Daniel's Three Friends

To those who are familiar with understanding God's desire for worship and participating in a worship service, there is always a concern for God to be the object of our worship and not us. There are several warnings that should be observed any time we enter the sanctuary with the intention of worship among believers. We must be intentional about making sure that our time for worship is God-centered and not man-centered. Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, understood that their devotion to the one true God was to exalt no man. Their ultimate victory came out of a refiner's fire. Their courage exalted them to become models of worship that would not blaspheme the one true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Man- centered worship is blasphemy, and to worship any man or creature for any reason is blasphemy. Blasphemy can be disguised by the trappings of religion when individuals and not God are the center of worship. When-ever much is made of the person, less is made of the Lord. Blasphemy is natural to the human heart; it will therefore manifest itself in our religious activities unless it is deliber-ately rejected. Ceremonies of worship can be a veneer for the deepest blasphemy, which is worship that is creature-centered and not God honoring. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans that because of the wickedness of man's heart, he substituted the knowledge of God for a creature, and the creature became the object of his worship. This lie was substituted for the truth of God where the creature rather than the Creator was to be adored. We must raise up a generation that has a sound and solid foundation of the true meaning of worship. Our intention must be to truly worship the Lord with a sincere heart, and our motivations to do so must be pure.

Ask yourself these two questions. Do you look forward to worshiping the Lord and prepare yourself for the sanctuary we are told not to forsake? Is your worship a sincere expression of your love and devotion to God and Christ? Like Daniel’s three friends, we can overcome every threat or action that would deter us from worshiping the only true God and King, Jesus. 




Philemon: Taking the High Road

Paul's letter to Philemon is unique for several reasons. It is a private letter, addressed to a personal concern of Paul's, and the only complete private letterof Paul's that we have. The occasion for the letter is that Onesimus, a runaway slave, has converted to faith in Christ through the influence of Paul. Onesimus became a trusted and valuable friend as well as a coworker of Paul’s during his imprisonment in Rome. The power of this letter lies in the issue of slavery and Paul's understanding and compassion for the master and slave. However, when we enter into our new life in Christ, there is no room for class and status. In Christ's Kingdom, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Paul engaged Philemon, a leader in the church, to receive back the one who hurt him, stole from him, and used him. Paul asked of Philemon what Paul himself would do when offended and taken advantage of by others. For the sake of the gospel, he would receive that person back with forgiveness, and consider this occasion to be in the providence of God. That on our journey of separation from God, the consequence of such a journey often finds the grace of Jesus Christ. Philemon alone could decide what love required of him in his relation to Onesimus, as well as to Paul.  Paul is not seeking any selfish thing for himself, only something for the sake of Christ. Paul was persuaded not by selfish desire, but only to be obedient to the gospel of love. That must be the end to which we seek to persuade all persons.

Is your heart persuaded to show love to those who have offended you, especially to those who have found Christ, and would return to a fresh new beginning with you? This is the essence of what Jesus said, "No longer do I call you servants, but I have called you friends" (John 15:15).

A King, a Battle, and a Prayer: The Battle Belongs to the Lord

We often find ourselves thinking that we are on the fence with God. This occurs because sometimes we just don’t know how much of the world is too much of the world. Turning over our fears and anxieties to the Lord is often a challenge. We are encouraged to turn our weaknesses into strengths and letting God go before us to fight these battles of indecision, right and wrong, and anxiousness in our lives. The biblical king Jehoshaphat found himself in this situation of leaning toward God, but away from God as well. He learned that he wasn’t where he needed to be. He didn’t know what to do, but remembered to always keep his eye on God. When his enemies were encamped around him, he called on the Lord to intervene. He turned his weakness into strength and desperately cried out for God’s help. Suggesting that God would not turn his face against the innocent women and children, he cried out that God should keep His promise of never forsaking those who cry out to Him. The response was miraculous and an example for us today to never go into these battle areas of our lives without God. God’s response was, “The battle is not yours, Jehoshaphat, but mine. Take your position and stand firm, for I will be with you”. We must learn to let God fight our battles. We must learn to take our position and stand firm. We must face our fears and know that God is there to take up our case. Bowing in humility and worship to the Lord, Jehoshaphat saw his enemies turn on them-selves and Israel was saved.

When faced with similar experiences in our lives, do you call on the name of the Lord and know that He will go before you, or do you run away in fear? The character of a Christian who trusts in the Lord will always call on the name of the Lord to fight his/her battles. For “the battle belongs to the Lord”.

Adoption, the highest privilege

Social media today has indicated that the church is unnecessary for making lasting relationships. The New Testament indicates that Christians should confirm and seal their personal commitment to Christ through the public action of baptism and becoming part of the church. Membership is that seal that the body of Christ is the communion of the Holy Spirit which means that we fellowship one with another, eye to eye, bone to bone. Relationships are the key to happiness. A relationship with the Father expresses to us that we are sons adopted by God for His joy and happiness. God has chosen us, not only to know forgiveness of sins, but to be received as sons and daughters of the most high God, and joint heirs with His Son Jesus. This is the joy of coming to the church and being a part of God's special family. To be truly converted and receiving of grace, we must recognize that we have been adopted by God. This adoption indicates to us how much God loves us. We are that important to God. The best part of true conversion is not just the saving part, but the Kingdom part as well that's coming. It all starts with respecting and participating in the living breathing church of Jesus Christ.

Do you find your church to be the place of fellowship for your primary relationships in your life? If you are hesitant to answer this question "yes", I would challenge you to consider how important the physical, living, breathing church is to you. God says it is essential for us to appreciate our adoption by God for His glory.

Snatched from the Fire

If you were to ask me, "What is the highest view of our human existence in the hands of a loving and caring God (the Imago Dei)", I would say it is the view embodied in the sermon of Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," where God is coming against the sin nature of man, not man himself, with graphic imagery. Imagery such as, "God's bow is bent and His arrow is aimed at your heart, and the only thing that keeps that arrow from being released and plunging into your heart, is the mercy of His hand on the string, just as the only thing that keeps you from falling into the pit of divine wrath is this slender thread that you're hanging on like a spider over the fire."  You can't give a reason as to why God did not let you fall, but for His amazing grace.

All I could think of in reading Edwards' teaching was the grace of that hand that was keeping me from falling into the pit. That is a high view of our human existence in the hands of a loving and caring God. But many would ask how can you call that such a high view of man especially in this day and age when you talk about man in terms of his radical corruption?  It is not politically correct. Edwards continues teaching about what a tragedy it is that man is totally depraved in this life even though we were created to mirror and to reflect the holiness of God. And when we sin, God takes that sinning very seriously because when we sin, we desecrate the sanctity of God Himself and ourselves as well. We have no fear of God then. When we neutralize our fear of God and bring God down from the heavens and say that God is not that important to us, the immediate consequence is that we exalt ourselves. The lower the view we have of God, the higher the view we have of ourselves. But God reached down and snatched us from a burning fire because of His great love for us and His abhorrence of the sin nature of man.

Do you see the love relationship that God has created you to have with Him? Do you practice faithfulness to the Word of God as it represents to us a God who not only has our benefit in mind, but who in Christ Jesus has redeemed us from ourselves, and certain destruction? As a father's passion for his son is great, look then how great is the love that God has for you.