A stark example for us from Daniel.

While preaching from Daniel 9, I was struck by this fact: Daniel’s prayer in this passage was answered as he was “praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, Israel”.  Verse 5 tells us “we have sinned and have committed iniquity”.  Daniel was confessing and seeking forgiveness for the nation of Israel.

Let’s recap the history here:  Israel rejected following God and ignored the pleas of the prophets that preached repentance.  Due to Israel’s sin and rejection of God, God allowed both the Northern and Southern kingdoms to be taken into captivity.  Daniel was a young man who was taken back to Babylon due to his intelligence and potential.  There, in captivity in a foreign land, Daniel remained faithful to God.  We see from the beginning as he and his three Hebrew friends set themselves apart with their standards on what food they would or would not eat.  Daniel showed his faith in the Almighty by interpreting the dream for Nebuchadnezzar.

Now, in chapter 9 we find Daniel working under King Darius which is an entirely different empire.  Daniel has remained, throughout his life, a faithful ambassador of God.  He has little to no support group:  no church, no synagogue, no Bible study.  We find him praying by himself each day in his home (where his enemies find him praying leading to his being thrown in the Lion’s den).  Daniel has lived a faithful life and is living and working in Babylon under various kings and rulers all while suffering the wages of his country’s debt of sin.

In spite of all of this, we find Daniel taking the responsibility upon himself to pray for the sins of his people.  Daniel is not a political leader or spiritual leader of his country, yet he takes it upon himself to confess and beg forgiveness for the sins of Israel.  Why?  He did not commit these sins.  In fact, many of these sins happened long before he was even alive.

Why?  Because Daniel was the one that had a relationship with God.  Daniel was one of just a handful that knew God, prayed to God, walked with God and understood what God was doing.  Daniel took that great burden upon himself.  What an example to us.  We so often want to see our country repent of their sin and turn to God.  Daniel knew the people of Israel weren’t going to turn to God, they didn’t even realize they were away from Him.  Likewise, we, who know Him, must take it upon ourselves to pray on behalf of our country.  We must be confessing the sin of our country.  We are the only ones that know and understand how essential this is.  We cannot expect the lost to do the right thing.

Let me emphasize the point here once again:  It is one thing to pray that those in sin and committing sin will turn from their sin and repent, calling out to God.  In this example of Daniel, he is taking the sin upon himself and is confessing FOR them.  That is spiritual leadership!!

Are we producing ‘Snowflake’ pastors and missionaries?

As a Pastor I receive a constant barrage of phone calls and emails from prospective missionaries who are looking for support and an opportunity to come to our church and present their ministry.  I have noticed over the past couple of years a distinct change in the ministries that are contacting us.  More and more of the missionaries that are looking for support are church planters in the United States.

I am all for planting churches in the United States – though I am not fully convinced that this qualifies as being a missionary who needs to raise support.  As a pastor of a church that has steadily grown – it is my belief that churches should plant other churches.  Instead of building bigger facilities to house more people, perhaps we should be starting satellite churches in other areas to better reach those geographical needs.

My father planted a church.  He started a church with three families (including ours) that amounted to twelve people.  We met in a living room of one of the families.  After about six months and averaging about 40 people, we rented a building.  For the first three years my Father worked full time at a local factory on the third shift so that he was available to do the work of the ministry during the day.  He believed that we, like the Apostle Paul, were to be ‘tent makers’ as required to get the job done.

I did not plant a church, I became pastor of an existing church.  This church only had about 25 people and I as well worked full time for the first six months of the ministry.  Even after quitting my career job and pastoring the church full time, I still worked several odd jobs.

These young men that want to plant churches need to get a job. They need to work while planting a church.  No, it is not easy.  No part of planting a church is easy.  Ministry is not easy.  Get a job!  Work!

The value of man (and brown bird)

We took our grandsons camping overnight a couple of weeks ago. Our three year old grandson wanted to bring along his favorite toy. Usually this stays with his parents, but since it was overnight we told him he could bring along ‘Brown Bird’.

Brown Bird is a Fisher Price Little People Zoo Animal.  It has the letter ‘N’ on it’s chest to teach the children their alphabet and on this particular bird it stands for Nightingale.  It has brown wings so my grandson calls it ‘Brown Bird’.  He carries it everywhere he goes.  I foolishly vowed to my son that we would keep a close eye on Brown Bird and make sure the toy made it back home safely.

After setting up camp and eating dinner we were playing outside with the grandkids when realization struck me and I looked at my wife and said “where’s Brown Bird?”   She looked immediately concerned and we both realized we had not seen this toy for a couple of hours.  We spent the rest of the evening secretly looking for this toy without purposefully alarming our grandson.  We moved everything, looked everywhere we could imagine and then looked again.  No Brown Bird!

The next evening as we were driving the boys back home my wife texted my son to let them know we were coming back minus one very important toy.  We stopped by a Walmart on the way – but they didn’t have anything like that.  After dropping off the boys, we immediately got on Ebay and found someone that was selling Brown Bird – it was less than three dollars (plus shipping of course) so we ordered a new Brown Bird right away.  Within a couple of days, my grandson was reunited with a new Brown Bird, he didn’t know the difference and was happy as can be.

Why was Brown Bird so important?  Was this little Fisher Price toy valuable?  No.  Was it rare? No.  Was it a collectible?  I don’t think so. It was valuable because of the value my grandson put on it.  It was his favorite toy.  We searched and searched and eventually ordered a new one because it was important to my grandson.

The Word of God tells us that we were formed from the dust of the ground.  In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we find that God made everything that existed from nothing with just His very Word. Except for mankind.  With mankind, He formed the dust into a human being and breathed into him the breath of God – and then man became a living soul.  When man sinned – God sent Jesus Christ to die for him.  Why?  Man has do value.  He is from dust.  Why didn’t God just do away with the sinful one and create new perfect ones?

Because mankind was valuable to God.  God loved man and was willing to die in order to redeem him.  The value of man’s soul is determined by his Creator.

(And Brown Bird is not allowed at Grandma and Grandpa’s anymore).