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.

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?

Weekly Seed of Faith 8/16/19

Seed of Faith – I BELIEVE IN JESUS — IS JESUS ENOUGH?   By Pastor Dave  

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

Dear Saintly Seed-Sowers:

It is my hope and prayer that you will see the GLORY of Jesus in your life and that you will come to know that Jesus is enough.

Today we begin to look at the second section of the Apostles’ Creed.

Join with me in the reading of this ancient creed of faith that has shaped and changed so many lives for so many years.

The Apostles’ Creed 
1. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
2. and in Jesus Christ, His only (begotten) Son, our Lord;
3. who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, 

4. suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried;  He descended into hell; 
5. the third day he rose again from the dead; 
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; 
7. from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost, 
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, 
10. the forgiveness of sins, 
11. the resurrection of the body, 
12. and the life everlasting.
Amen.
[i]

This creed was used as a creed, to state exactly what the early believers believed.  In fact, the word “creed” comes from “credo” which means “I believe.” I hope by the end of our series that you will have found your own “CREDO”! Do you remember that the early church used this creed as their baptismal confession? If you wanted to join the church—way back in the second century—you needed to proclaim your faith in the TRINITY: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed was one way to declare what you believed.

The first section of the Creed was about God, the Father–the creator and maker of all. The second section of the Creed is about the second person of the Trinity: JESUS. When The Apostles’ Creed speaks about Jesus, it takes us on a journey through Christmas, Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter as it unfolds the truth of who Jesus is.

Jesus is the name that Michael the Arch Angel gave to Mary when he announced to her the Good News of her pregnancy. “…the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.'” (Luke 1:30-33)

The name “Jesus” is Greek and comes from the Hebrew name for “Joshua” which means “God is Savior.”  By giving him the name Jesus, this identified Jesus as a historical person:  Jesus was Mary’s son.  Jesus was the son of Joseph, a carpenter.  Jesus worked in His father’s carpentry business until he was thirty years old and then Jesus began His ministry of healing, of miracles and of resurrections.  Jesus labored for three years as a rabbi teaching that the Kingdom of God had come. He was put to death around 30 A.D. by Pontius Pilate. After Christ’s death, His followers became known as CHRISTIANS (little Christs).

Part two, line two of the Creed starts with: “I believe in Jesus Christ.” Here’s some trivia on the word “Christ.” “Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Messiah.” Christ equals Messiah. Messiah equals Christ. The name “Christ” is a title, it is not Jesus’ last name. When we say “Jesus Christ,” it means “Jesus the Messiah.”

The title “Christ” also expresses the claim that Jesus fulfilled all three ministries that are anointed with the title in the Old Testament times: a prophet (a messenger from God,) a priest (one who mediates with God for us by sacrifice) and a king.  Jesus Christ literally means: “Jesus, the Messiah, the prophet, the priest and the king.”  “Christ” is a pretty impressive title. This is what we are saying when we recite the first two lines: I believe God is my Father who has power over all my Father has ever created.  Line two: I believe that Jesus is the messiah, the Christ, the prophet, the priest and the king.

We continue in the Creed to proclaim that this Jesus Christ is God’s only Son.

Legend has it that sometime in the first century, a wealthy merchant was traveling through the Mediterranean world. He was looking for the distinguished Pharisee, Paul, when he encountered Timothy. Timothy arranged a visit between the merchant and Paul. Paul, at the time, was  a prisoner in Rome. Stepping inside the cell, the merchant was surprised to find a rather old man, physically frail, but whose serenity and magnetism challenged the visitor. They talked for hours. Finally, the merchant left with Paul’s blessing. Outside the prison, the merchant inquired, “What is the secret of this man’s power? I have never seen anything like it before.”  Timothy replied, “Did you not guess? Paul is in love.” The merchant looked bewildered. “In love?” “Yes,” Timothy answered, “Paul is in love with Jesus Christ.”  The merchant looked even more bewildered. “Is that all?” Smiling, Timothy replied, “Is that all? That, my friend, is everything.”[i]

So What?
Christianity can sometimes be a crazy thing. The Church can sometimes be a crazy thing. There are all these “rules” of accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. And there are many debates on how to accept Christ as your Savior but not as your Lord. Here’s what the WORD says in John 14:6, Jesus is speaking, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”

I can only imagine that some of you might be wrestling with God’s call on your life. What is God calling you to do and become? Here’s your “SO WHAT?” for the week: IS JESUS ENOUGH FOR ME? Is God my Father, and is Jesus my Savior and Lord? Is Jesus all I need? Or do you need more than Jesus? It’s the age-old wrestling match: is JESUS enough?

I was 12 when I first accepted Jesus as my Savior. I believed in Jesus because I wanted to go to heaven to see my brother, Gary, who had died in a car accident.  When I was 27, I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.  Ten years later, I felt the call to go into full-time ministry. It took me three years of battling the “What ifs” before I told my wife. What if I give up everything, we’ve worked so hard to get? What if I walk away from security? What if I’m really bad at ministry? What if we never have much of anything? Is Jesus enough? If Jesus is my Savior and my Lord can I trust His call? “FOLLOW ME, Dave, and I will make you a fisher of people.”

In conclusion, I think of Jacob who wrestled an angel all night.  (First of all, notice THE MAIN SPORT LISTED HERE: wrestling!) Jacob had fled his home because he had tricked his father (with his mother’s help) and had stolen the birthright from his twin brother, Esau. He went to work for his Uncle Laban and married both Leah and Rachel. By this time in the story, Jacob is heading back home with all of his wives, children, livestock and all that goes along with that. He sends everyone ahead, and stays behind at the ford of the Jabbok. Jacob was alone and an angel wrestled him all night. The angel touched and wrenched Jacob’s hip socket. Jacob said to the angel, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” I often wonder if the longer version went more like this, “I am about to go see my brother. Long ago, I outsmarted him for the family birthright. I haven’t seen in him many years. You need to bless me. He might really be mad at me.” The angel does more than bless Jacob, the angel changes Jacob’s name to Israel–because he has struggled with God and with humans and has overcome. Jacob had to get to the point where God was enough. So do you and I. This is your “SO WHAT?” for the week: IS JESUS ENOUGH FOR ME?
Let’s pray:
God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—HELP me to know what I believe, increase my faith and increase my trust in YOU. God, help me. Help me to stand at the waters of  baptism, help me to understand this creed. Give me eyes to see YOU, ears to hear YOU and a heart to know YOU. Help me to follow You as You make me a fisher of people. Jesus, You are enough. Amen.
See you Sunday …

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

[i] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 225). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[i] Historic Creeds and Confessions. (1997). (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Lexham Press.

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.