Today as I made my way though Daniel I got to read my favorite of all Bible stories, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the Firey Furnace.” I don’t know why it is my favorite. Maybe it’s because I think the name Shadrach is the coolest name in the Bible and way better than his Hebrew name of Hananiah. Maybe it’s because even after they are given prominent roles in the governemnt of Nebuchadnezzar they still stand against the ungodliness. Maybe it’s because they do it without fear of losing their job and losing their life overcoming their fear of God. Maybe it’s because God saves them, and appears with them in the furnace. Or maybe it’s because of Daniel 3:18, “ But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
I often wonder if we have crossed a significant line over the years as we have tried to make Christianity palatable. We try to convince people that there is something in it for them if they would just pray this prayer and get dunked in this giant bathtub. We preach sermons about how God can fix your marriage, your kids, your finances, and your health and we fail to proclaim with the same vigor that He’s still worth following even if our wife still decides to leave us, our kids still choose to disobey us, we still end up bankrupt, and we still get cancer.
I have a friend, much older than I, who asked me a question as he was obviously dealing with the same thing. He said, “Robert, would you follow Jesus even if it meant that you would go to Hell?”
What a great question. I’m haunted by that question every day, because when he asked it I had to really check myself and I had to deeply deal with just how selfish I was in my own personal walk and in how I was communicating the gospel to others.
My answer today is, “I think so. I mean, I would try to. It would depend upon how connected I am to what it was He actually has done for me. The more connected I am to His suffering, the more likely I will be to suffer for Him” If I learned anything from Peter on the night Jesus was betrayed it was that I am never sure until the opportunity arrises.
I’m not sure how hot Hell is, but it can’t get much hotter than that furnace in Daniel 3.
And those three guys went.
May my faith in the little things of today prove beneficial when the furnace comes for me, and for you.
Is God worth following? I hope so. And this hope comes from a place deep inside of me, that just showed up one day when God through His crushing grace saved me.
Daniel 3 also raises a question I’ll have to ask when I see Jesus face to face: “Where in the heck was Daniel in all of this? Was he unaware of what was going down? Did he try to stick up for his friends? Did he choose to worship the statue? He’s conspicuously absent…
While the Harpist was Playing
“While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha.”
Have you ever noticed this prophetic idiosyncrasy? The Message version of II Kings 3:15 says: “When a minstrel played, the power of God came on Elisha.” Is that a random connection? I think not. There are other instances in the Old Testament where music dramatically changes the emotional and spiritual climate. For that matter, it was the worship leaders who led Israel into war on occasion. Check out II Chronicles 20:21.
What am I getting at? As leaders we need to be intentional about creating atmospheres where people can hear God’s voice. And musical worship is one of them. I had this revelation during worship a few weeks ago. Some things cannot be learned from a sermon. They can only be experienced in worship.
I’m not suggesting that you rent a harpist. But you better figure out how to hear His voice more clearly. Just as athletes have pre-game rituals that help them get in the right frame of mind for a game. I think we need spiritual rituals that help us get in the right frame of spirit. That is what musical worship does. It tunes us to God.
Whenever I open a service I try to put a frame around the experience. Here’s how I did it this week. I simply reminded our congregation that we often feel unworthy to worship God but God is always worthy to be worshiped. We worship in that tension. And we have a saying around NCC: don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God. Why? Because He’s worthy!
Friend just found out mom has ovarian cancer…dad has heart disease and was just released after another heart attack…God, life sucks! Help.
So, those diagnosed with cancer within the last year that I know: My mom, my neighbor, 40 year old mother of three with leukemia, and now one more.
Father God, on behalf of these I come…and I plea…that you heal them. In the powerful name of Jesus I humbly pray. AMEN…So be it!