Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Daniel

And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not show the interpretation of the thing:     Daniel 5:15

The wise men of Babylon were called upon by Belshazzar on the fateful night that he saw God’s handwriting on the wall of his banquet hall in the palace. He had them examine the writing: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. They could read the words, but had no clue to its meaning for Belshazzar and his nation. They, like their blasphemous king himself, did not realize, and could not interpret the signs of destruction right in front of their eyes. That very night Belshazzar was killed and Babylon conquered.

Now here’s the thing, though God brought about this turn of events in response to Babylon’s national sins, there surely must have been signs of a national failing that were obvious to political and religious observers. There must’ve been members of the court who had the big picture, the country was not on the right track, but like the wise men could not get the meaning of MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN before it was written on the wall and interpreted by Daniel. The people of Babylon could not see how dangerous the situation was. Babylon was going to Gehenna in a golf cart.

Probably many thought Babylon was too big to fail, certainly too big to fall. What a dangerous belief for any nation to entertain. The nation that can’t interpret the signs of moral laxity, lack of spiritual vision, religious dissatisfaction, legal corruption, violence in the street, whatever, whose so-called “wise” can see them but not interpret them is in deep trouble. How can that country reverse course and save herself? Other than by honoring the God of the Bible?

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Church Chooses To Forgive: “Mother Emanuel” AME Church

There are times when a church’s testimony of the gospel is so clear it cannot be missed. “Mother Emanuel” AME Church, in Charleston, South Carolina, USA has reached that high place. She lost nine of her children, but unlike Rachel weeping for her children because they were not, “Mother Emanuel” weeps, but not as those who have no hope because she knows that all who trust in Christ live with Him forever no matter how tragically they died.

With tears on her faces and a catch in her voices, “Mother Emanuel’s” people speak forgiveness. It is as though, similar to what her savior, Jesus, did on the cross to redeem humanity from sin, this local church fellowship realizes the death of her loved ones could redeem America from the hating which has so often been the cause of death and destruction.

She believes that men and women and children of all races should be safe in their own land to worship in peace. She believes that men and women of all races should eschew evil, criminal, terroristic behavior to make their country a safe place for all, and she holds up her lost loved ones as a symbol of the evil that men do when not rightly related to the living God. Do you know what the sins of humanity do? Look at the cross of Christ for your answer. Do you know what the sins of modern men who reject the transforming power of the gospel of the cross do? Look at the massacre at “Mother Emanuel’s” Bible study.

And yet, the people of that church, in the spirit of grace amidst their sorrow, say “We forgive!” How glorious a response, and how honoring to God.

So, dear brothers and sisters of “Mother Emanuel” AME Church, do not let haters overcome your testimony; do not let politicians hijack your testimony; do not let the populace ignore your testimony. Stand strong in that testimony of forgiveness repeating again and again the Christian refrain: the love of Christ constrains me.

There is no sorrow like your sorrow. Your loved ones murdered while they studied God’s Word and prayed, while they welcomed and expressed love to a stranger, while they felt safe in the house of God. But you have overcome.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death (Revelation 12:11).

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Daniel

…to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.     Daniel 4:17

It was a fantastic dream and interpretation. The mightiest King in the world dreamed he was a tree that was cut down leaving only a stump. That put in motion a most unusual historic event: Nebuchadnezzar’s being removed from his throne because his heart and mind became those of an animal. Instead of recognizing that the God of heaven had given him his great dominion and clout, Nebuchadnezzar claimed that he had done it all by his own strength and power. God decided to make an example of him. For about 3½ years, according to scholars, Nebuchadnezzar crawled on all fours and ate grass like an animal. His hair grew so long it looked like bird’s feathers on his head, and his finger nails grew into human claws. Needless to say, he could not rule and he was removed from the throne.

Amazingly, it was a temporary removal. Amazing because kings in those days had a palace guard to protect them, a food taster to make sure they weren’t poisoned, and probably slept with a dagger under the pillow for immediate self-defense if necessary. There was always someone looking to dispatch the monarch and take his place, or like a puppet master put their own man in his place. If a king became physically ill or too old he might be comfortably retired (if not killed) and, of course, the same would occur if an emperor lost his mind and began living like an animal. So when Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind, what you would have thought would happen was: sayonara, so long, goodbye, resize that crown for the new king, lock the old king up, cut his throat, bury him deep, hail to the new king. But that’s not what happened, not by a long shot. After more than three years of supernaturally imposed insanity, God gave Nebuchadnezzar his mind back, and Nebuchadrezzar was restored his crown, throne, and kingdom.

How did such an unlikely thing happen? God made it happen to show that he is the ruler of all the kingdoms of men in this world, and he sets upon the throne whoever He will. It’s a message to leaders in all the world. No matter how powerful and cruel, and invincible you may think you are God can remove you. So you kings, and presidents, and prime ministers, and such people of power if you wish to extend your rule be of service to the God of Heaven. Do what He demands of government which is be His servant to do good, and give Him glory not yourself!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Ezekiel

But when the people of the land shall come before the LORD in the solemn feasts, he that entereth in by the way of the north gate to worship shall go out by the way of the south gate; and he that entereth by way of the south gate shall go forth by the way of the north gate: he shall not return by the way of the gate whereby he came in, but shall go forth over against it.     Ezekiel 46:9

This verse refers to the worship of God’s people in the rebuilt Temple. One application here is that the symbolism of going into the Temple by one gate and leaving by another is a picture of true worship in the sense that God expects us to go in a new direction when we are in a right relationship with Him. Worship should change us. For the Christian our theme for worship should be, in the words of James Rowe’s old hymn, “I Would Be Like Jesus.” Regular, faith filled, biblical worship will make us more and more like Him. Week by week, worship by worship, personal or corporate. Metanoia is the Greek word for repentance in the New Testament. It means turn around, change direction, go God’s way. It’s a word for unsaved and saved alike.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

2 Devotional Thoughts from Ezekiel

And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and they’re doing: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord God.     Ezekiel 14:23

God had brought serious punishment to His people: death, destruction of cities, captivity and deportation. Though they had sinned, like most people when things go wrong their cry would be, “Why are you letting this happen to us, O Lord?” What God says in this verse is very comforting. I have not done this randomly. I have not done it without cause. What you have experienced is the result of your own choices, your own sins, your own disobedience, your own disfigured faith. His people deserved what they got, but there was more in God’s action than punishment. There was His purpose in restoring them to right fellowship with Himself, repairing their faith, making them His people again like they were in better days, giving them a new start.

Christians should apply this concept, that God has a purpose in what happens, to their own lives, and difficulties, and setbacks. They should not view them as punishments (although what Ezekiel refrerences here regarding God’s ancient people was a direct punishment), but situations that help reveal God’s purpose in our lives. His grace is sufficient for us!

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.     Ezekiel 36:27

Having the Spirit of God in them was a new thought to God’s people of the Old Testament. But he tells them, one day He will put His Spirit “in” them, and through His Spirit will cause them to live, vibrantly, within  God’s rules. The ministry of the Spirit is dynamite that blasts away the sin, and hard headedness, of God’s people. By God’s grace, we New Testament Christians have God’s Spirit indwelling us from the moment of the new birth in Christ.

I believe that the ministry of the Spirit is so dynamic that if a new Christian was born again in true faith in Jesus, that even if he/she did not have the Guidebook, the Bible, that the Spirit would begin to make changes in lifestyle in that person by His impact on the heart and soul and mind. But the usual path of righteousness in Christian living is for the Holy Spirit of God  to take the word of God, which the Spirit Himself inspired, and teach and apply it in the lives of believers. Harry A. Ironside, the great preacher of the 20th century wrote; “A word filled Christian is a Spirit filled Christian.”

The way of Christian growth is being regularly in God’s word through reading and hearing it preached in worship, believing, obeying, and living it. So read it, pray it, go to church and hear it preached, share it, and your Christian growth is assured. It will be consistent and strong. Trust the Spirit to cause you to be God’s person in the way God wants you to be His person.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

3 Devotional Thoughts From Ezekiel

Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.     Ezekiel 9:9
What kind of ideas are in the minds of people who feel that they are free to sin terribly with no spiritual consequences? An underlying sinful mental attitude is expressed here in this verse. What were they thinking! They were thinking: “We can do what we want because God is not paying attention. He has forsaken the earth. He is very deistic; and He can’t even see what’s going on. Yes, we are told that once He did see what was going on, but that was then and this is now.” In today’s world the thought is very similar. If it were systematized and expressed aloud many might say: “We don’t believe God exists anymore, at least not in the way that the ancients believed it. If He sees what we’re doing He can’t do anything about it or won’t do anything about it anyway, so why not do what we want to do. Without God there are no consequences, so blood and perverseness can be our new normal.”
If you are in that crowd, let me respond with a bit of preaching, You’ll be sorry in the long run!

And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.     Ezekiel 11:5
I  know… every one of them. Does God know what no one else does about you? Can God discern the good and evil in your life? Can God literally evaluate your behavior because He knows the thoughts and intents of your heart (cf. Heb. 4:12)? Can you hide anything from God even though you keep it to yourself and never let it out of your mind? No! Do not harbor evil in your inward parts for God sees!

Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off.     Ezekiel 12:27

This is also a very modern idea. It can't happen here. It won’t happen here, and if it does it will be a long time coming. It will be in a time far, far away - our land being conquered? - not much chance of that. Our land being occupied - not much chance of that. Beheading here, crucifixions here, starvation here, religious wars here? Maybe in 1000 years, but not now. The people of the world are too good for that. They are not sinners. That’s a very modern idea. Do not count on it! Pray that your country does not become a spiritual and physical desolation.

Monday, June 15, 2015

 A Devotional Thought From Ezekiel
Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.     Ezekiel 7:23
What happens when a people so yield themselves to sin that they fill the streets of their own hometown, and their nation as a whole, with the blood of their own people? In the case of God’s people who did this in ancient days, it was the precursor to “chains” for them when an aggressive enemy would conquer their land. Blood in the street leads, one way or another, to captivity.
Whatever the reason; bad schools, minimal welfare payments, a too low minimum wage, the war on drugs, corrupt politics, or whatever the populace complains of; the reality is that people in the cities who are filling the streets with violence do themselves no good. Baltimore, Chicago  are just a two examples of the danger and death and fear that violence brings to the urban areas. In the U.S. as of today the Gun Violence Archive reports over 22,000 shootings this year with 5,650 deaths among them. Such violence in the streets sets a city and a nation up for a fall.
There is no justification for murder and mayhem; drive-by shootings, drug dealing and drug abuse, muggings, rapes, riots, and racial hatred. When people do, or allow, this kind of violence in their communities, they lay the foundation for their own judgment and a spreading pestilence of desolation, that can bring down their own nation.
So what are inner city people to do? How can they begin to straighten out their critical situation? Some would say just leave it to the government. Of course, the government has not been able to solve these issues for decades, and it seems to be getting worse. Government can help, but, in reality, only when the people themselves are working for themselves.
They can begin by repenting of the sins that are killing one another, and making the streets unsafe for all. Get rid of the illegal guns, and refuse the illegal drugs. Respect the rights of others no matter their race, religion, gender or class.
Second, take advantage of what advantages you have. For example: Get the best you can out of the school you attend, even if it’s not the best school, be a good worker even if it’s not the best job.
Peacefully work the politics of personal improvement. Educate yourself to the reasons for the failure of your city, and propose solutions.
Vote in leaders who are willing to positively change the status quo.
Continue to work, save, be a responsible consumer buying only what you can afford and pay for. Pay your bills, find innocent and pure entertainment. Overtime such behavior can transform a life situation.
Develop a culture of good manners, good neighbors, good neighborhoods, good children and teens.

Poverty,  need for education, past problems can all be overcome in an individual’s life, or a city’s or nation’s, but it is not easy, it takes time, dedicated commitment to personal and political change, self-denial, and hard work. Violence and blood in the streets hinders the overcoming.