Have you ever admired someone so much that you would follow them anywhere? I’m talking about someone here on this earth that has a charismatic personality and leadership ability that draws you into their life and passion. I had a pastoral leader who was like that in Boston, Massachusetts. I would have given my life for this man. He was a wonderful preacher and man of God. I would have followed him anywhere. But somewhere along the way he got off track and made some poor decisions for his life that altered the rest of his life.
As I was reading this morning in the book of Daniel, I saw a similar relationship that Daniel had with King Nebuchadnezzar. He had been taken from Israel as a slave to Babylonia to serve the King. Over the years he had various encounters with King Neb and was put into service as one of the King’s top advisors. He interpreted dreams for the king, gave him advice and lead all the wise men of the day. One day the king asked David to interpret a dream that bothered him. It was a dream about a tree that was large and provided shade for all those around. The tree was chopped down but the stump remained. Daniel was distraught when he realized that the dream was about his friend King Neb. He was going to be removed from his kingdom as we read, “But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.” Daniel 5:20-21 NIV
Pride and arrogance were King Neb’s downfall. He looked on his kingdom and took credit for the things that God had done. Arrogance and Pride begin with the word “I” and spells out all of our accomplishments and successes. I is a word that takes God off the throne and places us on the throne. The primary way of cutting arrogance and pride out of our life is humbling experiences. For King Neb, he “was deposed from his royal than and stripped of his glory. ” He experienced life with the lowest forms of creation and ate with the dumbest of all animals. It was during this humbling process that King Neb began to acknowledge the One who truly is the all-powerful and sovereign King.
On this journey, it is easy to begin to own the successes and accomplishments as coming from our energy and insights which take us down a very destructive path of arrogance and pride. Today on this journey recognize what God has done and is doing in your present life and humbly submit to His path for your life.
An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions. Each side making concessions. Giving up something you want in order to get something in return. Losing something to gain something. It sounds good in principle and many counselors talk to their clients about compromise. Each giving a little for the better good. Accommodation. Bargain. Settlement. Deal.
Compromise sometimes works when we are interacting with another person, but there is a place in our personal lives where compromise is deadly. Let me illustrate this by the concept of “true north” versus “magnetic north” In magnetic north using a compass, various magnetic draws around us will sway a compass needle so that what it is actually pointing to is not actually north, but may be a degree or more off. True north is a point that never varies and is essential to properly navigate from our origin to our destination. If we allow these magnetic fields to influence our compass even a degree, we will end up in a different place than we anticipated.
In our personal life it is important to find our true north, a direction and purpose for our lives and not allow others or things to cause us to deviate from our course. It is so easy throughout life for distractions to get us off the track of our intended purpose. There are three friends in the Old Testament who were examples of staying focused on true north. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Israelite slaves who had been taken from their homeland and taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar were such people. One day the king decided to make an image of gold and wanted everyone in his kingdom to bow down to it. We read, “Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”Daniel 3:10-12 NIV
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were asked to compromise their belief in their God and worship another god that had been made of gold. They could have compromised and done it outwardly, but not inwardly. They could have just gone through the motions and no one would have ever known. But they didn’t. They were willing to die rather than worship a god that would compromise their belief system. In reading the rest of the story, you will see an amazing thing that happened to them because they stayed true to their true north principles. They knew their true north in their lives and weren’t willing to compromise.
What are the true north principles in your life that you are willing to die for? What have you compromised in you life and have regrets about? It’s not too late on this journey to turn back and get back on the track of true north. It means admitting that my path is leading me in the wrong direction and wanting God to redirect me back to true north.
“Getting to know you,” was a show tune from the 1951 Rogers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. The first few lines go like this,
Getting to know you; Getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me. . .
It’s interesting for me when this song came to my thoughts today and was triggered by a phrase in Ezekiel over 80 times. The message was given to Ezekiel as he was chosen as a prophet to speak to the nation of Israel and to other nations during this time. Ezekiel was a very interesting prophet who was asked to do some very weird things to communicate God’s truth to the nations. The one I am thinking about involved Ezekiel being tied up and having to lay in the street for 390 days. He was then to turn over and do the same thing on his other side for 40 days. Pretty weird. What’s even more strange was that he was to cook his meals from dung of the cattle.
His prophesies focused on the consequences of Israel’s and Judah’s lack of obedience to the Lord. The phrase that is repeated over and over and over throughout the book is this, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” God wanted His people to listen and obey what He wanted them to do. Unfortunately they didn’t listen and as a consequence they had to experience all kinds of negative impactful situations because of their rebellion. And for what purpose? So that the consequences might turn them back to knowing and following after the Lord. God wanted the nations of Israel and Judah and surrounding nations to get to know Him. It wasn’t to punish them or to put them down, but to know Him.
When one reads the Old Testament and especially the prophets, there is a lot of prophesy that is negative focusing on what God is going to do with those who are rebellious. I have in the past got the sense when reading these books of God’s harsh ways and kind of a judgmental approach to his people.
But when I stumbled on Ezekiel 33:11, it gave me a whole new insight into the character of God. “Say to them (the Israelites and those who are rebellious) ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?'” Here is the heart of God in the midst of judgment for wrongdoing. God desires all of us to get to know Him and to follow him and to obey him. He has no desire to disconnect from any of us, but that we would get to know Him. Unfortunately there are consequences in our personal and relational lives when we don’t get to know Him or follow His principles for our lives.
I am reminded of the passage that says, “For I know the plans 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. On this journey today, I would urge you to “Get to know the Lord” and the plans he has for you personally and relationally to give you a future and a hope.
One of the more fulfilling experiences recently for me as been the volunteering of my services to my wife’s auto repair shop in Scottsdale. About 6 months ago, she needed a shuttle driver to take her customers to work or home that had dropped their car off to be serviced. Once the car is serviced, the customer oftentimes needed a shuttle back to Airpark Auto Service to pick up their car. She was down a driver and so she asked me if I would be interested. I jumped on the idea and have been doing it for the last 6 months.
Yesterday, I picked up an elderly lady from her house that needed a ride to the shop to pick-up her car. I asked all about her family of two daughters, one of which had 4 grandchildren she spoiled. She was a widow seeking to survive the 117 degree temperature a week ago in the valley of the sun.
I then asked her about her profession when she worked and she replied, “You probably don’t remember the airline named PanAm that I was a flight attendant on.” I replied, “Of course I do.” I asked her about the movie “Catch me if you can” staring Dicaprio about his faking being a PanAm captain and off we went down her memory lane. As she talked about her past she began to light up in telling me story after story of her past life. It was fun for me to bask in her glory days and validate her value to those she touched.
How many times in life do we rush from one task to another and miss the nuggets of connection with others because we are too busy. It’s as simple as taking our focus off what we need to do and asking some questions of those we come in contact with about them.
On this journey, become a student of finding out the nuggets in other’s lives and in the process you might be enriched yourself.
It’s been years since I rode on a merry-go-round. It goes round and round and never gets anywhere. Some of the animals go up and down and some stay in one place during the round and round ride. You get off the ride and it’s not all that exciting until the about three weeks ago when I was asked to go again.
Nadine and I took our two grand-sons, their parents, Debi and her friend Patty from Chicago (my third adopted daughter), and Carter and his girlfriend Taylor (who goes by Parker) to the Phoenix Zoo at night. You go to the zoo but you see no animals-at least real animals. There are millions of lights forming various kinds of animals that blink in various colors around the zoo. It’s called zoo lights and is a fund-raiser for the zoo for the coming year.
Hot coco was an essential part of the experience along with chicken fingers, french fries, kettle corn, and hot pretzels. Once filled up with human fuel, we were off to see the trees covered with colorful lights and light shows on the lake.
Just before we were to come to the end of the experience, Brayden (4) saw the merry-go-round and wanted me to go with him. Like I said, I’m not much into going around and around on an object that has no objective but to go around, but I excitedly said yes and we started standing in line. Twenty minutes later we got on the merry-go-round and he wanted the rhinoceros which he got and I got on a pre-historic animal that I had not idea what it was.
What happened next was transforming to me. I saw a little boy light up the night with his screams of joy and the beaming smile that was beside me. He screamed with excitement the whole ride and he began to allow me to live in the moment and enjoy an experience that I would have blown off had he not been in my life.
You see it wasn’t the merry-go-round that lit up my spirit that night. It was a little boy whose screams of joy, beams of excitement, and emersion in the now that caused me to see the ride in a whole new way. It reminds me what Jesus said that unless you become like a little child you won’t inherit the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:2-4) God wants us to see His creation through the eyes of a child.
Thank goodness for my grandkids who have opened up my eyes to seeing the world differently. On this journey eyesight opens up a whole new world to investigate if you allow others to give you the vision.
This past week Nadine and I lost two of our close friends to death. How painful to have two people who touched us so differently leave this earth.
Jeff was a close friend who was struggling with life and the meaning of life when I met him. He was having problems with his marriage when I met him that later ended with divorce. He wasn’t happy in his job that was inconsistent with having him being able to work consistently. He had a horrific childhood and was estranged from his family.
I came along and encouraged him to get his GED which he did and was so happy that for once in his life he had accomplished something he could be proud of. He was passionate about cooking and creating beautiful tones of smell and taste. After encouragement and harassment, he applied and was accepted into culinary school where he excelled and graduated with highest honors.
More than any accomplishments we saw him attain, Jeff was a good friend who shot straight in his communication and frankness, and was a loyal comrade. He was always there when called upon and hated the facades of christians who lived two different lives, one in public and one in private. More than anyone in our lives that we have known, Jeff impacted Nadine and I and we will always cherish the times we spent with Jeff.
Jeff, you will always be loved and thank you for marking our lives.
The second person in our lives that died this past week was Elaine, a fellow traveler of Christ who came yearly for the winter months from Michigan. She and her husband fellowshipped with our small group and marked our discussions with insight and wisdom she had gained reading the bible.
She always brought freshness to our discussion and we could see and hear from someone who lived out their lives supernaturally. She was a Jesus follower but more than a follower, she was being transformed by His power. We will miss her, but her insight will be tattooed in our lives forever.
Jeff and Elaine, have fun in heaven together. Death for you all is a ticket to spending eternity with the Master.