Archive for May, 2016

Daniel 4:1-18 (Part 1)

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream About a Tree

It is ironic that over the past 5 weeks that the Holy Spirit led me to have discussions about other religions with my small group. During these lessons, we have learned about the basic beliefs of the world’s other major religions other than our own Christian faith. This past Sunday, we wrapped up the series with a discussion of the new age movement and atheism. The aspect of this discussion that strikes me this morning as I read about Nebuchadnezzar’s next dream for Daniel to interpret. In Nebuchadnezzar’s monologue before Daniel about this dream, Nebby opens with a great praise for the God of Daniel but yet at the same time he gives credits to his own false gods for their spirit being in Daniel. I don’t know but that just struck me as the nature of the new age movement. The fashion together a belief system that takes bits and pieces of this religion and that religion and fashion it into a belief system that works for them. It is the religion of feeling good about ourselves, a religion of tolerance of all things, and a religion of moral relativism. This “religion” is a combination of Hinduism, Buddhism, and some aspects of Christianity. This is the religion of all roads lead to heaven. This is the religion that is OK with abortion but is angry over an ape being killed. This is the religion that cancels concerts in North Carolina but plays concerts in nations where gays are systematically discriminated against. This is the religion of the cause celebrity of the moment. This is the religion that supports how we feel as reality rather than accepting unchangeable truths of the universe. The age of new age religion stands for everything and believes in nothing. We are our own gods in the new age “religion”. Therefore, we determine that which is right for us so truth becomes a matter of perception. When we determine what is right for us, there can be no moral absolutes determined by someone or something outside ourselves. We are our own gods. We pick and choose and determine that which is right. Truth is perception. Truth can no longer be independent of the one who thinks of it in his mind. Truth is a construct that I develop in my mind while you develop it in yours. There is no truth independent of how each of us perceive it. Truth, that which is right and moral, cannot exist outside us. There cannot be truth without us defining it as truth. Truth is not universal. Truth is not independent and truth is certainly not determined by some higher power than ourselves. Therefore, that which is true can change. This is the world in which we live today. This is the world that Paul described in Romans 1.

 

Nebuchadnezzar would have been right at home in the religious landscape of the 21st century. He worshiped the gods of his culture’s own creation while adding the one true God among those he worshipped. New age thought today thinks that Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, the gods of Hinduism are all part of the pantheon of gods to believe. All roads lead to heaven. Everything is OK to believe in as long as it helps you get by in life and makes you happy. Nebby would have been fine with that. He would have been a new ager if he was alive today. Let us read today’s passage in Daniel 4:1-18 with particular attention to the first eight verses and the last verse:

 

4 King Nebuchadnezzar,

 

To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth:

 

May you prosper greatly!

 

2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

 

3

How great are his signs,

    how mighty his wonders!

His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;

    his dominion endures from generation to generation.

 

4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. 5 I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. 6 So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. 7 When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers[b] and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. 8 Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)

 

9 I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.

 

13 “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger,[c] coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.

 

“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times[d] pass by for him.

 

17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’

 

18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

 

Now, does Nebuchadnezzar’s thoughts in the verses sound familiar to the popular sentiments of our day. All roads lead to heaven. Your perception of God works for you so let me have my perception of God. Let me pick and choose from the menu of religions and see what of each one’s belief systems works for me and helps me self-actualize. In so doing, we become our own gods. We throw away the parts that we do not agree with personally for, as you remember, I determine truth. Truth to me is that as long as I do more good than bad, it does not matter what religion I espouse, I am going to heaven. There is no judgment in new age thought. We all get to go! We all get to go no matter what avenue of belief that you follow. Nebuchadnezzar would have loved that! He worshipped all his gods and God too. It all didn’t matter as long as it worked for him. He just wanted favor. He just wanted to be happy. Man, yeah, he would have loved the new age movement.

 

All other religions outside of Christianity are based on doing more good than bad so that you can go to heaven. It’s all about works. It is still the same with new agers. They believe that we can make ourselves divine by doing good deeds. Christianity is the only faith that is realistic about man and about God. Have you ever tried to make it through a day without and evil thought (for we will be judged for our thoughts just as much as our actions)? Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen anything and I mean anything? Have you ever had lustful thoughts about what you would do with that woman that just walked by in the skin tight jeans and low-cut top? Have you ever tried to keep bad thoughts about your friends and neighbors out of your head for a day? We are sin filled people. We have a sin nature. We cannot be good 100% of the time even when we try real hard. We commit sins sometimes without even realizing it. So, if we cannot make it through a day without at least a sinful thought (much less our sinful actions), then how can we expect to go to heaven and exist in the presence of that which is perfect and holy – God. We cannot. From our first sin, we are no longer fit to be in his presence much the taints of imperfection and decay that each and every sin we commit over a lifetime lay upon us. One sin. One and done. We are finished. We are excluded. We need a Savior. That’s where the one and only way to the Father comes in. Jesus came to earth to live the perfect sinless life and He was able then to sacrifice Himself willingly on the cross for all sins of all mankind for all time, past, present and future. All you have to do is admit that you are powerless and sinful before a perfect God and that you cannot self-actualize yourself into heaven. All you need to do is admit that you need help from a perfect Savior. He is the one and only way. He is God in the flesh. He came to sacrifice Himself for your imperfections and sins. You need help. You cannot do it alone. We cannot make ourselves perfect. Only Jesus can do that through his covering of us in his perfection. There is no pantheon of gods to worship. Every way is not OK. Truth is independent of us and it is found in God and it is He who decides truth and justice. It is He who judges us for our sins. It is He that desires for us to have eternal life with Him though through His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 3:19-30 (Part 2)

The Blazing Furnace

When you were a kid on the playground at recess and there was always this one bully that was bigger than everybody else who tried to impose his will on everyone on the playground. He was usually bigger and just meaner than everyone. He got his way by physical threats. No one ever stood up to this guy. You know the type. They would challenge everyone they came in contact with and no one dared to accept their challenges. I remember back when I was in the fifth grade and we lived in Elgin, SC. Back those days, I was small, but fast, and from about age 10 til I quit playing basketball regularly when I got married at age 18, I was a pretty good basketballer. I was a pretty good outside shooter. I had to develop that skill since I was small. I was one of the go-to guys on any church league team I played on. Back in fifth grade, my skills on the court were honed by the physical battles on the backyard court with my taller brother. We would have some mighty basketball games that would last for hours that would grow evermore physical each time and would often end a fight. So, I knew about physical play on the basketball court.

 

So when the fifth grade bully challenged the new kid to basketball game one-on-one during the first week of school at my new school in our new town, I was ready. You know these challenges when you are the new kid on the playground. The bully has to figure out where you fit in the socio-political order of the fifth grade. I was smallish so he figured I could be one of those guys that he terrorized. That was going to be measured this day on a basketball court. In the first few days of school, I had seen how he played basketball. He was an intimidator. He hacked and fouled and chopped on people when he didn’t have the ball and would just bump and run you over when he did have. Then, it was my turn to be challenged to see where I fit in the Blaney Elementary School landscape. I knew I couldn’t take him on in his bump and grind game so I would bomb away from the top of the key everytime I got the ball. And, on defense, I would not let him bump away at me. I stood my distance from him until he was about to shoot and then I would lunge at his shot. I did this the whole game. First one to 20 won. That day, I won 20-10 with 10 made jump shots. Never went inside on him and still won. He kind of looked at me and said it was a stupid game and that I cheated. Now, having played hours on end with my brother in the backyard, and both of us being students of the game, I knew the rules. I knew I didn’t cheat. As a matter of fact, there was no mention of rules in this game with this bully. He was saying I cheated because I beat him and I didn’t let the game be played on his terms. Being the new kid vs. the old established kid, it was easier for the other kids to believe that I had somehow cheated. Of course, all the talk led to a rematch the very next day on the basketball court. This time, he started guarding me as soon as I would get the ball in this half court game. He would start bumping as soon I took the ball out at half court. Beating on me and hacking me at half court. He used this tactic to take get out to a 10-2 lead. Then I figured out, hey if he’s gonna meet me at half-court, and he outweighs me by 20-30 lbs., time to use my speed. I started blowing by him for easy lay-ups. Finally, I tied the game at 16-16. And, because of the playground rule of having to win by four, I finally won the game 24-20. From that day forward, Bo Wilhelm and I became not best friends (because he was just an arrogant jerk) but we were respectful of one another. He didn’t pick on me and I became accepted in the political landscape of 5th graders at my school as one of the guys. When we would have pickup games of any kind, he would acknowledge his respect for me by picking me if he was captain. He would never admit that I was his equal athletically but there was that look of respect that us guys give each other.

 

My backyard grinds of 4-hour basketball games with my brother where we would just bang and beat on each other til we were too tired to play anymore had prepared me for Bo. Challenge accepted. Challenge won. Respect gained. My life at Blaney Elementary School in the fifth grade and a Lugoff-Elgin Middle School the next year would have been a lot different if I had not won that challenge on the playground those two days. Although my brother and I would have some shouting matches and fist fights during our battles on the backyard basketball courts of our youth, it was that hammering grind that prepared me to meet the Bo-challenge in fifth grade and show him who the better basketballer was.

 

It is that idea of the big bully having to recognize that someone was better than him at something was the idea that came to mind when I read this passage, Daniel 3:19-30, again today. Let us look at Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction to the miracle in the fiery furnace as we  read it together here today:

 

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

 

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

 

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

 

25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

 

26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

 

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

 

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

 

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

 

 

Here again, we see Nebuchadnezzar singing the praises of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and Daniel. He had been shown up by the God of Israel twice now. He was the big bully on the block. He was the great and powerful emperor of the Babylonian Empire. The Babylonians were the bad-ass empire of the day and Nebuchadnezzar was the emperor. He was used to getting his way politically, and militarily. During those days, the empire was advancing and had won wars and conquered other nations. But, it is here, that he is again shown up by God Almighty. In his providence and might, God chose to demonstrate his power by sparing the lives of these three men. God suspended the laws of physics that he established for the world. Extreme heat and human flesh do not mix according to His long-established natural laws. He suspended these laws in this moment to demonstrate His greater power than one of the most powerful men on earth. It is like showing up the fifth grade bully on the basketball court. In this case, Nebby may not have ever come to believe in the one true God but he must have had to begrudgingly respect Him.

 

Then, what is the takeaway here for you and for me? We are not bullies. We are not emperors of pagan nations. I think the takeaway here is that no matter what God is greater than anything that we face. If He can raise Jesus from the dead, he is greater than anything that I obsess and worry about. If I am faced with a life-changing event, God is greater than that problem. If I am facing divorce, God is greater than my pain. If I am facing a change in my work situation and I do know what’s coming next, God is greater than my fear. If I am facing any seemingly insurmountable problem is greater than the literal and metaphorical bullies in my life and in my mind. All we have to do is trust completely in Him to deliver us through our troubled times. God has a tendency to show up and show out for those who trust Him. God has a way of demonstrating to us that it was only Him that delivered us. God has a way of showing those who oppress us that He is greater than anything that they can dish out at us. He demonstrates his power so that the bullies of our lives and minds must give begrudging respect to the great I AM. He is God and He is greater. He is bigger and better than anything our bullies can dish out at us. When the world is hacking and fouling us, He gives us the ability to hit the long range outside shot. When the world is bumping and beating on us from half court, He gives us the speed to get by it for the easy layup.

 

If you are suffering through hacking and fouling from the circumstances in your life or at the hands of the actions of others, be still and know that God will give you a way through it and will give you victory. All you must do is trust in Him and have eyes to see His glory on display through the way He leads you through your troubled times. The way through, the victory over the seeming and certain defeats of your life speak loud testimony of who our mighty God is. Others must then give Him respect and honor for what He has done through you. So, don’t give up. God will get you through this time of hacking and fouling and bumping and beating. He will give you the outside shot. He will give you speed for the layup. He will give you victory.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 3:19-30

The Blazing Furnace

Have you ever had a fiery furnace moment in your life? Those are the moments of life in which there is no other explanation for your deliverance from either certain death or certain defeat in some way than it being God who did it? We hear stories of how people on trial for their very lives are saved from the death penalty by a last second witness who can exonerate them. We hear stories of a person walking away from a wreck where the entire car is destroyed except for the seat and floorboard where they were sitting. We have heard stories where an employee was forced into a situation where to tell the truth would cost them their job and they end up being rewarded for their truthfulness when the company president finds out what has been going on. If we think hard enough about our past, we can find those moments in our memory where there is no other explanation that God saving us from certain destruction either physically or from destruction of our lives metaphorically speaking.

 

There are those of us who may not have these significant individual events where we are spared in some way but we do have stories of where there is no other explanation than God’s guiding hand in our lives. For Elena and me, that would have to be in how we ended up in Livermore, CA, which has to be one of the most pivotal places in our lives. I had been out in California on my own for about a year and a half when my new employer required me to quit flying home every few weeks and live permanently in California. Elena then had to decide to come live with me in California. When she did, she was able to get a transfer with her job from her company’s location in the Charlotte area to their facility in Stockton, CA. So, with me working in Santa Clara, CA which is about 60-70 miles away from Stockton, we had to find a place that was somewhere in the middle of those two cities to find us a place to live. I simply looked at Yahoo Maps for a place that was about equidistant between the two and found the town of Livermore, CA – a town that even though I had been living in the Baby area for well over a year I had never really noticed or even heard of. We found an apartment there without much problem. And it was there that our lives changed and set us on the path to where we are today. There is no other explanation that this was God’s hand. It was there in Livermore that Elena found her salvation and that I finally began growing up as a Christ follower. Even how we ended up at Livermore Alive Community Church is the stuff of God’s guiding hand after we had moved to Livermore. There is no other explanation for the sequence of events that landed us at that church. It was God. No other explanation. When I sit back and think of that sequence of events, it blows my mind. It all started with what I thought was a random town picked out on a map. It was God’s providential care of my life and that of Elena. There is no telling where we would be (or if there would have continued to be a “we” as the strain of a cross country relationship was taking its toll on us) if it were not for the requirement that I take up permanent residence in the Bay Area and the seemingly random dot on a map called Livermore.

 

This may not have been being saved from a fiery car crash. Our story may not have the flash and brilliance of someone taking a stand against evil at their office and then being miraculous delivered from certain firing. This may not be the miraculous recovery of a patient from certain death. However, it is our story and our testament to the power of God. Just thinking about the amazing things that happened in our walk with Christ as a couple and individually during that time in Livermore that prepared us for being at LifeSong Church and our lives back here in South Carolina since, it is nothing short of miraculous to me. It gives me chills when I think of putting my finger on map at the midpoint between Santa Clara and Stockton and the closest thing to it being Livermore. How important was that finger on the map. Not random to me. It was the hand of God.

 

It is an example and the stories you hear of people being miraculously saved from destruction teach us about the fact that there is a God that cares about us and that if we trust Him He will deliver us. Let us read about the fiery furnace in Daniel 3:19-30:

 

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

 

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

 

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

 

25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

 

26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

 

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

 

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

 

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

 

 

I think what amazes me here is that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego never wavered in their faith. They would not bow down and compromise their faith even if it meant their life. They knew that God would either physically deliver them or they would be celebrating at God’s feet in heaven after death. Wow, what confidence is that? What faith is that? They knew that God would save them or they would die and go to heaven. They did not fear death because they knew their destination. What freedom is that when we quit fearing things and begin trusting completely in God’s providence whatever that may be? In this case, it was God’s providence that they were to live and continue their influence over the Babylonian empire. They were saved by what many think was a Christophany, an appearance of the eternal Jesus Christ before He walked the earth in the flesh. They were protected. They were delivered. God was not done with them yet. These three guys though were at peace with it if God called them home at that moment. They trusted God with the outcome. How often do we obsess about the something that is about to happen on the horizon? How often do we fear dying even as Christians when we know that we are assured of a place at our Father’s feet? Why do we not live our lives without fear? Why do we live our lives like we about to lose all our toys? Why do we not trust in the Lord? Let us live lives to the max for Jesus and not to the minimum. God’s got our back. When are we going to trust that?

 

When I sit back and think on the finger on the map and see how God was guiding our lives to that pivotal place, the placed that was the necessary nurturing for where we are now. I am amazed. When I think about the intersection of that group of lives and families in Livermore at Livermore Alive Community Church I am in awe. What an amazing collection of people! And how that none of us are there in Livermore now some six years later. It was a moment in time orchestrated by God and no other. It was His providence that we were with that group of people at that place at that moment in time. That is as much a miracle to me as the fiery furnace. The finger on the map may as well been the finger of God.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 3:1-18

Nebuchadnezzar’s Gold Statue

There are times in our lives where we have negotiated with God, or at least we think we are.  Many can remember swearing to God at the porcelain throne that we will never drink again if God will heal our stomach. Many can remember swearing to God that we will go to church more regularly if He will get us out of a jam. Many can remember negotiating with God to get us into any kind of relationship with opposite sex during the depths of loneliness. There have been many soldiers who tell God that they will be better people if He just lets them survive the battle. Many can remember some impending legal trouble where we have looked up to the heavens and begged God to save us from it. Many can remember those promises that we make to God to get us out of something, into something or safely through something. Even those that are far from a relationship with God will recognize His existence in times of great stress or trouble. Most of the time, Hollywood portrays people as shaking their fist at God most of the time and glorifying it as good. However, just about every disaster movie ever made shows a scene where one or more of the characters cry out to God for His assistance. It is a universal experience of man that we cry out to God when we need Him to save us from something bad that is about to happen or to deliver us from a dark situation. We all have negotiated with God in some way or another, particularly before we come to know Christ as our Savior. We think of God as the god of last resort. When nothing else is working we resort to God. After the crisis is over, though, we return to our old behaviors where we are far from God. Look at the spike in church attendance after the events of September 11, 2001.

 

By some estimates, on the Sunday following the terror attacks roughly half of the adult population in the United States attended a religious service. But the attendance dropped off starting in November 2001. According to Barna Research, a polling firm that specializes in religious data, confirmed these assumptions in a poll 6 months after the attacks. When life levels back out for us and we have not made fundamental changes in our life patterns, we will drift back to our normal behavior.

 

Noticing Nebuchadnezzar’s actions in this passage compared to his reaction to Daniel’s description of and interpretation of his dream just a few short verses ago in Daniel 2:46-47 is what is amazing to me. When I read here in Daniel 3:1-18 today, I remembered all the times I have negotiated with God in the past only to return to my normal behavior within days after being delivered from the jam I was in. When I read of Nebuchadnezzar’s returning to his idol worship compared to His prostate worshiping of Daniel’s God in 2:46-47 reminded me of how people flocked to churches during the first few weeks after 09/11 and how attendance was back to normal within two months. Let’s read this passage one more time this morning:

 

3 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide,[a] and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

 

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

 

7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

 

8 At this time some astrologers[b] came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

 

13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

 

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar just a short time earlier had laid prostrate before Daniel for having identified and interpreted his dream. Because Daniel had stated that his abilities had come from the one true God, Nebuchadnezzar said, in Daniel 2:46-47:

 

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar had been deeply troubled by his vivid dream, his vision from God. He was “all in a tizzy” as we say in the South. When Daniel was able, through God’s power, to show him what it all meant, he was extremely thankful. However, here we are a short time later, and Nebuchadnezzar has seemingly forgotten all that he had said to Daniel previously. His glory given to God was now replaced with his normal behavior of idol worship much of which was because he was considered a god himself. He was worshipped as the supreme ruler of the great Babylonian Empire. So, to give credit to a God of great power far above his, was too much for him to take. Nebuchadnezzar reminds us of the cycles of obedience and disobedience of God’s chosen people Israel. They would cry out to God in times of trouble and then would descend into worshiping themselves when times were good. Does this remind you of 21st century man today? Nebuchadnezzar here is quite symbolic of who we are today in our own age.

 

We only give God credit when there is a crisis. Then, we return to our old ways. We return to our culture of friends in our usual playgrounds with our usual playmates. We are not willing to give up our idols of self-indulgence, our idols of greed, our idols of lust, our idols of self-defined morality. We only need God when there is a crisis. Otherwise, we are our own gods. We determine what is right and what is wrong. We determine what is best for us. We redraw the lines of right and wrong to encompass our desires being on this side of what is right. We rationalize our behavior as self-actualization. We rationalize away our sins because we love them. We define what was sin as no longer sin. We leave God out of the equation just so we can hang on to the lifestyle that we want to live. Admitting that there really is a God means that there is something beyond ourselves and that we are not in control of our own destiny. Admitting that there is a God means that there are moral absolutes. Admitting that there is a God means that there is an eternity and that there is judgment for our relationship with Him. Admitting that there is a God means admitting that there is sin and that there is a need for Jesus Christ. We would rather go back to our old ways and ignore God, until, of course, the next crisis. We seek fulfillment in our own desires always coming up empty. We seek fulfillment in people, in relationships, in sex, in alcohol, in drugs, in behaviors that are destructive for us. We see God as restricting our lives and we don’t want to give up our merry-go-round. We can’t see that running from God and the behaviors that we embrace in doing so are the very things that lead to the crisis lifestyle. One crisis to another. Poor choices. Ungodly choices. Bad results. Crisis. Cry out to God. Crisis averted. Repeat cycle.

 

That was my life before I met Jesus Christ at the cross and handed control of my life over to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is in the submitting of my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ that I found peace. Having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ did not restrict my life, it began to open my eyes to the fact that we are intended to worship Him. Through our obedience to Him and His Word, we actually gain the freedom and the peace that we have been searching for all through our lives. We are no longer on the merry-go-round. We are no longer on the roller coaster of coming close to God when we need Him to fix our messes and drifting away when we avert damage. When we submit our will to His, He helps us see that He is actually protecting us from destruction through our obedience to Him. He is a Father who wants what is best for us. When we submit our will to His and are reclaimed from our life of sin through the grace of Jesus Christ, we gladly align our will with His. We obey Him out of thanksgiving not out of a checklist religious mentality. We love God and want to please Him for what He has done for us through Jesus Christ. Until we truly meet Jesus and give it up to Him, we will see a relationship with God as having to give something up rather than the beginning of new life. Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t willing to give up control of his life to God because that would have meant giving up what he loved – his lifestyle of adulation, power, authority. How closely does your life align with Nebuchadnezzar? Do you see having a relationship with God as having to give things up and as some kind restriction on who you are? I was there once and it did not work out well. How’s it working for you?

 

Are you tired of the roller coaster? Are you tired of the crisis management lifestyle? Are you tired of being your own god and it not working so well? Are you tired of being Nebuchadnezzar? Come to the cross and get to know a relationship with Jesus Christ not religion? Come to know relationship rather than checklist religion? None of us can sustain checklist religion, but we can be sustained through a real relationship with Jesus Christ? Give your soul’s control over to Him. He will end the roller coaster ride. He will give you peace. He will free you from the crisis lifestyle. You will no longer have to cry out to Him because you know that He is there with you at all times. He waits for you at the cross. He loves you and wants a day-to-day relationship with you not some checklist you have to keep as if you are trying to please some remote, unapproachable god. Come in from the rollercoaster. Set your feet on the solid ground of Jesus Christ. He waits for you…Amen and Amen.

Daniel 3:1-18

Nebuchadnezzar’s Gold Statue

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew what you were doing is wrong but because you were with a crowd of people you did it anyway? We like to think that we have outgrown that as we mature and become adults. However, behavior learned when you are young is difficult to break. When I think back to my youth, I was always a chameleon. Joining in with the crowd to gain acceptance was my mode of operation. When I was elementary school kid that meant standing with the crowd making fun of some poor kid. When I was a teenager that meant doing something that might not be legal just to gain acceptance. You know the drill. We all have been there before. It is so much easier to join in with the crowd than stand against it and be singled out, laughed at, and shunned. As grown-ups, we face the same challenges in our day to day lives. It is easier to accept unethical behavior at work than it is to call it out and potentially lose a job or at least be blackballed for future promotions. It is easier to take the path of least resistance.

 

As Christians, I am afraid that we do this much too often in the public arena. For example, the majority of Christians remain quiet as we slide further and further into a society that glorifies behaviors that are clearly against Scripture. Case in point is the current uproar over gender identity and public restrooms or locker rooms. We as Christians for the most part may quietly say to ourselves that this is just plain out wrong but yet we say nothing in the public arena. Meanwhile, these behaviors become part of the culture and become acceptable over time. The line of acceptable behavior keeps getting redrawn and we say nothing. We take no action. We are afraid of being vilified in the court of public opinion particular when it comes to the very vocal and well-organized alternative lifestyles movement, colloquially known at the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) movement. The society has become so enamored with being considered cool and hip and progressive that it joins forces with this movement when issues arise. Rather than stand against the public push for “anything goes” and tolerance of all things, they are extremely intolerant of those who stand against those behaviors as being morally wrong. Certainly, we are to love our neighbors and not “go all Westboro Baptist” on the world but we are called by Christ to stand on His Word and not simply go along with whatever the world dishes out at us. My dad (and probably your dad too) use to say, “if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you join in with them?”

 

The LGBT movement has said that Christians are scaring people when we point out that we are opening the door, literally, to sexual predators being in the same bathrooms and locker rooms with our daughters, wives and sisters. They say that most transgenders are harmless people who were never hurt a flea. And, we, as Christians, will cower away and become afraid to speak out. That the public accepts this as a new normal bothers us but we feel we are being backwards and don’t want to stand out. Much of the time, it is because we have less confidence in our faith and more confidence in being accepted by the general wave of public opinion. We generally don’t understand our own theology well enough to take a stand. We generally do not read, study, and meditate upon God’s Word on a regular basis to take a stand. Without being grounded safely in God’s Word, we often accept behavior as consistent with Scripture when it is not. We don’t want to fight so we join. It is clear from Scripture that transgenderism is not normal. It is also clear that we should not shun transgenders. We are to love them just as we are to love all sinners so that we may draw them closer to the cross. However, even though we are to love transgenders, we are to work with them and help them see that their fascination is deep-seated emotional issue that requires careful and loving attention to get at the root of this rebellion of who we are designed to be.

 

Clearly, Scripture tells us, as probe.org states in the article found at  https://www.probe.org/what-is-a-biblical-view-of-transgendered-people-and-hermaphrodites/ that:

God’s intent for every male is to grow into masculinity, and for every female to grow into femininity. When that doesn’t happen, the culture has come up with new labels to describe something new and different: transgendered, transsexual. I believe God isn’t affected by these new labels nor does He have to honor them: He sees the people behind the labels as His precious, broken children. It’s only recently that the culture has tried to suggest that “a woman in a man’s body” and vice versa is a variation of what is normal and right. The biology of sex alone tells us that homosexuality (under which these other categories of emotional/sexual dysfunction should be put) is not normal. The Bible tells us (Gen 1:26) that God’s intent is heterosexuality, with definite boundaries between men and women in both appearance and behavior.

 

And the author of the article concludes the piece by saying:

 

You asked for sound doctrine; I can only respond with the wise and loving boundaries that God has established for sex (which is usually the issue here, right?). All sexual behavior is to be contained within marriage (see the many condemnations of fornication). Men are to act and appear as men, and women are to act and appear as women (Deut. 22:5). Even those born with genital ambiguity are expected to submit to His boundaries. I realize this is a very politically incorrect perspective in a sex-saturated culture that declares sexual expression is a right for everyone. But it isn’t. God wants every person, regardless of their genital or chromosomal condition, to submit his or her sexuality to Him and to glorify Him in whatever state we find ourselves.

 

It is clear that we as Christians must submit to God’s leadership in this area and stand on Scripture. But before we do, we must examine our own sexual behaviors and submit our lusts, our affairs, our porn addictions and so on to Him and repent of these sins while we counsel those that feel they are in the wrong bodies. God designed us to be males and females attracted to one another and express our sexual desires to one another in the marriage bed. It is from this design that God intended families to be created and to ensure that line of man will continue. That is God’s plan. That the species cannot be continued through alternative lifestyles is clear that it is not part of God’s plan as well. Cosmetic surgery and feelings do not change chromosomes. Saying that Bruce Jenner is a woman does not change the fact that he can never menstruate, ovulate, and bear children. Alternatively, a woman who says that she feels like man does not change the fact that she can never father a child by generating sperm to fertilize a female egg. Feelings do not change scientific facts designed by God. Therefore, we should counsel those who live alternative lifestyles toward the cross and allow the Holy Spirit to do His thing. We should stand on the validity and the timeless nature of God’s Word and not simply accept the ever-changing boundaries of man’s moral landscape. The boundaries are clear and defined in God’s Word. Just because we have the ability to stick our hand on a hot burner does not mean we should do it. God’s Word guides in all areas of life and teaches us that though we can certainly do certain things in our free will but He protects us from what He knows is bad for us when we obey His Word. He is a good, good Father who wants to protect us from those things that will turn us away from Him and destroy us in the process.

 

However, most of us will simply fail to use these situations as opportunities to witness in love to those of transgender lifestyles. We would rather be seen as part of the hip-now-wow crowd that is accepting and glorifying such behavior because it’s hip and it’s cutting edge. It takes guts nowadays to stand up against this tide as it rushes over us. We would rather blend in and worship the idol of total tolerance of any behavior than we are willing to stand up and stand out. We would rather worship this idol than suffer the consequences of the intolerance of the tolerance movement. We would rather not stand on principle because we do not want to lose our boats, cars, 3,000 square foot homes, and our vacations at the beach. We would rather be quiet and just accept the coming tide. We would rather watch our 70” inch televisions and complain that the world is going to hell in a handbasket than we are willing to stand up against the tide of public opinion.

 

Having the trust in God to stand up against a command that we know to be against God’s commands is what we see in Daniel 3:1-18 today when we read:

 

3 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide,[a] and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

 

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

 

7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

 

8 At this time some astrologers[b] came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

 

13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

 

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood their ground in not submitting to the decree to worship an idol. They did not care what it would cost them. They trusted in God completely. They knew that either God would spare them from death or they would find themselves in heaven at their Master’s feet. They lived in complete and total trust in God. They would not compromise their principles just to keep their cushy lifestyle. They had good jobs and lived in the emperor’s palace. They had it good. However, they knew that this blessed life they were living came from God and not from man. They were not willing to swallow what was against God’s commands just to get along, just to fit in, just to keep their income coming in. They would not throw their faith under the bus just to get by.

 

So, here we are in the 21st century facing similar circumstances. Do we stand up and say that we that the new normal is not normal. Do we stand up to the court of public opinion? No one is doing the talking but the LGBT movement. We are silent. We are afraid. When no one else is doing the talking, the public is going to drift toward the noise of those who are saying that a daffodil is a rose because we say it’s a rose even though everyone looking at the daffodil knows deep down that it’s a daffodil. No one is willing to say it’s a daffodil because we would rather just keep out boats, our new cars, our jet skis, our country club access, and our vacation home at the beach. May we one day have the guts of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to stand up and scream, “IT’S A DAFFODIL!”

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 2:46-49 (Part 2)

Nebuchadnezzar Rewards Daniel

One of the things that Elena and I have learned over the past 5 years of leadership at our church is that when it comes to major church events that you have to break down these events into their component parts and then assign leaders to those component parts. For example, the biggest event that our church puts on each year is what we call the Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway. At that event, we give away around 500 complete Thanksgiving meals to needy families in our area. It is different from what most churches do where they invite people to their church for a prepared meal (which of course is a big undertaking itself). What we do differently is that we give a family a turkey and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal that they can take home and prepare themselves and have a Thanksgiving meal in their own home with their own family. We also give away coats or blankets to these families as well. We allow them time to sit in our worship auditorium and relax after they get inside our doors. While there, they are given coffee and snacks and they hear a message of welcome and from the word of God from one or more of pastors. They then are called in groups of ten or so and they go the prayer tables for individual prayer with our prayer team. Then they move onto selecting coats, then being given the grocery bags full of meal fixings and then on to the refrigerated truck to get their turkey. It’s a different twist to helping the less fortunate.

 

It is a major undertaking at our church and requires much planning and many people. The event is so big that it would be overwhelming if you did not break it down into smaller functional areas and assign leaders to those areas. If you tried to do it all yourself, you would fail miserably. We had to identify the functional areas. They included Coat Donation/Giveaway, Food Donations, Event Day Food Distribution Logistics, Worship Center Logistics (Set-up & Tear-down), Media Team, Parking, Security, Guest Registration, Hospitality Team, Prayer & Counseling and a Troubleshooting Team. As you can see, it is a major church event with many moving parts. As they say, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. The event is huge and you have to gather a team of people to lead each of the areas mentioned. You have to manage these people but let them do the detailed work in their areas of responsibility. I thought of the Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway when I read the second half of the passage that we started reading yesterday. Let us then read what Daniel did when he was appointed ruler over the province of the capital city of the Babylonian Empire in Daniel 2:46-49:

 

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

 

48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.

 

After being named ruler over the whole province of Babylon, the capital city of the empire and one of the largest cities in the world at that time, and being placed in charge of all the wise men in the emperor’s palace, Daniel requested that his companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, be appointed as his assistants to help him carry out his massive responsibilities. Daniel knew he could not handle all these responsibilities by himself. He knew he needed capable assistants so he chose the best men he knew. A competent leader never does all the work alone but knows how to delegate and supervise. Before Daniel, Moses realized with the advice of Jethro that he could not manage be the judge of disputes for the whole nation of Israel by himself. Not only would he wear himself out but there would be this continual huge backlog of cases to be heard. He broke the justice system of Israel down into levels where only the most complex cases rose to his level for hearing (see Exodus 18:13-27). Daniel had the humility to know that he could not carry out his responsibilities all by himself. There was not enough time and there were administrative tasks for which he was not suited to perform because he was not talented in that way. He was responsible for it all but he delegated those parts of his job where he (1) did not have time to do them himself and/or (2) did not have the expertise to do the job well. It takes humility to be a good leader. You must be able to take responsibility for the whole smash of things that you have been assigned but yet select people to assist you and trust that they will do they job under your leadership.

 

There is a lesson here for us all from both a practical and a spiritual standpoint. From a practical standpoint, there is a lesson in leadership here. We must understand that often we will be given large tasks to accomplish and we may feel overwhelmed by them, maybe even to the point of giving up and saying that you can’t do it. However, big tasks are simply a collection of small tasks acting together in concert. Any time we are assigned a big project, study it. See what its smaller tasks are. And then we must have the humility to understand that we need help. The failure of many people in leadership positions is that we fail to realize that we need help or are unwilling to say we need help. Big projects are often humbling experiences. But they can be oh so rewarding when we you pick the right team members and they all work together toward the goal and accomplish it. Those are the high five times. When you have lead a group of people to accomplish a major task and it comes off almost flawlessly (and you compensated for the flaws of the plan), there is no more satisfying experience than that. It first starts with realizing that the task is too big for you alone.

 

From a spiritual perspective, the lesson here is that we must be humble and trust in the Lord to help us to overcome major obstacles. The project of managing a large city and also the emperor’s wise men where no one had been in charge of these things before was daunting task. He had to create structure where they had been not been any before. These are the times that we learn humility before the Lord. When we are overwhelmed by the circumstances of our lives, that is when we are most teachable. We must realize that we are not in control. We must realize that we need help from the Lord. When we realize that we are not in control of the universe but that God is, we have started down the road of spiritual maturity. When we realize that we are dependent on God to handle our lives, it makes it easier for us to go to him in prayer. It makes it easier for us to have a relationship with Him when we are not trying to be our own god and manage our own lives. We are but men and He is God, the mighty eternal One. When we learn humility before the Lord, we are ready to be matured by Him into what He has intended for us all along.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 2:46-49 (Part 1)

Nebuchadnezzar Rewards Daniel

A while back, I wrote about the fact that where I am today can be traced back to a decision in April 2008 to accept a request to go to California to continue my consulting gig at America Fujikura, Ltd. (AFL). Otherwise, my consulting work there would have ended and I would have had to wait for the consulting firm that I was attached to at the time to find me another consulting project. It was a tough choice but one that was between continuing the consistent stream of income or waiting days or weeks or months until my next consulting assignment. That decision more than any other has determined the course of my life over the last 8 years. To some this might be just a fork in the road. To some this might me a simple decision tree branch. To some this just shows you the randomness of life where one decision made with only 24 hours of thought controls your destiny. However, to me, I give all the credit to God. It was his guiding hand. Even though I had been a Christian since accepting Christ as my Savior in December 2001, I was a spiritual baby, not really wanting to know Jesus in a deeper way and certainly not growing. Even then, God was guiding my life. He knew what He had in store for me with that decision. It was His Holy Spirit influence that led me to accept the continuation of my consulting project with AFL by heading out to California in 2008. That decision changed my life forever.

 

It was while I was in California that I learned about that relationships that last are more about friendship than they are about sex. Because of the continent between us, my girlfriend Elena (who later became my wife) and I had to learn to be friends and it deepened that part of our relationship and made us see the value of one another to each other far beyond the bedroom. Previously, in my life, I had always made sex the measuring stick of a relationship and well that turned into two failed marriages. It was while in California that my job became permanent. It was then that Elena joined me there and we thought we were randomly choosing a town to live in called Livermore, CA. It was there that a couple randomly left a door hanger on our apartment door about an event at their church. They had one more door hanger and were drawn up to the third floor of our building where we lived instead of leaving the door hanger on a first floor apartment. It was there where we used that hanger to find what would be our church home. It was there that we met Luke Brower, pastor of that church, and his wife, Felisha. These guys were so instrumental in challenging me to be more than a pew-sitting Sunday morning baby Christian and guided Elena to the cross. It was there that we were challenged to trust God and do things God’s way. Two people burned by divorce probably would have never trusted the Lord enough to make the marriage leap had we not encountered Luke & Felisha Brower. It was there that we were nurtured into being on-fire followers of Jesus Christ. It was there that we were prepared for our return to South Carolina to where we became part of our current church and where we have been molded in leaders and more mature Christians under the leadership of our senior pastor, Jeff Hickman, and the other elders on staff there. It has been under the LifeSong leadership that my desire to pursue pastoral ministry has been nurtured. It has been here that we have learned that ministry takes many forms. It has been here that we have learned that our lives are our ministry and that we are on-mission every moment of our lives. It is here that we have learned that we are missionaries where we live, work, and play. All of it can be traced back to that decision in April 2008 to go to California.

 

I would like to take credit for all these things myself, but when you sit back and look at what has happened since that April 2008 decision to go to California, there is no doubt in my mind that it was God’s providential hand in it all. I share my story here as often as I can because it is clearly evident that God was behind it all. We have pivotal moments in life that we can see the Holy Spirit and His influence on our lives. What God had in store for us was based on that April 2008 decision. I was overwhelmed that night that I had to mull over that decision with the feeling that I needed to go. I had never made my home anywhere outside South Carolina prior to that decision. I had turned down opportunities in other states previously because of fear of being away from everything that I know here. However, that night, there was something (think Holy Spirit) that made me feel OK at that point in my life about saying yes to the idea. It was God’s action in my soul through the Holy Spirit. He knew what He had in store for me. He knew that He was going to change me forever by the events that would follow.

 

Giving God the credit for these things, these wonderful things (though there have tough times since) that have happened because of that decision. I have been blessed in so many ways by that decision and all that followed that one decision. To say that it was me would be so wrong. It was God’s providential hand. No doubt in my mind. So, to Him, I give the glory not myself. To Him, I look and say wow! To Him, I am in awe.

 

My own life experiences and how I now give God the glory for the way He has guided my life is what I thought of this morning when I read how Nebuchadnezzar honored Daniel’s God in his response to Daniel’s interpretation of his dream in the previous passage. In the previous passage, Daniel gave God all the credit for giving Him the ability to know and interpret the emperor’s dream. Daniel could have easily given all the credit to himself before the emperor, but he did not. He gave the glory to God and it was through doing so that Nebuchadnezzar learned of the one true God. It is through my own life experience that I can speak loudly of the one true God. Let us then read what Nebuchadnezzar has to say about our God in Daniel 2:46-49:

 

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

 

48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.

 

Nebuchadnezzar honored Daniel and Daniel’s God. If Daniel had taken the full credit for himself, the king would have honored Daniel only. Because Daniel gave credit to God for his abilities, the king honored both of them. Part of our mission in this world is to show non-believers what God is like. We can that by acts of love and compassion and by pointing out we trust God with the history and future of our lives, they will want to know more about this God we talk about. When you point out God’s guiding hand in your life instead of viewing it as random, unrelated activities, we take the focus off ourselves and put it on the one true God, the Maker of all Things, the Creator, the Loving God who is so vast and mighty but yet cares about each one of His creations, you and me. So, let us give God the glory for the things that He does in and through us so that the world can see and know of this mighty and glorious God that we serve.

 

Amen and amen.