WHAT WOULD YOU SAY? (PART 2)

The pressure must have been tremendous. Three young men, bound in chains, had a decision to make. They could either renounce their faith or be put to death within the flames of a blazing furnace…

FireLast week we looked at the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, (Daniel 3:1-30). It’s the story of three Jewish young men who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. If you recall, we tried to put ourselves in their sandals while remembering that there are Christians who are living (and dying) under that same kind of persecution today. We asked ourselves what we would say if we found ourselves in a similar situation.

What would you say if you were in any one of these present day scenarios?

  • You are one of these Christians that faced a number of tortures and even death for their faith?

I love Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s response:

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you O king that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3:17-18

They said, “We do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.” Just like that. They didn’t protest or preach. They didn’t feel any obligation to explain, apologize, dialogue, or defend themselves or God. The lesson here? Sometimes we are called to speak up, and sometimes we are simply called to quiet resolve. In this case, they knew that any lengthy explanation to King Nebuchadnezzar would be useless. Christ also didn’t say a word as He was lead to the cross, knowing that His death was the will of God.

Notice a very important phrase: “If it be so”, they said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king, But even if He does not…we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image.

Did they show a lack of faith by not “claiming their miracle” as some may profess? No. Did they have a fit loud enough to reach heaven to get God to act on their behalf? No, I don’t see that either.

What I do see is three believers who stood firm in the object of their faith, not in faith itself. There’s a difference. The first is centered on trust in God, the second is centered on man’s ability in himself. Even more so, I see three believers who loved and worshiped God for who He is and not what He does for them. They did not withdraw their love or faith in God based on what happened that day. They believed God could save them, but they did not presume He would. They believed the greater audacity was not standing up to an idol when others fell, but rather to stand up before God and tell Him what to do!

I’m sure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prayed for deliverance. Who wouldn’t? They may have begged and pleaded to God to save them. Look at Jesus himself. He cried and pleaded to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, (Matt. 26:36-46). He didn’t stand up and “claim” deliverance from the cross. At the end of the day, He resigned that it not be His will, but the Father’s.

This passage is a clear message that God is not a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wishes.

Dear believer, if they had this attitude about their very lives, why would we “name and claim”, assume and demand of something of God for so much less?

 

 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

We’ve all read the headlines and heard it on the news. Present day Muslim terrorist like ISIS shout “renounce your faith or die” to the “infidel” (anyone who isn’t a Muslim), and they are following through on their threat. As I thought about what I might write this week, I considered the fact that this threat is the same spirit of evil that has been expressed throughout history. In fact, there’s a story in the Old Testament that describes a very similar scenario.

It’s found in Daniel 3:1-30, the story of three Jewish young men by the name of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar after he besieged Jerusalem in 600 B.C. Even though captive, the King favored them and hand-picked them as administrators in his court. He saw their wisdom and trusted them enough to put them in positions that carried great popularity and prestige.

The day came when King Nebuchadnezzar created a golden image of himself, and demanded that everyone under his reign to bow down to it. If anyone refused, they would be thrown into a blazing furnace.

Fire“Now if you are ready, [he said] at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15)

 

In other words, “Renounce your faith or die”

Now Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had a lot to lose, that is, besides their very lives. You would think that they would want to support their leader…guard their own popularity, you know, be politically correct. A number of thoughts could have run through their minds:

  • “It’s just an idol. All we have to do is bow. We can just go ahead and bow physically, but we’ll be praying to God instead.” 
  • “God wouldn’t have taken us so far in life only to die this way. It’s not in His plan. We need to comply in order to reach people in the long run.” 
  • The king is an authority figure and we need to be compliant to the demands”.

 Instead, what was their response? They said,

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you O king that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3:17-18

They didn’t rationalize in any number of ways that they could have. They didn’t even want to have the appearance of evil. They didn’t presume upon God but saw the circumstance for what it was. They also knew that no authority is to be obeyed if they are in conflict with God. They wanted to live, but their desire to worship the one true God was even greater.

I am amazed at the courage these three men had to answer so boldly, and yet what amazes me even more is that thousands of Christians have responded to this same threat in the same way over the last 2,000 years. There are many who are facing it right now. God dramatically rescued Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but for many others, He has given strength to see them on to Heaven.

If you and I were told to renounce our faith or die, what would we say? Are we girded with a strong and focused faith that can stand strong in the face of evil? Is our relationship with God so close and abiding that we long to see the far greater eternal reward?

My hope is that you and I as believers would be strong and ready if and when a time of decision comes, that we are always ready to give an account for our faith.

 

THE STORY OF A BLIND MAN ON A CLIFF

Blind man

Once upon a time, there was a blind man walking along the trail of a steep canyon. He was used to living on his own and was confident he could hike to the other side. However, as he began to tire, he became careless and started to zigzag along the trail.

Soon he began to walk much closer to the drop-off of a thirty foot cliff. Even though the brittle ledge began to crumble beneath him, he didn’t realize how dangerously close he was to the edge.

“I see you’re having trouble walking this trail”, a passing hiker said. He stopped and pulled some headphones out of his backpack. “Here’s some soothing choir music to comfort you. Peace along the way, my friend”.

So he continued, kicking up loose gravel and billows of dust with each step. His foot nearly slipped off a time or two, but he kept on, enthralled by the music.

A little while later, he came upon another hiker.

“You have so much potential,” he said. “Don’t ever criticize yourself.” He put a hand on his shoulder and smiled broadly. “Tell yourself that you are smart, that you are able, that you are loved. That’ll give you a shot in the arm, right buddy?” He stuck his hand out for a firm handshake and was on his way.

Shortly thereafter, he came across another hiker. “What you need to do”, this one insisted, “is realize that God wants you to succeed and prosper!” The blind man gave him a confused look, but he continued on, “You must boldly declare words of victory to reach your dreams of success and achievement!” With that, he gave him a pat on the back so hard that the blind man almost fell over. “Be a winner, not a whiner!” he added, yelling over his shoulder as he passed the blind man.

The blind man continued on, perilously close to the edge. Just before he was to take a step over the cliff that would be his last, a man came up from behind him and tackled him, rolling him towards the opposite wall of rock.

“Dude, are you okay?” he asked, dusting off his jeans. “You could have fallen over the cliff!”

“Man, what are you talking about?” the blind man replied, picking up his stick. “I’m fine, no thanks to you!”

“No, really, man, look…”

Frustrated, the hiker stops in mid-sentence when he realized the man couldn’t see.

“Umm….listen,” he states, as he picked up rocks and threw them over the cliff. “Hear that?”

“Hear how long it took for those rocks to hit the ground?”

Seeing the look of disbelief on the blind man’s face, he continues.

“HELLO!” he yells, putting a hand up to his ear.

….. “HELLO …Hello …hello”  the canyon echoed back.

“See what I mean?” he asked.

The blind man began to shake. He got down on his hands and knees, and crawled ever so slowly towards the edge. He ran his hand along the rim, and backed off again.

Horrified, he quickly scooted back to the canyon wall.

“My God, you’re right!”

“Yes, buddy,” He replies, “I’m just glad it wasn’t too late.”*

*******

 Dear Friends,

The blind man in this story desperately needed one thing—a strong warning–not soothing music or a pep talk.

Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, I believe that many of our pulpits today shy away from an equally dire warning, which is the warning of the seriousness and consequences of sin.

In an effort to stay popular and not scare anyone away, the teaching and proclamation of the whole gospel is avoided and traded in for a more “relevant” and “less offensive” message.

I wonder how often we hear the word Repent.

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19)

True repentance isn’t merely a passing remorse out of a shallow fear of punishment; it is a heartfelt conviction, an attitude of humility and gratitude for God’s forgiveness. It is turning away, in both the mind and heart, from the self to God. It comes out of an honest look at the reality of sin and the need for God’s grace.

Just like the last hiker in the story who warned the blind man of the danger of the ledge, we as believers are told to show the same diligence and urgency about sin. We are to “save others with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” (Jude 23)

Lest anyone think that Christianity is nothing but “hell, fire, and brimstone”, it isn’t a denial of God’s judgment either…and when I say judgment, I mean that we will all stand before God one day. However, as surely as I say this, I can also say that those who know Christ as Lord and Savior will be overwhelmed by His great love, a love that allowed His Son to the cross to pay for our sin.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)

My hope is that you do attend a church that is dedicated to teaching the pure and simple gospel message, and that you have come to know Christ as a result of repentance of sin. If you have not, I urgently plead to you to make that decision today. Your eternal destiny depends on trusting Christ as the only one who can and has taken that awful penalty away.

Consider the church you attend. Do you hear the full gospel story, both the bad news as well as the good news? Is the fact that we are all sinners in dire need of God’s mercy clearly communicated? Does your church adhere to preach the reality of hell to those who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior?

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” – John 5:24

* Original story, inspired by a metaphor by Kirk Cameron, “The Way of the Master”

 

 

 

 

 

FROM MY CHRISTIAN COUSIN IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Dear Friends,

 

My cousin Hoda

My cousin Hoda

Today I’d like to share a pretty neat conversation I had with my cousin Hoda, who lives in Egypt. (Sorry the pic is so big ~ major issues with uploading this week! I’m just glad I got it posted at all!).  Anyway, she was in the states on vacation, and (after catching up on her and her family), our talk almost immediately turned to the condition and welfare of Egypt itself. Since the Revolution of 2011, I’ve been keenly aware of the precarious position that my family and many other Christians are living in in that part of the world.

As you may know, Egypt went from bad to worse even after the initial revolution with the “free” election of Mohamed Morsi, who was a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He granted himself unlimited power and issued an Islamic-backed constitution. Undoubtedly opposed by Christians and even moderate Muslims, the people rose again and forced this loser to step down by the summer of 2013.

Fast forward to their second-ever-in-history election to their current President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who, in my cousin’s words, is a good guy and finally looks to be a better leader for Egypt. He doesn’t appear to be as aligned with the terrorist groups or the Muslim brotherhood that have reaped such havoc in the country. So far so good.

So, while we may all read the headlines, it’s not every day that we get a glimpse of this situation from an insider’s viewpoint. I gained some wonderful gems of insight from her, a testimony we won’t ever get from the news.

First of all, she said, the outcry for positive change in Egypt was not instigated by the military (as we have been told), but by the power of the people. I bookmarked this in my mind. If a socialist country could band together through the sheer power of their people, how much more can we as American citizens use our power in a democracy?

And then what she said next was an eye-opener. She said, “Margaret, had it not been for the election of Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt would have turned into another Syria or Iraq, [in terms of Radical Islamic dominance and oppression to Christians] within a very short time.

And then she added, “Christians were praying and fasting around the clock, standing in the gap, and I believe that made all the difference”.

I guess when all you do is hear the news reports, you don’t really realize how God moves behind the scenes. As with any trial in life, it’s one thing when you are praying for a situation that you’re not directly involved in and quite another when you are the one experiencing it.

Yet, as I talked to my cousin, I realized that when trials are great, so is strength in Christ.

I could see that this dependence on God’s grace produces a special joy and undeniable zeal for Him. It is a living testimony of His sustenance, a wake-up call to those at ease. There is a certain added vigor, a sensitivity to His Spirit, and a strength that only comes from trial.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

She reminded me of the story of Gideon, the Israeli Army commander who’s story is told in Judges 7. He was chosen to lead the army against the Midianites. Although he only had 300 men against their thousands, God gave him victory by confusing the enemy till they started to fight amongst themselves. Well, she said, “that’s exactly what happened with the Muslims! They started fighting amongst themselves!

Even more than that, according to her testimony, many Muslims themselves turned to Christ during this time. Of those that did, she said they devoured their Bibles word by word…and they wondered why we don’t read it more!

Listening to her, I wondered how many other countless stories God has already weaved in spite of the atrocities of all the fighting in the Middle East.

I don’t believe we’ll understand all the purposes God will bring about from the evil in the world until we’re with Him in eternity, but I do believe He is with each believer in undeniable ways.

Though He has been merciful to His own minority in Egypt and they are relatively stable for now, that doesn’t in any way diminish our own diligence in prayer for all the Middle East as they face what I believe is the greatest evil we know today. The tide is troublesome and disheartening and the enemy is relentless against those who love the Lord. Please keep each in your diligent prayers. Especially now.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39).

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ATHEIST

Dear Atheist,

CreationIf you say there is no God, that we are just physical beings meant to return to oblivion and dust, what’s inside us that makes us desire love, appreciate beauty, or laugh out loud?

Is it possible that the molecules of our brains somehow mix at just the right proportion to create emotion?

Do you ever ask yourself: If there is nothing more within the capsule we call our bodies, are we no more than puppets of flesh that shouldn’t even have a name? If our mind was just an evolution of the physical being of our brains, without an intelligent Creator, how can we trust our thoughts?

If we somehow evolved out of chaos, each molecule arranged to form our being, how is there the moral capacity to know right from wrong?

Do we just react to the elements that have randomly crossed the span of time we are on this Earth? If we are, how is it that we have free will?

If we are a mass of inhabitants on Earth that have multiplied by the millions, while we forever spin on a planet that came together by the forces of the universe to somehow sustain life

Why would it matter what we did with our lives?

If we have intelligence to design and build buildings, where and when was the existence of original intelligence?

If we can save lives with a scalpel, where and when was the existence of original skill?

If we can cultivate the earth for food, who made the seed? If you say the fruit, who made the fruit?

When and how was the first masterpiece of art or music ever crafted?

What or Who created creativity?

How do we know good and evil?

If there is no God, then what or who has brought on the origin of good? In the expanse of space and nothingness, where did kindness begin? How was benevolence conceived?

Where is the hope beyond destruction and heartache? Is there vindication of evil to satisfy our deep-seated need for justice and an end of the pain of this life?

If good and evil had an absolute beginning, won’t there be an absolute victory of one or the other? Can you or I utterly end this struggle? Won’t whatever or whoever orchestrated the beginning also have the capacity to bring about the end?

How is it that we can contemplate eternity?

In regards to all of the above, can an undefined “life-force” of energy possess good to instill compassion within man? Can it distribute intelligence? Can it bear emotion to be able to pass on a capacity to love and grieve, to be glad or to anger?

No, my friend, it was not a WHAT, but a WHO.

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” Eccles. 3:11

 

 

WHAT IF THE WORDS I SPEAK WERE WRITTEN ON MY SKIN?

Words on hand

Why do I suddenly feel the need to cover up? And when I say “cover up” I mean head-to-toe cover up. I wouldn’t mind adding a second layer, and a cap, and a pair of tall boots.

Maybe that’s because there would be many words I wouldn’t want anyone to read.

Words that spew out in anger at people who least deserve it.
Words that I add for shock effect just to see the reaction and bring attention to myself
Or what about that one extra thought that crossed the line the minute it came out of my mouth,
but I said it anyway.

Not to try to make anyone feel worse, but the words we speak are just as obvious to God as if they were written on our skin.

And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by our words you shall be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36).

I’m going to have to give an account for every word I speak (or write for that matter). It says in this scripture that I’m going to be justified or condemned by my words, so it seems to be saying that God judges our salvation based solely on what we say. It seems to support a works mentality, a doctrine that says that our salvation is based on what we do or don’t do.

However, if you read over both the Old and the New Testament, you’ll see a consistent message that we are saved by grace through faith. (Eph. 2:8, John 3:16, 2 Corin. 5:21, Romans 3:28, Psalm 32:1-2). Therefore, we cannot be saved or condemned on the basis of our deeds or words; instead, they are evidence of salvation.

Words (and deeds) are not a means to an end, (salvation), but a manifestation of our spiritual condition, an accurate gauge of what’s in the heart. What’s more, no matter how hard we try, they will give us away:

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. (James 3:8-12)

When we are full of our angry, mean selves, it comes out, but this passage isn’t just talking about words spoken in passion. The Greek transliteration for the word “careless” is “Argos”, meaning “useless, barren, unproductive, inappropriate.” 1 It also refers simply to words that reflect the idleness and the pride of life.

Lord knows there’s plenty of that. It reminds me of a phrase my dad used to use when we were kids. He would say “Callam fodi”, which is literally translated from Arabic to mean “Empty words”. It was no surprise that we would hear that phrase almost any time the TV was on because of all of its useless, wasteful material. A question to ask ourselves: how much of it are we pumping into our hearts and minds on a daily basis?

Thank God that although our words are exposed to Him, He offers His righteousness as the best cover-up to those who believe in Him. Better than a cover-up. They are washed away.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

What were your conversations about today? Can you say that they were life-giving and encouraging or useless and wasteful, even angry?

Why do you suppose it’s so hard to tame the tongue?

1)      The McArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 8 – 15, P. 319

 

ANNOUNCEMENT AND FREE GIVEAWAY: FEATURING AUTHOR MARILYNN DAWSON

Hello Friends,

Just wanted to tell you the exciting news that “Ministry in Words” is taking part in a virtual book tour for Author Marilynn Dawson’s next book, “A Year in Prayer With Jesus”! This book is due to launch in September, but she’s giving away a one-month sample before it’s even released! We are one of twelve stops on this tour, and we don’t want you to miss it! There will even be an opportunity to sign up for Marilynn’s monthly newsletter, and get a free gift in the process.

Today we feature an excerpt from the back cover of her book:

Do you struggle with the idea of a daily prayer life? Have you ever found yourself asking along with the disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray”? Then this book is for you. Let us join the disciples as we sit at Jesus’ feet and join Him in prayer. . . for an entire year.

It is important to realize that The Lord’s Prayer is not a recipe for answered prayer. Rather, it is a recipe for increased relationship with the One Who desires to answer our prayers. There is a very specific order in which Christ says we should approach God the Father. This order, if followed, brings the child of God into a place of gratitude, humility, and reverence. It seeks to bring the heart of the prayerful one into alignment with what beats God’s heart and it moves the Christian to put feet to their prayer life.

It is my desire as you go through the coming year with me, that you’ll gain a practical, living understanding and personal experiencial insight into the realm of prayer that will lift you above the materialistic tendencies; above the selfish motives; above the need for instant gratification and attention, and into the realm of God’s heart not just for you, but for those around you; not just for your own issues and needs, but those around you, and lastly, that you will experience the richness of just “being” in His presence.

Click this link here to get your tenth single day prayer guide outline.

http://songdove.fa-ct.com/stuff/YPWJ/YPWJ-day161.pdf

Be sure to stop by Marilynn’s blog (http://songdove.fa-ct.com/wordpress-mu/songdovemusing) on July 14th for your next single day prayer guide free download. Be sure to sign up for her monthly newsletter for yet another free gift! Don’t you just love FREE?

Here’s the next tops on the tour:

Week Five – Author/blogger feature over at Marilynn’s blog ( http://songdove.fa-ct.com/wordpress-mu/songdovemusings/): July 14th – Tour stop: July 16th – Jansina Grossman – http://thilly-little-nothings.blogspot.com/

Week Five – Author/blogger feature over at Marilynn’s blog ( http://songdove.fa-ct.com/wordpress-mu/songdovemusings/): July 17th – Tour stop: July 19th – Madeline Duffy – http://www.shaneflynn.com/blog/marilynn-dawson-author

Author Bio

3x4 3 (2)Marilynn Dawson is the author of “Becoming the Bride of Christ: A Personal Journey”, “Mom’s Little Black Book: Godly Advice for the High School Graduate”, “Practical Thoughts on Becoming an Author”, and “Dressed for Eternity”, her latest book released through Songdove Books, her own Imprint.

Marilynn grew up in a solid Christian home, coming to Christ at the age of 7. She has been actively involved in Church life since age 10, including activities such as joining her Mom and sister in singing special numbers, choir, teaching Sunday School, leading Sunday School open session, planning Sunday School lessons, and more. Marilynn attended both public and private schools growing up. She attended North Island Community College on Vancouver Island and Trend College in Kelowna, obtaining certificates in receptionist work and Comptia A+ computer repair.

Throughout her life, Marilynn has written poetry and published in the American Poetry Anthology(two issues). She has written numerous unpublished articles on end-time eschatology, written unpublished short stories, word studies and more.

Marilynn lives with her two grown children, cat and gerbils, in Kelowna BC Canada. Her day job is fixing computers and engaging in multimedia for her church. In the evenings and on weekends she’s a soundtech doing various events through the year from funerals to workshops to concerts and weddings. Marilynn has sung alto or tenor in various choirs and praise teams over the years.

Marilynn can be contacted via her author page on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Marilynn.Dawson.Author or by email: author@fa-ct.com