Daniel 3 “Lives Set On Fire”

Introduction

What would spiritual renewal look like in your life? The reason I ask that question is because I believe it is much better for us to be thinking about our own need for spiritual renewal than complaining about the sinful condition of our Babylonian culture. Are you seeking after God with all of your heart? What is keeping you from doing so?

Daniel 3

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside6 the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

The world is filled with idols that pull us away from God

In Greek mythology the Sirens were mythical creatures who would sing a seductive song that would lead sailors onto the rocks and the loss of their lives. There are no 90 foot images that the devil is asking us to bow down to today. There is a seductive Siren song playing in 2021 and far too many Christians are being rendered useless for the kingdom of God.

False idols that we worship today

-The American dream: The pursuit of comfort, pleasure, wealth, success. How many of us think much more about the American Dream than we do the kingdom of God?

-Hobbies. Have you ever talked to a person and their face lights up as they begin to talk about their favorite hobby? (sports, hunting, shopping, reading). But that is not the case when they talk about church or Jesus?

-Sex, pornography, romance. Massive problem for many Christians.

-Politics. I have talked a lot about this idol. I think it is one of the worst idols that Christians are trapped in today.

-Screens: What would happen if Christians spent as much time praying as they do looking at a screen? Is it safe to assume that we would see a new and powerful work of the Holy Spirit? We are being put to sleep and we need the Spirit to wake us up.

One of my favorite musicians is Keith Green. His song, “Asleep In The Light” explains the spiritual condition of many Christians in the church today. We have been slowly, methodically put to sleep by the evil one and we are not even aware of it.

I found it so interesting that Keith Green was mentored by Leonard Ravenhill…

Erwin Lutzer points out in his book, “The church in Babylon” that there were probably up to 10,000 Jews living in Babylon at the time of the events in Daniel 3. Which leads to this question, why weren’t there more Jews thrown into the furnace? Is it possible that they were saving their own skin by bowing down to Nebuchadnezzar’s false god? God is looking today for men and women who won’t bow down to the idols all around us.

How to deal biblically with the idols in our lives

One: Slow down and ask God to reveal to you what is going on in your heart. Kevin DeYoung writes this, “Busyness is like sin: kill it, or it will be killing you.” How many of us are completely unaware of what is going on in our heart because we rarely take the time to immerse our heart and mind in God’s presence? Without a doubt one of the main things that the Spirit is doing in my life these days is showing me how weak I am in prayer. I am beginning to spend longer amounts of time crying out to God to be at work in me, my marriage, family and church.

Two: Repent. Charles Spurgeon put it like this, “Another proof of the conquest of a soul for Christ will be found in real life change. If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repented of and his conversion is a fiction.” Have you confessed your sin or repented of it? They are not the same thing.

STRONGHOLDS: Here is another thing that God is revealing in my life. In 2 Corinthians 10:4 Paul writes this, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” A stronghold in our life is a deeply entrenched area that we have surrendered to the devil. We have allowed it to put demonic hooks into us and we are often times not even aware of the damage that it is doing to us. Is there a stronghold in your life?

Three: Be ready for pain and a spiritual battle. These idols, these strongholds will fight back. We must be ready to pray our guts out for the Spirit to deliver us.

Four: Replace the idol with a greater love. This leads me to my last point.

We need to pursue God with a renewed passion

Tim Keller writes, “Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart than your idol. That is what will replace your counterfeit Gods. If you uproot the idol and fail to plant Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.”

Are you willing to begin seeking after Jesus with all of your heart? You have the world to gain and nothing to lose.

A Message For The American Church

Do ya see? Do ya see?
All the people sinking down?
Dontcha care? Dontcha care?
Are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done

Oh, bless me Lord, bless me Lord
You know, it’s all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts, no one even sheds one tear
But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds
And He cares for your needs
And you just lay back and keep soaking it in
Oh, can’tcha see it’s such sin?

‘Cause He brings people to your door
And you turn them away
As you smile and say
“God bless you, be at peace”
And all heaven just weeps
‘Cause Jesus came to your door
You’ve left Him out on the streets

Open up, open up
And give yourself away
Ya see the need, ya hear the cries
So how can you delay?
God’s calling and you’re the one
But like Jonah, you run
He’s told you to speak
But ya keep holding it in
Oh, can’tcha see it’s such sin?

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
‘Cause it’s asleep in the light

How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed?
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, ya can’t even get out of bed
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on, get out of your bed

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
And You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done
Don’t close your eyes, don’t pretend the job’s done

Come away, come away, come away with Me my love
Oh, come away from this mess
Come away with Me my love

Come away from this mess
Come away with Me my love

Come away, come away
Oh, come away with Me my love

Getting ready to come back from sabbatical

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them…” Acts 16:25

God has been at work in my life. Lots of pruning (ouch). Lots of prayer. Asking the Spirit to fill me with a holy joy that will sustain me through the ups and downs of everyday life. I love you guys and can’t wait to see you and preach on August 2nd!

Tomorrow Is World Suicide Prevention Day #BeThe1To

Tomorow is World Suicide Prevention Day and I wanted to stop and share a few thoughts with you. From most of the reading I do it seems that depression and suicide are on the rise here in America.

So here are a few articles, links, resources that can help you, or someone you love, know how to deal with the sensitive topic of suicide and depression.

HERE is an article I wrote about a year ago after Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.

THIS link has five steps you can take to help a friend who is contemplating suicide. #BeThe1To

HERE is a book that does a great job of talking about the fact that Christians can get depressed and what we can do about it.

One of the things that we need to keep in mind is that many times people who are hurting the most keep up a facade in public of being OK. So my suggestion would be that if you begin to wonder if someone is struggling ask them out for coffee. Ask questions. Genuinely listen. Show compassion. You could be the one that God uses to save a life.

If you need immediate help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Worship like your life is at stake

The world, and the wretched sin nature that we carry around with us 24 hours a day, are hell-bent on getting us to turn our eyes off of the beauty of Jesus Christ and to become intoxicated, or distracted, with a million other things. And when we do this we feel the impact almost immediately. We can run the gamut, from apathy, boredom, irritability, anger, falling into sinful habits, out of control thought life, worry, anxiety, etc.

I think the single best thing thing we can do in the middle of this spiritual battle is to worship God. Not just on Sunday morning, but during the busyness of everyday life. What is it that gives you life and draws you closer to God? Worship music? Bible study? Alone time? Getting outdoors?

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10: 38-42

I find for me one of the most powerful things I can do during the week is listen to worship music. As I listen to the gospel through the medium of music I find that my heart is softened and I can sense and experience the presence of God once again.

There is a spiritual battle going on and our heart is ground zero. Make no mistake about it, we will worship something or someone. If what we are worshipping is not Christ then it will rob us of the joy that we so desperately need to live a vibrant Christian life. The best thing we can do is in the middle of everyday life find time to worship, praise, and enjoy being in the presence of our God.

Over the past week I have listened to the song below many times. The audio tape in my brain tells me that I am a failure and self-loathing is not far behind. I find that I need to be reminded that God passionately loves me. Few things feed my soul like reveling in the undeserved love of God.

You don’t have to act like you have all together

I recently read this tweet by a pastor…

“I had a pastor once warn me against sharing my weaknesses. He told me it would be used against me. He was right, but I think I’d rather have some people reject an honest version of me, then a mythology I cannot maintain that benefits no one.” -Doug Bursch

The tweet made me quite emotional because there is pressure (from myself, from within Christianity, combination of both perhaps) to act like I have it all together. I know this is true because the very next line that I feel compelled to write is something like, “Hold up, don’t worry, I still meet the qualifications of an elder!” Which only proves to myself that the desire to put up a front, a facade, of spiritual perfection runs deep in my blood.

The reason I need to admit that I do not have it all together is because no one does. If the apostle Paul could tweet today he might write something like this, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” -Romans 7:21

I think it is wise for me to acknowledge what really should seem quite obvious. It feels liberating to admit it. But there is another reason that I need to communicate this to you. I know you don’t have it all together either. And that is OK. I don’t want anyone in my church to think that they have to put on an act. Instead, I want them to know that they can admit that they have struggles, weaknesses, fears, temptations, etc.

I often times think of this Imagine Dragons song, “Demons.” You can relax, it’s not about fallen angels. It’s about the fact that everyone is dealing with some hard stuff in their life. Everyone is going through a battle of some sort. In the video you see various individuals at an Imagine Dragons concert. At the concert it looks like they are doing great. But then it shows their personal life and you can see what they are really dealing with, the difficulties of life. It reminds me quite a bit of church. On Sunday morning we get dressed up, have our coffee and put on our best face. Yet the truth is that nearly all of us are coming to church with a limp, baggage, and pain.

What do I want you to know?

I want you to know that it is OK for you to admit that you are not who you want to be. It is OK for you to admit that behind the scenes, when no one is looking, you are struggling. I guess what I want the most is for you to know that you are not alone. If the apostle Paul can come clean, drop the false image of having it all together, so can we.

What I’m Learning From NF

NF (Nathan Feuerstein) is a rapper and as of late he has definitely caught my attention. His music is catchy and I enjoy it, but the part that I find fascinating is that NF is writing about the intense pain that he deals with on a regular basis. I have always been drawn to artists who share their personal experiences when it comes to the difficulties that they have been through. Nearly every song I have heard from NF sounds like he had to go to a very dark place to reconnect with old memories and put it into a rhyme. After doing a little reading I realized that NF comes from a divorced home, his mom died of an overdose, and he was physically abused. It’s pretty easy to understand why his music is filled with pain, confusion and a desperate attempt to make sense of it all.

Here are some of the comments that I have found from random people on YouTube based on the song, “How Could You Leave”:

Emma Kennedy
2 weeks ago
Nate, your not alone. I have a mom that had me at 15 did drugs, and I got taken away from her..She lost all her 5 kids and I dont get to see 2 of my siblings at all. I have no bond or relationship with my mom or siblings…I have really bad anxiety, I can get anxiety attacks too. She was never there for anything, not for my graduations..or anything. I feel like im alone, and its nice to have you, Nate. To go home from school with my earbuds on listening too you, cuz you have helped me through everything. I still get to see her, she still does drugs, but im afraid those drugs are gonna take her..and listening to you is My THERAPY SESSION

wolfnation 091617
3 weeks ago
I love this song it hits hard it makes me thinks alot it puts u in so much feelings and I can rap this whole song.

TTV Raid Venom
2 weeks ago (edited)
Ive been through this I’m only 16 and my mom has been in jail my whole life she’s only been out for 3 years i barely know her she’s not dead but she’s no longer there it’s scaring to see your mom overdose because she popped your dead dogs pills. She always used to say she was coming to pick me and my brother up from my dads but never showed she had the swat i. Our house trying to get her this song really hits me thank you nf for being here for everyone your music helps so many people

These comments on YouTube are heart breaking because they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the pain that is occurring behind closed doors. Have you seen the statistics?  NPR reported this recently, “Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state over the past two decades, and half of the states have seen suicide rates go up more than 30 percent.” We live in a country where we have so much yet we see a growing sense of hopelessness. Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, are just a couple of well known celebrities who decided to end their life in the past few weeks.

Some of you might be wondering if an artist like NF has anything to truly offer besides venting his negative emotions. I am a parent myself, so I get your concern! I am not saying that his music is for everyone (listen with discernment), but I can say that I have found a redemptive message within his music.

In his song “Statement” he goes out of his way to point out that there are plenty of artists out there (he specifically names Eminem) who deal with their pain in inappropriate ways.

I grew up on Eminem, now look where the game’s at
Lame raps, Hollywood fame acts, I’m sick of the same trash

At times NF does get quite specific regarding the source of our true hope in life. In his song “All I Have” he writes these lines:

I don’t live for the world
I live for the King, I live for the King, focus

What you’re hearing now is me whether I’m in front or behind that curtain
I stand behind these words I’m a Christian but I’m not perfect

So what am I learning from all of this? I am learning that the church has to do a better job of being open and transparent regarding the difficulties of life. To quote Michael Stipe (and to date myself), “Everyone hurts sometimes.” Since this is true, how do we help people when we try to hide it? The truth is that when we hide the hard stuff we are (unintentionally) keeping people away from the church at a time when they desperately need to know that hope is alive. I try to be open about some of my struggles from the pulpit. I have heard on a number of occasions from people that it helps them to know that they are not the only person that has their fair share of ups and downs. We have also created a Care Ministry at our church. The Care Ministry is made up of men and women who are available to meet with anyone in the church, or our city, who needs someone to listen to them and encourage them.

I’ll end with one of my favorite NF songs, “Wake Up.” This is a powerful song that is challenging the assumptions that material possessions, or the stuff of life, can ever make us happy.