April 17

February 2008

Reflections on an Aunt-Nephew Relationship

This past week I had the privilege of participating in my Aunt Evelyn’s funeral service in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Before I read Scripture in the service I was able to share a few thoughts about what my aunt meant to us.  As I’ve thought of her, I’ve been encouraged about the role we can play in our extended family.  My aunt was a pastor’s wife.  Because my Uncle Floyd pastored several churches in other states, our families grew up apart and we didn’t see my aunt and uncle a lot.  But despite infrequent contacts Aunt Evelyn left an important impact upon my life that I praise God for.  Here are some of the things she did that we can all emulate to make a difference for our extended family and friends too.

She was an example of sincere love to God that spilled over into a sincere love for us.  There was no question that Aunt Evelyn loved the Lord Jesus Christ and lived for him.  As long as I knew her, 86 years old at her home-going, it was obvious that she had a growing relationship with the Lord.  Several years back as we sat around a motel pool watching my kids swim she shared her testimony with me of how she came to the assurance of her salvation.  That only reinforced what I had observed for many years—that Christ was a living reality in her life.  I saw that in her love for the church which continued through her whole life, in her involvement in Bible study groups where she reveled in learning the Bible with others often much younger than herself, and in her encouragement of our Christian endeavors.  The last time I visited her getting around with a walker, I led in prayer before I left.  She spontaneously followed my prayer with a tender prayer for me that I will never forget.  Aunt Evelyn finished well for the Lord.  She showed us that Jesus is worth serving all the way.  Younger people need that example.

She made a special effort to attend important life events.  Over the years she came to two of my graduations.  She came to my wedding on the proudest day of my life.  She also came to the airport in Chicago to rejoice in the arrival of our adopted son from Korea. Coming to those special occasions seemed like a small effort then, but it lingers in my heart to this day.   Being there said I love you, I support you, and I want you to feel encouraged.  In this day in which we often have lost the support of extended family making us feel less connected and accountable, making extra efforts to attend these big occasions for one another makes us feel more connected and more accountable.  We need the sense that our family cares and expects the best of us.  Doing well or making the proper choices in life is often caused by the encouragement of godly adults who took time to be there.

She always spoke well of her relatives giving us a positive image of our extended family. How easy it is when family gets together to be negative and nit-pick the faults of those we know so well.  We can do it without even thinking or realizing the damage we are doing to the younger generation who hear our words of criticism about aunts, uncles and cousins and sour on the family.  Aunt Evelyn did the opposite.  She referred to my dad as her “wonderful brother.”  What brother is really that wonderful!  She spoke with loving admiration of my deceased uncle in his funeral service.  She regularly reminded us with gratitude of all my parents had done to care for my invalid grandmother whom I never knew when Aunt Evelyn, the only daughter, was at one time unable to be near her dear mother’s side.  With comments like these she fostered appreciation and gratitude in our hearts for our family.  The way we speak about others reveals the way we feel about them and ultimately the way we will treat them.  Thank you Aunt Evelyn for showing us how to be respectful, appreciative, and grateful by speaking words seasoned with grace about others.  You showed us how to love others.

Your friend, learning from others, Pastor Brian (:-}).

April 17

January 2008

What Will We Do with a New Year of Opportunities? 

As we approach the New Year of 2008 I have been thinking about opportunities.  In 1 Kings 16 we read about the reign of three significant kings in the Northern Kingdom of Israel—Baasha, Omri, and Ahab.  What is important to note is that Baasha had been a tool used of God to end the evil dynasty of Jeroboam.  So he was given a significant opportunity to lead Israel in a new direction back to God.  Instead, Baasha chose to follow Jeroboam’s example and ended up preparing the way for one of Israel’s worst kings—the evil Ahab who took Israel to new spiritual lows.  Look at the lessons we learn.

The opportunities of life are God-given.  God said to Baasha, I lifted you up from the dust and made you leader of my people Israel, 1 Kings 16:2a.  Note the dramatic contrast.  Baasha was nobody who had nothing, but God graciously lifted him up to make him somebody—the king of Israel—with something—a position of great influence.  In a similar way, if God is gracious to us we will have 365 new days in 2008 filled with resources, time, position, relationships, and influence.  These opportunities are His gifts to people who would be nobodies with nothing without Him.

Our God-given opportunities are to serve His purposes.  God indicted Baasha saying, But you walked in the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to provoke me to anger by their sins, 1 Kings 16:2b.  With great privilege came great responsibility.  God raised up Baasha to be a reformer, to turn the Northern Kingdom away from the syncretistic worship of Jeroboam that mixed pagan practices with the worship of the Lord.  What an opportunity for incredible good!  Instead, Baasha continued those practices likely because he thought it would consolidate the people around him.  He squandered God’s purpose for Him.  Oh that such would not happen to us in 2008!  Where does God want us to lead, where does He want us to serve His kingdom, and what is His purpose for us in the New Year?  We must answer those questions if we would seize God’s purposes to accomplish great good through us.

God will require an accounting of our opportunities.  After reigning in Israel 24 years 1 Kings 16:1 says, Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu . . . against Baasha.  Mark that word “against.”  It was accounting time.  Likely Baasha thought this day would never come.  But it always does.  God wanted Baasha’s name to be right there with the great kings like David, Solomon and Hezekiah.  Instead his named is included with kings like Jeroboam, Omri and Ahab.  God wants to reward us too with significant honor in His presence when Jesus returns.  As we enter 2008 we must think about that day of accounting as a motivation to do God’s will now to receive God’s honor later.

Since God’s Word will ultimately prevail, true success is measured by His Word.  God announced, So I am about to consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 16:3.  In just the 2nd year of the reign of Baasha’s son, Elah, God’s prophesy came literally true and Baasha’s household was completely wiped out and his dynasty ended.  Baasha was possibly a successful military-political ruler in some significant ways (see v. 5), but none of that is recorded because he failed in the most crucial way.  An old question asks, How surprising is it to climb the ladder of success only to discover in the end it was leaning against the wrong wall?   Which wall of success will we be climbing in 2008—God’s or our own?  Now is the time to make sure our achievements measure up to God’s Word.  Then His success will be our success.

Your friend, Pastor Brian (:-)}.

April 17

December 2007

Is There a Connection between Your Spiritual and Physical Health?

Recently I was interviewed by a local health and wellness magazine on the relationship of spiritual to physical health.  In my preparation I discovered some amazing studies like this:

“Recent studies indicate that men and women who practice in any of the mainstream faiths have above-average longevity, fewer strokes, less heart disease, less clinical depression, better immune-system function, lower blood pressure, and fewer anxiety attacks, and they are much less likely to commit suicide than the population at large. These findings come from secular medical schools and schools of public health….”  (The New Republic, July 1999, 20).

Studies like these beg the question, “Why?”  Here’s where it gets really fascinating.  Research correlates following the Bible’s teachings with hidden health benefits.  Here are just a few.

Practicing biblical faith makes you more hopeful and optimistic in times of trial.  John Ortberg cites a study of heart attack patients in which two factors—loss of hope or pessimism—increased odds of death 300%.  That’s a lot!  These factors predicted death more accurately than any medical risk factor, including blood pressure, amount of damage to the heart, or cholesterol level.  One study said,Optimistic people . . . cope with stress more effectively.  The Bible is full of references that a regular practice of public and private communion with God renews our hope in His nearness and power (see Psalms 42, 46; Romans 5:1-11; James 1:2-12).  This in turn lightens our load enabling us to worry less benefiting the body as well as the soul.  As Ortberg writes, Hope does not just motivate people to positive action.  It actually has healing power. 

Practicing biblical faith makes your relationships healthier and less stressful.  The Bible is replete with counsel on how to treat one another by handling anger properly, dealing with bitterness, learning to forgive, and controlling our tongue (see Ephesians 4:25-32).  Not only does this please God, but it makes our relationships smoother which affects our health.  A study in Time magazine reported that people in happy marriages are healthier. “Studies have shown that happily married women have less blockage in their aortas, and that happily married couples are less likely to suffer from heart disease.”When a relationship is healthy and caring, the partners tend to discourage bad habits and encourage good ones, leading to fewer illnesses and more attention to health care.  Treat each other as the Bible says is actually good medicine.

      Practicing biblical faith helps you deal with destructive emotions like guilt.  Psychiatrist Karl Menninger of the famous Menninger Clinic once said if he could convince his patients that their sins were forgiven, 75% of them could walk out the next day.  Unforgiveness puts a strain on the psyche that disturbs mental soundness, but it can also sap physical energy.  David said, When I kept silent [about my sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. . . . my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer, Psalm 32:3-4.  Following the Bible’s teaching on how to deal with sin rids the body of the weight of such guilt (see Psalm 51).

Practicing biblical faith leads you to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Christians know from Scripture that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and are to be treated with respect.  Honor God with your body says 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.  Newsweek magazine reported a study on religion and health thatindicates a person attending church weekly is less likely to become depressed, and more likely to exercise, quit smoking, and stop drinking.  In other words, obeying Scripture motivates you to make healthy choices that honor the body and the God who gave it.

Your friend, Pastor Brian (:-}).

April 17

November 2007

Speaking to the NMU Football Team

Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking in the chapel service for the NMU football team.  I began my talk by mentioning I was in Donckers Candy Store when I saw a plaque on display with the past titles of the NMU Team.  The year that caught my attention was 1975, my senior year in high school.  That year NMU went all the way and captured the NCAA Division II Championship by beating Western Kentucky.  A young man by the name of Steve Mariucci from Iron Mountain was the quarterback of the team.  Now I know where he gained his fame.

There must have been a lot of excitement on the NMU campus that Fall as the team won game after game, rolled through the playoffs, and captured the crown in Sacramento, CA where the title game was played.  Everyone loves being a champion.  But that was 32 years ago and there hasn’t been a championship since.  College football championships are very hard to repeat.  U of M has only had one in the last 50 years.

I shared with the players that it is possible to be a repeat champion everyday on the football field of life where it counts most.  We can be daily champions in God’s arena.  James 1:12 tells us how.  Champions are tested.  James speaks in this verse of undergoing trials.  The term “trial” means to try to learn the nature or character of someone by submitting them to thorough and extensive testing.  The only way we can see if someone has the heart of a champion is by how that person handles the tests of life.  Tom Landry, founding coach of the Dallas Cowboys, once said, The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.  Similarly, the Lord’s job is to help us face what we don’t want to go through so we can become what He wants us to be.

Champions are also tough.  James says we must “persevere under trial.”  “Persevere” was used of someone underneath a heavy load and staying there.  Rather than drop the heavy load they bear up under it.  One person calls this “staying power.”  That’s when everything within you wants to give up but you hang in there.  You show mental and spiritual toughness and you stay with it.  I shared with the NMU players some areas they needed to be tough in for the Lord.  Tough in our morals—When everyone else is sexually impure, the champion fights to stay pure.  Tough in our ethics—When everyone else cheats to get ahead, champions won’t cut corners.  Tough in our beliefs—No matter how much we may be mocked, champions stand for the truth.  Tough in our testimony—When following Jesus isn’t popular, champions follow Him anyway. 

Champions will be triumphant.  Only one team could win the World Series, the Red Sox.  But James says every Christian can receive the “crown of life.”  I told the players that eternal life is a gift that can’t be earned or deserved.  It must be received as a gift from Jesus and I urged them to do just that.  But the “crown of life” refers to the rewards earned in heaven by those who lived for Jesus as champions.  It is the extra special victory and honor that is bestowed on those who faced the tests of life and toughed them out to bring honor to Jesus.  That crown and all that it means in heaven is worth being a champion for.  God wants to make something special of us.  Let’s accept the process that it takes to be a champion.

Your friend, Pastor Brian (:-}).

April 17

October 2007

Flame Ministries Bringing Understanding Islam Seminar to Bethel

This October we have the privilege of having Rev. John Hoeldtke, president of Flame Ministries from Washington State with us at Bethel.  Rev. Hoeldtke will be giving a special presentation entitledUnderstanding Islam in the Bethel sanctuary from 6:00-8:00 PM on Sunday, October 14.  The uniqueness of this seminar is that Pastor John brings a wealth of experience and a Christian perspective to his research and understanding of Islam.  We’ll be informed with new insights that will help us better understand the War on Terror and its implications for our country and future.

Rev. Hoeldtke has said this about his presentation:

I have given this presentation in many churches on Sunday evenings and have always been well-received.  Frequently the sanctuary has been full with a number of outsiders present.  I think your people will not only enjoy it but, Lord willing, profit from it.

In addition to the seminar on Sunday night, Pastor John will be ministering in these ways.

  • Saturday, October 13, 9:00-10:00 AM – Breakfast at Bethel sponsored jointly by the Outreach and Missionary Board and the Board of Elders.  This one hour meeting will include breakfast and a 20-30 minute talk from Pastor John on the topic of The Importance of Evangelism in the Local Church.  Sign-ups will be provided over the next several weeks for the breakfast.
  •  Saturday, October 13, 3:00 PM – Meeting with the church staff and Board of Elders on the topic of The Emerging Church and Other Trends Affecting the Church Today.  This discussion is open to anyone interested in these timely subjects.  The book The Truth Warby John MacArthur will be a part of this discussion.
  • Sunday, October 14, 8:30 AM and 11:15 AM Pastor John will be preaching in our services.

Who is Rev. John Hoeldtke?  Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of Pastor John.

  • Graduate of Northwestern College and Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN
  • Long-time former pastor in the Baptist General Conference including one-time pastor of the church attended by Dr. John Piper when he taught at Bethel University
  • District Executive Minister formerly of the Colombia District of the Baptist General Conference
  • Current president of Flame Ministries traveling extensively in the United States in evangelistic and Bible conference ministry
  • Recently returned from India and Nepal where he has traveled many times working among Muslim peoples and with missionaries to Muslims
  • Friend of Dr. Dwight Perry, District Executive Minister of the Great Lakes Baptist Conference, who was a one-time board member of Flame Ministries

Plan now to attend these exciting events at Bethel.  You’ll learn from and enjoy Pastor Hoeldtke.

Your friend, Pastor Brian (:-}).

April 17

September 2007

The Life of Abraham:  Learning How to Live by Faith 

This Fall on Sunday mornings we will begin a series of messages on the life of Abraham.  Abraham is unique in the Bible as the only one who was called the friend of God.  He was called this three times in 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8, and James 2:23.  To be God’s friend referred to intimacy of relationship in which God talked with Abraham as friend to friend and disclosed to him the Almighty’s plan for the world (see Genesis 18:17-18).  Indeed, it was through Abraham and his offspring—ultimately Jesus Christ—that God’s plan of salvation has come to the world.

The key, of course, to Abraham’s extraordinary relationship with God was his faith.  Abraham is the preeminent example in the Bible of living by faith.  He is called the man of faith and the Father of all who believe (see Galatians 3:9 and Romans 4:11).  And when we come to faith in Jesus Christ we are called the children of Abraham who enter into the same relationship with God that he had (Galatians 3:7).  In fact, when the Jews argued with Jesus about being Abraham’s children, Jesus said, If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the things Abraham did (John 8:39).  So Abraham’s life is a model of how to live by faith for those who have become his spiritual children.  It’s a wonderful study to encourage a life of faith.

As we anticipate this study in Abraham’s life of faith let me give you an overview of the help we will receive in our life of faith.  As we will see, faith is a very practical reality.

  • The call of God to a life of faith:  What’s involved?  Genesis 12:1-9
  • Why it is dangerous to compromise your faith.  Genesis 12:10-20
  •  How faith solves conflict.  Genesis 13
  •  How to do spiritual warfare by faith.  Genesis 14
  •  How faith conquers fear.  Genesis 15:1-6
  •  How faith eternally secures our future.  Genesis 15:7-21
  •  How faith solves life’s problems.  Genesis 16
  •  Why purity is the sign of living by faith.  Genesis 17
  •  How to receive miracles by faith.  Genesis 18:1-15
  •  Why your faith preserves society.  Genesis 18:16-33
  • What motivates a life of faith?  Genesis 19
  • Why you should stay sexually pure.  Genesis 20
  • Why it pays to live by faith.  Genesis 21:1-21
  • How faith solves conflict round two.  Genesis 21:22-34
  • How to pass when your faith is tested.  Genesis 22
  • How faith prepares you to die.  Genesis 23
  • How to marry the right person by faith.  Genesis 24
  • How to leave a legacy by faith.  Genesis 25:1-11

You may want to read ahead and meditate on these chapters in Genesis.  God has much to encourage us in our life of faith as we retrace the steps of Father Abraham.

Your friend, Pastor Brian (:-}).

April 17

August 2007

Learning How to Be Good Leaders from King David’s Example

Warren Wiersbe has written, “A crisis isn’t what makes a person; a crisis shows what a person’s made of.   A real leader looks at a crisis and asks, ‘What can I do that will best help the people?’”  Israel was facing just such a crisis in 1 Kings chapter 1.  Adonijah, King David’s oldest living son, took advantage of David’s old age to have himself proclaimed king over Solomon who was God’s choice.  This was serious.

  •  Had Adonijah succeeded a civil war would have ensued (like with Absalom).
  •  Solomon would have been distracted from building God’s temple by this war.
  •  The peace, unity and worship of Israel were in jeopardy.
  •  God’s plan to make His Name great and spread His glory in the Temple was at stake.

All eyes of course would be upon weakened King David.  How would he lead to keep the nation from being hijacked by an unethical opportunist like Adonijah?  How David acted is a study in being good leaders for those who follow us.

  •   Good leaders have a high commitment to personal integrity (1 Kings 1:29-30).  David took an oath in the name of the Lord that Solomon would be the next king as he had promised.  “As surely as theLord lives meant that David’s intended action was as certain to take place as God’s very existence.”  That’s one powerful way of saying, I am committed to what I have promised.  You can bank on it.   Isn’t this where good leadership begins—when people know leaders hold themselves accountable to keep their commitments because their integrity is so important to them?  You can trust that kind of person.
  •  Good leaders make themselves accountable to other leaders who have personal integrity and pure motives (1 Kings 1:32-37).    David called on three men—Zadok, Benaiah, and Nathan the prophet—to carry out Solomon’s coronation as king.  Remember that Nathan was the prophet who confronted David over his sin with Bathsheba at the risk of his own life if the king became enraged.  He was no “yes man” who would not confront David again if he were acting in the flesh.  All Israel would trust David’s actions because they trusted Nathan.  Good leaders want accountability.  They want people around them who are committed more to the Lord than to them.  This keeps them correctable when they err.  They want this safeguard.
  •  Good leaders are careful to conform their actions to God’s biblical instructions (1 Kings 1:38-40).  David had Nathan coronate Solomon king.  Adonijah did not invite Nathan the prophet to his coronation, v. 10.  Since the prophet was God’s mouthpiece, by doing the anointing it was clear the king’s rulership was not absolute but delegated by God.  This kept the king humble and fearful lest he misuse God’s rule.  David was following God’s instructions while Adonijah ignored them.  Good leaders want people to know they are under God’s authority.  The best way to do that is to carefully follow God’s revealed will in the Bible.
  •  Good leaders balance both compassion and strength in their decisions (1 Kings 1:50-53). When Adonijah’s plot was thwarted he begged for Solomon to spare his life.  Solomon gave him a second chance to prove himself.  Solomon showed compassion when many kings would’ve administered justice to such a traitor.  But Solomon also issued a warning to Adonijah not to try it again.  Good leaders are gracious to the erring but strong with the self-willed.  Knowing we care and are strong enough to stand makes people feel safe under our leading.

Your friend, Pastor Brian (:-}).

April 17

July 2007

How Much Does God Know and Why Does It Matter?

 Last Sunday a youth group from Glory Baptist Church, a sister church of ours in Aitkin, MN, worshiped with us on their way to a mission’s trip.  As they left church the youth pastor’s wife gave me a prayer request slip for three of their teens.  It turns out that they come from homes ravaged by one of the very issues mentioned in the Sunday message.   The youth pastor and his wife seemed appreciative that this had been addressed from the pulpit.  I am sure they were hoping it would reinforce their efforts to show these teens that God offers them a better life free from the destruction of sin.

As I reflected on all of this, I thought how interesting that the very Sunday this youth group would be in our church this issue would be dealt with from the pulpit.  How interesting that three teens living the reality of this at home would travel across three states and hear that God offers them the hope of freedom from the very thing they have suffered under their whole lives.  Accidental?  I think not.  I think God arranged it so their trip would coincide with the preaching schedule so these kids would hear the very message that would offer them direction.

Incidents like this confirm to me that God exhaustively knows the future including what humans will do before they’ve even decided to do it.  That’s why I think the teaching of Open Theism is a dangerous error that undermines our trust in God’s sufficiency.  Open Theism is the teaching that because our future human decisions have not occurred yet they do not exist.  Therefore they cannot be known.  Since even God cannot know what does not exist (so it goes), part of the future is open and humans have the freedom to determine the future, even a future that surprises God.  Proponents of this view argue that this let’s God off the hook for allowing certain tragedies to occur.  If God knew, for example, that Hitler would murder six million Jews and many multitudes more, why did God simply not create Hitler or at least interfere with his path to power after he was born.  One pastor I know said that God didn’t know that 9-11 was going to happen.  This seems to make God look more compassionate and we have an answer to give people for all the suffering in the world.  God just doesn’t know what free people will do.  He’s as surprised as we are.  The problem is that it diminishes God and a diminished God is less deserving of our wonder and our trust.

Where does the Bible fall on this?  Well, consider one passage—Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial inMark 14:30.  It is impossible to read this passage and not conclude that Jesus knew in advance exactly what Peter was going to do.  Jesus knew what Peter would do in the future—deny me.  Jesus knew how many times Peter would do it—three times.  Jesus knew when it would occur—before the rooster crows twice.  Such precise detail would be impossible to predict if Jesus did not know all the possible decisions Peter could have made to change the outcome.  Only because Jesus exhaustively knew the future could He make this prediction.

We serve a big God Who knows and can orchestrate the tiniest details.  Because He knows the beginning from the end He can work all things together, even tragedies, for our ultimate good.  Because nothing surprises Him, He can accomplish all His good purposes for us.  Such a God is worthy of our worship and trust.

Your friend, Pastor Brian (:-})

April 17

June 2007

Dear Beloved Friend(s),

Yesterday my family and I had the privilege of entertaining one of my cousins and her husband on the evening of their 20th wedding anniversary.  They came to Mackinac Island for their anniversary and on their way home to Minnesota wanted to spend some time with us.  We had not seen each other for over a decade.  They met Joy and Jay for the first time.  I was touched that on the very day of their anniversary they would take the time to spend part of it with us.

As Mark and Linda left I thought how good it was to reconnect with family.  We’ve not been able to be close due to distance and busy lives.  Yet there was a yearning in our hearts to connect with each other.  Something inside said, We are Obergs and we shouldn’t let that relationship slip away.  That relationship is worth working at and giving time to.  Frankly, I felt so loved last night by my cousin and her husband that I opened up and enjoyed myself in a way that just felt good.  I guess I experienced the power of love in a tangible way because they took the time to care and reach out to us.

All of this has caused me to reexamine my own love toward others.  If it felt this good to be loved by family I haven’t seen in a long time, what about the people I see everyday?  Am I showing them the kind of love that will bless them and bring me fulfillment and joy in return?  And what is that kind of love?

1 Peter 1:22 is one of the greatest descriptions of Christian love in the Bible.  It says, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart.  This is how Christians are to love one another.  Note the expressions of real love.  We are to love each other with à à à

A spiritual love that is fulfilling (love for your brothers).  “Love for your brothers” comes from the one word philadelphia which means affectionate love for the family of God.  It refers to a spiritual relationship on a deep level that satisfies the need for closeness.  So showing this kind of love is very rewarding because it touches our deepest longings for relationship.

A sacrificial love that is demanding (love one another).  “Love one another” comes from the word agape that refers to sacrificial love.  It forces us out of our comfort zones and requires us to think about what is best for the other person.  That is very tough because we have to act on the basis of what others need not how we feel about them.  So it requires choosing on the basis of mature thinking and refusing to let our emotions rule (or overrule) our actions.

A sincere love that is demonstrating (sincere love).  “Sincere love . . . from the heart” means love in actions not just superficial words.  Peter would agree that love is a verb not a noun.  While love certainly includes what we say to others, it cannot stop there.  Our actions must back up our words showing that the one we say we love is valued by how we treat them.

A steady love that is continuing (deeply from the heart).  “Deeply” means constantly or continuously, not relaxing or tiring.  People will disappoint us.  But the beauty of Christian love is that we can keep on loving since Christian love never fails because it comes from God.

Your friend, in His love, Pastor Brian (:-}).

April 17

May 2007

Dear Beloved Friend(s),

Bible prophecy is a fascinating subject to study.  It is amazing to see how the prophetic portions of Scripture fit together to give us a panoramic view of the end times.  But if we are not careful we can get so caught up in figuring out a timeline of events that we lose the purpose of prophecy.  Prophecy was never given just to satisfy our curiosity or make us experts who’ve got it all mapped out, but to prepare us to be watchful, godly and busy in the King’s business until He returns.  A case in point is the amazing dream given to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 that reveals the broad outline of world events that leads right up to the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His worldwide kingdom.  Generally our focus in this chapter is on the image that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about and how Daniel’s interpretation details the successive world empires depicted by each section of the statue.  All has been fulfilled ‘til the final episode.  PTL!

But the opening part of this chapter actually focuses on something else.  Vv. 1-14 demonstrate the total inability of the most powerful and educated nation on earth to be able to discern the course of world history.  Three things are highlighted:  1) Babylon’s best and brightest could not tell the king his dream.  2) Babylon’s gods were not revealing gods who disclosed their plans to people (v. 11).  3) Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard who was to kill all the wise men including Daniel (v. 14), meansuncertain, an apt description of the total confusion of human wisdom in spiritual matters.

Vv. 14-23 are a complete contrast to this.  Here Daniel and his three friends pray and God reveals the dream and its meaning to Daniel that night.  Daniel immediately gives God all the glory by composing a praise psalm extolling Him (vv. 20-23).  This psalm highlights Babylon’s utter weakness and inability with God’s power and ability.  Notice the contrast in this chart:

  Babylon (vv. 1-14)  The Lord God (vv. 20-23)
Without wisdom He gives wisdom & knowledge (v. 21c)
Helpless Power is His [to stop the planned execution] (v. 20b)
Confused about  history Controls history (the times and seasonsallotted to kings and nations, v. 21a, b)
In the dark  Light dwells with Him so He can reveal (v. 22)
No gods who could answer prayer Answered Daniel’s prayer and revealed themeaning of the dream (v. 23)

Doesn’t all of this beg a very practical question? On which side of the ledger do we live? Do we approach our problems and difficulties from the left side or the right side? The God Daniel worshiped and believed in is the same God we worship and serve. He can give us wisdom to know what we should do and He can extend His mighty hand to help us in any situation. So, do our problems cause us to live like the Babylonians—confused, helpless, despairing and frustrated? Or do our problems help us to return to Daniel’s praise psalm and rehearse what God is like for us—wise, powerful, in control, revealing truth, and answering prayer? It’s our birthright to live on the right side. When we drift to the left side as we often do let’s say, I’m not a Babylonian but a child of God. I’m going back to the right side where I belong with my God.

Sincerely, your friend, Pastor Brian (:-}).