Sunday, 17 December 2017

Hate evil

Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. – Amos 5.14-15

We live in a world of great evil. Of course God’s people have always lived in an evil world. When evil is that pervasive it can be hard to deal with. It is just everywhere and it seems that everyone is doing it. The easy thing to do is to just, maybe not give in, but to be accepting of just a little of the evil and not make too big a deal about it. After all, don’t we have to accept a little evil for the ultimate good? The end in reality can justify the means, right?

Except for the fact that God doesn’t see it that way. He simply says ‘hate the evil and love the good.’

God’s people in the Old Testament had no place dabbling with evil. Christians today have no business playing around with the evil. With our liberty in Christ and being free from the law a lot of folks think it is okay to mess around with the verge of evil as long as we don’t really get too involved.

But that is a wrong view of evil. God tells us how we should deal with evil and it is pretty simple – hate it, despise, have nothing to do with it, run from it. Christians have to live in an evil world, but we need to see it in all its evilness. We need to see its destructive power. We need to see it from God’s perspective.

God’s people must always stand opposed to evil. We can’t tolerate it just because those who practice it can help us achieve our goals or our ends. We should never tolerate evil in people in politics because they can help us achieve our political goals.

Hate evil – no matter what. 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Seek the Lord and live

Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel. – Amos 5.6

Amos kept reminding the people that though they were in a mess, there was an answer and a way back. They didn’t have to stay where they are. God was ready to get them back to where they needed to be. The way back was simple – ‘seek the Lord and live.’

It is amazing that God makes Himself so available to those who have erred and turned away. It seems like the natural thing would be to run and hide from those who have rejected Him, but He says that He is there for anyone who will seek him.

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him when He may be found. Those who seek me early will find me.

Why does God keep accepting those who seek Him? After rejection after rejections after rejection why does God not just say ‘enough?’

Because God is love. It is not His will that any should perish. Even when a world rejected Him and He knew most of the world would reject His son He sent Jesus to offer the gift of eternal life. The conditions? Only turn to Him and say ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ 

Friday, 15 December 2017

Prepare to meet your God

Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. – Amos 4.12

We have all the seen cartoons of a long haired guy on a busy city street holding up a handwritten sign reading ‘prepare to meet thy God.’ It is almost always played for comedic effect and some other comment is made by a passer-by and it is intended to give us a chuckle.

I guess that is all meant in good fun, but I think that there is a problem with making light of the idea of being ready to meet God at any time. It helps give the notion that preparing for God is, in essence, a joke and only worthy of some strange street prophet who is slightly off balance.

The truth is though that ‘prepare to meet your God’ needs to be something on everyone’s minds. The day is coming when every single person will one day stand before God. Some will stand with great joy and some will stand in shame and judgement.  God told Israel to be ready to meet God. That same message is one all need to hear.

Every friend and every family member and every co-worker and every neighbour we know will one day meet Him. Those who have already met Him can look forward to that day with excitement. But there is no hope for those who are not ready.

We have the way to help them prepare to meet God. Are we faithfully trying to prepare them? 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Whosoever surely meaneth me.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. – Joel 2.32

Whosoever. That’s a mighty big word. Whoever means red and yellow and black and white. It means men and women and boys and girls. It means Jew and Arab and Christian and Muslim and Buddhist and Wiccan and whatever else we label ourselves. Whoever means straight and gay and anyone else in between. Whoever means whoever.

But the greatest thing about whoever is that it means me.

I can’t the old James McConnell out of my head. It says it just right:

I am happy today, and the sun shines bright,
The clouds have been rolled away;
For the Savior said, whosoever will
May come with Him to stay.

“Whosoever” surely meaneth me,
Surely meaneth me, oh, surely meaneth me;
“Whosoever” surely meaneth me,
“Whosoever” meaneth me.

All my hopes have been raised, oh, His Name be praised,
His glory has filled my soul;
I’ve been lifted up, and from sin set free,
His blood has made me whole.

Oh, what wonderful love, oh, what grace divine,
That Jesus should die for me;
I was lost in sin, for the world I pined,
But now I am set free.

God spoke here to Israel when He said ‘whoever.’ In Romans He says that whosever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. No one is outside the gamut of whosoever – best of all even I am not outside of whosoever. 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Lord will do great things

Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things. – Joel 2.21

Fear not. Are those words not applicable to us today? There are plenty of reasons for us to be afraid it seems. The news is just crazy. Every time I turn the news on I wonder ‘what’s next?’

I also have some things in the future that I don’t know how I am going to work them out. Sometimes these things can get into my head and I can’t shake them.

These are the kinds of things that we all can have to deal with at times. They are just part of life.

We can’t afford though to let these things stop us or discourage us or get us down. If we look at them we aren’t going to get anything done because we are so focused on what we can’t do that we can’t see what God can do.

I am not sure why we get caught in that trap. It’s not like God doesn’t promise us over and over and over and over again that He is mighty and He with us and He holds our hands and nothing in impossible with Him and that He can do things that we can’t even imagine. Many of us trust Him for eternity – so why can’t we trust Him for tomorrow? 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Rend your heart

And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. – Joel 2.13

The Old Testament custom in times of great grief or remorse or repentance was to tear of your clothes and sit amongst the ashes. It was visibly a humbling and embarrassing and shameful act. The problem was that though it may have been genuine at one point eventually it became nothing more than a show. If you sinned just tear your clothes and go sit in a pile of ashes and everything would be sorted.

The truth is though that it takes make more than a show of religiousity. Something has to happen inside before the outside does any good. As a song puts it you ‘have to change your heart before you change your shirt. God says here that the way back is to rend your heart and turn to the Lord. He is ready for us to turn back because God is gracious and merciful. He is slow to anger. He is kind and it is His nature to turn from His wrath and pour out mercy.

But it all starts, not with religion, but with a change of heart. There must be a work inside or all the religion in the world is only a waste.

We Christians need to be sure that we are not just playing a religious game and putting on a churchy show. All of us need to make sure things are right in our hearts or all the giving and going to church and amening and praising the Lord and singing the songs means nothing. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

The more they had

As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.  – Hosea 4.7

The more the nation increased the more they sinned. How sad are those words? And how said it is that those words are as true today as they ever were.

I think the clearest New Testament version of this truth is these words from the angel to the church at Laodicea.

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Wealth is a danger. It can be a blessing for those wise enough to use it properly, but the danger is the more we have the more we can be tempted to think that we might not really need God so much.

There is nothing at all wrong with stuff. That is unless your stuff helps you rely on you instead of God and that is what happens far too often. That’s easy for me to say because we have never had much stuff and time after time we have had to sit back and literally watch God meet our needs. It started the day after we got married, it continues on to today, and as far as I can tell it is going to continue on in the future. I’d love to have more stuff, but I have also been blessed by depending on God on a regular basis.

No matter who we are or have or don’t have we must remember He who gives us this day our daily bread. 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

No knowledge of God

Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. – Hosea 4.1

I am reading through Hosea again and realised I missed some key truths the first time, so please pardon me if it seems like I am backtracking, because, well, I am.

Israel was a mess. These were God’s people and yet we read that there was no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. God’s people had forgotten all about God and now no one knew about Him.

Immediately I think of the passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul writes ‘awake to righteousness and do not sin, for some don’t have any knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.’

We live in a world with no knowledge of God. All around us people are living their lives and dying and facing eternity never knowing the Creator of heaven and earth.

And, to some extent, that is to our shame. We are not sharing our faith as we should. We are not revealing a knowledge of God in our lives. We are not living our faith. We are not sharing His truth.

There is no knowledge of God – and it is our job to share it. 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

I will heal their backsliding

O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips. Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy. I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. – Hosea 14.1-4

We have one more passage about the process and recovery from backsliding here. The first step of course is acknowledging our sin, getting back into the word of God, and turning to Him.

I remember my one serious backsliding time. It was the autumn of 1975 to the spring of 1976. I had been saved about 18 months when I went back to college in Pennsylvania and decided to hang out one night with a bunch of old friends. It started out innocently enough until they started passing around a bottle. I started drinking with them and it went downhill from there. I spent the next few months playing the hypocrite. I would party Friday and Saturday and find some way to get up and go to church on Sunday. I went many Sundays with a hangover and even did sign language interpretation with a headache.

All the while I knew what I was doing. I wasn’t reading my Bible, wasn’t praying, and was the epitome of a ‘Sunday Christian.’ I was coming back to my dorm one night and a friend said ‘Parrow, you better not ever preach that Jesus stuff to us again because now we know it’s not real to you.’


That hit home and it was enough of a wake-up that I knew I had to get back on track. It was hard at first because I knew what I had been doing for months. I was ashamed. But I knew I had to go back to Him.

I admitted my sin, that was easy enough because it was so obvious. I repented and asked God to forgive me. And He was waiting there for me and with my repentance and confession He healed my backsliding and took me back into His arms.

God did just what He says He will do with backsliders come back to Him. Thank God for His healing power. 

Friday, 8 December 2017

Turn back to God

Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually. – Hosea 12.6

So what is the solution to backsliding? What do you do when you find yourself trapped in your sin, ashamed of where you are, knowing you need to do something about it, and not knowing what to do?

The answer is really, really simple – turn back to God and then prove it by keeping God’s mercy and judgement and waiting on Him.

God is always looking for His wandering sheep to children to turn back to Him. The story of the prodigal son is a wonderful picture of a loving father and His erring son. The son cut off his contact with the father and wandered off in his own pursuits. Soon enough he got sick and tired of the emptiness of his now wasted life. He decided it was time to go home.

So what did he do? He turned back to his father. He went back home and when his father saw him the father ran out to meet him.

Those who feel trapped in backsliding need to remember that God is waiting – it is just a matter of turning back to his waiting arms. 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Bent on backsliding

And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him. - Hosea 11.7

Bent on backsliding. What a horrible place to be. Backsliding is a terrible place to be. Israel called God the ‘most High’ but no one would exalt Him. They claimed to belong to God, but they did not act like they were His.

Think about that for a second. The verse starts with the phrase ‘and my people’ so God is not talking about just anyone. He is talking about His own. God’s own people were slipping back into their old paths.

So that does happen. We still use the term today for believers who are not walking spirit filled lives. It is still possible for God’s people to walk after flesh and not walk after the spirit. It is possible to a child of God and still make sinful choices. I remember a time in my Christian life when I, to most people, would have seemed like I was bent on backsliding. I was calling God my God, but not exalting Him with my life.

What is amazing to see is God’s patience, who, like the prodigal son, seems bent on their backsliding. God is still there, as we are going to see in the next couple of days. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

With bands of love

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them. – Hosea 11.1-4

We often think that we don’t see much of God as a God of love until the New Testament. It does seem like there is a lot of judgement and such in the Old Testament, but the God of love is there from the very beginning.

God tells us here that when He drew Israel to Him He drew them with gentle cords and with bands of love.

Of course it is love that motivates God, for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son as a solution to our terrible curse of sin. Sin has separated us all from God, God’s love has provided a way back to Him, but most of the world refuses to acknowledge His love even with His drawing and pleading.

God is still pleading for the world to turn to Him. He is not willing that any should perish, but that everyone turn to Him.

He drew Israel with love. He still draws with love today. Do we carry that message of love to others? 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Raining righteusness

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. – Hosea 10.12

You reap what you sow. How often have we heard that? If you plant carrot seeds you are not going to get sweetcorn. If you plant strawberries you are not going to get watermelons. Indeed you reap what you sow.

At this time Israel was sowing sin and unrighteousness and injustice. And they were reaping God’s judgement. God loved His people, and He would not forsake them, but He was not going to bless their sin.

So he called on the people the break up their fallow ground and start sowing righteousness. God said that if they sowed righteousness he could pour out the fruit of His mercy.

God is a God of mercy. That mercy is waiting to be poured out abundantly but sometimes we are so focused on our own desires and living our own way that we never look to Him for mercy.

It is time for all of us to seek the Lord. He is time to stop sowing wickedness and selfishness and to start sowing seeds of righteousness so that we can walk in the rain of His mercy and righteousness and let it ‘soak us down to the bones’ and one songwriter puts it. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

But not by me

Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him. They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.  Hosea 8.3-4

Among the charges God lays out against Israel is that they have cast off that which is good. They have made silver and gold their idols.

And they have ‘set up kings, but not by me.’

That’s intriguing. We just read in Daniel not that long ago that ‘the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and He gives it to whom He will’ and now we read that Israel have ‘set up kings’ but not by God.

How do we reconcile that? How can the Most High give the rule to whoever He will and at the same time Israel set up kings that are not by him.

I think we get a hint back to the time of Samuel. He was the last of the judges, but the people were demanding a king. God warned them that a king would do terrible things but they dug in and demanded a king. Samuel was saddened, but God said – they have not rejected you – they have rejected me. God gave them what they asked for an they suffered the consequences.

So it looks like to me that God is in control. He does set up and bring down rulers, but sometimes He lets people get their way and then suffer to results of their choice. 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

I desired mercy

I have desired mercy

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.  – Hosea 6.6

Religion has always been part of man’s existence. The problem with religion is that since religion is practiced by human beings it can quickly become anthrocentric. It is easy in religion to get our eyes off what is supposed to be the object of our worship and we look more at how we match up in our performance of religious rituals. Even devout Jews such as the Pharisees were told by Jesus that that had made the traditions of men more important than the worship of God.

That is where unfaithful Judah found themselves. They were faithfully keeping the sacrificial system. They were offering up their burnt offerings.

But they were totally missing the point. That isn’t what God wanted. God desired, as always, wanted a heart change and a difference in their lives that did not come about with sacrifices and offerings.

God said that what He really wanted was not sacrifices and offerings and religion. What He really desires is for His people to show mercy and for them to know Him better.

Sadly we can get caught in the same trap of religion if we are not careful. We can go to church every time the doors are open, get baptised, tithe, and everything else and still miss the boat if we don’t know God and show mercy to others.

Get to know God better. If we do we will learn to show others mercy. That is much better than all the religion we can muster. 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Till they seek me

I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.  – Hosea 5.15

Israel had turned their back on God. They refused to hear Him. No matter how God pleaded they would not hear.

So God stopped pleading. But He did not stop waiting and hearing. All they had to do was to acknowledge their sin and seek Him.

This image reminds me of the prodigal’s father. When his son went out on his own wasting his father’s money and living a wanton life of sin and excess the father stood on the porch waiting for him to acknowledge his sin and come home.

Of course we know the rest of the story. The son repented and turned for home and the father ran out to meet him.

That is the kind of God Israel and Judah had and that is the kind of God we have today. We run, we backslide, we turn from God and still He waits for is to seek Him.

And we seek Him He is always waiting with open arms.

Friday, 1 December 2017

A people who were not my people

And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. – Hosea 2.23

Hosea is an intriguing book. God is illustrating His unchangeable love for His people who were unfaithful to Him. In order to do that He had a tough assignment. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute who He knew would not be faithful to Hosea. He knew she would carry on with her trade.

Just like Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea Israel was unfaithful to God. Though God never forsook His people, he does give is a hint here that part of God's purpose was to use Israel to reach the whole world. We now know that that was achieved through Christ.

The end result of God calling a people who are not His people is Ephesians 2 where we read about the ‘middle wall of partition’ being torn down. At the cross God says to Jews and Gentiles and anything else who turns to Him ‘You were not my people, but now you are my people’ and they respond ‘You are my God.’

Thank God that He so loved the whole world and that his mercy is not only for a few. 

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The living God

I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. – Daniel 6.26-28

Like King Nebuchadnezzar before him King Darius apparently came to a full knowledge of God. After he saw Daniel delivered from the lion’s den he saw the reality of God and ordered that God be recognised as the true God. I don’t really like the fact that he declared a state policy of worshipping God but I do like his acknowledgement of some basic truth about God.

He is the living God
He is steadfast forever
His kingdom will not be destroyed
He delivers
He rescues
He does signs and wonders on heaven and on earth

That’s quite a proclamation for a king who just tried to have Daniel killed. Without theology training he knew a lot about God. God is alive and eternal and His kingdom is forever. Darius knew his kingdom would not last forever, but God’s would.

But God’s kingdom was not only heavenly. He is also involved in the lives of His people. God takes care of His people. He delivers and rescues His people. I think most of us have something in our lives that we can’t see an answer to. We can’t see a rescue. But we are not God. Just as He did signs and wonders for Daniel he can do it for us.

Do we even have the same faith that Darius had? 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Because he believed

Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. – Daniel 6.23

How did Daniel survive the lion’s den? The Bible says that the Lord shut the lion’s mouths so they could not eat Daniel. We are not privy to how that night went, but we do know the aftermath and we do know why Daniel got through it.

No manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.

I don’t think that you or I will be cast into a lion’s den because of our faith. But we are all going to go through tough times. We are all going to face our own lion’s den circumstances.

We can, however, get through the times when we, like Daniel, believe God is able to carry us through. Our trials may not be just like his and we may suffer some bumps and bruises, but we can be sure that God will carry us through and be with us. At this time God had a greater purpose in showing the king His power

God may not always deliver us from trials. We may have to go through them and may suffer through them, but we can be assured that He will deliver us from this present world and our souls will go through with ‘no manner of hurt’ if we believe in Him. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

O king live forever

Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. – Daniel 6.21-22

‘Honour the king’ Peter writes to the believers scattered abroad by persecution. Honouring the king is a tough thing to do when the king is a bad man. How do we do that?

Daniel shows us how. The king had just had him thrown into a den of lions. He had been tricked by his advisors and regretted his decision. He could not sleep that night and when morning came he went to see how Daniel had done.

Daniel could have been angry and lashed out. He was, after all, God’s man. But look how he started his comments – ‘O king, live forever.’

The Bible teaches a lot of very practical things. This is a very clear Bible principle that a lot of believers neglect. Here he is, down with the lions, looking up at the king who put him there, and he says ‘O king live forever.’ He is honouring the man who signed his  death warrant. 

This is hard for me as anyone. I love politics and I am quick to be critical of leaders who fail. Honest, respectful, humble disagreement is one thing. I have no room though to mock or belittle leaders or call them names. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

As was his custom

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Daniel 6.10

About 15 years ago we went through a huge blow to the work here. It was enough that we considered leaving. The church was small. We had three couples coming other than our family and on a Saturday morning they sent me an email. They told me that unless I conformed to their wishes they were all leaving the church.

I couldn’t conform – so what do I do next?

I prayed and started looking at the word of God. I am not sure how I came across this passage over those next few days, but there it was. God gave the answer to what you do when you get bad news.

When the notice came telling Daniel he could not pray to his God he did what he did every day. The Holy Spirit used that to keep us going. If David could ‘according to his custom’ with this decree from the king we could what ‘was our custom’ despite the email from the folks who had been in our church.

Daniel was not rattled by bad news. He didn’t get in a funk and take a ‘woe is me’ attitude. He had the faith to just keep on plugging away and trust God to sort out the rest. That preaches easier than it lives. Our flesh gets in the way and our eyes only see the visible. Like David when things are not going well or we get that knock on the door or letter in the post of email or text message or phone call that shales us to the core we need to stop, pray, and keep on doing ‘as is our custom.’ 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

No fault in Daniel

Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.  – Daniel 6.5

As I mentioned a couple of days ago Daniel, a Jewish captive, had risen to the position of what was very possibly the second most powerful man in the world as ‘prime minister’ of Babylon.

Of course these guys were not happy so they tried everything they could to bring him down. They watched him. They had to find his skeleton in the closet. In our world today those skeletons are coming out every day. Surely there was something they.

But they found nothing – nothing at all. ‘We are not going to find anything wrong with him unless we can do something relating to his God. He is true to his God so we have to find something there.

There still was nothing.

So there only answer was to make his worship illegal. They had the king sign a decree that no one could pray to anyone but the king.

More on that later, but for now Daniel reminds me that we ought to live our lives in such a way that there is never a reason for anyone to condemn. We must give them no ammunition against. The only offence should be the offence of the gospel of Christ.

The we can leave the results with Him. 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

A mother's prayer and 25 years

And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.  – 1 Samuel 1.11

On the 25th of November 1992, the day before Thanksgiving, my dear mother slipped into eternity. Today marks twenty-five years since that day. In some ways 25 years seems like an eternity, but when I think of my mom and the memories flood back it seems like it just happened. Last week a local radio station played Patti Page’s ‘Tennessee Waltz.’ It was Mom’s favourite song and when they played it I could hear her puttering around the kitchen singing it. At the time I am sure I thought it was silly and bothersome, but oh what I would give to hear her today.

So how do these sappy memories apply to the passage in 1 Samuel?

When I was ordained to ministry in January 1992 Mom told me something I had never heard before. She told me that way back in the autumn of 1954 when they were living at Ladd Air Force Base in the frontier town of Fairbanks, Alaska. She discovered that she was pregnant and she and my dad really wanted a son. Mom began praying for a son and had read the story of Hannah. She told God that is He would give her a son she would give him back to God to be a preached.

For nearly 40 years she never said a word to influence me to take that path. She was just there loving and caring and welcoming my friends and guiding and being Mom. It took those 40 years for me to be shaped and moulded and transformed into the man I needed to be to be a preacher of the gospel.

I am where I am today largely because of my mother’s Hannah prayer. What work is done here for God’s glory began when a mother prayed for a son.

Thank you Mom. I love you and miss you every day. I look forward to seeing you soon. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

An excellent spirit

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. – Daniel 6.1-3

Another king and another promotion for Daniel. Darius was now king and he went about restructuring the government of Babylon. He was the king. He set up 120 princes over the various realms of the kingdom. Over these he set three presidents to supervise them and the serve as something of an appeals court. The most important of that group was Daniel.

All of a sudden Daniel was acting as the prime minister of the land.

Needless to say the other officials were angry, and that is going to bring a cost.

But what was it about Daniel that made him so popular and prompted the king to promote him to prime minister

Along with all the other compliments about Daniel here we read that he had ‘an excellent spirit’ in him. His excellent spirit was not only seen by God’s people. Everyone saw his excellent spirit that was manifested in all he did.

I have to wonder if I have any kind of an excellent spirit in me that the world can see. Are there things in my life that cause me to stand out in a positive way? Is my spirit the excellent spirit that others will want in their lives? 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

You have not humbled yourself

And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: – Daniel 5.22-23

Just before this section Daniel praised Nebuchadnezzar for his turning to the true God. Part of what Nebuchadnezzar did was to be humbled by God and acknowledge him.

‘But you his son, Belshazzar,’ Daniel said, ‘have not humbled yourself, even though you knew all about this.’

We read in an earlier chapter ‘those who are full of pride God is able to bring low.’ Belshazzar chose to worship gods who pleased him, not the God who holds man’s breath in hands and own all man’s ways. Belshazzar ‘lifted up himself against the Lord of heaven.’

Belshazzar was a lot like a lot of people. God is way down the priority list for most of the world. Folks may not drink wine from holy vessels, but they often put themselves before God. The world refuses to acknowledge the God who holds their breath in His hand.

The eventual state of all men who exalt themselves above God is the same. One day every man will stand before God to give account of his life. Those who exalt themselves God will judge like He did Belshazzar. 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Keep your money

And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. – Daniel 5.16-17

Belshazzar was desperate to find out what the words on the wall meant. The words were MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN but nobody could figure out what it meant. When some in the room told him about Daniel he called for Daniel and offered him all the riches of the kingdom if he would translate the writing in the wall. He offered him a place in the government as well.

Daniel’s response was a mark of his character – ‘keep your money and your royal clothes and your offer of power. I’ll tell you what it means.’

I like the fact that David had the character to not take any of the stuff he was offered. I think it went back to a long time ago when we decided that he would ‘not defile himself with the king’s meat.’

There is nothing wrong with getting paid for ministry. Paul makes that very clear. But it is wrong when we are paid in any what that might compromise the truth. Daniel did not want to be swayed by the riches. He simply said ‘I will tell you what the words says.’ He didn’t do it out of a desire for ‘filthy lucre.’ He did what God wanted him to do without regard to how much it paid off. 

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

There is a man in your kingdom

There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; - Daniel 5.11

Belshazzar was clearly and literally shaken. He needed to know what the writing in the wall meant. He looked for an answer and finally someone said ‘wait, there is a man in your kingdom. He has the spirit of the gods in him (notice how that got corrupted from Nebuchadnezzar’s time), he has the wisdom of the gods and he shed light on things when your father was king. The king trusted him over all the magicians and soothsayers.’

I find it amazing that Daniel’s reputation was so important that he was still remembered even in Belshazzar’s pagan administration. That shows us how much impact he had. He showed how powerful his witness was.  

What would happen if people in our lives were looking for someone who knew God? Would anyone even think of us? Would our names come up?

We must live our lives in such a way than even if those around us don’t totally get it, like the folks above, there know there is something special about us. They need to know that there is something that sets us apart from the rest.

Do our lives present that kind of testimony? 

Monday, 20 November 2017

The writing is on the wall

They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. In the same hour the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. – Daniel 5.4-6

Chapter 5 opens with a new king. Nebuchadnezzar was dead and his son Belshazzar is on the throne. Things have changed. The scene opens at a great royal party. Belshazzar has decided to bring the vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem into the palace and was using them for his debauched party.

We find out than rather than worshipping the God his father had come to worship Belshazzar and the others worshipped gods of silver and gold and bronze and iron and wood and stone.

He thought he was grand. The nation had thrown off the shackles of this foreign God his father had adopted. They were free to party hearty.

But then, suddenly, the writing was on the wall. Belshazzar’s countenance changed. His knees were knocking. He was terrified.  I suspect that all this happened because somewhere in his past He had an encounter with God and he knew exactly what he was doing when he used the Temple utensils at his party.

Now it was time to reckon with God. 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

His works are true

Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. – Daniel 4.37

At the very end of the account of Nebuchadnezzar it looks like he finally gets it right. It is the last we hear about him and it appears that he finally understands God. Without reservation he praises and extols the King of heaven. He realises that those rulers who walk in pride God is able to put down.

He also comes the understanding that all of God’s works are truth and that all of God’s ways are just. It took a lot for him to learn that, and it all started with the testimonies of four Jewish captives who chose to honour God in all their choices and decisions.

To a lost world God is not always going to make sense. Not everything makes sense in my sin limited human mind. That’s why it is vital that God’s people live lives where we consistently trust God no matter what comes our way.  

At the end of the day we want people to know, from our lives, that God’s works and true and His was is just. As a result of our contact with us we should desire that they too ‘praise and extol and honour the King of heaven.’ 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Most High rules

And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will – Daniel 4.32

Nebuchadnezzar has highly exalted himself as the one who had built great Babylon. He was proud of himself.  But then God drove him to live in the fields like a wild beast until he learned something important.

The Most High God rules in the kingdom of men and He gives kingdoms to whomever He wills.

This can be a hard one to understand sometimes when we see all sorts of wicked ruler and evil nations. I admit that I don’t fully ‘get it.’ I don’t understand the rise of the Hitlers and the Stalins and the Pol Pots.

The reason is that I don’t see the mind of God. I don’t always understand His ways. Sometimes there are things that I just have to accept things by faith and trust that one day I will get it.

The truth is that God does allow governments to come to power and he allows them to fall. These are more of the effects of free will and broken people making decisions in a broken sin-cursed world.

The point here though is that leaders need to know that they are where they are because God allows it. It is not of their own skills or ability and nothing for them to be able to brag about.

And more importantly, those who lift themselves up, God is able to abase. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Mixed signals

Nebuchadnezzar the king, To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, And how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation.  – Daniel 4.1-3
The king spoke, saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty?" While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! – Daniel 4.30-31

At the beginning of this chapter Daniel is praising God. His words speak of what God has done and about how God has used him. Look at his words ‘how great are his signs…how mighty His wonders…His kingdom is everlasting…His dominion is from generation to generation.’

That sounds like he is really coming around. He is saying all the right words.

But then, just a few verses later we see that he really doesn’t have it. ‘Look at great Babylon that I have built!’

The praise goes from God to himself. It goes from ‘God did it’ to I did it all.’ It goes from humility to pride.

We learn right away that pride is a terrible thing. When the king forgot God, God got his attention. Nebuchadnezzar loses everything and lives like an animal. God shows him Who and what is really important. The king is finally going to get this all sorted in his head, but, like a lot of us, it is going to take a little more to get through his thickness.  

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The spirit of the holy God

But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him, saying: - Daniel 4.8

I love watching Nebuchadnezzar’s quest to find the true God and I love how God’s men had an impact on him and drew him closer and closer. The king had another dream. This happens right in between a real back and forth by the king. If we read it too quickly we could miss it in the story.

It is the king’s description of Daniel that grabbed my attention – ‘in him is the spirit of the Holy God.’ This once again speaks to Daniel’s clear testimony before the king. It was no longer just a difference. It wasn’t just a matter of being smarter and wiser than the staff magicians. Now the king knew the difference. Daniel was different because the spirit of the holy God lived in him.’

I wonder if that is the impression that I give to other when they know me. Does the Holy Spirit shine in my life so that people know He lives in me? Is that what makes me different? Is that what makes me stand out?