In General

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You’ve probably read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These three men bravely stood up for what they believed and as

a result were thrown into a fiery furnace by the king, who was angry they wouldn’t worship him the way they worshipped their God.

Most of us have never faced persecution as extreme as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But that doesn’t mean we don’t understand what it is like to face resistance as we stand up for what we believe.

Maybe you’ve been socially snubbed.

Maybe you have lost a job.

Maybe you have received criticism or anger from family or friends.

Whatever kind of persecution you have faced for your faith—big or small—there are a few things we can learn from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

 

1.     It is not intolerant to believe in the ultimate Truth

Many people would have you to believe that it is actually you who is being intolerant because you believe in the ultimate truth of Scripture. Don’t buy this.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego weren’t being intolerant simply because they wouldn’t bow down and worship the king’s false god.

They were being faithful. Obedient.

They were being secure in their faith. Not intolerant.

 

2.     You dont have to be judgmental to live differently

Notice that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t judge everybody else for worshipping the idol. They didn’t get the crowd all riled up against the king or try to lead a rebellion.

In fact, they didn’t say a thing against the King or the nation of Babylon.

The only way the King even found out about them refusing to bow is because jealous astrologers told on them. These guys weren’t mean spirited, they weren’t violent, they didn’t pull out a bullhorn and yell at the crowd or the king.

They simply lived out their faith with integrity and respect.

This is what God calls us to do as well, to live the truth in love and treat people with grace and respect.

 

3.     Not everybody likes the truth or people who stand up for the truth

Nebuchadnezzar commanded the guards to bind the hands of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace. The furnace was so hot, the guards who threw them into the fire ended up dying themselves.

This is how much the king hated these three men.

Remember this.

When you are obedient to God, not everybody will like you. Not everybody will like the way you live your life. In fact, many people will hate you and the way you live your life. This doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.

In fact, it may mean you’re doing something right.

 

4.     God honors obedience

It may seem like being obedient to God means you have to constantly give up something. You lose friends, lose opportunities, lose money, etc.

But the truth is God will always honor your obedience.

While you might lose something in the moment, you always gain when you stand up for what’s right.

Miraculously, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not die in that ridiculously hot furnace. In fact, the only thing that burned was the ropes binding their hands. And then, the fourth person showed up in the fire and rescued them.

Daniel 3:25,26 (NIV) “He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

Thanks to the witness of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the king declare the entire kingdom should worship God.

5. Your faithfulness is an incredible witness.

Whatever persecution you’re facing right now, remember that there are Christians all over the world who are facing the same, if not more persecution than you are. I say that not to make you feel guilty, but to remind you of the importance of your faithfulness.

Your faithfulness is an incredible witness.

 

 

In General

Symbols of the Three Monotheistic Religions

It’s a popular thought in our world today that there is no real difference between the world’s religions.

The assumption is that good, sincere people will go to heaven no matter what they believe. People assume that as long as they are devout and sincere in their faith, God will count their sincerity in their favor.

This is a nice way of thinking. It makes us feel good. It sounds open-minded and tolerant.

The only problem is, it isn’t true.

Heres the truth:

Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him.  (John 14:6, emphasis mine)

This is not a popular thing to say in our world today. People will call you ‘intolerant’ for talking like this .They will label you a ‘bigot’. But if you really examine the truth, if you believe all truth comes from the creator of the universe, it isn’t a matter of tolerance or intolerance.

It’s simply the way it is.

Those who see all world religions as the same will argue that God wouldn’t send well-meaning people to hell just because they put their faith in something that isn’t true. As long as they really believe it, that’s enough.

 

In a way, I can understand what people are saying.

People all over the world are born in a country and culture that teaches them a faith or religion that isn’t Christianity.

How can God judge them for that?

They are so devout.

And yet, while I understand that line of reasoning, I also have to point out that the argument is flawed in one major way. This argument says that we can be saved from sin if we’re good and devout enough—that we can somehow earn our salvation.

 

This is the exact opposite of Christ’s teaching!

The teaching of Scripture distinguishes itself in saying that all of us are doomed in our sins. There is no way for us to earn forgiveness.

You and I can’t do enough good to cancel out our sin.

That isn’t the gospel of Jesus at all.

Here’s the Gospel of Jesus summed up in Ephesians 2:8,9 “we are saved by GRACE through FAITH in Jesus Christ, not by our works…”

 

It’s so important we, as Christians understand this.

Not only so we won’t be swayed by those who have yet to hear or accept the truth, but also so that we can accept our responsibility to spread the news.

Don’t ever think that the major religions of the world teach pretty much the same thing as Christianity. They don’t. All other world religions focus on earning salvation through human works

Christianity says we are not saved by what we do.

We are saved by what Christ did on the cross.

 

The truth is offensive to people.

Accept that. Don’t allow what other people want you to say to impact what you know is true.

You can’t say you believe in the Bible as the source of truth, but still bow to the political correctness of this world that says everyone can choose ‘truth’ for themselves. We aren’t God, we can’t build our own, like Nebuchadnezzar’s 90 foot-tall statue and call it truth.

It just doesn’t work that way.

 

In General

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In the first three chapters of Revelation, Jesus gives John a vision. At the time, the church was undergoing tremendous persecution in the face of an evil Roman Emperor named Domitian. In the vision Jesus tells John to write seven letters—one to each of the seven churches in Asia Minor.

God had a special, and ultimately timeless, message he wanted to give to these churches through John.

Do you know God has a message for the Church today?

Ultimately, it isn’t much different from the message he scribed to the church through John all those years ago. I’ll use the text from Revelation 1:4-8 (NKJV) to unpack the four main things I think God wants to say.

Let’s start by reading the passage:

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washedus from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kingsand priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Revelation 1:4-8 (NKJV)

As I read the opening paragraph of this letter to the churches of Asia Minor, I get so excited. Here are the four things I think God wants today’s Church to know.

1.    He knows what we are going through.

Many in the Church today are facing persecution. For some it’s violent and severe. For some it’s more covert. Whatever kind of persecution you are facing, God wants to remind you he understands.

He’s been there. He’s suffered too.

In addition, God reminds the Church that, although Domitian may seem powerful, ultimately HE is the One who was, is and is to come.

Domitian is a temporary ruler. He is a mere mortal.

I don’t know what kind of Domitian you are facing today—whatever issues and circumstances are intimidating you—but I can tell you this: Jesus is greater than your circumstance.

He is bigger than anything you are facing.

He was greater than Domitian and He is greater than the fears that are threatening you. You are His church and he loves you.

2. He wants to reveal himself to todays Church.

No matter how powerful the church thought Domitian was, God wanted to remind them that He was more powerful. In the same way, He wants to remind you that He is still as powerful today.

He wants to reveal his glory so we will not fear anything in this world.

No leader. No problem. No obstacle. No disappointment. No failure. Nothing is too big for God to handle. He wants to encourage us, strengthen us, convict us, and challenge us.

Even in a time when things seem to be falling apart, He is here to hold us together.

So are we going to listen to Jesus?

Are we going to get our eyes off of ourselves and look to him?

3. We will be blessed if we listen to what He says and do it.

Do you believe Jesus is Lord and God?

If you do, then everything in your life should be aligned with him. He’s calling you to submit to his rule and reign. He wants you to open your heart to him to seek him with all you are.

You will be blessed if you listen to him and do what he says.

Here’s a simple fact: IF Jesus isn’t Lord over all, he isn’t Lord at all. And there is a day coming when all those who refuse to recognize His Lordship will face Judgment. Are you going to listen and do what he says?

4. Time is short.

Jesus is being patient with us right now…he is giving us time to get right with him. And he is giving us time to reach out to as many people as we can in this community with His message of grace and love.

But time is short. Judgment day is coming.

And all those who rebel against his rule will perish.

Where is your heart today? Are you living in full submission to Him?

I’m not asking you if you are perfect. None of us are. I’m asking you if you’ve surrendered your life and future, hopes and dreams to Jesus.

Have you determined that Jesus is the Lord of your life or are you still wrapped up in yourself?

I don’t know everything Jesus was saying to the churches in Asia Minor, but as I pray, I hear the Lord saying this to me and to the people of The Oaks:

Listen up my people. I want to speak to you. I want to make myself known to you. I am about to do something amazing in your midst, so clean up your hearts, and clear out your ears because I want to work on you daily to prepare you for all I have planned for you. Take responsibility for hearing my voice and obeying my commands. No one else can do it for you but know this: your decision to obey me will impact more than yourself. Souls are hanging in the balance. Listen to me and you will overcome.

In General

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The main tenant of the Christian faith goes like this: Jesus died on a cross, rose from the dead three days later, ascended back to the Father in Heaven, and promised to come back for those who belong to Him and take us to heaven to be with him for eternity.

In the mean time, He told his followers, go and make disciples of all the nations.

Whether you believe that to be true or not, it’s impossible to deny there were a whole group of people in the first century who not only believed this to be true, but were also there to witness these events and experience Jesus firsthand.

I often wish I could have been one of those early disciples.

And yet whenever I meet people who doubt the truth of Scripture, I often refer them to the book of Acts, where they can read about the impassioned group of men and women who evangelized the known world of their day.

They started churches all over that part of the world—beginning in Jerusalem and then moving throughout the region of Judea and Samaria.

They went to the uttermost parts of the world.

But part of why I want them to read the book of Acts is to see how the people who were closest to Jesus, before and after his death, felt about him.

It’s hard to ignore the power of the life they lived.

For example, one of the regions that the Apostle Paul went to and established a powerful church was in the City of Ephesus. And from there many other churches were established throughout what is called Asia Minor.

That is the region of the world we now know as Western Turkey.

Shortly before the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, the Apostle John moved from Jerusalem to Ephesus to make it his home base for ministry. He became a spiritual father to the churches in that area.

And yet eventually, John was sentenced to exile on a nearby island called Patmos.

Can you imagine—actually giving your life for Jesus?

Not only did many of these leaders give their lives figuratively—in the ways many of you are doing—like traveling, preaching the Word of God, planting churches, serving people who were in need, etc.

So many of Jesus’ early followers gave their literal lives for the sake of the call.

At the time, Roman Emperor Domitian hated Christians and wanted anyone who was preaching his name to be eliminated. Since Christians were preaching that Jesus was Lord over all, and Domitian believe he was Lord over all, you can see why there would be a conflict.

But since few of these early followers—John included—wouldn’t stop preaching, they were banished.

Or worse, murdered.

In fact, by the time John wrote the book of Revelation, he was an old man, and the only disciple of Jesus still alive.

All the others had been martyred.

  • James, John’s brother had been beheaded in Jerusalem under King Herod
  • Peter crucified in Rome under Nero
  • Matthew had been killed with an axe in Ethiopia
  • Mark was dragged death in Alexandria
  • Luke was hanged on a tree in Greece by pagan priests
  • James, The Lord’s brother was stoned, beaten and clubbed to death in Jerusalem
  • Andrew was crucified in Greece
  • Bartholomew is beaten and crucified in India
  • Thomas had been speared to death in India
  • Paul, not one of the original 12, but very significant Apostle was beheaded in Rome under Nero

To me, this is a great testimony to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the authenticity of who he was as the son of God. All these men died because they would not renounce their faith in Jesus and they would not deny his resurrection.

 

They gave their lives for this witness.

When I think about this, I realize all they had to do to regain their freedom and their life was say, “Ok fine, we made it up!” and they could have lived.

And yet every time these guys were martyred, the gospel spread even more.

Any time I meet someone who is doubting the validity of scripture, or wondering how all of this is possible, I remind them of this: all these men gave their lives. That’s what it was worth to them to make sure you received this message.

In General

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I often have people ask me why God allows evil to take place in our world. With innocent people dying in the twin towers, children being abused and all kinds of injustice and evil happening around us everyday, I understand the question.

Why would God allow this stuff to happen?

My answer is this: He wont let it happen forever.

If there is one thing we know about the nature of God, it is that he is a lover of justice. Psalm 37:28 says, “For God loves justice and he will not abandon his loyal ones. They will always be guarded. But the descendants of the wicked will be done away with.”

No evil act will go unaccounted for. Justice is God’s character.

And yet this of course spurs another question.

Why is He letting injustice go on for so long?

I know it is frustrating to watch evil permeate our nation and world. You might feel like there’s nothing you can do to change it and you wonder when Jesus will return with his swift hand of justice.

And while Scripture says no one knows the time or place Jesus will return (Mark 13:32), there is one aspect of this answer we do know.

Jesus won’t return until each person has had a chance to learn about Him.

For now, God is allowing people to make their own decisions about whether they are going to serve Him. He’s giving time for those who have never heard about Him to learn about the amazing sacrifice of His son.

Some of you may wonder, couldn’t he speed up this process?

The answer is found in 2 Peter.

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

What an incredible way to reframe this question. God is not slow, as some of us might understand slowness, He is giving us all time to repent. He doesn’t want anyone to perish in hell, so he’s giving you and me time to reach those who have not yet heard.

Its important for all of us to hear this message.

The day is coming where every man will stand before him and give account for their life.

Revelation 20:1-12,15 (NIV) Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

So if you’re reading this blog post and you haven’t heard of this man Jesus, or you’ve heard, but haven’t made a decision to follow him, don’t wait another minute to make the most important choice of your life.

If you’re reading this blog post and you’ve already made the decision to follow Christ, you now have an amazing responsibility.

Pray.

Pray for your friends and loved ones who don’t know Jesus. The Day of Judgment is coming. Make sure every person you know is ready when they stand before the Ancient of Days.