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Tag Archives: Death

The Right view of Jesus Changes Everything

55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.
58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

When we have an accurate view of Jesus, everything else then is weighted correctly. Some of the things we once loved and longed for have become meaningless and some of the things that were meaningless and trivial become most important. Stephen knew this, and Acts 7 gives the historical account. Stephen was filled with the Spirit and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. As men gathered stones to put him to death, Stephen calmly stood without fear, without anger, without retaliation, he was fortified by an accurate view of Jesus. He begged not that God would intervene and protect him, not that fire would fall and devour these men where they stood, but that these men who would stone him would be forgiven. Once you have an accurate view of Jesus, fear fades, hatred is halted, and death no longer permanent becomes sleep, to which we now know, we will once again be awakened from. My prayer today is that we will see Jesus most clearly as he truly is, The Lover of Our Souls. I wonder the conversations that took place in the homes of these stone throwers after they witnessed Stephen’s prayer? Did Stephen’s reflection of love impact even one? Maybe, just as Jesus’ death impacted the soldiers that witnessed his love at the cross and were transformed so these men also may have been moved by Stephens death. One thing I know for sure, Stephen’s message was not diluted, he did not compromise his stand, he didn’t do what was politically correct, even to the point of giving up his very life. When we have a accurate view of Jesus, we can trust whatever circumstance we are facing that He is in control.

Reckless Abandon

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:3-4

We can all relate to the understanding of something being better than something else. I like jelly filled donuts better than plain donuts, I like hot coffee better than cold coffee, I like chocolate milk better than hot cocoa, I like steak better than veggies, I like hand held razors better than electric shavers, I like Toyota better than Chevy and this could go on all day. I think the idea of liking something better translates very easily most of the time, but to like something better than life? It is a theme that can be seen throughout the Bible in the lives of those who knew the real Life Giver. Based on the love that God has for humanity is it any wonder that life would be considerably less valuable apart from Him?
Paul understood this probably as good as anyone, when he penned the line “to live is Christ and to die is gain”. He had written to the Philippians with the hope that they would grasp the gravity of knowing the relationship with Christ is better than life itself. One thing I want to point out here though, is that there must be a heavy emphasis placed on knowing Christ in the here and now, otherwise to die is not gain.
The psalmist too places a heavy emphasis on the relationship and his experience of the God who loves. Here we see that a life lived in the love of God is one that is reflective of that love. The psalmist glorifies God with his lips – we can presume that means that he sings praises but let’s not exclude the thought that he guards his mouth to say only those things that would bring God glory. It doesn’t stop with praise in words either, this psalmist says it carries over into a physical adoration by the raising of his hands in praise of the name as well. That word “name” sticks in my craw because it declares that the psalmist is personal in his worship – he acknowledges the name of God.
I enjoy my faith because there is a great freedom in the ability to run headlong to the One that loves me and embrace Him in worship. This a a concept that cannot be grasped by those that live in the confines of rules taught by men, or people afraid of what others might think of their reckless abandonment of those rules. There is nothing forced and there is not a comfort zone that cannot be dismantled in the process of a worshipper meeting with their LORD. If you have found the love of God then you know it is better than life itself and no amount of words in my vocabulary can make it any clearer. May we all praise His Name and enjoy our doing so all our days of life. Amen

When the bondage is broken…

There are times in our lives when our faith is being tested, when trials assail us, when frustration takes hold, and fearful anxiety comes taunting. Many of us have experienced those valley days when would much rather be anyplace but where we are now and any road out seems like a good option. It is in the times like this that our faith is tested, our convictions are tried, and our real heart is displayed in the actions we take.
Such was the case for three young men who had been taken captive by the enemy empire Babylon. While many of the others from their home had been reduced to working hard labor these three had been trained to be leaders. Yes, their position of authority was better but the fact that they were in bondage to another people made these chosen people of God see their situation as grim. I wonder what they were thinking as the God they had trusted allowed them to be captured. If that were not bad enough, they were now being told to bow down to a foreign idol in worship with the promise that if they refused they would in fact face death in a fiery furnace. From bad to worse, the situation and circumstances seemed to be placing bigger and bigger demands on their faith.
I know that these men were facing serious consequences if they refused to bow down; I also know that they were raised to faithfully serve God no matter the circumstances. But it is at the point of no return that some fail to live faithfully. Faith that is not tested is not faith.
When we look at a situation and see we are in bondage and we reason, if God really loved us how could he let this happen to us. We consider, really how bad, to bow down to an idol is, I mean we are talking life and death here. If we compromise surely God would excuse a momentary lapse of faith in a situation where our lives are in the hands of our enemy. The problem with that type of thinking is that it second guesses God.
These three young men understood faith to mean that you trusted God to deliver you from the circumstances and moreover you continued to trust God even if he doesn’t. Real faith trusts God with the outcome even if it’s not the outcome we desire.
By now you probably know that the three young men are Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. If you are familiar with the history of these Israelites then you are also aware that they refused to bow down. Because they refused the then King Nebuchadnezzar, became so enraged that he had the fires of the furnace heated seven times hotter. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego bound hand and foot and thrown into the furnace. Evidence of Nebuchadnezzar’s lack of faith in their God’s ability is characterized in his last question to the men just before he had them thrown in the furnace; “what god could save you from my hand”?
Needless to say Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were faithful to trust God with their very lives. But their experience has much to teach us about fiery furnace circumstances and standing firm despite the obvious consequences. Here are just a few things I learned from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s experience in the fiery furnace: 1) Never look at your circumstances look to the one who holds them. Sadly we are people that only view life in terms of the now…life is eternal and unless we can embrace that understanding our fears will prevent us from trusting beyond the threat of death.
2) Faith means trusting God with the outcome even when we may not like the outcome. 3) It is in the fire where the bondage is taken away. These three young men went into the fire bound hand and foot but Nebuchadnezzar saw them walking around in the flames unharmed and free. Too often the things in this life that take precedence as urgent and pressing pale in comparison when the fires are turned up to what really matters. A death of a mother or dad will often draw siblings together to comfort one another even if they have been indifferent to each other for years – because what really matters is more important. 3) Standing firm in your faith will open doors to others who have previously stood unbelieving. Nebuchadnezzar sent out a decree after seeing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego live a faith that did not fear death. 4) You are never ever in any circumstance alone – the fourth one walking in that furnace was God and he is there no matter the trial. This last lesson is most important, because too often we think we are going through our trials alone.
Now the question: Are you living faithful in your circumstances right now? Are you trusting God even when what was bad gets worse? Do you understand that standing firm in your convictions will open the door for others to see the real value of putting their faith in the God you serve? Do you know you’re not going through this trial alone?