Articles

We Are God’s Watchmen

A recent report from Florida shooting was that there was an armed police officer at the school while the massacre was ongoing. According to the sheriff of Broward County, the officer took a position outside the school for 4 minutes while the shooting was going on inside the building. The shooting rampage lasted 6 minutes. An investigation will be done to further find out the details on this matter. I certainly do not want to write this to bring in any way a judgment on this police officer. We weren’t there and we don’t know enough.

It just made me think.

What this news made me think about was how God has placed His children in positions of leadership and protection, and our job is to watch out for the souls of those around us. We are God’s watchmen. But do we fail to engage at times? We are in a war, a spiritual battle against the hosts of darkness, and sometimes it is clear that God’s men fail to engage and confront the enemy. It might be from fear, from distractions of material pursuits, from dealing with sin in our lives, or some other reason. But there are times when God has positioned us in certain places for a specific reason, and that is to confront the Devil and his destructive lies. We must not position ourselves out of the line of fire. Souls are at stake.

Let’s take a minute to read a passage from Ezekiel and meditate upon it for the weekend. May God give us the courage to be His watchmen.

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
(Ezekiel 33:1-9)

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
(Acts 20:28-31)

Though You Knew All This

And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this,
(Daniel 5:22)

Do you remember the account of the writing on the wall in Daniel 5? The King of Babylon at that time was Belshazzar and he and his court decided to have a drunken party and use the vessels from Solomon’s temple to hold their beverages. They toasted and praised their gods while holding items from God’s house. The King is rattled to his core with a vision of a man’s hand writing strange words on a wall. Daniel is brought into interpret the message.

While explaining the meaning of the writing on wall, Daniel gave King Belshazzar a history lesson about King Nebuchadnezzar. For us it is only a matter of turning a page back and reading Daniel chapter 4, but this event of Nebuchadnezzar being humbled before God had happened many years before. A great king of Babylon was lifted up with pride against the Almighty God, and he was severely humbled before God.

The thing is, according to Daniel, this was not private knowledge. King Belshazzar was fully aware of what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar. Knowledge of historical facts was not enough was it? King Belshazzar knew the right information, but failed to learn from it. He did not humble himself before God.

There are real answers in history, we can truly help change our course in life by looking back in the past. You can look at the course of people’s lives and see the good choices they made and solutions they came up with to solve problems, and you can examine their thought process to see how that can help you today. You can also look at how individuals, organizations, and nations spiraled down into a world of hurt because of a sequence of one bad choice after another. Learn from it. Learn from your own past too! We do not have to repeat history like King Belshazzar did. He was given all the tools and opportunity and information he needed to completely alter his course. But he chose to reject the knowledge given to him, and he ended up repeating history.

…always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
(2 Timothy 3:7)

Men Who Didn’t Cower

Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.
(Daniel 3:28)

It’s not just a little kids’ story about 3 Jews and a Fiery Furnace. What we see here is the power of faith in God and the courage it gives men and women to stand in the face of overwhelming persecution.

What we see here is a King who was filled with rage and fury because people under him dared to stand and oppose his orders. He wasn’t used to that. Everyone cowered and whimpered and caved in to his every demand. That’s because everyone knew the penalty of going against the King. So when these three men stood and refused to bow down to the King’s golden image, he was furious. In fact the Bible tells us in Daniel 3 that he was so angry that he had the furnace heated 7 times its normal heat. His anger led to the death of the men who were commanded to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace.

This is how those in love with themselves and their power react when others go against them. They can’t handle it. They are used to everyone bowing down and being “Yes-men.” When someone dares bring up an opposing idea, or stands up and says, “No,” then that power hungry man goes into a full out rage. The goal then becomes to simply destroy the opposition and stamp out any hint of disloyalty.

We see in this in college campuses, churches, board rooms, and in government. There are those who cannot “tolerate” someone with an opposing view, even while they may be making a claim to be tolerant and accepting. But how do they (we) respond when someone stands up and questions the dear leader? If you see a Nebuchadnezzar response then you can understand what kind of leader you are dealing with.

But be encouraged by men like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, because eventually (with God’s mighty hand of help) they gained the respect and admiration of King Nebuchadnezzar. He saw, as the above verse says, that they “yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” Granted, not every time we make a stand will we gain the respect of those who oppose God’s ways, but many will see your courage and conviction and will marvel at such faith. Nebuchadnezzar did. He went from trying to execute them to promoting them!

May God give us the courage and conviction of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Who Has the Prettiest Feathers?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4)

In our relationships a lot of us like to strut around and show who has the prettiest feathers. What I mean by this is:

  • When somebody tells you something you already know, how do you respond? Do you have to make sure it is known that you already know this, and that person is not giving you any new information?
  • If someone uses your idea, do you have to make sure it is widely known that it was your idea?
  • In a dispute, do you find yourself pushing your opinion, raising your voice, interrupting, and pressing your way until the other relents and gives in?
  • If someone doesn’t do things your way, and it bombs, do you have to make sure he or she knows your advice wasn’t followed?
  • When you do good things, especially for your wife around the house, do you have to make sure she knows you did it?
  • Do you have to instantly make a conversation about you when someone starts sharing things with you? In other words, that friend is sharing a trial he or she is facing, and you instantly switch or compare to what you are going through instead of really trying to understand the other person.

Aren’t those feathers pretty?

We are not roosters or peacocks…God expects us to have a spirit of humility that was shown wonderfully in the person of Jesus Christ. If anyone could have walked around and strutted, it would have been Jesus, but He counted others as more significant to Himself.

Just a reminder that it ain’t about us.

Try restraining that urge to say, “I already know that.” See how it works. Do good deeds and don’t say anything about them (see Matthew 6). If someone uses your idea, bite your tongue and say a prayer in your head of giving glory to God (hopefully it was a good idea that you shared!). Let’s not try so hard to break our elbows patting ourselves on the back!

The Power of An Indestructible Life

who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.
(Hebrews 7:16)

We are studying Hebrews in our congregation, and we are currently looking at how Jesus’ priesthood is compared to that of Melchizedek’s. Lots to study and discuss, but today I just want to focus on the fact that Jesus’ priesthood is eternal. He has the power of an indestructible life.

He came to save us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), that through him we might live eternally after we die. But He also came, died, and rose from the dead so that we can live with full hope and confidence in this life (Hebrews 6:11). Jesus is indestructible, and the cord of our soul is securely tied to Him. He is a sure and steadfast anchor to our soul, because He is indestructible (Hebrews 6:19). Jesus isn’t going anywhere.

With all the change and decay around us and within us, we can lift up our spirits and be assured each moment that Jesus has the power of an endless life, and He promised to be with us always. If we are walking with Him and abiding in His word, then that indestructible life dwells within us and works in us.

but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
(Hebrews 7:24)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(Hebrews 13:8)

And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
(Hebrews 1:10-12)

 

A Lesson From Aaron Feis

Aaron Feis, as many of you may have heard, was an assistant football coach who died this week while shielding students from the gunfire. He ran toward the danger to help save the students. Jesus told us about how great a love it is to lay down your life for others (John 13).

Here is an excerpt from CNN about this incredible man who died saving others.

(CNN)Football coach Aaron Feis threw himself in front of students as bullets hailed down Wednesday at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It would become perhaps the final act undertaken by the assistant coach and security guard, who suffered a gunshot wound and died after he was rushed into surgery, according to the school’s football program and its spokeswoman, Denise Lehtio.
“He died the same way he lived — he put himself second,” Lehtio said. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”
Feis was among 17 people killed when a former student armed with a rifle opened fired on campus, unleashing a massacre that stands among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.
Colton Haab, a 17-year-old junior and football player who was close with Feis, said he heard the coach shielded three girls from gunfire.
“That’s Coach Feis,” Haab said, describing the educator as selfless, approachable and friendly.
“(He) made sure everyone else’s needs were met before his own. He was a hard worker. He worked after school, on the weekends, mowing lawns, just helping as many people as possible,” Haab said.
Haab last saw Feis Tuesday morning in a school hallway, he said. They talked “about normal stuff,” like work and football.
“I’m glad he didn’t suffer that much,” the teenager said. “It’s sad because it’s not going to be the same without him at school anymore, that’s for sure. Football definitely won’t be the same. We’re definitely going to have to band back together as brothers and mourn his loss and pick up the pieces to try to rebuild our football team.”

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/15/us/football-coach-florida-school-shooting-trnd/index.html

 

When the Wicked Attack the Innocent

I wanted to share a passage from Psalms today.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see them?” They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep. But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done. Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!
(Psalm 64:1-10)

The wicked may delay or even escape justice here on earth, but no one can escape God. God is a merciful and gracious God, but He is also a holy and a just God. We are encouraged here by the Holy Spirit through David to take our refuge in God, with full assurance that He is a safe place and He will bring the wicked to justice.

Getting the cake out of the oven

A little while back, I wrote about extroverts, and I forgot to follow up about the introverts. They are not off the hook! There are those who say too much, and there are others who do not say enough. The introverts need to remember that Solomon said there is “a time to speak…” (Ecclesiastes 3).

When Joseph and I met with a career counselor a couple of years back, he had Joseph go through a personality assessment. For kicks, I went through it too. No surprise, Joseph was slightly on the introvert side, and I was fully on the extrovert side with an “extra” vert on it.

Here is the quick word picture that the career coach shared with us. The extrovert gives you all the ingredients to the cake and expects you to make it, while the introvert presents you with a completed cake. We extroverts talk to think, so we spew out a lot of ideas that are all over the board as we are trying to think things through. This is a nightmare to the introvert.

On the other hand, the introvert is so silent sometimes that it drives the extrovert crazy because we are thriving on an exchange of ideas. And here is the point that the career coach made about introverts:

Sometimes you have to get the cake out of the oven! The introvert needs to be given time to get all those ingredients together for the cake, but there is a reasonable expectation in a relationship for that introvert to sit down and communicate those ideas. And the extrovert has to be committed to actually listen and absorb without butting in and answering every statement along the way.

I remember another example in Columbus, Ohio when we were working with the West Broad congregation. A brother there named John was the same age as me. He had the engineering mindset, and you could see him in a Bible class with his wheels just turning and thinking. Near the end of class, he would offer a comment (not 10 or 15 comments, just one). That comment would just blow us away, it was full of depth and understanding. One time were were driving together and I said something about it, and he responded kindly, “I’m not like you, Aaron, I don’t have to say everything to comes to mind.” Well, ouch, he was right, but that truly paints the difference between the extrovert and introvert. Sometimes the extrovert needs to be quiet and allow time for the introvert to get the opportunity and courage to speak. Those introverts have a lot of great ideas to share, and they need to share them!

This seems to be a pattern in my relationships, because it makes me remember another example of when I was at Purdue. A fellow college student, Phil, who went to church with me was an introvert as well. We were walking on campus one time, and I said to him, “Phil, I wish I could be more like you and not talk so much.” Phil responded, “I wish I could be like you and talk more!”

Amen. We all have different personalities, strengths, and blessings, and we help round each other out. We learn from each other. I may help you to talk more, and you may help me (with a lot of patience) to talk less.

So, introverts, get the cake out of the oven. We need you to speak.

 

Jacob and Esau

Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
(Genesis 25:29-34)

Esau – Esau traded something very valuable for something of very little value. A simple bowl of lentils…he traded his birthright for one meal. All Esau could think about was how hungry he was at the moment. There was no regard for the high cost and consequences of his choices. Hebrews calls Esau a profane and immoral man (Heb. 12:16-17); Genesis says he “despised his birthright,” meaning he treated this amazing blessing as firstborn as if it had no value to him.

Jacob – He was called Jacob because of the circumstances of his birth. He was grabbing the heel of his twin brother Esau as Esau was being born. Jacob was called the supplanter, which means to take the place of another by force or treachery (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary). Jacob took advantage of his brother at a weak moment. Instead of showing kindness and brotherly love by offering a meal to his hungry brother, he seized his opportunity to get what he wanted. He was an opportunist. Through the next couple of decades, Jacob will see others treat him the same way. His future father-in-law, Laban, will seize his opportunities to take advantage of Jacob. Jacob’s own sons will also by treachery take advantage of their younger brother Joseph and will sell him into slavery.

This kinds of character traits that we see in Jacob and Esau are displayed in all kinds of relationships. We see them all around if we think about it. In business, politics, sports, family, etc. we see men and women like Esau who give up some incredibly valuable things for a cheap meal. On the flip side we see opportunists like Jacob everywhere, waiting for the right moment to gain the advantage over someone, even if it means exploiting the weaknesses of others.

What does this kind of relationship look like in a marriage? What happens when men and women have mindsets like Jacob and Esau? One spouse displays qualities like Esau in that he or she is so focused on the bowl of stew that the marriage and family suffers. A lot of families have been torpedoed because of a cheap bowl of stew. Another spouse is like Jacob and seizes the opportunity of the other’s weakness to gain an advantage. Is it possible in our marriages that we seize the opportunities of our spouse’s weakness to gain the moral high ground? Aren’t we really doing the same thing Jacob did?

Something to think about. Let’s not be Esau’s and trade the most precious things God gave us for what doesn’t even make a cheap substitute. Don’t get mesmerized by the bowl of stew. And let’s not be Jacob’s either, waiting for others to show weakness so we can show our superiority.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:1-5)

Daniel at Babylon U.

I was reading Daniel 1 this morning. Daniel and his three friends were taken into captivity to the King’s Palace and put through a 3-year program. At the end of that 3-year program they would stand before the king to be assessed.

We see that Daniel and his three friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) excelled far above all the rest. What I want to focus on is God’s hand through all of this.

God gave Daniel what he needed to be qualified for the position. In order for Daniel to even be considered as a candidate for being an adviser to the king he had to meet certain requirements. As you can see in Daniel 1, these young men of Israel had to be from the royalty or nobility. They had to be good-looking young men with no blemishes. Also, they had to be really smart and competent to learn the language and literature of the Chaldeans. God knew the positions where he would later place these young men, and He made sure that they had the tools and talents for that purpose. Daniel and his three friends were instruments of God, and God prepared the instruments just as He needed for this specific purpose. The same goes for every one of us. God gave us certain talents and opportunities, because He has a purpose for us to be His instruments in the places and positions He needs us to be.

God gave Daniel and his three friends favor. When it came time to stand for their faith, God stood with them, and He walked with them to help gain the favor of the King’s officials and eventually the King himself. Once again, this was all part of God’s working within the Babylonian kingdom to accomplish His purposes. If you have received a promotion or another opportunity to lead, is it possible that God is placing you in that position to accomplish His divine purpose? It helps for us to think about these things, because where we have gotten in life is not just because we are “all that and a bag of chips.” We are where we are in life because of the divine favor of God.

God gave Daniel and his three friends wisdom and understanding. They were at Babylon University learning the Chaldean ways, but God was the one blessing them with knowledge, competence and ability to understand. Those young men were bright and sharp, but in the end they knew their intelligence was a blessing and gift from God and they gave Him the glory.

There is no doubt why at the end of that 3-year period that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were found to be 10 times better than all the King’s magician’s and astrologers. Those other men were led by their own selfish ambition and/or a pursuit of false gods. In contrast, Daniel and his three friends were led by God and blessed by God because they gave their hearts fully to following God and His word.

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
(Psalm 119:97-100)