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.

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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.