Thursday, December 29, 2011

Daniel 3 – Is What You’re Living For Worth Dying For?

Merry Christmas and Happy (almost) New Year everyone!   This week’s commentary will be short, though the outline will be about normal.  Our reading is Daniel 3, the story of the fiery furnace.  The question we want to impress on people is whether what they are living for is worth dying for.  There is a saying, generally attributed to missionary martyr Jim Elliot, that says “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  Most people live for what they cannot keep.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew better, and were willing to lay down their lives, even if God did not save them.  By God’s grace I pray that others will hear this message and trust in God, as those faithful men did.

I pray that your True Gift of Christmas reading was fruitful.  Ours here in San Jose was amazing!!  Thousands of tracts went out, we had some amazing conversation, and I believe God was greatly glorified.  I will be sharing some of our experiences from the outreach, along with pictures, and I hope many of you will do the same.  They are always an encouragement.  Thanks for your faithfulness, and we’ll see you for Project Ezra in the New Year!

All for His glory,


Today I would ask you to consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three men who were willing to die for what they believed. 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were men of influence in the most powerful city of their time.  Yet they considered that worthless compared to serving God.

So today I ask you to consider what you value, and who you serve.

All of us serve and live for something.   Is what you’re living for worth dying for?

These men understood something that many of you might be missing.  That truth is your standing before God is the only thing of true value in this world.  If you don’t have that, you have nothing.
So what do you live for?
Do you live for money?  You can’t take it with you when you die, and you will be dead much longer than you will be alive.

Are you living for power, or influence, or fame?  Nothing outside of God can give you power over death, or allow you to influence your fate, and fame is fleeting.  100 years from now no one will remember you, but your eternity will be decided.

Are you living for pleasure?  Are you trying to enjoy every minute while you are here?  There is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself, but if you spend your life on pleasure that won’t last, what were they really worth?  The Bible asks, what good is it for a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

One day, every one of us will have to stand before God and give an account for our lives.  For it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.  When that day comes, will what you have lived for have any value?

You may not believe this to be true, but please realize that your opinion mean anything, and neither does mine.  The only thing that is important is what is true.  And all of us, in our hearts, know that this is true.

So what are you trusting in for your eternity?  When you stand before God, will he see you as right, and worthy to enter His kingdom?

If you are trusting in your own goodness, you do NOT have a right standing before God.  The Bible says there is none good, and none who truly seek after God.

If you have not repented of your sins and trusted in Christ alone, if you have not been born again, then you do NOT have a right standing before God

The Bible says none of us is right before God on our own.  It says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.   Since God’s  moral laws are absolute, and since we were created for His glory, that means we are in trouble.

Take a moment to look at yourself in the light of God’s commandments, and you will see this to be true.

Have you always put God first in everything you do?  The Bible says we are to worship the Lord our God and serve Him only, that we should love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.  On our best day we have not done this.

Have you committed idolatry?  Even if you have not built or bought a golden image to bow down to, if you have created an image of God in your mind that you feel more comfortable with, and worshipped that instead of the true God, then you are an idolater and worthy of God’s wrath and judgment.

Have you ever lied?   We all have, and God does not take lying lightly, as we often do.  His word says that lying lips are an abomination, and that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire.

Have you ever stolen something, even if it’s small?  If you’ve stolen one dollar or a million dollars, you are still a thief, and God’s word says no thief will inherit the kingdom of God.

Have you ever coveted?  So much of the Christmas holiday is desiring material possessions you really don’t need, rather than being content with the good things God has given you.  If you have coveted, than you are guilty before Him.

If you have done any of these things, and all of us have, then you are guilty before God.

The Bible says that God will do right, and that He will show His justice by punishing sin completely.

The Bible saysBut as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, will be in the lake that  with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Hell is a very real, very terrible place, and I pray that none of you ever go there.  But there is only one way to escape the just judgment of God, and the righteous punishment of hell.

That is the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus Christ, the creator and sustainer of all that exists, humbled himself, became a man, lived the perfect life that we could never live, and then died on a Roman cross.

The one person in history who never sinned, God’s own son, died for our sin so that through Him we could be made right with God.

Jesus died for sin.  Then He rose from the dead three days later, proving His power over sin, and sat down at God’s right hand.  He is our advocate, our lawyer, and the only mediator between God and men.

So today, while God has given you time, repent, or turn from your sins, and to trust God as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did.

They put their trust in God alone.  They threw caution and doubt aside, and put themselves wholly in God’s hands.   They knew that even if God did not choose to save their bodies, their only eternal hope was in Him.

Today, we plead with you to do the same.  Repent of your sin, and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone.  Because as with those men of old, your only eternal hope is through trust in Jesus Christ.

We won’t promise that trusting in Christ will make your life better.  The Bible promises trails, temptation and persecution for the Christian.

But God promises that everyone who calls on His name will be saved.  Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and only through that sacrifice, we can be cleansed of our sin and seen as righteous, as right before Him.   And He promises an eternity beyond what we could possibly imagine.

So turn today, and put your trust in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The True Gift of Christmas and an Alternate Reading

Hello Project Ezra!  I pray that you are having a wonderful Christmas season.  We are quickly approaching our True Gift of Christmas reading, and it’s possible that some of you may have already done your reading.  For those of you who have not, there is still time to get a group together to read John in public.  This is a great outreach opportunity, and a great time to share the gospel.  Most cities and towns have some type of Christmas display, event, or parade, and any of these would be a great location for Bible reading and evangelism.  Bring a few other people and a stack of tracts and Bibles, and see what God does!

I realize that some of you may have trouble getting a large group together, and the book of John is a tough reading to do by yourself.  So, for those of you who still want to participate by yourselves of in a smaller group, there is a reading link below.  My friend and preaching buddy James Bynum put together a chronological reading of the events surrounding the birth of Christ, which he read when we were doing outreach this last weekend.  It includes sections from several of the gospels, and stretches from the statements of Christ’s deity in John 1 through the Magi’s visit in Matthew.  It’s still a bit long, but very doable for one person, or for a smaller group.  The link below leads to Bible Gateway, and you can either just print it online, or cut and paste it to a document program.  This particular link is for ESV, but all you have to do is go to the top of the page, and you can select you Bible version of choice.  It will change to the whole passage to that version.

Thanks again for being part of Project Ezra!  I’m looking forward to hearing how your readings go, and hearing about the divine appointments God provided.  God is faithful, and His word does not return void.  It could be that God will use your reading to touch them, so that they trust in Him and have their first real Christmas.   So whether or not you are participating, pray for the readings and those who will hear the gospel this weekend.  And don’t forget to post your location so we know where you are!

All for His glory,

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ezra 9

Hello Project Ezra!  This week we will be reading from Ezra chapter 9.  In this chapter the prophet Ezra mourns over Israel’s disobedience, and particularly the disobedience of some of its leaders.   Then he pleads with God, acknowledging the guilt of the nation, but at the same time recognizing God’s grace and patience with them.  I think this is a fantastic picture of how we should be pleading for our nations, and also provides a great starting point for sharing the gospel with non-believers or those who claim the Christian faith, but show by their fruit that they are idolaters. 

Like Israel in Ezra’s time, our nations have been radically disobedient to God, and the majority of the political and religious leaders have not only not spoken against sin, but have supported or even promoted it.  It is convicting to me, because I know I have not prayed for my country and its leaders the way I should.  And though intermarriage with those of different backgrounds is common, at least here in the United States, that’s fine, because intermarriage is not really at the heart of the issue for us.   The true concern is God’s people compromising, and accepting ungodly and pagan practice that are directly contrary to God’s word.  God knew that Israel would be let astray by intermarriage, so He forbid it.  And likewise we are often led astray when we treat sin lightly, or are careless in what we allow to entertain and impact us.  But if we love God, we will desire to keep His commandments.  We need to remind people of this when we are sharing the gospel, not to encourage legalism, but to encourage self-examination, so men and women will see whether they are truly in the faith.

As you all know, we are just a week away from Christmas, and as most of you know, we are also a week away from our True Gift of Christmas reading.  The event is already up on our Facebook page (, and some people have already responded and signed up to participate.  I am praying that many more will as well.  The Facebook event has all the details, as does a recent blog post I also put up, but in short, we will gathering teams to read the gospel of John, front to back.  It’s a pretty long reading, so if you are considering participating and haven’t started planning yet, now is the time!  If you aren’t able to put together a big group, please don’t let that stop you from participating.  You can choose a few relevant chapters to read instead, and I will try to put together a list of key chapters for the same purpose.  Once again, there is no better time of year to share the gospel in public, so be sure to take advantage of it.  If you have any specific questions about the reading, feel free to contact me through the blog or on Facebook.

I’ll be sending another update on The True Gift of Christmas in a few days, so stay tuned for more information.  I also plan on putting together a recap video, provided we have enough material, so send or post whatever videos and pictures you can.  God bless, and I’m looking forward to hearing your praise reports.

For the praise of His glory,


In this chapter the author mourns for, and then pleads for, the nation of Israel, which has ignored God’s command by intermarrying with people from neighboring countries.

But the core of the issue is not the fact of intermarriage, but the result.  When Israel intermarried with the nations near them, they were drawn away from the truth of God and toward idolatry, as God knew they would be.

Israel mixed with other nations, who practiced everything from animal worship to child sacrifice, and in doing so insulted and turned their back on the true and living God

As a consequence, God punished them, taking their land and sending them into slavery in exile.

The chapter also said that their leading men were foremost in these sins.  Their religious and political leaders were the foremost in ignoring God’s clear commands, and lead others into those sins. 

In our country there are many people trying to lead us, and to convince us to follow their plan or their moral convictions.  But be very careful who you follow.  Are your leaders  leading you in a Godly direction?

Most of you listening today/tonight would probably say that you believe in God.

But is the God you worship the true God of the Bible, and have you taken His word seriously?

Have you been participating with the abominations of the world, as Israel did?  Have you worshipped falsely, created idols, or made entertainment out of the things God hates?

The Bible says God’s children are supposed to be separate from the wickedness of the world.

God’s children are not to conform to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of thier minds (Romans 12), and to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8)

We are not perfect, and no one will be this side of heaven.  But God’s word tells us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14).

You may be getting angry, or frustrated now, thinking that I am judging you.

But please understand that these words are not meant to condemn you , since even the best of mankind is nowhere near perfect, and I’m certainly not nowhere close

Every human being needs to be aware of the truth of our staggering level of guilt before God, and that fact that outside of Jesus Christ and the salvation He provides, we all stand condemned (John 3).

Every one of us is a law breaker, and we have broken God’s law more times than we could count.  And if I really care about you, I must let you know.  Because if you don’t know about the disease that is killing you, you will never seek the cure.

When Ezra came before God, he came in supplication, and he said he was “Ashamed and blush to lift my face.”

He admitted that Israels’ “Iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens” and that “From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt.”

Have you come to God in humility, or only in prideful expectation?

Ezra understood what many of us seldom consider, that God is Holy.  He is perfect, and He has a goodness and purity that is beyond our understanding.  And because of God’s holiness He cannot tolerate sin. 

You may say “But God is a God of Love!”, and He is.  But do you understand that His is also a God of justice?  Do you understand that His goodness means He will punish sin completely?


Even if your life has been tough, and regardless of how much you have suffered, God has punished you far less than we deserve

Every one of us deserves punishment in hell for our sins, our moral crimes against God

But Ezra also understood God’s grace.  He said “God has not forsaken us, but has extended His steadfast love”, and that is true for us as well.

The only reason any of us live and continues to draw breath today is because of God’s grace

But God has done much more than just allow us to continue existing.  He has made a way for our moral crimes against Him to be paid for, so justice could be satisfied and we could go free.  And that way is through the cross of Jesus Christ

2000 years ago Jesus Christ, the creator and sustainer of all that exists, God in human flesh, humbled himself, and died to pay the penalty for sin.

And on the cross God’s wrath, His anger and hatred toward sin, was poured out on Jesus Christ so it didn’t have to be poured out on us.

Then three days later, as He had prophesied, Jesus rose again from the dead, proving His power over death.

Many of you may not think about death very often, and may think about judgment even less.  But 150,000 people die every day, and everyone will one day have to give an account of himself before God.

So before that day comes, do as the Bible says.  Repent, or turn from sin, and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.

There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved, than the name of Jesus Christ.  Only He is true God.  Only he came to earth to pay the penalty for sin.  Only He rose again to be our advocate, our lawyer before the judgment seat of God.  So only through faith in Him, and in Him alone, can we be saved.

So please, today, look at yourself in the light of God’s law.  And when you see the truth of your sin, which will be obvious if you look with a tender conscience, repent of your sin and trust in Christ.

Repent and trust in Christ today, while God has graciously given you time. Thank you.