Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Check Your Compass

And the Seduction of Self

The Scriptures are full of rewards and warnings for us to enjoy and to heed.  In Daniel, we find lots of stories about men of integrity holding on to God and seeing truth reign and how they overcame adversity.  We also see several stories about great men who place their focus in the wrong direction and end up in misery.  Like any good adventurer, we should always check our compass to make sure we are headed in the right direction.

Heading in the right direction is really what God desires from us.  He fully knows that we will never be perfect as we walk on this earth so He is very interested in the direction we are headed.  Hopefully we choose to be headed in the direction of health.  That direction clearly points to Jesus Christ because He is the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

In Daniel chapters 1-6, we find Daniel and three friends making a large impact on the nation of Babylon.  Judah has been captured by King Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and these four men were part of the plunder taken.  They were selected as young, bright and strong men who could serve in the King's service if they were able to be properly trained.  We encounter Daniel and his three friends in chapter one immediately standing up for God and choosing to not defile themselves with the unclean food of the Babylonians.  The consequences of not eating the King's food could be fatal but these four men stand true to God's ways.  They choose to be vegetarians and God blesses them for honoring His dietary standards and they are shown to be stronger and smarter than the others in their training school.  They are awarded to serve the King which affords a whole bunch of opportunity.

On the other hand, the leaders of Babylon did not choose to honor God.  Once Daniel made a stand to honor God and His ways, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and asked for his 'magicians' to tell him the dream and its interpretation.  David was the only one who could do this.  Daniel was also clear that the "God in heaven who reveals mysteries..." was the one who made the dream known to Daniel.  Nebuchadnezzar was astounded that Daniel could tell him the dream and interpret it.  Daniel was handsomely rewarded and promoted in the kingdom and then King Nebuchadnezzar said, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries" (Dan.2:47).  This sounds like the King is headed in the right direction. 

But after this, the King made a golden statue of himself and required everyone to bow down and worship the statue at the appropriate times.  If someone failed to worship, he would be thrown into the furnace and burned to death.  Daniel's three friends were caught in the act of not worshiping the statue and was thrown into the fire but they were not burned.  When they came out, King Nebuchadnezzar decreed, "...that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against of the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb...inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way." (Dan. 3:29). 

The King had yet another amazing dream and again, Daniel was able to interpret it for the King.  The dream told of the King's great kingdom and how it would be uprooted and the King would become like a wild beast, eating grass for a long time.  Again, Daniel was rewarded but the King disregarded the interpretation.  Daniel urged the King to repent and perhaps God would have mercy on him.  But the king continued to grow hard in his heart.  Finally, twelve months later he was over looking his kingdom and said to himself, "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:30).  As he said this, God spoke to him in audible voice telling him that he will become like a wild beast and eat grass until he was humbled.

Once the King came to his senses and the Kingdom was returned to him, he said, "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride."  (Dan. 4:37).

Nebuchadnezzar's son, Belshazzar became king and violated God's standard's intentionally.  This caused God to write on the wall with a large hand in front of the King and his guests at a party.  No one could interpret the meaning of the writing except Daniel.  Once again Daniel gave the interpretation that this Kingdom would be taken away from Belshazzar for violating God intentionally.  David was again promoted and given expensive gifts.  David also reminded Belshazzar what his father went through and that Belshazzar had "...not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, but you have exalted yourself against the Lord o heaven..." (Dan. 5:22-23).  Belshazzar died that night.

So today, I encourage you to check your compass and make sure that your life is pointed in the direction of Christ Jesus.  Pride is subtle and yet ugly.  It will lure you to feel strong and then cause you to fall headlong into misery.  Do not be deceived by pride and self confidence, follow the example of Daniel and humble yourself before God and be rewarded.  Do not follow the ways of the leaders of Babylon and end up in misery.  What direction are you headed?

Your input...
How do you check your compass in life to see what direction you are headed?
The Scriptures teach us to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord.  How do you imagine that looks like in practical terms?

I would like to hear your insights.

Get out there and cast some seeds!

Friday, April 01, 2011

ReThink: Priesthood

What concepts come to mind when you think of the word, priest?  I was at an organic church recently and I asked that question.  The answers ranged from a 'a person to go between God and man' to 'a holy man' to 'one who offers sacrifices to God'.  How would you answer the question?

In the Old Testament, we learn that priests main job are to bring two parties at odds together for peace.  In other words, a priest is a go-between for man to God.  A priest was to mediate between himself and God (Lev. 9:8, 14:28-29), between his family and God (Lev. 16:6, 16:11) and between the people and God (Lev. 9:15, 10:17, Numb. 8:19).  Priests are also to do what is in God's heart and soul (1 Sam. 2:35).  These responsibilities are a high calling.  It was an honor to be a priest in the Old Testament and only a small percentage ever had the honor to a priest.  To be a priest of Jehovah was the best job one could have.

The New Testament also talks about priests of God but the application for priests was changed.   As the church age began to mature, the church seemed to revert to a more Old Testament concept of priest where one man would represent a whole group of people before God and also speak for God to the people.  The Catholic Church has promoted this Old Testament concept of the priesthood for over 1700 years now.  On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, in this he began to deny the priesthood as it was then known and began to elevate the concept of the priesthood of every believer.  This truth is certainly found throughout the New Testament (1 Pet. 2:5-9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10). 

Martin Luther changed the theology regarding the truth that every believer is a priest before God but since 1517, hardly anything has changed in practical terms in the church.  Whether Catholic or Protestant, most churches simply do not allow the common people (the laity) to administer communion, baptize believers, perform weddings nor are they trusted to impart the Word of God with authority to people.  In reality, there still is a division between the clergy (priests or pastors) and the laity (common people).  This division must be done away with by doing away with the laity.  We must adopt the Biblical concept that every believer, from the moment of salvation is a priest of God and is capable of pointing people to Jesus for salvation, strength, hope and faith.  Every believer is a child of God, equally connected to the head of the Church, Jesus Himself.  Every believer has the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God is able to minister to and flow through the youngest and newest believer with powerful results (Mark 5:1-20 is just one example). 

So today, we must recapture the truth that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a priest of God to the nations to bring the Good News of our King to their ears and hearts.  It is our distinct honor to do so. 

Your input...
How should the truth that every believer is a priest for God change the church?
If you lived out this truth, that you are a priest of God , how would it change the way you do life?

I would like to hear your insights.

Get out there and cast some seeds!