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4:1-2 Nebuchadnezzar the king, To all peoples, nations, and languages
that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I thought it
good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked
who are true converts to "the Most High God" should have one
good Gospel sermon in them. That sermon is the story of how they were
humbled in the presence of God, how they faced their unbelief, and how
they ultimately found out that Jesus is Lord just as Paul did on the
Damascus Road (Acts 9:5).
had worshiped the mystical pagan gods of his day. Actually, it appears
from the previous chapter that he had made a statue that he wanted
everyone to worship and that statue was really a representation of him.
He thought he should be worshiped and most of us are like that before we
are "born again". We think that what we think is right and we
follow the teachings of those who agree with us. We assume that we are
the final authority with regard to spiritual matters and we elevate
ourselves to the position of "most High God." Those of us who
believe that there is only One God and only one way to heaven are
considered narrow. We had to repent (or find out we were wrong and God
was right) in order to believe that truth. We are narrow because we
believe that it is a narrow road that leads to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14).
We, like Nebuchadnezzar, wish that all people were narrow enough to
worship the God we worship. We wish they could understand the peace and
joy that comes with having a relationship based on trust with "the
Most High God." Most people know the burden and cruelty of
religion, but they do not know the joy and liberty of serving a loving
God. When Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan king, he cruelly tried to destroy
the three friends of Daniel who had been faithful to the "Most High
God" and who would not bow down to his idol. The Jews in the new
testament cruelly crucified their Messiah. But now Nebuchadnezzar is a
changed man and he wants others to know the Living and True God.
found out that "the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it
to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men (Daniel
4:7)." He found out that God had given him the kingdom, he had not
built it on his own. And he wasn't the most majestic of people nor the
best of the earth, but he was the lowest of men as far as God was
concerned. Nebuchadnezzar became a beast who ate grass and yet "the
Most High God" preserved his kingdom for Him. When his ordeal was
over he says, "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor
the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice.
And those who walk in pride He is able to put down (Daniel 4:37)."
Nebuchadnezzar is now justifying the one true God and is worshiping Him.
It appears to me that he wants everyone in his kingdom to worship
"the Most High God" as well.
story has a sad ending. In the next chapter Nebuchadnezzar's grandson,
Belshazzar, rebelled against God and likely died on the night of his
debauchery and rebellion. Daniel was called to interpret for him what
was being miraculously written on the wall that night by the fingers of
a man's hand. He was told that his kingdom was finished and that God had
weighed him in the balances and found him lacking (Daniel 5:27).
Belshazzar died that night and he wasn't prepared. Daniel said to him
that the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar should have spoken to him.
"But you his son (probably grandson), Belshazzar, have not humbled
your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up
against the Lord of heaven. . . God who holds your breath in His hand
and owns all your ways, you have not glorified (Daniel 5:22-23)."
found the God of heaven and submitted to Him. He was prepared for
eternity. Beshazzar knew better but rebelled in pride. He was not
prepared and no doubt is wishing right now that he had listened to his
Scripture is clear and straight forward and narrow : "He who
believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is
condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God (John 3:18)."
for the week of December 5, 2010
Hope has been Deferred, but the Promise is Sure!
13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it
is a tree of life.
wife and I follow the journeys of a number of people whose children have
cancer. We watch as they wait expectantly for the Lord to cure the
cancer using their doctor's wisdom. If the doctor tells them that
normally the kind of cancer that their child has is curable, we see them
rejoice as they realize that there is hope. But in some cases, the
doctor's give up and tell the families that there is nothing that can be
done. They are told that they have "no hope."
deferred is not as bad as a situation with no hope. Hope is one of the
key elements of life. We all need air, food, water, and shelter. We need
love—real nurturing unconditional love. But we also need hope. We need
to know that the future holds something for us that we can anticipate
time of the year, children look forward with anticipation to Christmas.
They expect that on Christmas eve or Christmas day, they are going to
get to open some presents—some of which will NOT be clothes. They will
laugh and jump up and down with joy when they get their electronic
games, their DVD's, their scooters, bicycles and ice skates. Their joy
might be in the wrong things, but when the gifts are opened, we get a
little picture of what Solomon meant when he said, "when desire
comes, it is a tree of life." The children are happy and they are
filled with "life." They are certainly not running around
disappointed and depressed. However, If they are among the unfortunate
whose parents are without jobs, they might hear their parents tell them
that there will be no presents this year; but that hopefully, in another
year, things will be different. You can imagine their disappointment as
their "hope is deferred."
to Paul, the unsaved are "without hope (Ephesians 2:12)." Hope
in the Scripture is linked to the resurrection and to the expectation
that the Lord is going to return. We know and have faith that He is
going to return, but we hope that it will be soon. When a Christian
dies, the fact that the Lord will raise that person from the dead and
take him or her home to be with Him forever, gives the Christian mourner
a hope that the unsaved do not have. That is why Christians sorrow not
as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yet, our hope has been
deferred for 2,000 years. Some believe that the Lord will never keep His
promise to return (2 Peter 3:4). Others of us have started living as
though he won't return and have gotten caught up in the pursuits of this
world. Others know that while our hope has been deferred, the promise
has not been forgotten by the Lord Himself.
is a great motivator. If we really believe in the possibility of the
Lord returning at any moment, we certainly will want to be ready to meet
Him. We aren't ready to meet Him if we are not cleansed by His blood (1
John 1:7). We need to be "born again" (1 Peter 1:23) or
"saved" (Acts 4:12). We who are saved certainly want to be
occupied with that which pleases the Lord when He comes, since we don't
want to be ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28). Wouldn't it be great to
meet the Lord when He comes while meeting with a fellowship of
Christians worshiping in a way that pleases Him, and who are encouraging
each other to live in a way that pleases Him?
Jews had their hope deferred for a long time when the Lord came the
first time. But Lord came and their desire came. We who are waiting for
the Lord to come again have had our hope deferred for a long time as
well. But our desire will come. The Lord has promised it, and it will
happen. Believe it! Think of the joy that will be ours if we are truly
ready when that promise is fulfilled.
for the week of December 12, 2010
9:22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood,
and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
2005, the American Family Association targeted the Target Stores because
they were banning the greeting "Merry Christmas" from their
advertising and their stores. The AFA said that Target employees could
not use the greeting to greet customers although that does not appear to
be true. If it was true, the employees in most stores did not carry out
the directive since those who checked found that employees would respond
to a greeting with "Merry Christmas". It is clear that the
public outcry worked because late in 2005, the Target store lifted the
ban in its advertising. Recently (in 2010) I was in a Target store in
Waterloo, Iowa that had a "Merry Christmas" sign hung in the
store. AFA and others who promoted "Merry Christmas" in our
stores and commercial establishments must have made the Lord very very
happy. Or did they?
gospel emphasizes a bloody sacrifice for our sins followed by victory
because of the resurrection of Christ. Christmas emphasizes the joy and
innocence of the Lord's birth but not the pain and sorrow of His death.
The word Christmas, of course, really means Christ Mass. Religious
groups that celebrate the mass say that it involves a bloodless
sacrifice of the Lord Jesus since the bread and wine of the Lord's
Supper become the actual body and blood of the Lord. They believe this
sacrifice is effective in putting away sin. It is not my desire to
offend anyone, but I want to make it abundantly clear that I do not
believe that the Bible teaches that Christ is or needs to be offered
over and over again. My salvation is dependent on my confidence in the
fact that Christ died once for our sins, was buried and was raised again
the third day all according to the old testament Scriptures (1
Bible says that Christ offered Himself once (Hebrews 9:26-28). The Bible
says that the sacrifice that satisfied God with regard to the payment
for our sins was finished at the cross (John 19:30). There is a
continual remembrance of that one sacrifice through the Lord's Supper,
but the Lord only had to die once for our sins. When we are occupied
with a "merry" Christmas we certainly aren't occupied with the
sorrows of the cross. When we get occupied with the bloodless sacrifice
of the mass, we certainly aren't preaching the clear Gospel that
involves blood. Putting Christ back into a "Merry Christmas"
is putting Him where he never was and never would want to be.
a "Merry Christmas" as though it really honors the Lord must
be somewhat like having a birthday party for a person who really didn't
want one. When he comes home and finds his friends and relatives all
bearing gifts and standing ready to honor him, he has to act happy and
appreciative even though he did not want the party. I really believe
that when the Lord said in 1 Corinthians 11:26, " For as often as
you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death
till He comes," that He really does want a memorial to His death
til he comes. But where do we find Him asking for a "Merry
Christmas" as a way to celebrate his birth? I've looked and looked
for His request and have never found it.
have no problem with a holiday season where we enjoy family and friends
and give gifts to one another and to the needy. I have no problem with a
holiday season that honors the Lord as the one sacrifice for sins that
satisfied God on our behalf. We should be doing this all the time anyway.
I have no problem with a holiday season that emphasizes the need to
repent and believe in the Lord Jesus and that has Christians coming
together to remember Him in the Lord's Supper. The Lord used this
holiday season to preach the truth to the Jewish crowds in John 10:22.
There the holiday was the man-made feast of Hanukah which was called the
Feast of Dedication.
fail to understand how we can get the true Gospel into a celebration
that is merry and that offers Christ as a bloodless sacrifice over and
over again I would not be at all offended if you wanted to greet me with
"Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" rather than
with "Merry Christmas" this time of the year. I realize that
most people use "Merry Christmas" traditionally without
realizing what the true meaning of the greeting is. Therefore, if you
greet me with "Merry Christmas", I will probably just smile
and say, "Thank you."
for the week of December 19, 2010
Post Holiday Blues!
4:13-14 Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this
water will thirst again, "but whoever drinks of the water that I
shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him
will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting
it be nice to find something in life that actually lasts, and that
actually satisfies? Most of us think new cars are the real deal and one
would make us very happy. However, car dealers who sell used cars,
remind us that everyone drives a used car. New cars are only new until
we drive them off of the lot. The holiday season raises expectations of
lasting satisfaction; but once the gits are unwrapped and the mess is
cleaned up, once the dishes are all washed and the families all go home,
the only thing left to look forward to is next year. If you ask me what
I got for Christmas in another month,, I suspect that I will have a hard
time remembering. We all need things to enjoy. We all need to look
forward to new experiences and new friendships and new seasons in our
lives. But when it is all said and done, it is all said and done. The
older we get, the more fleeting life seems to be, and the more we
realize that nothing in this life really satisfies the human heart. Our
possessions get lost or they rust or get broken. Our friendships change.
Our bodies break down. So what is this life all about anyway?
Lord says that our lives should be all about eternity. We should be
putting eternity and the Lord first. We should prepare for eternity. He
says, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and
all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33)." Most of us
look for lasting satisfaction in that which does not last. The Lord
tells us that He can satisfy us forever. He uses living water which
would be clean running water in contrast to cistern water as a way to
explain how to get permanent satisfaction. Physical thirst has to be
quenched over and over again. We have a spiritual thirst that can be
satisfied permanently if we would just let the Lord do what He does. He
makes eternal sense out of a life that would make no sense if all it
involved was to be born, grow up, look for new experiences and friends
and things, and then die. The Lord knows how futile all that would be.
But He offers water that will quench our thirst for ever. It will bring
permanent joy instead of temporary happiness.
that the holiday season is almost over and we go into the dismal month
of January, we get to experience the emptiness of knowing that there are
no holidays of importance in January. January in our area (Iowa) will
have two weeks of weather that will make us question our concern about
global warming and our sanity for living here. Our cars may not start.
If they do start we probably shouldn't go any where because if they stop
and we are left on the highway, we will probably freeze. Our families
and friends will have gone back to their homes and their jobs and unless
we have drunk of the water that satisfies, January could be a very
depressing time. Nothing in this life lasts or satisfies permanently.
That isn't to say that we don't enjoy the memories of the holidays, but
it seems that we need something more.
need the water that satisfies and that springs up like a flowing
artesian well. The joy that comes when we believe that the Lord has
satisfied God with regard to our sin is lasting and satisfying. That joy
must be experienced to be understood. You can put a rock on some springs
of water and the pressure of the water will just cause it to start
flowing somewhere else. The joy of a Christian who is filled with Holy
Spirit because he has been satisfied by the living water of the Lord's
providing is somewhat like that.
January cannot stifle that joy.
for the week of December 26, 2010