Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"...we will NEVER!"--Daniel 3 (Video: "HERO"--Skillet)

Everyday you and I make a choice...actually, several choices.

Who, or what, will we 'worship'?
What is our goal?
What is our life about?

Will we seek to 'fit in' or 'go along', or will we Stand Up?

Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, were faithfully serving the Lord, in a hostile land. They were actually being blessed by God for doing so, to the point where they became leaders in the land.

...but King Nebuchadnezzar, even after learning that Daniel's God " is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries" (Daniel 2:47) still doesn't get it. He decides to have a huge gold statue of himself made, and to require all people to bow down and worship that statue.

Can you imagine being so full of yourself that you, for example, would put your own face on Mount Rushmore? Or that you'd have taxpayers pay for a monument to yourself?

That's what Nebu did...and worse! He required that, when music played, all in the kingdom would bow down and worship this statue.

Well, not surprisingly, Daniel and his friends had a hard time with this.

Remember, they had refused to 'defile themselves' by eating the king's food, and they prayed to the Lord and gave Him credit for revealing secrets to them in the past (see previous posts). It would only make sense that this demand would be resisted.

Religious liberty was (apparently) not big on Nebuchadnezzar's priority list. He demanded that everyone worship his image.

But when the music played, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego would not bow.

The king was told about this, and he had them brought in for questioning. He said, basically, 'look fellas, maybe I didn't make myself clear. If you don't bow to this statue and worship it, you will be thrown into the furnace, then NO god can save you'!

Their response was classic, and a GREAT response for us to remember:

“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)

What do WE learn from this?
First, that young people can have strong faith.
Second, that 'going along to get along' is NOT a Biblical value of faith.
Third, that risking death--even by getting thrown into a furnace--is preferable to 'worshipping' false gods.
Fourth, that even the possibility that God will not answer your prayers the way you prefer is not a reason to worship another God.
Fifth, that God is worthy of our trust and obedience, no matter the cost.

These young men STOOD UP! They stood their ground, even at great risk to themselves!

King Nebu was ticked! He had them thrown into the furnace, and wanted to make an example of them. He thought he'd be rid of them, and everyone else would bow from that time forward...but he could not have expected, or even imagined what happened next.

"But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”

“Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.

“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”

Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!" (Daniel 3:24-27)

God had intervened!
He HAD delivered the 3 faithful servants!
He HAD done a miracle...and their faith was honored!

Nebu, fickle as he was, bowed down and worshipped the God of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego...he would not do so consistently.

The message for us?
Do NOT give in to pressure to worship other gods!
Do NOT give in to pressure to turn your back on the TRUE God!
Trust God, no matter how He answers your specific prayer!

Be they were faithful in the midst of tremendous pressure. Commit yourself to the Lord and He WILL come through!

Friday, March 23, 2012

"...but there is a God in Heaven..."

Daniel and his friends, young men who'd already endured alot, but had seen God intervene on their behalf when they'd "stepped out" (see previous blogs), were still in a hostile land. They had been given positions of some influence, but they were still young foreigners in a hostile environment.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, apparently had a bad dream one night, and decided to consult his 'inner circle'.

"He called in his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers,and he demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed. As they stood before the king, he said, “I have had a dream that deeply troubles me, and I must know what it means.” (Daniel 2:2-3)

He had a bad dream, and he wanted to know the meaning. Understandable...we've probably all had that experience.

So, he calls his trusted advisors and demands the meaning. Their response? 'Cool, we got this. Tell us your dream, and we'll interpret it.'

No good. He demands that they not only tell him the meaning, but first that they tell him his actual dream!

Perfectly reasonable, right?

Not surprisingly, they can' he threatens to kill every one of them--and all their partners in the kingdom--including Daniel and his friends--if they don't come up with answers.

Daniel responds like a man who's seen God come through before...

"When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, came to kill them, Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion. He asked Arioch, “Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?” So Arioch told him all that had happened. Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time to tell the king what the dream meant." (Daniel 2:14-16)

Daniel doesn't overreact, but instead goes personally to the source--the King (who remembers that these guys seem to be remarkable people). Perhaps God is intervening (again), moving the King to be lenient with Daniel...

Next, Daniel does the most important thing: He Prays, and he gets others to Pray: "Then Daniel went home and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened. He urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon." (Daniel 2:17-18)

...and God answered!

"That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven." (Daniel 2:19)

His response?
Praise and thanksgiving, of course!
“Praise the name of God forever and ever,
for he has all wisdom and power.
He controls the course of world events;
he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the scholars.
He reveals deep and mysterious things
and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
though he is surrounded by light.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors,
for you have given me wisdom and strength.
You have told me what we asked of you
and revealed to us what the king demanded.”
(Daniel 2:20-23)

Daniel goes to the king and says 'don't kill anyone...I'll tell you your dream.'

The King says 'Daniel--is it true? Have YOU figured it out'?

Daniel had an opportunity there...he could have claimed credit himself. He could've just said 'yes, I have' and gone on. But he didn't. He realized his limitations...

Daniel says, in essence, 'your request was crazy. No one on earth can do what you've asked'..."BUT there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets..." (Daniel 2:28)

The dream itself was about the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms, but the point from Daniel's perspective is this: THERE IS A GOD IN HEAVEN who knows all, sees all, can do all!

...and as long as Daniel and his friends continue to step out, pray, and serve Him in faith, God will continue to make them rise to the top.

Nebuchadnezzer would be wise to submit to this God!

Nebuchadnezzer's response?
"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. 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.”

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. 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 and his friends had--again--stepped into a posture of dependence on God. They had--again--been faithful to Him.
They had--again--given Him the credit and praise.

...and God came through for them and blessed them!

How about us?

Do we live our lives in dependence on Him, with a willingness to step out and serve whenever called upon?

Do we give Him public praise, credit and witness?

I believe He STILL wants to work in the lives of His people--even in the midst of a corrupt and increasingly hostile environment.

YOU and I can be like Daniel and his friends.

Let's do it--today!

Be Faithful!
Step Into the Action!
Give God praise, thanksgiving...and witness!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

THE Source of True Wisdom

There are a LOT of people who think they're wise in this world.

The key words there are 'think they're wise'.

There are a lot of statements and philosophies which pass as 'wise' in this world.

Just look at Facebook. Anybody that can click their fingers on a keyboard can type in any sentiment...and anyone with just a little more knowledge can combine it with a picture or video, and 'presto'! You've got a Facebook post that looks well polished, and may come off as 'wise' according to the standard of this world...but ultimately is utter foolishness. Add a couple "Likes", and it can pass as 'profound truth'!

That does NOT mean it's real "wisdom".

Who am I to say that, you ask?


My 'wisdom' is no better than someone else's. I'm just a guy.

However, the Source that I have for Real Wisdom is not just another 'philosophy'. The Source for Wisdom that I have is the Word of God.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Where does real 'wisdom' come from? From the Lord!

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)

That willingness to humble ourselves before the Lord--to pay Him reverence and ultimate respect--is where it first begins. (After all, if I can't admit my need enough to humble myself before HIM, I don't have much hope for ever gaining real 'wisdom'.)

In contrast, the 'wise guys' of this world follow their own philosophies, which lead to their own (ultimately destructive) ways...and unfortunately, can bring others down with them.

"So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength." (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)

Essentially, you and I have a choice that we make every day--usually without even thinking about it: Will we submit to the Word of God (and therefore, receive God's wisdom), or will we submit to the 'wisdom' of this world and the philosophies of our day, and thereby cut ourselves off from God's wisdom?

"When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.

But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means." (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

What is YOUR source of Wisdom? Are you listening to the right source, or the wrong one? Are you speaking it out, and directing people to the Lord, or are you (unwittingly) directing them to the man-centered philosophies of this world?

You and I not only have a choice of where WE turn, but we also have influence on where OTHER people turn...

Choose Wisely!



When you Step Out, GOD Steps In! (Strong Tower)

Daniel and his friends were teenagers. They had been forcibly removed from their homes as their country was overthrown, and had been sent to a foreign country (Babylon--modern day Iraq).

As "nobles", they were the ones who would have carried on the leadership, religion and culture of Israel...but when Israel was overthrown, Babylon did not stop with military victory, but tried to wipe out Israel's culture (as was common then). They did this by 'indoctrinating' the young leaders into the ways of their own culture.

They taught them the history, culture, and even the religion of Babylon. They dressed them in the clothing of thier culture.
They even gave them new "Babylonian" names (trying to really target their very identity as Israelites and Jews!).
Finally, they fed them 'Babylonian' food.

The plan was to do all this for a period of 3 years. In this way, Babylon would virtually wipe out the culture of Israel and Judah.

...but they didn't account for 2 things: God, and some young men who would not capitulate!

Daniel and his 3 friends, Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah were committed to NOT forgetting.

They were NOT foolish, and they were NOT simply 'obstinate'...if they had been, they'd probably have been killed. Rather, they were wise.

Culturally, they learned about Babylon. They learned about the history, wore the clothing, even took the names of Balteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.

...but Daniel led them and "he determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king." (Daniel 1:8)

So, why was the food a big deal?

Was it because Daniel and co. were vegetarians? No.
Was it because they couldn't eat any of the meat and other Babylonian dishes? Not necessarily.

It was because food at the King's table would have already been sacrificed to their Babylonian 'gods', and dedicated to them. Therefore, for Daniel and co., it would have been like they--themselves--were submitting to them.

This would not do.

Ultimately, it wasn't about culture or customs; it was about GOD--the True God of Israel, Yahweh!

They could not allow themselves to give up on HIM!

Therefore, they proposed that they'd be allowed to avoid the food. Normally, there would be no discussion...the answer would be "No!", but it says in Daniel 1:9, "Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel."

Daniel and co. were stepping out on faith...and God was stepping in!

Because of this attitude toward Daniel, the Chief of staff said 'yes' to a 10 day vegetarian trial period...and at the end, Daniel and co looked better than all the other guys, who'd eaten the "King's food"!

God didn't stop there...
"God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.

When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom." (Daniel 1:17-20)

So, what can we learn from this?

Is it that a vegetarian diet leads to divine enablement?

Is it that God will always move non-believers in our direction, if we step out in faith?
no, although He often will.

Is it that I will be given the ability to interpret dreams if I go on a 'Daniel Fast'?

So, what?

Simply this: If you and I refuse to matter how great the pressure around us, God will notice, and God will bless us.

He will be faithful!

There may be specific times, within His sovereign will, that He does not deliver us, but even then, He's at work (see Joseph's story in Genesis).

Bank on it: If You 'Step out' in faith, God Will 'Step In' to the situation!

He will be your "Strong Tower", in the midst of the trials!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Daniel 1: REFUSE to compromise!

What defines YOU?

When others think of you, what comes to mind? Are there principles, beliefs, or values which are 'foundational' to the way you live?

I don't know about you, but when my life is nearing the end, I want to look back and know that I lived in such a way that everyone who knew me was clear on what I was 'about'.

For me, the number one thing--above all--is my relationship with God, through Jesus Christ.

What about you? What are you living for?

In the Old Testament, we read about Daniel, a great man of God, who lived and uncompromsing and faithful life, even as the world around him changed dramatically.

The story starts out when Daniel is a teenager. The Babylonians come in and conquer Israel and Judah. They strategically take some of the best and brightest of the young people and take them away from home, family, everything they know. They take these teens and deport them to Babylon. There they begin to systematically re-program them. They change their names. They change their education. They try to change their diets.

"{the king's servant}was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service." (Daniel 1:4-5)

Interesting thing about a name: Even though names are important, they can't really define you. I had lots of 'nicknames' as a kid: the Captain, Root, Cheese, (all strange, I know)...but the nicknames didn't change me. They couldn't change who I was internally.

Daniel's name is changed to a Babylonian name: Belteshazzar. His friends are also given Babylonian names--each one at least partly representing a Babylonian god.

"Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego." (Daniel 1:6-7)

But the name couldn't change who they were on the inside.

Daniel and his friends were also given Babylonian education. They were to be indoctrinated into the philosophy, mindset and values of Babylon. The 4 friends apparently went along with the education, but--again--it didn't 'define' them.

(Important principle: If we teach our young people at a young age the truths about God, His Word, and faith, and IF they internalize it, then being exposed to other philosophies does not have to undermine it--they can be strong!)

The third way that Daniel and his friends were to be 'indoctrinated' into Babylon--and changed at thier core--was through their diet. This is where they drew the line...and I'll write about that next time.

In the meantime, take a step back, and think about these guys. Teenagers--perhaps 14 or 15. Their parents may've been killed, they were kidnapped and transported to a hostile land. They are threatened with death at any time if they misplease the king, or step too far out of line.

Everyone on earth would 'understand' if they went along. "What choice did they have?", we'd say. "They couldn't risk dying for it!"

Yet, they did!

These 4 young men risked everything, in a hostile environment, with all the odds 'stacked against them', they did not compromise.

They stood up for what they believed in. More specifically, they stood up for WHO they believed in--the God of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob...they God their parents had (apparently) taught them about. The God THEY believed in.

They literally put their lives on the line in order to stand for this God.

...and how did it go for them?

You can read about it in Daniel 1, or you can 'tune in next time'!

In the meantime, consider: What "defines" you?

Will you follow Him, and REFUSE to compromise--like they did?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Valor--do YOU have it? (Especially for men!)

I just watched "Act of Valor" with my sons. (SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't seen it, but plan to, don't read this--come back after you watch it!)

Good movie, but not for the faint of heart! This is a movie made with actual Navy Seals, using actual training and mission tactics. Pretty intense stuff! (FYI, the Phrase "Navy Seal" derives from the environments they are trained to conduct their missions in--Sea, Air, and Land.)

It'a actually written from the perspective of one of the Seals, who writes a letter to the young son of another Seal. He is writing because the boys dad died on a mission. He threw himself on a live grenade in order to save his fellow SEALS...hence the name, Act of Valor.

Valor--one of those words, we only think of with respect to the military.

Certainly, it belongs there...even the very definition of it fits: "Valor: val·or:  boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle; heroic courage; bravery

Boldness. Determination while facing great danger. Heroic courage. Bravery.

Pretty cool stuff!
I would bet this is something we would ALL aspire to...the question is, is it realistic to think that YOU will display 'valor' when you're called upon?

While most of us would like to think that, the truth is that if we are not displaying any of these traits in the everyday 'training ground' that we experience, we will probaby NOT be 'valorous' when the pressure is on. do we 'train'? After all, there's not a lot of danger in our typical office cubicle. There aren't many threats in our typical suburban neighborhoods. Even our 'traffic jams' are, by comparison, tame.

So, how do we train? We learn to embrace the qualities that make for 'valorous' behavior. What are they?

Self sacrifice.
Self denial.
Living for a cause bigger than yourself.

Where can you learn these skills and practice these qualities?


For most of us, the most obvious place is at home. With your family.
Can you 'sacrifice' for them? Of course! There are virtually dozens of ways to do this every day...from giving up the remote, to folding socks, to cleaning up the messes, to paying the many ways to show self-sacrifice and self denial.

Granted, this won't make you a Navy SEAL...those dudes are awesome!

...but the qualities necessary for them to throw themselves on a grenade are qualities that you and I can demonstrate.

And--get this--there ARE 'dangers' that come into your home, that you may be unwittingly exposing your family to.

Dangers from what's on t.v.; dangers from music being listened to; dangers from values that are embraced, or from other visitors and friends. These dangers may be more 'spiritual' in nature, but they are dangers, nevertheless.

Will YOU step up? Will YOU protect your family? Will YOU 'throw yourself on the grenades' that come up?

Others may not understand...but you have to see differently. You may not be a Navy SEAL, but you ARE the protector of your family! You are the shepherd! You are the Leader!

...and this is how leaders train!

Let's go for it!

Pastor Dave