Revelation 4:11, 5:11-13
Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 145:17-19 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
The man that is the subject of the story, Mohammad Alaa Aljalee, has taken responsibility to make a difference in the world in a way that fulfills needs. He lives in the city of Aleppo, Syria. It is a large city in a land that has seen much political instability, violence, war, and bloodshed in recent years. Many people and families have fled the city and the area for their own safety. As they flee, they often can’t or don’t take their pets with them. Some are simply left behind to fend for themselves. There are a lot of stray abandoned animals in Aleppo. Alaa noticed this and had compassion on the cats first. He fed them, and later started the shelter that became home to many cats and dogs. People became familiar with him and sought to leave their pets with him for care. He shelters, feeds and cares for them, and tries to find new homes for them. His care and concern for people, combined with his love of the animals has determined the course of his life.
As I thought about him, I wondered what the Bible has to say about pets. Not a lot, specifically. There are plenty of Scriptures saying that God created the animals and provided for them and that man has dominion over them. We also know that flocks of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs from people of different lands provided sustenance and a living for many (no pigs for the Israelites, of course). There are a few verses that show an indication that people kept pets.
In the account of the Canaanite woman asking Jesus to heal her daughter in Matthew 15:26-28, we read:
“He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’ ‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.”
The dogs that are being spoken of are surely pets, since they were obviously not either wildlife or livestock.
I believe another instance where a pet is referenced occurs in 2 Samuel 12:1-6:
“The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, ‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. ‘Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’ “
Sheep were normally livestock in Israel. But in this story Nathan describes the lamb in terms that indicate it is more than simply livestock– it is a pet. It is treated in a way that shows it is particularly dear to the family and is loved and treated more personally. David recognizes this as shown in his emotional response to Nathan’s story (not realizing yet that it is a parable designed to expose his own sin).
In any case Scripture in general teaches us to take good care of animals, and be good stewards of the world in which we live. “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel. (Proverbs 12:10)” Alaa from Aleppo may not be a Christian. In fact considering the country in which he lives and the fact that his name is prefaced by “Mohammad,” he is probably Muslim. He definitely acts with love and compassion for both the animals he rescues and for the people whose animals he accepts. Our world needs to see more love and compassion for people and animals alike. It is a blessing to see it exercised in a place where it seems in short supply.
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 96:11, 1-2 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Romans 5:9-10, 20 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Traffic is frustrating. I hate to be in a place where I am 5 cars away from a traffic light, and I can’t get through it in a light cycle due to backed up traffic. Even worse is being stuck in a backup on the freeway where it takes an hour to go a mile or two. I can’t imagine being in the situation that occurred in early January on I-95 in Virginia. A snow and ice storm and the ensuing accidents on the freeway created a backup like I have never seen (and hope to never see). Many people ended up being stuck on I-95 for around 21 hours. Imagine the challenges: in cold winter weather you have to stay warm, but you don’t want to run your engine continuously lest you use up all of your gas. Some people undoubtedly had children and pets in their cars to keep occupied. Restrooms? At some point fatigue and hunger had to set in. What to do?
Casey Noe of Ellicott City, MD noticed that a short distance ahead of her and her husband’s car in traffic was a large bread truck belonging to the Schmidt Baking Company of Baltimore. She was struck with a great idea and a bit of boldness. She called Schmidt Baking Company’s customer service line and left a message asking if it was OK under the circumstances for the truck to hand out bread to the people stranded on the highway. Twenty minutes later she received a call from the company’s owner, Chuck Paterakis. He told her he was contacting the truck’s driver and instructing him to pass out what he had. Casey and her husband John got out of their car and helped carry bread to stranded vehicles for over an hour, passing out over 300 packages of bread and rolls.
I can’t help but be reminded of the account in Matthew 15:32-37:
“Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.”
While the passing out of the bread on I-95 was not a miracle in the same sense as the one performed by Jesus, it has similarities. A large number of people were in a situation where they weren’t able to provide food for themselves and had been without it for some time. Chuck Paterakis had the ability to share what he had, and willingly shared. A few servant-like people helped to distribute the bread to those who needed it. People had food to help them with their immediate hunger, and likely received more than what they needed for the immediate moment.
Did God have anything to do with the resolution of the I-95 situation? I think it is very possible. I wouldn’t doubt that some of the people stuck on the freeway had reached the point of praying for deliverance from the situation. Some probably asked for patience, strength, and for the jam to end. Some may have also prayed for deliverance from hunger, or food to give their hungry children. Is Mr. Paterakis a Christian? I don’t know, but possibly God worked through his heart to influence him. Even if he is not a Christian, he is a considerate man who demonstrated concern for people in need in a bad situation. Are Casey and John Noe Christians? I don’t know, but something gave them the foresight and boldness to ask for help, and the willingness to help in with the solution. The event that unfolded was probably an answer to prayer for many.
This episode is one that helps to restore the belief that there are some who still care about doing the right thing rather than just the profitable thing. Our business world generally runs on the principle that profit is king. It grabs our attention when something happens that runs counter to that principle. I hope that at the very least people gained new respect for Schmidt Baking Company, and that they might be influenced to buy more of its products. In a world where we see much difficulty, I am thankful for people who provide a ray of hope by make things better rather than worse!
I have been thinking about Psalm 27 all week; clearing snow, lying bed, the words of this psalm have been nagging at me. I blame it on worshiping together. For our quiet meditation last Sunday, we thought through Psalm 27:13-14. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”
And so at about 8:30 this morning, I opened my Bible to Psalm 27 and read it. It is a prayer. It is David’s prayer. As I read David’s prayer, it quickly became my prayer. I shared with our Father some things that I am afraid of (see Psalm 27:1) and some things that were bothering me and some things that I wanted of Him. And then I found myself praying for you.
So, I wanted to share with you – my church family – that I prayed for you today. And I prayed just two things. I prayed that we would “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD,” and I prayed that we would “look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!” (see Psalm 27:4 and Psalm 27:13). I put those last few words of verse thirteen in bold for us – notice that it is “in the land of the living.” It is interesting, too, how both requests have to do with sight.
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 67:1-5 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 107:28-30 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
QUIET PREPARATION — Psalm 27:13-14 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
The last two weeks Pastor James’ messages have focused on the contrasts of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar presented in Daniel chapters 4 and 5. Both received interpretations of dreams by Daniel that foretold their future. Their futures as seen by Daniel were dependent on their responses to God and His sovereignty. These lessons remind us that God knows our hearts and how we will respond better than we do ourselves. His vision of the future is clear, while we really can’t see past the present moment.
After the trials and difficulties that Nebuchadnezzar faced as prophesied by Daniel, he ended up on the side of God, recognizing His greatness and rule. After acknowledging God’s greatness and honoring Him, in Daniel 4:36-37 Nebuchadnezzar reports:
“At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
In contrast Belshazzar ignored God and opposed Him through his actions. He did not respect God or acknowledge that he was subservient to Him.
“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven.” — Daniel 5:22-23a
Daniel interpreted his dream. The consequences of his life were very different from those of his father Nebuchadnezzar:
“This is the inscription that was written:
mene, mene, tekel, parsin
“Here is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
-- Daniel 5:25-30
It didn’t take long for his final judgment to come:
“That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.” — Daniel 5:30-31
As often happens in my mind, I was reminded of the words of an old hymn I haven’t sung in quite some time.
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King? Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring? Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe? Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go? By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine, We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!
Not for weight of glory, nor for crown and palm, Enter we the army, raise the warrior psalm; But for love that claimeth lives for whom He died: He whom Jesus saveth marches on His side. By Thy love constraining, by Thy grace divine, We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!
Jesus, Thou hast bought us, not with gold or gem, But with Thine own lifeblood, for Thy diadem; With Thy blessing filling each who comes to Thee, Thou hast made us willing, Thou hast made us free. By Thy grand redemption, by Thy grace divine, We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!
Fierce may be the conflict, strong may be the foe, But the King’s own army none can overthrow; ’Round His standard ranging, vict’ry is secure, For His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure. Joyfully enlisting, by Thy grace divine, We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!
Chosen to be soldiers, in an alien land, Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band; In the service royal, let us not grow cold, Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold. Master, wilt Thou keep us, by Thy grace divine, Always on the Lord’s side—Savior, always Thine!
— Who Is on the Lord’s Side? (Frances R. Havergal, 1877)
In the lives of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar we can clearly see the difference in outcome between a life on the Lord’s side (Nebuchadnezzar’s) versus one that opposes Him (Belshazzar’s).
Although Daniel did know Christ as we have the privilege to do, he trusted God to be his savior. I believe the last verse of the hymn above describes his life’s assignment quite fittingly. He was chosen by God to represent Him through royal service in an alien land. He gave honest advice and interpretations to his leaders and masters while remaining faithful, loyal, true, and bold in God’s name. He didn’t hide the truth from Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar, and spoke with honesty. I hope that each of us will remain as faithful and pray, “Master wilt thou keep us, by Thy grace divine, Always on the Lord’s side–Savior, always Thine!”
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 16:8-9, 11 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
Tuesday is the start of the work week for me and a reason why there is typically a blog entry like this one on Tuesdays.
Two things to keep in mind as we look forward to Sunday. First, is that we will be thinking thru Daniel 5:1-31. I so enjoyed Daniel 4 unlike any other text that we have studied together. Whether you may realize it or not, you are familiar with Daniel 5. Most people are familiar with Daniel 5 whether they realize it or not. Read through it this week and see if you can find something in it that most people have heard said or said themselves.
Second, we will be enjoying communion together this Sunday. Actually, we are to be enjoying communion (simply, the gathering together) each Sunday. But communion this Sunday is what is also called the Lord’s Supper or the Lord’s table. It is the eating of the bread and drinking of the cup. It is proclaiming the Lord’s death until he returns. Central to this eating and drinking is remembering. And part of this remembering is the reminder of what it is that brings us together.
Just Thinking Out Loud
The rest of what I have to share is just me thinking out loud. So take that for what it is, just me thinking out loud.
I am kind of thinking of taking these Tuesday blog entries and doing them monthly instead of weekly. Although, I do not think I have done an entry in a couple of weeks. So maybe, I will start doing an entry the first Tuesday of each month. Just thinking.
I was also thinking of taking a week night or maybe a Saturday, whatever would work best and doing a four or five week help for marriages – looking at what the Bible says about marriage; what makes for a good marriage; what it means to be a husband; what it means to be a wife. I was wondering, too, if this could be something that would reach out to unbelievers. Just thinking.
And I started to think about outreach. It is good to do outreach together as a church; special, organized outreach events. And we will do these events together in 2022. But as you watch Jesus in the Gospels, he did not really do special, organized outreach events. Instead, he spent time with people, in homes, too. So, just a reminder, your table in your home, the table you eat meals at, is one of the best outreach tools you have available. BE BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH UNBELIEVERS. Get to know people. May people get to know you. This will be effective outreach. Just thinking.
Remember last Sunday. A pastor is to lead like a shepherd. He is to preach for you. He is to pray for you. He is to spend for you. This is how I am looking at 2022.
As we keep going forward, hold on to these six words: and none can stay His hand. This is Daniel 4:35. The context is in relation to God’s revelation. In Daniel 4, this revelation was a dream. It took 8 years for Nebuchadnezzar to realize that in relation to that dream, none can stay God’s hand. This emphasizes the power of God’s Word. God’s Word, the Bible is of utmost importance to us! The teaching of it is central to our Sunday gatherings. It is God’s Word that equips us, renews us, refills and refuels us. You are being equipped with something that is so powerful. The Bible is God’s revelation. And when it comes to this revelation which equips you, realize this: none can stay God’s hand.
Now, those six words also apply to the rest of Daniel. The rest of Daniel includes future things, things that are still future for you and I. And the realization regarding these future things is that none can stay God’s hand.