When the fire has no power

Daniel 3:27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.

There was nothing shocking about these three men being thrown into the fire. It was just another means of execution. But even the king couldn’t help but notice how they walked in that fire and who walked with them.

The fact that the fire had no effect upon them drew the attention of those around them. And while these three men were inspected and their condition considered, God received the glory.

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!

When we go through life’s trials the same way the world does, it draws no attention and brings God no glory.

Some people bear the marks of the fire through the rest of their lives. They spend much time describing its heat and displaying their scars. And it is the fire that gets the glory.

Followers of Jesus are called to a different way. Even in our trials and suffering we are to set our mind on things above (Colossians 3:2)

The fire may be able to touch our outer man at times, but it can only touch our inner man to the extent we yield ourselves to it.

Consider how these three men conducted themselves and how this might apply to us and the fires we walk through:

Daniel 3:25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

They were not bound up and hindered and stifled in life because of the fire. They were not paralyzed or immobilized because of the fire. They weren’t damaged by the fire. They didn’t come out so traumatized that they were unable to even toast marshmallows again. And it was perceptible to all who looked on that they were not alone. The presence of Jesus in the fire with them was unmistakable.

It is never easy to go through a fiery trial, but if your life finds you in a particular furnace at the moment, don’t let it be wasted. Walk through that fire in such a way that when you come out on the other side, people will marvel at the gracious God who brought you through.

Announcing – new things

This has been a season of new things for me, as it probably has been for many of you. I’ve added a couple of new pages to my blog because I’ve started doing a couple of new things.

Namely, a podcast and YouTube channel. I’m still learning and deciding how to best utilize these platforms, but rather than waiting to figure it all out, I just started! 😊

Sooooo…..I just thought I would make that announcement for anyone who may be interested.

Those who yield their bodies

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!

As background to this verse, King Nebuchadnezzar had erected a gold statue of himself that was about 90 feet tall and commanded his subjects to bow down to it and worship it…. or else.

Daniel 3:6 “and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, as worshippers of God, could do no such thing and it didn’t take long for news of this to get back to the king. In his fury he commanded the furnace be heated seven times hotter than normal and the three men were thrown in. God miraculously delivered them and our opening verse is King Nebuchadnezzar’s response to that deliverance. He called them servants of God who yielded their bodies.

Well, who wouldn’t yield their body for such an amazing miracle?? But remember, when these three refused to bow, they knew what the penalty was and although they believed God could deliver them from it, they did not know if He would. And still they yielded their bodies to God, refusing to bow.

Many of us may hope we would respond the same way. But if you haven’t yielded your bank account, you won’t yield your body. If you haven’t yielded your time (allowing the Lord to prune your life of time wasting activities), you won’t yield your body. If you can’t ever push back the plate, then you probably won’t yield your body.

How can we honestly say we would make the greatest sacrifice when we won’t make the small ones.

Wave your white flag. Surrender to the Lord. Yield your body.

Ten times better

Daniel 1:20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.

A consecrated life increases your ability to receive what God desires to give and multiplies your effectiveness in the kingdom.

Not only were Daniel and his friends superior to the other captives who had received the same training as them, they were superior to the wisemen of Babylon who had spent their lives being immersed in and studying Babylonian history, literature, wisdom, etc.

Daniel and his friends had three years of training in these things. And in three years their level of wisdom and understanding was not equal to the Babylonian wise men, but was 10 times greater. The difference is consecration. It doesn’t just make you a little better. It brings an anointing that results in multiples of exceeding greatness of God through your life.

If I consider how this practically plays out in my life, I think about the times that I set the word of God before me yet within arm’s reach is a cell phone, and YouTube, and Facebook. I haven’t really consecrated that time for the Lord because as soon as that notification sound goes off, I will reach for the phone. If it were only an occasional thing perhaps I could excuse it. But it has become a habitual way of life for me. So it isn’t merely that these certain times aren’t consecrated — the life isn’t consecrated. How can this possibly continue to be acceptable?? There are things He wants to speak to me and impart into my life, but my refusal to crucify a flesh that cries to be entertained has kept me among the multitudes of the unknown and ineffective instead of ascending with the few who push the plate away.

Regarding Daniel and his friends, God moved mightily in them during this season of preparation, but things may have turned out very differently for them if they also had indulged in the king’s delicacies. Their decision to live in such a way as to honor God rather than satisfy themselves swung open the door wide for the power of God to work in their lives.

An undefiled life

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

We are told that Daniel continued in his position in Babylon for approximately 60 years, until the first year of Cyrus which means he was probably a teenager at the beginning of the book of Daniel. Yet even at so early an age, his desire to obey and please God overruled even his desire for a life of ease in Babylon.

This food that the captives were being provided would have been quality food, for it came from the king’s own table. But it almost certainly would have been offered to pagan deities and may have been animals considered unclean to an Israelite. It would have been so easy to just go along with the other captives and eat what was set before him. There were so many justifications, not the least of which was the fact that he was now basically a prisoner in a foreign land with no ability to direct the course of his own life any longer. What choice did he have?

But he wanted to live a life that was pure and holy before God, even if that meant depriving himself of the flesh pleasing delicacies that others enjoyed. But wouldn’t he lack? Wouldn’t his health suffer by so restrictive a diet? Did it really even require all that?

Don’t we ask similar questions of ourselves when the Holy Spirit begins touching on a part of our lives that is defiling us?

Other Christians are doing it. Why can’t I?

It isn’t a sinful thing, so what’s it hurting?

Doesn’t it seem a bit fanatical to lay this thing aside?

I have found that the Holy Spirit will have me lay something aside mainly for this one reason – it hinders intimacy with Jesus. Friend, if you have cried out to the Lord in your desire to draw near to Him, one inevitable outcome of such prayers is that you will become aware of things in your life that you will need to let go of to allow more room for Him.

Daniel didn’t know when he was making decisions to live in purity as a teenager that the Lord would elevate and prosper him in the kingdom the way He did. That wasn’t Daniel’s goal. He just wanted to live pure before God.

Oh that we would have that same heart and desire to cast away everything that defiles our life. We might actually see God do amazing things in our lives if our greatest desire was to be pleasing to Him.

Zadok priests – a separated life

There were two groups of priests in the temple – those whose compromised lives made them fit only to minister to the people and the faithful Zadok priests who ministered to the Lord. This is a longish passage but it describes the distinction between the two groups.

Ezekiel 44:10-16 And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity. Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them. Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them,” says the Lord GOD, “that they shall bear their iniquity. And they shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priest, nor come near any of My holy things, nor into the Most Holy Place; but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. Nevertheless I will make them keep charge of the temple, for all its work, and for all that has to be done in it. But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,” says the Lord GOD. They shall enter My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge.

You would think that these Zadok priests would have lives so very prosperous and blessed because of their faithfulness to God. Perhaps the very windows of heaven would be open over their lives, pouring out blessings and wealth they couldn’t contain. Blessings surely must be chasing them down and overtaking them. Shockingly, this was not the case.

Ezekiel 44:28 It shall be, in regard to their inheritance, that I am their inheritance. You shall give them no possession in Israel, for I am their possession.

They had no land of their own, nothing they could say was theirs …except for God. He was their portion.

The Lord provided their food from what was His:

Ezekiel 44:29-30 They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering; every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs. The best of all firstfruits of any kind, and every sacrifice of any kind from all your sacrifices, shall be the priest’s; also you shall give to the priest the first of your ground meal, to cause a blessing to rest on your house.

The Lord provided their housing from what was His:

Ezekiel 45:1 Moreover, when you divide the land by lot into inheritance, you shall set apart a district for the LORD, a holy section of the land; its length shall be twenty-five thousand cubits, and the width ten thousand.

Ezekiel 45:4 It shall be holy throughout its territory all around. It shall be a holy section of the land, belonging to the priests, the ministers of the sanctuary, who come near to minister to the LORD; it shall be a place for their houses and a holy place for the sanctuary.

They ate what was holy. They lived in a holy place. The presence of God and ministry to Him was the center of everything- literally.

I wonder if others thought it was a restrictive life, feeling sorry for these Zadok priests who did not have a possession of their own. Meanwhile, these priests lived near the very presence of God and spent their days serving Him, feeling sorry for those who did not have Him as their possession.

From night to day (a poem)

When the night in darkness veiled, Obscures this solitary trail

“The way is hard!” my soul complains, weary of the toil and pain

Yet trudging on through barren lands, no aid in sight from mortal man

Hidden from all human eyes; Voicing only muted cries

Then face upturned and heart exposed, my tears pool on the ground below

Raw need and longing, strong and fierce, hurled to the sky, the heavens pierced

The veil pulled back, my heart alive, “My Beloved!” is my cry

Kingly Presence all around, knees give way, face to the ground

When the night in glory bathed Illuminates the way with grace. All sorrow gone, I’ve seen His face

Raised to life to be an army

Ezekiel 37:10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, (the dry bones) and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

In the beginning, there was no life in man until the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Before this, he looked like a man, he was completely formed and possessed all the organs and tissues necessary to function. But he lacked life. Without this, the breath of God, he was as useless as the dust he was formed from. But once God breathed the breath of life into him, every intricate system within his body began to function. His brain began processing data, his soul began to dream. The purpose of God for this man in the garden had no possibility of fulfillment until he was filled with the breath of God.

Thousands of years later Ezekiel stood before a valley filled with dry bones. At the command of the Lord he prophesied to them and they came together, muscles and flesh covering the bones, forming bodies. But they were useless, just as Adam had been, because there was no life. But once the Lord caused the breath to enter them, they lived and stood up on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Nothing was going to happen without the breath of God. But when it came, it wasn’t so they could be a social group, but so they could be an army.

The dead who have been made alive in Christ are intended to be an army. The breath of God, the Holy Spirit, has come to awaken us, empower us, teach us how to fight and lead us into warfare.

This is an army and we are soldiers. I’m afraid we may have forgotten this in the midst of our comfortable lives and weekly church attendance. 2020 was a year of chaos and change which many people railed against. But just like an eagle will make its nest uncomfortable so the young will be forced out of the nest and learn to fly, maybe the same thing is happening with us.

Instead of complaining, it’s time to take up the weapons of our warfare. Darkness is making a power play in this hour. Up to this point it has gone largely uncontested. We can’t go back and change that, but we can change how we respond now.

The breath of God is in us. We have no excuse. It is time to fight.

🚫 pleasing man

Galatians 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

Paul was confronting the false teaching and deception that had infiltrated the Galatian church. Men had come in bringing a distorted gospel and the Galatians had believed it. As we find out later in the book of Galatians, the perversion was to add law to grace. If you really understand grace then it is quite baffling to understand why anyone would be so accepting of law after having received grace. But there is an element to law keeping that is satisfying to man – a sense of accomplishment and having earned something from God. Of course we know that no one can keep the law thus no one can earn anything from God. Do it truly is a deception.

So Paul had to confront this error and he let them know that his purpose in preaching the gospel to them was not to please any man, he wasn’t trying to win their favor or to accommodate himself to their opinions and desires. And listen to what he says: if I still pleased men, I would not be a bond servant of Christ.

If you serve the opinions and desires of men, rest assured that you will not be serving God. Consider what Jesus said:

Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

If you are a servant of God (as in actually serving Him) you will, at times, find yourself in conflict with others who want you to do or say things their way. When this happens, a choice must be made. Here is how Jesus chose:

John 8:29 “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”

John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.

People may cast you aside when you don’t fall into line with their opinions and desires but the Father will not leave you alone when you are choosing to do those things that please Him.

Insignificant? Not to Him

2 Corinthians 8:12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.

For most of my life I have felt shut down by a paralyzing sense of inferiority. I wouldn’t meet new people for fear that they wouldn’t like me. I wouldn’t speak up in groups because I was afraid I would say something stupid and embarrass myself. It limited my life in huge ways.

There were a few things I felt that I had some level of gifting to do. But others were gifted in such a higher level that it discouraged me and made what I had to offer seem unimportant and insignificant.

But these are exactly the things God uses – the insignificant things.

The temptation is to bury your one little talent because it seems paltry compared to the brother or sister who has five talents. Or ten. But even the servant with his one little talent was expected to do something with it. (See Matthew 25:14-30)

Whatever little ability you have, step out in faith and use it for the kingdom. God will accept what we do for Him, in faith, with what He has entrusted to us. Those who seem so greatly gifted now probably started at the same place of fear and insecurity. But stepping out, they were increased and multiplied by God.

Mark 4:25 “For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”