Sunday, March 19, 2017

Daniel 2:25-30 – “All About Him”

As always, here’s my fairly literal translation of these verses:

25Then Arioch to hasten brought in Daniel before the king and thus he said to him, “I have found a man from the sons of the exiles of Judah who will inform the interpretation to the king.” 26The king answering and saying to Daniel whose name Belteshazzar, “Are you able to inform me the dream which I saw and its interpretation?” 27Answering Daniel before the king saying, “A secret which the king asking not wise men, conjurers, horoscopists, [or] astrologers being able to declare the king, 28but there is a God in the heavens revealing secrets. He has informed to the king Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter of the days. Your dream and the visions of your head upon your bed this it. 29[As for] you, the king, your thoughts upon your bed came up what will become after this and One revealing secrets has informed you what will become. 30And [as for] me not in wisdom there is in me from the all of the living this secret was revealed to me but in order that the interpretation to the king will be informed and the thoughts of your heart you will know.

Obviously, one could say a lot about many things in these verses. I’d like to camp (again) on how much these verses express exactly what goes on for believers in the secular workplace.

Here’s the deal: this is God’s world. He rules. It’s all for Him, from Him, through Him, and to Him. Everything. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. It’s all Him. And He is all of this whether we’re in church singing on Sunday morning or working at our jobs at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Thursday. As we go about our work and even as our perhaps unbelieving bosses and co-workers are going about theirs, it’s all about Him.

Work comes down to getting things done and figuring things out. That means a lot of things in a million different ways, but it all shakes down to power and wisdom. “Getting things done” comes down to power. “Figuring things out” and “knowing what to do” come down to wisdom. And what did Daniel say about that? “Wisdom and power are His … He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”

Just like in our workplaces today, Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans in 600 BC are trying to get things done, trying to figure things out. That’s basically what they did and we do all day every day. In their case (and often in ours), they don’t even so much as acknowledge the Lord but, fortunately for them, He is a God of grace who “makes His sun to shine on the evil and the good.” He allowed them (like He does us) to enjoy some measure of success at their efforts. Like Arioch, of course, they’re more than happy to take credit for anything good that happens (i.e. “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means”), and, as we all know, they’re also more than happy to blame anyone and anything else when things don’t go well. But, most of all, I want to point out, they (and too often we) are missing the most important factor in it all – that this is God’s world and it is Him who gives wisdom and power – including at work.

Now, enters the genuine believer. You and I walk into work and one of the very deep and fundamental differences between us and those who perhaps don’t acknowledge Him is (or should be) that we see God. We see His hand, His presence, His plan in it all. Of course, even with that said, we are ourselves still responsible to “get things done” and “figure things out.” But while we are responsible to do all those things, while it is our job to do this or that, to figure out ways to make this or that happen, yet we know where it comes from. We know it is beyond us. We know that even at our jobs, one man may sow and another water, but “it is God who gives the increase.” We know it is “God who gives us the power to gain wealth.” We know that “promotion comes neither from the east nor from the west, but from above.” We know that “every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights.”

I’m trying to learn to keep that in mind all day every day, but, just like Daniel, it’s only a matter of time and we find ourselves in the situation where the bosses need something to happen, want something figured out, and no one seems to be able to get the job done. My mind almost whirls with all the times it’s been “impossible.” It can’t be done. There’s no way.

Sometimes it’s as simple as math. I remember sitting in a meeting one day with all of the department heads and they couldn’t figure out how to distribute some costs between the departments. Each was quite sure he was paying more than his share; and the boss was exasperated because he couldn’t see any good answer. At that moment, the Lord helped me to see a very simple way to do it mathematically, so I said, “I have a suggestion, sir,” explained it, they liked it, and everyone went away happy. I hope somehow, in that moment, some of them knew in their hearts that it was actually the Lord in me that gave them that answer. I guess I’ll find out in Heaven – but I’d like to suggest that that is what us believers do. We do the impossible. Just like Daniel.

I stood in one of our wastewater treatment plants a few years ago looking around thinking what they really need to do is just bulldoze this place and build a new plant. But the next thought was, “Right. And with whose money?” I knew it would cost $10,000,000. It was impossible. It’s a town of only 5,000 people. How do you get $10,000,000 out of 5,000 people (of which probably 2/3 are children or elderly people)? Yet, even as I type this, their new plant is built, it’s running, and about all we have left to do is pave the parking lot. How did that happen? It’s a miracle, that’s what it is. Interestingly, as we have tried to design and build it, we have faced one job-killing obstacle after another. Yet we’ve overcome every one of them and here we are today. There is no question in my mind the opposition we faced was Satanic. He wanted it to fail. He wanted to leave every one angry and suing each other. He was a murderer from the beginning. Yet here we are today. I can say I’ve tried to work hard for the people and I can say I’ve prayed hard for them, but that plant isn’t there because of me. It is because there is a very great and very kind God in Heaven who enjoys giving good gifts to the children of men, even ones who don’t necessarily acknowledge Him. Once again, I hope in some way I’ve stirred someone’s heart to see God above it all. I’ll only know in Heaven probably. But that is, again, just like Daniel, what we’re all about.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. No one could help him figure it out. Daniel prayed and Daniel could. “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” the king asked Daniel. The king then learned that his wise men were wrong on two points – they were wrong that “there is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks” and they were wrong that “the gods do not live among men.”

We believers enter the workplace as people who can do the impossible. We know it isn’t us, that it is God working through us, but we know that He can do the impossible, and by prayer and hard work, He will often enable us to accomplish those things.  I believe He wants to do just that, to use His people to accomplish the impossible, precisely because He still has “much people in this city.” Here is where it is so important for us to live the same humility as Daniel. “As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men … there is a God in Heaven who reveals mysteries.” Hopefully our humility allows others to see Him in it, to stir their hearts to want to know this God who after all does “dwell among men!” In Acts 17, Paul told the Athenians, God “has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might seek after Him, and find Him.” People live when they live and where they live specifically that they might themselves be drawn to seek the Lord. Believers’ presence in the workplace and the Lord’s work through them is one of the ways He intends to “adorn the Gospel.” And again, this is precisely where genuine humility is so critically important. He wants to do the impossible – through us – but when it’s done, it needs to be Him and not us they see.

What a fine young man our Daniel is. I would like to suggest to anyone’s interested perusal that the Daniel we have seen already in just these first two chapters is everything we believers ought to be as we venture out to ply our trades. We have seen he is gracious, respectful, considerate, principled, brave, a hard worker, appreciative, and above all humble. He worships a great God and takes Him to work. He was all those things and here we are 2,600 years later still learning from his good example.

God help us all to be like Daniel in our workplaces – along with our schools, our neighborhoods, our communities, our sports programs, and wherever else our gracious Lord allows us to live out our everyday lives. It’s all about Him.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daniel 2:24 – “Like Jesus”

As always, here’s my fairly literal translation of these verses:

24Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babel. He went and thus he said to him, “Do not destroy the wise men of Babel. Bring me in before the king and the interpretation I will declare to the king.”

This is one of those verses which could be passed over as “simply telling the story.” There are people who honestly think you can’t learn anything from a simple verse like this. I heartily disagree. The Bible is a book of discipleship. It is the very breath of God and every page, every word is in some way or another a picture of Jesus. Every word helps us understand the mind of God. Every person in the Bible shows us what godliness either is or isn’t.

In this case, if we’ll but pause a minute and think, Daniel is setting before us a monumental model of what faith should look like in a real world.

If one pauses to think, Daniel’s words border on the amazing: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon.”

Notice he did not say, “Do not destroy us wise men.” He is at this very moment standing under a sentence of death. At any second the sword can swing, he and his friends will be dead, and no one will so much as notice. Yet, even in this, our amazingly humble friend isn’t thinking of himself. His heart immediately goes out to the wise men. Kind of reminds us of Someone who once said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

It should be noted at this point that, back in Israel, such men were not even allowed to live. “A person who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them …” (Lev 20:27). Daniel grew up utterly despising “wise men” and “astrologers” and “magicians.” They deserved to die. And not only that, but no doubt by this time, Daniel has already seen and perhaps suffered under their meanness – in the very next chapter, they are the people who accuse Daniel’s friends and get them thrown into the fiery furnace. In chapter 6, it is probably these very men who get Daniel thrown in the lions’ den. They are a very jealous, mean-spirited bunch of people.

Yet the first words out of our Daniel’s mouth are, “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon.”

Daniel is living out in his workplace, in his real world, the very spirit of Jesus. His God “makes His sun to shine on the evil and the good” and so does our Daniel. And so should we. Our disposition at work and in our world should never come across as “Off with their heads!” even if we think they deserve it and especially if we find them personally hateful and mean to us. The Bible says, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth. When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (I Pet 2:21-23).

The spirit of a Christian ought to be the spirit of Christ – ready to love, ready to forgive. I love how we see that heart in II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is patient with you, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The “that all should come to repentance” actually could be translated, “that all would have room for repentance.” That all would have room. That everyone might have a chance. That is the spirit of our saving God and it ought to be ours too. Daniel is modeling it for us even in the Old Testament. How much more, this side of the Cross, ought we to be modeling it before our world?

Talk about “different!” You can bet these people think they’ve never seen anyone like this Daniel. In their world, heads roll. People fight and maneuver and promote themselves. People kill their enemies. And suddenly they are working beside this Daniel fellow who doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body. He actually cares about other people! Even when his own life is in danger, even when he himself is about to get fired, he’s still thinking first about everyone else.

The thought brings me back to Jesus’ charge to us to be “in the world, but not of it.” I fear for most Christians, when they think of “not of it,” their list of rules comes up. But what makes our Daniel different is that he actually lives the spirit of Jesus. He’s “different” because he’s like Christ. And so should we be. And can I add, the workplace inserts believers into the bowels of the real world, the very place where people are hating and hurting, and gives us a chance to shine for Jesus – to show people there is another way, to show them there is world where love wins. In this one little verse before us, we see the difference that Jesus makes when people truly love Him.

I need to address the issue that these guys “deserve to die.” As mentioned above, it was very clear in the Old Testament that divination and spiritism were absolutely forbidden. “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them …” (Leve 20:27). Some of the older commentators even posed the question whether Daniel should or should not have “interfered” with the execution of the wise men. Certainly the people of the Massachusetts colony thought it their civil duty to identify witches and burn them at the stake. So shouldn’t Daniel do everything he could to see that magicians and soothsayers and astrologers get put to death? I believe the fundamental error underneath this thinking is a complete misunderstanding of the Old Testament. Just briefly let me say people should realize that, in a large sense, the OT is a national constitution. It is a document specifically applicable to the nation of Israel, which was fully intended to be a theocracy. Within the borders of Israel, you could prescribe all kinds of rules and laws and standards – even something as simple as observing a Sabbath.

The problem is, when believers leave that kind of isolated world, and go out to live and work in the real world, they don’t get to make the rules. It’s great if the country you live in basically observes a Sabbath and you get Sunday off – but what if you don’t? It’s great if the world you live in doesn’t take the Lord’s name in vain and use four-letter words, but what if even the bosses at your job do? My point is that, outside of Israel, you cannot go around thinking OT law should be enforced. In the real world, you’ll live under whatever rules there are and you’ll have little to no ability to change them. That brings us back to the spirit of Jesus. We go out into a world that may have no respect at all for anything you and I think is important. But rather than insisting our rules should be followed, we need to show the heart of Jesus, even in a world where good is evil and evil is good.

Daniel is modeling that heart for us and we ought to be like him. Like Jesus.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Daniel 2:23 – “Humility”

As always, here’s my fairly literal translation of these verses:

23To the God of my fathers, giving thanks and praising You, I [am];
   because You have given to me the wisdom and the power,
   and now You have made known to me what we asked from You.
   You have made known to us the matter of the king.

As I said before, this one verse might take several posts.

In regards to it, the next thought I’d like to ponder is Daniel’s humility, but, before I consider how we see it, I want to ponder why this humility is so important. Once again, where is he? He is not some monk cloistered away in a cave or even a pastor or missionary in their office. He’s not just a believer having his devotions at home. Daniel is a man who lives and works in the real world, at a secular job, under a tyrant boss, in a office full of charlatans and useless sycophants. Because he’s “in the world” he suffers the same way they do. When the king is on the warpath, Daniel’s head goes on the block, just like everyone else’s. There is no question, Daniel is “in the world,” – and that is right where Jesus wants him. As I noted before, he is literally swimming in a sea of unbelievers, of people who desperately need to know the grace and love and redemption of his God.

But Daniel is not “of the world.” He’s different. And how is he different? Can I say, one of the most important ways in which he is different is his humility? The Lord Himself says, “God resists the proud; He gives His grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). One of the most important ways in which believers ought to be very different in the workplace is their humility. We could talk about genuine love, about being dependable, about doing quality work, etc., but underneath it all, there had better be a genuine and growing humility. It is one of the major ways we ought to be “different.”

I need to belabor this point for just a second, because I do not believe this is at all what modern American evangelical Christianity teaches. What does it mean to be “different?” It’s all about what we wear or don’t wear, what we drink or don’t drink, our characteristic assortment of adjectives, and, above all else knowing we’re right and they’re wrong, we know the truth and they don’t, and they need to hear it from us -- just like a good little Pharisee. I remember one of their songs I would have myself approved was “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, dare to have a purpose true, and dare to make it known.” Those words may sound good while you stand singing in church, but they are expressing the heart of a Pharisee. Words and messages like that encourage people to go into the workplace and be “militant,” to walk into work confident you’re “better” than them, to work with a chip on your shoulder. I was too long that person myself but I also got to watch other believers acting like that. I got to see how the other workers saw them, got to hear what they said about them. And it wasn’t pretty. Arrogance is never pretty, and it gets even uglier when it’s called religion. But what was lacking? Humility. How did we come across? Arrogant. And why? Because we were. Jesus wasn’t like that and when He calls us to be different, He doesn’t leave us the option to decide how we want to define it (like Pharisees always do). He means to be like Him. If we would sincerely desire to “make a difference” in our world, then we must be like the real Daniel, the one in the verses before us, and we must know something of his humility.

How do we see it? First of all, we see it in his gratitude. The Lord does something good for him, and he is immediately “thanking and praising.” We could camp on the importance of gratitude, and resolve to be more grateful, but I would suggest humility is the engine that drives gratitude. Daniel doesn’t believe he’s “better” than anyone else. He doesn’t see himself as God’s “fair-haired boy,” who obviously gets whatever he wants. Because he is genuinely humble, he doesn’t see himself as “deserving” anything. And so, when he does receive blessings, his heart naturally wells up in gratitude. This is one of the unmistakable (and very beautiful) expressions of a genuinely humble heart – to be a person who sincerely appreciates anything and everything others do for them. I would suggest this is part of why the Lord had caused Daniel’s bosses “to show favor and sympathy” to him, part of why the king found Daniel and his friends “ten times better than all the magicians in his kingdom,” and even why Arioch was willing to stand there and “explain the matter to Daniel” when his job was to cut off his head. Esther was the same way. The Bible specifically notes of her overseer Hegai, “The girl pleased him and won his favor.” Interestingly, when it came her “turn” to go to the king, we’re told “she asked for nothing other than what Hegai suggested.” Humility. Gratitude. Priceless jewels for living in a world that desperately needs to see Jesus.

Next we see his humility in his total acknowledgement that this knowledge of the king’s dream is to God’s glory and not his. He says, “ …because You have given to me the wisdom and the power, and now You have made known to me what we asked from You.” You, You, You. Daniel has no problem with in-grown eyeballs. He is in no sense “impressed with himself.” Did he just do something amazing? Yes. Does he have an ability no one else has? Yes. Was what he has just accomplished literally impossible? Yes. Did he just literally save his own and his friends’ lives? Yes. So does he deserve a medal? He doesn’t seem to think so. In fact, there’s not the slightest hint of self- adulation.  He has just acknowledged in v20 that “wisdom and power” are God’s and then in v21 that is in fact God who gives “wisdom and power” to people. Now in v22, we find that Daniel actually believes what he’s saying, because when he is found to possess “wisdom and power” he immediately attributes it to the Lord.

Herein again we see Daniel’s humility. He is living out the truth from I Cor 4:7, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” The fact is that “every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights.” All our abilities, all our successes, all our knowledge or insights, are gifts from God. Daniel knew it. So should we. And here again is a place where faith ought to make you and me different in the workplace. It is an ugly thing to see a person impressed with themself, and it is probably 1000x worse when that person has claimed to be a Christian in the workplace. In fact, in today’s world, I’m not even so sure we should be as verbal as Daniel is giving glory to God. I don’t think that is the point. Whether we say it or not, it will be apparent to everyone around if we sincerely do not take credit for our successes. The less we say, perhaps the better – let the Lord make our humility obvious to those around us. So when something “works,” when we make a sale, solve a problem, succeed in any way, let us from our very hearts acknowledge it is all a gift from God, that I am only His vessel to do good to this world, and He alone deserves the glory.

Finally, we see Daniel’s humility in his ready inclusion of his friends in his success. “…now You have made known to me what we asked from You. You have made known to us the matter of the king.” Note the “we” and the “us.” Daniel sincerely values the presence and involvement and the contribution of his friends. He sincerely believes their help was part of his success. I would suggest it is of monumental importance that we each learn not only that our successes are gifts from God but also that we’ll seldom see them come to us alone. We need the people around us. We may ourselves have unique abilities but we also need the abilities of others. I can’t do it all. I need my co-workers. I need my wife. I need my fellow Christians. It is a huge part of humility to genuinely appreciate those the Lord places around us and just how important they are to us. For myself, I can honestly say the Lord has allowed me to do some amazing things in my life. He has given me the ability oftentimes to figure out things that utterly baffle everyone else, to succeed in things others had long written off as impossible. In every one of those situations, I am thankful I can look back and say, “They couldn’t have done it without me,” but I am equally thankful to be able to say, “But I couldn’t have done it without them.” It is one of the treasures of life to succeed “together” and it is important for us as believers to know that is usually the only way it will happen. The Lord will bless us “together.”

What an amazing fellow our young friend Daniel is. At a time in life when most of us suffer deeply from our own arrogance, here’s one young man who has already learned to be humble. And it is a beautiful thing to see, especially in the workplace. It is a beautiful thing for his boss and his co-workers to see. They’ll know he’s “different” all right, and it will be the kind of difference that might just move them to come and “ask a reason of the hope that is in him.”

May you and I be genuinely humble like Daniel. May we keep ourselves “out of the way” so the Lord can show others Himself. And may that light shine brightly into someone else’s dark world “to give them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.”

God help us.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Daniel 2:23 – “God of our Fathers”

As always, here’s my fairly literal translation of these verses:

23To the God of my fathers, giving thanks and praising You, I [am];
   because You have given to me the wisdom and the power,
   and now You have made known to me what we asked from You.
   You have made known to us the matter of the king.

I think I could write volumes on this verse. What we have before us in these few short words is a living model of everything believers ought to be. And I want to point out, in particular, that this is not the picture of some monk cloistered away in a cave or even a pastor or missionary in their office. This is a man who works a secular job just like the vast majority of believers always have and always will. Here before us is a divinely inspired picture of a real believer living in a secular environment, living out his faith as he faces the challenges of a real world. Also note, he is exactly where the Lord wants him to be – just like the majority of believers – living that faith literally swimming in a sea of unbelievers, of people who desperately need to know the grace and love and redemption of his God.

Seriously, this might take several posts.

First I want to camp on Daniel’s identification of the Lord as “the God of my fathers.” I think it very important to note, in a sense, where Daniel “came from.” We’re only half way through the second chapter of this book and already we have observed that this is one exceptional young man. Not only does he in fact know the Lord, but he already, even as a young man, exhibits exceptional qualities of faith, courage, respect, humility, and a very strong work ethic (Babylon U’s valedictorian of 602 BC!). Where did he come from? Did he just fall out of the sky?

The text tells us nothing about Daniel’s upbringing or his family, so anything I suggest is admittedly conjecture. For all we know he could have been the orphaned child of a couple of hopeless drunks. However, when Daniel begins his praise calling the Lord “the God of my fathers,” I rather think we have good reason to believe he saw his parents as models; that he saw his own faith as a continuation of something which had long run in his family. Of course, the “fathers” could be simply referring to the Jewish race itself, but again, I don’t think it at all unreasonable to believe that Daniel has in mind his immediate family, his parents, grandparents, and beyond. In support of this suggestion, I would point out the very good and godly Hezekiah was told that some of his own descendants would be carried away to Babylon to serve in that king’s court (II Kings 20:17,18), and that prophecy was given to him only about 100 years before Daniel was born. It is very likely Daniel could count that godly king as one of his recent ancestors!

So I don’t think it unreasonable and in fact I think it highly likely that Daniel has his own family in mind. In further support of this conjecture, I want to point out that the words “To You, the God of my fathers …” actually start this sentence in Hebrew, and the 1st person pronoun “I” is the last word, as I tried to convey in my fairly literal translation above. Also of note is that the word “I” is emphatic, in that, in Hebrew it is normally just part of the verb and doesn’t get expressed. When a Hebrew speaker did include it (which Daniel does), they were intending it to be in some way emphatic, which is why I’ve underlined it in my translation above. In this sentence, the first thing on his mind is “the God of my fathers,” and he is humble enough to put himself last, but it is himself. He is singularly aware that this is his own experience, apparently in his mind very much lived out as an expression of a family faith that has long preceded him.

And it certainly is no stretch to imagine this young man Daniel remembering watching his own parents living out their faith, trusting the Lord through hard times, and, as a family, seeing His faithfulness again and again. If he knew his grandparents, perhaps he saw this in them too, or at least heard stories of their faith and that of earlier ancestors. His family had trusted God again and again and found Him faithful. Now the young man is out “on his own” and has just lived that same faith, trusted that same God in his own very personal trial, and gets to see that same faithfulness, that same miraculous providence -- and even as his heart moves him to say “thank you,” all that heritage of faith and the realization of it wells up in his heart and he calls out to “the God of my fathers.”

Fast forward to 2017. Here I sit, ready to turn 60 in less than six weeks. I have three grown children (plus one in Heaven) and four grandchildren (hopefully that will swell to 50 or 60, J). I find myself living in the awareness that my life may soon be over. I had my chance. I was young once. I’ve lived what is probably the majority of my adult existence. At this point, without question, the single greatest desire of my heart would be for my descendants to know the Lord like I have, to love Him, to enjoy His grace and kindness and patience and guiding hand, to personally know and experience that Jesus is in fact “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life,” that “this is eternal life, that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent” – that they could perhaps see him too as “the God of their fathers.”

I have to sadly say that, in this life I lived, I’ve done a very poor job of living faith. I’ve taken too many wrong turns, too often plunged ahead in misguided arrogance when I should have waited on the Lord, listened too often to the wrong people, and, in short, would hardly classify myself with the kind of people I believe Daniel’s parents had been. So I’m on pretty shaky ground to hope my descendants could quickly and easily identify with “the God of their fathers” because of me. The problem today for me (and everyone else, for that matter) is that I can’t change the past. I can’t re-write the story. It is what it is. In light of that, one hope I have is that at least maybe my life has been a story of redemption – of the Lord’s patience to have picked up the raw material of my life and to have at least brought me to where I am. I wish all of my descendants could know the Lord early and, like Daniel, live a lifetime of strong faith, but perhaps, like me, some will make very bad decisions early and then need the same redemptive God I’ve known.

On the other hand, I do feel like, in the last seven years or so, I finally at least got on some kind of level ground. For years I was very aware, like Jacob and the angel, I was “wrestling in the dark.” Too many things didn’t make sense, which, if someone reads my last post, they will understand how utterly torturous that was for me. Although I still have a LOT of unanswered questions, I feel like now I’m wrestling in the light, that somehow I know God’s heart in a way I never understood before, and I hope I live a stronger faith because of it. So, maybe in my waning years there will be something worth remembering.

Regardless of all that, I want to say I think we greatly underestimate the influence of godly grand-parents. Of course, everyone would be quick to highlight the importance of godly parenting, but I want to suggest that there is a power, a magic, in a grandparent’s influence that I fear goes almost unacknowledged. Someone once asked a group, “If one of your grandparents had written a book, how many of you would read it?” and every hand in the place shot up. I believe there is something very stabilizing, very enduring, very worthy of emulation, in a grandparent’s example to us. When we hear they were hard workers, it makes us want to work hard too. When we hear how they were frugal, of good decisions they made, there is some kind of power there that draws us to be like them. And I suspect their faith is just as alluring.

Where did this Daniel come from? Did he fall out of the sky? I don’t think so. I think, knowing something of life, and based on the very words he spoke, that his faith, even in his own mind, was an expression of a long line of godly examples. For us who live today I would suggest there is great hope that, even if we have lived a less than exemplary faith, yet our faith is in a great God who can, if He wills, give beauty for our ashes, that He very well can take what few things we perhaps did right and call our children, and grandchildren, and hopefully great-great-great-great grandchildren to know this “God of my fathers.” Prov 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children …” May the Lord Himself be the inheritance we each pass on.

As feeble and faltering as we may all be, let us fall into the arms of our redeeming God, do our best to try to leave behind an example of faith, and trust to Him that even after we’ve long lain moldering in our graves, He might be a God of great blessing to our descendants. The plain, simple fact is that most of this work must be accomplished after we’re gone. While we’re still here, let us love with His patience, do our best, and, as our own human experience draws to a close, may we (confidently) leave the work in His able hands.

It worked in Daniel’s life. God hasn’t changed. It will still work today. May it work in our families, O God of our fathers!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Daniel 2:22 – “Light”

As always, here’s my fairly literal translation of these verses:

22He [is] One revealing the deep and hidden things, One knowing what [is] in the darkness and the light with Him dwells.

I personally can almost not stop praising God for the very truths Daniel notes here. He is the God who gives light, the God who explains the “why?” and the God who makes my world make sense. “He [is] One revealing the deep and hidden things.”  I’m sure everyone is different and perhaps different aspects of God’s truth mean more or less to different people, but for me, perhaps above all else, He is the God who takes away the confusion, who “turns on the lights” and in Him I find a world that makes sense.

The one thing I find almost unbearable in this world is confusion, the not understanding “why?” Why are things the way they are? Why are people the way they are? Why am I the way I am? Why does this or that happen? What can I do about this or that? My world is still to this day full of these same questions, but ever since the Lord stepped into my life, He has again and again answered my questions, explained things to me, shown me the way, made sense of what I see, and I am SO grateful to Him. I’ll join Daniel in saying, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever … He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him!”

Jesus promised me a long time ago, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The Lord gave me Jeremiah 33:3, “Call unto Me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things thou knowest not.” I have spent my adult life reveling in the truth that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (I Jn 1:5). Yes, Daniel, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever!” “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise!”

In college, I got to enjoy the great blessing of studying engineering. As a young man I remember how immensely satisfying it was to sit in one class after another and actually get to understand so many reasons why the world is the way it is. I got to learn why skies are blue but sunsets turn red, why music is in octaves, why steel is ductile but iron is not, why cellophane is impossible to pull apart but tears like tissue, why stagnant water turns black, why iron rusts but aluminum doesn’t, why carbon monoxide kills people, and on and on and on and on. Words fail to express what a thrill it was (and is) to me to understand these things, to dispel the confusion, to actually have the world make sense. The same thing happened as I got to study Greek and Hebrew. I no longer had to listen to other people say, “The Greek says this,” or “In Hebrew, this means …” I could read it myself. I could have my own opinions of why this or that. Once again, perhaps everyone is different and maybe these things don’t mean much to someone else, but to me they are life and death.

Of course, as Daniel has already expressed, even those “natural” truths are wisdom that God gives, so how much more of a blessing is it when He opens our eyes to see spiritual truth? What a treasure it is to know, spiritually speaking, that it is God Himself who is behind all that “natural” truth I so enjoyed learning? In other words – to know the big “why” things are the way they are. Other people can go on theorizing how the world came into being but I know. It’s not by chance or any other reason. The world we know exists because the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ wills it to be and He is a God of perfect wisdom and love. What a treasure it is to know that “the heart of man is desperately wicked.” That explains why the world is so full of cruelty and violence. What a treasure it is to understand there is a Redeemer – that there is a solution to man’s (my) wickedness, how it is possible for love to conquer it all.

I could go on and on but I guess I’m just reveling in this wonderful little sentence from Daniel’s praise, “He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him!” In case my grandchildren or great grand children ever get to read this silly blog, I want to share that, when I was in the pits of my confusion, exasperated at life, and totally not understanding, I wrote the words,

Help me, I’m drowning in a sea of black,
There’s darkness around me and knives in my back.
I struggle for freedom, I search for the light,
But I never quite reach it, it’s lost in the night.

There was a time, so long ago, when I was young and free,
Life was good and love was warm, my days were filled with dreams.
But those dreams are now just fantasies, they’re lonely thoroughfares,
And life is just a carousel of reality’s nightmares.

“… I search for the light, but I never quite reach it, it’s lost in the night.” As I said above, I can’t stand confusion. For me, life is unbearable when I don’t understand “Why?”

I want so much to “see the light.” But thanks be to the Lord, one day I was sitting on the edge of my bed, and as I stood up, the lights came on. I don’t even know what I was thinking about before that, but as I stood up, suddenly I knew that God is real, that Jesus and the Bible and all of it is true. It is the truth! I didn’t “reach” the light, it reached me. It was no longer “lost in the night” – suddenly I felt it was shining around me like an afternoon sky, and has ever since. What I found in that moment is that He is the light! As Jesus said, “I am the light of the world!” Everything makes sense in Him.

Another time, I was flying out to DC to see my friend JR and marveling how the sun was shining above what below was a dark, rainy world, and wrote some more words. At the time they were just a silly love song, but they express what my heart feels toward the Lord:

The sun is always shining, when you fly above the clouds,
Like the way my life is beautiful, whenever you’re around.
You soothe my soul like summer rain, you make the world seem right,
You lift me up above the clouds, and drive away the night.

What more can I say? “Blessed be the name of the God forever and ever … He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him!”

Thank you, Jesus, for turning on the lights in my heart. I so wish everyone else could enjoy such blessing. May my stumbling, bungling life in some way today be used by You to turn on the lights in someone else’s heart.