Seed of Faith 2/27/21

Seed of Faith – Faith In The Lions Den   By Pastor Dave  
 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” Daniel 6:26-27

Dear Faithful – Fearless – Fruitful Seed Sowers,

I pray that each and everyone of you are safe in the grace and love of Jesus! The days we are living through are difficult. I pray that you find comfort in these SEEDS OF FAITH and in the living, enduring WORD OF GOD. I pray that your faith will increase and your fear will decrease. God be with us as we face this pandemic. Amen.

Over the past few weeks, we have learned about Daniel.  Daniel and his three good friends: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were taken captive from Israel as teenagers and brought to Babylon. Daniel served under four different Kings of Babylon: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus. By the time we reach this story in chapter 6, Daniel is in his eighties.  He has been serving the kings and interpreting dreams for sixty years.  One thing is noteworthy to me: during all of his time in captivity, Daniel remained faithful to his one, true God.

Back to our story, King Darius now appoints Daniel to be the one of three administrators over his kingdom. The king has plans to set old Daniel over his whole kingdom.

Have you ever thought about this? King Darius plans to set Daniel over his whole kingdom?

I have!  How does someone get to that place in life where the King wants to put you in charge of his kingdom? I don’t know about you, but I believe it was because of Daniel’s faith and faithful service. In our story, we learn that Daniel that is willing to remain true to his faith even when the new order is placed: “All people should not pray to any other god. All people are to only pray to the king, and if this edict is violated, you will be thrown into the lions’ den.” (Put yourself into THIS story, friends.)

What I glean from this story is that Daniel’s coworkers were jealous and envious of Daniel. They know they will not find any corruption in Daniel so a plan is concocted in order for Daniel to fail. After the edict,  Daniel goes home, like he always does, opens his window like he always does, and begins to pray to the God of Jerusalem like he always did. We are told right here in Daniel 6 that three times each day Daniel got down on his knees and prayed to God. Daniel gave thanks to his God. As far as Daniel was concerned, there was no edict for Daniel that could stop him from praying to God.

Even when Daniel learned that the decree had been ordered and published and enacted, he went home to his upstairs room where his windows were opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10

I like these words, “just as he had done before.”  If we were really in this story, we would know that we could count on one thing: Daniel would go home three times each day and pray. This wasn’t just a pattern with Daniel, this was a lifestyle.

The outside world may have been changing, but God had not changed, and Daniel was not going to allow his relationship to God to change regardless of the shifting circumstances.

What about you? Is your outside world changing? I think we can learn a lot from this story. Despite our changing outside world, we can not allow our relationship with God to be changed regardless of the circumstances. We can learn from Daniel how to be faithful and true.

Are there shifting circumstances in our world? You bet. It’s been a year since the pandemic started and our world has changed. Our circumstances have changed.  What about you? Has your God changed, too? Or have you remained faithful to God—no mater whether you go to church or worship from home? What would be your response if the government issued the same sort of decree today? “Everyone must bow down to the golden statue.” (We all have a golden statue. We do. We either resist the temptation to bow down and let it control our lives or we bow down. We have much to learn from Daniel today.)

Daniel knew that, no matter what, his God would be with him.  He had heard about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. He knew the stories of deliverance of his people. He knew about their former slavery in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, the cloud by day and fire at night to guide his ancestors. Daniel knew his history and Daniel knew the truth. His circumstances may have been changing but his God remained the same. “Daniel did what he had always done.” Daniel went home and bowed before the one, true King and, soon after, he was confronted by his enemies:  surrender, stop praying to your God and pray to King Darius alone or else.

So What?
I came across this illustration the other day and thought of Daniel and the Lion’s Den.

Nadin Khoury was thirteen years old, five foot two, and weighed, soaking wet, probably a hundred pounds. His attackers were teenagers, larger than Nadin, and outnumbered him seven to one.

For thirty minutes they hit, kicked, and beat him. He never stood a chance.

Khoury’s mom had recently moved the family to Philadelphia from Minnesota. She had lost her job as a hotel maid and was looking for work. In 2000 she had escaped war-torn Liberia. Nadin Khoury, then, was the new kid in a rough neighborhood with a mom who was an unemployed immigrant — everything a wolf pack of bullies needed to justify an attack.

The hazing began weeks earlier. They picked on him. They called his mother names. They routinely pushed, shoved, and ambushed him. Then came the all-out assault on that January day. They dragged him through the snow, stuffed him into a tree, and suspended him on a seven-foot wrought-iron fence.

Khoury survived the attack and would have likely faced more attacks except for the folly of one of the bullies. He had filmed the pile-on and posted it on YouTube. A passerby saw the violence and chased away the bullies. Police saw it and got involved. The troublemakers landed in jail, and the story reached the papers.

A staffer at the nationwide morning show The View read the account and invited Khoury to appear on the broadcast. He did. As the video of the assault played on the screen behind him, he tried to appear brave, but his lower lip quivered. “Next time maybe it could be somebody smaller than me,” he said.

Unbeknownst to him the producer had invited some other Philadelphians to appear on the show as well. As the YouTube video ended, the curtain opened, and three huge men walked out, members of the Philadelphia Eagles football team.

Khoury, a rabid fan, turned and smiled. One was All-Pro receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson took a seat on the couch as close to the boy as possible and promised him, “Anytime you need us, I got two linemen right here.”

Khoury’s eyes widened saucer-like as Jackson signed a football jersey and handed it to him. Then, in full view of every bully in America, he gave the boy his cell phone number. He told Khoury to call him if he needed him. From that day forward, Khoury has been a phone call away from his personal bodyguards. Thugs think twice before they harass the kid who has an NFL football player’s number on speed dial.

Pretty good offer. Who wouldn’t want that type of protection?  [i]

(Here is the link to a YouTube video of Nadin and the Philadelphia Eagles   https://youtu.be/_O4eipeoh78)

Do you know something? God gives us this very same promise. In fact, the writer of Hebrews quoted them in his epistle:  

“For [God] has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’  So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper: I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?'”  Hebrews 13:5–6 NRSV 

In closing, I want to share a story. When my wife and I had just moved to California in 1999, we had to bring our van in for engine work. Being new in town, we asked around and found the shop. (Rochelle is a city of 10,000 people. When we left, there were two stop lights in town. Upland had 77,000 people and was surrounded by a sea of suburbs. Finding a new mechanic, new doctors, new friends–all intimidating tasks when you’re new in town.) Anyway, we dropped our van. As you may recall, we are that family that names their vehicles. This van was 7 years old, and had over 350,000 miles on it. We got her when the kids were still in school.  We named our van, FAITHFUL AND TRUE BLUE. She was the car we drove through my seminary years, and through our first two church calls. When we went to pick up our van, there was a homeless guy sitting on the curb by the van.  The new California plates read GKG with numbers. Jac, my wife, would always say as we climbed into “faithful and true”, “Let’s go serve the Great Kingdom of God, Dave!” We paid our bill and started to get into our car. Wait, the homeless guy. We talked for a bit.  I asked if he was hungry (he was) and walked to the local burger joint next door. Jac stayed with the van and the homeless guy started chatting with her. He told her, “You know, you guys serve the great kingdom of God? Your van is faithful and true–just like you.” I delivered the meal. We drove away. Jac told me what the guy had said and asked me to go back. We’d been gone 3 minutes and the guy was nowhere to be found. You see, we were missing home. We had been exiled to Southern California! Our nearest family was 2,000 away. Everything was so new in this land of Oz. As we drove away, I told Jac that God had reconfirmed a promise from the bible: “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU.”

That’s my prayer for you today that somehow, someway you will know that you know that you know that GOD IS WITH YOU.

It’s the theme of our Lenten journey: GOD WITH US. GOD WITH ME.

By the way, God’s cell phone number is JEREMIAH 33:3–put it on speed dial in your heart:

“Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things.”

A hungry, homeless guy in the middle of our desert? Here’s your “SO WHAT?” homework.  It’s simple but not easy:

AM I FAITHFUL AND TRUE?

You see, Daniel was faithful and true. He never stopped praying to God no matter what the circumstances of his life entailed. We can learn a lot from Daniel today.

See you Sunday!

I’m praying for you!

GOD LOVES YOU AND SO DO I!
Pastor Dave
www.theseedchristianfellowship.com

Copyright © 2018 THE SEED CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP, All rights reserved. May you be blessed by God’s grace and love. You are receiving this email because you signed up for our weekly devotionals.   Our mailing address is: 6450 Emerald Street Alta Loma, California 91701   Want to change how you receive these emails? You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Weekly Seed of Faith 1/18/20

Seed of Faith – BURIED WITH CHRIST — RAISED TO A NEW LIFE   By Pastor Dave  

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

Dear Faithful Friends and Spirit-Filled Seed Sowers:

I hope and pray that your week is going well and that this New Year is unfolding with God’s grace upon grace as you walk in Christ.

I encourage you to pick up your Bible and read Colossians 2:6-15.  Have you ever thought what it means to walk with Christ? Have you ever thought that you have been buried with Christ in His baptism and then raised into a new life with Him?

When Paul writes this letter to the Colossians, he is sitting in a prison cell in Rome.  Paul wants the Colossians to remember that Jesus Christ is God, that Jesus Christ is the head of the church and that we can have union with Jesus Christ by walking with Christ and remembering His and our own baptism.

I love the opening verses — “Just as you have received Christ as Lord.”  When you were baptized, you received Christ as your Lord and Savior.  To “receive” means “to take your inheritance, to bring alongside, to hold, to draw oneself to and learn from someone.”  Do you notice what Paul says?  He writes us to say, “Receive, take your inheritance, take a hold of, learn from and bring alongside Jesus Christ as your LORD!  Lord means master, ruler, one who has power and authority over you.  This was a radical teaching then and is still a radical teaching today. Receive the LORD JESUS as the one who has power and authority over you. I received Christ as my Lord and Savior in 1981. I’ve never once regretted Christ being the master and ruler of my life.

If you have never been baptized, I encourage you to go and talk with your pastor or come and talk with me. Let me know and we can baptize you when you are ready to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Even if you want to rededicate yourself to Christ, I’d be happy to remember your baptism–in your pool, hot tub, river or ocean! I remember in the summer of 2010, Jac asked me to dunk her in the ocean at Carona Del Mar. She wanted to rededicate her life once again to Christ. She had been through some hard seasons with the church and she wanted to profess: “My life isn’t about a religion, Jesus, my life is about a relationship with you. You are my Lord and my Savior. Period. Nothing less. Nothing more.” Big Ed and Dave dunked her as she intentionally washed away religion and rededicated her life to a relationship with Jesus Christ. She came up out of the ocean laughing and praising God. Yes.  If you ever want to rededicate your life, or DEDICATE your life to Christ, I am a text, an email, a phone call away.

Look at verse six again … “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him…”  Since you have received Christ, Paul then tells us to continue … “peripateo”—continue to live in Christ.  I love the verb “peripateo” It means to “walk with, walk along, walk up and down, traverse, behave and conduct oneself and live with.”  Wow!  That is a mouthful!

Paul is laying down a hard teaching: Take and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord, ruler and authority of your life, and continue to live in Christ day in and day out, hour after hour.  Walk up the hill and down the hill, walk alongside of Christ. Conduct yourself with Christ. This verb is a command, not a suggestion, and we are called to continually follow and walk along with Jesus Christ as Lord.

When I read verse twelve, I am reminded of our baptism.  We were buried in the waters of baptism with Christ and then immediately we were raised into new life through the power of God.  This power of God is the awesome Holy Spirit, who washes away our sins and sets us free to walk alongside Jesus. This is what Paul means when he writes that we were dead in our sins and, through the power of God, we are forgiven by Jesus’ death on the cross. As we remember our baptism, we remember that we, too, were dead in our sin but as we go under the waters of baptism–our sins are washed away. How can that be? By the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. All sin–PAID. Our debt–PAID IN FULL.  How can we not accept and follow this Savior?

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! You have been buried with Christ and raised into a new life.

Who wouldn’t want to be set free from the sin that clings so closely to us?  Who wouldn’t like to be set free from their past failures and faults?  Imagine picking up a black stone or two and casting it into the depths of the sea.  I love how the Old Testament prophet, Micah, states this idea of a God who forgives: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19

Or think of Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

At the SEED, we do a “REMEMBER YOUR BAPTISM SUNDAY” after Epiphany Sunday. We set up a table with a tall, clear vase filled with water and we set a ton of black stones around the vase. As you come forward to remember your baptism, you are given the chance to bury into the sea your sins. Casting a black stone or two or three into the waters represents your past sins, failures, disappointments, defeats, setbacks, sadness, shame, disgrace, guilt, doubt, fears–anything negative that holds you back from walking into this New Year baptized in Christ, walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s a great experience. For those of you who live near water, take a hike! Take a hike and pick up some stones and toss them into the water. “Here, Jesus, here’s my ___________. I have been buried with you in my baptism. I have been cleansed. Help me to walk in the freedom you died for.”

At church last Sunday, we had the first vase filled with water and the stones to toss and then we had a table with a vases filled with water and white stones. In order to get a white stone, you had to dip your hand into the waters. As you we dipped your hand into the water,  you remembered your baptism: I have been buried with Christ and I am raised into a new life with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am forgiven and I am free! I will walk continually rooted and built up in my faith with overflowing with thankfulness.”

Revelation 2:17 says — “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

After you picked up your white stone, we had another opportunity to pick up a paper with a new name written on it for this year. If you would like a new name for the year, email me or text me and I will light a candle and pray for you and draw a new name for you for the year. 

As your pastor, I want you to know that God loves you.  God loves you just as you are.  We are bought back…redeemed.  We are forgiven.  Our slate is clean.  God promises to be with us as we grow and change this year…through the hard times, through the blessed times, through the easy times, through the difficult times…yes…God wants to bless the land we dwell in…both the mountain tops and the valleys.

Alone, we are not enough, but Christ is.  Christ’s body was broken, and his blood was shed…and that is enough.  With Christ in our hearts, we are enough.  We are forgiven.  We are cleansed.  We are free. Vision 2020–this is the perfect start to a new year and a new decade. This is the year when we decide that we will walk up the hills and down the hills with Christ in our heart.

My new name is Confident One. Jac’s is Full of Happiness. What’s yours? Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside! Have a great week.

See you Sunday!

God loves you and so do I,
Pastor Dave
www,theseedchristianfellowship.com

Copyright © 2018 THE SEED CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP, All rights reserved. May you be blessed by God’s grace and love. You are receiving this email because you signed up for our weekly devotionals.   Our mailing address is: 6450 Emerald Street Alta Loma, California 91701   Want to change how you receive these emails? You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Romans 3:13-18 The Race in Ruin

We have already had one very grim description of the human race in the verses that end Romans 1. There humanity was described as being “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity (see Rom 1:29-31). After a list such as this, we might think unnecessary to catalogue more. Yet, as Paul gets to the end of this first main section of Romans, in which the need of people for the gospel of grace is so clearly and comprehensively pointed out, he seems to sense a need to do it all over again. The difference between this and the passage in Romans 1 is that each of these sentences is a quotation from the Old Testament, whereas the earlier passage was made up merely of the apostle’s own descriptive terminology. In other words, the verses in Romans 1 are a description of the world as Paul saw it, though he is also writing as an apostle and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The verses in Romans 3 are more specifically and obviously God’s own description of the race’s depravity.

Verses 13 and 14 are made up of three quotations from the Old Testament: Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3, and Psalm 10:7, though there are other passages that are similar. What is striking about them is that they all refer to organs of speech: throat, tongue, lips, and mouth. And they describe how the words spoken by these organs are used to harm others. In the previous verses we have shown how people harm themselves by turning away from God. Here we learn how they also harm others by the organs of speech that God gave them. What do you think of first when you read these verses? If you are like me, you notice the words cursing and bitterness and think, first of all, of harsh speech, which is meant to wound another person. Yet, what Paul is saying here goes deeper, because the words that describe the outcome of the harmful words of the ungodly all have to do, not with psychological injury, but with death.

We are not to think that this grim description is limited to mere words; in verse 14 the deceitful and poisonous speech of verse 13 boils over into “cursing and bitterness” on those who refuse to be deceived. And in verses 15-17 those who teach falsehood move from words to violent actions. These verses, quoted from Isaiah 59:7-8, describe three acts of violent men, beginning with the end result of these acts. To see the progression, we need to take them in reverse order. (1) “The way of peace they do not know” (v. 17). This relates to people as they are in themselves apart from God. They know no personal peace-“… the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud” (Isa. 57:20). This also describes the effects such persons have upon others. Having no peace themselves, they disrupt the peace of other people. (2) “Ruin and misery mark their ways” (v. 16). Again, this is something wicked persons experience themselves; their way is misery and ruin. It’s also something they bring on others. Without a changed nature, human beings naturally labor to destroy and ruin one another. (3) “Their feet are swift to shed blood” (v. 15). Working backward, we come to the last of these deceitful actions. Their end is death – and not just physical death, though that would be bad enough in itself – but spiritual death, which is death of the soul and spirit in hell. Death means separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the soul and spirit from God. It’s forever!

The last phrase of this great summary of the human race in ruin is from Psalm 36:1. It tells why all these other violent and wicked acts have happened: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  In the Bible the word fear, when used of God, denotes a right and reverential frame of mind before Him. It has to do with worshiping Him, obeying Him, and departing from evil. When Romans 3:18 declares that the human race has not done this, it’s saying what Paul has been stating all along. Because men and women will not know God, choosing rather to suppress the truth about Him, their minds are darkened and they become fools. They claim to be wise but, “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:22).

It’s interesting, that Paul here also refers to “eyes.” This is the sixth of the specific body references Paul makes in these verses in order to make his accusations vivid. Since eyes are our organs of vision, and to have the fear of God before our eyes means that we have God constantly in our thoughts and in a central position in everything that concerns us. It means that we are ever looking toward Him. Again, in discussing man’s downward path, that it is our destiny as those who are made in God’s image to look up to the heavenly beings and beyond them to God and thus become increasingly like God. To have the “fear of God before [our] eyes” is to do just that. It’s the way of all blessing, growth, and knowledge. But if we will not do that, we will inevitably look down and become like the beasts that are below us.

How could our salvation be due to anything but mercy if we are as ruined as Paul describes us? Ruined? Yes! But we may be saved from ruin by the glorious work of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Romans 3:13-18 Reflection Questions:

Why do you think Paul felt the need to quote from the Old Testament in these verses?

What other New Testament passages come to you mind regarding harmful speech?

 

Are your eyes ever looking toward God throughout your days?