Friday, May 28, 2010

Keep on Keeping On! (Daniel 6:10-28)

Daniel had been set up.

Those competing with him for influence over the king had used the king's own ego to trick him into making a law against prayer.

They knew that Daniel prayed. They knew that the only way to 'get him' was to use his faith in his God against him (because he was a man of integrity, and his faith was why--see "Would YOUR Faith Condemn You?").

So, thier trap worked.

"But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help." (vv. 10-11)

Daniel had always been a man of faith and prayer, and he was not about to stop that. He had enormous faith in his God (NOT just any god!), and knew that He would take care of him.

So...he prayed with the windows open, as he had always done.

...and his detractors saw it, and went and reported it to the king.

"14 Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament."

The king, who hadn't really thought through all the implications of a law which stroked his ego, was grieved...he hadn't thought of Daniel! His ego had trapped him into doing something to Daniel that he deeply regretted...but it was too late--had had backed himself into a corner.

"15 In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.”

16 So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.”

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel.

The King (Darius) knew about Daniel's God. He knew that this God was a big part of the reason that Daniel was so faithful...all he could do was hope that Daniel's God would show Himself...again!

18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night.

19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”

What realistic hope did he have in that? These Lions were purposefully fed only enough to keep them strong--and HUNGRY! They would've overwhelmed Daniel before he even reached the center of the den, right?


"21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.”

23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.

24 Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den."

Daniel had served God faithfully, and served the king faithfully. As a result, he could commit himself to God and trust Him...and God came through, shutting the Lions' mouths.

King Darius wrote to praise Daniel's God:
“Peace and prosperity to you!
26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.

For he is the living God,
and he will endure forever.
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
and his rule will never end.
27 He rescues and saves his people;
he performs miraculous signs and wonders
in the heavens and on earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian."

What do we learn from Daniel?

That we should make sure our faith is geniune...that we should nurture our own faith every day...that our work and service--no matter who it's to--should reflect that faith...that we may get persecuted for it, but we can trust God to care for us, deliver us, and save us...that if, in the Wisdom of God, He chooses not to, we can still trust Him...for ETERNITY!

Therefore, let's commit ourselves to the Lord and serve Hime wherever we're at, whatever we're doing, not provoking others, but refusing to back down. We serve the LIVING, TRUE God!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Would YOUR Faith Condemn You? (Daniel 6:1-5)

Daniel was a great servant, leader, and administrator. He continually showed himself to be faithful and committed, no matter who the leader was 'above' him. (Remember, he was forcibly taken from his home as a young man by Nebuchadnezzer, then served under Belteshazzar, now Darius (of the Medo/Persian Empire). Not only different kings, but different countries!)

Yet...Daniel continued to serve faithfully. "The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests. Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire." (vv. 2-3)

Why? How? How could Daniel continue to rise to the top, no matter who was 'over' him?

It came from his faith...and other leaders hated him for it!

NOTE: Remember, when you serve faithfully--whatever role you're in, whoever is your boss--God will exalt you (in His perfect time)...and others will not like it. ESPECIALLY if they know it comes from your faith, expect to be challenged!.

"Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” (vv.4-5)

Did you catch that? "Our ONLY CHANCE of finding ground for accusing Daniel"...will come from his faith. Daniel was so committed (and apparently up-front) about his faith that everyone knew of it...some admired it, but others hated it.

How does that compare to you and I? Would anyone, anywhere ever utter a statement like 'If we're going to find anything wrong with him, it's going to be in the area of his faith'?

Are we so committed that...A) Everyone knows about it (we don't hide it)... B) It is rock-solid and consistent...and C) We're willing to follow our faith, even at great cost to us?

Daniel was!

By the way, there's no evidence that Daniel was obnoxious about it...he just went on his way, doing his thing, consistently and humbly...(see 1 Peter 3:15).

If they ever start throwing people in jail for consistenly pledging allegiance to God, and following His Word, would YOU be arrested? Would YOU be convicted?

I hope that I would!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Hand Writing on the Wall...a lesson for today? (Daniel 5)

We all do it.
We all have a tendency to take important things for granted.
We have a tendency to forget lessons learned.

King Nebuchadnezzer had learned important things from his time with Daniel, and had humbled himself before "the God of Heaven" on a few occasions...

...but his son, Belshazzar? Not so much.

Did King Nebu forget to tell him? Did Beshazzar just roll his eyes thinking "whatever dad--god of heaven--got it". Don't know--we're not told.

(But parents, it does remind us how important it is to teach our children the things we've learned, especially about God and Spiritual things!...even if they do roll their eyes!)

King Belshazzar took even further steps of arrogance than his father had. King Nebu was guilty of arrogance and pride, exalting himself without giving any credit to the Lord. Belshazzar went even further. He started out with that arrogance, then added insult to it--he went and got some of the gold goblets which had been taken from the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem...and they drank wine out of them! This was one more way in which he was exalting himself above Daniel and Daniel's God...he was 'thumbing his nose' at Daniel's god--the Lord, God of Heaven. He was essentially saying 'Who's in charge NOW, huh? I've got control over the people...over the temple, and over the things that were dedicated to the Lord...I AM IN CHARGE!'

Bad move.

(Side point: Keep this in mind for future stuff from Daniel...when he starts prophesying about the "abomanation that causes desolation", it's this kind of thing--a ruler exalting himself over the God of heaven, misusing his temple (and, I believe, the church). One who's arrogance extends even to misusing the name of God...'him who has ears to hear, let him hear!')

Suddenly, in the midst of the party he's throwing, Belshazzar sees a human hand writing on a wall. THAT would be freaky! Not only that, but it's a language he doesn't know.

He panics and calls in all the wise men, etc...but no one can read it. Finally his mother reminds him about Daniel, "who has the spirit of the holy gods in him" (v. 11) Belshazzar calls for Daniel.

Daniel's news is not good for King Belshy...

Daniel reminded King Belshy about all that King Nebu (his father) had learned about humilty before God...and he said "You his son have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this...instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of Heaven" (vv.22-23).

Because he had exalted himself so high, because he had the nerve to misuse the name of God, because he had (by using the items dedicated to God in the temple) shown contempt for God and arrogance...his kingdom was going to be removed from him and given to the Medes and the Persians.

It was done...THAT VERY NIGHT!

Whenever we exalt ourselves above God...whenever we take his blessing for granted, we are ASKING to be humbled.

But if a leader--in the Church or in Politics--exalts himself above God and misuses faith, misuses the Church, or misuses anything that rightfully belongs to God, that leader is showing the height of arrogance, and is asking to have his own "hand writing on the wall" moment.

May we never be so arrogant and so stupid...instead, may we all--and each and every one of our leaders--humble themselves before the Lord.

...keep this in mind...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Flipping" my life--Tornados and God

Amazing, isn't it? When you look back over the course of your life, I'll bet you can see that the difficult times--the trials, the tragedies, are the moments of life change--many for the better, some for the worse.

I think that the difference--good or bad--is how much you allow God into that situation.

Take the May 13, 1980 tornado in Kalamazoo...a tragic situation, to be sure! 5 deaths, 79 injuries, $50 Million in damage (what would that be today--$500 Mil?), and countless lives disrupted, pictures lost, prom dresses ruined, houses and churches destroyed...the list could go on.

I remember that day very well, and it came very close (literally 2 doors down) to our house...damage to family and friends all over. Trauma everywhere.

But I remember it as a very GOOD thing also!

I remember that week, when the National Guard came in and cordoned off our neighborhood...I felt secure, and was thankful that those people would leave thier own families to help protect mine. I remember when the Salvation Army set up thier food wagon down the street, and fed us...those people (from Kalamazoo County, I think) left thier homes to feed us...I remember when we had a church service in our back yard (our church, St. Augustine, was destroyed)--people literally walked for a mile to get to us (because they weren't allowed in our neighborhood in cars).

I remember being struck by all of that--and beginning to think that 'the life I've been living has not been great'. I was a typical teenager then--partying as much as possible, caring very much about myself.

These events caused me to start thinking differently.

I believe that God's Holy Spirit was beginning to prepare me to take Jesus seriously and personally, for the first time in my life. Later that year, I personally accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and became a dedicated follower of His!

Romans 8:28 says that "God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him--who are called according to His purpose.". I believe that God caused that tornado to work for my good...and many others--as we began to 'think outside ourselves'.

For me, ultimately, He moved me into the Ministry...for others the path was different...but here's what I know: NO MATTER WHAT the circumstances are--tornado's, foreclosures, illnesses, accidents, breakups...God can and will turn it around--IF we invite Him to do so, and follow His lead.

Today, 30 years later--May 13, 2010--May YOU know God's presence in the midst of your trials...and may YOU turn to Him, so that HE can 'go to work' in your situation and turn it around!

Grace and Peace!


Monday, May 10, 2010

The Boomerang Principle (Daniel 4:34-37)

Boomerangs are cool...IF you know how to throw them.

I've seen people throw these things and make them go in a large circle and come right back to them. Pretty cool! I try, and it goes mostly straight--making me go further to retrieve it.

The Boomerang Principle is something like that. By this, I mean the tendency we all have to require being taught the same life lesson over and over again before we finally learn it.

King Nebuchadnezzer is a good illustration of this.

Despite learning about the God of the Hebrews through Daniel (ch.1), through Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego (ch. 3), and supposedly understanding that this "Most High God" was worthy of praise and allegiance, and despite Daniel's warning, King Nebu went ahead and praised...himself! Nebu's pride was amazing, and he convinced himself that he had 'arrived' based on his own wit, wisdom and vigor...NO Humility at all.

Therefore, exactly what Daniel had predicted came true...Nebu's sanity was taken from him and he was driven out to live in the countryside, rejected from all his servants and all his people. (Daniel 4:1-33).

Fortunately, he isn't required to stay there...
" 34 “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever.
His rule is everlasting,
and his kingdom is eternal.
35 All the people of the earth
are nothing compared to him.
He does as he pleases
among the angels of heaven
and among the people of the earth.
No one can stop him or say to him,
‘What do you mean by doing these things?’

36 “When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before." (Daniel 4:34-36)

King Nebu "looked toward heaven", and his sanity is restored.

That is the Boomerang Lesson that Nebu--and we--have to learn. Sometimes we have to learn it over and over again.

YOU--no matter who you are--ARE NOT THE POINT! GOD IS!

You did not get your intelligence, popularity, position, power, etc. because 'you're all that'...rather, you did because God allowed you to. You and I need to humble ourselves with that reality.

Finally, his response seems real and personal:

"I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal." (v.34)

The result? He was restored...better than ever! And he continued to praise God.

37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”

He "raised his eyes to heaven"...and so must we. This takes humility, because in order to raise our eyes to heaven in faith, we must--of necessity--acknowledge that God is above us.

It's a good thing to remember and to teach our that we don't have to learn it again and again.

Presumably, King Nebu kept it in mind and taught his kids this, right?

Tune in next time and find out!

In the meantime, may God humble us and keep us on our knees!

Grace and Peace,