From Start To Finish

Daniel 1:21
“Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.”

I remember the first time I heard someone teaching the parable of the ‘Sower and the Soils.’They referred to the person represented by the shallow ground as a “Firecracker Christian.” That is, someone who starts out with a bang, but burns out before too long. Sadly, the landscape is filled with believers just like that. It is refreshing to read that Daniel continued in his commitment to the Lord. His life becomes a good example of how to persevere in our walk with the Lord. There are a number of key components necessary for any who desires to remain committed until the end.

First, we read of Daniel purposing in his heart, or committing himself and his ways to the Lord. This decision came about by looking at life through the filter of the Word of God. His environment presented him with a lifestyle forbidden by the Bible, and Daniel chose to follow the Word of God, instead of the ways of the world. I think we all understand that resolve alone is not enough to ensure success in our walk with Christ, however, without resolve we will never get started. The first step is to commit yourself and your ways completely to the Lord.

Second, we read Daniel did not try to make it on his own. Many from Jerusalem were taken captive to Babylon, yet, Daniel surrounded himself with like-minded men. His three closest friends were men who also wanted to be committed to  God. As we choose friends, we need to look for those whose lives will encourage us to press on with the Lord.

Third, we find Daniel was a man of the Word. He knew the proper response to temptation because he was familiar with the Scriptures. While the dietary restrictions of the Old Covenant do not apply to the Christian today, the principle of looking into the Word of God to discover how to live never changes. The Bible will not only instruct us, but has a way of feeding us spiritually, so we become strong enough to obey God when tempted. Nothing is more helpful than a healthy diet of Scripture.

Finally, Daniel was a man of faith. When challenged, he suggested a test. He would obey the Word of God and allow his boss to determine if following the Lord proved to be a better way of life than disobedience. After  a short time, it was evident to all, that doing things God’s way was better. In Christian circles, we talk a lot about faith. Daniel illustrates one of the key aspects of biblical faith, that is, we are to look into God’s word and do what it says, trusting God for the outcome.

Seventy years after chapter one begins, Daniel is still walking strong with the Lord. Kings and kingdoms had come and gone, yet Daniel remained faithful to God. His is the example I want to follow. I hope you will join in as well.

Pastor Jim

 

Neglect 

Nehemiah 10:39
“For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering… and we will not neglect the house of our God.”

Much of our life is experience oriented. We save, plan, and prepare for a trip; making sure we get lots of photos, so we can remember our experience, and share it with others. We might even put together a photo album and place it on the coffee table, making it easier to look back and remember the times we enjoyed. Sometimes, we treat our relationship with the Lord the same way. We have an encounter with the LORD, we come forward at church to receive Christ, or recommit our lives to Him. Rather than treating this as a day-to-day ongoing relationship, we simply memorialize the moment. I think it is important to remember, while salvation transpires in that moment in time when we trust in Christ, relationship with the Lord is an ongoing event, and should be a part of our daily living. This relationship includes, not only what He has done for us, but committing ourselves to be a part of the further work He desires to do.

We read here, they committed themselves “not to neglect the house of God.” That meant, they were committed to doing their part. The priests committed to their service requirement, the Levites to theirs; while the people committed to giving the first fruit of the produce, to provide for the work. Giving back to the Lord is a very important part of following Him. We give, not because God is needy, but as an expression of our love and gratitude for all He has done for us, and because we want to be a part of the work He is doing in the lives of others.

Only you can determine if you have been neglecting the house of God. Why not take a few moments to examine your commitment to Christ. What part of your time, talents, and treasures have you been giving to the Kingdom of Heaven? If you need to make adjustments now is the time.

Pastor Jim

 

Heroes In Training

1 Chronicles 12:15
“These are the ones who crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it had overflowed all its banks; and they put to flight all those in the valleys, to the east and to the west.”

As I read through 1Chronicles, I am struck by the heroic actions of those who served alongside king David. His reign led Israel to the height of their success as a nation, and resulted in establishing peace with the surrounding nations. This success was not accomplished alone, but was a result of heroic men who stood tall in the midst of great difficulty and opposition. This seems to always be the case. One person put it this way, “Heroes are not born they are made”, and it is clear it is the circumstances they faced that made their actions heroic. In other words, Heroes are made when men and women stand up against insurmountable odds and risk their own lives for the sake of others.

Those who have studied heroism, have found that the people who are most likely to take heroic steps are those who have been trained in helping others. For example, a person trained in CPR is more likely to step in and help a person who’s not breathing, than someone without any training. Our training in helping others will often spur us to act, rather than run or freeze in a crisis, even if we have never faced that particular problem before. Simply put, we can train to become a hero. As I look at this text, I am particularly encouraged by the training of David’s mighty men. Since their heroic act was crossing the swelling waters of the Jordan River, we can be certain they trained by carefully studying the pages of God’s word. It was in the quiet moments alone with God,  and while sitting with others, being reminded of God’s victories in the past, that stirred faith in these men to tackle the obstacles in front of them.

In many ways, the future is uncertain; we are never sure what difficulties we may have to endure, but we can prepare for them daily, by spending time in the Scriptures. Paul reminds us that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The more we familiarize ourselves with our Bible, the more likely we are to become a person who will act in heroic selflessness when difficulties arise in our own lives, or in the lives of others.

Pastor Jim

Will This Ever Work

1 Samuel 7:13
“So the Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel…”

Israel faced a constant threat from the Philistines. They had come into the territory promised to Israel, taken land, and threatened the people. Earlier in 1 Samuel, the nation mustered all its strength to drive the Philistines out of their territories, only to suffer a devastating loss. In that earlier battle, the people gathered around a religious artifact, went forth in all the strength they had, and were defeated. Now, some years later, we find them once again facing the same threat. This time, however, their efforts resulted in a great victory. What was the difference? How were they able to defeat an enemy which had plagued them for so many years?

1 Samuel 7:3
“Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.’”

Notice the steps that led to their success. First, they were to return to the LORD and put away foreign gods. The order here is of the utmost importance. Too often, we think we must make great changes in our lives, in order to come to the LORD. We think all that is wrong with us, must be cleaned up and fixed, before we can take the steps forward and receive forgiveness for sin. This may be the ultimate in putting the cart before the horse. We don’t clean up our act and come to Christ. We come to Christ and allow Him to clean us up. The first step is to come, and let Him transform our lives.

Step two in their return, was committing themselves to the things that mattered to the LORD. We read that they “Served Him only…” One of the main reasons people fall away from the LORD is they never really committed themselves to Him. There was the initial realization of the need of forgiveness, but never the commitment of their lives to Christ. If we want to ensure victory, there must be a commitment to serve. Ask yourself “In what way do I serve Jesus at my church?” If you have no answer for that question, then figure out how you can get involved. Help in a Sunday School class, hospitality, greeting, parking lot ministry, or join a Home Fellowship. The possibilities are endless and the impact in your personal walk will be tremendous.

Pastor Jim