Sunday, September 27, 2009

No Identity Crisis Here

Daniel 1: 7

Did you know that Daniel and his three close friends – who stood together and supported each other against the indoctrination designed by King Nebuchadnezzar – were given Babylonian names?

In those days, people were given new names to change their identity and steer them into a new destiny. That was originally God’s idea, changing Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel, to lift them up. Old Neb’s purpose was to drag them down.

Daniel’s Hebrew name meant “God is my judge.” He answered to God. However, he was given the Babylonian name of Belteshazzar, meaning “Bel will protect.” Bel was one of the Babylonian gods. If Daniel heard it enough, maybe he’d identify himself with his new protector, Bel. It never happened. He stood steadfast with his God even to the point of death – more than once.

No, his identity was set, and nothing could change his mind.

How often have we been told, “You’ll never amount to anything,” or “you’re too this or that – why can’t you be like …?” I’m so thankful that we have a heavenly father who proved His love for us and gave us the highest value by sending us His Son Jesus. We only have to remember that when we face an identity crisis. Through Jesus, we were given the right to be called sons and daughters of the most high God, the king of the universe.
How’s that for an identity to hold onto? Have any of you had to hold onto this for dear life to get you through a really hard time? I have, and it saved my life.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Friendly Enemy

Friendly? How can an enemy be friendly?

– Deceptively friendly. – Deadly. Even more deadly than an openly hostile, threatening enemy.

Remember what happened in the Garden of Eden? The enemy serpent, Satan, came across as a friendly, concerned soul – even on Eve’s side. He appealed to her intelligence and potentially powerful knowledge to make her think God was holding out on her, keeping her from the prize info He wasn’t about to give her. (It really did go much farther than an apple.) And look what happened. We lost it all.

So it was with Daniel and his three friends. Remember, these were young teenagers. Food is a major force in a teenage boy’s life. In order to entice them to buy into Nebuchadnezzar’s re-education program, after being torn away from their homeland and families, they were given the same food the king ate. Really good stuff. The best wine. Who wouldn’t want that? After all, what’s wrong with a little comfort when you’ve been traumatized and are really hurting?

But for Daniel and his friends, this presented a problem. In my Aug 29 post, I mentioned that they remained strong in their belief and love for their God, and stood against their indoctrination into the Babylonian culture and religion. They knew that this wine and meat had been dedicated or sacrificed to idols. That put them in a position of defiling themselves. So Daniel asked that they be fed some pretty plain stuff – lentils, legumes, etc., and water.

I doubt those teenagers were much different from today’s youth. Wouldn’t they love to be fed great food – and lots of it? Or maybe, if they had some doubts about it, wouldn’t they follow along because it felt good?

Imagine the character it took for them to deny themselves the pleasures of great food for the sake of remaining faithful to their God.

Would we – do we – do that today?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Religion Can Be Bad for You

Bad for you? How so? In Daniel 1:2, Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar carried sacred items from God’s temple in Jerusalem to his own temple – not to honor God, but to prove that his gods were superior to God, and to reduce God to being just one of many.

It was a symbol of putting God in submission to his gods – a complete victory and overthrow of God. Imagine God allowing that! But He had prophesied all this in Isaiah 39:6-7 and Jeremiah 27:21-22, who also prophesied the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem and everything Nebuchadnezzar took from it.

Whew! God wasn’t as powerless as He allowed Himself to appear after all. So why can religion be bad for you?

The Babylonians worshipped many gods – enough to cover all the areas of their lives. Not quite New Age as we know it today, but sort of. Today we cover our bases with a little bit of each religion that fits our particular need – including Christianity. (I don’t like that word – it sounds too religious, as opposed to a relationship with Jesus.)

Lots of New Agers call themselves Christians because they think Jesus was wonderful, and they go to church. They might like to add TM (Transcendental Meditation), and perhaps a Buddhist Feng Shui shrine to their home. Add a little bit of evolution, and voilĂ  – gotcha covered.

But there’s one small problem with this: the first commandment, in which God said we shall have no other gods before Him. No “Ohm,” the Hindu god called upon in TM. No Buddha. No godless evolution. God really did design everything. That alone makes Him superior to all other gods.

So are we lining up various sacred items of many gods in our own temples – including God Himself? We can be very spiritual, as the New Agers prefer to call it, or very religious, but all this can be very bad for us, because we are missing the mark. The bullseye is Jesus alone, who was God becoming a man to redeem us, who said, “Nobody comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). If we add other gods to Him, we’re violating His first commandment and reducing Jesus to just one more item to cover our bases.

So what’s your choice? Got a comment?