You May Have to Vote for Nebuchadnezzar

Today is my state’s primary and we have heard the uproar of Christians claiming that if Christians vote for certain people then how can they call themselves Christians. First of all, who are we to say that someone is Christian or not based on a vote. Second of all, these same people may place a vote in November for someone they particularly don’t like.

When I think of the election for President one thing I know for sure is that God is in control. Whether our particular candidate wins or not, God is in control.

As the latest blogs and articles have been written concerning the candidates, I started thinking about a particular King that God used to bring judgment upon His people. That king was King Nebuchadnezzar II.

King Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon from 605 BC to 562 BC. He was considered one of the cruelest and vilest kings in the world. God used him to take the Israelites captive and to bring them to Babylon. During the early part of King Nebuchadnezzar’s bringing the Israelites into captivity, King Nebuchadnezzar put all the praise upon himself for all that he had done. He didn’t place any of the favor of his success from God.

You can read in Daniel 4 that King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and he asked Daniel to come and interpret the dream for him. Daniel interpreted the dream in verses 20-27.

20“The tree that you saw, which grew and became strong, whose height reached to the heavens and which could be seen by all the earth, 21whose leaves were lovely and its fruit abundant, in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and in whose branches the birds of the heaven had their home— 22it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong; for your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens, and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23“And inasmuch as the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze in the tender grass of the field; let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him’; 24this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. 26“And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules. 27Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

But King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t heed Daniel’s warning and the dream came true. King Nebuchadnezzar lost all he had and at the time that God gave it was all restored to him and King Nebuchadnezzar praised God in verses 34-37.

34And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. 35All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?” 36At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. 37Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.

God uses people that we might think are evil or wouldn’t make a good president. He uses them to fulfill His purpose. Don’t get wrapped up in the election process that you lose your focus praying for our country.

My point is this, whatever happens in this election God is still in control. God has a purpose and a plan for everything. Just because your candidate doesn’t get chosen doesn’t mean that God isn’t working things out the way He wants it to work out.

What Do You Believe In?

Do you know what you believe in? Do you attend church just because you grew up attending church? If you were asked today, what do you believe, would you have a good answer?

Every day we are faced with decisions to believe in something or not. How well do you know what you believe?

We have to draw a line in the sand and decide what we believe. Do we accept the Bible as the infallible word of God? Do we accept the fact that Jesus died on a cross for our sins? Do we accept the fact that Heaven and Hell are real places?

What do you believe? Start your thinking process on this subject this Sunday as we draw a line in the sand. We begin at 10:30 am.

God’s Search and Rescue Plan Involves You

search and rescue

When children go missing, parents go looking. And that’s what God has done. There’s not a square foot on earth that doesn’t have his footprints. He began searching for them the moment Adam and Eve made a choice and lost their way. He sent the nation of Israel looking. He sent his Son to “seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Today he sends his church. In Acts 1:8 we find his search and rescue plan: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus sent the disciples into the middle of Jerusalem and told them to wait. While they were waiting a crowd gathered for Pentecost. Some estimate Jerusalem swelled to over one million people during this time. The Holy Spirit came on them, Peter preached, and the church swelled from 120 to over three thousand.

It didn’t stop there. They devoted themselves to “the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). That first church in Jerusalem grounded its people in the Word, in deep community, to sharing meals and sharing Christ, and to prayer. They had to. The task at hand was too big for them to accomplish on their own. They needed each other. Mostly they needed God.

That hasn’t changed, has it? We still have the same commission to be witnesses for Jesus in our Jerusalems and in our world. We are still called to the Word, to love each other, to share life, and to prayer. And we are still searching for those who have lost their way.

We are still searching because the Father still has children who are missing. So go to your Jerusalem and wait. God will bring you power as you serve him there. Let’s not leave a square foot without our footprints.

Finding the Door to an Eternity of Sundays

doors

In the spring of 2010 archaeologists unearthed a 3,500-year-old door to the afterlife from the tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian official near Karnak temple in Luxor.[1] This door was meant to take the official from death to the afterworld.

Jack found another door to the afterlife. He taught English literature at Oxford and spent many evenings walking the gardens of Magdalene College. And it was one evening while walking with his friend John that Jack discovered his way.

His door seems to have found a way into his writings as a wardrobe through which his characters could enter Narnia, a kind of medieval version of Paradise. Jack, or C.S. Lewis as we know him today, went on to become one of the great apologists for the Christian faith in the 20th century. He wrote of death in this way: “If we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home,’ why should we not look forward to the arrival?[2]

How would you write about that time you take your last breath and the moment right after?  Will you look forward to it? Or will it be a terrifying moment for you? And would you want to be able to face your death unafraid?

Jesus enables us to do that, you know. He moves us from a Friday and Saturday of death and disillusionment to a Sunday of victory. Your way into that victory is through a door. Jesus Christ.

Jesus said of himself, “I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). And all of the Easter stories tell this.

In another garden, another Magdalene—Mary—was looking for Jesus’ dead body to anoint, but it was missing from the tomb (John 20). Two angels speak to her but she is so upset she misses them. She keeps talking about her “Lord” and that he had been taken away. It took Jesus coming to her and calling her by name before she recognized what had happened.

You’ll have your Fridays and Saturdays. Days that are dark and days that are lost. In those days when you can’t find the door out, do as Mary did. Keep calling Jesus “Lord.”  Keep calling and keep looking for him.

Because if you keep calling him Lord, he’ll call you by name. And when he does, you will turn and find the door to an eternity of Sundays.

[1] Door to afterlife from ancient Egyptian tomb found http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100329/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt_antiquities

[2] http://en.proverbia.net/citasautor.asp?autor=14386

Eliminate the Shanks from Your Life Swing

Butch Harmon, who has instructed professional golfers from Fred Couples to Tiger Woods, tells the story of the club member who was having problems with the shanks. That is, a poorly played golf shot. He spent 20 minutes trying to get him to work his stance, his weight transfer, his wrists, his arms and shoulders, his chin.  He tried everything but the man still shanked every shot.

He went into the pro shop and told his father the problem.  Claude Harmon went out to the man, watched him swing one time, and told him to keep his clubface square.  Five minutes later the guy was hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway.

Butch asked him how he knew what the problem was after one swing.  Claude said, “I knew what he was doing before I stood up from behind my desk. . . .  A shank is a shank. I knew the guy was hitting it with a shut clubface before I walked out here. The only question left was, what did I need to tell him to get him to stop?”[1]

Jesus already knows what is causing the “shanks” in your life.  He knows why your life “swing” is off.  And he knows the solution before you even know to ask for help.  He knows because he corrected your problem on the cross.  It is there he uttered these words: “’It is finished!’  With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).

On the cross Jesus paid a debt that was owed by those (us) who were unable to pay it. He finished the work of satisfying both the holiness of God and the love of God.  The fact that God is holy is foundational to Scripture.  Holy means he is “above,” he is “higher than.”  He is not just better.  He is not just an improved version of us, but that he is “set apart.”  Way apart.

“Holy” means something that is set apart from us.  And this difference is manifested in the way he views sin.  He sees it differently than we do.  He can have nothing to do with sin.  It has to be punished.

But God also loves.  The fact that God is love is foundational to Scripture.  So he put our sin on his Son and punished it there.  In doing so, he took care of sin and he took care of you and me when we embrace him as savior.

[1] The greatest father: Claude Harmon wisdom and lessons still show the way, Golf Digest, June, 2006 by Butch Harmon at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0HFI/is_6_57/ai_n26885507/?tag=content;col1

You Can Make it Through the Fire

It seems like recently that many people I know are going through trials. From sickness to family crises to financial turmoil people are going through a lot of stuff.
At the first sign of crises we fall to our knees and cry out to God, keep me from this lord, don’t let me go through this.  None of us want to face adversity. But have any of us thought that maybe we are to go through the trial.  When we go through the trial do we not ever stop and think that God is allowing us to go through this so that we can get stronger. How do we not know that God knows more than we do?
God could be preparing us for something that is ahead of us.  God is getting us ready to face something greater. Just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
The truth is when we go through trials, it is those trials that make us stronger. When we go through those trials we realize that God will get us through it.
When you think about trials remember what the 3 Hebrew children went through in Daniel 3. Because of their faith they were forced into the fire. They made it through the fire. In that fire there was someone with them. That someone was the Son of God.
You will get through the fire. It may not seem like it now but you will get through the fire.  And if your not going through a trial right now,  the next time you do go through one pray that God will help you through it not keep you from it.
Jesus spoke these words to us in John 16:33. “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

The Greatest Question of All Time

A BBC magazine answered the “101 greatest questions of all time.”[1] What did they include? Well, questions like “What is OK short for?” Answer? “OK comes from ‘oll korrect’, a deliberately misspelled writing of ‘all correct.’ It was popularized in Boston newspapers around the 1840s when it was fashionable to go around spelling things incorrectly for humorous effect.”

The #1 “greatest question” was “Where is the safest place to stand outside in a thunderstorm?” And, in case you must know the answer, it is “A car or other enclosed metal structure is the safest place to be in a thunderstorm.”

Jesus asked a question that should have been first on the list. He and the disciples were in Caesarea Philippi. Call it the shopping mall of religion. It was located in a region known as Paneon, or the home of the Greek god Pan. Once it had been a center of Baal worship. A temple was located there dedicated to the godhead of Caesar. And other temples of Syrian gods dotted the landscape.

Plenty of gods to choose from in Caesarea Philippi. So Jesus asks his disciples this question: “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29). Oh, at first he asked them what others were saying about him. The answers came back in rapid fire: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

But Jesus was more concerned with their answer to his question, so he asked, “Who do you say I am?” They all looked at this homeless carpenter and thought about that question. We don’t know how long they thought before Peter replied, “You are the Christ.”

[1] “Greatest 101 questions of all time: 1-20” found at  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/

4696372/Greatest-101-questions-of-all-time-1-20.html

Learn to Let Go

One of the hardest things about pastoring is when people who you have loved and cared for decide to leave the church. For whatever reason they leave on their own accord, whether they decide to go to another church or they quit church altogether.

I have learned to deal with it as much as you don’t like it. There are usually two things that are going on. Number one, God has truly called them else where or number two, they are completely out of God’s perfect will for their life.

The first instance all you can do because it is God’s plan is bless them and pray that God will be with them in their journey. The second instance is the same. Bless them, because if God didn’t lead them elsewhere you have left the door open for their return. At some point if they were out of God’s will they will return. When they do return, embrace them with open arms.

I know that every time we have let someone go and didn’t try to grab a hold and not let go, God sent more people to help us continue to do the work that He has planned for us.

God truly has a plan for all of us. We just have to be listening and know when to leave and not to leave. The problem is we leave many times prematurely before God can do something special in our life at the current place we are at. We as pastor’s sometimes leave the church we are at prematurely. We need to learn to wait and be patient, God is working things out.

I want to leave you with Isaiah 40:31. It says, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Leadership Lessons Learned from Football

Recently, I read an excerpt from Tony Morgan’s book Killing Cockroaches. I wanted to share one particular part in this book. He called it Leadership Lessons I learned from Football. I will give my two cents for what it’s worth.

First of all let me say, I love football. I love football season. I hope that what Tony wrote and what I say will make people think. Here it goes.

T – 1. If thousands of people make some noise, it can get pretty loud. When lots of people get focused on one thing, they can sure make some noise.

My 2 Cents – Isn’t this the truth. Why can’t we relate this to the church? We, as the church, should speak up, but what we speak up for is mostly political agendas and what’s bad in the world. Isn’t it obvious that the world is getting worse according to God’s standards. When you read the Bible, you can see times that the world was in chaos, but God had people that stood up and made some noise. They spoke truth and love. They spoke of God’s love.

T – 2. People will do some crazy things to worship something they love. Paint their bodies. Raise their arms. Jump around. Sing songs. Clap. Chant. Even in the craziness of a nationally televised game, though, there are security personnel who are charged with keeping the “worship” orderly.

My 2 Cents – This makes me want to question do we love God enough. Do we have to raise our hands in worship or clap or jump or anything else in order worship God? No we don’t, but we act like fools at football games and then get annoyed when the preacher asks us to stand and sing or encourages us to raise or clap our hands. Jesus gave up His life for us and a football team did nothing for us.

T – 3. When you really believe in something, you’ll take a stand. Clemson fans don’t sit down. I haven’t figured out why they installed seats in the stadium. The fans were on their feet for the entire four hours.

My 2 Cents – During a thirty minute worship service many people can’t make it five minutes.

T – 4. People will put their money where their heart is. They’ll spend $30,000, as an example, just to own a piece of land to tailgate before and after the game. They’ll invest millions of dollars into a facility to help recruit new athletes. It’s amazing the cash people will lay down for something they love.

My 2 Cents – In church if the preacher mentions anything about money people say, “all he ever does is talk about money.” Matthew 6:21 says, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

T – 5. When the cause is big enough, people will give their time. I’m convinced time is our scarcest commodity today. But people started showing up very early the morning of the game to stake out their territory. They hung out with friends. They served each other meals. They walked miles to find parking spaces. They stood in the football stadium for more than four hours. They sat in traffic for a couple more hours after the game. It takes a big investment of time to support something that’s bigger than yourself.

My 2 Cents – How much time have you given to God lately the master and ruler of the universe? Are we satisfied with 5 minutes of bible reading and an hour on Sunday? Doesn’t God, the one who sent His son to earth to die for you deserve more time than football?

I love football, but I never want it to become more important to me than my relationship with God.

When Jesus Comes Knocking

The knock came at the door of the inn. It was late. We can imagine the innkeeper had been burning both ends of the candle. The census crowd had packed Bethlehem and he had finally locked the doors for the night.

Until the knock. He shuffled his feet through the dark and made his way to the door. Opening it with the slightest of cracks he peered out to see a young couple. Looking more closely he saw a young woman who was about to give birth to a child.

Rooms were full. It was late. And they didn’t look very special. He had to decide whether he would find room for them or not.

And you will too. John’s rendition of the birth of Christ comes in a few short words: “The Word  [logos] became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Greek hearers understood the word “logos” as the representation of God. The essence of God was found in his Word.

Hebrew readers perked up to John’s message too. John writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” He book ends the first sentence of his book with the phrase “in the beginning.”  They knew it as the words that began the first book of the Torah, or Genesis.

John writes about beginnings. John writes about God’s very representation dwelling among us. And he writes to tell us that we have the same decision to make as the innkeeper. Will we find a place for Jesus in our lives or will we send him away?

Some send him away because he looks too plain. Nothing special about him. Don’t make that mistake. He comes to common places like your home and common places like your heart.

Some send him away because life is crowded. Many demands and many deadlines. And you’re not sure if you have room for him. But he only comes to give you what he has already done. He desires to give you forgiveness.

And some send him away because they think it’s too late. They’ve already done too much that can’t be forgiven. They’ve already gone too far away.

But it’s never too late. Not with the one who comes and makes his dwelling among us. You need only to open the door.

Join us Sunday as we continue The Story at 10:30 am.