Daniel – His humility in prayer

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God,
(Daniel 9:20)

I encourage you to read Daniel 9 this morning and meditate upon Daniel’s prayer. Daniel, at the end of the 70 year captivity, turned to God in prayer and fasting with pleas for God’s mercy. There is so much to be said here from Daniel 9, and more articles will follow, but today I want to focus on the humility of Daniel in prayer.

As you look over Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9, take notice of a few things:

Daniel confessed HIS sin, not just the sins of the nation of Israel. He took ownership of his own rebellion against God. Whatever Daniel was like before he went into captivity, we don’t know, but it sure seems like Daniel had his own part in the sins that caused Israel to go into captivity. Maybe being taken into captivity sobered him up and straightened him out.

In his prayer, Daniel said “we” and “us,” not “I” and “they.” If you listen to good leaders talk, they use we and us much more than “I, Me, Mine.” This was a collective problem and Daniel could not distance himself from it.

Look at the understanding Daniel had of the whole situation. He knew the Scriptures. Moses told them what to do, and said that if they didn’t do it the people would go into captivity (1400’s BC). Several hundred years afterward, Solomon prayed/prophesied that when Israel went into captivity and recognized their sins, that they will pray toward Jerusalem and God will hear, forgive and bring them home (1 Kings 8, 900’s BC). Centuries later, Jeremiah added that they would go into captivity for 70 years, and that they will not come home a day sooner (Jeremiah 29:10, 600’s BC). Daniel was very discerning and knew that these things were written in the Scriptures. He knew the commands that he and the others had broken. It is plain he was aware of the consequences of their unfaithfulness. He also had come to learn and understand of the unfailing love and mercy of God for His people. But he also knew that Israel would not be going home until those 70 years were completed (538-536 BC). Once that time had come, Daniel began praying with all his might for God to act upon His promise. That wisdom and discernment does not come without first having humility.

May we all have the humble heart of Daniel. A heart like Daniel is one that looks in the mirror first before pointing fingers of blame. We will look at God’s word for guidance and light, even when it sheds light and the truth gets ugly. Daniel’s humble heart allowed him to see the ugly in his own life, but he also could see the outreached arm of God ready to forgive and take him back.

Daniel – Till You Know

“that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.”
(Daniel 4:25-26)

I have to admit that there were times in the past that I read Daniel and wandered, “Man, how long did it take this bonehead Nebuchadnezzar to get it? How many times did it take for him to understand that God is God and He rules?” Daniel chapter 2 – After Daniel miraculously tells the king both his dream and the interpretation, ole king Neb falls on his face and proclaims God is the God of gods and Lord of kings. Then we turn to chapter 3, and what is ole king Neb doing? He’s making a 90 foot tall golden idol and he demands everyone worship it. After God miraculously saves the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace, the king proclaims that anyone who speaks a word against God should be torn limb from limb. As Anna just said when I read this to her, “So, he’s quite the drama queen.”

Then we come to chapter 4, and what’s going on now? Ole king Neb is walking around praising himself for how wonderful his kingdom is. Even after all he has already seen, and even after being specifically warned by Daniel, he still goes ahead and praises himself for his amazing wonderfulness. So, he is punished by having to live like a beast until he gets the point. Thankfully, God is very merciful and allows his kingdom to be restored to him once the king gets the point (Daniel 4:26). By the way, here is an other article discussing the times when people in the Bible get caught up saying, “I, Me, Mine.”

So, once again, I can look at this arrogant, thick-headed king and ask why it took him so long to understand the truth? But then I look in the mirror, and know that it has taken God a lot of tries to teach me certain things. I’m pretty sure as long as I live, He will still be working on me. The same goes for you, too. Thankfully God is very merciful to us like he was to ole king Neb.

Here are a few passages from the book of Philippians where Paul says clearly that God is working on us just like He was on King Nebuchadnezzar.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6)

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:13)

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
(Philippians 3:13-15)

Let This Mind Be In You

This week scratched the surface on our growth towards shepherding and I hope it gave you some things to meditate on and pray about.

We are all a work in progress.  Growing up to being qualified to shepherd God’s flock is a lifetime investment and walk with Jesus.  What a blessing to have that opportunity.  To know Jesus and have Him as our example and to examine ourselves against His standard.

In 2012, South Macomb Church of Christ has a theme titled “Let This Mind Be In You” (Philippians 2:5).  The theme examined different mindsets to include Knowing Christ, Humble Service, Purpose, Like-mindedness, Citizenship, Contentment & Rejoicing, and Influence.  The bottom line in all of this was having a mind for loving and saving souls.

Take what we have talked about this week, what you have thought about and consider Jesus talking about Himself in the context of shepherding:

7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10: 7-16)

Shepherds recognize that sheep are easily scattered when there are not shepherds to watch out for them.  We should have a heart for the souls of others that we do not want to do anything that would cause the sheep to be scattered.  Therefore, our actions will have concern to not harm the faith of the sheep.

To move your life toward being a shepherd means you are going to be a leader and make decisions for the good of the flock. You can and will have to do this now…no matter age.

Shepherding is not a passive work but a difficult work.

But your love for the flock and desire for the flock to not be scattered and injured will lead you to want to do this important work even though it is difficult.  Shepherding is not a title.  It is a work and a very important work.  The work you do today is important and taking time to reflect on your life and on your actions through the lens of Jesus bears fruit today and will bear fruit in the future.  Abide in Jesus and your life will come to reflect Him and you will be found qualified when called for service and shepherding of the flock.

If you are interested in hearing sermons from the 2012 Let This Mind Be In You, please visit this site: https://www.southmacombchurchofchrist.org/sermons/online-lessons?title=&y=2012&se=13&sv=0&sp=0

Safety for the Ensnared

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:20-26; NKJV)

I was thinking about standing next to Jesus in our safe house as we discussed earlier in the week and looking at those out in harms way who seem to want to come in but can’t or won’t.  I was thinking about why that is and verse 26 came to mind…about how the devil sets snares for us and how he takes us captive and how hard it can be to believe we can be free again.  How many people have I talked to who are in this situation.

In reading the verses above, Paul describes how we should be as we abide in Jesus, follow Him and share the gospel in the world.  How we should be a vessel of honor, sanctified (set apart for a godly purpose) and be useful to the Master!

In considering this, there are things we should do and things we should avoid.

In terms of our personal conduct, we must cleanse ourselves of false doctrine or what the world wants to teach us; we must flee youthful lusts and mature in the faith past the lust of the flesh or lust of the eyes avoiding wicked associations and wicked conduct.

What we should do is pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace which are qualities we must have if we want to see Jesus and qualities suited for a man of God.  We should call on the Lord out of a pure heart together with those who sincerely love God and remember we are not alone.  In our personal conduct we must seek both holy conduct and holy associations.

In terms of our interpersonal relations, we should avoid foolish and ignorant disputes that generate strife, bring ruin to the hearers, and increase to more ungodliness.  We must not quarrel which is to fight over words (war of words; dispute) avoiding discussions that are little more than word battles.

What we should do is be gentle to all mild or kind, be able to teach (exhort and convict those that contradict), be patient especially in avoiding word battles.  We should correct in humility with gentleness, meekness, and mildness even against those that oppose the truth and are ensnared by the devil…they might be just a step away to coming in to safety.  We must develop and demonstrate a Christ-like character toward the opposition.

In doing so, they will know exactly what to expect when they step inside the safe house.  The same words you have used about Jesus reflect your actions toward Jesus and the actions of those with like-minded faith and they will represent the Savior and who He is in our lives…and will be in theirs.  There are a lot of people trapped by satan who want to take that last step into safety…will we have compassion and reach out…just as Jesus reached out to us?

What Needs to Go Down

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.

The words of that hymn comfort many oft troubled hearts. In it, the petition for God to be near and the assurances that He will be near can make every darkness a light and every sorrow a joy.

And Scripture says that anyone can come. James says that anyone can draw near to God and that when they do, He will draw near to them (4:8). Peter said that anyone “in every nation who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:35). And Paul said that God is not far from anyone, wherever in the world they may be, for if they “grasp for Him, [they will] find Him” (Acts 17:24–28). Usually, it is the barriers that we create that broadens our distance from God. God wants fellowship with everyone since He aims to save everyone (1 Timothy 2:4). It is God who has forged the way for anyone who would come and be saved, “for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21) – and that means you and me.

So, what can we do to remove those barriers and find that true communion and closeness with God?

We only get close through humility. He’s no superstar Rockstar being harassed for a signature or a selfie. He’s the Creator of the universe who sees who we are before we ever come – and still calls us to come. That’s why James tells us to “cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord…” (4:7-10). He’s already there with hand outstretched to “lift you up” even when He sees who we are.

And that same humility will help us get closer as we overcome sin. We have been assured that when we resist the Devil, he will flee. But resistance is washing the scent of it from our hands. It is filling our eyes with the tears of its pain. And when we do, we find solace in the heart of God because we have seen sin in us fir what it really is (Gal 5:19–21; 1 John 2:3–4). Once forgiven, God will lift us to no longer regret, no longer remember, and no longer reminisce because in the light of His presence, we will welcome His brightness in our every darkness.

Humility is making yourself “low” in comparison and as Vine’s calls it, “lowliness of mind.” Just as mountains were “brought low” (Luke 3:5) and Christ “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7), Christians should lower themselves before God to draw near to Him.

Yet, in our culture as men, we have been taught to earn our place, position ourselves and never admit defeat.

And we wonder why closeness with God – in true communion and relationship – evades us?  When humility shows us our place before the Creator as sinners and exposes the needs of others in our view above and beyond our own, we can come down. Mind you, this is not to say we are “down on yourself” or any such thing. Instead, it is the awakening of spirit to see how far up we must go to be anything like God. But with each self-view before the Creator and with others, we inch ever closer – on step at a time – closer to God. And we will find Him.

So, start with humility. Scripture affirms it; recommends it; and commands it.

What needs to go down is me.  It’s the place to begin: Down. Because only in going down can it be possible that God will lift us up.

Overcoming Our Ego, Part 2

Last Tuesday, we took a look at our egos, and some signs our egos are getting in the way. You may call ego something like “pride” or “selfish ambition” from a Biblical perspective.

Here are some additional thoughts about our desire to get the credit, the praise and the approval.

We are complete in God through Jesus Christ, period (Colossians 2:10). If man’s praise, acceptance and approval have become our obsession, it is a sign that we are not truly and safely resting in the grace and shelter of God’s arms. Yes, it is great to have the acceptance and approval of others, but that must not be our end goal, because that is such an empty, vain and painful way to live. It will make others around you miserable, too. What are you and I lacking in our relationship with God that we seek to fill with the praise of others?

At a practical level…today:

  • Pray for God to keep our big mouths shut. Enough said. Keeping it shut when we are right. Keeping it shut when someone tells us something we already know…aargh, this is tough.
  • Do things around the house and for our wives without telling them we did it. Yikes, is this possible? Read Matthew 6:1-4, 16-21.
  • Have a chat over coffee and in prayer with a wise godly man who can help you navigate these thoughts. Find a mature man who is comfortable in his own skin because of Jesus.
  • Let’s do some meditation, prayer and study on the grace of God, and that in Him through Jesus Christ we are fully accepted. “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.” If we never feel good enough, we will seek man’s praise, but if our sufficiency is truly from God, then one day man’s praise won’t be so attractive to us.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
(2 Corinthians 3:1-6)

Overcoming Our Ego, Part 1

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?
(James 4:1)

Here are a few questions about what we call the ego. This article is not intended to answer all these questions fully. 

  • What is the “ego”? (It is not a pre-made waffle that you put in the toaster, that’s spelled EGGO).
  • What is a biblical way of describing the ego?
  • How does my “ego” and the need to care for and tend it affect my marriage?

When do we see our egos raise their ugly heads and cause problems?

When we feel insecure or not good enough. Your wife is complimenting someone else in an area where you are not as strong or talented. How you deal with that? Her father is really good at something that you’re not very good at, and it isn’t that your wife is reminding you of that, it’s just that you are having a hard time with your own insecurity.

When we are criticized or corrected. Certainly criticism and correction can be done in a way that really hurts and stings, but what if the correction is done in love, do you receive it well? Do you have to remind the one correcting you of his or her faults so that you can feel better (or so that we can all feel equally awful/guilty)? Is always being right or always looking good more important than our spiritual growth and having healthy relationships?

When someone else gets credit for your idea/work. If our egos are in the way, we can really let this destroy us. Because of our pride, we are driven to be noticed and credited for our good ideas, designs and accomplishments. But can we be okay if we do not receive the kind of accolades we long for? Jesus said if we are looking for men’s praise, then we have the reward we are seeking (Matthew 6). It is not a good thing, though, because like any addiction we will keep seeking that praise and the good feelings it brings, but it never truly satisfies.

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 2:3-5)

More to come next week, Lord willing.

Faith and Humility

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28, compare to Mark 7:24-30)

What was great about this woman’s faith?

Did you see that the disciples begged Jesus to send this nagging, annoying Gentile woman away from them?

Why did Jesus use the analogy of children and dogs when referring to this woman?

Jesus wasn’t being mean or rude to this woman. He knew exactly what He was going to do, and He knew the heart of this woman already. He did not need to have this event to know the faith that was in her heart. This was a lesson for the disciples and for us. The Gentiles (non-Jewish people) were called dogs by the Jews. The Jews considered themselves as the only children of God, and disregarded anyone else as dogs. Jonah was not the only Jew that did not value the souls of Gentiles.

Jesus’ disciples were always pushing people away and sending people away, while Jesus was calling those same people to Himself. There are scores of examples of this: the children (Mark 10:13-14), the hungry crowds (Mark 6:35-36), Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:48), and this woman we just read about in Matthew 15.

Send them away? Where is the mercy, disciples? They are hungry people, little kids, and suffering souls! Send them where? Who else has what Jesus has? Send them, why? Are you sending them away because you are bothered by them? Are you sending them away because you don’t value them or see them as Jesus sees them?

This is such a lesson for us. These disciples whom Jesus was training and transforming must understand that faith involves humility. This woman had that kind of faith. She was willing to be that dog who licks up the crumbs under the master’s table. You don’t see her asking for the left or right hand side of Jesus at His throne like the disciples were asking for. She didn’t get into arguments about who the greatest was like the disciples did. She said in her despair, “Lord help me!” This woman of great faith was willing to take any crumb Jesus could give her and she would be grateful for it. The disciples saw her as a Gentile dog woman who annoyed them, and Jesus saw a precious soul with incredible faith and humility.

How do you see others? Do our minds, hearts and eyes need to be transformed to see others (our spouses, our kids, anybody in the community) as Jesus sees them? Let us meditate upon this today and ask for God to help us see others like He helped His disciples to see.

At the Same Time My Reason Returned to Me

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
(Daniel 4:34-37)

I just love that God allowed Nebuchadnezzar’s writings to be part of Scripture. Daniel 4 is the personal record of King Nebuchadnezzar and how he was humbled before Almighty God. Because of his arrogance, he was reduced to a dumb beast eating grass for seven periods of time. At the end of that period of time, his “reason returned to him.” He gave glory and honor to God instead of to himself.

This is so true for everyone. When we take the glory and honor away from God and keep it for ourselves, our reasoning is turned to madness. Look at Romans 1:18-32 to see how Paul describes the same process. When we are lifted up in our own pride, our thoughts lead ourselves and others into total darkness and destruction. But when we humble ourselves before God, our thinking becomes clear and enlightened. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, Proverbs teaches us.

I was listening to a sermon by Andy Cantrell about this very concept when he was preaching from Isaiah 55. God in that chapter is inviting us all to forsake our way of thinking and embrace His thoughts and His ways. And when we do, the result is life, joy and peace!

How well are your thoughts and your ways working out for you? Are you willing to become like King Nebuchadnezzar and humble yourself before God and forsake your ways of thinking? Are you willing to trade your thoughts for God’s thoughts? Then and only then will your “reason return to you.”

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!