Man Can’t – But GOD CAN!

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Scripture: “Daniel replied, no wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the King the mystery he has asked about but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries….” (Daniel 2:27-28)

Observation: Daniel and some of Israel’s finest were taken into custody in Babylon (approx. 586 BC). The King is having them trained in the Babylonian language customs and government so that they can enter his service. During that period of time Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that is very disturbing to him. None of his magicians can interpret the dream satisfactorily for him. More so, he suspects them of trying to trick him or take advantage of him. So he decrees that they must not merely interpret his dream but tell him what he dreamt! To that they reply what most of us would say: “that is impossible” (2:10-11)! So the king orders their execution and even Daniel and his young friends-wise men in training. Daniel sees an opportunity, not for his glory, but for God’s. He asked the king for some more time and he asks his friends to pray. That night God revealed to him what the King had dreamt as well as the interpretation. When Daniel saw the King the next day he echoed what the king’s magicians had said- “no man can explain these mysteries.” But then he goes on to give witness to God’s power and says that in fact God can and will reveal to the King his dream and its meaning.

Application: How often do you want to give up on something because it seems too hard? We often scoff at the things that need to be done and perhaps the things that God is calling us to do by saying they are impossible. The words of Daniel that we read today resound in light of the words that Jesus would speak almost 600 years later: “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matthew 19:26). Often we want to limit God and his ability. We think He can only do the things we can do. But we are wrong-He can and does do so much more! And oftentimes, when God does work in His power, we take the credit for it. Let us learn from Daniel who did not take the credit for what God enabled him to do. Instead, let us simply use it to glorify the Lord!

Prayer: Lord, help me to remember that you are powerful when I am weak and that you are able to do anything even though I am not. Help me, in humility, to credit you with the work of your hands-and to simply thank you for allowing your work to be done through me. Amen.

God Uses the Nations For Judgment

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Scripture: “when the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, ‘the Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place.’” (Jeremiah 40:2)

Observation: if you are using the “life Journal” as your daily reading guide, today’s readings pull together three different Old Testament books. The readings found in 2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36, and Jeremiah 40-41 all deal with the Babylonian conquering of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and the exile of many Jews into Babylon. Each book has its own focus. The writer of 2 Kings does not write about the return of the Jews after the exile, so his tone is a bit more somber and final. The writer of Chronicles, however, writes his history knowing that the Persians would conquer the Babylonians and eventually (after 70 years) allow the Jews to return to their land. Jeremiah the prophet does not witness the return of the Jews from exile, but he experiences his own “return from Babylon” of sorts as he is removed from custody and allowed to stay with the remnant that is left in Israel-the poor farmers who must tend the land and yield crops for the benefit of the Babylonian government. The king of Babylon gives the prophet Jeremiah special treatment. And through the words of Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guard in 40:2, demonstrates the source of this inexplicable kindness-the power of God. Nebuzaradan tells Jeremiah in no uncertain terms that all of this destruction has been decreed by God as a judgment against Israel. In fact in today’s readings alone, we see three kings of enemy nations pronouncing the word of God against Israel. In 2 Chronicles 35:21, Neco the King of Egypt says to Josiah the king of Judah: “What quarrel is there between you and me, O king of Judah? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.” And in 2 Chronicles 36:23, the last verse of the book, we hear Cyrus the King of Persia say “the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.”

Application: people often struggle with God’s presence in destruction. And they often struggle with the apparent success of God’s enemies. Today’s readings make it clear that God used the nations around Israel time and time again to meet out his justice against the people of Israel. We see three different kings (Egypt, Babylon, and Persia) all speaking of how God is working through them to do his work among his people-even to the point of protecting a prophet and returning the people to their land. For you and me, this can be both a harsh reminder and a comfort. It reminds us that God is no respecter of peoples. Those who are doing his will receive his favor and those that are opposed to him receive his judgment. But it also comforts us in knowing that even during times of destruction, God is at work protecting his people-even while the wars and the nations rage.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please remind me that you are perfectly righteous and just, that your blessing and your judgment fall on the wicked and the righteous alike. Please preserve us in strength and hope during these trying times knowing that you are at work through it all. Amen.

Encouragement for Leaders

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There are a lot of challenges in ministry. This is true.

However, every once in a while, God sends us a little encouragement… a little reminder that we are on the right track. One of these just came in my email from someone who does not attend our church but lives in the area … it reads (slightly edited):

What a great location for your church. The sign looks good. It is amazing how God blesses us (in my case even though I don’t measure up). Who would have thought a Christain Church right on Ellsworth one of the busiest roads in Queen Creek. Keep up the good work for Christ.

So often we get our head into the details and we lose sight of the fact that we are, in fact, making progress! We are so much farther now than we were a few years back! We are at a wonderful time in ministry – our seed has sprouted and soon we’ll be blossoming…

May we bear much fruit for the Lord!

Are You A Hero?

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“Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8)

I have been donating blood for a while now (thanks to my wife and the blood drive ministry at Saving Grace) and I have learned one of United Blood Service’s slogans: “Be A Hero.” The point that they are trying to make is that by donating blood you can be a hero. Every time you donate blood someone’s life is saved. And so their marketing materials show ordinary people, in the workplace, wearing a red cape.

What do you think of when I say the word “hero?” Do you think of someone like Superman or Spiderman? Do you think of someone with super-human powers? United Blood Service seeks to dispel that myth by pointing out that anyone can be a hero. The book of Acts in the Bible does something similar with the story of Stephen the martyr. Stephen was the first martyr of the Christian church. He died for his faith. Since then, his story has encouraged countless Christians over numerous generations, and His sacrifice has blessed the lives of many. He was a true hero.

Looking at Stephen, what we notice is that there was nothing particularly noteworthy about him. The Scripture portrays him as someone who was humble (waiting on tables) and yet full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. So it is with many of the “heroes of the faith,” Moses-slow of speech, David-a young shepherd boy, Mary-a lowly virgin. It seems as though the Lord does his mighty works through those who have little in and of themselves offer him. This of course makes sense, since none of us can add anything to do the Lord. He possesses all power. What He desires is someone who will allow Him use His power through them (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

What about you? Do you want to do something great for the Lord? Do you want to be a hero? You may be thinking that to do so will require a massive sacrifice one day in the future. Perhaps like Stephen you will be called upon to give your life in defense of your faith? That could happen. But what is more likely is that the Lord will use you, humbly, throughout your life and day by day. Just as with giving blood-a simple needle stick and one hour of your time, the Lord will use your faithful offerings of time, talent and treasure to build His Kingdom.

With our Faith on Fire – Alive in the Spirit campaign, you and I have the opportunity to truly be heroes for the next generation! We have the chance to leave behind a legacy of faith much like Stephen. Will the sacrifices that we make today speak to Christians of the future about our great faith in the Lord? Will our actions attest to God’s great grace and power? And will future generations have hope because of the Gospel seeds we are sowing today? I pray that your answer to those questions are unequivocally “Yes, Yes & Amen!”

Pastor Augie

They Still Did Not Repent

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Scripture: “the rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands;” Revelation 9:20

Observation: Both here and in our reading from Ezekiel chapters 22-24 today, the Lord is dealing with a rebellious people. I guess we can assume that since this is in both the Old Testament, the New Testament and future prophecy, that people never change. God keeps giving, sustaining, providing and blessing, and the people keep rebelling and sinning. The language that the Bible uses in Eziekiel has to do with prostitution. The people of Israel and Judah continue to prostitute themselves with the leaders and the gods of other nations. In the book of Revelation even though the trumpets have sounded in the Angels meet out God’s judgmental destruction and a third of mankind has been killed by plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur, the people amazingly still did not repent. The Bible says “they did not stop worshiping demons, and the idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood-idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magical arts, their sexual morality or their thefts.” (Rev. 9:20) How deeply sinful people are, that in the face of clear judgment from God and the destruction that it causes, people will continue to away from God and toward their sins.

Application: Where has God spoken a word of conviction in our lives? Where has he told us that we are living the life of sin and seeking after other idols? And where in our lives has his judgment begun to be felt by us, yet we continue to sin and still do not repent? For me, I continue in the same. It’s easy for us to come to church on Sunday and go before the Lord, confessing our sins and our behavior… but true repentance requires a turning from sin and a change in our behavior. This is something that will not come by merely discussing it. It requires action. Will you consider today to get into an accountability relationship with another man or woman? Will you consider turning from the “work of your hands” and truly repenting before the Lord? Repentance is a mark of faith. And faith, as we know, is what saves. Let your faith in God empower your repentance today.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please bring to my mind those areas where I am weak. Please show me where my idols are. Please give me the courage and strength to turn from my sinful ways and to seek you all the days of my life. Amen.