Wednesday, 22 June 2022

What's on the throne of your heart?

 46*Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. 47*The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 48*Then the king gave Daniel high honours and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49*Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court. 

* 3*King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits.

Daniel 2:46–3:1.

From a position of pride and power, the king, ‘fell upon his face’, in humility and reverence. The king, who was passionate, powerful and ruthless, recognises in an instant that he is not the orchestrator of all things. That he, in fact, is not in control - There is some kind of god, whom Daniel knows, that sees and understands the things inside a man, and this god, and this Daniel, should be recognised and revered. Nebuchadnezzar's first response is to worship. Now, King Nebuchadnezzar is used to worshipping a multitude of gods, so he does what he would do for any number of them - offers incense, falls in his face, gives gifts. It is his natural response. He recognises something significant about this God, acknowledges it and responds in the only ways he knows how.  The overflow of his gratitude and awe is to lavish this god with whatever he has. What a response! Nebuchadnezzar, a king, a non-Israelite, a man not even seeking God, responds in joy and wonder and in his exuberance gives generously!

How do you respond to God? 

When you see God moving in your life, how do you demonstrate reverence, joy, gratitude, awe?

Does your worship and reverence of God lead you to give what you have to Him and honour His people? 

Nebuchadnezzar, as we can easily realise, doesn’t get everything right, (he has no experience of this Israelite got after all) but by being in a culture of many gods, he has learnt how to worship and honour them and he is not ashamed to do it. Even as a mighty king, he humbles himself as he realises there is in fact one god whom he hasn’t yet worshipped that sees right inside of him, and he responds with respect. We can learn from this gentile king a thing or two about not being ashamed of being overwhelmed and honouring God and His people as we see Him moving and showing His character in our lives.

Although Nebuchadnezzar does have this moment of overwhelmed wonder and humility as he acknowledges, ‘your God is God of gods and Lord of kings’, we cannot see this as a conversion moment or a realisation that the God of Israel is the ONLY god. We see that from the very next set of verses where he sets up a golden idol for all people to worship. It is evident therefore that the king just adds the god of Daniel to the list of those he already worships. I find it sad that within a few lines we read this amazing experience with the God of Israel, then we see a new ‘god’ being set up by the very same man.

I know that it didn’t all happen in real life as quickly as we read it, but the contrast does show the fickle nature of mankind. The desire of the human race is to seek something in life, something more than we already have and something more than we already know. There’s a phrase that I have heard several times that ‘the heart is an idol factory’. It is like there’s a throne in our hearts for something to sit on - We were created to worship, and if that throne isn’t for the One true God, then something else must be there; we worship, admire and seek other things. Ancient kings and civiilizations were no different.

King Nebuchadnezzar had seen and experienced something, but it hadn’t taken root in his heart - he didn’t realise that his god revealed to him was the only one, and that all his future, hopes, identity, and purpose could be revealed through him, so he kept searching. He made for himself other things which he could adore and admire just like this golden statue that he commissioned to be built.

It would be easy to skip over this bit, as few of us have an image that we revere, so it can seem irrelevant, but, take a moment to ponder on the idea that the heart is an idol factory, and seeks something to love and worship, then ask yourself these questions; 

 If your heart has a throne in it, then what is sitting on it right now?

What or who do you rely on when things go well/not so well? 

What takes up most of your time/thoughts/affection?

Do you get surrounded and engulfed by things in your culture?

Are you relying on other things to fill the void or compensate for your emotions or situations? 

There are things that get in the way of all of us seeing God for who He is. Like Nebuchadnezzar, we can get excited one minute, and the next totally forget the importance of the One True God. Stuff and people can get in the way, we can get overwhelmed or unwell. Sometimes we get so excited about other things that we simply forget. Other things fill the space in our heart. If this sounds like you, then you're not alone. Living a life with God at the centre though needs to be intentional. Putting God on the throne of your life takes a conscious effort each and every day, because we forget. We get side-tracked, we become unmotivated and disorientated or even too busy with life at times. We are in danger of seeming as fickle as Nebuchadnezzar seems to be in this passage. 

If you know that you have given your focus and your throne over to something else, then take time to pray. Repent, accept forgiveness through Jesus and ask God to come again and take His rightful place in your life. Maybe some things need to be laid down so that you can give focus to God and give Him the rightful worship. Why not make a change today?

There’s only one throne in your heart - who is sitting on it?

Thursday, 9 June 2022

The king, the chief guard and the exile


Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” *26*The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” *27*Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, *28*but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: *29*To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. *30*But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind. 

Daniel 2:25–30.

In the book of Daniel, we have already met these three characters, but not all in the same place at the same time. It is interesting to see how they interact, as it reveals the content of their characters when we see them together. So, today we are going to see what we notice about each of them;

First up we have the Captain of the king’s guard, Arioch. He is mentioned a few verses previously as he rushes to carry out the kings command to kill all the wise men, and now he is rushing to bring in Daniel. It seems this man knows the importance of his position, and he is anxious to fulfil it. The role Arioch has, has become who he is rather than just a job. He rushes around in self-importance as if it all depends on him, the kings problems are his problems, and he feels responsible for sorting it all out. Probably for good reason, as he recognises the reality that if he doesn’t do what the king wants, he will join the fate of the ‘wise men’ he’s had to do away with already. 

Arioch clearly finds his value in how well he completes his job. It has become who he is rather than a part of his identity. Now, don’t get me wrong, being in charge of the kings bodyguard is an important role, but have you ever met someone who seems to take their job a bit too seriously? As in their job becomes their life, rather than just a part of it? Someone who defines themselves by their success or failure? This is how Arioch is portrayed. He is dedicated to his role and to the king, and he rushes about trying to do his best for his boss, without really thinking through if it is the best idea or if the decisions are morally right.

It takes someone like Daniel to slow him down and consider what is actually in the best interests of those involved, including the king.

We also see the self-importance and pride that Arioch has, for in the introduction he gives he says, “I have found from among the exiles  from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation”. I don’t remember reading that Arioch was on the look out to solve the mystery of the kings dream, do you? The last I recall was that Arioch was following the murderous plan to slaughter all the wise men who may have been able to help! It was only when Daniel challenged Arioch in the urgency that Arioch slowed down a bit. In fact, Daniel approached him, and asked for time., offering a solution.  Arioch didn’t go out searching for an answer to the king’s problem, instead he went out searching for those to kill. However, now, he is quite happy to take the credit for ‘finding’ Daniel and being a part of the solution! In order to look good in the kings eyes he’s quite happy to take the credit. I am sure we can all probably think of those who take credit where it is not due. Maybe that’s you, and you need a Daniel to pick you up on it.

The next person who speaks is the King, Nebuchadnezzar. Before this interaction we have already deducted how he is feeling; the king is sleep-deprived, angry, feels distrust towards the other ‘wise men’ and is concerned about being deceived. I doubt his condition has improved since he spoke with the enchanters, astrologers and astronomers. Yet, he gives Daniel a chance. Eventhough he has ordered the murder of all the people society considers wise (and Daniel is among them), he still allows Daniel to have a go. Perhaps because he is so desperate for a solution that he has just the smallest amount of hope that this troublesome dream can be solved. So he asks, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”. 

I would like to know the tone in which this is asked, wouldn’t you?  Is the king asking if Daniel can do this thing because he is astonished that this young man before him claims to have more understanding than the well seasoned ‘wise men’ he has already called upon? Is he asking through disappointment and annoyance? Or even in an exhausted, exasperated manner? We do not know how Nebuchadnezzar asked this question, and we are not meant to know, because actually it does not matter. Daniel does not rise to the manner in which the question is posed, but simply answers it. 

Next, we shall consider the final character in this scene, the young man, the ‘exile’, Daniel (Belteshazzar) . He comes into the king’s presence, without any ceremony. In fact, he comes in great humility. He is the only one out of the three that demonstrates humility - and he’s the one with the answers!

From the start of this interaction, Daniel acknowledges, that he is, like the others the king has called upon, merely human and that no human being can help with the king’s ‘mystery’.  (I am sure that didn’t improve the kings mood!) However he also acknowledges that there is a God in heaven capable of revealing mysteries, and Daniel has accepted his part in being a messenger from God to the king in order for Nebuchadnezzar to better understand himself. 

Daniel is aware and unashamed of his usefulness as a messenger and is content to be the go-between. He makes it clear that he is merely a messenger from God to the king, that he has no understanding of these things themselves, but that God has used him so that the king can have better understanding. He takes no credit. He gives all responsibility and honour to God - How different to how Arioch enters the room! 

Really, after Daniel’s admission, it is kind of surprising that the king carries on listening! Yet, Daniel continues, in confidence, and assures the king that God has imparted to him, ‘the thoughts of your mind’. Daniel recognises that this has been revealed to himself and his friends, not because they are more intelligent or respected or powerful than anyone else, but because the have sought God for the solution. They asked for the impossible, and got it, and it was not for them to keep to themselves, but the revelation that was received was to hep soothe a troubled mind and reveal something of what was to come.  

So, what can we learn from these three people? Has anything stood out to you in the way they bear themselves? Have you been inspired by how Daniel responds under pressure, amongst those deemed ‘greater’ than himself?

Can you detect any of the characteristics of these three men in your own life? If so, pray. Whether it is in gratitude or repentance. 

For me - I see that God needs those who are willing to step up and step out. No matter who they, or anyone else, considers them to be. We all have a purpose and we are all created with a piece of God inside of us, so we should not be ashamed of that. We also should not be ashamed of admitting that this is how God has made us - of giving the glory and credit to God like Daniel does. I shall endeavour to be more intentional in that.

Friday, 3 June 2022

The power of gifts and community

This week, I have been struck by the way Daniel sees himself in the second chapter of Daniel, particularly in just this one verse;

To you, O God of my fathers, 

I give thanks and praise, 

for you have given me wisdom and might, 

and have now made known to me what we asked of you, 

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.” 

Daniel 2:23.

This verse is the end of Daniel’s recorded prayer after Nebuchadnezzar’s dream had been revealed to Daniel and his friends. 

Daniel recognises the gifts God has given him, ‘you have given me wisdom and might’.  Remember, Daniel is still a young man in this part of the book, possibly late teens yet he already knows who he is - a man of understanding and strength. Isn’t that pretty powerful?! 

Daniel is secure and unafraid to admit that his characteristics have been passed down from His God - like we inherit things from biological parents - we also inherit gifts from our Father in heaven. Daniel recognises that and is grateful for it. He admits and accepts that he has been given wisdom and might from God, as, a few verses before, Daniel has mentioned that all wisdom and strength are God’s. So, now he acknowledges that God has imparted some of that wisdom and might to himself. He is not ashamed of it, he accepts that this is how God has gifted him. He doesn’t feel proud of himself for his understanding and strength, as if he acquired them himself through study and hardwork, but he gives all credit to God. Eventhough Daniel, in reality, has been studying for 3 years (as a captive of the Babylonians). Yet he realises this knowledge he has is not from dedicated effort or appropriate learning from books or others, it is an insight, an understanding, a wisdom that only God can provide.

We see here how God has imparted part of His own character - his wisdom and might to Daniel. What part of Himself has God imparted to you? 

Each of us are made in the image of God as it tells us this in Genesis .Therefore we all, like Daniel, have inherited some of God’s character due to being made in His image - isn't that incredible?! What we see here with Daniel as well, is that he doesn't play down the fact that he is gifted in certain areas, but instead he acknowledges and accepts them, then uses them. God gives us gifts not to amuse ourselves or to just lay dormant, but they are an impartation to you to use that you may demonstrate to the world some of God's character! 

Daniel accepts and acknowledges  that he is graced with wisdom and might. He is not embarrassed by it, but he sees how he has something others don’t, and he gives God the credit - this is the right way to appreciate the way God has made you. By using his God-given abilities, Daniel saves lives and reveals who God is to the current king - that’s pretty epic! 

What could you achieve if you start to accept and acknowledge the character that God has imparted to you?

Another thing I notice from this verse is that Daniel takes no credit for the revelation he has received, do you notice that? He says, ‘for you have made known to us the king’s matter.’ Do you notice that little word, ‘us’? Daniel very graciously admits that the revelation is due to his friends as well as himself praying. He recognises the group effort, and that the revelation, the breakthrough belongs to them all, not just to him. 

Daniel has not prayed alone or been in this situation alone, he and his friends are immersed in it together. Therefore the recognition belongs to them all. As they have prayed together, so they share the joy together. Daniel knows his value as part of this faith community, and he honours the fact that this success is theirs too.

When you pray about significant matters, do you pray in community? 

Who are those that you can invite to pray with you? 

When you pray with others, do you also share the victory and celebrate the breakthrough together?

Daniel accepts, values and reaches out to the friends of faith in his life, make sure that you have people in your life that you can do the same with - this is what it is to be the family of God. It is not easy to trust people with the innermost hurts and difficult situations, i know, i am one that finds it hard to share, but we can see time and again throughout the Bible where prayer in community brings change. In Daniel alone, we see how Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, the firm faith-filled friends; interpreted dreams, helped rule a nation, escaped death and saved lives! Through walking faithfully with God, acknowledging their opportunities and gifts, and by working together. 

If you want to see things change, if you want to grow in your faith, then spend some time figuring out what your gifts are - ask God, ask others, they will help you. Accept and acknowledge how God has made you, and get others of faith with you through thick and thin and see what God can do. With these four lads - captives, young, vulnerable, faithful and faith-filled, God was able to influence kings, and demonstrate that He is, "God of gods and Lord of lords"! (v17)

I wonder what you and I could do if we gathered together, prayed, celebrated and accepted our God-given gifts... 

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Pray for a way


The following section of scripture in Daniel is about the dream that the King Nebuchadnezzar had. (Daniel 2:1-16).

The king was so disturbed by this dream that he couldn’t quite remember and couldn’t quite forget, that he ordered all sorts of 'wise' people to reveal both the dream and the interpretation. He called; astronomers, astrologers, enchanters -  all those who were considered wise in society. They were called upon to help understand the dream, and reveal the dream, but none could. 

Therefore, in his sleep-deprived, disturbed and aggravated state, Nebuchadnezzar ordered all of the wise men to be slaughtered. Even those who hadn’t been called upon and knew nothing of the situation. 

The first Daniel hears about it is when he is rounded up as one of the wise men to be murdered. Understandably, he asks what is going on. He then, confidently, approaches the king and asks for some time. He lets the king even set the time at which he wants Daniel to appear before him so that he can reveal the dream. That amazes me - the confidence and boldness! The confidence Daniel has that through God, he can do this impossible thing. Even though it has NEVER been done before! Plus the confidence to go in and ask a ruthless king - whom has just ordered his death - for more time! Don’t we all need a bit of that confidence and boldness in our lives?! 

The confidence and boldness of Daniel does not stem from pride, arrogance or self-esteem, it’s roots are in God. Daniel knows God can do something, and he trusts that God will. In reality, Daniel is a dead man walking anyway, so he might as well have a go at solving this thing, and he knows just the thing to do next...

    ...He goes home and prays with his friends. There are no; tearful goodbyes, thoughts of running away,  weeping or wailing. The friends get together, in their home and pray. All of their lives are at risk and they go to the only one who can offer solace or solution in this situation.

Such a simple solution really isn’t it?! 

These young men didn’t do anything else, they got together and they prayed. committing the whole situation to God, there may have been a bit of ranting, crying, confusion, but they didn't get together to have a moan - they got together and prayed. They recognised that coming to God is the only way there will be a solution. They sought God for a way out. They knew the only way that this situation could be transformed was by seeking God for favour, for help, and for their lives. 

In times of trouble, what do you do? 

What is your first response?

When you face impossible situations do you call upon your friends to pray?

Sometimes the only way an issue can change is by God intervening. Next time you face something significant, will you come confidently and boldly to God? Will you call your friends to pray with you in your trials knowing that God can do anything... even things that have never been done before?

As we read on in Daniel, we see that their prayers are answered, they receive the revelation of the dream and it’s meaning - wahoo! Do you notice that their first response again, is to pray?

These young men are a great example of dependence on God. In their desperation and deliverance, they pray. They acknowledge that this life is too hard to do it all by themselves, so they place their entire hope and future was in God’s hands. They celebrate and commiserate in community with one another with God at the centre of it all. is it any wonder that we still read their life story today?!

So, how are you going to handle the next situation that throws you off kilter? 

When you're facing a trial that seems too big for you, it probably is, so who are those you can call upon to pray with you through it and who will celebrate with you at the end of it? 

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Courage in adversity


I am intrigued by the young lads that we meet in the first few chapters of Daniel. We meet them as teenage captives, and hear snippets of their experiences as they have become embedded in the court of the Babylonian king. First off we meet them as captive trainees, then see them as graduates from the enforced leadership program, and we watch as they develop into young men entering the kings court as his servants - all in the first couple of chapters!

One of the things I am struck by as I read about Daniel and his friends, is their courage. They, as teenage boys have been through so much, but they seem to know what is worth standing up for. Reading through these passages  it is easy to forget that they are captive Jewish boys. Yet we see boldness in them which is produced by the faith they have in God.

We first see this displayed when Daniel asks the chief of the eunuchs (who is responsible for the captive trainees welfare) if he can be excused from eating the king’s food - He, a captive boy, approaches the chief to make a request, don’t you think that’s a bit cheeky, even presumptuous? 

Then, even when the request is denied, Daniel doesn’t give up. Instead,  he rethinks, reprocesses and tries again. This time he has the courage to ask the steward for he and his friends to have a vegetable only diet for 10 days.  That took courage, he must have been disappointed and a bit scared by the chief’s response, but he did not give up. He continued to pursue his request because he so desired to honour God. This overtook the fear and worry he must have felt. I admire him for standing up in the first place, let alone trying a second time. He did not give up. Sometimes we can, can’t we. Sometimes when we have built ourselves up to do something that terrifies us, and then it doesn’t work out, who then thinks, ‘well, I tried it, didn’t work, I’m done’?! Some of us do. Daniel didn’t. He built himself up again, and thoughtfully considered another way to achieve what he needed.

I have had to conquer fear a lot in my life. Growing up I was know as a ‘worry wart’ and i was told ‘you worry about worrying’. Maybe that’s why I admire Daniel, Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah so much, because they do not hide away from the scary stuff, but they confront the problems and trust that something will happen and that God will help them. I could not imagine myself as a young teenager standing up to any authority, especially not any cruel institution like the Babylonians. 

This isn’t the only instance that we see these four young men show courage either. 

When the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, is outraged with some of the ‘wise’ advisers in his kingdom, (the; enchanters, astrologers, astronomers) he directs his captain to slaughter all of them. This includes the Jewish young men; Daniel, Mishael, Azaraih and Hananiah.  The first they know about it, is that the captain comes along to get Daniel to kill him.  

Daniel responds quickly and bravely. He asks the chief of the kings guard  what is going on and why is it so important that the order is completed right away? He doesn’t stop there either - he is even brave enough to ask to go straight into the king and ask for more time!

Don’t you think that’s a bit outrageous?! Daniel is handed a death sentence and asks to see the king first and to ask for an extension of time! Daniel does not just accept the order, he challenges it.  He stands up and speaks out. How brave is that?! When others would have been terrified and confused about what is happening, Daniel is gifted with courage and wisdom in his response. As a result of his courage to ask and put himself forward, he saved the lives of himself and his friends as they trusted in God to solve the problem. 

These examples may seem extreme. Many of us are not captives or threatened with murder, but that does not mean that we cannot learn from the faith of these lads. Surely we can learn a lot. None of us are likely to experience the trials they faced, and yet, how many times have you or I given into fear rather than stand up for what we know is right, even if it could cost us? 

We could pay the cost of losing favour, losing friends, even losing a job. These young men could have lost their lives. But, as Jesus says, ‘Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.’ (Luke 17:33). 

Daniel, Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah did not value their own lives more that following God. They were prepared to lose their lives in order to continue honouring him. Another great example of this is when they were headed to the fiery furnace; 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah) 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[] 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.” Daniel 3:16-20

These men were more concerned about worshipping their God than anything else, that is evident, even when they had no clue about what was going to happen. They all stood up and stood out when others didn’t. They displayed great courage because they knew their God was greater than their circumstances. They didn’t know what was coming or how these situations would pan out, but they stepped out anyway. 

Are you willing and prepared to step out in faith, boldly standing up for what you know is right in the face of adversity? Is there some area that you can begin trusting God in where you need courage? Ask God to help you, and trust that He will. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Tough Times

So, I have just begun to read and consider the book of Daniel, so far we have met; Daniel, Hanahaih, Mishael and Azariah; teenage lads who have been exiled from Israel and are now enrolled into an enforced leadership program in the Babylonian empire. They are specially selected Jewish boys of royal/noble birth, good looking and intelligent. They are also young lads that we discover have an unshakeable faith in God. Even though these young men have been snatched away from their country and thrown into a different context and culture, they still seek to honour God. They have kept the Law and lived their lives acknowledging, following and serving Him all whilst in captivity. For three years, these teenage boys, along with others, have been indoctrinated into Babylonian culture and affairs, and are likely about 17 years old as we read verse 17;

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 

Clearly these 'youths' stand out from the others around them, other young teenage lads, also in exile, also in the same program. Yet Daniel, Hanahiah, Mishael and Azariah are beginning to be recognised as different, as those of 'learning and skill'. They are different and it is not for being extremely religious or as nerds, but they become known for the favour God has on them. They stand out for the understanding and knowledge they have that is not at the same level as the others. In fact, this is the summary of the end os their training when they are met and assessed by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar;

 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

Daniel 1:18-20

What a commendation!

They are assessed by the Babylonian king and his eunuchs and no-one matches up to these four, faithful Jewish boys. As a result they 'stood before the king', instead of being the captive interns, they became the kings servants! What a promotion, and they certainly deserved it, they were 10 times better than anyone else, above all the other advisers and those of insight - these lads were better than them all! 

Yet, who do they acknowledge for their abilities? 'God gave them....' these young men do not attribute their success or promotion to their own capabilites, hard work or loyalty, they attribute it all to God. They recognise that they would not be the best, have the skills they do or the understanding they are gifted with without God. God is what makes them stand out, and they know it. They acknowledge that their progress is because of God's favour upon them. 

Isn't that something?!

How many times have you or I commended ourselves, privately or in front of others, because we have achieved something? How often do you or i acknowledge that it is not in our own strength that we have what we do, that we are capable of what we are? 

Is it any wonder that God chose to favour these young men? They had faithfully followed Him when others hadn't, they had been obedient to God, and submissive to the authority in charge. For 3 long years they had been immersed in intense inculturation into the Babylonian culture and expectations, for 3 years they restricted their diet and committed themselves to continue to honour and serve God above all else. Can you imagine the ridicule they must have endured from their captors as well as their fellow captives? The hardship, the restrictions, the challenges would have been enough to make anyone feel fed up and potentially give up their faith, yet these Jewish boys kept going together. 

I hope that inspires you. Especially if you're having a hard time right now, or you have had a hard time to keep hold of faith over the past; weeks, months or years. During the tough times, have you got a tough faith? Do you remain faithful and loyal to God, or do you get lax or even give up? If so, get yourself some faith-filled friends, and trust them to uphold you in life and in prayer like these lads did. They had a ton of challenges and hardships as exiles. 

How do you respond when life gets difficult? Where do you turn? What can you learn from Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah?

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Are you Living?

Some people believe that to be living means; breathing, heart pumping, brain working or even being able to love and be loved, to have an income, or pursue a particular lifestyle and have fun. But is that all that living is about?

How about looking at this from the perspective of someone who believes in God and has chosen to be a disciple of Jesus - what does living mean then?

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:39

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

Romans 6:8

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:12-13

What do all of these verses from the Bible tell us ?............That in order to live, we must die.

What does that look like?

This does not mean to physically die, although we will all do that one day, (and so you need to be prepared for that). It does lead us to think about baptism - the physical demonstration of your life dying as you believe and put your life in the hands of Jesus. That is part of it. But, this sense of living by dying is surely more than that one act. It is a lifestyle. If you have been baptised, that is a great commitment to God, but this dying to self is worked out over a lifetime, it is not just a one-off event. That's where it starts. When you are baptised you put to death yourself and choose to live for Christ as a result, it is not like the next version of yourself, the new improved version of you - No! You have died and chosen for Christ to live in you through the Holy Spirit. This involves a whole lifetime of putting Jesus in the driving seat of your life. It means dying to the things you want and expect and what others expect of you.

Being alive in faith is about living sacrificially not selfishly. 

That looks like how you handle the big and the small things in life; 

How you speak to people, how you respond at work, the job you have, how you raise your family, spend your money, look after your body and  the possessions you have. 

To lose your life most likely means making radical decisions that the rest of society look at and think you’re bonkers! It means considering God above everything else and putting what He wants for you above what you want for yourself. I don’t speak as someone without experience here. 

There was a time in my life when I gave up the best job I ever had. Not because I wanted to, because I really didn’t, but because God asked me to. I was really upset, disappointed and reluctant to do it. I loved that job, I was successful, had a good rapport with all my colleagues, was making a real difference to the lives of young people, and God invited me to give it up to focus on family. Some people may jump at that chance, but for me it was a really difficult thing. Family at the time was so hard. I went to work for relief and to feel like I had a positive impact somewhere at least because home was, I don’t even know how to describe it, but it was emotionally, physically and mentally draining. It was were I put in my best effort but I felt like I was being dragged through the mill really. 

So, being handed this choice between work and family, between where I felt successful and a failure, it was a heart-wrenching decision. It was not easy. Dying to yourself never is is it? Being sacrificial isn’t - it’s dying a bit inside. Yet, what do you do?

You have probably guessed it already, but I did give up the job. It was not easy. It did not transform our family immediately, but it was life-changing. I didn’t particularly like it, but I did do as God asked. 

Do I regret it? No. 

I have never regretted being obedient to God, but I have regretted the times when I haven’t been. 

There are times when I have felt God prompt me to do something, maybe talk to or pray for someone and I have bottled it because I was embarrassed and fearful - those are the times I regret. Each time I have walked away feeling sad that I have missed out and that person has also missed out on potentially meeting a God who loves them. I have never once regretted talking-to or offering to pray for someone when God has prompted me to, even if they didn’t seem to respond at the time. 

God does not want us to live in fear, but it was for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5). God wants us to REALLY live. He doesn’t want us to feel like we have missed out (like I do when I don’t do what I know I should), he wants us to live free from that worry and shame. He wants us to have LIFE!

In every one of the gospels, Jesus is quoted as saying that he who wants to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for Jesus' sake will find it.

Do you want  to find your life? 

It means that you must start living life sacrificially not selfishly by putting Jesus on the throne of your life, not yourself or anyone else. The promise is, if you are willing to give up your life and put it in God's hands, you  will find life in all it’s fullness. It will not be easy - it is a sacrifice after all! But our life will be greater, it will be freer and you will really learn to live. 

So, do you really want to live? 

If so, how does that look for you right now? 

Maybe God is inviting you to trust Him is some way. It could be that you take the first steps in acknowledging that there is a God after all that really cares about it. It could be that God is challenging in a different way; to look at your finances, job, family, leisure time, possessions or relationship. Whatever it is, are you going to take God up on His challenge? 

Are you ready to live?