The Thieves of Joy

thieves

There are things in our lives that rob us of joy and we can call them the killjoys of the Christian life. These killjoys are strategic and scheming thieves. They are relentless in their attempted robbery and they are masters of disguise. Seeing that it is our duty to be a people that rejoice (; ), it must be our mission to recognize these thieves and do what we can to make sure they don’t rob us of the blessedness of our joy. Continue reading The Thieves of Joy

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

16 Rejoice always,

A Profile of a Proud Person

plain-blue-ipad-wallpaper

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:61 Pet. 5:5). Pride is an ugly and consuming sin that God hates (Prov. 6:16-17; 16:5). Pride comes from the heart (Mark 7:21-23) and leads to contention (Prov. 13:10; 28:25) and callousness (Dan. 5:20). The final outcome of this sin is disgrace (Prov. 11:2), debasement (Prov. 29:23) and finally destruction (Prov. 16:18; 18:12). Yet pride is not always obvious to us. It can be subtle and become so deep-rooted that it goes unnoticed. Below is a small and selective list that provides a profile of a proud person:  Continue reading A Profile of a Proud Person

Selfishness

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.23.28 AM

Selfishness is something we are all too well familiar with. Me, myself and I are the three people we tend to be most consumed with. Selfishness is the state of being concerned primarily with self and it begins with the craving to satisfy your desires, and it is then carried out by actions that are all about you. The sin of selfishness is such a debilitating sin. It robs us of the joy of being satisfied with God and His sovereign purposes. Continue reading Selfishness

Contemplating the Cross

cross

 

Many things in this world consume our minds and we can lead lives that are very busy leaving little time for contemplation. But this is damaging for us. Contemplation and consideration are important, especially when it comes to the things of God. The hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote these amazing words in his hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Continue reading Contemplating the Cross

The Writing is on the Wall

wall-writing

provides us with a lesson concerning the judgment of God and it foreshadows God’s coming judgment on “Babylon the Great” (). This chapter can be divided into two sections, Belshazzar’s feast (Dan. 5:1-12) and Belshazzar’s fall ().

Belshazzar’s Feast 5:1-12
Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his kingdom officials (). He then issues a command to bring the vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem, so that he and the guests could drink their wine from them (). As they did this, they worshiped “the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone” (). These actions revealed a complete disregard for the God of Israel and displayed a life style consumed by sin.

In the midst of the party celebrations, there was a major interruption. The king saw the fingers of a man’s hand writing on the wall of the palace (). Belshazzar’s countenance changed from to being festive to being fearful (). He said to the wise men of Babylon that if they could read and interpret this writing, they would be promoted to the third ruler of Babylon (). However, not one of them was able to provide the meaning and Belshazzar was “greatly troubled” (). The queen mother provides Belshazzar with a solution. She reminds him of a spirit filled man in the kingdom named Daniel. She reminds Belshazzar that Nebuchadnezzar made him the chief of the wise men of Babylon ().

Belshazzar’s Fall 5:13-31
In this final section of the narrative, we read about the fall of Belshazzar. Daniel is brought before Belshazzar for an interview (Dan. 5:13-16). After asking hi about his origins (Dan. 5:13), Belshazzar tells Daniel what he knows about his reputation and then offers him the promotion of being the third ruler of Babylon if he makes known the interpretation (Dan. 5:14-16).

Daniel respectfully responds with some instructions (Dan. 5:17-24). He begins by declining the offer of promotion, yet commits to making known the interpretation (Dan. 5:17). Then he goes on to remind Belshazzar that it was God who gave Nebuchadnezzar his kingdom and fame (Dan. 5:18-19). But because of his pride, the Lord humbled him until he knew that the Lord rules over all (Dan. 5:20-21). Daniel then instructs Belshazzar, that he knew all this about Nebuchadnezzar, and did not humble himself (Dan. 5:22). Instead, “you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven” Daniel said (Dan. 5:23). It is for this reason, God wrote this message on the wall (Dan. 5:24).

After giving such a bold instruction Daniel provides the interpretation (Dan. 5:25-31). After reading the words aloud “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (Dan. 5:25), Daniel gave the meaning: “God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it…you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting…your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians” (Dan. 5:26-28). In response to this, Belshazzar honoured Daniel and promoted him (Dan. 5:29), but that very night Belshazzar was killed. Darius the Mede received the kingdom – the silver chest and arms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2:32, 39).

This chapter reminds us that God’s judgment is real. God judged Belshazzar because of his willful rejection of the one true God. The day is coming when all mankind will stand before the throne of God, and He will judge according to what they have done (). However, for those who have received forgiveness in Christ there is now no condemnation for them ().

5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31  And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

When I saw her, I marveled greatly. But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

15 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

18:1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
For all nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,
and repay her double for her deeds;
mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,
since in her heart she says,
‘I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
and mourning I shall never see.’
For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,
death and mourning and famine,
and she will be burned up with fire;
for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”

And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

“Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.

14 “The fruit for which your soul longed
has gone from you,
and all your delicacies and your splendors
are lost to you,
never to be found again!”

15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,

16 “Alas, alas, for the great city
that was clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”

And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,

“What city was like the great city?”

19 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out,

“Alas, alas, for the great city
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in a single hour she has been laid waste.
20 Rejoice over her, O heaven,
and you saints and apostles and prophets,
for God has given judgment for you against her!”

21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,

“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,
and will be found no more;
22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,
will be heard in you no more,
and a craftsman of any craft
will be found in you no more,
and the sound of the mill
will be heard in you no more,
23 and the light of a lamp
will shine in you no more,
and the voice of bridegroom and bride
will be heard in you no more,
for your merchants were the great ones of the earth,
and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints,
and of all who have been slain on earth.”

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31  And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them.

They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote.

Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Pride and Prayerlessness

Prayerlessness

Prayer is the means that God has provided to help His people and it is an essential element to the Christian life. Prayer has been likened to breathing. If we struggle to breathe it will limit us in what we can do. Take for example somebody who is keen in sports but struggles with their breathing. They will find limitations in their performance, and so it is with Christian living. It is essential that the people of God are taking those spiritual breaths of dependence on the Lord so that they may be enabled for His service.

What about the issue of prayerlessness?

 Prayerlessness in the life of a Christian is actually an issue of pride. Think about it, an aspect of praying is asking God for help. So if you are not asking God for help, you are relying on your own abilities and are showing by your actions that you don’t need His help. Even though we may create excuses of busyness or forgetfulness, in the final analysis, prayerlessness is ultimately an issue of personal pride. We ought to be rebuked for our neglect of prayer. Continue reading Pride and Prayerlessness

Divorce and “Blame”

My parents divorced when I was one year old.  I grew up without my father.  My wife’s parents divorced when she was eleven.  We have both been damaged greatly by divorce.  We hate divorce!

But I have to admit it: I must be a wimp; I have never preached on divorce.  In every congregation I have been in there have been people who are divorced.  And I fear I would upset them if I preached on the topic.  I’m not avoiding the topic, but I’m glad that it hasn’t come up so far in the books I have preached on.

Continue reading Divorce and “Blame”

Sin in the Life of a Christian: Part IV – Judging other Christians

In the final instalment of this series I want to talk about how our view of sin affects how we view other Christians.

I have argued that sin is a disease (see part one of this series).  Sins, the wrong things we do, are the symptoms of the disease.  My disease is that my heart is utterly corrupt.  My symptoms are the wrong things my heart leads me to do.  As Christians we are forgiven our sins, but we are still sinful.

Focusing on the symptoms of sin, rather than the disease, will lead me towards legalism.  Christians have rightly understood the evils of alcohol, the dangers of smoking, the pitfalls inherent in our culture and society which is moving further and further away from the gospel.  There are dangers in our culture: in the movies we watch, the TV shows that we view, in the way that we dress, and so on.  A right concern about such things however has led at times to Christians making up rules that can become legalistic: for example, a woman must wear a dress, and not pants.  These rules fail in the end, because they treat the symptoms, and not the disease (cf ).

The disease of sin is treated by preaching the gospel and teaching the word of God.  Rules merely treat the symptoms.  How does all this affect how I view other Christians? Continue reading Sin in the Life of a Christian: Part IV – Judging other Christians

23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

We don’t have to be an intellectual whiz to serve God effectively

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

I have been greatly encouraged lately by the fact that we don’t have to be an intellectual ‘Einstein’ to be faithful and fruitful workers for God. It’s not by our wisdom that people are saved by God, but by the work of the Holy Spirit through the redemption Christ has provided. It’s by God’s grace alone that we can do anything of eternal significance Continue reading We don’t have to be an intellectual whiz to serve God effectively

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.