November 2021

The steadfast love of the Lord

Buried deep in the centre of Christian faith is relentless and thankful worship of Yahweh. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (1 Chronicles 16:34). Authentic worship does not speak out because it has received all the things it wants, no, worship cannot contain itself because of who God is. Believers worship throughout the highs and lows of life because the nature of Yahweh is unchangeable, and He alone proves to be their one constant in the midst inescapable change. The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him (Lamentations 3:22-24).

The steadfast love of the Lord
Jehovah’s persistent and loving mercy never stops doing His work regardless of whether we perceive it or not. Throughout any complaining or ingratitude that we may show towards the Lord, He faithfully continues to administer sufficient and refreshed mercy for the needs of each day; continually reminding us that “I the LORD do not change; therefore you… are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). The dreadful consequences of our sin are withheld daily because of His immutability. Despite our struggle to acknowledge the active presence of God in life’s difficulties, His loving kindness relentlessly perseveres with us and continues to meet our needs. Not one of salvation’s blessings are lost, our standing in Christ’s righteousness remains unaltered, and the certainty of eternal life is untouched.

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4). Every one of our difficulties presents fresh opportunities for us to speak well of Christ as He proves Peter’s words to be true. Belief in the gospel of God entered us into a divinely appointed relationship that moves our focus onto Christ more than on the world.

As the ugly realities of this sin cursed world become more oppressive, we respond by sharpening our focus on the clarity and sufficiency of Christ as seen in God’s Word. This world’s darkness serves to accentuate the light of Christ brilliantly. Man’s depravity serves to amplify the beauty of gospel truth. May we never forget the core truths which attracted us to Christ; faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

We have a rich legacy of faithful believers who have carried the truth of God down through the ages. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised (Hebrews 11:37-39 NIV). May God enable us to keep a heavenly perspective of our lives in Christ. May we never lose sight of believers in other places who are suffering far greater than we. May we thank God and draw strength from their example as we carry them to God in prayer and look for ways to serve them. And may we see the steadfast love of the Lord in all circumstances pointing to and calling us to our heavenly home.

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Refusal to learn – Belshazzar

The white space between Daniel chapters 4 and 5 house a shift in the governing politics of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar is gone, along with all the life changing lessons he had learned from God. Babylon is now under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar, exchanging humble faith towards God for drunken rebellion and idol worship.
Refusal to learn – Belshazzar
As is often the case, the younger generation quickly discard the lessons of their parents. In his alcohol  bolstered arrogance, Belshazzar commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them (Daniel 5:2). While drinking wine from cups made for worship to Yahweh, they arrogantly praised their false gods.

And then the unthinkable happened. Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace… And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s colour changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together (Dan 5:5-6). Self-belief failed him, and it only took a little divine handwriting.

As none of the king’s scholars could translate or interpret the writing on the wall, King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his colour changed, and his lords were perplexed (Dan 5:9). In the providence of God, the queen possessed a little more sense, who suggested that Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation (Dan 5:12). It is the grace of a loving God that provides voices of wisdom to instruct sinners in the most perplexing times of life.

The fearfully desperate king promises Daniel great reward if he would read the writing and make known to me its interpretation (Dan 5:16). To which Daniel replied, let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation (Dan 5:17). Daniel proceeded with humble confidence in God, reminding the king of the lessons learned by his father Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will (Dan 5:21).

Belshazzar chose to ignore these familiar lessons; he chose to ride high on pride and a sense of self-authority. He wilfully rejected humility, he rebelled against the Lord of Heaven, and he worshipped idols (Dan 5:22-23). So, God wrote on his wall for all to see, and Daniel explained it to Belshazzar. “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN.” God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end… you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting… your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians (Dan 5:25-28). Belshazzar rewarded Daniel, and that very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom (Dan 5:30-31).

Belshazzar had exhausted the many gracious opportunities provided by God to humble himself before the God of Heaven as his father had. Now, on the other side of death, Belshazzar was confronted with judgement instead of grace. May we choose humility towards God, expressing humility towards others as we apply the lessons of those who have gone before us.

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Man with a vision – Daniel

Few Bible readers would not know the name Daniel, who stands out as an encouraging and thought provoking character for all the right reasons. Most commonly, Daniel is remembered for his courageous stand against the oppressive rule of Babylon and the Medo-Persians. With his loyal friends, Daniel was preserved by God through incredible trials. For those more studious Bible readers, Daniel received amazing visions of Israel’s, and the world’s, prewritten future, and the future establishment of Christ’s literal earthly kingdom. The prophecies of Daniel rise in the Old Testament to be what John’s Revelation is in the New Testament.
Man with a vision – Daniel
The name Daniel means “God is my Judge,” and he lived through two overthrows of Israel; first by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Dan 1:1-2), and later by Darius the Mede (Dan 5:30-31). As a youth, Daniel was among many Israelites taken captive to Babylon. Conscripted into the king’s 3 year palace program for learning the language and literature of the Chaldeans, Daniel excelled along with his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah (Dan 1:6). But to Daniel, God also gave understanding in all visions and dreams (Dan 1:17). As part of their integration into Babylonian culture they were given new names by their chief; Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego (Dan 1:7).

Although integrated, renamed, and educated into Babylonian royal society, Daniel never lost his grip on faith in the one true God – Yahweh. Consequently, when called to betray His faithfulness to Yahweh, Daniel stood his ground irrespective of the cost. We see that God blessed him with better health and appearance when choosing to eat vegetables and drink water (Dan 1:8-16) instead of the king’s diet. When evaluated by king Nebuchadnezzar at the conclusion of their 3 year initiation training, none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom (Dan 1:19-20).

Daniel went on to reveal and interpret king Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Dan 2, 4), then interpret God’s handwriting on wall (Dan 5:1-12). He witnessed God saving the lives of his 3 friends when thrown into the fiery furnace (Dan 3:19-27). God further preserved Daniel’s life when fed to the lions. Turns out, the king’s lions were pussy cats in the hands of Jehovah. Daniel witnessed the 7 year humiliation of king Nebuchadnezzar living in the wild and eating grass as an animal. Daniel also witnessed the restoration of Nebuchadnezzar to rulership, and the king’s new faith in God. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble (Dan 4:37).

Throughout his life Daniel was both wise and courageous. He was humble yet determined to remain boldly faithful to the Lord His God. Therefore, it should not surprise us that God revealed visions of future realities that still challenge many today. He saw Christ years in advance, who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:14). Just as many of Daniel’s prophecies have been fulfilled, so every unfulfilled prophecy shall find literal fulfilment through the righteous sovereignty of God (Dan 9-12).

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Christlike Forgiveness

Human hearts have an incredible ability to hold onto unforgiveness, perpetually keeping alive past hurts and offences. As Christians, we’re not exempt from this ugly reality, even though we possess the resources in Christ to overcome unforgiveness. Writing to the Ephesian Church, Paul provides understanding on the practical nature of forgiveness in Ephesians 4:29-32.
Christlike Forgiveness
First, in verse 29, he gives tangible instruction. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Our speech should communicate grace for the purpose of blessing and strengthening others. If we must speak of a person who has hurt us, speak kindly, or at least neutral words, but without lying about them. Or, simply say nothing about them. If you speak of them, or to them, speak words that carry grace and NOT anger seeking personal justice.

Second, in verse 30, is the presence of the Holy Spirit. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” We are to love the indwelling Holy Spirit and show our desire NOT to sadden Him or cause Him to feel wounded by our words or behaviour towards someone else.

Third, verse 31 instructs our hearts, feelings, emotions, and memories. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Here, believers are called to make seriously  difficult choices. We choose to tell ourselves that “bitterness,  wrath, anger, clamour and slander” have no place in our hearts. Therefore, we are to reject ownership of these dangerous and damaging outworking’s.

Paul speaks of clamour, which is an outburst of grief. Now, grief is OK, and speaking about grief is good and honouring to the Lord. But grief should not burst out in loud and angry words which seek to hurt others. Sometimes our hearts try to deceive us into thinking that uncontrollable outbursts are OK, but they’re NOT. Deceived hearts will even say that it’s OK to slander the forgiven person, but it is NOT OK. And remember, only Christ, the God man, was truly capable of righteous anger. Our anger sins. Therefore, “be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Fourth, verse 32 shows us how to behave towards the forgiven person and the motive for such behaviour. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Put simply, we are to forgive our offenders to the same extreme as God has forgiven us (Mat 18:21-22). We instruct ourselves to transfer the forgiveness we received from God onto the person who offends us. We then tell ourselves to be kind rather than angry. We exchange feelings of hard bitterness for tender-heartedness. When painful or harsh memories surface, we tell ourselves that Christ has forgiven us, and we have forgiven our offender. Unforgiveness should have NO place in our hearts.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Whenever our hearts speak words of unforgiveness, we surrender that memory and emotion to the control of God the Holy Spirit and pray for God’s blessing on that forgiven person. We should also pray for the opportunity of reconciliation (1Co 4:13). May we commit to Christ having the victory of forgiveness in us, and to helping others experience the victory of Christ’s forgiveness also.

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