Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day: Their Sacrifice, Our Freedom! (God Bless the USA)

Memorial Day: Cookouts, Beach, Family and friends...the 'unofficial' beginning of Summer!

But what is Memorial Day, really?

It's a time to remember.
A time to remember the sacrifice that millions of men and women and their families in our country have made over the years to fight for our nation, it's values, it's unique history, and its people.

America still stands for freedom and liberty, and there are many in this world that reject these values. At times, these threats are acted upon, and we must defend ourselves.

That's when the men and women in our military have stepped up and given themselves for something greater. They've understood that some things are worth sacrificing for. Some things are worth putting our lives on the line for, and some things are even worth dying for.

Liberty and freedom are two of those things.

Since the war for our independence, it has been necessary for men and women of courage and conviction to stand up and defend show a willingness to make 'the ultimate sacrifice'.

Jesus said "There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13)
Many have, over the years, shown a willingness to show that kind of sacrificial love...not only for family and friends, but also for fellow Americans they'll never meet!


Because we're unified as those who love freedom and liberty; those who still believe that "these truths" are self-evident: "That all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".

Today, I am thankful for the millions of men and women over the last 236 years that have sacrificed their convenience, their comfort, their health, their time, their dreams, and their lives...for America!

Today, may God bless them and their families with the awareness that they made a difference!

We honor you, veterans.

Thank you!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thrown to the Lions!

"If I follow Jesus, everything will go wonderfully"...right?

Not always.

Sometimes being faithful still leaves us open to trials, tribulations, and difficulties.

And somehow, that all fits within God's sovereign plan.

That means that, no matter what our circumstances, we are still called to "Trust and Obey"...and lean on Him to get us through!

Daniel had been faithful from the time he was a young man.

Through the violent overthrow of his homeland, the forced deportation that he and other young Israelites went through, being unfairly mistreated and 'set up' by others, and having to serve under several different tyrannical rulers, Daniel remained faithful.

Not only had he been faithful to God, but he had also been faithful in his service to the various kings. He had always shown integrity and leadership--because these things came not in response to 'nice kings' or 'good treatment', but rather from his relationship to the God of Israel!

As a result, even when things got tough, he remained faitful. Even when he was 'set up' by his fellow officers, he remained faithful to pray to his God several times a had been his custom! He did not change!

As a result, he got caught breaking a law which the king, in his pride, had signed. This law said that anyone who was caught praying to anyone except the king would be thrown into the Lions' den.

Daniel's response? Continue praying and take the risk of suffering the consequences!

When Daniel was 'caught', he didn't try to get out of it. Instead, he committed himself to
God's prayer and protection and continued being faithful.

King Darius, for his part, tried to figure a way to get Daniel out of this predicament, but couldn't. He knew they'd both been set up, and he said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you from the Lions" (Daniel 6:16)

Darius knew this was a bad situation, and he didn't sleep at all that night. He paced until early in the morning, then went to the Lions' Den, and called out: “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.”

The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God." (Daniel 6:19-23)

Daniel had continually been faithful to the Lord, and to serve those kings he was under. God had exalted him to a high office, but HAD NOT KEPT HIM FROM ALL TRIALS. Did Daniel struggle in that night? Was he afraid? Did he think his life was over?

We're not told...(although, given what he'd learned and experienced, he had reason to be confident).

Bottom Line:

Daniel was delivered from the lions! God faithfully and miraculously protected him, even though he had been allowed to go through the trial. He had not wavered. God allowed his faith to be tested, and honored his faith at the same time.

What happened next?

"Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den." (Daniel 6:24)
The King then praised Daniel's God, and encouraged others to do the same.

Lesson for us:

Next time you're going through a trial, check yourself: Have you been faithful? Are you committed to continually serving and honoring the Lord, no matter your circumstances?

If so, and the trial comes anyway, commit yourself to Him, call on His name, call out to Him in prayer, and HAVE FAITH that He will deliver you and get you through.

In doing so, He will use you to bring eternal glory to Himself...and it just may be that others (like King Darius) will give Him praise because of it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Keep Doing What you Do! (He never lets go!)

How faithful are we at following the Lord, and doing what we know is right?

It's easy when there's no opposition, but what if the pressure is built up? What if outright opposition or even 'persecution' begins?

What do we do then?

Reading Daniel Chapter 6 challenges me at this point.

Daniel has been through a lot in his life--the overthrow of his country, forced exile, unfair treatment...but he has always remained faithful to the Lord, God of Israel. Consequently, God has blessed him and caused him to prosper under a variety of rulers. He always seems to 'rise to the top'. All along the way, he always makes sure to 'give his all', being faithful to give his very best work, no matter who the ruler is over him. As a result, those rulers raise him up also!

Until a new king with some new 'rulers' comes in...that's when the going gets really tough.

King Darius, of the Medo-Persian empire, overthrows Balshazzar of Babylon. He establishes his own rulers, princes, etc., but he retains at least Daniel as one of the rulers. Daniel continues to excel in his work, so he is raised up and promoted. This does not go over well with the other administrators and high officers, so they try to find grounds to get him into trouble.

From this chapter, we can learn different lessons, depending on who we pay attention to. We can learn from Daniel, we can learn from the King, and we can learn from the co-administrators to Daniel.

Looking at lessons to learn from Daniel, it's easy to see the lessons:

Keep your integrity; Stay faithful to God!

The other administrators try to trap Daniel in his work. They assume he'll cut corners, be open to bribes, etc. They think they can trap him in some corruption and get him removed, but as hard as they search, they can't!

"Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy." (Daniel 6:4)

Daniel showed integrity in all his works. He was not a politician, but rather a servant of God. Consequently, he was not open to bribes, corruption, etc. (Yes, it is possible to remain true to the Lord while in a high position!)

In fact, try as they might, Daniel's enemies can't find anything against him.

They finally are left with one conclusion: "So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” (Daniel 6:5)

Can you imagine that?
A leader who's enemies can only find fault against him in his relationship with God?!

How refreshing that would be!

So, what do they do?
They turn his devotion to his God into a problem.

They go to the king with a proposal...

“Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” (Daniel 6:6-9)

Daniel's enemies set him up! And they use Darius' ego against him!

They butter Darius up, feed his desire to be 'over' everything, and suck him right into their evil plan...he goes along with it, and signs the decree.

Daniel's response is classic, and something for us to learn from:

"But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God." (Daniel 6:10)

Daniel carried on with his prayers and devotion to the Lord, God of Israel. His faithfulness was not effected by opposition. He knew that the only reason he had risen to high positions in these governments was because God was with him, and he was not going to stop being faithful to God!

When opposition arises in our world, what do we do?

Do we crumble, give in, and go along?
Do we shrink back, trying to remain unnoticed?
Do we make a big production out of our opposition? or
Do we remain faithful to God, doing what we've always done?

Daniel chose the last course of action, and God protected him through it...but not without Daniel paying a price and enduring some serious consequences!

More on that next time, in the meantime, BE FAITHFUL! Keep Doing What You Do, no matter the opposition, no matter the cost!

He will never let you go!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who's In Charge?

Who's your 'boss'?

Most of us work for someone else...who is it?

Do you know who your boss is?

It's possible that, if you work for a big company, your 'boss' also has a 'boss'. There are lines of authority.

Your boss can't go off and make stuff up on his own, and he or she does not have the right to change policy, just because they think it 'should be' a different way.

They are in charge of some people, but they are accountable to others.

Truth is, even those at the highest levels of the corporate ladder...and even the 'owners' are accountable to someone.

Maybe it's shareholders, maybe it's some government agency... Ultimately, of course, we are ALL accountable to God (even those who don't acknowledge Him).

Jesus knew 'authority' well.

Once, when He was in Capernaum, a Roman Centurion came to Him for help. A servant of his--one he loved like a son--was sick and near death. This Centurion was not the 'typical' Roman...he loved the Jewish people, and even helped build a synagogue! He came to Jesus to ask Him to heal his servant.

Jesus was going to go with him, but the Centurion turned to Jesus and said: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” (Matthew 8:8-9)

This guy knew what real "authority" was! He understood what it was like to have such authority that he could say 'go', and his men would go!

As a result, he understood Jesus' authority--that all He would have to do was say the word, and his servant would be healed! He KNEW of Jesus' authority!

Jesus' response? "When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!...Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour."(Matthew 8:10-13)

Jesus knew that this man understood that HE HAD AUTHORITY that NO ONE else did!

Jesus, after all, was the divine Son of God.
He was "the Word, made flesh" (John 1) He still is!

So, do we treat Him and His Word this way? ...or do we put ourselves in the seat of power? ourselves the 'right' to make decisions as we see fit--according to what we think is 'right'?

As a Christ follower, I am to follow Him in every area of my life--my morality, my beliefs, my behavior, my relationships.

I do not have the right to reject what His Word says, because I don't 'think it's fair'.

There are many in this world who forget that.

Christ followers who have forgotten their place.

We sit under HIS authority, submissive to His Word and His Example. We will never do it perfectly in this life, but we certainly can't use that fact as an excuse to abandon our rightful position--at His feet!

No matter who you are--Teacher, Boss, Parent, Pastor, President, or any other role of authority, we must remember:

We answer to Him.
We follow Him.
We submit to Him--in word and in deed.

No matter what others say.

Remember that today--no matter what goes on around us, we are His. He has authority.