“Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions”
The king had long since named these boys by other names. Within the halls of their governments within the classrooms of their schools and all the other public places they appeared these were their names. But at home where they still worshiped the God of Israel they chose to refer to each other by their names that honored Him.
It wasn’t so much an act of defiance against the king. It was actually more an act of alliance with the KING.
I find a great number of people that want to appear religious publicly, yet in their private lives do they really seek to follow him? It’s a hard question because often I can’t even answer it in my own life. It is easy to be concerned about perception of others instead of truly looking into the core of my heart.
Later these three young men are going to be thrown into a fiery furnace as they are thrown in their names the king had given them will be found in the text. But we know deep within them their real names are still born in their character. The flames will make that clear. What will the flames make clear in your life. The flames of trials, affliction and other challenges?
“Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions”
I love hunting because it gets me out into the woods. I have always enjoyed being in the woods, but there were times when it was scary. When you hunt you get to carry a gun so a walk in the woods isn’t nearly as scary. One of the extreme joys of walking in the woods is finding something you never expected to find: an antler, an old bottle, a long lost knife or perhaps best of all a hidden meadow filled with a golden arrangement of flowers kissing the morning sunrise.
Surprised by beauty, you are glad to be alone. Nothing needs to be said, and you have no one to interrupt the moment. The stillness and wonder capture your mind and years later you can still close your eyes and see the photo album of memories discovered. Part of the magic is the path that led there was narrow, and didn’t give you the clue of the full wonder that was only just ahead!
This is the marvel of walking with God. The path is often so narrow that only one can walk and that one is you. It is lonely and often scary, but there are wonders along the way that can’t be missed so the journey calls. It is not a journey to rush forward, but to explore. God has much to show you about Himself, but perhaps even more about you. There is something strange about coming to see yourself as God does. At first it seems like something you would never want to see, but truly no view is better than God’s view, even if it is the view of you.
The marvel of God’s path is that it provides you views of things you before thought irreconcilable as redeemed. The cross can make things before that were ugly now beautiful. God’s grace has a transforming property that is really beyond our comprehension or understanding. That transformation often is found through a journey within a path of great restriction that ultimately opens to a wide area. Without the restriction (read narrow way) the wide place would not be. The “narrows” of life can cause me to be frightened, but the reputation of our Guide brings peace as I trust Him to bring me out to a place of wide beauty.
The trouble with being God is people expect more from you. I read these two verses during my Bible reading today. “Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.” (Acts 14:18–19) First the people thought Paul and Barnabas were gods, then they stoned Paul because they didn’t like his preaching. Tough crowd! A dynamic is clearly visible: People are hard to please! Yet, underneath this obvious reality is a second: People’s expectations of God differ greatly from who He is and from what He does. Paul & Barnabas were not gods, and yet their message was from God. Just think, the crowd that stoned Paul was closer to understanding than the one that wanted to offer Paul a sacrifice! Understanding what God is up to in your life is not always easy to grasp and is seldom easy to accept.
All this is invaluable to the person who is seeking to live for God.
Lesson 1: Just because everyone likes you doesn’t mean that you are doing what God wants you to do. Evaluate your decisions not for what the crowd thinks, but for what God wants. Paul & Barnabas could have gone with the flow, but they knew God was holding them to a much higher standard as Truth Tellers of the new truth “Salvation in Christ.”
Lesson 2: Stay true to what God has for you and He will provide opportunities that you would have never imagined. Climbing out from underneath a pile of rocks Paul was a great blessing and incredible witness to the young church there. Okay he did have the stoning on the front end, but God provided through it and perhaps even greater to Paul than we can imagine (see 2 Cor. 12).
The most profound truth to me though is how close these two events happen to each other. Life is a turbo powered mixer, and catching your breath can sometimes prove challenging. I am rather grateful that I am not god. He can have all the challenges with running the universe. I am happy to just trust Him today, and follow His plan for my tomorrows. I want to “ACCEPT” rather than “EXPECT” from Him. We so often want to hold God up to our plans instead of His leading. The great things God has for us often come wrapped in “paper” that we don’t at first like. It is in the accepting we find grace.
The first day I sat down in my truck I hardly noticed the spider web that covered my head. Then the second day I felt the spider run for cover on the top of my head before I could get my hand to him. The third day it was still dark and I ate some of the web. The fourth day I held the door open and saw the web clearly in the morning sunlight. I smiled and removed the web. The next day it wasn’t there. Mr.or Mrs. Spider (not sure who does the spinning) had given up, died or just moved away. I won’t say I miss the web, but it did get me thinking about how frustrating life can be at times.
Doing all kinds of stuff and for some reason or reasons nothing good comes of it. Who’s the giant in your world that keeps tearing down your webs? I can imagine some might even blame the frustrations on God being against them. Everyone’s circumstances are different, but often we have chosen the wrong places to try and get ahead. We have chosen a place that is far removed from where God really wants us to live and influence. We have chosen a place where God’s protection is most visible by his frustrating our plans. He is essentially protecting us from our own self destruction.
Everyone who claims God as Savior wants Him to be involved in their lives until His involvement is a “NO” to our plans. We don’t want God messing with our future. What if what we think is a future is really a dead end? What if God keeps stopping us before we can see the bridge is out? Would a kind God sometimes stall us miles before the road ends in a gracious redirect? “Well sure, just be sure and tell me so!” But, where does faith come into this scene?
We want God to only mark the road with speed limit signs and never stop signs. Yet His way is far more complete. Often God first takes away our plans before revealing His. The process not only gives us direction, but more importantly it builds within us maturity. See God is even more concerned with what we are becoming than with where we are going. He is seeking to make us heaven ready. By the way, it is a lifetime project. He has the time, and He will give you the time He needs.
We love verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” The reality is the people of God were not very open to these plans (go back and read the whole chapter if you don’t believe me). They were like a patient in need of major surgery who felt fine. Yet, the Doctor knew better. Following God demands a faith beyond my reason and desires at times, and sometimes He takes down my webs for my good.
On the limb above me he chattered. I was in complete camouflage with a face mask and gloves, but he knew I didn’t belong. I enjoyed our conversation, but I think he was displeased. It was a simple thing, but a treasure.
There are often treasures in life that have very little monetary value but warm a heart and bring a smile. I have been reading of becoming more aware of them through the writings of Ann Voskamp. I must admit I play the part of the squirrel far too often. I chatter and moan about the interruptions that take up my world. Things that are out of place and I don’t think belong are an irritation and I bristle at the thought of having to put up with them.
I ask forgiveness endlessly for my chatter in the face of such blessings. One of the great values of hunting for me is that it leads me into a place where I can see treasures, but that I can’t talk or they will disappear. I sat still recently for over two hours while hen turkeys moved through and even napped within a few feet of my location.
I get paid for talking in part, but I remind people that preachers are not paid for overtime especially at noon on Sunday. Talking when there should be stillness is like the pig with the gold ring. Whatever the beauty that could be the smell prevents the seeing. Words can stink even when they are true. They tend to spoil and rot when piled up needlessly.
These are the words that get in the way of hearing God. They can echo so loud that one can’t hear the whisper of the near God. God’s words are so valuable that sometimes He doesn’t repeat them for the noisy soul. Noise is often the byproduct of the heart that is troubled with life’s challenges.
David was fleeing Jerusalem with Absalom closing in to take over the city. All David’s men are noisy, but somehow David’s soul is still. The catatonic scenes rise in volume until Shimei is shown dusting David with rock and cursing. Enough shout David’s men, but David calm still speaks, “It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good” (2 Sam 16.12).
Clearing the noise both outside and from within is not an easy task. It is a discipline that many think is unnecessary or impossible. I have not perfected it, but I am learning to admire it. I think its admiration is part of its learning. The strange function is that silence to the noise does not yield immediate answers.
Truth is this, some things learned cannot be taught, but are learned only by experience. My children teach me this all the time. I see them doing things I used to do, but no longer, and I am glad, but I cannot give them a reason. I am not frustrated by this. I understand now better the value of aging.
Perhaps we can find stillness in more moments by listening with more than just our ears but even our souls. It is scary to be this vulnerable with God on the loose. Yet, I am sure He can be trusted to speak what we really need to hear.
Sunday afternoon, Brad and I went to collect some firewood. The winter just doesn’t want to give up. With a bed full of wood we drive around just to see if there are any birds out. A large group of toms run from the field into the pasture that I have permission to hunt. I look at my watch and tell Brad, “I’m going to be here tomorrow.”
Daybreak I am watching a group of three tom’s strut, but I can’t wait as Leon is heading out of town and I want to see him. I’m planning on going to Kelly’s this afternoon, but the clock won’t move fast enough. It is only 11, but maybe they will be there early. I go ahead and drive out to where we saw the birds yesterday. I put out a full flock of birds, a tom, a jake and two hens. Just before noon a hen yelps behind me and walks through the decoys and on out to the south. Maybe she will bring in the rest of the birds. A half hour later she returns, and moves in close. Not more than a few feet from me but I can’t see her behind a limb that is hanging from the fallen tree that is serving as my backstop. I finally get my head twisted around and I can see her. She is laying down taking a nap about 10 feet from where I am uncomfortably watching. I slowly move to a slightly better stance and hear another bird behind me. It’s a second hen and she too moves into the 10-20 foot range and takes a nap with the other bird. It’s about 1:30.
My rear end is about as stiff as can be and it’s been over an hour. I check my phone it’s 2:45. I’m close to paralyzed. I p
op a knuckle and the birds stand at attention. After about ten minutes they begin to calm back down, but I have to move or I am going to die. My leg spasms from a cramp, and the birds crane their necks to get a better look. They start to cluck. I fear I am busted after over 2 hours of stillness. Behind me I hear a high pitched “put, put, put”. I groan another hen. But alas a flash of black moves to my left peripheral. A
nice tom is strutted up next to the decoy. I decide to just swing and shoot before the hens see me. Down he goes and I struggle to my feet with a frozen knee and the other leg asleep. I never even see which direction the hens went, but I role over the tom to see a great pair of spurs. It takes more time to get the blood back into my limbs then it does to gather the decoys, but I have the finest trophy yet in my career.
now that is a great word. It is the central word of the Christian hope and message. Jesus resurrected from the grave. More importantly he validated God’s promise of complete forgiveness.
Resurrection is used to describe many things, but really only one resurrection has ever truly occurred. Back from the grave, buried, bundled, and with a boulder guarding the entrance, Christ explodes the power of death and comes forth. His disciples can’t believe it, Mary is confused, the Jews are making up stories, and the Romans are embarrassed. It all is way outside of anyone’s plans or imagination.
Two thousand years softens the force of the word, but not the reality. Many today think it myth or legend. Most just ignore it as even a possibility. Yet, consider if Christ did, if this Jesus man really did, if all those Old Testament statements are true, if the Apostle died believing with all they had what does this mean for us? Isn’t the entire rulebook for life altered if Jesus arose! How can anyone just walk away from the implicit implications toward their own destiny? I, YOU, anyone can know they stand before God as forgiven.
The empty tomb fills my mind with possibility. What is my possession? What is my response? What is my direction? What is my expectation? Since Christ is Risen my hope, your hope, our hope is as secure as anything could ever be. Believe it. I said BELIEVE IT. Live it, LIVE IT, LIVE IT!!
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Col. 3:1–3 (ESV)