Archive for May, 2020


The Fourth Man, Part 2

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The three young men demonstrated a risky faith by challenging the king’s nutritional demands. Their proposal proved to everyone that they had the better diet. But in Daniel 3, their faith shifted from risky to radical as they proposed that they had a better God.

Daniel 3 is the fertile soil of children who grow up in Church. Without dramatic effect, the story is simple enough. Nebuchadnezzer created an idol and required everyone to bow before it whenever the music played. Our three young heroes refused to bow and were brough before the king. When the king questioned them, their response was bold.

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t we want to make it clear to you that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

Nebuchadnezzer listened to their response and had “mad respect.” He was angry, but had enough respect to have them bound by his strongest men.

As the story progresses, the King looks into the furnace and notices there is a fourth man. Let’s do the math. Three young men went into the fire, and one additional is present for a total of four.

Let me take a quick left turn. I think the fact that the story is about three men speaks to the importance of community in the midst of challenging times. How much harder would it have been for any of the three to face the king’s wrath as individuals? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Which brings me to this question. Who is with you in “the fire” of trial and tribulation?

But it wasn’t just a community, it was a spiritual community. The fourth man, I believe, is a pre-incarnate appearance of none other than Jesus Christ. This phenomenon is known as a theophany. We don’t know when he went into the furnace or how long he stayed, but we do know that when Shadrach, Meschah and Abednego came out their bonds had been burned away and they didn’t even smell of smoke.

The good news of the story is that they were delievered from the fiery furnace. But I think their real deliverance came at the moment of their confession and profession of faith. Just like you, and just like me.

Categories : Faith
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The Fourth Man

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I grew up in church, where Bible stories were plentiful. There were stories of boys defeating giants and nations crossing seas on dry ground while enemies were detained by pillars of fire. Old, crusty prophets stood their ground against entitled pagan kings and were fed by ravens. These stories were formative in my concept of who God is and what He could do. Which is why I love the stories from the Book of Daniel.

Daniel begins with Israel in captivity in the land of Babylon. King Nebucanezzar was large and in charge, and looked to the Israelites to find the best of those who could enhance his world dominion. Out of his quest came four: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These four were summonsed to begin training to be among Nebucanezzar’s elite. When they entered the corps of the elite they were introduced to a diet, which they rejected. The diet was composed of meat and wine, which people in our 21st century American culture would be standard. But the young Hebrew men were committed to their own cultural diet of vegetables, fruit and water.

Their insitence provided and opportunity to present a challenge to the Babylonians, which, as the story goes, the Hebrews famously won. After the test, their eyes were brighter and everyone looked healthier. The Babalonians conceded that the Hebrews had a beter diet.

This story represents a risky faith. We have a better way, and we’ll prove it. But the rest of the story of the Book of Daniel moves beyond a risky faith to a radical faith which claimed that the God of the Hebrews was superior to the gods of the Babalonians.

This is where we live in our culture today. Like the four Hebrew young men, modern Christians can make assertations regarding the logic of risky faith. Yes, our “diet” can be verified as better than others. But what happens when we move our competion beyond the physical realm of food and exercise to the realm of the spiritual?

Tomorrow I’ll get into the conflict between three of these yound men and the spiritual battle regarding the object of our worship. In the meantime, be well and be safe!

Categories : Faith
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For Cave Dwellers Only, Part 2

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What lessons are available in the cave? Let me share four for your consideration. First, when you find yourself in a cave, remember you’re in the cave with a King. Those who gathered there may not have recognized David as such in that moment, but it was true nonetheless. This reminds us that we are not alone! King Jesus is with us in the depths and darkness of the caves of life.

Second, the king understands your situation. David understood the displacement, the distress, the discontent and the grief of all of the cumulative grief and loss. I can imagine David listening to each person who arrived at Abdullam, nodding with empathy as they shared their stories. Jesus, of course, was “a man of grief, acquainted with sorrows.” Hebrews points out that he experienced what we experience while he was here on earth. We’re not only in the cave with a King, we’re in the cave with a king that understands.

The third lesson we can learn is that we don’t have to stay in the cave forever. Caves are temporary shelters, not permanent homes. David went into the cave, but eventually emerged as God led him into the next phase of his life and leadership. Don’t forget that Jesus experienced a cave for three days. On the other side of the cave is a resurrection to something new and remarkable.

Finally, caves have a purpose. They help us discover our meaning, our purpose, our calling and our mission. Sometimes those things can only be learned in the experiences of the cave. It is critical that we don’t waste our dwelling time and miss the opportunity that lies before us as we emerge. Those who joined David in the cave experienced transformation. The entered a people who were rejected by society and struggling with personal challenges. But they emerged as an army that would become renoun as David’s mighty men of valor. God has something for us on the other side if we walk by faith. Your life, like their’s can be transformed into something beautiful and beneficial.

What is God revealing to you about you in your confinement? What are the possibilities that are on the other side?

Categories : Spiritual Formation
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