Thursday, May 31, 2012

June 1, 2012

"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us" Psalm 67:1

I came across this list of the highest paid sports personalities in terms of their commercial value. The figures below do not include their salaries - just what they make from the sponsors of the products they represent.


1. Tiger Woods, Golf, $60,000,000    
2. Phil Mickelson, Golf $57,000,000    
3. LeBron James, Miami Heat, $30,000,000    
4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr, NASCAR, $22,000,000    
5. Jeff Gordon, NASCAR, $18,000,000       
6. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts, $15,000,000   
7. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics, $14,000,000     
7a. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder $14,000,000   
8. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, $12,000,000      
8a. Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR, $12,000,000    
9. Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers, $10,000,000     
9a. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, $10,000,000    
9b. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees, $10,000,000    
10. Albert Pujols, San Diego Padres, $8,000,000
Impressive numbers, eh?

You could object that they are not worth all that money and don't deserve it. The fact is, the marketplace says they are! Their sponsors pay them those large amounts because these world-class athletes perform at such a level of excellence that people want to wear what they wear, and eat what they eat, and use the golf clubs they use, and play the brand of golf balls they play and drive the cars they drive.

Let me ask you this, if God was looking for  someone to endorse the Christian life-style would He offer you a contract?

Can you point to anyone who has bought into Christianity because of how you worship, or how you live your faith?

Does your life reflect His grace?

Would you find favor with him?

Your life is a walking advertisement for Christianity. Are you an endorsement or an embarrassment?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 31, 2012

"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy,  for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him."   Psalm 67:1-6

One of the interesting things about the Holy Land is you've got the Jordan River going right down and on either end you have large bodies of water. On one end you have the Sea of Galilee. On the other end you have the Dead Sea. And you can't imagine two bodies of water that are more different than one another. The Sea of Galilee is the place that we always think about the fishermen with their nets. From all the stories in the New Testament, a place of abundance where people can earn their living by catching the fish there. They provide for their families and provide for others, because of the life that's in Lake Galilee. But, you go to the other end of the Jordan River and you find the Dead Sea. A place that has so much salt content in it that large life, life that we would consider useful and part of our abundance, just doesn't even exist. It's dead in that regard. They both receive the same water. They both receive the same abundance, but the key difference is, Lake Galilee receives, but it also has an outlet and the water flows through it. But in the Dead Sea there is no outlet and so the water just accumulates, year after year, century after century, getting more and more salty and less and less hospitable to life. I think that is a good image for us to ponder about our lives.

Which are you like, Lake Galilee or are you like the Dead Sea? God is pouring all this abundance into your life. How much of it leaks out? How much of it is passed on? Because one of the things that you can't escape is that a basic rule of life is that you have His life in you and as you receive abundantly and as you pass that abundance on in some measure to others that life is the blessings of that life is shared by other.

So when God looks at your life, what does he see? Does he see something that's full of life, where his blessing to you pass on through and become blessings in the lives of others or is there something stopping it up and making it become more and more inhospitable to the life of the Spirit? You are blessed to be a blessing. So as you focus on this what worship means and as you thank God, will you recommit yourself to being a channel, a channel of good things to the incredible variety of people that God has put around you? Because even as you share this life with others, you receive it more abundantly in your own life.

That is the central truth of this great Psalm! It elevates the role of worship in your life and the life of your church. Worship done right will change your world!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 30, 2012

"Our God, be kind and bless us! Be pleased and smile. Then everyone on earth will learn to follow you, and all nations will see your power to save us." Psalm 67:1-2

I got into a conversation with a neighbor yesterday and we began talking about church experiences. He said he had become discouraged over his church because of a division over worship styles that nearly split the church.

This morning I was in a meeting with fellow Wesleyan pastors. The topic of "worship wars" came up and every one of them indicated they were experiencing some stress in their church over some aspect of music and worship.

What a shame that so many Christians in so many churches allow their personal preferences of music styles and types of songs to become the focus of worship rather than the God they are supposed to worship.

How sad that the very thing that is supposed to unite believers so often incites division among them. Worship that is supposed to make us contagious instead makes us contentious. Rather than the way we worship showing unbelievers a testimony, they look at the church and see acrimony.

God doesn't care about music styles or worship styles. He has blessed Gregorian chants, for Pete's sake! What God DOES care about is your life-style. What is going on in your mind when you come to worship? What is in your heart? What attitude do you demonstrate then you do come to worship? Do you come to be a blessing to others or do you come to get blessed by familiar people and familiar tunes and familiar words that have lost their significance long ago?

When you come to worship you should come seeking an encounter with God. When you come to worship you should come to celebrate your salvation. You should come alreadly worshipping because of your walk with the Lord during the week. You should come to celebrate the blessings and joys of your salvation.

Will you examine your attitudes in regard to worship? Can God use you to make the worship contagious rather than contentious? Ask God to reveal any motives in you  that are not pleasing to Him. Search your heart to make sure you come to bless God and celebrate His blessings rather coming to be blessed.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 29, 2012

"Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days." Genesis 7:22-24

I want to share one more thought regarding the account of Noah and the flood. This is really important to affirm the truth that God can be expected to keep His promises.

Genesis refers to Noah as a righeous man. That is why God chose him to save his family and therefore, the human race. The next 100 years would prove if Noah was, indeed, righteous. Would he believe Gos and do all God commanded for as long as it would take to complete his salvation from the flood.

You know the story. Noah proved his righteousness and did everything EXACTLY the way God required! As a result, God did everything exactly as He had promised!

Noah and the flood proved beyond any doubt that God can be expected to keep His word. He WILL keep His promises if you will honor the covenant.

But, there is another side of God keeping His promises. Just as He did what He promised for Noah, God also did for those who were unrighteous and refused to respond to Noah's repreated pleas for them to repent of their sin and turn from evil.

While Noah was completing the ark there was a season of mercy for sinners to repent, but once the ark was completed and fully loaded the judgment came. God shut the door of the ark He also opened the skies and the fountains of the deep. Those who did not repent did not survive.

Take note of this lesson! God keeps His promises! He WILL reward obedience and He WILL also judge sin!

Don't deceive yourself. No sin will go unjudged. If you choose not to turn from sin and receive the righteousness of Christ through faith - well - in the words of Bill Cosby, "How long can you tred water?"

May 28, 2012

"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations."  Psalm 67:1-2

Is it proper for me to ask God to bless me? Is that selfish? Is it conceited?
In I Chronicles 4:10, a man named Jabez prayed this prayer requesting God's blessing, "Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request."

Jabez boldly asked for God's blessing and he received it.

We have a God Who is exceedingly gracious and kind! He delights in blessing His people!

The Psalmist mentions several ways He wants to bless you!

He will bless you with His grace! Grace is His undeserved kindness and goodness to you. When you deserved judgment for your sins, God sent Jesus to take your guilt and suffer the penalty so you could receive mercy rathr than judgment.

Have you asked Him for his mercy? Have you received His grace?

Also, God wants to bless you with His favor.

What does that mean?

Essentially, it means you become one of His favorites! He picks you out of the crowd because you have chosen Him to be your Lord. He directs His attention and His protection and His pleasure in your direction!

God's greatest blessing is His salvation - saving you from your sin and selfishness - delivering your eternal soul from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. When you receive His salvation you come into possession of His greatest blessing, for when you have His salvation you have His grace and His favor!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 27, 2012

"Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:  I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.  It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud;  and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:11-17

Promises are simple to make hard to keep and easy to break.

Broken promises can break hearts and shatter trust. No doubt you have suffered a broken heart as result of a broken promise. Or, perhaps you have hurt someone else by not keeping a promise.

Most promises are not broken because they are forgotten but because someone promised more than he could deliver.

God made a century long promise to Noah that if he would build an ark to the exact specifications that he was given, God would save his family from the impending judgment via the flood. A Noah promised he would do it. He kept his promise and God kept His.

Let me tell you why this story matters so much. The Christian life is a life of faith and faith is built upon your expectations of God. Your expectations of God grow out of the experiences you have with God. When we you inexperienced in your walk you can learn from the experiences that others had with God - people like Moses and the disciples and Joshua and Noah. One thing you learn from them is they believed the promises of God and God kept His promises.

When the flood was over and Noah's family was delivered from the flood God had kept His promise and Noah had done his part, God put a rainbow in the remnants of the storm. The rainbow was a visible symbol of a promise kept and the seal of a new promise made. Never again would God destroy the earth in this manner.

Think a moment about what a rainbow is. Rainbows appear as you look back in the direction the storm came from. It is the result of the sun shining through the clouds in the aftermath of the storm. It is the promise that the storm is over and the sun is coming out and you will be safe. As you remember that you begin to understand what a perfect reminder the rainbow is! God's rainbow reminds you that this storm is over and His Son is coming and you are safe!

The Christian life is lived in promise-land until you get to THE Promised Land and the rainbow is the reminder you can trust His promises in life's storm and between the storms. So, if you are in the storm right now, remember the rainbow. God does!

So you can trust the promises of God, you can know what to expect from Him and you can be sure what He expects from you. God gave His rainbow as a reminder that He keeps His promises. That reminder is primarily for you to remember since God always remembers His promises. I guess you could say that the rainbow reminds you that He remembers to remember His promises. God will never forget His promise nor can He ever make a promise that He is not able to keep. So, His promises are as good as gold! The gold at the end of the rainbow?

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 26, 2012

"And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dried." Genesis 8:14

The best thing about a storm is when it is over!

Just about one year and one week after they shut the door on the ark, Noah and his family stepped out onto firm dry ground. What a wild ride it had been!

On everyone of those days Noah claimed and clung to the promises of God. Those promises that had been made to him assured him of the outcome but didn't guarantee the outcome unless he kept the covenant God had established hith him. Those promises strengthened him for a century as he built the ark. And, God's promises supported him in the storm. Now we see that those same promises steered his way through the storm.

How does that happen? How does a promise steer me through a storm?

Let me give you some examples. We will look at these promises and see what guidance they give.

Proverbs 1:33 - "But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.”

What guidance would that promise give you? What clear direction would you follow?

Isaiah 40:30-31 - "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

What guidance would you gain from this promise?

Here is one more - Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." 

Give these promises a look and see how they can help you steer your life!
Matthew 11:28-29       
Romans 8:28           
Romans 10:9
I Corinthians 10:13
Philippians 4:19          
2 Timothy 3:16          
2 Peter 1:4
I John 1:8-9                     
Revelation 3:20

God's promises tell you what He will do in response to what He wants you to do. If you want His result you must meet His requirement. Learn from Noah who found strength and support from what God had promised and steered his course accordingly!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 25, 2012

"Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth."  Genesis 7:17

What can you expect from a God Who can do anything, anytime, to anyone when ever He wants to?
From the perspective of Noah, you can expect God to keep His promises!
And, indeed, He did! And trusting in God's promise strengthened Noah before the storm. But that is not all! Noah also found that trusting God's promise also supported him IN the storm!

Can you get your mind around what Noah did? He spent 120 years preparing for an catastrophic event that would be caused by a meterological phenomenon never seen before! That's faith! That is believing God!
Noah expected that the same promise that strengthened him while he prepared for the storm would also support him IN the storm!

What do you trust during your storms? What supports you?

This stirring story of Noah reminds us that life is stormy! As you read this you are either in a storm, coming out of a storm or headed to the next one! When those storms come you will either sink or swim! That's the way it is! Where will you look for support?

There are so many great lessons to learn from this story, but one that I want to focus on is this: when you expect God to support you in the storm He will use the flood that would have destroyed you will lift you up!

Faith floats! When you claim the promises of God and live by them every day, faith will keep you afloat! When you base your decisions on the promises of God, faith will keep you afloat!

God's promises will lift you above your doubts! His promises will lift you above your despair! His promises are based in His character and guaranteed by His power so you can hope in them like Noah did.

Don't be fearful in the storm! Don't sink and don't get swamped. Cling to His promises and they will support you!

I promise!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 24, 2012

"Noah did everything just as God commanded him." Genesis 6:22

What can you expect from God?

You can expect Him to keep His promises! All of them.

When you believe that it strengthens you! It strengthened Noah!

How do I know?

I read the story! You read it! You think about it.

God asked Noah to build something he had never built (a boat) and maybe something he had never even seen before. And it was not just a boat, it was a big one!

And Noah was asked to build this big boat to save himself and his family from something no one had ever seen before (a flood) caused by something no one had ever seen (rain). How hard is that? Would you do it?

What would motivate a farmer to become a boat builder who prepared for an unprecedented catastrophy and do it for 120 years while his neighbors ridiculed him on a daily basis? Faith! Faith in a promise of salvation for his family. Obviously, he expected God to keep His promises!

Imagine a day in the life of Noah. He is up early each day to do his farm chores so he can feed his family and then out to the building site to begin sawing wood and pounding nails and pitching tar. As he does these physically demanding tasks a neighbor stops by and the conversation begins:

"Noah, what are you doing?"

"I am building an ark as the Lord has commanded."

"Oh. What's an ark?"

"An ark is a large boat."

"But why build a boat here? There is no water anywhere near."

"There will be!"

"What? What are you talking about? Everyone says you're nuts and I am beginning to believe it! There is not enough water around here to float a boat that big!"

"There will be!'

"Say, what? How?"

"There is going to be a flood!"

"What is a flood?"

"It is a lot of water caused by a whole lot of rain."

"What is rain?"

Can you imagine how tired you would get of having that conversation day after day after day for 12 decades? I can't.

What gave Noah that much strength? How did he do it that faithfully and patiently and persistently for that long?

Noah found strength by trusting in the promises of God! He believed that God would deliver him and his family if he did would build the ark.

Guess what? He was right!

Do you need spiritual strength? Are you running low on patience?

Find strength in the promises of God!

May 23, 2012

"This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.  Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.  Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.  So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.  Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark —you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”  Noah did everything just as God commanded him."  Genesis 6:9-22
Do you remember the first time you heard the captivating story of Noah and the ark? I do!

I will tell you why.

The reason I will never forget is because it was the night I accepted Christ as my Savior! I had gone forward at the end of a Sunday night when the pastor gave the invitation to a couple of dozen people at the Bourbon Bible Church in Bourbon, Indiana. The year was 1957.

Being a shy seven-year old I asked my mother to go with me and, of course she did! When we got to the front of the church the pastor seemed a little surprised that someone had responded and was fumbling for a way to explain salvation to a child.

He made a quick recovery and regained his wits. Asking us to come into an office off the side of the church platform he asked me if I knew the story of Noah's Ark, to which I replied, "No" and he proceeded to tell me. I liked it!

Having explained the story to me he then explained that salvation was like the ark and if I would accept Jesus as my Savior it would be like coming into the ark and I would be safe. That made sense to me - so I prayed the sinners prayer with the pastor and became a Christian.

Over the 55 years since that night, I have enjoyed the safety of the Ark of Salvation and learned to trust God's promises like Noah did. And like Noah, I have sailed safely through numerous storms.

One of the great themes of this amazing epoch is that God's promises can be trusted - always!

As I close our my HIMpossibility series this week I will be drawing from this story based on this expectation of God: YOU CAN EXPECT GOD TO KEEP HIS PROMISES.

In fact, not only did He keep His promises to Noah, but He also placed a rainbow in the sky as a reminder!

If you will flee to the ark of His salvation, and stay there, you will ride out every storm of life and enjoy many rainbows!

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 22, 2012

"Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat." Matthew 8:24

Have you ever been so frightened that you physically shook?

I have and it is an awful feeling. It takes a powerful fear to bring that sort of reaction.

From what I see in this story, the disciples might have been shaking with fear.

Interestingly, the Greek word for "fierce" used here is "seismos". You might recognize it in conjunction with "seismology", the study of earthquakes or "seismograph", an instrument for measuring the intensity of earthquakes. So, this was a storm that literally shook the waters! And it got them shaking as well.

Another insightful fact about this word is that it is only used two other times by Matthew in his Gospel.

Once is in Matthew 27:51-54 in reference to Jesus' death on Calvary, "At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

The other use occurs in Matthew 28:2 - "Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it."

So, God knows how to shake things up! He shook the waters and He shook the earth! People noticed and people changed!

Has God ever shaken your world? Is He shaking it now? What is your response? Is it fear? Maybe He is trying to shake the fear out of you!

The message of the storm is, "Fear not when Jesus is in your boat"! He is stronger than the storm.

The message of Calvary is, "Fear not, Jesus has conquered your sin"! His holiness is stronger than your sin!

The message of the Resurrection is, "Fear not, Jesus has conquered death!" His life is more powerful than death!

God's earth-shaking message is, "Fear not! I have overcome the storm, the sin and the sentence of death!"

So, why should you be shaking? If there is a storm in your life right now, or if something has shaken your world, maybe it is God's "seismos" sent to shake the fear out of you and remind you that Jesus is in your boat! Fear not! Speak to Jesus and let Him speak His power to your fear!

The one who should be shaking is the devil!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 21, 2012

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' " 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' " Luke 16:27-31
This formerly rich man now found himself in hell tormented by the horrors of the place plus tortured by the regrets he had about not taking advantage of the opportunities to prepare his soul for Heaven. He was eternally lost and he knew it.
He was suddenly urgent about the eternal destiny of his five brothers who were still living. He wanted to save them from a similar fate.
How is your urgency toward the eternal destiny of people you care about?
He became too urgent too late to help the situation. We tend to do the same. Why?
What are some things that cause us to become complacent rather than feeling urgent? What should we look for? What attitudes can we resist?
This rich man, in his earthly life, had all the necessities and many of the luxuries and he wanted for nothing. Good for him! We should be so lucky!
But earthly riches will not get you to heaven. Only those who declare moral and spiritual bankruptcy can find the riches of grace in Christ Jesus! Have you found that gift of eternal life? If you have, are you sharing it with others?
If not, what are you waiting for? Time is short and eternity is very long!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 20, 2012

"But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. Daniel 3:18

When you read this inspiring story about Shadrach, Meshach and Adebnego or when you here stories about some of the famous martyrs who bodly died for their faith, have you ever wondered if you have that sort of faith? Have you wondered if you have what it takes to suffer or died for Jesus?

We have been examining that for the last few days, studying what I call "fireproof faith".

Fireproof faith comes out of a relationship with Christ.

Fireproof faith develops righteousness from that relationship.

Fireproof faith determines your reality.

Finally, we will see that fireproof faith is resolved. You don't make faith decisions in the heat of the trial or temptation. You resolve those issues well ahead of time.

The Three Hebrews had decided the moment they heard what the King had planned that they were not going to bow to the King's image. So, when they were confronted by the King in full view of the fiery furnace, they did not waver in their commitment.

Have you resolved that you will not bow to any other gods even if they threaten your life?

Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, here are some modern day martyrs who were resolved in their faith:

Cassie Bernall was a student at Columbine High School in Colorado. Her last word was, "Yes." The question was, "Are you a Christian?" It was asked with Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold pointing guns at her head. Her answer was met with a bullet through the brain. She had resolved not to deny her Lord.

This lovely young lady is Rachel Scott. She also became a victim of Harris and Kliebold when she refused to renounce her faith, knowing full well that it would cost her life. She was resolved not to bow to her fears and now bows before the Throne in Heaven!

These three young men are (L to R) Ed McAlly, Pete Fleming and Jim Elliot. They were missionaries trying to make contact with a savage tribe in the Amazon jungles. Before they set out to encounter a small band of warriors, they resolved that if they were attacked they would not defend themselves with the firearms they were carrying; They reasoned that if they died they would go to heaven, but the Indians were not prepared to die. So they took spears in the chest rather than cause one soul to go to hell. Each of them were in their early 30's and they each left a young wife and small children.

Fireproof faith resolves that it will stand for truth and righteousness and never deny Christ even if it means dying. These five people did just that!

Are you resolved to live, or if necessary, die for Christ? Do you have fireproof faith?

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 19, 2012

"Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?  Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand."  Daniel 3:13-17

Faith grows out of a relationship with God in Christ. It is an expression of His presence and power resident in your life.

From that relationship arises a righeousness that desires to please God.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had no desire to bow to the golden image because they loved the true God, Jehovah.
Thirdly, faith brings you in touch with God's reality and gives you the ability to see situations from a faith perspective.
As these three Hebrew children stood before the Mighty Nebuchadnezzar he breathed threats he was well able to carry out. But they were not detered by His powerful threats. Their faith was operating and it put them in touch with a Higher reality - that the power God was greater than the authority of the king. They were not arrogant concerning their own power, nor were they ignorant regarding the King's vast authority. They knew the danger they faced. But they also had faith in a Greater King with absolute sovereignty over every king and kingdom and their confidence was in their God.

Real faith is not about trusting your belief. Faith is not just about positive thinking or positive confessions. It is not a mental exercise to quiet the voices of doubt in your mind.

Faith is trusting God, and your relationship with Him and His righteousness operating within you!

Real faith is not trusting in what we want to happen. If your idea of faith is about finding out how to get God to produce your desired outcome, you aren't in touch with real faith. These three men had no idea how this would turn out, but they knew God was in control and whatever He decided would be fine with them.

Faith is being confident in His control and comfortable in whatever outcome He chooses.

Real faith is not trusting your ability to read God's will and get out ahead of it. Faith doesn't require you to know what only God can know, it simply knows God and that God is good! You need to follow God not try to lead Him!

Faith is unconditional love and trust in God just because he is worthy of your love and trust!

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a faith that defined their reality. The didn't deny the seriousness of their situation. They knew the threat was real. But they knew that pleasing their God and refusing to bow was worth whatever they would suffer. Like all the great heroes of faith they understood:

"All of them pleased God because of their faith! But still they died without being given what had been promised.  This was because God had something better in store for us" Hebrews 11:39-40

"We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right sideof God’s throne!"  Hebrews 12:2

These great heroes of faith made a lasting impact on their world because they were focused on a greater reality from a better world - the world where they currently reside - THE REAL WORLD!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 18, 2012

"At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold,  and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”  Daniel 3:8-12

How does your faith hold up under threats or pressure from those who oppose what you believe?

Do you "go along to get along" or are you committed to the right thing regardless of the personal consequences to you?

The three Hebrew men developed a fireproof faith that allowed them to survive the heat of the attacks against them by King Nebuchadnezzar.

Do you have a fireproof faith?

Would you like to develop a fireproof faith?

In the last post I shared how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found their faith in a relationship with their God. Faith is based in a personal relationship with God and there cannot be faith without relationship.

God created you to live in relationship with Him and faith is the only way that relationship can happen.

Do you have a personal relationship with Him? Are you living in that relationship?

A second component of faith I see in this account is righteousness. You have been made right with God by entering into a personal relationship with Him. In other words, you have been made righteous. Once you are made righteous you will want to keep right with God by choosing to do the right things.

Faith is conerned about pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God, for those who come to Him must believe that He is and He rewards them who diligently seek Him."

Fireproof faith makes sure it knows what is right and then does what is right, despite the personal cost to him. These three Hebrews knew exactly what would happen to them if they ever disobeyed or dishonored God. AND they also were very clear what would happen to them if they disobeyed and disrespected Nebuchadnezzar.

Bowing before the 90 foot golden image was NOT the right thing to do but it would have made the king happy and saved their lives. Bowing to the idol, the false god, would not have pleased God but it would have taken some heat off of them.

How committed are you to righeousness? Will you please God even when it brings the wrath of the government on you?  Is your faith driven by the desire to remain righteous before God or do you see it as a way to make things right for you?

Fireproof faith develops out of personal relationship and a commitment to righteousness.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 17, 2012

"........the God we serve is able to deliver us......" Daniel 3:17

What can you expect from God? That has been the question we are considering for several weeks. There are probably not enough enough weeks in a lifetime to fully answer the question, but so far we have several:

When God puts a giant in front of you, expect Him to demonstrate His giant power.

When He puts a giant in front of you expect Him to raise up the giant within you.

When He raises up the giant within you expect Him to raise up giants around you.

Expect joy from God as you celebrate your salvation.

Expect joy from God as you share your salvation.

You can expect that when God leads you into trouble He will bring you out.

In this week's message you will learn that you can expect if you stand for God and take the heat, God will stand with you!

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood for God against the king and faced the heat. In so doing they demonstrated a fireproof faith!

What is a fireproof faith? How did they develop it?

Fireproof Faith Is Relationship

Sometimes people say that they have a faith or they belong to a certain faith and others claim they have faith.

To clarify, I will say that faith is more than:

- A Concept

Faith contains a lot of big ideas but just believing in a big idea is not what fireproof faith is made of. You may believe that there is a God and that He sent His Son, Jesus to be a Savior. But a simple intellectual acceptance of that concept is not what constitutes faith. Demons believe in God and Christ, but what does that faith do for them?

- A Creed

A well organized system of beliefs can be referred to as a "Faith". For instance, the Catholic faith has a creed they expect their adherents to accept.

Creeds are valuable and useful to define a doctrinal system. But fireproof faith does not arise from a creed.

Concepts and creeds are important components of a belief system. They can aid in the development and definition of faith, but fireproof faith requires much more than head knowledge.

Faith is:

- A Connection

Fireproof faith begins with a personal spiritual connection with God through accepting Christ as your Savior. As Romans says, "His Spirit bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God. '

- A Commitment

Fireproof faith grows out of a commitment of your love and your loyalty to Jesus Christ. After making the spiritual connection with Christ, you then commit to giving Him first place in your life and living in obedience to His Word and His will. Commitment is what you give to God in exchange for what He has given you through Christ.

- A Communion

Additionally, fireproof faith arises out of a close personal faith Christ through the Holy Spirit. Communion is the intimate personal relationship that a converted Christ-follower enjoys and maintains through obedient living. Communion is the strong spritiual connection between God's spirit and yours.

For the person of faith, communion happens through prayer, through reading and studying the Word, and through worship.

These three Hebrew children understood that the most important priority for them as followers of Jehovah, the only true God, was to know God through personal intimate spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ, the on of God.

You were created for fellowship with God and God's people. That fellowship comes from a spiritual connection with God and a spiritual commitment to Him. Connection with God is the starting point of faith. Anything short of that spiritual connection with Jesus is NOT faith.
If there is no spiritual relationship with God, there is no faith!

How is your faith relationship? Do you know God in a personal spiritual connection? Are you in the Word? Are you praying regularly?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 16, 2012

"Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” Daniel 3:4-6 

The people of God are citizens of two worlds. God commands His people to be model citizens by obeying the civil laws and paying required taxes.

This is normally easy to do but where it gets tricky is when the laws of man come into direct conflict with the law of God. When man-made laws require you to contradict the clearly stated law of God, the follower of Christ must obey God's law. That decision has cost millions of Christians great suffering, deprivation and even death.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ran head first into the decrees of a delusional king who exalted himself to the status of a god by demanding all people to worship his nine-story golden image.
Their reaction to this decree by Nebuchadnezzar was a resolute but respectfully reply, "We will not bow even if we have to burn."
As Christ-followers in 2012 America, we should take heed of how these Hebrews responded since we have a Chief Executive who seems determined to challenge the authority of God through his attacks on religious freedom and marriage. For nearly 250 years the First Amendment has protected religious freedom from the intrustion of governmental power. And over 6,000 years of human history marriage has been been understood as a divinely sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman.

What are we to do if our President persists in theses attacks and decides to bring all the force and power of the US Government to force churches to drop their objections against abortion? And how are we to respond if he increases the pressure to accept gay marriages as equal to traditional marriage between one man and one woman?

Like the Three Hebrews, you and I may see the day when we say, "I respectfully refuse to comply." And like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego you and I must also be prepared to face the consequences of civil disobedience.

When those in authority turn the nation against the laws of God and the will of God, the people of God will feel the heat. Heat comes from pressure and from friction, and when the laws of our nation stand in opposition to the laws of God we must stand with God and against the law. Doing so will create friction and pressure and we will feel the heat.

How are you to stand up in the midst of that heat? You must have a fire in your soul that is greater than the heat from without! Do you have that? You will need it. It will be hard to stand for God without it.

Will you take your spiritual temperature? Will you stir the embers in your soul and refuel the fire of passion for God?

Over the next four days I will be sharing how you can develop a fireproof faith that will enable you to stand against the heat we may face in the coming years.