The meaning of the Hebrew names for these four men all affirmed God’s sovereignty, mercy, and grace for His people. But the new names they were given by the Babylonian chief official sought to undermine and degrade this. For their new names were deliberately drawn from the Babylonian false religions, gods and idols, and erased any trace of God from them. Even today we have the challenge of believing what God calls us vs what the world calls us. The world will call us fat, dumb, ugly, stupid and old….while the Lord will call us loved, free, healed, whole, and His. The world is all about demeaning and humiliating…while God is all about lifting us up. So just remember this…no matter what the world calls you…the Lord named you first, and that name is all that matters.
Jude 1:1 ” To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.”
Within this verse is a perfectly simple but totally effective description of the Trinity. The Trinity being three persons in one Godhead… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. First, we are called or summoned to salvation through the the Gospel Message by the Holy Spirit as we are wooed or drawn in. For the Holy Spirit shows us very plainly our shortcomings and convicts us… so that we may be saved. Next, we need to grasp just how greatly valued, esteemed, and loved we are by God the Father. For who else would give His only Son to die on a cross for all that we might have eternal life? (John 3:16) Finally, know you belong to Jesus who watches over you to keep you safe. (John 17:12) So just think of it…we are His and He is ours, and no one can ever snatch us out of His hand. (John 10:28)
Amos 5:14-15 ” Seek good not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.”
The Nation of Israel was enjoying a time of prosperity…but with this great prosperity came great division between the rich and poor. And because of it, the people became self-reliant, prideful, and walked away from God. Amos’s message to the people was that of denouncing their privileged life-style that exploited the poor, and calling them to repentance. He warned them of the consequences of their complacency in not doing what was morally right and just for all. Amos was a contemporary of the Prophet Isaiah who wrote in Isaiah 1:17, “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
Galatians 6: 7-8 ” Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
These verses are comparing eternal life to eternal punishment, the corrupt nature of sinful man, and the decision all of us have to make. On one side, we have the world telling us that’s it’s all about what we want and desire…while on the other side, Galatians 5:24 tells us, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature…” But what does that mean and how do we go about it? To crucify our sinful nature we must put to death our worldly affections and lusts…but how? Through our daily increasing love and faith in Jesus Christ, the things of the world will start to no longer hold their allure over us.
Galatians 6:2 ” Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.”
Last Sunday during a meeting I had wanted to say, “Practical Christianity”…but what came out was, “Practical Christianality.” No, it’s not in the Dictionary, and Yes, I felt pretty silly. But this slip of the tongue non-word has been in my mind all week. As Followers of Jesus, we are in many ways a nationality that has much in common. We share common allegiances,(our faith and trust in Jesus Christ) traditions, laws,( the Gospel-the Law of Faith) and characteristics (becoming more like Jesus every day.) Even our citizenship is not of this earth but of heaven. (Philippians 3:20) So what does Christianality look like? It’s loving each other, caring for needs of others as we see them, and sharing our commonality, not the things that make us different.
Isaiah 65:1 ” I revealed Myself to those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. To a nation that did not call on My name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ “
Maybe you’ve never thought about God…but I can tell you this, He has always been thinking about you. Maybe you’ve never taken the time to search out answers you have about God…but trust me, He’s been making Himself known to you on a daily basis. Just take a look around…everything, including yourself, was created by Him. You don’t even have to initiate a conversation with some far off God…for He is already right there beside you, gently saying, “Here am I, here am I.”
I Chronicles 29:11 ” Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, O Lord, is the Kingdom; You are exalted as head over all.”
Great and mighty is Your name, O Lord, for Your magnificent glory is on display for all to see. We thank you today for Your love and mercy…and praise You for all You’ve done for us. We lift Your name on high, for only You rule and reign over heaven and earth. Amen.
I Corinthians 9:24-25 ” Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
No one walks casually into the Olympic Games and announces they’ve decided for the fun of it to compete in a race. Olympic athletes train for years…fully committed in all aspects of their lives with concentration and drive. And in the end for a few, their heroic struggle pays off with a gold medal. Our Christian life is one of training daily and fighting for victory over temptation. James 1:12 tells us, ” Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” We are in training for a crown of life, a crown of glory that will never fade away, and eternal victory.
I Corinthians 15: 57-58 ” But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
In these verses the Apostle Paul is encouraging the Church in Corinth to not give up in doing the Lord’s work, no matter how unimportant it may seem. Even today in this goal oriented world, we want anything we do for the Lord to have measurable outcomes. So if we aren’t achieving specific concrete results, we feel that our work is insignificant. But Paul addresses this notion earlier in his letter when he writes, ” What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (I Corinthians 3: 5-6) We need to realize that God’s purpose is in the process not in His final goal. And each one of us have a unique role to play in this process. For nothing we’ll ever do in the name of the Lord is futile or pointless….and no matter how big or small the task, will it ever be a waste of time when it comes to Kingdom work. For as long as we are obedient and persevere in the race the Lord has laid out before us, we will be victorious.
I Corinthians 11:28 ” A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”
Paul had not been with the Believers of the Church in Corinth for about three years. But he had gotten wind of the abuses that were happening concerning the Lord’s Supper…or if you will, Holy Communion or the Eucharist. Here he was instructing them to stop and soberly scrutinize and determine whether they were worthy of taking Communion…before they partook. When something becomes so ritualistic and automatic, we tend to perform it without thinking…going through the motions without allowing it to impact us. We are to examine ourselves first, before we participate…for who better to ascertain our own spiritual condition than us? And don’t worry, what you choose to ignore…the Holy Spirit will be faithful to point it out!