Friday, June 16, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - June 16, 2017

Today's Reading:

Mark 3:1-19

2 Samuel 6

Daniel 3

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, found in Daniel 3 is one of the most courageous and compelling stories in all of Scripture. What kind of person stands faithful to God, refusing to bow to the king's image, on pain of death? There were probably thousands of Israelites out there on the plain of Dura that day. When the music played, and all the people were commanded to bow down and worship the image, their consciences would have been pricked. But they bowed anyway. Did they justify that bow by pretending that their sandals needed latching? Who knows? But out of all of them, only three men stood straight and tall. 

For them, worshiping Yahweh and Him alone was a conviction - not a preference. Surely Daniel would also have stood with his friends. The fact that he didn't tells us that for some reason (maybe he was away on king's business?) he wasn't around. But one thing is clear, these three Hebrew men were willing to die rather than dishonor their Almighty God. Wow - and may we all be equally faithful, if such a test ever came to us!

 This is what it means to fully present oneself to God as an acceptable living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). 

But before we can be acceptable living sacrifices, we first need to be fully unleavened from hypocrisy. We need to live by God’s Grace, as fully belonging to Him. Yet, one thing often holds us back. I call it the inconvenience factor.
We are convicted by the Holy Spirit. We know that we need to fully surrender to God. And yet, we hold back. We don’t want to take the full step of complete surrender, as it will cost us everything. 
Luke 12:1 - "...Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."

Acts 24:24-25  "And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."  
When we find it inconvenient to surrender all, it is often because we are still putting service to God in the preference category, instead of a conviction. 

Sometimes we treat belonging to God like taking a Hawaiian vacation. What are the blessings and benefits of going on a Hawaiian vacation? Let's make a list:
  • Going on a Hawaiian vacation will give a much-needed relaxation and rejuvenation period for overworked family members.
  • It will give time to reconnect and renew the love bonds of the family.
  • It will reduce stress and thus promote health.

Sounds great! Sign us up! Right? But taking a vacation to Hawaii can never be more than a preference, even with all the blessings such a trip would provide. So, if there aren't sufficient funds in the bank to cover the trip, or if someone in the family got really sick, we won't be going - no matter how much we would have liked to go. 

Now don’t get me wrong here…  Taking a Hawaiian vacation SHOULD only be a preference. It is right to not go if there aren’t enough funds, or if a pressing need arises in the family.

The problem is when we treat God like a Hawaiian vacation.

Honoring God and doing His Will cannot be a preference. God needs to be a conviction. If we say, yes, Father, I want to be an acceptable living sacrifice. I know that is an appropriate response to you as my Heavenly Lamb. But, I don’t want to have to go that full distance. I mean…  I will have to give up things that I like – I do have some cherished sins. 

If I go the full distance with You God, I will need to obey You and do Your Will.  Why I could even lose my job if I didn’t agree to work on Sabbath sometimes... And we go on and on with our mental excuses for why we can’t quite bring ourselves to become the full acceptable living sacrifice. Sometimes we just follow along hoping we won't really need to go the full distance of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego... That's asking too much.

Was Shadrach's, Meshach's, and Abednego's desire to worship God and Him alone a preference or a conviction? It was a conviction. How can you tell? They were willing to die rather than worship a false god? 

We need to get to the courageous point where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood. Whether it's life or death, or the threat of losing a job or a relationship, we need to love and choose God first. This is what it means to give God first place in our hearts. 

In conclusion today I leave you with a poem that I wrote:

The Measure of a Man

The true test of those who claim,

To follow in Christ’s mold,

Is whether we’ve the strength to stand,

To not be bought or sold.

Is pleasing God conviction?

Or a preference left behind?

When faced with threats or torments,

Or our death warrant is signed?

The piercing gaze of Heaven,

Looks all throughout the earth,

God’s seeking real pilgrims,

With heaven’s kind of worth.

The folks God’s gaze will rest on,

Are those who call wrongs “sin”,

They speak for truth and righteousness,

Above the worldly din.

With conscience true to duty,

As a needle to the pole.

Nothing in all earth or hell,

Can make them sell their soul. 

What sort of pilgrim are you, friend?

Is your heart convicted?

Or are you only loyal and true,

Until your fun’s restricted?

Will you stand for truth and duty,

Like the men on Dura’s plain?

Or will you justify a bow,

To keep your self from pain?

No matter what it costs you,

Or if the heavens fall.

Oh, won’t you join God’s loyal ranks,

And give your King your all?