Our Worship is Often a Response to What God Gives Us

worship

Genesis 28:10-22 (NIV)

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.  15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord[d] will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

 

Jacob was on the run.  Ignoring God’s promises, he had betrayed his family, stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing.  As a result, he feared for his life.  In Jacob’s confusion and guilt, he needed a fresh revelation of who he was and who God was.  With his head on a rock, Jacob fell asleep on night, and God initiated the revelation through a dream, convincing Jacob of His presence and purposes.  God revealed to Jacob that He had no boundaries, in contrast to the prevailing idea that gods had power only over a defined territory.  Jacob became awestruck by God’s power and availability.  If we were in Jacob’s sandals that night, we may have also shouted “How awesome is this place!”

We see in this story a pattern repeated throughout the Bible.  First, God reveals who He is and what He has already done for us.  Then comes our response: we choose to allow the weight of our lives to rest upon the person and promises of God, fully revealed in Jesus.  That response becomes our worship.

God reminded Jacob that He was the God of his fathers, that He would keep His covenant promises, and that He would be with him and guide him.  Jacob responded with worship, building a monument and making a vow to God.

Matt Redman, a Christian musician, once said, “All worship is a response to a revelation- it’s only as we breathe in more of the wonders of God that we can breathe out a fuller response to Him.”  I could not agree more.

God has revealed Himself to us in Jesus and wants to make Himself known to us personally in our daily lives.  Receiving that revelation and then responding to it is the truest form or worship that we can offer.

This week, let’s make a special emphasis, in our own lives, to spend some extra time in praise to God, thanking Him for His promises and encouragement that He gives us in our lives.  He really is the best friend we will ever have.  We need to make sure we are treating Him accordingly!

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Why We Should Be a Mentor/Mentee

mentor

Have you ever heard someone say, The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know?  I’ve heard it, and I’ve said it.  It is inevitable that as you learn more about something or someone you realize how clueless you actually were up to this point.  That’s exactly what has happened to me when I got married to my wife, Stephanie.  It happened again when I became a parent to my son, Matthew.  I learned so much.  I still made and continue to make plenty of mistakes, but it does seem that the frequency of those mistakes is getting less and less frequent.  I am learning slowly, but steadily.

For the past 6 years, I have been involved with a men’s discipleship group.  There are four of us and we meet on Thursday nights.  There are two older gentlemen in the group who are grandparents and two of us younger guys.  Both of us younger guys have gotten married and had our first child in the time we have been meeting as a group.  We get together and we discuss God, the Bible, and our lives.  There is not an important decision in my life that I make without going through this group first.  They provide me with amazing advice and help keep me accountable as a man of God.

Now that I am a parent, I am seeing that my role of being a mentee to older, wiser men, is switching to the role where I will play the part of the mentor to my child.  He will look to me to be his example.  As he grows older, he will hopefully come to me for advice.  In addition, I have set a goal for myself to find someone who could benefit from my experience and be a mentor to them.  I am still working out exactly who that is going to be.

The more I can teach others, the more I will learn myself.  It’s one of the greatest ways to learn and one of the greatest ways to grow.  I will always still need a mentor myself.  A person who has walked the road I’m currently on.  It is also important that I let what I have learned flow out into someone else who could use my help.

If we want to see real growth in our lives, we all need to find a mentor to guide us and at the same time, be a mentor to others by sharing the lessons that we’ve learned.

Here are three steps we can take to do this:

 

Be coachable

One of the greatest character traits we can have is to be humble.  Admitting we don’t know it all is a form a humility, and then being willing to learn from others is the action that follows.  Without coaches and mentors in life, I’d still be struggling in some areas and making some of the same mistakes over and over again.  I still make some of the same mistakes.  However, when I admit to myself and even to others that I don’t know then I’ve given myself a great opportunity to learn and grow.  And change happens next.  Change in our marriages, change in our parenting, change at work, and change in how we live our lives.  The key word is change.

 

Start where you are and use what you have

There were times in my life where I wasn’t sure how to find a mentor or what makes a good mentor.  And, of course, there were times where I felt there is no way I can help anybody as I don’t know what I’m doing myself.  I’m certain you can relate to that as well.

Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be this great and complex process.  Who do you know personally that you’ve learned something from, that has experienced something you have yet to, and is where you would like to be in a particular aspect of your life?

The same goes for being a mentor.  What have you learned from your experiences?  There are plenty of people, both youth and adults, who can benefit from your experience.  The first that should come to mind are your kids, if you are a parent.  We must start with our kids, but don’t end there as our mentorship is needed for others.

 

Find one, be one, and walk with one

The first (find one) and probably the most important is a life mentor who can pour into you.  Someone who has been there and done that and can help guide you.  The second (be one) is having a mentee, or someone younger or less experienced than you, that you can pour your knowledge, lessons, and experiences into.  The third (walk with one) is a peer or peer group.  People who are at or near that same stage of life, development, and experience as you.  These are people who walk side by side with you.  That completes a circle of learning for you and allows you to get the most out of what you learn and what you experience.

 

God did not design us to do life alone.  We are surrounded with people we can learn from and also people we can teach.  Let’s choose today to make the most of our opportunities to be both.  Only through these types of relationships will we grow into the people that we were designed to be.  Only through these types of relationships can we reach our full potential.  And that is what we really want isn’t it?

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Finding the Balanced Life

balance

Self-confidence is an ideal balance of trusting our own abilities and judgement, and having humility and earnestly learning from others.  Consider the example of a finely tuned guitar.  Even if 5 strings are perfectly in tune and only one string is out of tune, the resulting sound when you strum all the strings will cause a sound that just doesn’t sound good to the ears.  One trait out of harmony can cause our personal growth to slow or even be stunted.  We all know the person that thinks they already possess everything they need to know.  Some of us have teenagers that would be considered under this category.  We also know that person who is full of potential, but simply has no confidence in themselves.  When we are constantly growing and learning, we are also building our experience and knowledge.  Which, in turn, leads to the perfect balance of self-confidence.

I have found that throughout my life, my own personal growth has been stunted on more than one occasion.  The thing I struggle with in my life is criticism.  I don’t like to be told that I am doing things wrong.  Part of that comes from my strong inner desire to please people.  It has been a real roadblock for me at different points in my life.  I can think back on times my parents, other family members, teachers, and friends have given me advice, but I was too proud to follow it.  It cost me big time on more than one occasion.  If I could have listened a little better and not been in the mindset that I knew better than what they were telling me, I would be a lot better off today.

I can also think back on some opportunities I had in my life, but did not do them or go after them because I was scared and lacked the confidence to think I could succeed in those opportunities.  I allowed opportunities to pass me by because I was scared.  I am not saying that I regret where I am now, in life, because I don’t.  I am right where I am for a reason, but I could have had some additional great experiences along the way if I had only had a little more self-confidence.

So what are the habits that encourage and produce a balanced life?

Here are four habits that I think are the most critical:

 

Personal Discipline

If you’ve ever spent time in the military or around people who have been, you will quickly learn the importance of personal discipline.  In my case, I learned the same types of things through my experience with playing college football.  The entire chain of command depends on starting with the basics.  This includes sleep habits, detailed planning and scheduling, and organization.  Procrastination should become a foul word to you.  As a creative type, that’s the most difficult thing for me.  Push yourself to master the things that are most difficult for you.  The overall goal of personal discipline is to eliminate waste, the same as you would if building a family budget.  If you get the proper rest, schedule and plan ahead, and organize your day-to-day properly, you’ll be shocked at what you get accomplished.

 

Setting Priorities

My wife, Stephanie is one of the most successful and balanced people I know.  She pulls off being a mom, a wife, and having a major career better than anyone I know.  How?  She’s outstanding at personal discipline and setting priorities.  She doesn’t waste time and effort on fantasy and the frivolous.  Her priorities are family first, work/responsibility, and quality of life, in that order.  Most importantly, she keeps God in the center of all things.  Her faith determines her ethics and priorities.

 

The Right Attitude

Attitude is so important to balance and success.  Ideally, our attitudes should lean heavily towards the positive, with a good dose of sober reality, humility, and confidence.  We don’t want to be so overly positive that we lose the ability to understand things as they really are.  Sober reality is seeing your abilities with vivid clarity.  It is about knowing what you aren’t so great at.  For instance, not everyone can sing will.  No amount of positive thinking is going to change that.  If we evaluate ourselves with clarity, it brings forth our strengths even greater because we’ve eliminated where we would be wasting our efforts.  Our optimism is then raised.  We need to learn to see both sunshine and storms as opportunities.

 

Get Out of the Comfort Zone

Getting into life ruts brings on the feeling of mundane boredom and stagnation.  To avoid feeling rigid and trapped, we have to get out of the places we feel comfortable and try new experiences.  This can be accomplished in the many ways our creative minds lead us.  Read new things.  Start a conversation with someone different from you.  Volunteer to help the poor.  Try speaking in public.  This is where our “quality of life” is nurtured.  Being a parent for the first time has taken me way out of my comfort zone.  It turned my former life upside down and changed everything.  I was scared to death as I saw it coming, but in the midst of all the change, I have come to know life through my son.  What I have experienced has opened up my world to the possibilities of what life can be like.  It has brought my world to a level I was not even aware of before him.  Sometimes to experience the life we were meant to live, we just have to get out of our own way.

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Listening Could Change Your 2019

 

Proverbs 19:20 (NIV)

20 Listen to advice and accept discipline,
    and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

 

Isn’t it interesting how we think about a new year?  We tend to think more of losing that extra 10 pounds than on gaining deeper, more vibrant relationships?  The beginning of a new year gives us a choice regarding the core relationships in our lives.  For men who are single or for those who are married, we are all in the workshop of relationships.  Wouldn’t it be great if we made the choice to become more like Jesus in every relationship?  What would that look like?  What if we made a commitment to every member of our family?  The following resolution could be a game-changer in 2019 for anyone close to you, but especially in your marriage.

Each day I commit to really listening to your voice, to engage in the process of validation, which is the first step toward intimacy.  When you are speaking to me, instead of thinking about my response, I will simply listen.  I will listen to your point of view and try to find the kindest, least offensive way for sharing mine.  I will learn to trust a little more, lean in a little closer, and risk vulnerability.  As I do so, I will base our connection on forgiveness.  Today I will begin to release the baggage so that I may fully embrace you.  As Christ walks in grace with me, I will walk in grace with you, knowing that will ultimately bring healing to the wounds of my past.

I know that when it comes to listening and being empathetic with my wife, Stephanie, I have fallen horribly short in the past.  I don’t want that to be the reality.  I want her to know that I am focusing on changing that in this New Year.  I want to be kinder and gentler in my communications with her and want her voice to be more fully heard.  I pledge to her that I will do my best to improve in this area.

Max Lucado said, “The meaning of life.  The wasted years of life.  The poor choices of life.  God answers the mess of life with one word: “grace.””  I think we could all do a little better with giving more grace to others, just as Jesus gave to us when we didn’t deserve it.

I challenge each of us to reflect today on how we can grow as a listener in 2019.  I also challenge us to write our own resolution for becoming better listeners.  Then share it with those we love the most.  We need to take the challenge of Proverbs 19:20.  We all need to strive to be better listeners and to grow in wisdom.

Here are a couple of questions for us to think about this week:

  1. Why is it so important for the ones you love to be heard?
  2. What is your greatest obstacle to listening to them?

I know that I am not a great listener, but I am going to do everything I can to get better at this in 2019.  Who knows, maybe I can lose 10 pounds too.  That would just be icing on the cake!

 

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A Time to Celebrate

Nehemiah 8:10-18 (NIV)

10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written.

16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.

18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.

 

The Christmas season provides moments for fathers to engage their children.  How can we maximize this time to pass on spiritual truths to our families?  The original derivation of the word holiday comes from the words holy day.  Christians can seize opportunities all around us for recognizing Christmas as a holy holiday.  God wove the remembrance of special days into the fabric of His people’s existence.  He instructed the Jews to set aside certain days and weeks as holy days, such as the Feast of Tabernacles.  Nehemiah led God’s people in the celebration of this feast as they remembered His guidance and protection during their desert wanderings.

Those lessons serve as models for today.  According to this chapter in the book of Nehemiah, celebrations can include remembering God’s past works, hearing His Word, feasting on good foods, and worshiping with believers.

Frank McKibben said, “This is Christmas; not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ.”  We all need to remember that.

As dads, we need to lead the way in celebrating this Christmas Eve.  Don’t be a Grinch; be a celebrator!  Get excited about the season for your family.  Turn on the Christmas tunes and fill your home with music.  May the walls of your house ring with your laughter and good cheer.  I also believe the most powerful method the Lord gave parents to influence their children is the simple practice of family worship.  In our sophisticated, high-tech age, we may be tempted to forget the potency of opening the Bible, reading it out loud, and leading the family in prayer.  God made it so simple: pick up His Word, share it with our families, and lead them to the throne of grace.  This is perhaps how we can best pass on the joy of Christmas to our families.

I want us to consider these questions on this Christmas Eve:

  1. How are you seeking to rejoice in Christ during this season?
  2. How are you leading your family in worship?
  3. If you are not a father, how could you lead your loved ones?

Now that my son Matthew is 3 years old, I am planning on starting a family tradition of reading the Christmas story to my family on Christmas Eve.  Since he has such a short attention span, I am planning on reading this story in the car to Stephanie and Matthew as we are driving from church to grandpa and grandma’s house to celebrate Christmas Eve.

I have not yet decided if I am going to read straight from the Bible or from one of the Christmas story books we have at home.  If I do read from the Bible, this is what I plan on reading:

Luke 2:1-20 (NLT)

The Birth of Jesus

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 

I hope that you too feel led to do something special with your family this Christmas Eve to help your family remember why we celebrate Christmas.  It can leave a lasting impression on everyone in your family.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

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The Impact of Godly Influence

influence-1

Daniel 6 (NIV)

It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

“May you prosper greatly!

26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

“For he is the living God
    and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
    his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves;
    he performs signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

 

Daniel had the rare opportunity to influence four different kings and their kingdoms with godly principles.  Remaining true to God often meant putting himself in danger, but he never once wavered in his convictions.  The record of his life shows us what is required of someone who wants to have a godly impact on those around him.

Complete confidence in God’s ability to protect and provide empowered Daniel to make bold decisions.  He delivered bad news to kings, even though such an act could have gotten him killed.

We see in these two other places in the Bible where this was the case:

Daniel 2:26-44 (NIV)

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:

29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.

31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king.37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all.  You are that head of gold.

39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.

 

Daniel 5:17-28 (NIV)

17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.

18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.

22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

25 “This is the inscription that was written:

mene, mene, tekel, parsin

26 “Here is what these words mean:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

 

 

Even more than that, Daniel challenged a law requiring him to violate God’s command to worship only Him.  We read about that earlier in Daniel 6:7-11.

Daniel wasn’t intent on being popular.  He was committed to doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord.  And when he had to face consequences for choosing the unpopular course of action, he did so with a calm and Christ-like spirit.  Offering no complaint, Daniel accepted the punishment of being thrown into a den of lions.  Daniel had, in fact, broken the law.

It can be so tempting to think that if we do what is right, we should be rewarded or at least protected.  But we live in a broken world, and sometimes doing what is right will actually get us punished.  How we respond to the consequences of our obedience is actually as important as the act of carrying out God’s will itself.  Our reaction is being watched and evaluated by those in our circle of influence, who might want to see if we really believe our claim that God is in control.  God is using our experience and our witness to reach others for the kingdom.

Sometimes our reactions, even more than our ultimate action, can have the most influence.  We need to ask ourselves if we want that influence to be a Godly influence or a worldly influence.  Keep in mind, it can make a world of difference.

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Today’s Obedience Can Open Tomorrow’s Door

obedience

1 Samuel 9:1-25 (NIV)

There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kishson of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.

Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them.

When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”

But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.”

Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?”

The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.” (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.)

10 “Good,” Saul said to his servant. “Come, let’s go.” So they set out for the town where the man of God was.

11 As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer here?”

12 “He is,” they answered. “He’s ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. 13 As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.”

14 They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place.

15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”

17 When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

18 Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?”

19 “I am the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart. 20 As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?”

21 Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”

22 Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited—about thirty in number.23 Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside.”

24 So the cook took up the thigh with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, “Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion from the time I said, ‘I have invited guests.’” And Saul dined with Samuel that day.

25 After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house.

 

In 1 Samuel 9, God chose Saul as the first king of Israel, but the chapter starts off on a seemingly unrelated event.  Saul’s father Kish asked him to find some donkeys that had wandered off.  Saul obeyed his father, took one of the family servants, and headed off in search of the donkeys, but to no avail.  On a tip from a woman they met, they decided to go to the prophet Samuel who might be able to aid them in their search.  Meanwhile, God had spoken to Samuel the day before and informed him that he was sending him a man from the tribe of Benjamin to anoint as the ruler of Israel.  In preparation for Saul’s arrival, Samuel planned a banquet for him and a seat at the head of the table.  When Samuel finally met Saul, he told him not to worry about the donkeys (for they had been found) and led him to the banquet hall.  The next morning Samuel anointed Saul as the king of Israel.  In one day, Saul went from being a part of the smallest tribe in Israel to being the king over all of Israel.

Think about it.  God strategically had the donkeys wander off so that Saul would travel to Samuel to be anointed as king.

When Saul’s father, Kish, had asked him to go look for the donkeys, Saul could have easily refused his father’s wish.  Going off to find donkeys was not a very glorious assignment.  It would have been so easy for Saul to have disobeyed his father.  Instead, in being obedient to the small task from his father, Saul found himself enlisted for a much larger task.

As we walk with God, we can tend to downplay those smaller insignificant tasks that come along in our lives, but being faithful in those smaller tasks will prepare us for future callings.  Those future callings could have massive influence for the kingdom.

Sinclair Ferguson, a Scottish theologian, once said, “Be obedient even when you do not know where obedience will lead you.”  It is true, but not always the easiest thing to do.

Think back to a time in your life when God has led you into something wonderful by seemingly small events.  Bet you didn’t see that door being opened.

Maybe you are a person who struggles in being obedient to God in the smaller things that no one may see.  I know that I have struggled with this on more than one occasion.  By nature, we like to get recognized for doing the right thing and it can be difficult to do the right thing when no one can see us doing it.

We never know how God is actually going to use us.  What we do know is that we need to walk in obedience.  It may open doors in our lives that we can’t even be aware of today.

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