UnQualified #1 - "OMG"

Monday through Friday, February 18-22, 2019

Part 1

This week we are going to be starting a new series I am calling “UnQualified.” There are many days and many instances that I feel very unqualified to do what is being asked. For instance, being called “The Apostle” by our Panama churches - when I think of the Apostles, I do not think of myself in any way as qualified for that title. When the princess was born, I felt more than a little unqualified to be “dad.” When I helped coach the High school football team in Wood River, IL and the players and other coaches would address me as “coach,” I always looked around to see where the head coach was, feeling very unqualified. And soon I'll be called, "father-in-law"  - how do I live up to that? Do you ever feel that way?  

With that in mind, here is something for you to chew on; As the “Bride of Christ,” we take His Name, we bear His Name. Are we living our lives in vanity, poorly reflecting His Name? or are we allowing our lives to glorify His Name?

 

As our first installment of this series, this week we are going to be looking at one of the 10 Commandments. Let’s look at Exodus 20, specifically at verse 7, which is the third commandment. I have it here from the New American Standard Bible. Exodus 20:7 NASB “You shall not take The Name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His Name in vain.” 

As I just pointed out, this is one of the Ten Commandments. More than that, it is the one I feel I have misunderstood more than any of the others. “Don’t take the Lord’s Name in vain.” I used to think this commandment had a very specific and limited application. For me, it basically boiled down to not saying, “Oh, my God!” or any derivative of that, like “OMG” when shocked or excited. It meant not saying, “Jesus Christ!” when someone cuts you off in traffic. But this commandment is about far more than just how you use God’s Name as a vocabulary word; it’s about how you “take” His Name as a way of life. In other words, do you live according to who He is?

 

So, I have to ask: “Does your life reflect His identity?” The very moment you surrendered your life to Jesus, you took on His identity. You chose to no longer identify with yourself, with your ways, or even with your own will. Just as a slave is identified only by his/her master, so we become “bondservants” of Christ.

 

But unlike any other lord or any other savior; He who is both Lord and Savior; God incarnate, chose to lay down His throne and priestly garments, to identify with you… to identify with me. And He commanded us to be holy, because He is holy. We are ambassadors of Christ and we are told that, very pointedly, in 2 Corinthians 5:20.  

 

Continued tomorrow

Un-Qualified #1 - "OMG"  part 2

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

When the world looks at you, what is it that they see? (I’m not asking if they like you or accept you.) Think of how much the world seems to hate God, especially Jesus. Jesus told us, “No servant is greater than his Master.” But when the world looks at you, do they see Jesus? Do they see hope in the storm, light in the darkness, unshakeable joy, peace that surpasses all understanding, selfless love? Or do you live in ways that are incongruent or incompatible with the Name you took when you decided to call yourself a Christian?

Jesus says that, “…no one can serve two masters...” (hence the inside conflict we often experience between our spirit and our flesh). Joshua said, “…choose this day whom you will serve.” Peter warns us, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit…” Paul says… we are to, “crucify our flesh daily…” The book of Proverbs tells us, to “fear God…” and all throughout Bible we are told to be “salt and light…,” to give Him praise, make a joyful noise, and to proclaim the goodness of God Almighty.

The Bible at times refers to us as gods (lower case “g”) or sons of God. For instance, in John 10:30-36, we read, “‘The Father and I are one.” 31 Once again the people picked up stones to kill Him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” 33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.” 34 Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ 35 And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ 36 why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God?’ After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world” NLT.  Jesus is not using The Law to endorse the idea that we can all be gods, as some cults would suggest. The original language of the text translates to mean either God or resembling God in any way. Jesus was saying it is not wrong to identify with God, since we are, made in His image. And of course, the word Christian, means “little Christ” or “Christ-like.”

 

Whether by word or by deed, our lives present a picture to our neighbors of who He is, of what His Name represents. Just as a bride, traditionally takes the name of her groom, we (the bride of Christ) take His Name. Do we take it in vain or do we allow it change us? 

Unfortunately, my natural tendency, and maybe yours, is to take this commandment almost as a threat. We think God’s focus is our behavior. But in all honesty, our actions are only a small part of what it means to take God’s Name in vain. In reality, this commandment is directly connected to how we view ourselves. 

 

Please understand that this is not a foolish attempt to somehow twist this commandment so we are equals to God. It is a simple question of whether or not we are allowing God define us. In essence, if we are called by His Name, how are we treating His Name? Remember, Jesus prayed, “…let them be one as You and I are one.”  

 

Continued tomorrow

Un-Qualified #1 – OMG part 3

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Jewish engagement is unlike American engagements. In a Jewish engagement, the groom-to-be usually goes to the father of the bride-to-be and pays a price for the bride; at that point, a legally-binding engagement begins. The bride’s future is then in the groom’s hands and everyone knows she belongs to him. Once engaged, she takes on his identity. And during the engagement period, he prepares a home for her. All of this is done in anticipation of the big ceremony.

So is our engagement to Jesus Christ, who has gone to the Father, paid the price so that you and I might be called His very own, and is now preparing a place for us. Our future is in His hands as we await the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. And in our waiting, God has given us four things – four engagement gifts, if you will.
 

The Gift of Identity

In his book, An Anthropologist on Mars, neurologist Oliver Sacks tells about Virgil, a man who had been blind from early childhood. When he was 50, Virgil underwent surgery and was given the gift of sight. But as he and Dr. Sacks found out, having the physical capacity for sight, is not the same as seeing.

Dr. Sacks said, “Virgil’s first experiences with sight were confusing. He was able to make out colors and movements, but, arranging them into a coherent picture, well, that was more difficult. Over time he learned to identify various objects, but, his habits, his behaviors, were still those of a blind man.” Dr. Sacks asserts, “One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person. It is the interim, the limbo, that is so terrible.”

To truly see Jesus and His truth means more than observing what He did or said; it means a change of identity. You are no longer a slave! The Gospels tell us that Jesus gave His life as a ransom for us. (See Mark 10:45) And the Apostle Peter writes this about Jesus in 1 Peter 2:24: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” 

 

Continued tomorrow   

Un-Qualified #1 - "OMG" part 4

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Even though we are freed from sin and are willfully enslaved to God, Jesus declares (in John 15:15), “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me” NLT. You are more than a number! To my country, I might just be a social security number, a male, a Caucasian, a voter, or a social statistic, but God numbers the hairs on my head and He calls me by name. He loves me and He loves you, too! 

You are no longer lost! Right now, our world is deeply lost. To be truthful, America is deeply lost. We don’t know who we are. We can’t seem to grasp that All Lives Matter and every grievance is or should be a major social injustice.

 

This all points to a need for acceptance. As the world rips itself apart with violence and division, Jesus unifies us as one by His Spirit. Our skin does not define us, Our jobs do not define us, Social media does not define us, Our weight, grades, heart language, yearly income, talents or lack there-of, none of these define us. In all truth, friends, we are defined only by the One who sovereignly, perfectly, loves us all: Jesus Christ. 
 

God has given you His Identity

We are branded with the Name of Jesus, appointed as royalty (see 1 Peter 2:9 “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…). Don’t abuse your identity. Don’t tell God what your identity is; He knows you better than you know yourself and He has chosen to identify with you, to spare not His Son for you. Ephesians 4:13-14 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession…” NIV.

The world doesn’t hate you, they hate the One who is in you. Listen to Jesus’s words in John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you” CSB. In other words, they hate Jesus Who is in you. They hate that you look like Him, talk like Him, and live like Him, because the cross is foolishness to them. They hate that you have taken His Name because they value the wrong things. 
 

God has given you His Sufficiency

His grace is sufficient. It’s sufficient when you are depressed or suicidal, hurting or wounded. It is sufficient even when you’re feeling on top of the world. It is sufficient in all things, through all things, and despite all things. He will supply all your needs, according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus. He knows your needs.  

 

Continued tomorrow

Integrity - Dependence on God

Monday through Friday, February 11-15, 2019

Part 1

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at the character traits of integrity. We have looked at how integrity involves being true to yourself, no matter the pressure that is brought to bear. We also looked at how, in the believer’s life, God deserves all the credit. Last week, we looked at a message entitled “Counting the Cost,” dealing with the concept that who we are is sometimes best revealed in the midst of the fire. This week, we are going to look at, the fourth and final devotional in this series; it is reveals a fourth aspect of integrity: “Dependence on God.” 

At one time or another, we have all watched or listened to the news, so the following should be relatively easy for us to consider. Imagine for a moment that you’re at or watching the very beginning of a news press conference. The press people are crowded around a well-dressed person who just entered the room. Microphones and cameras are everywhere you look. The six o’clock news team is standing by to cover the event live. Five, four, three, two... “Can you tell us what the secret to your success is?” The question seems sophomoric at best, but launches an interchange - because it is on the minds of everyone there. 

“I’ve made it, because I worked hard and got the right breaks” he says. Pencils scribble on spiral pads, tape recorders are shut down, and cameras are packed to travel. Yet another success attributed to the efforts of a human effort that was, well, just a little better than average. 

Is this the answer? We normally think so. But there is a different perspective that is seldom heard - the missing piece of the puzzle. The missing piece is this: people cannot succeed without God. A person of integrity recognizes that fact, acts accordingly, and gives God the glory.
 

The Prophecy

Nebuchadnezzar had yet another dream. God was trying to break through, into this ruler’s life, in a mighty way. Once again, the other sorcerers, enchanters and magicians had all failed the king as they tried to give him the meaning of his dream. So the king called on the trustworthy Daniel.  

This time, Daniel was perplexed and terrified, because the dream concerned the king. In Daniel 4:24-25 he warns, “This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven.  Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes.” 

 

Continued tomorrow

 

Integrity - Dependence on God, part 2

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

(Just as a quick aside here: just as God was trying to break through into this ruler’s life, in a mighty way, so too, He will try to break through, into your life and mine - especially when we’re acting like the king was in this larger passage, as though the world revolves around us.)

Daniel must have thought that this time Nebuchadnezzar would heed the warning. He had been given opportunities to believe and trust in Almighty God before, and for a brief time, it seemed he had changed. Oh, how history repeats itself ! The names and places may differ, but it always cycles back around doesn’t it?

 

In Daniel 1, Nebuchadnezzar had seen the Lord work in Daniel’s life through the diet. He viewed firsthand how the Lord’s way was the best way. In chapter 2, he had the future revealed to him and briefly acknowledged God as the “God over the gods.” In chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar saw a glorious miracle in the furnace: three young men survived the fiery furnace - and the Lord revealed Himself in the midst of the flames. 

Unfortunately, good old Nebuchadnezzar was still consumed with himself and his own works. The Most High was going to give him one more chance to repent and acknowledge Him. Nebuchadnezzar was warned, the punishment declared, now, it was up to Nebuchadnezzar to make his choice. 

For me this is yet another example of just how much God values the free will (freedom of choice) placed within the human. It further reinforces that HE will never do something that will violate that free will. (I admit that if I were God - I am so glad I am not - I would have eliminated mankind’s free will piece a long time ago.)
 

The Problem: Pride!

We have all at one time or another stood with hands on our hips and declared, “Look what I have done!” We tend to want to take credit for our lives, our accomplishments, our successes.  

 

Continued tomorrow   

Integrity - Dependence on God, part 3

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

At opportune moments, we forget about what God has done or, at a minimum, we seem to overlook what He has done so we can take full credit. Is there a price to pay? I believe there is, and I can tell you that I personally don’t want to run the risk after reading this account of king Nebuchadnezzar. 

Nebuchadnezzar took the credit and we can read the risk in verses 28-30, “All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” 

“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” It wasn’t a question; it was a boast. Look at all the “my’s” and “I’s” in this verse! He was ignoring all the dreams and visions and the power of God already revealed. He was declaring success and prosperity and leaving God out of the equation. This was a demonstration of pride, at its very worst. 

Pride is nothing new, friends. Back in Deuteronomy 8:11-18, the Lord warned the Israelites, saying, “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and water-less land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today.” 

The Lord knows that our very nature is one of pride. We take the credit for success and we surely do not like to share the credit. When it comes to failure, we are quick to point the finger and blame another. Nebuchadnezzar however, was about to pay the price for saying, “Look what my hand has done!”   

 

Continued tomorrow   

Integrity - Dependence on God, part 4

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Price

As Nebuchadnezzar was speaking those words of conceit and pride, God brought judgment to his life. Immediately Nebuchadnezzar became confused and bewildered. He was driven from the presence of people and began to eat grass like a cow. You might say God brought him down to earth, literally. The Bible says, “Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.” For seven years Nebuchadnezzar lived in this horrible state. He was humbled by every standard. This once proud and mighty king was at the mercy of Almighty God.

 

The truth is: he was at God’s mercy all along. Only by God’s power did he ever sit on the throne and only by God’s might had he been made king of all the nations. The problem was that he was unwilling to recognize those facts and humble himself before God. He had declared his independence from God. He wanted to take the credit. But in doing so, he ran the risk of God’s judgment. And, as it always does (eventually), judgment finally came. 

Does God view pride the same way today? The answer is a resounding, yes! Proverbs 3:34 in the Old Testament and James 4:6 in the New Testament say, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Pride has, and always will be, greeted with opposition from God. Pride is what keeps us from acknowledging our need for Him and ultimately our need for a Savior. 
 

The Prescription

Daniel had given Nebuchadnezzar the prescription/remedy in verse 27: “Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”  Friends, all Nebuchadnezzar had to do was repent and acknowledge the Lord.

 

Daniel must have thought, “How much longer will he rebel against God?” Surely the king knew God’s might and power. He had seen it firsthand. Unfortunately, he still did not repent.  

 

Continued tomorrow

Integrity - Dependence on God, part 5

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Profession

God gave Nebuchadnezzar a second chance. Verse 34 says, “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified Him who lives forever.” God allowed the king the opportunity to profess Him. It says that his sanity was restored. Was it by chance? Absolutely not! God clarified Nebuchadnezzar’s mind so he could acknowledge and profess God as Lord of all. Nebuchadnezzar finally realized that God is God and he was not.

 

The praise that was declared is a biography of our God. Look at it a little more closely: “His dominion is an eternal dominion; His Kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: ‘What have you done?’” It is a testament to the One who reigns: to God, Who reigns alone.

 

When the king exalted the Lord, all was restored and even more. Nebuchadnezzar finally, after all this time, makes a commitment to Almighty God. Verse 37 says, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just.” 

In the opening verses of chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar goes on to make a public pronouncement, declaring: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.  How great are His signs, how mighty His wonders! His Kingdom is an eternal kingdom; His dominion endures from generation to generation.” Nebuchadnezzar finally realized his dependence on God. All his power and might were a result of God’s mercy and grace. The last piece of the puzzle fell into place. Friends, the simple, honest truth is this: There is no success apart from God. 

Are you ready to recognize and receive the Lord today? The first step is to quit thinking you can do it on your own. There is no salvation nor heavenly destination without recognizing and receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior. Will you continue to run the risk, or will you receive Him today?  END