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.”

The right ambition

2 Corinthians 5:9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

The Amplified Bible says it like this: We are constantly ambitious and strive earnestly to be pleasing to him.

What does it mean to be ambitious? Here are some dictionary definitions:

Having a desire to be successful, powerful, or famous.

Having a desire to achieve a particular goal

There was a time in my life when I was very ambitious in my career. I worked extra hours and took on new responsibilities. I took on hard projects and learned new things that made me more valuable to the company. I disregarded normal activities that I enjoyed because there wasn’t time for them if I was going to be devoted to work responsibilities. I would work until I was physically exhausted.

Many people have had this same experience in their work life. But how many of us have had this experience in our spiritual life?

Rarely have I pushed myself this hard in the things of God. It’s been more common for me to go to sleep then to stay up late and pray. To indulge my appetite rather than fast. To zoom through my Bible reading rather than digging in and studying to learn something new, to receive some new revelation of the glory of God.

Being ambitious has gotten a bad reputation because we often find ambition in connection with selfish and self-promoting things. But the word of God commends it when it’s directly rightly.

Beloved, let’s be ambitious in our pursuit of God and our desire to please Him in all things. Admittedly, it can sometimes be very difficult to deny ourselves the things our soul and flesh desire. But once we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good those other things will lose their savor and our ambitious pursuit of Him will be fueled by the expectation that we will taste and see even more.

The faithful blessing of the Lord

Ezekiel 29:18-20 “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to labor strenuously against Tyre; every head was made bald, and every shoulder rubbed raw; yet neither he nor his army received wages from Tyre, for the labor which they expended on it. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he shall take away her wealth, carry off her spoil, and remove her pillage; and that will be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor, because they worked for Me,’ says the Lord GOD.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was a pagan man and an ambitious ruler. He laid siege to Tyre out of his covetous desire to possess their land and their wealth. Just read through Ezekiel 28 to see how wealthy and influential the city of Tyre was. So for 13 years Nebuchadnezzar labored to overtake the city of Tyre, and when the city finally surrendered to him, they received little benefit from it. Commentators speculate that the wealth of Tyre was relocated during the lengthy siege. Because this overthrow of Tyre was the fulfillment of will of God against this proud city, and Nebuchadnezzar was His unknowing servant, the Lord granted Egypt and all its wealth to Nebuchadnezzar as payment for his service.

Needless to say, it was a little shocking to read that. If this is what God does for His enemies, imagine what He will do for His friends.

If He will not fail to reward a pagan king who doesn’t even acknowledge Him, then how much more will He delight to reward His sons! But here is the thing that was most helpful to me – Nebuchadnezzar expected to get the wealth of Tyre for his labors. Instead he received the wealth of Egypt. And maybe, just maybe, when God chooses to send some reward or some blessing to us it may come from a totally different direction than where we’ve been laboring.

What grace!!! What amazing grace!! Maybe you have been discouraged as you’ve served the Lord in a particular way (or ways), laboring faithfully, knowing you are in the will of God but seeing little fruit and receiving little blessing. But remember this:

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

The blessing of the Lord may be ready to overtake you at any moment, from a totally unexpected direction.

A life on fire – consecrated

Previously we have considered a life on fire as it relates to John the Baptist. But as I close out this little series, we will leave John and take a peek into the Old Testament.

Lev 6:8-13 tells us about the burnt offering. It was the only one of the offerings that was given entirely to God. Every hoof and whisker was burned on that altar. None of it was taken anywhere else and none of it was given to the priest. It was wholly for God. Three times in this passage it says the fire shall always be burning. The priest tended the fire continually to make sure it didn’t go out and once the sacrifice was completely consumed, he removed the ashes. Notice that it doesn’t say that he sweeps or shovels out the ashes, but it says that he “takes them up” and it says the priest puts on the linen garments to do this. The only other place that it is recorded that the priest changes into the linen garments is on the day of atonement. These are the holy garments and this matter of a sacrifice offered wholly to God is a holy matter. He carries the ashes outside the camp to a clean place and there they are poured out.

But this is about something more than an animal; it is about my life. He wants it all for Himself. And He is the priest Who watches over the fire to keep it burning. It is only the totally consumed life that is poured out and when nothing remains of the sacrifice but the ashes that the fire has reduced it to, it is then that Jesus our high priest gathers them up. Do you see the beautiful picture? He is in the holy garments, carefully taking up what we have offered to Him. Do you see that it matters to Him when you offer yourself completely to Him? And He takes these ashes, which are your life, outside the camp and he pours us out into holy moments where our life intersects with the lives of others in what becomes a holy place. A life on fire is a consecrated life.

The word consecrate is an interesting word. When I looked it up I thought it would be defined by words like holy, separated, devoted. But what this word means is “to fill the hand”, as in when you would fill your hand with an offering that you were offering up to God. The definition of the root of this word is fullness. That was utterly shocking to me and a wonderful revelation. I had always thought of consecration as an act of emptying, but God sees it as an act of filling.

Maybe you’ve heard the stories of the men and women who walked with God so closely that their presence in a room changed the atmosphere. Many times I have wondered if these were just special people who were singled out because of the particular calling on their lives….or is this something that all believers can have – this life on fire, walking so closely with God that it is tangible to those around you. I was reminded of the story that Jesus told about those who were invited to the banquet that had been prepared and they wouldn’t come. They were just busy with other things. They missed it. Jesus waits at the banquet table ready to give what we need and what we desire….but there is a requirement. Would we go live out in the wilderness to seek His face? Can we let ourselves, all of ourselves, be put on the altar to be consumed by Him that we may be poured out for Him? Can we turn away from the distractions of this life, and just come to the table? If we could just see what He longs to give we would hunger for it……and we too could receive a life on fire.

Luke 12:49 “I came to send a fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled”