02/22/2015 – John 6:22-59 – “Fuel for Living”

Mark Wheeler
February 22, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
John 6:27-59
“Fuel for Living”

Dear God, thank You for bringing us all here to this place. Help us to open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits to better understand who You are and to know You more. Please be with us as we draw near to You and closer to one another. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Last week we read from the Old Testament book of Exodus – and we listened as God told Moses who God is. Do you remember what God said when Moses asked Him, “Who do I tell people You are?” God said, “Tell them ‘I-AM has sent me to you.’”

Today, and for the next several weeks we will be in the New Testament Gospel according to John – because the Apostle John records some fascinating ways Jesus also answers Moses’ question.
Let me set the stage for today’s passage from John 6. By this time, Jesus has gathered His 12 Apostles and has started His ministry of healing and teaching. A quick list of some miracles:
• He turns water into wine at a wedding – Who is Jesus? The wine-maker (and the best party invite ever!)
• He healed the son of a royal nobleman – Who is Jesus? The doctor to the elite
• He healed an invalid man who had been waiting for a miraculous healing for 38 years – Who is Jesus? The miracle man for the underprivileged
• He feeds 5,000+ people with five barley loaves of bread and two fish – Who is Jesus? The greatest lunch-lady of all time!
• He walks on water to catch up to His Apostles – Who is Jesus? Some kind of metaphysicist beyond imagination
But when we get to today’s passage Jesus gives His listeners a very different answer. From John 6:22-34 we see the crowd searching for Jesus and when they find Him Jesus says, “The only reason you’re looking for me is because I fed you yesterday!” Then He says, “Don’t be satisfied with a full belly – food that perishes – but be fed by the food that endures to eternal life – that which God the Father gives through His Son!”
The crowd’s response, oddly enough, was, “So tell us what we have to do to get credit from God.”
Jesus answered, “This is the work of God – this is what you have to do, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
Now the crowd gets skeptical, as if that list of miraculous healings, feedings, wine-making and water-walking aren’t enough, they say, “So who are You that we should believe You? Moses gave our ancestors manna from heaven. What can You do?”
Now comes the teaching moment. Jesus told them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven, but my Father gives the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” – This is like when we hear of an answered prayer and we say, with good, faithful intentions, “See? Prayer works!” Jesus says, “It’s good that you prayed, but it is God who works!” Moses was a good man, a faithful leader, but it was God who rescued the Israelites from Egypt, and it was God who sent the manna from heaven!
So the people rightly say, “Sir, give us this bread always.” And in John 6:35-59 we hear Jesus’ response …. —-
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. … 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
May God bless the reading, the hearing, the receiving of His Word which never fails.

Jesus did not claim water-walking winner, lunch-lady superlative, miracle-man, physician for the rich and famous, or even ultimate frat-boy status; what He claimed was simple barley loaf – he wasn’t even claiming the meat of the sandwich – He was the bread that holds the insides together!
Wait: He said, “I am the Bread of Life!” Let’s explore that a little deeper.

Out of curiosity, on my Microsoft Word I looked for synonyms for “bread” to see other English ways to maybe translate the word Jesus used in Greek. What do you think the top synonyms for “bread” were? *cash *dough (double entendre) *currency *bucks – all related to money, slang for moolah
Which got me to thinking – if Jesus spoke some kind of urban English or mafia slang, what might He have been saying? In I Timothy 6, Paul teaches us that “the love of money is the root of all evil” – so maybe Jesus was saying that He was, in fact, the opposite of that – He is the bread of Life, of love, of living.

Or maybe He was connecting in a deeper way to His audience.
He had just fed 5,000 of them with barley bread – sustained them for a few hours; He was just compared to manna from heaven – sustained the Israelites for one-day-at-a-time; now Jesus says He is the Bread of Life – the food of eternity – sustenance for-ever – fuel for faithful living!
These were all Jewish people here – good Jews, we believe; faithful. My favorite Jew of all time is Tevye from The Fiddler on the Roof, who sings, “If I were a rich man …. If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.”
That song culminates with Tevye wishing he could spend his whole life reading the Bible. Why? Because for Jews, the Bible was known as the Bread of Life – the Nourishment of Life – the Fuel for Living.
Jesus said in John 4, “I have food you don’t know about – doing the will of God”; and in Matthew 4, while Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, the devil tempts Him to turn the stones into bread and Jesus tells the devil, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The Jews Jesus was talking to would have had an immediate connection from “Bread of Life” to the Torah, the Bible, God’s Word.

In what ways is Jesus the Bread of Life?
He is the Word of God! John 1 opens with the poetic truth that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God!” And a few verses later this “Word” is identified as Jesus. He is the Living Word – that to which the written Word, the Bible, reveals!
Jesus reveals His Father to the world which He so loves He gave His only begotten Son.

In what ways is Jesus the Bread if Life for you?
Do you receive spiritual nourishment from Him every day? He’s available – He’s there – He’s waiting.
I think it was DL Moody who once said something about how we cannot drink enough water in one hour to keep us hydrated for a whole week; we cannot eat enough food today to nourish us for seven days; we need to eat and to drink every day, or we become weak and sick.
Jesus cannot be the Bread of Life for us if we only nibble on Him for a few minutes at church.

Toward the end of today’s passage Jesus tells these Jews, and He tells us, a very hard saying. Listen again to what He says here: 53 “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

What do you think Jesus meant? These sound like Holy-Communion-words, don’t they? But Jesus said them 7 chapters before His last supper, at least one year before He broke that bread and poured that cup.
I think He is saying that we need Him every day, like the great old hymn says, “I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.”

Let’s pray: Dear God, we know that You give us our daily bread and continually offer the bread of life. You are our only reliable source for all that we need, but our memory is short, and we easily forget. Teach us what it means to depend on You daily, and help us remember to pray for one another until we are together again. We ask all this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Resources:
Fuquay, Rob; The God we Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus (Adult Group Guide); Upper Room Books; Nashville, TN; 2014; Pp. 11-15.

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02/15/2015 – Exodus 3:1-14 – “In a Word, God: Who Are You?”

Mark Wheeler
February 15, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Exodus 3:1-14
“In a Word, God: Who Are You?”

Dear God, thank You for bringing us all here to this place. Help us to open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits to better understand who You are and to know You more. Please be with us as we draw near to You and closer to one another. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Mountain-top experiences are those rare times when we cannot imagine being in a better place. “I’m on top of the world! Over the moon! In the clouds!”
We’ve all had such experiences – the day we got married – the day our baby was born – the day we got a raise, or moved into our first house, or graduated from high school, or the day we were born (I’ll bet if we could remember that day it would be near the top of the list), or the day we were born again (some of us can remember that day, others only know it happened). Those all describe some of my “mountain-top” experiences. Also, when I traveled to the Holy Land with my family; visiting the Greek city of Corinth with a very small group of Lidgerwoodians and a brand new band of friends from across this country. But maybe my most memorable mountain-top-travel experiences were visiting my grown-up daughter at her first grown-up work-site in Chiang Mai, Thailand; and six weeks ago visiting my other daughter at her first grown-up work-site in Shishmaref, AK.
You can think of your own mountain-top experiences and wonder in the awe of those moments.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday on the liturgical calendar – the day we commemorate Jesus’ mountain-top experience with James and John and Peter; oh, and Moses and Elijah, too. Our Children’s Message time was spent talking a little about that day.
We are looking at another mountain-top experience in the Bible. This one happened 1,400 years before Jesus, when Moses was still a young man before he became the great deliverer of his people from slavery in Egypt. You know the story: he was born at a time when the Pharaoh had declared that all Hebrew baby boys were to be killed, but baby Moses was hidden for a few months, and then he was put in a basket and floated down the Nile River toward where the Pharaoh’s daughter would find him; she does, and hires Moses’ mother to be his nurse-maid, and Moses is brought up in the Pharaoh’s house as if he were a son of the king; when Moses discovers his true identity, he kills an Egyptian slave-master for beating a Hebrew slave; so Moses runs into the hills; and while there he works as a shepherd.
This brings us to today’s Bible passage, from Exodus 3:1-14 – let me start with the end of Exodus 2 …. —-
23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
3 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I-AM has sent me to you.’”
May God bless the reading, the hearing, the receiving of His Word which never fails.

Can you imagine that mountain-top experience? I don’t care if you’re a professing follower of Christ or not, a day on top of THAT mountain would go in your blog.
This is a desert-like wilderness area, so plants are often turned into dry tinder; and it’s an area known for lightning storms – so flaming flora are not all that infrequent.
But a burning bush that does not actually burn – that’s a miracle! And this miracle was God speaking to Moses! Now, we can guess that Moses was already a praying man. Wandering around the wilderness, fearing for his life, and all alone – “C’mon God… Seriously? Is this why I was pulled out from the Nile and raised in the Pharaoh’s house? To live as a foreigner, with no family, no home, no nuthin’? C’mon God.”
I’ll bet that’s what Moses was praying the day God brought him to Jethro’s house and gave him Ziporrah for a wife. But still – I’ll bet he never expected God actually speak to him, and not from a blazing bush!

What are some ways God speaks to His people in the Bible? Give me some shout outs …. Directly (Adam and Eve) – through a donkey (Balaam) – by the handwriting on the wall (Daniel) – in dreams (Daniel, Joseph, others) – through angels (Abraham, Mary, others) – a burning bush (Moses)!

What are some ways God speaks to His people today? Does God speak today? What are some ways? … the Bible – in sermons – through friends – books – sunsets –

Has God ever “spoken” to you? … How did you hear Him? … What did you hear? By the sequence of closed doors and open opportunities – by the invitation of people of authority – through biblical texts/themes grouped together from varieties of unrelated sources – by weird, temporary paralysis –through an actual body-less audible voice //// be calm, I am here with you – go to Spokane, and stay until I release/send you – go to TGH Room 324

I love this story in Exodus 3. Moses made it to this point in his life through miracle and opportunity. He was born in a place of oppression, in a time of desperation – he was supposed to die on his (actual) birthday! He was rescued by the daughter of the tyrant who ordered him dead! He was raised by his own mother, who got paid to raise him when she was supposed to be a slave! He grew up in privilege and prestige instead of dirt and destitution! But at this point in the story, Moses is a homeless fugitive, living in a foreign country with no kin or company – other than his boss/father-in-law, new wife and one baby boy.
And, not doing anything of any special religious nature – he wasn’t in the temple (there wasn’t a temple yet), he wasn’t even praying, not reading his Bible (again, there wasn’t one yet), he wasn’t feeding the hungry or clothing the naked or visiting the imprisoned – he was just doing his job!
He was washing a car, balancing a budget, making payroll, making a sale, teaching a child to read, taking someone’s temperature – and out of nowhere – God shows up and this particular day at the mill becomes a mountain-top holy moment of sacred and scared-spitless divine intervention!
A non-consumed inferno of vegetation – and a voice – “Take off your shoes and pay attention – this is the voice of God Almighty – you have no choice here, but to listen, so make sure you hear what I say!”
And Moses does just that – but before he is excused, he raises his hand to ask one question – “Who do I tell these people is sending me with this message of freedom? When they ask, ‘who is this God who can do this great thing?’, what do I say?” In a word, God: Who Are You?

I have here a poster filled with nothing but names for God from the Bible: Shout out a few names for God you can think of, What are some of the names for God that are in the Bible? Creator God – God Almighty – Adonai/Lord – God most high – then there’s a whole slew of Yahweh/Jehovah names; Jehova-Jireh, Provider-Lord – Jehovah-Rapha, Healer-Lord – Jehovah-Sabaoth, Lord of hosts; heavenly Father – Prince of peace – etc, etc, etc

What are some of the names you call God? Does that name mean something special to you?
Those are all great, powerful names! Now, what does God tell Moses His name is? “Tell them ‘some unpronounceable tetragrammaton’ that in English is spelled “YHWH”’ sends you. In a Word – THAT is my name!”
Most of our English language Bibles translate that as “I-AM-WHO-I-AM sends you.”
Why is this name for God so significant? What does it mean?
Let me illustrate this with a calendar and a map:
Last Thursday Kathy and Kathy and I went to Opportunity Presbyterian Church for an important Presbytery Meeting – then in the evening Kathy Samuel came here for Cantata Choir practice, Kathy Sandusky went to Manito Presbyterian Church for a function there, and I went to Sheridan Elementary School for a Spokane School District Mentor Training session – we were at those different places at those specific times.
Today Kathy and I are here at Lidgerwood and Kathy Sandusky is at Manito worshiping. We are at those places at these specific times.
On Wednesday this week, I will be going to Oakesdale as their church’s liaison from the Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry. I will be in Oakesdale.

But God? God’s name is I-AM! Where was God on Thursday? Last Thursday God IS at Opportunity Presbyterian Church! Last Thursday God IS at Cantata Choir practice! Last Thursday God IS at Manito Presbyterian Church!
And that’s where He IS today! And that’s where He IS next Wednesday! He IS there, present tense, in every past, present and future moment of time! And all at the same time!
And God IS also in Oakesdale, and in NYC, and in Bagdad, and in Kiev, and in West Africa, and in Chiang Mai, and in Shishmaref! His name is I-AM – I-AM – I-AM!

How does this affect my faith? For me, it encourages me when I am nervous – God is there; God is there in the fiery furnace! God is there in the lion’s den! God is there in the burning bush! Not just because we invite Him to be there, but because His name is I-AM!

On that other mountain, 1,400 years later, when Jesus took His three good friends to meet Moses and Elijah, the voice from Heaven announced, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased – listen to Him!”

God is right here in this very room. And, God still speaks. Are we listening to His voice? In prayer this morning, quiet Presbyterian prayer – let’s listen first – what might God be saying today?

Resources:
Fuquay, Rob; The God we Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus; Upper Room Books; Nashville, TN; 2014; Pp. 4-10.

02/08/2015 – Daniel 11:35 – “Who’s the Real Winner?”

Mark Wheeler
February 8, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Daniel 11:35
“Who’s the Real Winner?”

You are our refuge, O Lord. We pour our lives into Your hands that we may discover all the benefits of Your grace, in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“In the spirit of a last minute effort to score more points than our opponents, I’m calling a short touchdown pass play (which hasn’t been very successful for the first 59:30 minutes of play) rather than simply hand the ball to the ‘beast’ in order to gain the last 18 inches of ground into the endzone.”
Something like that was the thought process for Pete Carroll last Sunday evening. And, I admit, it is super easy to call the right play from my easy-chair, after the bad play happened; and not at all that easy to call in the middle of the heat of the fiery furnace, or while the hungry, ferocious lions are circling their prey.
But, one of the things we learned here last week was that, no matter how the Super Bowl finished, we would still recognize that the only sovereign and ultimate authority over life is God – and He presents Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament book of Daniel, with all those stories of Daniel’s heroic faith, always reminds us that Daniel is not the real hero – God is!
If, as we discovered last Sunday, the first half of Daniel is all about how Daniel keeps pointing us to God as the
hero of all the stories, then, today we start with a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire question. Do you wanna
play?
The question on the board is: What is the main point of the last half of the book of Daniel?
A) The End Times will be Scary!
B) God is the ultimate winner!
C) Winning isn’t Everything.
D) Daniel learned to win from Mr. Miyagi. FINAL ANSWER?

Listen to this quick recap of the book of Daniel:
1) Nebuchadnezzar makes a huge gold statue of himself, and requires everyone to worship it
2) Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego refuse – and are thrown into a fiery furnace – but not burned – and there’s a fourth, un-named one, like the Son of God, in the furnace with them
3) A weird hand from the sky writes something no one can read on a wall – Daniel reads and interprets it
4) When Daniel refuses to stop praying to God (and start praying to Nebuchadnezzar) – he gets thrown into the Lion’s Den – and is not eaten! In every story so-far, God is the hero!
5) Then we come to the last half of Daniel – and the stories change from dramatic Sunday School stories of faith to apocalyptic visions of End Times events (and historical events that hadn’t happened yet)
6) In chapter 7, Daniel has a dream about Four Beasts
7) In chapter 8, Daniel has a vision about a Ram and a Goat
8) In chapter 9, Daniel prays and receives a message from Gabriel about “Seven Seventies”
9) In chapter 10, Daniel has a vision of a Man
10) In chapter 11, Daniel receives a message from Michael
11) And in chapter 12, Daniel receives an End-Times vision from Michael, including some strange language about 3-½ and an odd assortment of days that might reference 3-½ years.

Now, listen to the Word of God from this Old Testament book of Daniel 11:35 …. —-
Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.
May God bless the reading, the hearing, the receiving of His Word which never fails.

We experience great light in the truth that God did, and does, show up. Jesus did come. For us and for our salvation. This truth changes everything.

Today’s verse comes in the middle of the longest chapter of Daniel, and from the message from Michael. Who does this verse say is in charge?
What will come “at the appointed time”?
Remember what was happening in world history during the time of Daniel: Life could hardly have been darker. Because of the people’s departure from the ways of God, God allowed them to be disciplined by the world-power of King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon – forced to leave their homeland and become slaves, for the most part, of the Chaldeans; forced to abandon their Jewish Laws; forced to eat food they considered unclean; forced to worship idols; forced to pray to something far less than their God – separated from family, from home, from custom, from language, from faith.
So, God provided Daniel and Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego to remind them of God’s majesty.
But then the whole book changes emphasis and direction and starts prophesying about even far worse days with much deeper darkness, the abomination that causes desolation – the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes who, until Adolph Hitler, was the biggest scourge in all of Jewish history.
But in the middle of their personal crisis, and in the midst of the warning that it will get much worse for their great-great-grandchildren, Daniel reminds them who is in charge.

If that is true – that God, whom we know of as omnipotent, as omniscient, as omnipresent, as prevenient, as perfect in goodness – what does that mean for you and me?
What is the crises we are facing today? What health issue, financial constraint, relationship break-up, legal difficulty, startles you awake each night?
What piece of world news weighs your soul down? How does local news affect your day-to-day activities? What challenge is just too big? What fear is simply too overwhelming? What hurt or anger or attitude seems to control your every thought and action?

Name a time in your own life when you felt helpless, defeated, cornered, no-way-out: If what we said about
God is accurate, then we can trust Him to see this world through – we don’t need Daniel’s strength or faith or nerve. All we need is Daniel’s God! His God can be our God! And we can trust God – not because we are so awesome, but because God is so awesome!

Who here is disappointed in last Sunday’s Super Bowl game outcome?
Who here never really cared about it to begin with?
Who is just plain tired of all the Super Bowl hype regardless of who won the game?
On the ½ yard line, with 30 seconds on the clock, and Marshawn Lynch standing right next to you – it was not a guarantee, but it was a pretty good bet – and Seattle threw it … away!
I made a bet that, win or lose, Russell Wilson would hold a prayer-huddle, as is his usual practice (although winning is also his usual practice!). I did not see that happen – but maybe the cameras were focused on the celebrating New England Patriots instead.

That was just a game – a big game, but just a game. What we can give testimony to here is that in life, God is always the winner! A song I wish was in our hymnbook asks the question, Whose side you leanin’ on? With the responsive answer: I’m leanin’ on the Lord’s side!
Whose side you leanin’ on? I’m leanin’ on the Lord’s side.
I lean, I lean, I lean, I lean; I’m leanin’ on the Lord’s side.
I lean, I lean, I lean, I lean; I’m leanin’ on the Lord’s side.
Let’s always choose to lean on the Lord’s side.

Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

02/01/2015 – Daniel 6:16 – “Who’s the Real Hero?”

Mark Wheeler
February 1, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Daniel 6:16
“Who’s the Real Hero?”

You are our refuge, O Lord. We pour our lives into Your hands that we may discover all the benefits of Your grace, in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We begin today’s message by recognizing this center aisle as a dividing line between the east side of this sanctuary and the west side.
With that understanding, we now play one round of Family-of-Faith Feud! (That’s like a churchy version of Family Feud, OK? Now be nice.) Just one round. If you have an answer raise your hand and holler – whoever I recognize first wins the chance to answer.
The first question on the board is: Out of a million people surveyed, What are the top four stories people think of from the Old Testament book of Daniel?
1) Lion’s Den SURVEY SAYS??
2) Fiery Furnace – with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
3) Big statue of Nebuchadnezzar
4) Handwriting on the Wall

Follow-up question for the other team: In these top four stories – which anyone who grew up in a church setting learned – flannel graph, Sunday School, VBS, Veggie Tales – in these top four stories, who is deemed the hero of the story? Almost always it is Daniel, and his companions. They are heroes of faith, examples of faith, models of faith. We wanna be like Daniel!

Listen to this quick recap of the first half of the book of Daniel:
1) The people of Judah are taken captive into Babylon – Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
2) Daniel and his friends vow to only eat veggies, and not eat the unclean foods of the Babylonians
3) King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that only Daniel can interpret
4) Nebuchadnezzar makes a huge gold statue of himself, and requires everyone to worship it
5) Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego refuse – and are thrown into a fiery furnace – but not burned – and there’s a fourth, un-named one, like the Son of God, in the furnace with them
6) Another dream – Daniel again interprets
7) A weird hand from the sky writes something no one can read on a wall – Daniel reads and interprets it
8) When Daniel refuses to stop praying to God (and start praying to Nebuchadnezzar) – we come to today’s passage:

Now, listen to the Word of God from this Old Testament book of Daniel 6:16 …. —-
So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
May God bless the reading, the hearing, the receiving of His Word which never fails.

We experience great light in the truth that God did, and does, show up. Jesus did come. For us and for our salvation. This truth changes everything.

So, who’s the hero in the Lion’s Den? Is it Daniel?
Who’s the hero in the Fiery Furnace? Is it Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
Who’s the hero with the giant Golden Statue? Is it Nebuchadnezzar? Is it Daniel?
Who’s the Handwriting on the Wall hero? Daniel?
Who does Daniel say is the Real Hero of these stories? In every case, the answer always points to God! God shut the mouths of the hungry lions. God was in the fiery furnace, and protected His faithful servants! God gave Daniel the strength of will and determined faith to withstand the self-centered King Nebuchadnezzar! And it was God who interpreted the dreams and gave meaning to the divine graffiti on the king’s wall! It was God every time! We need to stop making Daniel into the hero! Daniel says the Real Hero is God!

If that is true – that it wasn’t the great Daniel we should worship – what does that mean for you and me?
What is the crisis you are facing today? What health issue, financial constraint, relationship break-up, legal difficulty, stares you to sleep each night?
What challenge is just too big? What fear is simply too overwhelming? What hurt or anger or attitude seems to control your every thought and action?

Name a time in your own life when you felt helpless, defeated, cornered, no-way-out: If what we said about
Daniel is accurate, then we don’t have to be as good as Daniel – we don’t need his strength or faith or nerve. All we need is his God! His God can be our God! And we can trust God – not because we are so awesome, but because God is so awesome!
The most astounding thing about today’s verse of scripture – look at it again for a minute – is that it comes
from the lips of the evil, maniacal King Nebuchadnezzar! Listen again to what he says: The king said to
Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
Even the Babylonian King, who made his own giant golden statue to be worshiped, who required everyone to
stop praying to their own gods and start praying only to himself, even this king recognizes Daniel’s God
because Daniel always gives his God His due credit!

Remember those two questions I have been asking myself – and which I encourage you to ask yourself every
day – 1) Where or when has Jesus shown Himself to me today? Is He in the Furnace with you? Has He
tamed the Lions who are circling you? Can you praise Him with integrity – because you really know He is
in charge? How has Jesus shown Himself to you today? How will Jesus show Himself?
2) Where or when did Jesus give me the opportunity to show forth His light today? Will anyone look at the end of their day and address God as their God because of what they saw in my life today? In your life?

We can have this influence on the world around us!

And, in deference to my friend Pastor Jamie, no matter which team comes out on top this afternoon, probably the hero is not God. But, I’ll bet Russell Wilson calls a prayer huddle, win or lose (God forbid), not because he is displaying his ultra piety, but because he is not ashamed of his faith. Did I just say I’m placing a bet on this game … from the pulpit? Yes I did.

Where is the Holy Spirit of God calling you to bear witness to the hope we have in Jesus Christ? Where in your community or in the world might Jesus be inviting you to be a source of light and hope – to the end that “nations will come to Your light, and kings to the brightness of Your dawn … proclaiming the praise of the LORD”?
Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.