Divine Platforms: “Hard Right Turns” by Janie Hoy

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Read Acts 18:1-4; Proverbs 16:9; Romans 11:33-36; James 4:13-17

“And [Paul] found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them” (Acts 18:2).

The twists and turns of life are endless and at times, unplanned. We love to make plans and set expectations of how life should unfold. But often, plans are derailed and expectations missed with the hard right turns of change. As believers who have read how God orchestrated the lives of biblical characters, such changes in our plans shouldn’t surprise us. And yet, how often they throw us off guard! In Acts 18, we are introduced to a couple forced to leave their familiar home in Rome when Emperor Claudius banishes all Jews from the area. To Aquila and Priscilla, this move was not a re-location to something. It was an unexpected, unwanted change, a hard right from their road of expectations.

About seven years ago, we moved to California. And like this couple from first-century Rome, our move was not our first choice. But God had reasons beyond our original plans, and He provided what we needed. Just as we were so glad to connect with believers in our new city, so must Priscilla and Aquila have been when they met Paul, a fellow Jew. Acts 18:2 says, “[Paul] came to them.” An accidental meeting? Not a chance.

The Lord sees eternity. We see today and a fuzzy tomorrow. God moved Aquila and Priscilla because He knew exactly how He wanted to work through them for His Kingdom. Trusting a sovereign God is difficult because it requires us to relinquish the control we cling to. But He is trustworthy. So hold onto Him in the midst of change. Whether the change is an unplanned loss, a job shift, a new health concern, or any other unwanted surprise, ask our loving Lord to provide wisdom, strength, and faith. His plans are bigger (and better) than we can imagine.

Lord, sometimes it’s difficult to say “thank you” for the changes in life. Help me trust you. Help me see that you are the Creator and Author of my life, who is still unfolding the story you wrote for me long ago. Your ways are better than mine, so I know I can trust you with the outcome of today’s challenging change.

 

 

Divine Platforms – “Not Alone” by Mike Wadsworth

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Read Daniel 6

“My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him” (Daniel 6:22).

As we come to the end of this week’s discussion about Daniel, we arrive at the familiar story of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den” in Daniel 6. Daniel was making his way up the ladder, and King Darius was planning to promote him even higher (see Daniel 6:3). Other officials soon became jealous and tried to find fault with Daniel. Realizing the only “fault” that could be found originated in Daniel’s religion, they had a law passed that forbid prayer to any being other than the king; if anyone broke this law, they would be killed by lions. Knowing the law, Daniel continued to pray three times a day, willingly putting his life at risk. Condemned, Daniel was brought to the lion’s den. King Darius (unlike the wrathful King Nebuchadnezzar), cared more about Daniel than his law, so he told Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” As we know, Daniel lived, and in the morning, this man of prayer was pulled from the den by an ecstatic king. Because Daniel stood firm on his platform, risking his life, the known world came to know about God through Darius’ proclamation: “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever… He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 7:26-27). Wow, what a statement!

Yesterday, we talked about the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being saved by the God who rescues. As I ponder the contrast between today’s story and yesterday’s, what jumps out at me is that Daniel was alone when the stone sealed the lion’s den, but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had each other when thrown into the furnace. And yet, Daniel was not truly alone. Daniel not only spent the night in the company of hungry lions but also with an angel the Lord sent to shut the lions’ mouths.

You are not alone either if you know Jesus as Lord and Savior (see John 14:26, Matthew 28:20). It doesn’t matter if you’re in a fiery furnace, a lion’s den, or sitting in a pew at Northwest Bible—you are not alone. If you have received Him, take a minute to thank Him and rejoice in the gift of His presence. However, if you have not yet believed that Christ is the only way, the truth, and the life, then be honest with yourself and ask why you have not (read John 14:6). Find someone you can trust who knows Him and have an honest discussion about who Jesus is, what He said and did, and what He has promised.

I wanted to end this week of devotionals by telling you how grateful my wife, Mitzi, and I are for this body of believers. We are thankful for pastors who preach the Word diligently, worship leaders who bring us before the throne consistently, and fellow brothers and sisters-in-Christ who are advancing the Kingdom on so many fronts. When we joined Northwest in January of 2017, I felt intimidated by the size of the church. (We came from a small church where 250 folks on Sunday was a big day!) I felt lonely at first. But through a series of God-lead events, God answered our question “Are we in the right place?” when we joined a small group made of couples. For the last two years, we have journeyed together, and they have become our Northwest family.

If you are involved in a small group, you know the blessing of walking through life with others. If you’re not in a small group, I strongly encourage you to reach out to the staff to find a group of people to walk through this season of life with. It has made all the difference in the world for us. To those who walk with Mitzi and I—Richard and Marla, Bob and Jane, Rob and Donna, Mark and Irene, Ray and Sher, and Marc and Nicole—thank you for your investment in our lives. We look forward to continuing our journey as we spur one another on in the belief that where God has us is where Jesus is!

Email Dave at dfuquay@northwestbible.org to get plugged into a small group!

Divine Platforms – “Comfy Compromise?” by Mike Wadsworth and Sarah Stiles

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Read Daniel 3; Isaiah 43:1-2; 1 Corinthians 10:12-14; Hebrews 13:5-7

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us . . . But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up (Daniel 2:18).

Time has passed, and the three men who found themselves promoted at the end of Daniel 2 now find themselves at a crossroad together (see Daniel 3:4-7). Should we worship a gold idol because of the demand of our king? Or should we refuse to bow down because of our allegiance to the King of kings? The first promised life. The second, possible death.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who oversaw all the affairs of Babylon (see Daniel 2:49), chose the second. Thrown before the outraged king, they were given one more chance to bow down and worship the king’s statue. Instead, they responded: “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, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 2:17-18). Their position was clear. And they were immediately thrown into the fire to die.

When the king looked in the furnace hoping to find three dead men, he saw four men “unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!” (Daniel 2:24-25). The fourth, he claimed looked like a god; scholars believe this could have been an angel or even the preincarnate Christ. In the roar of the furnace, he shouted to these men: “Servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” Unscathed, untouched, and unsinged, these three men showed no signs of death as they stepped out. In absolute astonishment the king declared: “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!”

Though a polytheist and rather violent man whose emotions were all over the map, he was convinced of the LORD’s power to rescue. And those from “all races, nations, and languages,” who had been forced to bow to the idol were now commanded to show reverence to the God who rescues (see Daniel 3:4, 7, 29). God used the boldness of these three men, who were willing to take a risk for Him, so that the king could answer his own question from verse 15: “What god will be able to rescue you from my power?”  

Refusing to compromise can lead to heated situations (pun intended). We live in a culture that promotes self-reliance. When we watch the news, scroll through social media, or watch movies, we see that chaos comes from everyone wanting the allegiance of others. Like the Babylonian king who demanded unity through the worship of a ninety-foot idol, our world today clamors for our loyalty. The struggle for the Church is to remain unified through the worship of One. Though we claim to be followers of Christ, where have we erected idols in our hearts? To discover these idols, notice where your mind wanders. Look at where your time goes during the week. Check your thoughts when engaging with people in conversation. How often does your mind, time, and speech dwell on God in worship, gratitude, and dependence? Spend some time now to ask God where you are being tempted to compromise (read 1 Corinthians 10:12-14).

Take courage in knowing that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuses to leave your side and will be with you through the fire. He is able to rescue and pull you from the flame, but even if He does not, are you able to stand firm, unbending, unyielding? Is it clear to the world where your allegiance lies, or have you sifted into the comfort of compromise? Take comfort that you don’t stand on your platform alone. Just like the godlike man stood with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you can hold onto the promise Christ made to His followers: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (see Matthew 28:20). Stand firm, brothers and sisters. And stand together, with eyes fixed on the God who rescues and is ever-present.

Divine Platforms – “A Wise Man’s Move” by Mike Wadsworth

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Read Proverbs 2, Daniel 2

I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of You . . . (Daniel 2:23).

“I don’t know.” Sometimes it’s difficult to say these three words when asked a question. If the question is something minor, then “I don’t know” is no big deal. “Is Tom Herman the right football coach for UT?” Who knows? “Do we have any more toilet paper, honey?” (Well, the person asking these questions might think them important.) But when asked significant or serious questions, I feel pressure to have a ready-made response. (I’d rather the question not become one about my intellect.) But sometimes the seriousness of the question demands an “I don’t know” over a poorly-constructed half-guessed answer.

Daniel chapter 2 opens with a troubling scene. King Nebuchadnezzar has suffered a torturing dream which moves him to demand not only an immediate interpretation but also a full recounting of the dream. Panic strikes his wise men as they realize this impossible demand: “No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live here among people” (2:11). Their inability to relieve his anxiousness infuriated the king so much that he rashly ordered the death of all wise men, including Daniel and his friends, who were oblivious to the current situation. When the king’s guard came to kill Daniel, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact, and he learned of the king’s predicament. Gaining an audience with the king, he essentially gave the angry king an “I don’t know” concerning the problem, asking for time to find out the interpretation.

Daniel’s life, as well as the lives of his friends, depended on how Daniel approached this grim difficulty. Before responding in haste and panic, his reflex was to turn to God. First, Daniel handled the situation “with prudence and discretion” (see Daniel 2:14, NLT). After requesting time from the king, he informed Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) of the king’s rashness, urging them to request help from God (Daniel 2:18). And the LORD gave it gladly. God told Daniel at night the king’s dream and its interpretation. Read Daniel’s relieved response to the answered prayer in verses 19-23.

So, Daniel once again approached the king: “There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or fortune-tellers who can reveal the king’s secret.” Everyone would have agreed with this statement. But Daniel continued: “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future” (Daniel 2:27-28). After hearing the dream and interpretation, the king’s rashness turns to relief: “Truly, your God is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret” (Daniel 2:47). God had been prepping a platform for Daniel. He had placed him in the king’s court so that not only would the king declare this about God, but so that all magicians and those around would see that the God of gods and the Lord over kings saved their lives from the rashness of a king. Daniel’s platform showcased who God is.

Look at the bookends of this story. No one except the gods can interpret this! (opening scene, Daniel 2:11). Your God is the greatest of gods, one who reveals mysteries! (the end, Daniel 2:47). With these bookends, and the story that unfolds in between, this chapter in Daniel shows that God is the source of all wisdom and answers.

The wisdom of the Bible sourced in God is not meant to be a pantry of knowledge for nerds’ trivia night but a wisdom of lifestyle for all. There are many wise people who choose to live disconnected with their knowledge. It’s like choosing to drive over each pothole after being told exactly where to expect each jilting hole. Wisdom and answers reside in the LORD, and our livelihood must be based and lived off this (see Pro. 2; Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-34). Wisdom is meant to be applied. For that to best work in my life, I need to be in right relationship with God, asking Him not only for wisdom but for grace, forgiveness, maturity (and a whole bunch of other things). His teachings and ways should be consulted not just when we’re stuck and need answers immediately, like someone calling someone at the end of a bat phone, but if He is the “God of gods and Lord of kings,” we must daily allow our lives to fall under His authority and wisdom.

Lord, help us walk in your ways. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you (see Ps. 143:8).

 

 

 

 

Divine Platforms – “Integrity in Change” by Mike Wadsworth

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Read Daniel 1:6-21

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine,
and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way
(Daniel 1:8).

Want to know what someone is really like? Stick them in Dallas rush-hour traffic or give them work to complete on a slow computer. (Makes you cringe just thinking about it, doesn’t it?) Trials test our integrity. For many, the wear and tear of pain, stress, and unwanted change breaks us into beings of apathy. Instead of becoming stronger in the LORD, we wear into the ruts of the world. For Daniel, everything changed—those he lived with, his style of dress, the language spoken; he was even given the Babylonian name Belteshazzar! But he wisely chose his battles in the change, and his name wasn’t one of them. (Who knows, maybe he liked the ring of “Belteshazzar”?) Where he decided to resist change was at the point where defilement would enter the picture.

Daniel chapter 1 begins with this 180-degree transition. Daniel and his friends start a three-year training program designed to prepare them to enter the king’s service (see Daniel 1:3-5). Part of this training was a change of diet. Up to this point, Daniel had been compliant. (But everyone knows not to mess with a man’s food.) For Daniel though, it wasn’t a matter of taste or preference, but of impurity. There were foods God had explicitly commanded His people not to eat that were on the Babylonian menu. And on this issue, Daniel stood firm. Instead of outright defiance, Daniel sought permission from the chief official who oversaw the young men, to continue eating his traditional foods, instead of the food the king himself had selected for them. The official was hesitant to agree to Daniel’s request, but because the LORD “had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel” (v. 9), he agreed to a ten-day diet of veggies and water for Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. At the end of the ten-day trial, the official compared the appearance of these four men to the other young men. The veggies and water proved better than the wine, choice food, and meats the other guys ate. (Mom was right! Eat your veggies.) Because their appearance was better, the official let them continue in their diet.

In addition to health, God gave Daniel and his friends knowledge and intelligence beyond that of their peers. As a result, the king found them the wisest men of the kingdom (see Daniel 1:19-20). Look at the platform God gave them! It’s amazing to think that they were able to resist the diet the king specifically demanded of them, staying true to God’s laws, and yet were still able to rise to power in the king’s court. The King of heaven and earth honors those faithful to Him.

In thinking about this story, Daniel could have demanded God’s way rudely, causing an uproar in arguing for the sake of rightness alone. But he didn’t. And yet, how often I dig in on a point when I sure I’m right. (I often tell my wife, Mitzi, that the Wadsworth family crest from 1634 is Latin for “Confidently Wrong.”) There’s a time and place for standing for the sake of rightness, but often, there is a better way to persuade others. In this story, Daniel graciously asks the official to “deal with your servants according to what you see” during the trial run. Who knows what Daniel would’ve done if the official had chosen differently, but verses 14-16 state that the official listened to them in this matter and ultimately ruled in their favor. Though the nation of Judah was in Babylon because of their disobedience, God had not abandoned His people. And we see that so clearly demonstrated in this story: “Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel… To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kind of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds” (Daniel 1:9, 1:17; italics added). Daniel knew his previous life was gone, but he resolved to remain faithful in integrity, and God worked with this. He trusted God in this new life, and God showed up. We can only do so much, and God knows that. The greatest demand God makes of us is daily faithfulness. When we’re sharing our faith, serving for the sake of His Kingdom, and just going about our Sunday-to-Saturday schedule, we’d do well to remember this lesson. Our lives are constantly undergoing change—many of which are unwanted. May God’s faithfulness to Daniel in exile encourage us that through change He is equipping us for the platforms He wants us on.

 

Divine Platforms – “Unwanted Changes” by Mike Wadsworth

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Read Daniel 1:1-7

During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah… (Daniel 1:1-2).

There is a dangerous lack of depth in familiarity. For those who have grown up in the church, the stories of Noah, Moses, Esther, and Joseph become “old news” by the age of six. Daniel’s story is one of these, and much of it is so familiar that I tend to blow right by some of its truths when reading it. For example, the first seven verses of Daniel set the stage of the well-known story of the fall of Judah to Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar’s program to educate some of the captured Israelite men, including Daniel and his friends. I often interpret these verses just as the necessary historical setup for the rest of the story (that’s actually interesting and applicable). But in reading them again recently, I slowed down. I spent time thinking about what those days were like for Daniel. His life of routine changed in a spasm of violence as he was ripped from everything familiar and thrust into a new home. This unwanted move forced him to learn a new language, read foreign literature, eat interesting foods, and serve a new king. Those days had to be strange and frightening to him, particularly as a young person whose life was just beginning. And yet, despite this disruption, he had great faith in God’s provision (as we see many times later in the story). Daniel was where God wanted him, and in the mix of a traumatic move and unknowns, I think Daniel knew that and lived his young life accordingly.

In my own middle-aged life, I find that I am overly dependent on the familiar patterns of each day. It takes very little (a stalled car in the lane in front of me, a missed phone call, someone eating the rest of my ice cream) to throw me off kilter. It seems silly that an ice cream cone upsets my apple cart, considering the serious issues many others face. I wonder if my faith would become as strong as Daniel’s if I had to face the unwanted changes he endured. I hope so. I’ve claimed Romans 5:3-5 as my life verse because it explains the purpose of upset apple carts and exiles to Babylon: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (NLT). Read those verses again slowly. The endurance of trials should lead to an assurance in our hope of salvation, a hope that doesn’t fail us.

My desire for myself and for you who read these words is that Daniel’s story would inspire us to face present challenges and future changes with the same faithfulness and boldness as Daniel had. May we become a people marked by enduring faith in the same God Daniel so deeply trusted.

Divine Platforms – Daniel

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Daniel 1

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.