Jul 02

What Have I Done?

Have you ever made a decision and immediately regretted it, or at least soon after regretted it? We are emotional creatures. Emotions are not the enemy however. We have to understand that God is the One who created and gave us our emotions. The problem comes in when we allow our emotions to rule us, instead of us ruling over our emotions. This is what we see in the opening chapters of the book of Esther. The king has decided to throw a party. At the end of this big, long party, the king basically invites everyone around the palace to join in on the party. After the king has had more than enough wine, he decides he wants to show off his beautiful wife to everyone. However, Queen Vashti refuses to come. This infuriates the king, though truth be told, it probably embarrassed him more than anything. This is a good place to say that intoxication and embarrassment in a public setting never end well. The king huddles with his advisors about what he should do in light of the queen’s insubordination. One of his advisors, most likely trying to keep order in his own house more than anything, tells the king to banish the queen. Have I mentioned that being intoxicated and making decisions never goes well? Well, it doesn’t, and the king listening to this advisor proves it. The king makes the decree and it is done. However, like so often happens, when the king calms down he has an “uh oh” moment. It is recorded in Esther 2:1, “After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her.” Not only has he removed his wife from being queen, but he has kicked her out of his sight forever. Normally, we would try to undo what we had done. However, the law of the Medes and Persians couldn’t be altered. There are some really important lessons in this story that I think we should learn, especially in light of the events in our nation

First, don’t make decisions when you are emotional. One of the worst things you can do is make a decision when you are either on an emotional high or an emotional low. Decisions made in the heat of the moment are seldom good decisions for the long term. This is especially true when you are angry. James 1:19-20 says, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Second, make sure that the people you are listening to have your best interest at heart. If you were to go read in Esther 1, the decision is recommended to remove Vashti because other women would hear how she refused the king, and the thought was that other women would do the same. Therefore, I argue that this decision was made by the king’s advisor more out of fear than sound logic. Not everyone who wants to give you wisdom is wise. Not everyone who wants to give you wisdom has your best interest at heart. Therefore, be careful who you listen to. Finally, we don’t want to miss the big theme not only of this story, but of the entire book of Esther. The main point is the sovereignty of God. We can see God’s hand moving pieces into place for events that are going to happen years down the road. Although God’s name is never mentioned in the book of Esther, you can absolutely see His hand moving throughout the entire book. So, what are some practical steps we can take to help us not make emotional decisions?

  1. Take a step back and breathe. Emotional decisions are generally the worst decisions made. When you find yourself upset, and wanting to make a rash decision, take a step back and ask yourself a question, am I going to be this mad or upset about this tomorrow as I am right now? Most of the time, we are mad in that moment, but like the king here, given some time our anger subsides. The problem with emotional decisions is the devastation they cause that can’t be undone. You may be mad right now, and then you make a rash decision, but later you calm down, but the damage is done. Now, there are times in which you would be just as upset tomorrow as you are right now. If that is the case, deal with it tomorrow. Time is your friend here as it can keep you from doing something you will regret.
  2. Pray and read the Bible. One thing that I have noticed, at least in my life, is that the things that often make me the most upset are not sinful things, rather they are personal preferences. Just because someone does something different from the way I do it, doesn’t mean that they are wrong. Take time to pray and read the Bible to see if this is something that we should truly be upset over. Is it a hill worth dying on?
  3. Seek wise counsel. Proverbs 11:14 tells us that there is “safety in a multitude of counselors.” Again, be careful who is advising you. But it is good to go to men and women that you trust, men and women you know that pray, and that want what is best for you. Tell them what has happened, and what you are thinking about doing. Ask them to pray about it, and set a time to talk with them. Be specific in your conversation. Nothing is worse than someone asking for wisdom when they only give you partial information.
  4. Test their counsel against what the Bible says. As great as it is to have counselors, they are fallen, sinners just like you and I. They may not mean to intentionally mislead you, but it is always possible. Therefore, when they share their wisdom, listen to it, but test it against what the Bible says. The ultimate source of wisdom is God, therefore He must be the One that guides us in our decision making.

I sincerely hope this will help all of us avoid making decisions today than we will regret tomorrow. It doesn’t mean that we won’t mess up. When we do, we go to God confessing our sin, and we go to the person we hurt and ask for their forgiveness. Don’t let one moment define your future.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | 2 Comments
Jul 01

Brokenness

Has something ever happened in your life that broke you? Not financially, but rather mentally or emotionally? There have been several moments like that in my life, and I’m guessing in yours as well. The first one was the death of my grandfather back in 2002. Then there was the death of Diana’s cousin, J.D. just a few years ago. The latest one was the death of my brother-in-law, Jeff, almost a year ago. Each of those moments became a defining moment in my life once the initial shock and pain had wore off. While a lot to people want to say that adversity builds character; if you have been a frequent reader of the blog or heard me teach at WBC, you know that I have a different take on that. I don’t believe that adversity builds character; instead, I believe it reveals our character. It also reveals our heart to us, and our desperate need for Jesus.

This is what we see in today’s text in Ezra 9. The captives have returned back to Jerusalem, the Temple has been rebuilt and dedicated. Everything seems to be going ok, but something is off. The nation that had been judged by God for 70 years previously for idolatry, was right back to doing the same things they had been doing before they were carried away into captivity. Nothing had really changed. This broke Ezra’s heart. We read in Ezra 9:5-6, “At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God. and I said, ‘O my God, I am to ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.'” Did you notice what Ezra did as he found out of the sins of his people? He fasted, he prayed, and he wept before God. He didn’t yell at the people or try to teach them through it. He knew that the only One who could help the people was God. He had a right view of God, a right view of himself, and a right view of the people. Ezra goes on to say that God would be right to judge the people again, but this time not leave a remnant. He acknowledged God’s mercy and grace to them, and how they had taken it for granted. Ezra’s prayer in Ezra 9 is one of the most honest prayers in Scripture. There was no attempt to justify what they were doing, or bargain with God. This is how we know that Ezra loved God, loved the people, and was truly broken over sin.

I can’t help but see some parallels between what happened in Jerusalem in Ezra’s day and what is going on in America right now. We have faced God’s judgment, and while there has been some change for a time; it doesn’t take long for things to go back to the way they were before. Since America is not God’s chosen people, He would be within His holiness and righteousness to wipe us out. Yet, in His grace, He continues to strive with us, giving us time to surrender to His grace. I have a few questions that have been running through my mind since reading this text that I want to write here for us to consider. First, Christian, when was the last time you were broken over your sin? Second, when was the last time you were broken over the sins of our nation? Next, when was the last time you truly committed yourself to praying for this nation? For the people to turn from their sin and turn in faith to Jesus? Are we guilty of praying for something for a little while, but then abandoning praying for it? Do we spend more time venting to others and at others about the condition of our nation than we spend in crying out to God to soften hearts and make them receptive to the Gospel? Finally, do we want God to bless us without us having to live according to His Word?

I would submit to each of us, America needs our prayers more than they need our lectures. We can teach the Word of God for as long as we want, as passionate as we want; but if the Spirit of God is not striving with the people, and calling them to repentance, what we say is going to fall on deaf ears. If people are to be saved, it will not be because of my words or your Words. It will be because the sovereign grace of God will have saved them. Maybe, what we need to be doing more of is being like Ezra. We need to get on our knees and on our face before God and pray that He would soften our hearts, and their hearts. May we commit ourselves to daily crying out to God in confession for our sin, our nation’s sins, and for people to surrender to God’s grace and be saved.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 30

Preparation Before Purpose

Would you arrive at the start line for a 5k race without any training or without stretching first? My guess (and hope) is that you wouldn’t do that. You wouldn’t do that because you would be unprepared for the race, especially if you had spent the last six months being a couch potato. Your body wouldn’t be ready to do from sofa spud to running man/woman. Without stretching you are elevating the risk of injury to yourself. We all know that preparation is a key to success. Why then do we try to serve God without first allowing Him to prepare our heart? We are a society that prides itself on producing results. However, I believe the Bible would argue that the preparation of our heart is more important than what we do. Who we are in the Lord is more important than what we do for the Lord. This becomes evident in the life of Ezra the priest. Ezra 7:10 says, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Notice the order of events: heart preparation and change led to obedience, and then finally it was time to teach others. This is the same process that we saw David go through in Psalm 51.

Ezra knew his purpose and the way he was going to be used by God. However, knowing our purpose doesn’t mean we get to skip the preparation process. Ezra had a several month journey ahead of him in walking from Babylon to Jerusalem. While we don’t know everything that happened on his journey, I can guarantee you God used those months to prepare Ezra. The same is true for you and I. What is happening in our life right now may not make a lot of sense. However, God is going to use it for a purpose you may not understand yet. As someone has said, “the heart of the matter is the matter of our heart.” Too often we rush into doing things. We measure success by how much a person can do and the results produced by their effort. Yet, we often neglect the most important aspect of being used by God. If our heart isn’t right with God, it doesn’t matter what we do or what results are produced. From preparing our heart, we then must move into obedience. You can’t teach what you don’t obey. When we try to teach something that we aren’t doing ourselves, it rings hollow. However, what people see in your life is what they are more likely to trust you to teach to them.

How is your heart? Have you, like Ezra, prepared your heart to seek the Lord? Are you diligent to have a time each day where you pray, read the Bible, and memorize Scripture? Are there people who will hold you accountable for your words and actions? These are just a few of the things that are necessary for our heart to be prepared by God. They are also necessary for us to be obedient to God. Let’s strive to allow our life to be the evidence of our words which both point others to Jesus.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 29

Learn From The Past

There is a lot of debate raging in our nation right now, about different topics. I am not going to dive into those in this post. However, this is a time in which the Bible and current events are intersecting and pointing us to the answers. I’m going to show my inner kid for a moment. There is a point in the movie, The Lion King, in which a crazy monkey named, Raffiki, finds the appointed heir, Simba. Years before, Simba watched his dad die, and Simba’s uncle, Scar, lied and blamed Simba for it. That caused Simba to run away. Years later, during their meeting, Raffikki takes his staff and whacks Simba in the head. When Simba asks why he did it, Raffiki’s response was, “It doesn’t matter it is in the past.” Simba says, “yeah, well it still hurts.” Raffiki then gives some wisdom when he says, “Ah, yes, the past can hurt. But you can either learn from it or run from it.” There is so much truth in that statement as Israel was learning in today’s text. We are going to look into the book of Zechariah. Zechariah was a prophet to Israel after they had returned from the Babylonian captivity. In Zechariah 1:4 we read, “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds. But they did not hear nor heed Me’, says the Lord.”

As Spanish-born American, George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Zechariah is warning the nation of Israel to learn from their past. This shows the seriousness of our sin. If God was willing to judge the nation of Israel, His chosen people for their sin, do we honestly think He will not judge us for ours? By not taking sin lightly, we are inviting the judgment of God into our lives. God desired to have an intimate relationship with Israel and to bless her, but it meant that they were going to have to learn from the past so that they wouldn’t repeat it in the present.

There is another lesson in this text. This one is encouraging. The lesson is that God doesn’t hold the sins of the father against his children. Therefore, the things that my father did that God says are a sin, is not something that I will have to answer for. The same is true for my children. After all, if God punished the children for what the parents did, that wouldn’t be just. What we do see in Scripture and in our lives is this, that what the parents struggle with often becomes a struggle the children have in their own lives. I still remember something I heard Pastor Jonathan Falwell say years ago. Falwell said, “What one generation does in moderation, the next will do in excess.” Look around at our nation and ask yourself, are his words happening before us? Undoubtedly they are. God holds each person to the same standard, and each person will answer for their own decisions. Therefore, we can no longer blames others for what we are doing. Our past may pre-dispose us to certain behaviors, but they don’t pre-determine what we will do. Therefore, if you are struggling with something in your life, bring it to the Lord and ask for His help. Get one or two people of the same sex in your church to talk with, pray with, and hold you accountable. If we don’t want to walk down the same roads we have walked before, we need to learn from our past, allow God to heal us, and let God lead us into the future He desires for us.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 26

The Danger of Distraction

Have you ever had a time in which your mind seemed to be going in a hundred different directions all at once? Welcome to the brain of an ADD person all the time. As someone who deals with it, I constantly have to make sure I do a few things. I will come back to that, but in today’s text we are going to pick the story up on the rebuilding of the Temple that we started looking at yesterday. At the time of Ezra 5, work on the Temple had been stopped for a while. However, two prophets came in and encouraged the elders of Israel to restart the work. Not only did the elders restart the building, but the prophets joined in the work as well. Of course, there was another attempt to stop the work. However, this time it didn’t work. Instead of waiting on King Darius to issue a decree on the building project, the elders of Israel kept working while they waited. Ezra 5:5 says, “But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, so that they could not make them cease till a report could go to Darius. Then a written answer was returned concerning this matter.” An amazing thing that stands out to me in this verse is how that even the unbelievers saw God’s hand was on Israel. A lot of times we as Christians can see God’s hand in a situation, but you know it is God moving in a powerful way when even unbelievers take notice.

Once again, the leaders of Israel had to make sure they didn’t get distracted. What makes distraction so disastrous? It is how subtle the distraction can be. There are a lot of times in which the choice before us isn’t between right and wrong. Instead, it is a choice between good and best. It is possible to be doing a lot of good things, but be sacrificing the thing that would be best to be doing. This is the real danger. I see it in the lives of Christians and in the life of churches often. We often mistake busyness for kingdom fruitfulness. Satan has learned that he doesn’t have to divide Christians to keep them from striving to make disciples as we are commanded to. All he has to do is distract us. If Satan can get us to do a lot of good things, he knows that we will often neglect the best thing. If he can cause us to measure the wrong things for success, then he can keep us running around doing work that has very little if any kingdom impact. The number one way Satan does this is to get us to focus on what we do for God, instead of us focusing on us spending time with God. In their new book, Replicate, Robby Gallaty and Chris Swain remind us of a powerful truth. Gallaty writes, “Ministry is received from God, not achieved for God” (Replicate, p. 84). The danger of distraction is that we become hyper-focused on what we do rather than who we are in Christ. So, now let’s answer this question, how can I avoid falling into the trap of ADD ministry?

  1. Pray and read the Bible. There are no shortcuts to spiritual growth in your life or in the life of a church. The answer isn’t to do more, it is to spend more time with God. Nothin will re-align our heart, mind, and life like spending time with God. We always hear people say, “I just want to know what God’s will for my life is.” That is a worthy desire, something we should all desire. However, it isn’t a guessing game. He has written His will for your life, my life, and the life of the church in the Bible.
  2. Evaluate what you are doing. This goes along with point number 1. As you spend time with God in prayer and Bible reading, He will make His will abundantly clear. Then, we have to sit down and honestly evaluate what we are doing. Is what I am doing helping me to fulfill God’s call on my life? If it isn’t, then we need to get rid of it. What happens many times is we get comfortable in our routines. We like some sense of predictability. However, it can often lead us to do things that have no tangible value in helping us accomplish what God has called us to do. This is how a good thing can become an idol.
  3. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Steps 1 and 2 aren’t a one time thing. They are something that we must constantly be doing. Unless God has specifically changed what He is calling you to do, continue the last thing He said. If God does change what you are doing, then you must let the past go and grab firmly onto what God has for you.

There are always going to be distractions all around us. Technology isn’t making it any better. This is why we must be intentional about unplugging from the world, so that we can plug into the Word. Our greatest need is intimacy with God. As we focus on having an intimate relationship with God based on prayer and His Word; He will supply the wisdom, guidance, direction, and power for us to accomplish what He desires.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 25

Faith Over Fear

Have you ever known what the right thing to do was, but struggled to do it out of fear of other people? Maybe you are the only Christian at a lunch with your co-workers, and you normally pause to pray before eating, but you notice that everyone else just started eating as soon as their food came. What do you do? I will admit that that scenario is probably over simplistic, but I bet it is something that you have dealt with at some point. Certainly, there are other issues, much bigger that cause people to have fear well up inside of them. In today’s text, Israel is now back in her land. The city still lies in ruins, but under the leadership of Ezra and others, work begins on rebuilding the Temple as we see in Ezra 3:3. Ezra 3:3 says, “Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening burnt offerings.”

Israel would have been unable to defend themselves should an attack from surrounding nations occur. However, the priests knew that the Temple needed to be rebuilt, and that they needed to learn their lessons that led to their previous captivity. In a stunning departure from their previous course of action many years ago, Israel put the work of God ahead of their own security and comfort. Many years before this, when David was king over Israel, what moved David to desire to build a Temple was that he and the other Israelites lived in nice houses, but the ark of the covenant lived in a tent. The ark of the covenant represented the very presence of God for Israel. This bothered David, and thus he desired to build a Temple. Now, what we see is Israel putting God’s work ahead of their own desires. Oh, that we all could learn so easily from our past mistakes.

What this story shows us is that we must have a greater faith in God than we have fear of man. I will admit, sometimes it is easier said than done. After all, if we can’t pause to pray before a meal even though no one else does, do we really think we would be able to stand up against those threatening our lives for our Christian faith? I doubt it. Not only do we have to deal with outright attacks, but we also have to fight the enemy of distraction. For time sake, I’m not going to chase this rabbit very far, but I think we need to put the full story together. In Ezra 4, we see some people who wanted to come and distract Israel from their work. They claimed to love God, yet it is clear they didn’t. When the leadership resisted their distractions, that set out to divide Israel from the other nations. They did this by lying to the king, and as the end of Ezra 4 tells us, it worked. The king stopped the work on the Temple and it would remain stopped for over a decade. In life, we will have some encounters with people attacking us, trying to divide us, and trying to destroy our faith. However, I would argue that our greatest enemy today is the enemy of distraction. It would have been easy for the leadership of Israel to get distracted, and do whatever they had to do in order to keep the peace and keep the work of rebuilding the Temple going. However, it would have had disastrous consequences for them. The same is true for you and I. We must know what God has called us to do, and we must commit ourselves to that work. There will be many opportunities for us to fear. In those times, let us pray that God helps us be faithful to His calling, and that our faith will be greater than our fear. The good news is this, “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 24

No Family Resemblance

I want you to imagine that somewhere along the line in your family’s history, all the genealogical records had been lost. All of your family’s history had been lost. That would be sad, because that means your family’s story would be lost. Yet, if you had some pictures of your family, there would be some resemblance. There can be no denying that my children are my children. They either look like me or act like me, or both. Every family has certain characteristics that make members of their family identifiable. The same is true for God’s children. There are certain things that will identify us to the world. Is it possible to be a member of God’s family and not have these identifiable traits? I would argue no, because I would argue that the Bible says no. In today’s text as we begin to look into the book of Ezra, we are going to get a list of family’s that came back from the Babylonian captivity. However, there were some who could not be proven as to their identity. Ezra 2:59 says, “And these are the ones who came up from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not identify their father’s house or their genealogy, whether they were of Israel.” For a Jewish person, your genealogy was everything. It was not only your tie to your family, but it was your tie to a nation and God’s promises. If you couldn’t prove your genealogy, then you were cut off from the life of a Jew.

In the New Testament, our genealogy doesn’t matter, it is whose blood has removed our sins that counts. It has never been about genealogy. People will not know that I am one of God’s children by looking back at my family line. Rather, they will know that I belong to God by how I live and how I speak. Jesus said in Matthew 7 that people would know them by their fruits. In other words, my life and my words will either give evidence that I belong to God or it will reveal the opposite. There are many people who, like the men in Ezra 2:59, claim to be a part of God’s family, but simply aren’t. This is why it is so vital for Christians to guard their heart, their mind, their tongue, and their testimony. If we want people to listen to and believe in the life-changing power of the Gospel, then our lives must give evidence to being changed by God. This is why we must constantly ask God to search our hearts and reveal who we are, and if there is any sin hidden in our lives. Can people tell who your Heavenly Father is by the way you live your life?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 23

Because of Who He Is

What I find amazing in the New Testament is that the one thing that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was to pray. Out of all the things they could have asked for, they wanted to know how to pray. I am convinced that at least part of their desire to learn to pray is the example that they had seen in Jesus. What does it look like to pray in a way that God is glorified? Daniel gives us an example of this in Daniel 9. Daniel knew that the 70 years of captivity in Babylon was coming to an end. Therefore, Daniel begins praying by asking God for mercy. Daniel prayed, “O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.” He appeals to God’s faithfulness to him and to His promises in the past. That gave Daniel confidence that God would be faithful in the present and future as well. Then, Daniel confesses his and Israel’s sin. Finally, he asks God to act based on God’s faithfulness, not because of who Israel is.

In this prayer, we see some important truths about prayer. First, it is rooted in who God is. Our prayers should be more God-focused than me-focused. While we often bring God our laundry list of wants and needs; we need to orient our mind to the One we are speaking with. There is nothing wrong with asking for God to meet our needs. However, that isn’t what we should begin with, because that causes us to focus on us more than God. When we only pray for our needs, we act as though God is a genie in a bottle, just waiting for us to rub the lamp so He can pop out and grant us whatever we want. Prayer is about God and to God. It is about glorifying Him, and seeking to please Him. Second, we need to remember why we can come to God. We can’t come to God based on who we are, or what we do. If it wasn’t for Jesus’ love and grace in going to the cross, we wouldn’t be able to come before God because of our sin. Every blessing we have is based on who God is, not because of who I am. Finally, we need to express gratefulness and trust in what God will do, knowing it will be right no matter what.

Lord, teach us to pray!

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 22

Don’t Take It For Granted

This past week, I found myself being very reflective over some events in my life. One person that came to my mind a lot was my brother-in-law, Jeff Smith, who passed away almost a year ago. For my sister and her boys they have gone through many firsts ever since August 31, 2019. Yesterday was my nephew’s first Father’s Day without their dad with them. Jeff was a mountain of a man, but was a gentle giant, a testimony to the work Jesus Christ had done in his life. I remember the day I got the call that he had passed. I had just officiated a wedding for a wonderful couple, and my family and I had just left the reception. Jeff had been battling stage four cancer valiantly. Although I knew his death was coming, I never expected that call on that day. Just like that, my sister, her boys, and my family’s lives were all changed. In typical fashion when tragedy strikes, families tend to get a little closer. We tend to learn the value of people a little better. But also in typical fashion, as time marches on those lessons learned tend to fade away.

This is the pattern we see in the Babylonian Empire in the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was the original ruler who had taken Judah into captivity. God had to humble him. Later, when Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson became king, they forgot what God had done. Therefore, here in Daniel 5, God came and delivered a message to Belshazzar. Daniel 5:21 says, “Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of the heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses.” Belshazzar has thrown a big party for the people in his kingdom, when all of the sudden a hand appears and starts writing on the wall. He was understandably frightened by this, and so he brought in all his astrologers and magicians to help him understand the writing. When they couldn’t help the king, Belshazzar’s wife remembered Daniel, and told her husband about him. Daniel was summoned and the text is part of Daniel’s speech to the king, He was recounting what had happened to Belshazzar’s grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar. Later in Daniel 5, Daniel says that Belshazzar knew all of this, but still lived for his false gods, and did whatever he wanted to do. Therefore, since the lessons had not been learned, judgment was about to fall. In fact, that night it did. The Babylonian kingdom came to an end as the Medes and Persians defeated the Babylonians and killed Belshazzar.

Maybe you are thinking that this doesn’t really apply to us, because we are not royalty or we haven’t seen writing on the wall. Of course this applies to us. How many times have we seen the “writing on the wall”, but chose to ignore it? How many times has God in His grace tried to get our attention, and call us out of our idolatry and sinful ways? When tragedy strikes, we learn our lesson for a time, but then things seem to go back to the way they were, and then they get worse. Don’t just think of this in a national sense, think about your own life. How many bad things have happened in your life, and then you swore that things would be different, and they were different for a time but then they went right back to the way they were? I remember a line in a show that Diana and I used to watch, Bluebloods. Detective Danny Reagan was busting a corporate fight ring, and he said to the two owners who started it all, “You know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” I wonder if the same can be saved of us?

Life is unpredictable. We live in a fallen, sinful world in which bad things happen all the time. We can be lulled into complacency and begin to think that things are going to stay exactly the way they are, until they don’t. The live you have right now is a valuable gift, given to you by a loving God. It is so valuable, that Jesus died to redeem your life from your sin and to give it a purpose. Everything you have is a gift from this loving Heavenly Father. Don’t take for granted what God in His grace has given you, because one day you may wake up and its no longer there.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 19

Even If

Mike Tyson has a good quote, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” He said that when asked about an upcoming opponent he was to fight many years ago, when the reporter told him that his opponent said he had a plan on how to beat Tyson. While the overwhelming majority of us will never enter a boxing ring, life sometimes feels like a heavyweight fight doesn’t it? We often make plans, which isn’t a bad thing, but what happens when those plans don’t happen. Our love and devotion to God is the most tested when life is the most difficult. In today’s text we are going to see an example of this in the life of three Hebrew boys.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in chapter two of Daniel, in which God gave Daniel the interpretation. Daniel told the king that the golden head of the statue he saw in his dream represented Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire. This is most likely why Nebuchadnezzar had a giant golden statue made. Nebuchadnezzar ordered that when the people heard the music playing, they were to bow down to the statue and worship it. However, Shadrach, Mishach, and Abed-nego refused to do so. After being told on, they found themselves in a face to face meeting with the king. After refusing the direct order from the king, they still refused to bow to the statue. This infuriated the king, so he ordered the furnace to be turned up as hot as it would go. He wanted them afraid, and he wanted them to suffer. He even told them that no one could save them from this, not even their God. To this the boys replied, “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from our hand, o king. But if not, let it be known to you, o king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

You should read that again. They said, God can save us if He wants to, but even if He doesn’t, we still won’t compromise our faith in Him. It’s easy to have a mountaintop faith. However, the true test of our faith comes when life doesn’t go the way we expect it to. If I only love God when my life is going well, then I don’t love God for who He is; instead, I love God for what He will do for me. In this case, I have reduced God down to merely a genie in a bottle. A true love for God isn’t dependent upon me getting my way, but rather a gratefulness and a trust in who God is. As I have written and taught many times, adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals our character. Our love and trust of God must extend past our circumstances. Our love for God is evidenced in our belief that God’s plan, while it may not be our plan, His plan is always the best plan and the right plan. Sometimes, our greatest disappointments lead to our biggest blessings. As I heard a pastor say one time, “even Garth Brooks knew to thank God for unanswered prayers.”

Sometimes life isn’t going to go the way we want it to. Life can be messy and it can be painful. Is your faith in God strong enough to say, even if it all goes wrong, I will love God and trust Him to make it all right in His time?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | Leave a comment