Dance in the Fire!

IMG_1025I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3 of the Bible. These three men made a decision that had enormous consequences.

They were ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar to worship a golden statue he had set up. If they refused to bow and worship his idol, they would die for their disobedience.

They chose to disobey the king.  The backlash to their decision was that they were immediately ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar to be thrown into a fiery furnace. The king was so angry that he even instructed the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual.

When they were thrown into the flames, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego saved them.  The King jumped to his feet because he could clearly see four men walking around in the fire. That was as I would say, “Unreal!”. How could there be four men walking around in the fire when only three tied up men were thrown into it?

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be in that fire! To be thrown into the fire, to be alive and not burning, to have your chains fall off, and then for God to join you – that would make any person dance for joy in the fire!  I would look at my hands and feet and laugh and dance! Even more incredible would be that my God joined me in the fire!

Here is what the Bible said King Nebuchadnezzar’s response was:

Then Nebuchadnezzar went to the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, come out!  Servants of the Most High God, come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. When they came out, the governors, assistant governors, captains of the soldiers, and royal advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies. Their hair was not burned, their robes were not burned, and they didn’t even smell like smoke!

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Their God has sent his angel and saved his servants from the fire!  These three men trusted their God and refused to obey my command. They were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god other than their own.

So I now give this command: Anyone from any nation or language who says anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn apart and have his house turned into a pile of stones.  NO OTHER GOD CAN SAVE HIS PEOPLE LIKE THIS.”  (Daniel 3: 26-29 NCV)

The God of the Bible has not changed.  He is the still the same God.  No matter what fire you are thrown into God will immediately free you and join you in the fire – you can dance in the fire!  You will dance in the fire!

There is always a battle in our minds – fear, doubt, and uncertainties try and rule us. Those thoughts are lies!  The truth is God’s Word! The real truth is that God will join you in any fire you are thrown in and you will dance in the fire!

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If You DO NOT BELIEVE — You WILL NOT LAST!

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” . . . If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.” (Isaiah 7:9 NASB) 

In the days of Ahaz, kings went to Jerusalem to wage war against it.  When it was reported to the house of David, Ahaz’s heart and the heart of his people, ” . . . shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” (Isaiah 7:2 NASB)

God spoke to the prophet, Isaiah, and told him to tell Ahaz not to fear or be fainthearted.  Although the enemies had plans for evil, God said their plans would not come to pass.

God told Ahaz that if he would not believe, he would not last.

Our enemy still has plans for evil.  He often attacks us by reporting ‘into our thoughts’  —  “This will hurt you.  How can God be looking out for your best when the situation is so painful?  How can God be good if he allows you to experience pain?  How can God be a kind and compassionate God if He allows this to happen?  How can God be good if …?  Why did God not tell you the truth?  Did you really hear what God said?  Do you realize it has been ten years since God said that, and it has not happened?” 

These thoughts are deadly arrows of doubt that will make us not last if we choose not to believe in God.  The enemy will take us out if we choose not to believe.  The enemy knows how to precisely shoot his deadly arrows into painful places in our hearts in an effort to try and get us to not believe God and take us out of the race set before us.

” ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ “ (Jeremiah 29:11)

God’s plans for His people are good.  He loves His people and wants what is best for them.  Yet, just as Ahaz and his people did, we choose to fear and mistrust God’s goodness when the enemy attacks.

God does great things in our lives.  He rescues us.  He puts us on a path of life that is full of adventure and excitement.  He carries us when we are weak.  He loves us and comforts us.  He never leaves us.  However, when troubles, pain, difficult times, slander, seemingly lack of finances, boredom, or whatever else that makes you personally doubt God’s goodness comes along, we forget who God is and His promises.  By not trusting God, we tell Him that we know better than Him what is best and that we don’t believe Him or His goodness.

In 2015, we humans are still the same as the children of Israel were in Moses’ time.  We are prone to doubt God unless we purposely choose to surrender to difficulties while trusting God to take us to our promised land. 

God loved the children of Israel and delivered them from Egypt.  He told them He was taking them to the promised land.  There was a journey they had to go on in order to be transitioned to the promised land, and they would face the unknown during the journey.  They were going where they had never been before. 

Their enemies chased them.  They ran out of food and water; however, God did provide BUT He did not provide in the way they thought He should.  They were bored with the food He provided.  How could God be good if He was going to feed them the same old yucky manna every day! 

They looked back and complained.  Wasn’t life better in Egypt?  They were not remembering the truth!  How could they worry about boring food when God just delivered them from being whipped by their masters whenever the master felt like it?  How could they believe God was not good when He took them from being slaves to free people?  Was Egypt truly as glorious as they were reminiscing that it was?

What was the reality?  The reality was that God loved them and delivered them and promised them a land flowing with milk and honey.  God was good.  He was providing food for them along the way.  He fought off and conquered their enemies in the most supernatural of ways with the parting of the Red Sea and then burying their enemies after they passed on dry land.  God’s plans were good for them even though they could not see it.  Even though they were experiencing fear, pain, boredom and seemingly lack of provision the reality was God was good and was planning such good for them if they only would believe and follow Him.

How God longs for a people who love Him – who trust Him.  If we love God, then we trust Him.  How He longs for us to know Him intimately enough that in spite of circumstances we trust He is working all things out for good, and we love Him by being patient with Him.  Amazingly the Bible does say that love is patient.  God smiles when we love Him by being patient with Him.

Hebrews 11 records triumphs of faith . . . Abel, Enoch, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets – conquerors of kingdoms who performed acts of righteousness and obtained promises.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

In Hebrews 11, it says that Moses chose to endure ill-treatment with the people of God instead of enjoying the pleasures of sin.  Moses had pain in his life.  He endured and believed God in spite of his surroundings.

When God asks us to do something, there is a surrendering to the process and transition of what He asks.  We must believe His plans are good even if we must endure pain.  Perhaps we need to learn to embrace pain as a sweet offering to God – a sacrifice – an act of worship that says though they slay me I will trust in You.

“Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)

I must believe – you must believe OR we will not last!  We must believe the truth!  Our sweet, gentle, loving, kind, just, compassionate, Shepherd God is working all things out for our good no matter what things look like, feel like, sound like – no matter what!  The absolute truth is God is good.  There is no evil in Him.

“The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, ‘Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand.” (Isaiah 14:24)

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Idols, False Prophets and Evil Rulers

God told Ezekiel:Ezekiel's_vision

“… I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols …” (Ezekiel 6:9)

When God spoke this to Ezekiel, all kinds of idols had been set up in the temple in Jerusalem.  At the north gate of the inner court, an idol of jealousy was at the entrance. 

God showed Ezekiel many of the idols that were being worshipped in Jerusalem.  The elders of the house of Israel were worshipping carved images.  At the entrance of the gate of the Lord’s house which was towards the north, women were sitting weeping for Tammuz.  Even in the inner court, abominations were being committed.  God was hurt; God’s people were being hurt and misled.

God said that a mark was to be put on the foreheads of all the men in the city who sighed and groaned over all the abominations that were being committed. These were men after God’s heart.  They had hearts that longed for God to be worshipped in purity – with no other idols receiving the glory that was to be God’s alone.  These men were marked and set aside to be saved by God.  The others were to be destroyed. 

God commanded that the evil rulers be judged.  The very character of God is a good Shepherd.  He is everything that is good and is love.  He could not allow His little lambs (His children) to continue to be deceived, hurt, and ruined by evil leaders who did not follow after God’s ways.  God was going to clean His house and had the responsibility to clean His house.

“Thus you will know that I am the Lord; for you have not walked in My statutes nor have you executed My ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations around you.” (Ezekiel 11:12)

The evil rulers had allowed the culture around them to change their way of life and to influence what was right and wrong.  God’s Word no longer dictated what was right and wrong.  The leaders began chasing after idols and ways of life that were not God’s.  Priorities, riches, pride, power, prestige and a host of other idols were set up in their hearts in the very place where God’s laws were to be written and where God was to be worshipped and served.  

False prophets arose who spoke on God’s behalf saying things God never said.

“It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, ‘Peace!’ where there is no peace.  And when anyone builds a wall, behold, they plaster it over with whitewash;(Ezekiel 13:10)

God was angry!  He was hurt!  He loved His people and only wanted what was absolutely the best for them.  Who were these leaders and prophets that would lie to His children?  God said He would send His wrath on those who cried peace when God did not say it.  

God also condemned idolatrous elders.  Elders had set up their own idols in their hearts.

Ezekiel was told by God to say to the house of Israel,

” . . . Thus says the Lord God, “Repent and turn away from all your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations.” (Ezekiel 14:6)

The stubborn and obstinate children of God were punished by a God who loved them.  He loves His people so much He could not allow leaders who had set up idols to continue to lead His people.  He could not allow false prophets to speak peace to His people when that was not what God was saying.  God’s true prophets only spoke the words He said.

Evil and stubborn leaders who turned aside from God’s way to listen to the ways of the nations around them and to follow after the nation’s idols hurt God because they hurt His people.  They deceived God’s people.  A God of love had and has to defend and protect His people.

Life has not changed since the days of Ezekiel.  Leaders arise that are evil and stubborn and who turn away from the truth of the Bible.  They deceive people.  They turn their eyes from God’s ways and seek a way that is easier and full of peace and riches.  They seek prosperity and wealth and power all the while doing it in the name of God when God never said what they are saying.

God is still the God of the Bible.  He does not change.  Sin is still sin.  God still loves.  God still forgives if we repent and turn from our evil ways.  He is still a God who has not abolished the Law or the Prophets but fulfilled them.  He is still a God who says that we are to have no other gods before Him or idols in our lives.  He is still a God who says pick up your cross and follow Me.  He is still the God who says we must forsake all and follow Him. 

In Ezekiel 11, God promised restoration . . .

“When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it.  And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them.  And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them.  Then they will be My people and I shall be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:18-20)

God hurts when He looks on North America and earth.  He hurts when He sees His lambs being deceived and trampled on.  He is hurt when leaders teach we all have to be rich.  That is not what God said.  God said the poor will always be with us.  He is hurt when people have weights put on them that are not from God.  God does say He wil bless the righteous.  He will provide everything a righteous person needs to do what they care called to do.

God is also hurt when we personally worship idols.  Is God your first love?  Is there anything else that takes priority over God?  If God is not first, you have idols in your life.

If God asks you to do something, what would make you not do it?  That is an idol. 

What are your priorities?  Is your first priority to love the Lord your God with all your heart and then to love your neighbour as yourself?  If this is not your first priority each day to spend time with God and to know Him and to love Him, what takes His place?  That is an idol.

May we all sigh and groan over the abominations that are committed around us in the name of God by His stubborn and obstinate children.  May we all stand up for truth.  May we all stand up and knock down the idols first of all in our own lives and then in the corporate church community around us. 

Stand for truth!  Be one of those worthy to be marked by God on your forehead as one who loves God and His commands. 

At all costs, stand for the truth of God’s Word and not what men say God says. Read your Bible!

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”. (Matthew 5:6)

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)

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