When we read the account of Daniel’s three friends as they face the worst that men could do to them. We can all be inspired and challenged by their courage which was grounded in knowing that their God was a sovereign God and a God of mercy and justice who is without any parallel.
The story is prophetic in it’s setting, because the king is a type of the Anti-Christ, and Daniel and the Hebrew children are a type of the church who remains faithful, in spite of the Godless pressure which attempts to destroy it.
The event of the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar and the fiery furnace occurred just eight years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 589 BC… The temple was rebuilt at the time of Christ, by Herod the Great…. the Roman appointed King over the Judean region…
Our scripture is a narrative which still brings great comfort and inspiration to Jews and Christians, the world over….Let’s look at the account in scripture…
Daniel 3:1 “King Nebuchadnezzar built a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet thick. (It was 16 years in the making) He set it up on the Dura plain in the province of Babylon. v2 He then ordered all the important leaders in the province, everybody who was anybody, to the dedication ceremony of the statue. v4 A herald then proclaimed in a loud voice: "Attention, everyone! Every race, color, and creed, listen! v5 When you hear the king’s music, fall to your knees and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. v6 Anyone who does not kneel and worship shall be thrown immediately into a roaring furnace. v7 The king’s music started to play, and everyone - fell to their knees and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. v8 Some of the king’s advisors said to him, "Long live the king! v10 You gave strict orders, that when the music started playing, everyone had to fall to their knees and worship the gold statue, v11 and whoever did not fall to their knees and worship it, had to be pitched into a roaring furnace. v12 Well, there are some Jews here - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - whom you have placed in high positions in the province of Babylon. These men are ignoring you, O king. They don't respect your gods and they won't worship the gold statue you set up." v13 Furious, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought in. When the men were brought in, v14 Nebuchadnezzar asked, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don't respect my gods and refuse to worship the gold statue that I have set up? v15 I'm giving you a second chance - but from now on, when the music starts, you must bow and worship the statue I have made. Otherwise, you’ll be thrown into a roaring furnace, no questions asked. Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?" v16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the King, "Your threat means nothing to us. v17 If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace, O king. v18 But even if he doesn't, we still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up." v19 Nebuchadnezzar, his face livid with anger, ordered the furnace fired up seven times hotter than usual. v20 He ordered his inforcers to tie them up, hands and feet, and throw them into the roaring furnace. v21 And so, they were tossed into the roaring fire. v22 The furnace was so hot, (the temperature would have been 900–1000 degrees) the furnace killed the men who cast Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into it. v23 While the fire raged around them. v24 Suddenly as they watched, King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, "Didn't we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?" "That's right, O king," they said. v25 "But look!" he said. "I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!" v26 And Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, “Servants of the High God, come out of the fire!" Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the furnace. v27 All the government leaders and king's counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn't so much as touched the three men –
not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire upon them! v28 Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in Him! They laid their bodies on the line rather than serve or worship any god but their own God. v29 "Therefore I issue this decree: Everyone, everywhere, of any race, color, or creed, must worship the God of Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. There has never been a god who can perform such things as this." v30 Then the king promoted them in the province of Babylon”.
It’s difficult when you arm wrestle with yourself….When you are hearing only with your flesh you cannot walk in obedience, because our flesh struggles against the spirit man within, and the spirit struggles against our flesh. In the flesh you’ll always be late for Bible study and church, or not make it at all…In the flesh, You will never volunteer to help do anything, that is not to your own interest, because to the flesh, it never goes beyond an obligation…. In the flesh, You will always find something to complain about because the flesh wants to justify it’s misery and discomfort, when things don’t go it’s way….If it works against the Spirit, it’s flesh!!!.....
Often our flesh man will be saying one thing while our spirit man is saying another….Our flesh says we are sick… Our spirit says “By His stripes we are healed”…..Our flesh says we’re not going to make it…. Our spirit says, “He makes a way where there is no way”….. Our flesh says, we can’t do it… Our spirit says “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us”…. Our flesh says “we’re always going to be broke, bent and busted”… Our Spirit says “We are blessed going out and coming in, blessed lying down and blessed rising up, blessed in the storehouse and in the work place, blessed in our labor and our leisure! The three Hebrews couldn’t hear the flesh, because the Spirit was so loud in what it was saying within them, it was shouting down the flesh….!!! WE WILL NOT BOW DOWN!!!!
Listen Church, we get in trouble when we start making decisions that we should have already made! There are some things that we should already be so committed to, that we don’t even have to spend time sorting it out, because it’s already settled, and resolved in our spirit!
A certain department manager of a large company, was a wise, friendly, well liked man, and during an interview in his office he was asked, "Sir, What is the secret of your good success with the company?" Well, He said, "It’s two words." "And, Sir, what are those two words?"…. The two words are "Right decisions."…."But sir, how do you make right decisions?"…“Oh, that’s only One word," He responded….."And, sir, What is that one word?"….”Oh, that one word, is Experience."…."And sir, how do you get Experience?"….“Oh, well, that’s two words."…. "And, Sir, what are those two words?"… “Oh, yes, those two words are Wrong decisions."
Well, I must say, that’s about the way it goes….but Praise the Lord, wrong decisions, is what Grace is for. We don’t always get it right the first time, but we don’t quit, and we don’t stop learning….. ….and grace will keep bringing us into right decisions!!!
Paul the Apostle of the Lord, said in …2 Timothy 1:12, ”I know whom I have believed, and I’m persuaded that He is able to keep all that I’ve committed unto Him…(the Greek word for committed is “par-at-ith'-ay-mee.. to make investments in, to be in alignment with,) against that day (the word day is ek-i'-nos.. a specific event or situation in a time to come)”…
It’s about “alignment”…When you know what you believe and have aligned yourself with those Kingdom of God principles…. negotiations are over, compromise is out of the question, and you are no longer subject to social pressure that says, “when I’m not with the one I love, I love the one I’m with! The old Italian mason, said it this way….“the level is level, the line is straight….why is the wall crooked”!!!!!
I don’t have to decide on many issues of the day, because I have already settled it, as I align myself with Kingdom principles, which take priority over much of the political correctness and progressive, liberal thinking of the day…. I don’t have to set down and make a decision on abortion….it’s already laid down in the word of God…..and it’s called murder of the unborn. Now, I believe God forgives if a person repents and turns to Him, receiving Christ’s atonement which He purchased on the cross, but those who do not and who promote this, are under God’s judgment. God hates the sin, but by grace, He loves the sinner enough that while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us, so that we might receive His forgiveness, if we will only receive it….
The King actually ended up praising the Hebrew children for refusing to bow to Gods that were not their God! In Daniel 3:28, Nebuchadnezzar says, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in Him! They laid their bodies on the line rather than serve or worship any god but their own God”.
That’s exactly what the Constitution of the United States guarantees it’s citizens….(I quote) “ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. It does not suppress religious freedom…..IT PROMOTES IT!
The only place that separation of church and state is found is in the “Communist Manifesto”…… As a matter of fact, the president and liberal progressives, seem to have confused that document with our constitution, and are hell-bent on communist, and not Democratic principles! Atheism is a natural and inseparable part of Marxism, in order to continue the expansion of the theory and practice of scientific socialism. Therefore it is necessary to abolish religious freedom.
Listen, the real battle in this hour, is whether or not we are committed (in alignment with Jesus Christ), and truly know what we believe and why we believe it…
Zig Ziglar says “character will get us out of bed, commitment will move us into action, and discipline will enable us to follow through and stay on track”.
John Chrys-os-tom was one of the greatest of the church fathers, following the days of the Apostles. He lived in AD 347-407 and was a guiding force for the Greek Christian Church. As a very young Christian he was brought before the Emperor, who said that if he would not give up Christ, he would be banished from the country.
Chrys-os-tom said, "You cannot banish me, for the whole world belongs to my Father's, and I am His heir." The Emperor said, "Then I will take away all your property". "You cannot. Because my treasures are in heaven", was the reply. "Then I'll take you to a place where there is not a person for you to speak to." Chry-sos-tom replied, "You cannot. I have my friend Jesus, who is closer than a brother, and He walks with me and talks with me throughout the day. "The Emperor finally threatened, "Then I'll take your life". John’s answer was "You cannot. My life is hidden with God in Christ, it is eternal and you will only promote me". And the emperor said, "What do you do with a man like that?"
Its easy to be a Christian when everything is fine, but when the fire is hot, and it’s easier to just go with the flow, than to take a stand on the hard issues of the day….that’s a different story.
A farmer once printed the words “GOD IS LOVE” on his weather vane. When someone asked the farmer if he meant that God was as unpredictable as the wind. The farmer replied, "No, I mean that God is love no matter which way the wind may be blowing”.
Are you in the furnace right now? God's people experience all kinds of furnaces. Maybe its a family furnace, or maybe your furnace is a physical or financial problem. I don't know how your furnace may be defined, but remember there are some lessons that can only be learned in the furnace. There are some impurities that can only be removed by the furnace…DO SOME SHOUTING IN THE FURNACE!!!! Not just when it’s over!
I came across this list, titled how to know you’re in a heap of trouble… You have to ride a friend’s bike to the bank to make your car payment...Your suggestion box has started ticking...You see your stockbroker hitchhiking out of town.... You see the captain of your cruise ship running toward the railing wearing a life jacket.... The moths in your money belt have all starved to death.... You make more than you ever made, owe more than you ever owed, and have less than you've ever had.... Getting there is half the fun and it also took most of your vacation budget...You take an assertiveness training course and you're afraid to tell anyone...Your pace maker has only a thirty day guarantee.... The pest exterminator crawls under your house and is never seen again.... A copy of your birth certificate comes in the mail marked null and void… (Friend, that’s when you know You’re in a furnace)
The flames in God’s furnace are very selective. They did not burn the three men, but only the ropes that bound them were burned off by the fire of the furnace. The furnace experiences, are those times when God is allowing the things that hinder us and limit us to be burned off. He’s removing those areas where we have compromised, and settled for less than the best He has for us. In those times we are required to reevaluate where we stand, and ask ourselves why, and then to be sure of what we really do stand for!
You can take God at His word…. He’s looking for the word in you, that He can honor…. Scripture says that He watches over His word to perform it.. Make sure that the God-word, is found abundantly in your life….It’s the word that He has promised to honor, not your personality, or your works, or your charm, popularity or charisma….To the three Hebrews and to you and me today, He has said, in…
Isaiah 43:2 "When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned neither shall the flame kindle upon you".
Can you see why God lets you go through the furnace He wants to free you from things that are trying to ruin your life, take your victory, and make you it’s captive. God takes that fire and uses it to rid your life of those things that hinder you from receiving all that He has in store for you. The fire only set them free. We are told that when they opened the furnace the statement made was " THEY HAVE NO HURT”.. HALLELUJAH! Jesus made the ultimate declaration…”Oh grave where is your victory, oh death where is your sting”…..
Instead of writhing in agony they are celebrating in victory. Why, Because the Lord Jesus (the fourth man) is with them! We call this an Old Testament theo-phany... a visible, Old Testament manifestation of the eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus.
When these Hebrew boys were about to burned to a crisp, they didn’t call the fire department, they called on God!
When Daniel was about to become the main course on the lion menue, he didn’t call animal control, He called on God….
When Esther was faced with the destruction of a whole race of people, she didn’t call the ACLU, She called on God….
When Nehemiah saw the city of Jerusalem about to be destroyed, he didn’t call the city planners, He called on God!
And when Peter started to sink when he tried to walk on the water, he didn’t call the Coast Guard, He called on the one who spoke the sea into existence…..
Now don't miss the picture here. Down here on earth people who saw this situation must have thought, " aren't they some kind of fools, but the Lord Jesus in heaven got so excited when he saw their resolve and their faith, as they faced the furnace, that He stepped off His throne, strode through the portals of glory, with one quantum leap, He descended the starry staircase to earth, assumed human form, went inside the furnace and said to the fire, "BE COOL!". And the fire lost it's heat!
Three went into the furnace, but when the king counted them, Four were seen walking around. When the king commanded them to come out of the fiery furnace… how many came out? Three! Where was the fourth man he saw walking in the fire? I believe He’s still there waiting, so that when you go through the furnace of fire, the Lord Jesus is already in there waiting for you. He’s omniscient and all present, you know! He’ll be there for you and He’ll walk with you through your fiery trial as well.
THE STORY THAT WAS GOING TO BE ABOUT THE HORRIBLE END OF THESE THREE, INSTEAD BECOMES A STORY ABOUT THEIR PROMOTION, AND A BRAND NEW BEGINNING!!!
After praising the Person of God, Nebuchadnezzar honors the Servants of God! Daniel 3:30 tells us that they were actually better off for having gone through the fire! For through this fiery ordeal they experienced the Lord's presence: they exalted the Lord's Person: and they received the Lord's Promotion!
God has a plan for you in your furnace….that you become better not bitter.. That you be the victor not the victim…. that you overcome instead of being overcome…..He plans for you to be the head and not the tail, for you to be above and not beneath….. If you go into the furnace knowing that God sent you there, then you’ll come out knowing that God brought you out!
The fourth man in the fire, tells us that there is healing walking with us in the midst of the fires of sickness…. There is deliverance and sweet release walking in the midst of the fires of oppression, bondage and over-whelming pressure…. There is a light of hope walking in the midst of our darkness, despair and discouragement…There is the promise of better things to come, at the end of ourselves and our resources….There is the sound of victory, when everyone & everything else is declaring defeat…..
When you’re in the furnace, it’s not the time to look around you at your peers, your pills or your Psychiatrist.. It’s not the time to look around you and blame everyone and everything else for your problems…It’s not the time to look within you at your strength and ability, that’s probably what got you there in the first place….Our confidence is not in the flesh……
LOOK TO JESUS THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER, WHO WAS THERE BEFORE YOU WENT IN, AND HE’LL BE THERE AFTER IT’S ALL LONG GONE!!!!
Folks who go to the gym are always saying (FEEL THE BURN) and when He sees you becoming more and more like Him, He will promote you and use you in ways you never dreamed possible! Is anyone here, ready for promotion and ready to move to the next level!!!!? Your greatest challenge is to Trust Him in your fiery furnace!....Help is on the way….believe it!
His strength is revealed in our weakness….I said, “I can’t go on, but Jesus said “I will carry you”…..I said “I’m too tired”, but Jesus said,“I will give you rest”……I said “It’s impossible” but Jesus said, “All things are possible”….I said,“I feel so all alone” but Jesus said “I will never leave you or forsake you, I will be with you always” …..I said, “I think I’m going to die” but Jesus said, “The same spirit that raise me up, shall quicken your mortal body also”…..I close with….
PSALM 121, Is called “A song of ascending” v1 “I lift up my eyes unto the hills, where my help comes from. v2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. v3 He will not suffer my foot to be moved: He that keeps me will not slumber. v4 Behold, he that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. v5 The LORD is my keeper: the LORD is my shade upon my right hand. v6 The sun shall not smite me by day, nor the moon by night. v7 The LORD shall preserve me from all evil: He shall preserve my soul.v8 The LORD shall preserve my going out and my coming in from this time forth, and ever more”.
1 Samuel 7:12 “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, This far has the Lord helped us”.
Samuel had called the people together, to sacrifice unto the Lord, and as God’s word came forth, the people began to repent and call on God…. Feeling that the people were vulnerable and defenseless, it was at this decisive moment, the Philistines decided to attack them with a vengeance… God intervened in their behalf and a terrible storm began to descend upon the Philistine army.
It was so intense with its thunder lightning, wind, and darkness, that the sheer force of its power destroyed the enemy. “It says that the voice of God thundered against them.
Have you ever noticed that when you really get sincere and focused on following the Lord, some of the worse attacks come? I think the enemy, Satan, wants to know how much you really want God to be in your life, and if you really mean it when you make a commitment to follow Him. Speaking of sacrifice….
A married couple was in a terrible accident where the woman's face was severely burned. The doctor told the husband that they couldn't graft any skin from her body because she was too skinny. So the husband offered to donate some of his own skin. However, the only skin on his body that the doctor felt was suitable would have to come from his buttocks.The husband and wife agreed that they would tell no one about where the skin came from, and requested that the doctor also honor their secret. After all, this was a very delicate matter.
After the surgery was completed, everyone was astounded at the woman's new beauty. She looked more beautiful than she ever had before! All his friends, relatives and co-workers just went on and on about her youthful beauty!
One day, she was alone with her husband, and she was overcome with emotion at his great sacrifice. She said, "Dear, I just want to thank you for everything you did for me. There is no way I could ever repay you." "My darling," he replied, "think nothing of it. I get all the thanks I need every time I see my boss kiss you on the cheek."
Well, sometimes we don’t get much thanks for the sacrifices we make…Elijah got hit with great depression after the fire of God’s glory fell on mount Carmel….Joseph was betrayed by his brothers when God’s favor was placed upon him in the form of the coat of many colors….in the midst of a great and overwhelming deliverance, Samson was tempted by Delilah….John the Baptist was thrown in prison after baptizing Jesus and declaring that Jesus was the Son of God….
But if you’ll press in and stay true to the vows you have made to God….the one who brought you this far, will bring you through again and again and again….The very storm that come, which looks like it could destroy you, will be harnessed by God, to reposition, relocate and promote you.That’s right, He’ll show you that He is as faithful today as He was Yesterday and that He will be just as faithful forever!!!!
Samuel set up a stone marker. It was a large boulder, something long lasting and of enduring substance. It was something that would stand as a witness throughout the ages. It represented something permanent, something steadfast and something unchangeable. By the stone marker they erected, they were saying, “This truth will always be. The Lord helped us, Jehovah, is the rock, the I AM THAT I AM, the unchangeable God of covenant love and purpose, the eternal covenant-keeping Jehovah has helped us.
This far has the Lord helped us, and He will help His church and His people even unto the end. For He has made an everlasting commitment to us, to bring us through every valley experience, every mountain climb, every conflict and every overwhelming thing, for His Glory.
If He doesn’t take you over it, He’ll take you under it, around it, or through it, but He will take you to the other side! It’s not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts! The past and the present declare that what He has been He will continue to be as we put our trust in Him.
After all He has done, will He now remove His favor from His church….NEVER!
Will He turn His eyes away from His church for even one moment….NEVER!
Will He ever abandon His church in the earth? NO, NEVER!
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid, for the LORD your God, He it is that does go with you, He will not fail you, nor forsake you. He has given us his promise….He remembers when all others forget!
In one church, they wanted to honor their pastor on the anniversary of the church in a special way with a meaningful marker. He had once shared the story of how he was saved at a Billy Graham crusade in a certain football stadium. This event was so life-changing that he never forgot it, he even remembered the row and the seat number where he sat as the Lord saved him and called him. So, some of the church staff took a trip to that stadium, found the seat, purchased it, unscrewed it and brought it back to the church. And on that Sunday morning worship service they presented him with the seat, which was to serve as a spiritual marker of the most significant day of his life! Needless to say, it was a very heart-touching moment.
Wherever His church exists, that is committed and faithful to the truth of the Scripture, God will show Himself to be their present aid, their future hope, their stabilizing force, their substance and their confidence.
Boldly we may say, The Lord is my helper. I will not fear what man can do unto me. This God is our God forever and ever. He will be our Shepherd and our Guide until He calls us home.
What makes Samuel's statement so remarkable here, is that he makes it not only with reference to the present and most recent past, but he is referring back as far as memory can go. "THIS FAR…..UP TO THIS POINT…, THE LORD HAS HELPED US” He means, not only in this supernatural victory over the Philistines, but throughout all those dreadful twenty years and even before that, when they had captured the Ark of the Lord- and everything that had led up to a time of seeming defeat and hopelessness.
The ark was the Glory and with the ark gone, the glory was gone….It was the cause of much anxiety and despair. But Without any help from any man, God toppled the Idol of Baal, and smote the Philistine army with hemorrhoids so that they were so miserable, they were eager to return the ark. But in it all and through it all God had helped them. (Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor!) I don’t think that strategy would be on my list of how to defeat the enemy!
Samuel might have said, "Well it’s about time the Lord helped us," or "Now, for this once, the Lord has helped us," or "This time the Lord helped us." He doesn’t say any of that. He says, "This far”, up to this point, always, the grace of God has been working in our behalf.
Even when the Lord brought severe chastening, even when they could not sense His presence, even when His people turned to other gods, even when the Lord brought them to tears of repentance – but always, the Lord was at work so they could receive His best. It was always His faithfulness which kept the people of Israel from descending into the destruction which they so often chose to follow instead of obeying Jehovah.
Look back, not only over the most recent events of our church life and personal life. But Look back to the beginning. Go back as far as your memory will take you. Think back, child of God, what do you see, as you look over the valleys and the mountain paths, the days of sunshine, or the nights of pain, what do you see? How do you account for all that has come and gone, that through it all, God has kept and preserved you through the years as you have kept covenant with Him? Oh, Yes, THIS FAR HAS THE LORD HELPED US! (Hallelujah!!)
The fact that the church of Jesus Christ, still exists on the earth, still confessing the truth, still promoting His Kingdom, is due to one force, one power: God's ever constant faithfulness.
Yes, there are times that perhaps personally, as a child of God we may have felt like He has forsaken us. But that can never be the case.
The wonder of God's love and grace has been forever sealed on Mount Calvary's hill and it declares to every generation, that the Lord is faithful. (The song says) “Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not, As Thou hast been Thou forever shall be. “Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! “Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
The covenant that God has established is sure. His salvation is for all times and all places. The Lord is our light and our salvation. The Lord is the strength of our life. Of the future we know nothing except this: God is our refuge and strength, our mighty fortress, a helper ever near us. As He has been, He ever shall be. That must be our confession as children of God. At any and every point in our personal life we must say, "This far has the Lord helped me.” Whether you were in the fire, in the darkness of trial, in distress, in sickness or pain…or whether the Lord gave you the sunshine of blessing and ease, we can say, "This far, up to this point, the Lord has helped me."
When we look back by faith and see the faithfulness of God, then we can move on into the future confident and eager to do the will of God.
In Acts 26:22, we read "Having obtained the help of God, therefore I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great."
Paul tells us that his strength to go on, was knowing the Lord had helped him, when things had changed and when he was in a place of great trial and difficulty, …. When his freedom had been taken away and he was to be sent to prison and everyone seemed to regard him as some kind of fanatic, he knew the Lord had helped him…… The apostle says, "Having obtained the help of God, therefore I now continue….."
As Paul looks in the past, he can see that God never failed. God's help was always there.
On this day of commemorating a milestone in our journey together, we see the same Lord faithful, sure, and unchanging, who, for the glory of His name, told Elijah that He had maintained to Himself seven thousand who would not bow the knee to Baal…. Who for the glory of His name, because of righteous Abraham, spared Lot and his family out of Sodom….
Who, for the glory of His name, when the earth was covered in a flood, saved Noah and his family so He could maintain a witness on the earth and preserve a remnant that would demonstrate that salvation is of God and God alone….and that we are never alone!
When you see that, then you can go forward to serve Him in a life of repentance, in a life of love for His truth, in a life of love for Him and for the glory of His name… you can be confident that He will help us until we are brought to His side to stand in glory with Him.
Let’s jump over to another account of a marker of remembrance that was set up by the people under the leadership of Joshua…
Joshua 4:4 “Joshua selected twelve men from the People of Israel, one man from each tribe. v5 And Joshua directed them, "Cross to the middle of the Jordan and take your place in front of the Ark of God, your God. Each of you, shall place a stone on your shoulder, a stone for each of the tribes of Israel, v6 And when your children ask you, 'What are these stones to you?' v7 you'll say, 'The flow of the Jordan was cut off in front of the Ark of the Covenant of God as it crossed the Jordan. And these stones are a permanent memorial for the People of Israel”…
These stones served as a memorial of God’s power to remind the Israelites, and anyone else, that their God was a God of miracles, signs and wonders.
Deuteronomy 27:2 “When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. v3 Write on them all the words of this law when you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.”
Your test becomes your testimony, as you recall the many times God has overcome trials in your life, and as you draw strength from those moments, you can continue to claim new territory for the Lord.
A student said to another student…Wow, isn’t that Great news, the teacher says we have an exam today come rain or shine.
The other student was confused and said “So what in the world is so great about that” ? Well, look outside….IT’S SNOWING!!!! (come rain or shine, or snow, some tests will come)….
What’s important is to recall the Lord’s deliverances in the past, so you can move forward with confidence and share with others in order to comfort, encourage and strengthen them in their walk with the Lord. Dig a well that others can drink from….
The New Testament reminds believers how they are to become as “living stones” to those in their circle of influence. That means we are to be joined with other living stones, to form a living temple for the Lord. Paul says we are joined together as a building for the Lord… we bring others into this living temple, as a place where God’s presence, His Spirit, His peace, healing, deliverance, anointing and power can operate and dwell among us. People will listen to your testimony as a living stone, before they will ever listen to a sermon. Your very life should serve as a memorial to all generations of the reality of God and His work of grace in your heart and life.
Ephesians 3:20-21) Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that now works in us, v21 Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen”.
Robert Robinson was born on September 27, 1735, in Norfolk, England. At the age of 14, his widowed mother sent him to London to learn a trade as a barber. However, his mentor, found that young Robert enjoyed reading more than work. He was converted to Christ at the age of 17, and later became a minister. He pastored for some time in Cambridge, England and wrote a number of hymns. His later life was filled with many difficulties and not an easy one, (he only lived to be 55). One day, as he was struggling through a very difficult time, Robinson met a woman who was singing a hymn, and she asked him how he liked the hymn she was singing. In tears, he replied, “Mam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them to give, to enjoy the feelings now that I had back then.”
The hymn was “Come thou fount of everyblessing” some of the words are ….“Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart Lord take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above….. Here I raise my Ebenezer, Here by Thy great help I've come, And I hope by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home”.
At some point, Robinson had forgotten his Ebenezer. But I trust today, that we will never wander far from ours. And I hope that as you re-establish and re-dedicate yours, that you will never depart from it. I pray that we will always remember that “this far, the Lord has helped us”!
Today, as we gather together, we are setting up a memorial.. a marker in our journey. We are declaring that the God who has brought us this far, will bring us to our destination. The one who has begun His work in us, will finish it, for His glory!
1 Chronicles 28:20 “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even your God, will be with you, He will not fail you, nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD”.
It is important that we cherish our markers, our mile-stones, that mark the path the Lord has brought us upon….I want each of us here, to receive an “Ebenezer Marker”. These commemorative plaques are to serve as a milestone of this place in our journey. Let us look back from this place and remember God’s faithfulness, let us look at where we now are, and declare God’s faithfulness, and let us look ahead, and see God’s faithfulness… recalling God’s great deliverances will give you the needed encouragement and strength to carry on. If God has brought us this far, then there is no obstacle too big for Him to overcome! We can trust the Lord and rely on Him in any test we may face, knowing He will indeed fight on our behalf!
There was one other man, who raised his Ebenezer, for the place of transformation he experienced in his journey….
His name was John Newton and he was captain of his own ship, a ship which was used to transport and sell slaves brought over from Africa. Although he experienced religious instruction from his mother, she died when he was just a child. He had long since given up any religious convictions and his lifestyle was that of a typical ungodly sailor. But it so happened that on one particular voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he refer to later as his “great deliverance, his Ebenezer.”
He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship was doomed, he cried out “Lord, have mercy on us.”
Later, when he and the ship were saved, in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and realized that God had indeed answered him through the storm and that grace had begun to work in his life.
For the rest of his life he observed the anniversary of May 10, 1748 as the day of his transformation (at the age of 22), when he subjected his will to the will of God. His Ebenezer which he raised, was in the form of a song he wrote as a result of that life changing event….
(song) Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. “Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come, ‘tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,I have already come. ’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
Let us set our life’s compass by our Ebenezers…. And if we do, the one who is the same yesterday, today and forever, will lead us in a triumphant processional, that will accomplish more than we ever dreamed, and will take us places we could never have imagined we could go, and will do what we thought was impossible….
When Jesus arrived here on earth at year Zero…..for 400 years, there had been no prophet, priest, or king who spoke for God. It was a time of spiritual darkness, when the law of sin and death, was the law under which mankind struggled….It was a time when heaven was silent, until John the Baptist appeared on the scene as the forerunner of Christ, a second cousin, just 6 months older than Jesus.
It was much like the time of Gideon, when Gideon had a knowledge of the historical miracles of God, but had not seen in his own life those miracles, signs and wonders. He cried out "Where is the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!" That was the cry of John the Baptist and the disciples who with this same yearning, and this same cry of the heart, were drawn and driven to Jesus!
It was into this environment that Jesus came and this major paradigm shift, was moving everything and everyone down a common path, either knowingly or unknowingly…....it was like going thru a dispensational tunnel.. From law to grace …..From commandments that were written on stone to those that were written upon flesh......From prophecy to fulfillment and reality …..From watching God work to being the instrument of God at work…..From a religious Hierarchy, to an every believer authority….From a set of religious rules, to the inner promptings of the heart…..From religious power and politics, to Holy Spirit Power and authority……From a Distant, Unknown God, to an intimate, fellowship and relationship with a personal Lord and Savior! ….
They were coming into a new Kingdom culture here in the earth, under the banner of His government and rule...... and unlike the kingdoms which had appeared and disappeared before, this kingdom would be forever, a kingdom within a kingdom, a new world without end, with the light of His righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!
Matthew 27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in half from the top to the bottom; and there was a great earth quake, and the rocks split”….(The power of redemption was colliding head on with the power of the curse, Healing and wholeness were colliding with sickness and disease, Peace and blessed assurance was colliding with fear and strife, God’s great salvation was colliding with eternal damnation and on that battlefield, The King of Kings lead the faithful in a triumphant procession! Don’t you doubt it a minute…. When God is ready to move, He can break through the strongest barriers and the hardest hearts, He can shake, overwhelm, rearrange, and re-position…and nothing shall be able to stop Him.. it’s not a time to back off or to give up…it’s a time to increase our prayers, our witnessing, our faithfulness in whatever our hands find to do…..the bible says do it with all your might unto the Lord! Don’t you back down and don’t you give up!...it’s not going to happen…it has already happened!!! He has broken down the middle wall of partition that stood between us…and He has given unto us the victory!!!
Three young boys were walking down the street, arguing over whose dad was the greatest. One said, "My dad is the greatest because he is the president of the town bank." The second boy said, "That is pretty good, but my dad owns two grocery stores in town!" The third boy said, "That's nothing, my dad is a preacher, and he owns hell. I know because He came home last night and told my mom that the Church Council gave it to him!"
If you know Christ, Hell doesn’t own you, you own hell!!!
The bible gives us the conditions we are called to reign in, and if you have experienced mini-hell, they may sound very familiar to you…..
2Timothy 3:1 says “This know also, and be convinced, that in the last days perilous times shall come”. (Hmmmmm….Perilous times, I do believe that’s our territory.. it’s ours for the taking…OWN IT!….)
Sometimes life can get messy…. and you need a big towel to clean up your mess…. The Greek word translated “perilous”, is “khal-ah'-o” and it has the idea of lowering the standard, therefore the troubles, difficulty, and stressful situations that come are as a result of low standards. Somebody got sloppy with their kingdom values and principles and ended up with a mess!
This sort of atmosphere of Chaos in the Cosmos, will mark the last days and it calls for an added measure of discernment, wisdom, accountability and spiritual perspective….But we know that God’s Spirit is moving and working in the worst of times and the best of times… “Perilous”, is a word that is used in classical Greek both of dangerous wild animals and of the raging sea. Its only other New Testament occurrence is in the story of the Gaderene demoniac who was as savage and untamed as wild beasts and it’s described in Matthew 8:28 as 'so fierce that no one could pass that way." But Jesus brought it back into order and He will do the same at the end of time!
"As the Apostle Paul is praying in his prison cell, he is preoccupied with the future of the gospel. His mind dwells on the evil of the times, and the vicious attacks and accusations against the Christian community…. Christians are being thrown to the lions, and suffering all manner of persecution….and yet the Church of Jesus continues to grow and become stronger….in spite of the persecution!
Paul also concerns himself with the immaturity of Timothy. Timothy is so weak, and the opposition is so strong." Paul is concerned that Timothy may not be strong enough for the perilous times that are yet to come….The bad times Paul describes as coming, are not only about catastrophic events, but it speak also of the people who will orchestrate and create bad times. "We should notice what the peril and danger at this time is in Paul's view, not just war, it’s not just famine or diseases, it’s not other calamities or ills that befall the body, but it includes the wicked and depraved ways of men who have cast off all restraints." The pervading thinking today is question everything, believe nothing. If you can’t eat it, put it in the bank, buy more toys, get more thrills, or get more power, it’s not important, after all, we’re all going to die anyway…
A critic once wrote a letter to a magazine, he said, "Over the years, I suppose I've gone to church more than 1,000 times, and I can't remember the content of even one sermon over those many years. What good was it to go to church 1,000 times?" The next week, someone wrote back: "Over the past many years, I have eaten more than 1,000 meals prepared by my wife. I cannot remember the specific menu of any of those meals. But they nourished me along the way, and without them, I would be a much different man!" Scripture will do its spiritual work in us, but it’s up to us to get it inside of us….Faith comes by hearing, reading, speaking and praying the Word of God….
The Bible gives us eternal life (1 Peter 1:23).
The Bible spiritually cleanses us (Ephesians 5:26).
The Bible gives us power against demonic spirits (Ephesians 6:17).
The Bible brings spiritual power to heal our bodies (Matthew 8:16).
The Bible brings us spiritual strength (Psalm 119:28).
The Bible has the power to spiritually build faith in us (Romans 10:17).
God always responds to His word…..
A Messianic Christian stood at the church door greeting folks as they entered. "Good morning, he said to one Couple, I was at your wedding ten years ago but I never see any of your children in church." Well, we've not been blessed with children. My husband and I have tried but we've not been successful". "Well I'm going to Jerusalem for a few years, and I'll place a prayer for you in the wailing wall.. Perhaps Jehovah will look kindly on you and your husband." Well, three years later, back at the church door, the messianic Christian was once again greeting folks and sees the woman and asks did you ever have any children?" "Indeed we did, she said pointing towards the church nursery. "We've had a set of triplets, and two sets of twins since we last saw you." "Praise be to Jehovah. He has truly blessed you. The husband then spoke up and said “we really appreciate your prayers, but I had to fly to Jerusalem and pull that prayer out of the wall”!!!! (tell someone, Prayer changes things)
John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have already overcome the world.”
If He overcame the world, we overcome also for this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith in His finished work and victory!!! There are victories that are yours before the battle begins, before the struggle starts, before you even realized there was a conflict….before and also during those perilous times.
Romans “4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith”.
Your inheritance includes reigning over every area in your life that has caused you pain!!!....Including Hell!!! Bring a heaping helping of heaven into Hell and drive them absolutely crazy!!!
Here is a declaration and exaltation of praise, which every child of God should memorize for all the seasons of their lives…..It’s in 1 Chronicles 29:10 “Blessed are You, Lord God, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all." Tell someone….(All means All!!!)
The bible tells us that when we were baptized, we were raised up to live in Christ, immersed in His Spirit of life and overcoming power….Paul says we are raised in His likeness!!!! WOW!!! Now what happened is that after we received Christ, and walked out of the baptismal tank….we left a trail of water everywhere we went….we were loaded with death when we went in, and we were dripping with overcoming life when we came out!!!! We are in the world, but not of the world……as a result of this, the bible tells us that they can kill our body, but they can’t kill the part of us that is in the likeness of Christ, which is forever…
God has prepared you, for everything and everyplace He sends you. The gospel song says, “if Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere. ’Tis Heaven to me, where ever I may be, if He is there! I count it a privilege here, His cross to bear, If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere! God’s not going to take His church anywhere it’s not already prepared and equipped to go. Christian, God won’t send you into any situation He has not prepared you to go into. He always prepares us for what we’ll face. And He’ll give you the wisdom and the equipment you need to get it done.
He will do above what we think or ask…..He will not be stopped when He finds a hungry heart.. There is nothing off limits to Him.. He will get in places where no one else can! The places of your fears, your hurts, your very deepest rejection and worry...He knows how to get it done, when every effort by others has failed…. God will use folks to get things done, who were never told that it couldn’t be done…
God is getting ready to LOOSE SOME FOLKS for the Kingdom. Cutting free their potential, Loosing some new ideas, Loosing some new means of LIFTING HIM UP. Loosing some new avenues of CARRYING FORTH THE GOSPEL. Get ready to be turned loose! Get ready to get untied from the things that have limited, restricted, and confined you, so you can march WITH Him into triumph, so you can be part of the great processional of overcomers and triumphant sons and daughters of the true king, who have triumphed down through the ages!!!
An old man, in his nineties was walking along the coast and someone comes up to him and says to him, “sir, you have been a Christian for a very long time. You have seen much and done much with God by your side. You have prayed many prayers…. What would you place as top priority when you pray for people?” That man was the apostle John the beloved, and his answer was ... “Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” This has been and always will be God’s plan for our lives….for us to prosper spiritually, to be our very best self for His kingdom that we possibly can be, and in doing so, to shut down hell and fill up heaven.
We will have our ups and we will have our downs, but God tells us in Deuteronomy 28:13…”the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath”… .
”What you are going through is only temporary, it’s going to come full circle. Keep believing that you are above only and not beneath, even when you have hit rock bottom. It is God who always causes you to triumph in Christ. You are the head…because you are leading in faith, not following in fear….So often, we want to see it and then we’ll believe it, But the Lord says, believe it and you shall see it!!! He tells us that we are not of the world…. We are a new species of kingdom people in the earth….. because He overcame we will also overcome…..
There was a TV commercial that the Army put out, recruiting young men and women, who were looking for more in life, who felt they were at a dead end, or that their dreams were passing them by… In the commercial, a young man, around 19 or early 20’s, was scaling the side of a mountain in a place that looked like it was in the Rockies -- he was struggling on that last little bit -- as he reached for another handhold, he lost his grip and you knew that he was about to give up -- but he looked up at the top – and he saw the summit -- he knew where he wanted to go -- and seeing his goal and his purpose clearly, gave him renewed strength -- he reached out again and found a new handhold and kept going towards the top --and as the commercial faded, we saw him standing up on the peak of that mountain as the sun set, looking out over the view from the top as the slogan flashed on the screen -- “Be all that you can be”—
The first step in getting anywhere is deciding you no longer want to be where you are….The message was clear -- you could settle in life -- you could refuse to do the hard stuff -- you could take the easy way -- or you could accept the challenge and fight past the difficulties and push yourself past your limits and exceed where others had failed – The apostle Paul is saying much the same thing,
In Ephesians 4:1 “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”. Paul is making the point here that God is calling us to be more than we are -- to do more than we are doing -- to live more than we are living – to step outside of ourselves and into Himself! God will either catch you or teach you to fly!
God has issued a challenge for each of us as Christians and as members of His body, to inspire us that there are greater heights in Him -- God wants us to be all that we can be and not settle for a life of diluted spirituality by defaulting on the call of the Spirit within. In another place, Paul goes on to say, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” --- He is encouraging the Ephesians to see that they have a choice to make in their Christian lives – they can continue on as they are going and just settle and set the bar low-- or they can choose to live a different life --a life worthy of the calling that they have received and he encourages them by example.
John Maxwell has said “We all must be willing to constantly reinvent ourselves through our attitude and outlook. These two are the advance team and the way markers of our true selves. Their roots go inward but their fruit grows outward; They are our best friend or our worst enemy; They are our most honest and most consistent indicators…more so, than the words we speak. They are the external expression of the sum of our past experiences; They are the things which draw people to us or repel them. They are never content until they are expressed; They are the librarians of our past, the speakers of our present and the prophets of our future. They are our perspective, our attitude and our outlook” ….
You can tell a lot by your anxiety level that begins to manifest, when you consider stretching past your current limits. Your anxiety is indicating a barrier which must come down so you can excel and achieve greater heights.
If you understand The Law of Permission – then you understand that we have now become that which we have permitted ourselves to be. I cannot become anything I have become, without my own permission... Let go and let God!…Because God Himself is waiting for your permission.
Jeremiah 50:44 Behold, I will come up like a lion, who will appoint me the time?
Isaiah 6:8 “Who will go for me, says the Lord”.
Isaiah 43:13 says “I will work, and who will let it”…..
As we get untied from our limiting things, we can declare….I am free, I am happy; I am abundant in mind body and spirit, I am loved, and I am loving, Life is such a beautiful thing…I am surrounded daily with the beauty of life, I am one with God the Creator, I am fully present and in agreement as His Creation. Through His grace and mercy, I am guilt free, and I am shame free. Everything is working for my good, I trust in God's greater purposes in all things, I now choose to expand myself and my life, I now choose to be successful and happy, I now choose to be unafraid, as I move forward, I now choose to know myself fully and discover New dimensions of God's plan for and through me, I now choose wholeness and acceptance, I now choose to understand unconditional love…
God is bringing you into a new level, so you can defeat some new devils! He wants us to handle Him like doubting Thomas did, and it changed his perspective of everything! He wants us to know that we know that He’s the same yesterday, today and forever!! He wants us to Handle His anointing, handle His love, handle His grace, Handle His forgiveness and be confidence in His Power!
My Prayer for The Church of this hour is for a new hunger and thirst for the fullness of the Spirit, for an increase in the signs that are to accompany those who believe. That we would see more healings, accounts of Divine protection, more testimonies of power over demonic activities in people's lives and in the community, for boldness and renewed passion to communicate the good news of the gospel to those we know and don’t know yet. That God will send people from every community of believers, everywhere, to everyone with this good news of His transforming power. In other words, a post resurrection reality igniting our hearts and stirring our passion, as the glory of the resurrected Lord shows up! A glorious church, filled with His Spirit and ready, not only for when He appears in the heavens to catch His church away, but ready to occupy until He comes!
May we move beyond splitting theological hairs and debates that change no one…. and hit the ground at the foot of the empty cross that was transformed into a symbol of victory as it was seen through the lens of Christ’s blood and validated through an empty tomb and a resurrected Lord!
If you’ve ever seen an actual relay race, you know how important it is to pass on the baton to the next runner carefully and smoothly. In fact, it’s just as important as having runners that can run fast. This was the critical difference in the 1996 Olympics. The clear favorite in the relay race, was the United States team—this race has been won by the U.S. team 75 percent of the time in modern Olympic history.
The U.S. always puts together four of the fastest sprinters in the world. But in 1996 the U.S. team lost to the Canadian team, because they had trouble passing the baton from one runner to the next. And Olympic history shows that the few times the U.S. has lost this race was because of that same problem—the inability to pass the baton from one runner to the next.
The Bible and history, is filled with examples of glory days of blessing and fruitfulness whenever a generation received proper training from the previous generation.
But there are not only Glory days, there are also GORY DAYS—when a generation experiences spiritual defeat and decay, because the parents and leaders of a former generation neglected to train next generation for their turn in the relay race of life.
Our children are always our children as long as they live, and we are their parents, all the time, not just when it’s convenient. We lead by example, and by giving our children Godly principles and values which will help them in making their own decisions and choices in life.
We do not stand alone, in our own power. God’s Word provides for us a curriculum and a standard for shepherding our families, His Holy Spirit gives us insight and understanding. God’s wisdom for the task, is ours just for the asking.
As parents, we pray that with all their getting, our children will get wisdom and become people of faith in God.
Since the time God called his people from Egypt, he has given us instructions and encouragement about passing on our faith to the next generation.
My purpose here today is (First)To sound a warning to each and every one of us that, even if we are like Joshua and his generation, who knew the Lord and experienced His power, this is no guarantee that our children and the next generation will follow in our footsteps. (Second) To exhort each of us to play a significant role in helping to pass on the baton to the next generation with great care, because the race could easily be lost if we fumble things in passing the baton.
(Third) To give practical tools to all who are called into this task, on how to pass on the baton of faith to the next generation—that they might run and win the race.
David writes in Psalm 78:1-7 “O my people, hear my teaching, listen to the words of my mouth. v2, I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old. v3, what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. v4, We will not hide them from our children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power, and the wonders He has done. v5, He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, v6, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. v7, So that they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands”.
Imagine if two-thirds of the church nationwide, went home on Sunday and never came back to church again. Now, stop imagining, because that's exactly what is happening right now across the country as teens and college students are transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.
The national statistic is that over 70% of those between the ages of 18-29, who grow up in the church are leaving the church. And the scary thing is they aren't coming back. What are the things that are shaping, distracting, competing, and changing our children's view of Christ and the church?...
The church is always just one generation from extinction, which means that each generation is the guardian of the next….One of the problems is that we can become so focused on just making it through ourselves, and keeping it together, that we default on the stewardship that has been assigned to us by God for the next generation coming up in the church…..
When Jesus told the first disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”….. there was a generational mandate imbedded in this commissioning by the Lord….as guardians of their generation….
Let me give you some statistics that give a good consensus of what the future holds, if we do not reach the next generation…..
There are six generations currently living in our society…. Those born between 1901-1926….Those born between 1927- 1945….Those born between 1946-1964…. Those born between 1965- 1980….Those born between 1981-2000….And those born after 2001….
The current population of the United States is 320 million…The
population of Millennials now number 75.3 million and will soon become the largest people group in American society….They will influence every aspect of our lives and will greatly influence who is in congress and who is our next president…..
49% of all those born in 2009 were Hispanic. The most common last name in the US, used to be ‘Smith’ but now it is Rodriguez.
Over 40% of the Millennials (those born after 1982) are African-American, Asian-American, Latin American, or of racially mixed backgrounds.
There are now 2 times as many Millennials, (those born after 1984), as there are Gen-Xers, (those born between 1965 and 1984), and there are already a million more Millennials than Baby Boomers, (those born between 1945 and 1965).
These statistics don’t take in to account, the 30 million illegals who have entered the country and are now part of the mix….
Socially, culturally and spiritually, Millennials, those from 18 to 34, are remaking and redefining our society…
A college freshman was explaining to a senior citizen, why it was next to impossible for the older generation to understand his generation. He said "You grew up in a different world, actually in light of all the modern technology, it was almost primitive one !" The young people of today grow up with television, jet planes, space travel, men walking on the moon, our spaceships have visited Mars. We have nuclear energy, electric and hydrogen cars, smart phones, computers with DSL, BPS, and light-speed processing .... and”….. at that point, the Senior citizen interrupted and said, "You're right, son. We didn't have those things when we were young, so we went ahead and invented them for you guys. So, what is it that you guys are leaving for the next generation?"
Good question…. What are we leaving for the next generation?...
David while writing Psalm 78, extols the works of God, and realizes that the knowledge of God, reverence for God, and love for God must not be just for his generation, but must be transferred to the next generation as well.
He says…”We will not hide these things from their children, we will tell the next generation”.
Judges 2:7 tells us “So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua….” But then we read in verse 10, “When all that generation [i.e., the generation of the elders] had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD….”
Another verse which describes how this came about is found at the end of the book of Judges.. chapter 21:v25 “In those days there was no king (no Godly rule) in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes”. (that sounds like nothing but trouble to me) It sounds a lot like Noah’s day before the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah before it’s destruction and a lot like our day today)!!!!
Economist are telling us that our national debt will be left hanging over the heads of the coming generations, to be repaid by those not yet born.
But, the financial disaster is not the only legacy we are leaving to the Millennials and their unborn children. There is a dark side to what is happening to this generation:
According to Doug Stringer, founder of Somebody Cares, and author of the book, Who’s Your Daddy?
“Millennials are an “at risk generation”: One-third of the mellennials (25 million) have been drunk in the last month — One in four (19 million) uses illegal drug — out of the One million pregnancies, 1/3 of them (or 334 thousand) will seek an abortion. — and over 1,500 Millennials each year commit suicide”.
Doug’s book title, “Who’s Your Daddy”, came from an experience which his friends had while ministering to Millennial street kids in Brazil. While walking the streets of Rio one day, they stopped to talk to a young man and when they ask him who his father was, he replied with the name of a demon, that was well-known in the folklore of Brazil.
Our challenge and assignment is to change the answer to that question, ”who’s your daddy”….to say that “Jesus” is their Lord and Master!!!
Max Jukes lived in New York. He did not believe in Christ or in Christian training. He refused to take his children to church, even when they asked him if they could go. He was a role model for the ungodly….
Jonathan Edwards lived in the same state, at the same time as Jukes. He loved the Lord and saw to it that his children were in church every Sunday, as he served the Lord and lived it before them, to the best of his ability. He was a role model for what a Godly man could become.
Jonathan Edwards had 929 descendants—430 were ministers, 314 were honored war veterans who served with distinction, 75 were authors, 86 were college professors, 13 were university presidents, 7 were congressmen, 3 were governors, and 1 became Vice-President of the United States. His family never cost the state one cent but contributed immeasurably to the life of plenty in United States culture and society.
Max Jukes has 1,026 descendants—300 were convicts, 27 were murderers, 190 were prostitutes, and 509 were alcoholics and drug addicts. His family, so far, has reportedly cost the state millions of dollars. They have made no contribution to society that is of any good benefit.
The Psalmist David, gives us a strong mandate, that we all have a responsibility as stewards to the generations to come.
While 15-24 year olds make up 20% of our population, they are only 10% of the church population.
Today the average worshipper in US congregations is 50 years old. That’s 6-years older than the population average. Our churches are increasingly older, and increasingly out of touch with this current generation, and the greatest proof is their absence.
The following is some humorous statistics on the Boomer Generation… (that’s my generation)
It’s called “What a Difference a Generation Makes”...
In 1970 it was about Growing pot, In 2015, your belly is the pot…
In 1970 it was going to a new, hip joint, 2015, it is getting a new hip joint
In 1970 it was the Rolling Stones, In 2015, it is Kidney stones
In 1970 it was Passing the driver's test, In 2015 it’s the vision test… In 1970 it was about the Keg, In 2015, it’s about the EKG,
In 1970 emphasis was on Long Hair, In 2015, it is Longing for hair.
In 1970 it was about Acid Rock, In 2015, it’s about Acid Reflux !
How quickly we forget!
Dan Kimball wrote the book, They Like Jesus But Not The Church, based on his interviews with Millennials. Many of them perceived the church atmosphere to be judgmental, narrow, exclusive, too rigid, and hypocritical.
While 60% of older adults claim religious affiliation, only 18% of Millennials say they belong to any religious group. It is not that Millennials don’t want to know God, it’s that the church as we know it today is failing to connect in a meaningful way. One pastor expressed this dilemma in marketing terms, he says, “It’s not the product they don’t like, it’s where they are told they have to go to get the product, that they don’t like.”
Why is it that we aren’t doing what David says about reaching the next generation with the good news of Jesus? 1. Could it be that we haven’t really tried? 2. Could it be that we don’t feel we can relate to them? 3. Could it be that we feel that they would change things too much? 4. Could it be that we are unwilling to give up our way of doing things? 5. Could it be that we don’t want to actually be recognized as radical, sold out, Jesus is Lord, Christians?
Millennials as a people group, consume more information and goods than any generation before it. They are not resistant to God, they are just resistant to our way of understanding, interpreting, sharing and exampling God.
Our challenge is to help the next generation find their true spiritual home and the this Generation is Waiting for whoever it is that will do that….and the language they understand is love, transparency and acceptance. They are waiting for someone to touch them in the name of Jesus. A lot of folks have built walls to see who cares enough to help them tear them down….
There is an entire generation, that is waiting for someone to touch them with the love of God. There is a generation of the brightest, most optimistic kids our nation has ever known, waiting for someone to connect with them, and touch them with the good news. If we were the only ones willing to make the effort to touch this generation for Christ, what would the long term outcome be?
The psalmist says —“so that the next generation would know, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. v7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep his commands”.
“When Jews around the world celebrate the Passover, at one point in the meal, a child asks the question…. “What does this meal mean to you?” Our children want to know how our faith relates to us personally. With the invasion of secularism and big profit making, which has become deeply embedded in our holiday celebrations, it’s easy to focus on how the holiday came to be as a matter of history, instead of what that means to you personally and to all of us in our family unit.
Developmentally, children are not fully able to make abstract connections until junior high school, so it’s very important that we help them to see things from a personal, experiental level, which connects the historical Bible record with the here and now of their lives.
When God gave the Ten commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai as a model for godly living,
He said in Deuteronomy 6:6-9"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Demonstrate them with the work of your hands and imprint them on their minds. Display them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates".
God's Word, and how it impacts every aspect of our lives, is to be a constant topic of conversation between us and the next generation. We need to let them see God's fingerprints in every aspect of life.
After forty years of wandering the Wilderness, the Israelites were out of Egypt, but God’s biggest challenge was getting the Egypt out of them. He was preparing them to be people of faith before the next generation entered into the Promised Land to possess and occupy it.
Moses did not enter the promised land with them, and we may be asked of God to lay the ground work for many things we will not see and enjoy ourselves, but others will, because we were faithful to shepherd the next generation….
But even though Moses did not go into the promised land, he had some final words for his people as they were about to enter the land flowing with milk and honey. He told them that the power to choose blessing and cursing, life and death, was their own.
He tells them in Deuteronomy 30:19 and 20, “Choose life, so that you and your children may thrive in the land and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land he swore to give your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.
Our kids deserve to see what we say we believe, demonstrated by our actions, each day, every day! Anything less is a disservice to the morals, the ethics, the integrity and the effectiveness of the next generation.
When we choose to be faithful in following God’s precepts, His principles and His life values, we demonstrate authentic faith to our family. We prove our love for God, our ability to hear His voice, and our desire to cling to Him by choosing to follow His direction, even when it is difficult and unpopular to do so.
Sometimes as parents, it’s difficult to watch our children struggle with their personal faith in God. Sometimes it’s difficult to be patient until we see faith bear fruit in their lives. But we can trust and rely upon what the scriptures say, when it tells us…
in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”.
When we have watered the seed of the Word of God with corresponding actions to what we believe, we can turn our children over to God and trust that he who began a good work in them will carry it on into completion!
Deuteronomy 30:2-3 “And when you and your children turn to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where you have been scattered”.
In the parable of the Prodigal son, we see the father waiting and
watching in faith, with open arms, for his son to return and take his rightful place, as the next generation of leadership. I believe it is a picture of this generation, in the church, believing, praying, watching and expecting, until the next generation of sons and daughters come into their rightful place.
Many of our kids are going through a challenging time, and will go through more difficult times. Some will wander for a season in the wilderness. But I believe that if we will continue to pray, God will use that wilderness wandering to bring them to a place of deep need—to a place where they realize that they need God. So keep praying.
It’s never too late to pass the baton successfully to the next generation.
When our sons and daughters seem to stray from the family faith and seem to reject all that we have tried to impart into them. We do not lose heart! God’s Word is powerful and it will not return void. The Holy Spirit is hovering over and incubating every promise of God you’ve claimed. The Father has promised to watch over it and perform it.. It is His greatest desire for entire families to serve Him for generations to come.
I want us to make a declaration today over the young men and women, who are the next generation of leaders, who will shape and define the future of our society and culture….
Job 22:27 “You shalt make your prayer unto Him, and He shall hear you, and you shall pay your vows. v28 You shalt also decree (gaw-zar….to submit an order for action in a specific area), and it shall be established
unto you and the light shall shine upon your ways”.
In Jesus name, I release a transfer of anointing…to the next generation. I declare that this generation, under the anointing, shall bring the gospel to the poor, heal and restore the sick and afflicted, proclaim deliverance to the captives, open blind eyes, set people free, and that the anointing will flow in God’s timing, plan and purpose. Therefore, I release the anointing that these things would follow them daily, as they walk in God’s timing, plan and purpose, In Jesus name.
I declare an anointing that will be like jumping into a deep pool of water. When they come out, everywhere they go gets wet. That anointing is like being covered with perfumed oil, and wherever they go the aroma of the anointing will follow. Therefore, I release the wetness and aroma of anointing oil upon the next generation, that they would drip with that special anointing presence and be a fragrance in the lives of many, in Jesus name.
The anointing of the Holy Spirit enables them to do what they cannot do in their own strength. This anointing, as described in the Bible, is “God on flesh doing those things that flesh cannot do.” Therefore, I release that enabling power of anointing, that they might accomplish those things which might seem far beyond their own strength, wisdom and ability, in Jesus name. The anointing will make their gifts operate more fluently and effectively.
God has given them gifts for service, as well as the anointing to allow those gifts to function with greater ease. Therefore, I release that greater fluency, function and freedom in the operation of all the gifts in their lives and all their interactions, in Jesus name. May God’s anointing on them be treated with honor and respect. Jesus paid the ultimate price just so that they could continue His work and ministry in the earth.
Therefore, I release holiness, which will manifest itself in a sacrificial life style in their lives, in Jesus name. We pass the baton of the anointing and the call of God to future generations.. May they receive their own clear calling and mandate, to be passed to their generations, should the Lord tarry, in Jesus name. I declare and receive this with a zeal for the Lord of Hosts, who was and is and shall ever be, the same. In Loving declaration, we the church of Jesus Christ do release it!