and even cheer it because we assume it is about someone else. Or, we look at those who seem to be prospering in their wickedness and it causes us to doubt the truth of God’s judgment. Solomon wrote, “There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous” (Eccl 8:14). David wrote in Psalms 73:3, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” But he concluded in verse 27, “For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.”

There is always room for repentance. When Nebuchadnezzar was warned in Daniel 4, Daniel said, “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan 4:27). But when Belshazzar was sent the warning in chapter 5, there was no such offer. He had stepped over the line. He had gone too far. There is always room for repentance, until we go too far.

For individuals, I believe that as long as they have breath they have the opportunity to repent and believe. For kingdoms and nations that may not be the case. Jesus taught in Luke 12:48, “But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” The more blessing we have received, the more access to the truth we have had, the more serious the judgment.

When that which is holy is treated as unholy God says, “Enough!” In Romans 14:11 Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” That day is coming. The Apostles expected that day to come in their lifetime. My grandparents expected that day to come in their lifetime. To many, it looks as though that day will come in our lifetime. The Apostle Peter warned, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10).

When that day is we do not know, but it will come when the world has crossed the line, and God says, “Enough!” How should we live until then? Colossians 3:2 tells us to, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Jesus instructed us to, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Hebrews 12:2 tell us that we should be, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” So let me ask you, what are you giving your life to?

 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Daniel 5 (Pt 1)

Daniel 5:29-31 (ESV)

[29] Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

[30]  That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. [31]  And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

The glory of man is short-lived at best. Daniel was clothed with royal clothing, given a gold chain to wear, and made third in the kingdom. He would have been the envy of every wise man, counselor, and noble in the kingdom. Yet Daniel knew that it meant nothing. By morning it was all gone. Babylon had fallen to Persia. Whatever glory the Babylonian king had conferred on Daniel was meaningless. There was a new king in town.

The world has not really changed. People are still vying for wealth and attention. But it is short-lived. The idols of my youth are now dead or old. There are new idols, new gods of the media, new “beautiful people.” But it won’t last. So many die young. The few that live to old age often live in emptiness with little hope or meaning. The glory of this world is fleeting. The wealth of this world cannot stop the process of death that grips us all. We strive for a big house only to discover that we don’t need all that room anymore and it is too much to take care of. We strive for wealth only to give it all to the medical professionals. We work hard to stay healthy only to discover that eventually our health fails us. The glory of this world fades, and it fades quickly.

Belshazzar was king. Much of the known world was under his control. He felt secure in his position. He reveled in his glory and wealth. Then a hand wrote on the wall, and by morning he was dead. Ecclesiastes is right. In Ecclesiastes 2:17-19 Solomon wrote,

 

So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.

If the wealth and glory of this life are all that we have then what is the point? It will all turn to dust one day. Someone will sort through our stuff. They will hoard it, sell it, or throw it in the trash. One man told me he was buying stuff and storing it in his garage so that when he died his kids would have to get rid of it. If that is the biggest goal we have in our hearts, to amass stuff in order for someone else to get rid of it, we have too small a goal. If that is all our lives are about then we have too small a life. We have learned nothing from Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Daniel.

What are you giving your life to? Temporal stuff or eternal value? Learn from Daniel. Let us humble our hearts before God and pursue only that which lasts for eternity. What are you giving your life to?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Daniel 4 (Pt 3)

Daniel 4:37 (ESV)

[37] Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

 

Of all the people in the world, who would have expected Nebuchadnezzar to say the words in the verse above? Not only was he a pagan king, not only was he the king who built an image that he required everyone to worship, not only was he the one who ransacked Jerusalem and worked to convert young Jewish boys to his own culture and religion, but he had been clearly and specifically warned by God, and he hadn’t listened.

 

Nebuchadnezzar saw the power of God in Daniel 3. He was deeply shaken by a dream in chapter 4 that Daniel interpreted. The dream indicated that Nebuchadnezzar would lose his mind for seven years. Daniel specifically warned him, “Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan 4:27). Still, King Nebuchadnezzar continued in pride and arrogance, not submitting to Daniel’s counsel.

 

I wonder how many people we have written off concerning the Faith. How many people have we pre-judged, assuming that they would never come to faith? How many times have we shared the gospel with someone only to have them reject it and we give up on them? I remember an old pastor challenging me as a young pastor. He had asked about a common acquaintance and I responded that I thought his family had given up on him. He pointed his finger at me and said, “Never give up!”

 

Only God knows a person’s heart. Only God knows what it will take to bring a person to their knees in faith. Only God can change hearts. Who would have thought that Nebuchadnezzar would have uttered the words of verse 37? Who would have thought that the alcoholic man who walked out of the room when he found out I was a pastor would one day sit in my church office surrounded by the elders of the church and say, “All I know is that God loves me and I love him.” Who would have thought it? But it happened!

 

Never give up! Don’t hound people. Don’t stalk them with the gospel. But never give up. Keep praying for them. Keep watching for God at work in their life. Keep connected. Love them no matter what, and you just might see God bring them to their knees as he did Nebuchadnezzar. Never give up!

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...