Posts Tagged Bible
Hey I haven’t posted here, but my wife and I are keeping up with our daily readings. I hope you are, too!
Here are today’s readings:
I find myself back in a dBrag again. We are reading through Philippians and today, it’s chapter 3.
Interesting comments from Paul about the Judaizers. They often called Gentiles “dogs”. Paul throws this name right back at them. His comments about circumcision are due to the fact that the religious Jews felt that you had to be physically circumcised in order to follow God. It was a source of pride. One of Paul’s frequent messages was that God prefers circumcised hearts more than flesh. Paul went as far as to say it was unnecessary and here calls them flesh mutilators because their fleshly circumcision is meaningless as far as God is concerned.
I read somewhere that Paul used clever language here. He took their favorite word “peritome” (circumcision) and changed it to “katatome” (mutilation). I can’t wait to meet Paul some day. I like his style!
How many things do we do “in the name of God” that, because of the condition of our heart, are meaningless? God knows our heart, our motives.
You occasionally hear a story of someone who, when faced with unbearable circumstances beyond their control, walks away from anything and everything that has to do with God. Certainly, there are times when our “trials” seem overwhelming and downright unfair.
In those times, I’ve found it’s helpful to stop and take a look around. It’s never too difficult to find someone in a situation far worse than your own. When I’m drowning in my own difficulties, somehow knowing that I’m not the only one suffering is comforting. I guess it’s that feeling that “I’m the only one” satan uses to plunge me deeper into despair.
Today, my hope came as I the first chapter of Daniel, which is the next book my dBrag has chosen to start reading together.
I began reading about Daniel and his buddies, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. You might recognize these last three better by knowing their new Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
I’ve heard the story dozens of times since I was a child, but perhaps always out of context, because today I seemed to focus on how Daniel and his buds had just been dragged to a foreign country after egocentric King Nebuchadnezzar had recently finished crushing their country. Torn from the familiar and comfortable, they now find themselves prisoners to idolaters. They could have easily thrown in the towel.
But Daniel stood strong.
He even went as far as to bargain with his captors, asking them to allow him and his companions for treatment other than what had been ascribed by the King:
8 But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief official for permission to eat other things instead.
Pretty gutsy, no? Then, it dawned on me as I read the very next sentence:
9 Now God had given the chief official great respect for Daniel.
Ashpenaz, who was in charge of the palace eunuchs, had been tasked with selecting some of Judah’s strongest, healthiest, best-looking children (see KJV) for the purpose of serving in the palace. The king wanted them to know the language and literature of the Babylonians, so they needed to be bright and handsome, with noble and royal pedigree.
Was it any mistake that Ash had selected Daniel and his cohorts? I think not. You see, God had already begun to intervene. God gave Ash “great respect” for Daniel. God was setting the stage for His power and glory to be displayed to Babylon – and the great King Nebuchadnezzar.
As a matter of fact, this chapter is full of God’s influence:
2 The Lord gave him [King Nebuchadnezzar] victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah.
17a God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for learning the literature and science of the time.
17b And God gave Daniel special ability in understanding the meanings of visions and dreams.
Others were selected along with Daniel and the boys, but we don’t hear about them. Daniel could have easily given up and gone along with the demands of their new captors, but he didn’t. Look at verse 8:
8 But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king.
Daniel made up his mind to stand strong. His faith did not waiver – and God honored that.
What do you face today? Wouldn’t it be much easier to cave and go along with whatever life throws at you? What is it that holds you captive? Sometimes it’s difficult to choose to make a stand on something you believe in. Can you look your captor in the face and refuse to defile yourself any longer, like David did?
God moves in mysterious ways!
He WILL give you what you need when you need it – just don’t give up. He has the power to influence your captors. By taking your stand, you will be rewarded and others will benefit as well, as we’ll see in the following chapters of the book of Daniel.
Next in my stream of consciousness regarding what it means to go deeper with God, I’d like to address the issue of …
“ew!” I can hear it now – “not the “A” word!” It goes against every grain in our prideful organisms. Hair is bristling on the back of your neck as you read this. Your hand is reaching for the mouse to quickly find something else to read…
…but wait! Don’t go yet!
In any society, accountability is the key to survival. It’s true in politics, sports, religion, relationships, and business. I’d go as far as to say our individual, selfish human nature is too strong to be completely overcome on our own. We ALL need accountability in our lives.
I will go a step further and say that as Christians, accountability is even more important. Why would I say that? Well, not only are we battling our own selfish human desires, we also have an adversary who is ever eager to jump on our individual weaknesses and exploit them for the purpose of destroying anything virtuous left in us.
Think about it – when a famous person is “caught in the act” it’s almost as if it helps their career. Think about recent headlines with Brittany, Paris and O.J., for example. Sure, they get media attention, but isn’t that what they’re after? And, how many celebrity divorces occur? (all of them?) It’s as if we all expect celebritys to divorce – it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”
Now, think about Christian leaders who are “caught in the act.” Their lives are destroyed completely. Their ministries are damaged. Their families decimated. I’m thinking of the recent scandal that happed in my area with Randy & Paula White’s divorce. This sparked all kinds of seething media attention and became a feeding frenzy for blogs and news sources everywhere. Questions were raised about the effectiveness of “mega-churches” as a whole. “See?! Institutional churches are to blame!” People questioned Christianity as a whole. “If leaders in the Christian community can’t hold a marriage together, where’s the hope?”
Well, I believe we are, as Christians, held to a higher standard. Is that fair? Well, yes and no. It is what it is. We claim to have the Creator of the entire Universe living within us – giving us access to a “higher moral power.” The Holy Spirit indwells us guiding us, convicting us. Yet, we’re only human, just like the rest of humanity.
All this leads me to ask – what if Randy had an effective accountability partner/group? I’m not saying he didn’t – and things can happen even to the best of us. But I put the word “effective” in there for a reason.
Not that having accountability is like a magic formula for success – hardly. But, it IS true that Christian accountability can help provide a more stable foundation, a source of strength for daily living. We need each other. And, don’t just take my word for it:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
We are all going to have to give an account to God someday for all our actions (Romans 14:12). And, Jesus gave us the passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 to suggest the importance of accountability between believers – we’re all a part of the same body!
We are told to encourage one another:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. – Hebrews 10:24
…encourage one another and build each other up… – 1 Thess 5:11
We are also told very specifically to hold each other accountable and help each other avoid sin:
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:12
Being accountable to one another is an important factor. We all need to be accountable. As much as our flesh resists it and detests it, our faith and our witness depends upon it.
I’ve established with this post the importance of accountability among believers. Next, I’ll throw out some suggestions about what a successful accountability relationship looks like.