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Summary: In spite of dark circumstances God gives his people what they need to thrive through it all. Therefore we should eat our veggies.

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All scripture is from the New Living Translation (NLT).

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A few weeks ago the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the phrase “One nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional – actually more specifically using such a pledge in a public school is a violation of the separation of church and state.

Now, of course, the phrase hadn’t originally been a part of the pledge. It’s really a relatively recent addition. The pledge was written by Francis Ballamy in 1892. Bellamy was a socialist and a Baptist preacher –

a strange combination – even back then.

He was involved in public school administration and developed the pledge to be a part of the daily school ritual. The God part was added by congress in 1954 after a campaign the Catholic organization – the Knights of Columbus. It seemed like an appropriate thing to do at the height of McCarthyism when people were concerned about the rise of communistic atheism.

Well, now, it appears that being “under God” may be in danger – or at least it is a possibility, should the ruling stand.

And for many people this is the last straw. Certainly the nation is going down the tube. "We’re kicking God out of anything public. There’s no more prayer in school. Religious displays in public parks are prohibited. No one takes God seriously anymore."

Of course, most people in our country like the idea of a God, but only 25% may show up for church on a given Sunday. God has become for us a "friendly force" – a lucky rabbits foot you rub when you wish for something.

And so, with a devalued God we end up going in all kinds of directions a godly people would never think of. "Television has become nothing but one slutty show after another. Drugs are everywhere. Abortion is an everyday fact. Cities and states can’t move fast enough to recognize homosexual marriages. Heterosexual people live together as though they weren’t accountable to God. And even those who marry don’t stay so very long."

A lot of committed Christians look at all of this,

toss up their hands in despair, and just feel overwhelmed and lost, as though all hope were gone,

as though they have become strangers in a foreign land.

And maybe such a perspective isn’t all that bad –

especially when you take into account what Jesus says about his kingdom.

I am, however, concerned with the sense of despair that hangs over many of us. The doom and gloom that is

so pervasive in the Christian community. And this is why I’m so glad for the message that comes thru loud and clear in the book of Daniel – “In spite of all present appearances, God is still in control.” (Tremper Longman III)

The book of Daniel takes place in the 6th century B.C. The nation of Israel is no more – having fallen to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The other Hebrew Kingdom – Judah – didn’t really learn too much from watching the demise of their siblings. They were not interested in issues of justice and caring for the poor. They were too interested in the pagan gods of their neighbors.

All of which was a violation of the Covenant that they had with the Lord God. And in 586 B.C. judgment came. Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.

Now, the Babylonians had a different strategy for dealing with defeated enemies than the Assyrians. The Assyrians just scattered such people to the four corners of the earth – completely disconnecting them from each other. Scattered to the wind.

However, the Babylonians tended to drag their new subjects in mass back to Babylon. This is what happened to the Judeans in the 6th century B.C.

The Babylonians took large groups of people into exile and among those who were forcibly relocated to live in the land of their enemies was one young man named Daniel.

And the book of Daniel is about him and how God spoke through him during the time of exile.

The book itself can be divided into two sections. The first seven chapters are stories about Daniel and his friends. These are the stories that we tell our children in Sunday school -- the fiery furnace, the lion’s den, the writing on the wall.

However, the last five chapters are very different from the first seven chapters. These later chapters contain a record of the very strange visions and dreams of Daniel.

We’ll talk more about this when we get there but at this point I simply want to point out that the

overarching theme or the point of it all – in both the stories and the dreams – is the same. “In spite of all present appearances, God is still in control.”

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