Friday, April 30, 2010

"Too Big for your Britches" (Daniel 4:1-33)

When I was in 4th grade at St. Augustine, I got into an argument with Sister Cecile! (That's how bad I was!). During that argument, she said "You're getting too big for your britches, mister!". My mother used the same term later that week, (then my dad applied some 'correction' to my britches!).

Humility...learning 'our place' is something that we all need to learn from time to time--especially when it comes to 'humility' in the presence of God!

King Nebuchadnezzer learned this too.

Nebu was the most powerful king in the world in his day, and he thought that he was 'all that'. God warned him through a dream that this was not the case--that the Lord had enabled him to prosper--and that he was dependent on Him--but Nebu wouldn't acknowledge this. After the dream, he asked Daniel to come and interpret it...and he does--it's a warning to make sure that Nebu doesn't forget the blessing of the Lord! He says that Nebu's sanity is going to be removed, and he'll flee to the hills, living with animals, basically being insane for 7 YEARS! Once this is over, he'll come to his senses, "acknowledge that Heaven rules" (v.26) , and be restored.

Daniel's advice? “‘King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.’(v.27).

Daniel knew Nebu's reputation. He had used his power to destroy and to punish, but had not used it for good (remember, despite his words about Daniel's god, he had forcibly kidnapped Daniel and the others, he had set up the golden statue, he had thrown the 3 into the furnace, etc.--this dude was bad!).

DESPITE THIS WARNING...the dream and Daniel's interpretation, King Nebu walks right into it: "Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. 30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’
31 “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. 32 You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’
33 “That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws." (Daniel 4:29-33)

Nebu continued to arrogantly believe that HE was 'The Man', and refuse to humble himself before God.

Although he'd had 'flashes' of true spiritual appreciation for Yahweh (Daniel's God) in the past, he'd never really grasped it. He had arrogantly believed that he himself was responsible for all this blessing..., God had to let him experience forced humility...for his own good, and the good of the people--as well as for the glory of God!

God DOES humble us when we get 'too big for our britches'...but it's not primarily about 'punishment'...rather it IS for our good, for the good of those we influence...AND for the (rightful) glory of God.

Fortunately, He doesn't leave us there...and He didn't leave King Nebu there...stay tuned!

Grace and Peace!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"...but even if He doesn't..."

King Nebuchadnezzer was in love with himself, and he used the power of his position to DEMAND worship of the image that he'd set up. He threatened anyone who would not bow down and worship with death! Specifically, they would be thrown into the 'fiery furnace'--a terrible threat indeed!

Yet, Daniel's 3 friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not bow down. They refused to worship the image. When others in Nebu's court discovered this, they 'tattled' on them. Nebu was enraged, and brought them in. He said “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments.But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” (Daniel 3:14-15)

King Nebu THINKS that he's called their bluff--after all, he has all the power. He says, in effect 'Look boys, it's nice that you have this 'god' that you serve...but let's get real: Are you ready to DIE for that god? After all, I CONTROL THE FURNACE...and no 'god' can save you once I put you there!

The men responded in a way which must've surprised Nebu: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

"...BUT EVEN IF HE DOESN'T..." That's some serious belief-cred right there. 'We expect Him to save us, but even if He doesn't, that's not the point! We are not going to bow down to your sorry statue, no matter what happens!'

These guys were committed to the Lord. They had enormous faith that God would rescue them, but knew that, whether He did or not, He was still 'the One true God', and the ONLY One deserving worship. They committed themselves into His hands, and behaved with that in mind.

If you know the story (Daniel 3:19-30), you know that God indeed DID rescue them, and in fact, walked with them in the furnace and protected them to the extent that thier hair wasn't singed and their clothes didn't smell like fire or smoke! God intervened in a BIG way!

King Nebu then praises the God of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego and threatens anyone who speaks against Him. He observes that "There is no other God who can rescue like this!" (v. 29)

Sounds like Nebu finally 'gets it', right? Stay tuned!

...but the faith that the 3 guys show is pretty incredible. We often worship God and serve Him, as long as everything's going well...but would we do it "even if He doesn't"...(answer our prayers, give us what we ask for, intervene on our behalf, etc.)? These men committed thier lives to the Lord, NO MATTER WHAT! They hoped and prayed that God would intervene and rescue them...but that wasn't the main point. Their main point was that HE IS GOD and deserves to be worshipped, obeyed, and served NO MATTER WHAT!

May we have that same kind of faith today.

Grace and Peace,


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back...

King Nebuchadnezzer just didn't get it!

After God had revealed his dream and it's meaning to Daniel, he said "Surely your God is the God of Gods and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries..." (Daniel 2:47)...yet, sometime relatively soon after, he does this: "King Nebuchanezzer made and image of gold, 90 feet high and 9 feet wide...and this is what the herald proclaimed: "As soon as you hear the sound of the (instruments), YOU MUST FALL DOWN AND WORSHIP THE IMAGE of gold that King 'Nebu' had set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship the image will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace." (Daniel 3:1-6)

How could that happen so quickly? How could he go from one who is acknowledging Daniel's God as "The One", and then set up a golden statue and FORCE people to "bow down to worship" it?

It's actually pretty easy!

If a person--king or otherwise--believes, or is 'impressed' with God on an intellectual basis, but does not personally bow down to actually "worship" the true God in heart and mind, then God is thought of as a 'religious symbol', or something like that--and is (therefore) easily set aside.

King Nebu had thought of God that way. He was 'impressed', but he never really 'got it' and he never really worshipped God at the core.

Is our faith merely on the level of 'religious belief'? Are we 'impressed' with God and by His works, but not personally committed to a lifestyle of worship and submission to Him? If so, then--believe it or not--we are likely to set up our own 'idols' in our lives. Idols of self-centeredness, and other ways that we set something up in front of God...and we remove Him from His rightful place in our the "God of Gods and Lord of (ourselves)"!

Endeavor today to REALLY "Worship" God--from your mind, heart, and with all of your life.

Otherwise, we are liable to take 'One step forward, two steps back'.

Grace and Peace, Dave

ps: Bonus point: No matter what someone in a position of power matter what words and phrases they use, if they won't bow down and worship the God of Gods, and if they try to set up some kind of idol for us to 'bow down' to, they are seriously wrong and MUST be resisted!Just keep that in mind...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bloom where you are planted!--Daniel 2:46-49

My mother always had some wise of them was when she told me (in response to my whining that I couldn't do something BIG with my life, or that my circumstances weren't 'fair'), that I should "Bloom where you are planted".

What did she mean? Simply that, no matter what my circumstances were, I should not use it as an excuse for failure or lack of effort. Instead, I should seek to give my all and do my best, whatever the circumstances.

I would like to say I've done that every day since, but the truth is that I haven't. There are too many times that I let my circumstances get me off-track, and discourage me. Sometimes, I have to admit, I'm kindof a 'lightweight' when it comes to things like this.

Daniel and his buds, on the other hand? Now, those were some dudes who knew how to 'bloom'!

In Daniel ch. 2, Daniel has just spoken God's words to Nebuchadnezzer, even though they meant that his reign would eventually come to an end. He spoke the truth, under hostile circumstances, in a foreign country, as a young man, and he gave credit to God in heaven--even though Nebuchadnezzer did not worship his God. He was bold! He was 'blooming where he had been planted'!

The outcome? As you see in Daniel 2:46-49, Daniel's God is praised, and Daniel--along with his buds--is promoted--WAY up the ladder of success and influence in Babylon!

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar threw himself down before Daniel and worshiped him, and he commanded his people to offer sacrifices and burn sweet incense before him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.”
48 Then the king appointed Daniel to a high position and gave him many valuable gifts. He made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as chief over all his wise men. 49 At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be in charge of all the affairs of the province of Babylon, while Daniel remained in the king’s court.(Daniel 2:46-49)

Daniel surely could've crawled into a spiritual or emotional 'hole' and shriveled up when he was forcibly moved to Babylon--away from family and everything he knew...but he didn't! He served with everything he had...he did his best, and he committed himself to God's care, knowing that God knew him and was with him WHEREVER HE WAS! Daniel, along with his 3 friends are promoted to positions of HUGE leadership and authority! God can do that!

The same is true for us--if, through faith in Christ, we are God's children and we faithfully serve and depend on Him. Wherever we're at, whatever our circumstances, you and I can also "Bloom where you are planted"!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"...but there is a God in heaven..." Daniel 2

Daniel...young man, forcibly removed from home and placed in a foreign country. Indoctrinated with the ways of that country, yet he remains committed to the the God he knows...the God of his people.

King Nebuchadnezzer has a dream that he is frightened by, and he calls all of his normal 'wise men' to interpret it for him, but with a twist: He will not tell them the dream! He wants them to come up with his dream, AND the interpretation!

Their response? "Impossible"!

Of course it is! Who can read minds?

Nebuchadnezzer is furious, and demands that all 'wise men' be killed--along with prophets, etc. from the foreign lands (like Daniel).

How does Daniel respond? He calls a prayer meeting with his 3 friends...

He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:
"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.

21 He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.

22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.

Daniel responds to this direct threat by praying! He calls together his 3 friends, and they pray throughout the night that God would give him the dream and it's interpretation...and He does!

So, Daniel is able go to Nebuchadnezzer and give him the dream and it's interpretation...but he is clear: This is NOT because HE (Daniel) is all that's because GOD IS!

"No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries."

Despite trying circumstances, despite pressure, despite a possible death sentence, Daniel knows where to go--to the God of his people! HE is the key to Daniel's success and security.

...and, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, HE is the key to OUR success and security as well!

Your need may not be for a dream to be interpreted, but whatever your challenges and trials, whatever circumstances you find yourself in, remember..."There IS a God in Heaven!"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What's in a Name?

What is your name? Do you know what it means?

Take a minute to consider 'What does your NAME represent?" When people hear your name, or the name of your family, what do they think? "Good worker"? "Nice people"? ...or do they think something different, like "Wierd family"? "Rude people"?

Daniel was a young man who was forcibly taken from Judah when it was overthrown by Nebachadnezzer of Babylon. He was forcibly removed from his family and brought to Babylon, along with his friends, to be indoctrinated in the ways of Babylon. This meant that he would have to eat what they ate, wear what they wore, etc. He would also be indoctrinated with Babylonian philosophy and religion. In fact, in order for Daniel to survive, he would need to be immersed in Babylonian culture.

...but that did NOT mean that he had to change who he was at his 'core'!

In fact, we are told that Daniel--in another act of humiliation--had his name changed.

"6 Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. 7 The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names:

Daniel was called Belteshazzar.
Hananiah was called Shadrach.
Mishael was called Meshach.
Azariah was called Abednego."

Daniel and his friends were going to be immersed in the ways of the power of the world! The obvious goal was that they would become...'Babylonians', on a practical level!

But Daniel would not play along...nor would his 3 friends...seems that you can change a name (ie. the external title), and not touch the identity (the internal, heart-level person).

" 8 But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king."

Daniel and his friends sought (and were granted, due to some special work of God) special permission to eath a fruit/veggie diet (and so not to eat 'unclean' or 'defiled' food, which was part of his religious identity). The one in charge of them gave them permission and, after 10 days, found them to be even he let them continue!

Daniel would learn many lessons in his years in Babylon...but one of the most important was that it is CRUCIAL that he not lose touch with the God of his people...that is, deep down, "WHO he really was".

How about us?

Have we become so 'indoctrinated' by the ways of this world that we've lost touch with the God we love? Is our faith watered down and mixed with so much of our world that it's hardly recognizable?

If so, we need to take a lesson from the young man, Daniel...and (after confessing it to God and repenting of it) we need to declare again WHO WE ARE--followers of God, through Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit!

What's in a name? What does YOUR name represent?

If it doesn't represent Jesus Christ, and His power to change a life, then maybe you need to learn a bit more from Daniel.

You may not be able to change the external circumstances around you...but you don't have to let those circumstances change you!