Daniel – For You Have Strengthened Me

And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.” Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
(Daniel 10:16-19)

We’ve already looked at the fact that the visions that Daniel and others saw had an exhausting effect upon them. “By reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength.” God’s express purpose is to put these men into a position where they will need both strength and wisdom from him. Daniel will need strength to recover from what he just experienced. He will also need wisdom even to begin to wrap his mind around it and understand it.

Who put Daniel into that condition? God. Who will bring strength back to him? God. This is a consistent pattern throughout Scripture. Who led the Israelites out of Egypt? God. Who brought them right up to the Red Sea so that they would be trapped on one side by the water and on the other side by the pursuing Egyptians? God. Who allowed the Israelites to hunger in the wilderness? God. Who then fed them? God.

What is Daniel experiencing of which we all need reminding? That strength comes from God. The words of this heavenly being and his warm touch upon Daniel brought him strength. Daniel then asked for more of it!

And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

Let’s ask for more of it today, too.

Friendship

The relationship between David and Jonathan is one of the great friendships in the bible. I Samuel 20 provides some of the clearest insight into the nature and depth of their relationship. Verse 17 says, “Jonathon made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.”

In chapter 20, David fears for his life and is hiding from King Saul. Jonathan sets out to verify that Saul indeed wants to kill David and they establish a code so that David will know whether he needs to run or if he can return to the city. Jonathan goes out for target practice and tells the lad that the arrows are “beyond you” signaling to David that he needs to run and hide.

In order to truly appreciate the next scene, we have to consider David’s life to this point. He was the youngest brother, relegated to watching sheep. He was told he would be the next king of Israel but there was no clear timing to when this would take place. David had a mighty victory over Goliath and was propelled to national fame. He was brought into the King’s court, only to be looked at with suspicion and envy. King Saul jerked David around with marriage proposals, eventually giving him his daughter Michal, with one condition. David had to bring 100 foreskins of the Philistines, a plan designed to get him killed. Saul continued to try and kill David resulting in a nighttime escape, leaving his bride behind him. During all this it seems that David behaved honorably, trying to serve God and trying to serve the king.

This brings us to I Samuel 20 when Jonathan, David’s best friend, confirms that his father wants to kill David. Verse 41 says, “When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David the more.” The chapter ends with “Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.” This scene breaks my heart.

As far as I can tell, the only other interaction we have between Jonathan and David is in chapter 23 when David is hiding in Horesh and Jonathan comes to him and says, “Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” Tragically, Jonathan never has the opportunity to serve beside King David.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this friendship but what is on my heart is very simple. What is the significance of a best friend? Do you have a Jonathan or a David in your life? Are you actively pursuing this kind of a relationship? What barriers do we put up to prevent this kind of relationship?

Jess MacArthur

Jason Dukes

Aaron Kemple

I’m blessed to have three men in my life that are developing into Jonathan/David relationships. We have history, we have trust, we have love. They are not afraid to tell me when I’m messing up. They are not afraid to hold me accountable. They are always there to encourage me, strengthen me, and lift me up. And no matter how much time goes by between conversations, we pick right back up where we left off. What is the key to developing these relationships?

It is not a common love of football or movies. It is not similar career interests or family connections. In I Samuel 20 verse 42, Jonathan says to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.” The Lord is between us. We all share a love for the Lord and have an unspoken oath to help each other in His service. I thank God daily for putting these men in my life.

My encouragement for today is to embrace the relationships around us. We need to let our guard down and let people in. If you have a Jonathan/David, let them know how much you appreciate them. Be brave, reach out to someone and tell them you desire this kind of relationship. Life is hard, Satan is real, and God has designed us to work together.

For an extended study on David please listen to this excellent lesson from Andy Cantrell. He makes a different and powerful application.

https://www.lakeviewchurchofchrist.org/player/509

 

 

A Word Fitly Spoken

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
(Proverbs 25:11)

Have you had someone give you a specific compliment that pointed out an area where you really do well in? How did that make you feel? Didn’t it make you want to take on the world?

Today is just a quick thought that we should always be looking for where people shine in life and make sure they hear us say it. Those “words fitly spoken” are truly like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Most importantly, men, let’s do this in our marriages. It is too easy and very destructive to find the problems. How about we look for where our wives shine and praise them up and down for it?

Listen to the Messiah speak in Isaiah 50:4,

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

He had the prayer of the learned, so that He could “sustain with a word him who is weary.” Your few words of encouragement have that much power! Pointing out the talents and strengths of another may help that person be renewed in strength. Sometimes all we see in ourselves is the problems, the weaknesses and the lack of abilities. Somebody else can help us see more realistically and with it will revive our spirits!

I Wish They Were Here to Hear That Lesson

And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
(Acts 10:24)

So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
(Acts 10:33)

“I wish they were here to hear that lesson.” Sometimes a sermon is preached or a Bible class is taught, and our minds naturally go to some who really could have used that lesson, but were not there. Many times the reason those on our minds were not there was because they simply had other priorities. Just like Absent Thomas missed the first chance to see Jesus risen from the dead (John 20), others may miss a great opportunity to have their souls stirred up by some really good lessons. Here are some thoughts about that.

It may be that the lesson was designed for me, not for them. Spending time on wishing others were there can end up as time wasted if I fail to contemplate on what the lessons did for me and how those lessons can help me grow. I was there to be encouraged and maybe even rebuked, so the mirror was not placed in the face of those who were absent, but in my face as I heard the word preached. Remember how Peter was so concerned about John’s life, and Jesus said, “What is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21).

Those who were there were edified and stirred up, and maybe those who were stirred up will be a great influence on those who chose to miss the great opportunities to be with God’s people. The church at Sardis was a dead church, but it was not a church without hope or without help, because Jesus charged those who were still alive spiritually to strengthen what remains (Revelation 3). We need to remember this as teachers and preachers. We have to teach those who are there, not obsess over those who are not. Preach to those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and be thankful for their hearts. They will be the catalyst for growth as God works through them. Preach to those like Cornelius and his household, who had gathered together eagerly to hear the word of God.

What if those you wished were there were actually there? Would it have had the effect you wished it would have? Please think about this, if someone’s heart isn’t right or isn’t ready for certain lessons, we can hog-tie them to the pew or guilt them into being there but the word isn’t going to have the effect we would like. There are times when those we are really trying to influence are actually there, and they hear some great lessons, but then we are disappointed because the change doesn’t happen that we are looking for.  By the way, who is that about? I think we are making that about us. Are we truly interested in nurturing someone’s spiritual growth, or are we trying to muscle someone into heaven? In our frustration, we have to remember that God is at work, this is His work, His Word is at work, and God works on His time. God’s word does not return to Him void, it accomplishes what He purposes (Isaiah 55). God gives people a lot of time to repent, to understand, and to “get it.” We have to have that same patience and perspective. Remember that Elijah was despondent and ready to give up because he thought his ministry was ineffective, he was all alone and nobody was listening. God showed him the truth on all those incorrect conclusions (1 Kings 19).

Thankfully, with the benefit of technology, a lot of those great lessons can be preserved, sent all over the world and reheard as much as needed. The opportunities are always there if a person is hungry enough.

See to it

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

See to it. There are things that require our attention. The toilet is leaking at the base, I need to “see to it” and fix the problem. You realized someone stole your debit card information and is spending your money, and you “see to it.” You instantly know the seriousness and urgency.

The Hebrew writer tells us to “see to it” that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. Christians can and do fall away. Our hearts can be hardened, calloused over by the sin in which we are living. We can lose our confidence and joy and consider throwing in the towel. That’s why all Christians need to be on the lookout for each other, because those very things are going on in the brethren around you. Whether it is happening to you right now or not doesn’t matter, it is happening to someone around you. See to it.

Reach out to them today with encouragement. Say a prayer with them over the phone. Remind them with verses from God’s word about the presence and grace of God. Take them out for coffee. Sit with them. Listen. Be compassionate. Realize that they are at war and Satan is having a heyday with them. See to it that you be God’s instrument to bring a little comfort, relief and hope to their hurting hearts.

We do have incredible power and influence when we walk along with God to encourage our brethren. It makes a huge difference, don’t believe otherwise.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
(Hebrews 10:24)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
(Hebrews 3:12-14)

The Proverbs 31 Husband

I’m looking at Proverbs 31 today with a perspective not on the virtuous woman but on the husband who loved and supported her. Take some time to read through the chapter and learn about the man who was married to this wonderful woman. What kind of man was he?

He was a husband who has been taught and come to understand the precious value of a woman who fears God and walks with Him.

The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:
(Proverbs 31:1)

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
(Proverbs 31:10)

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
(Proverbs 31:30)

He was a husband who “safely trusted” in his wife. As a husband, he did not hold her back or discourage her from expressing her talents and pursuing her dreams. This man fanned the flames of encouragement. She knew he trusted her. It was clear that he supported her and was her biggest fan. He took leadership in the home among his children; those kids saw their father praising and lifting up their mother. The kids followed suit by imitating their father in praising their mother.

The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.
(Proverbs 31:11)

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
(Proverbs 31:23)

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”
(Proverbs 31:28-29)

In verses 28-29, the husband is comparing his wife to other women, but notice how he is doing it. He doesn’t point out how other women are doing things she isn’t or that they are doing it better. He lifts her up on a pedestal and makes her the queen of the castle with his words.

Look at the verbs connected to the virtuous woman. She seeks, works, brings, rises, provides, considers, buys, plants, girds, strengthens, perceives, stretches, holds, extends, reaches, is not afraid, makes, supplies, opens her mouth with kindness (vs. 12-27). As this godly wife was doing all these things, her husband trusted her, supported her and praised her.

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:31)

She may not be sitting in the gates with her husband and the other leaders/officials of the land, but her influence is truly felt there. Her own works praise her in the gates.

How do we talk to and about our wives? Do our children see an example of a man who rises up and calls her blessed? When we are “in the gates” are we lifting up our wives in praise? Do our wives know and fully understand that our hearts safely trust in them?

And the Lord Remembered

And the Lord remembered Hannah (1 Samuel 1:19).

The Lord remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1).

God is worthy of praise because He “remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 136:23).

The above verses are so comforting. “And the Lord remembered…” God loves His children. He remembers His promises. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. That is a fact, but in the midst of pain, look at what God’s people sometimes wonder. Watch as they go through the process of despair to hope. These Holy Spirit-given passages are there for us today to help us go through the same process with God (and to help others do the same).

I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalms 42:9-11).

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice–To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. And I said, “This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 77:1-20).

Here is one final passage from Isaiah. Notice how God’s people feel, and how God helps them (and us) to see the reality. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted

The righteous cry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all (Psalms 34:17-19).

Is it okay to cry? The righteous cry, this passage says. That is a fact. We cry sometimes. Grief is part of our lives. This passage also says that “many are the afflictions of the righteous.” We all face various trials and adversity; I may not be going through what you are going through, but we all face afflictions and pain in life. I may not be able to understand your pain, but I can understand pain.

Where is God when I am hurting? Psalm 34 says “God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God’s promise to the Christian is so comforting, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Do I have to grieve “perfectly” for God to stay with me? Is there a “better” way to grieve? Sometimes we are tempted to say that someone is handling adversity “better” than another? What does that mean? The grieving process can appear plain ugly sometimes. One person may internalize it all, another may pour it all out with great volume, and another may just focus on keeping busy to suppress the pain. Which is “better”?

Remember that Elijah was ready to die. He asked God to kill him. Elijah in his fear, grief and depression made some unrealistic statements. Did God abandon him? Was God standing aloof and distant until Elijah “got a grip”? Read 1 Kings 19 to see how compassionate the Lord was with Elijah.

If we read the Psalms we will see people in great pain who just pour out their hearts to God. They ask God why. Their hearts wonder where God is, because they feel abandoned. Did God abandon them? Did God remove Himself from them because they didn’t grieve the right way?

We all grieve differently, not necessarily better. I must not place my expectations and understanding of how to grieve upon others. If God is near to the brokenhearted, then that’s where I need to be when someone is brokenhearted, even if they may get a little scary in their pain.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle (unruly), encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Say to those who have an anxious heart

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you” (Isaiah 35:3-4).

This holiday season, take time and prayerfully consider those around you who may be struggling with anxiety and depression. The holidays are a wonderful time for so many, but there are many others who are in the shadows hurting. For many reasons, this time of year may bring them more heartache than joy. They need a listening ear and an understanding heart.

It may be your co-worker or a neighbor. That person may be in your family. You might be the one right now who is hurting inside. Don’t hurt in silence and darkness. Talk to a friend. If you see someone who is showing signs of anxiety and depression, pray for God’s wisdom in how you can be of encouragement to that person.

Say to those who have an anxious heart

Job was that kind of person for others. Even his “friends” who were rebuking him, recognized what he had done for others.

Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees (Job 4:3-4).

Be a Job for someone this weekend. Strengthen the weak hand. By your words you can uphold the one who is stumbling. The person whose strength is about to fail needs a friend. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the shopping, presents, parties, and dinner preparations that you fail to look around for the hurting.

It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our own holiday season because others are suffering. Sometimes we might feel guilty because we are doing okay while someone else is struggling. This is not about piling on guilt. It is, however, about being actively concerned with those in our circle of influence.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad (Proverbs 12:25).

When Asa Heard These Words

Now when Asa heard these words and the prophecy which Azariah the son of Oded the prophet spoke, he took courage and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He then restored the altar of the LORD which was in front of the porch of the LORD (2 Chronicles 15:8).

How powerful are the words you say?

Let’s look here for just a moment in the life of King Asa of Judah. We will not take time to really dig into his life, but what we see in this verse is a powerful thought for us to consider today. A prophet named Azariah was sent by God to encourage Asa. The king was told that if he sought the Lord, then the Lord would be found by him. He was also encouraged to be strong because he would be rewarded by God for his work (please read the first 7 verses of 2 Chronicles 15). Because of these words, verse 8 tells us that Asa was given courage to lead the people in repentance and returning to God. The right words stirred up a national revival.

Words. Again, I want you to meditate upon this, how powerful are the words you say?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21).

Death is in the power of the tongue. So is life. See the power you hold in that little muscle behind your teeth? Power to bring life and healing, and power to tear down and discourage.

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad (Proverbs 12:25).

A good word makes it glad. What “good word” can you share with someone around you today? Our Christian friends around us have struggles, weaknesses, temptations and trials just like we do. Don’t you like a good word at times like these? Why not share the same with someone else today?

Think of the power that a few words had with a king and how that influenced the whole nation. If you share a few encouraging words with someone around you today, what impact can that have down the road for countless others?

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).