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Have you ever noticed in life that a good start isn’t always enough. Now there is nothing wrong with a good start mind you, but it is often not enough to get us to the finish line, or to the winners circle.
And if you don’t believe me, ask the Atlanta Braves who won the first 2 games of the 1996 years world series against the Yankees in New York. I think the scores were 12-1 and 6-0. They were pretty excited about their start. But winning those 2 games gave little comfort as they watched their opponens hold that trophy 4 games later.
Or you can ask the 1969 Baltimore Orioles. Who dominated the majors that year. Won 109 games -- more than any other team. And their opponents in the World Series were the New York Mets. Everyone expected the Orioles to win easily, and then when they won the first game -- it seemed as though they had it in the bag... But in just 4 more games it would be all over, and the New York Mets would be the ones wearing that World Series ring. In 1969 the Orioles and all of Baltimore were convinced of the truth that a good start isn’t enough.
Or take the Buffalo Bills who in their 4th Super bowl led the Dallas Cowboys going into to halftime...(watched game at church...I was abnoxious - if you can belive that) But as good as that first half was , the Bills will be the first to tell you that at the end of the contest - when the Dallas Cowboys were the one holding the trophy - that a good start is not enough... The week following the game the city of Buffalo did not throw a parade to celebrate the half time lead...
And I think we all have experienced the reality of this truth in our own everyday lives.
Perhaps, we start out real good on a new diet or exercise program....
Or on a project around the house, a class in school, a job in church or in paying off some bills.... I mean we are out of that starting gate like hungry grey hounds chasing a rabbit.....
But time passes and the diet ends, the exercise stops, we fail the class, the job doesn’t get done and the bills are still where we left them. You see, though there is nothing wrong with a good start -- it just isn’t enough.
‘Grow as You Go.’ The first sermon in this series took us to Moses and his encounter with God. We were told that God had a role, an important one at that, for Moses and it was in line with God’s plan and story and not Moses’ plan and story. In other words, we ‘grow’ in our Christian faith and character as we ‘go’ along in life by remembering that the Christian story and faith is about God and not about us and though we have a role in that story and it is not the role of director.
Out next stop took us to 2 Chronicles 26 and the painful and tragic story of King Uzziah. We learned that Uzziah, who became King of Israel at a young age, governed well because he governed with the help of God who made him successful. But one day, due to an increasing belief in himself and a less increasing reliance on the Lord, Uzziah exceeded his authority and with a heart that was filled with pride and power, fell from power and afflicted with leprosy, and spent the remaining years of his life literally cut off from his people.
Uzziah’s story thus serves us as a powerful and important reminder that as we go and grow in our faith and character, we must pay attention to the gaps between our skills and our character because the latter rather than the former will undo us and cause us tremendous pain and disconnect with God.
This morning we move through the Old Testament to the book of Daniel and the person of Daniel and here we encounter the opposite of Uzziah. Here we see a man who says yes to the right things so that he can say no to the right things. (You heard me right, Daniel is some one who says yes to the right things so that he can say no to the right things.)
The lesson we learn from Daniel’s life as it applies to ‘growing as we go’ is, in the words of Eric Simpson, ‘what we say ‘yes’ to grants us power to what we have longed to say no to.’ Spiritual growth and development; the process of going and growing as followers of Jesus; requires us to say ‘yes’ to some things and ‘no’ to other things. Daniel’s story tells us what he says ‘no’ to, at least in this chapter of his life.
Now it is always important to place the text we examine in its context and, very briefly, here is the context of our main text this morning. Our text begins with a statement about a governmental decision being made by a new King, a new ruler, in fact a conquering king and ruler, ‘Darius the Mede.’
As we read in Daniel 5:30 and 31, the former King, Belshazzar, the last of the Babylonian kings, was overthrown and the Babylonian empire, which had overthrown the remnants of Israel, was no more. A new empire, the Persian-Mede empire was now the top dog in that part of the world.
And by this time in his life Daniel most likely was 80 years of age. He had already served two kings, often at risk to his life and those of his friends, because of their faith and their commitment that they kept saying ‘yes’ to God while saying ‘no’ to the challenges. Now he was beginning service to a third king.
So now Darius is the new ruler and he orders some administrative changes and places Daniel and two others in key leadership positions much to the jealousy and anger of others who decide to play to the pride and power of the king and get him to make a law setting himself up as god of the nation. The result is a very serious and life-threatening challenge to Daniel, his character, and his faith.
So Daniel hears the new law, ‘For the next 30 days, only King Darius is to be worshipped and anyone who does otherwise will be cast into the lion’s den,’ and he goes home. Now there perhaps is a tendency to think that Daniel was unmoved by the turns of event because he goes home. Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn’t.
Let’s suppose for a moment he wasn’t moved. Let’s suppose that he went home, to pray, ‘just as he had always done.’
Wow! What kind of faith! What kind of assured confidence in God that God, His God, whom Daniel had faithfully followed throughout the years, would take care of the situation.
What really moves me in this passage is that Daniel went home to pray ‘just as he had always done.’ This three times a day prayer was more than a religious ritual, it was a habit of the heart and soul, that God used to nourish and grow Daniel into the man of God that he was.
But what if Daniel went home, troubled and uncertain? What if this time he thought, ‘This might be it?’ And yet, he went home and prayed ‘just as he had always done.’
Well, as the story continues, Daniel is observed praying (he is easily seen through the open windows) and later he is arrested, charged with breaking the new law, and sentence to death in the lion’s den. But, God protects him and he survives and is vindicated by a very, very relieved and humbled king who orders that a new decree honoring Daniel’s god.
So while the fear of Moses and the pride of Uzziah serve as reminders of the struggles and temptations we deal with as we grow and go, Daniel serves us as a reminder of how to respond to those temptations and struggles by saying yes to certain things and no to others.
Slide 2 Daniel said yes to God over and over over again. That phrase, ‘just as he had always done,’ is one that we need to pay attention to. It indicates a habit, a priority, a practice, (and an intentional one at that) that Daniel did for many, many years.
He went home to pray not just because he was taught it or was told to do it. He went home, day in and day out, when it was easy and when it was hard, and prayed to God. He set his face and heart toward God because he believed in God and believed that God’s way was THE way.
This consistent practice of prayer shaped Daniel’s character. It enabled him to become the person that we read about in this book; a person of consistency, honesty, faith, and maturity. And because he did, God was honored and Daniel thrived through both difficult and quiet circumstances.
(Slide 2b) Daniel said yes to those things that helped him perform God’s agenda. In the first story of this book, Daniel makes the decision not to eat the rich and tasty food given to him and his friends. He did for perhaps two reasons. First, because the foods offered went against the Jewish dietary laws and second it would put himself in the position of becoming dependent on the King in ways that could leave him vulnerable later on.
(Another reason, based on the results of the different diet chosen by Daniel in verse 15, could have been was that it was simply not healthy for someone to eat.)
But whatever the reason, Daniel, even at this early age, said ‘yes’ to God’s ways and purposes so that he could say ‘no’ to whatever would cause him to compromise his faith.
(Slide 3) In saying ‘yes’ to God and God’s ways, he said ‘no’ to some things as well.
By saying ‘yes’ to God and His ways, Daniel had the power and the willingness to say ‘no’ to certain things that I believe we can safely say were a part of his life and experiences as recorded in the book of Daniel.
In our main text he said no to worship another human being as god. Now, it seems that we do a good job of such worship these days.
Think for a moment about the entertainment industry. Many people spend many hours and spend (and pay) much money to learn ‘the latest’ about an entertainment star. Paparazzi chase people and automobiles to the far corners of the world just to get ‘that picture’ that could tell a new and sordid story.
Now it’s one thing to admire someone for a meaningful performance or good character acting. But it is another thing to worship, to put before anything else, another human being, who seems to make more money and get more fame by being bad than being good. (The same could be said for leading sports figures.)
Stephen Covey believes that about 90 or so years ago our society and culture began to be more concerned with, (and I am paraphrasing Covey here) a ‘winning personality’ rather than a ‘winning character.’ Some would probably say that Moses did not have a winning personality, that he was too moody, too uncertain, and probably too old. Others would have probably not picked him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. But God used him.
Uzziah, on the other hand, had that winning personality. He was a great king who did much for his people. He was a winner! Who could ask for more in a king?
Then there was Daniel; he was probably good looking. He had talent. He could have been a bigger influence and an even bigger star if he would have joined the party more. But his character was more important than his popularity.
Daniel said ‘no’ to the very powerful and tempting offer to ‘join the crowd.’ He was more concerned about honoring God with his life than being popular and liked. He said ‘yes’ to God so that he could say ‘no’ to those things that would create the conditions for character (and spiritual) breakdown.
(Slide 3b) He said no to those things that could compromise his faith and character. As we read and re-read his story, we see Daniel consistently refusing to take shortcuts that would make life easier for him. And I truly think he did so because he had seen first hand what the wrong kind of compromise had done to his nation. A turn to chapter one reminds us that Daniel was among those taken away from his homeland and brought to the capital of the conquering nation and chosen to be education in the ways and life of the new nation.
But even while God, as the text says, gifted Daniel with the ability to understand dreams, Daniel said ‘yes’ to God and ‘no’ to the compromises his new surroundings offered him. I just wonder if the memories of his defeated homeland remained in his mind.
So, growing in our faith in and relationship with the Lord requires us to do three important things: (Slide 4)
1. Remember that we are a part of God’s story not the other way around. This is about becoming a humble person.
2. We need to shorten the gap between our giftedness and our character. This is about becoming an authentic person.
3. We need to learn and practice saying ‘yes’ to God so that we can say ‘no’ to those things that would destroy us. Jim Kane
The truth is successful people have failed just as much if not more, but they get back up and try again. Unsuccessful people are the ones who refuse to get up and that’s when they are defeated. The major league baseball player with the most strikeouts totaling 1316 is the same player that set a record for five consecutive strikeouts in a World Series game. His name is Babe Ruth, one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. If you step up to the plate in life – you’re going to strike out from time to time, but if you will keep stepping up to the plate eventually you’re going to hit a home run. The great military leader Napoleon Bonaparte graduated 42nd in a class of 58 at military school. In 1902, the poetry editor of Atlantic Monthly returned a stack of poems with this note, “Our magazine has no room for your vigorous verse.” The poet was Robert Frost. In 1905, the University of Bern turned down a doctoral dissertation as “irrelevant and fanciful.” The writer of that paper was Albert Einstein. In 1894 an English teacher noted on a teenager’s report card, “A conspicuous lack of success.” The student was Winston Churchill. You see the most successful people in life have failed, but they kept trying. Zig Ziglar, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well.” George Patton, “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” (((Did you hear about the man who tried to run a symphony and did such a bad job they decided to electrocute him? But they couldn’t, he was such a poor conductor.)))
You know, for pastors, ministry is a series of good news and bad news. Listen to these scenarios:
Good news: You baptized seven people today in the river.
Bad news: You lost two of them in the swift current.
Good news: The Women’s ministry voted to send you a get-well card.
Bad news: The vote passed 21-20.
Good news: The Deacons accepted your job description the way you wrote it.
Bad news: They were so inspired by it, they formed a search committee to find somebody capable of filling the position.
Good news: Mrs. Jones is wild about your sermons.
Bad news: Mrs. Jones is also wild about soap operas, the “Gong show” and the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”
Good news: The women’s softball team finally won a game.
Bad news: They...
Brian La Croix
In the movie, “Hook,” Robin Williams plays Peter Pan, who had left Neverland and had grown up to be a corporate attorney.
He is completely focused on his job, and ends up neglecting his son over and over.
There is a line that he quotes from time to time in the beginning of the movie that sets the stage for the attitude of his son.
When he promises to be at his son’s baseball game, he says, “My word is my bond,” meaning that if he makes a promise, it can be counted on.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t keep his word to his son, and it almost leads to disaster.
One thing I’ve noticed over my 40+ years is that a written guarantee is generally more powerful than a spoken one, especially when it comes to things like business dealings.
In court, a written guarantee is a contract that has to be abided by.
But if there is no written proof about the guarantee, then the court may say that the guarantee never really existed, at least in legal terms.
“But Judge! He guaranteed that this leisure suit would attract women to me, and it hasn’t worked!”
The Bible is God’s written guarantee. I’ve said it every week since this series started, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it again: when God says something, it’s a done deal.
He cannot lie and will never change the terms of the deal. He’s true to His Word every time in every circumstance.
The History of WWJD
Wikipedia encyclopedia states this about the common abbreviation WWJD: The phrase "What would Jesus do?" (often abbreviated to WWJD) became popular in the United States in the 1890s and again in 1990s as a personal motto for thousands of Christians who used the phrase as a reminder of their belief that Jesus is the example to be followed in daily life, and to act in a manner of which Jesus would approve. The initialism WWJD is sometimes used by Christians to mean "Walk with Jesus Daily".
History of the term: Though variations of this phrase have been used by Christians for centuries as a form of imitatio dei, the imitation of God, it gained much greater currency following Charles Sheldon's 1896 book, In His Steps. Sheldon's novel grew out of a series of sermons he delivered in his Congregationalist church in Topeka, Kansas. Unlike the previous nuances mentioned above, Sheldon's theology was shaped by a commitment to Christian socialism. The ethos of Sheldon's approach to the Christian life was expressed in this phrase "What Would Jesus Do", with Jesus being a moral example rather than a Saviour figure.
Sheldon's ideas coalesced with those that formed into the Social Gospel espoused by Walter Rauschenbusch. Indeed Rauschenbusch acknowledged that his Social Gospel owed its inspiration directly to Sheldon's novel, and Sheldon himself identified his own theology with the Social Gospel.
In this popular novel (it had been translated into 21 languages by 1935), Rev. Henry Maxwell encounters a homeless man who challenges him to take seriously the imitation of Christ. The homeless man has difficulty understanding why, in his view, so many Christians ignore the poor: "I heard some people singing at a church prayer meeting the other night, 'All for Jesus, all for Jesus, All my being's ransomed powers, All my thoughts, and all my doings, All my days, and all my hours.' "and I kept wondering as I sat on the steps outside just what they meant by it. It seems to me there's an awful lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn't exist if all the people who sing such songs went and lived them out. I suppose I don't understand. But what would Jesus do? Is that what you mean by following His steps? It seems to me sometimes as if the people in the big churches had good clothes and nice houses to live in, and money to spend for luxuries, and could go away on summer vacations and all that, while the people outside the churches, thousands of them, I mean, die in tenements, and walk the streets for jobs, and never have a piano or a picture in the house, and grow up in misery and drunkenness and sin."
This leads to many of the novel's characters asking, "What would Jesus do?" when faced with decisions of some importance. This has the effect of making the characters embrace more seriously Christianity and to focus on what they see as its core--the life of Christ. In the novel, men and women respond in different ways; in contrast to the men who vow never to act without asking what Jesus would do, the women's task is self sacrificial. For example a singer gives up her voice, both in the sense of yielding her singing to the cause and in the sense of silencing the individual expression of her personality.
In 2005, Garry Wills wrote "What Jesus Meant," in which he examined "What Would Jesus Really Do" (also a book review in Esquire Magazine). The expression has become a snowclone and inspired countless variations, usually for humorous effect.
MERCY ME: HOLD FAST
Mercy Me is a Christian band (I Can Only Imagine) and recently they sang a song called, "Hold Fast." Bart Millard tells the story of the inspiration for "Hold Fast":
"I was standing in the back of the bus going to our next concert. We were in a traffic jam and we passed a horrible wreck. I kept praying that the people in that wreck would just hold on until help would arrive."
Guideposts sponsors an outreach on the internet through a web site called, "Our Prayer." They post prayer requests on that web site and frequently I pray over those. This past week they had a desperate cry for prayer from a lady that stuck with me. She requested prayer that she get a job so that she could leave her mother's house. She has been unemployed for several months and had to move back in with her mother. None of her family are Christians and they constantly belittle her for her faith. Her husband left her a few years ago. She frequently goes to her room at her mother's house and cries. Being a new Christian she is trying to make friends with people at her church but has been unable. She is bankrupt financially and emotionally. Ever since she has come to faith in Christ, things have not been easy. The preacher at her church recently started a series on "restoration and reconciliation," and this just seems to add salt to her wounds. She tries to be reconciled to her family but every move just seems to make things worse. She doesn't feel restored at all because she has nothing. She asked the question, "I think I will go back to my old way of life. At least then I was on my own, and no one made fun of me."
As I prayed for this lady, all I could think of was the words of "Hold Fast" from Mercy Me.
To everyone who's hurting
To those who've had enough
To all the undeserving
That should cover all of us
Please do not let go
I promise there is hope
Hold fast Help is on the way
Hold fast He's come to save the day
What I've learned in my life
One thing greater than my strife
Is His grasp
So hold fast
THE REAL DEAL?
Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Person asked a young accountant who was fresh out of school, "What starting salary were you thinking about?" The Accountant said, "In the neighborhood of 100,000 a year, depending on the benefits package."
The interviewer said, "Well, what would you say to a package of 5 weeks vacation, full medical and dental, Company Retirement Fund to 50% of salary, Executive Share Option Scheme, Profit Related Pay and a company car leased every 2 years - say, a 5 series BMW?"
The Accountant sat up stra...
Sermon Central Staff
"WE LOST THE FARM"
Richard Culp worked in the hot California sun as foreman of a large ranching operation. He and his wife, Geneva, also owned their own farm, consisting of 200 acres of almond trees. Then years of bad weather and skimpy harvests forced Richard to take on additional work, but even that didn't help. So he and Geneva took on additional loans to pay their farming expenses, but that only put them deeper in debt. They spent many sleepless nights struggling to find a way to cover all their obligations.
One day, Geneva brought Richard the bad news: "Oh, Richard," she said. "I've just been to the farm credit company. They've taken it all! We're being forced to sell. They have a buyer; there's no price negotiation. All they want is our signatures."
They cried together as they realized everything they had worked a lifetime to acquire was gone. On top of that, they still owed $100,000 even after all their assets were seized. Richard was 50 years old and had been farming all his life. Two of their eight children were still at home, and they had no money to start over.
Even so, Richard says, "In spite of the overwhelming loss and grief, I knew that God was in control of our situation. I remembered the Bible story of Joseph. Even as a slave and prisoner, that young man was part of God's glorious plan. As for me, I knew that God must have something better for our future too."
Richard and Geneva were trusting the Lord, but that didn't make things better. In fact, things got worse. Two weeks after the creditors took their farm, Richard lost his job as a ranch foreman. Their family moved into a compact rental unit, and they began working a series of minimum wage jobs, including a stint at a fast food restaurant. There were many times they didn't have money for groceries and living expenses, but God provided for them through their family, their friends, and their church.
A year-and-a-half later, Richard and Geneva were offered a management position at an exclusive, 2,600-acre waterfowl hunting club in northern California. The club catered to wealthy clients. Richard says, "As we served at the club in numerous ways, we realized again and again that money and possessions cannot bring happiness. We had lost everything, yet we had joy in our lives."
Then after they had been at the club for about a year, Richard received a call from the head of the credit company that had taken their farm. He wanted to talk with them and insisted on making the hour's drive out to the hunting club.
As they sat together, the head of the credit company said, "I want to ask you something personal. A friend of mine recently lost everything he owned. His wife just committed suicide. We at the office have noticed that you two are handling this crisis differently than most people do. Can you tell me what your secret is?"
Richard was happy to explain. "We believe in the God of the Bible," he said. "He is sovereign over our lives, and he is in control. Even though the pain is real, we are confident of this: God has proven sufficient and able to take care of us."
Geneva added, "God's Word promises, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"
It was absolutely true. Throughout the entire ordeal, Richard says, "We never felt alone for a single moment." Later, as the head of the credit company rose to leave, he thanked Richard and Geneva. "You've given me a lot to think about," he said quietly.
(Cynthia Culp Allen, "We Lost the Farm," Christian Reader, Sep/Oct 2001, pp.77-80. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, When Life Isn't Fair, 9/1/2011)
Have you ever noticed in life that a good start isn’t always enough. Now there is nothing wrong with a good start mind you, but it is often not enough to get us to the finish line or the winners circle.
And if you don’t believe me, ask the Atlanta Braves who won the first 2 games of this years world series against the Yankees in New York. I think the scores were 12-1 and 6-0. They were pretty excited about their start. But winning those 2 games gave little comfort as they watched their opponents hold that trophy 4 games later.
Or you can ask the 1969 Baltimore Orioles who dominated the majors that year. They won 109 games -- more than any other team. Their opponents in the world series were the New York Mets. Everyone expected the Orioles to win easily, and then when they won the first game -- it seemed as though they had it in the bag... But in just 4 more games, it would be all over, and the New York Mets would be the ones wearing that World Series ring. In 1969 the orioles and all of Baltimore were convinced of the truth that a good start isn’t enough.
And I think we all have experienced the reality of this truth in our own everyday lives, haven’t we?....
Perhaps we start out real good on a new diet or exercise program....
Or on a project around the house, a class in school, a job in church or in paying off some bills.... I mean we are out of that staring gate like hungry grey hounds chasing a rabbit.....
But time passes and the diet ends, the exercise stops, we fail the class, the job doesn’t get done and the bills are still there.
You see, though there is nothing wrong with a good start -- it just isn’t enough -- is it?