My husband and I recently experienced one of those scary parts of parenting. Our daughter was playing at a party with some friends, as she did, she fell and her fall resulted in a head injury that caused her to be unresponsive for a few seconds. Although the seconds of unresponsiveness were probably more like 10, they felt eternal (Isn’t it crazy how in moments like this, time seems to crawl?!). As I sat in reflection over the event, I recall hearing my mom yell that she was hurt, I remember going to her and what I saw causing me to lay my hand on her and verbally call out the name of Jesus over and over again. I remember as I did, our friend holding her head still, my husband by our side, and my dad calling 911. I remember the distant voice of my dear friend praying for God’s intervention, and praising Him for His certain help. I remember, my sister coming behind us and saying we need to pray. I remember the police officer that was there in an instant, and the faces of each emergency worker as they evaluated her condition. AND I remember the people we met for the first time that evening who were in that room and, for a moment I wondered, “Did they think our response was odd?” I don’t know the answer to that question, just as I don’t really know them yet, but that question running across my mind makes me twinge as it soberly reminds me of the culture of the world we live. I know undoubtedly my God is real and His instruction to us is to pray, and I am also aware of our culture that attempts to tell us to stick our faith in a box by placing boundaries on just how far we’re allowed to go and just how much is acceptable when it comes to its demonstration.
God has a lot to say about culture.
One instance that speaks profoundly is the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three men found themselves in a culture that was completely different from what they knew to be right. God was not seen as the One True God, and living for him was certainly not popular which is a truth that possesses a striking resemblance between their lives and where we at times find our own.
When taken captive in Babylon, they along with Daniel were selected for a special three-year training that would impart knowledge, instruction, and prepare them to serve in the royal palace. Part of this training however, involved a special diet of food that came from the King’s own kitchen. Can you imagine? Food from the King’s kitchen! My mouth is watering at the thought as I envision the creations of those master chef battles on TV – bring me a plate, and pile it high! I’m sure the temptation for these Hebrew men was enticing even without cooking channels to build their imaginations, however restraint was necessary. The food of the King was contrary to the dietary laws followed by the Israelites. This training however, came by instruction of the king and was needed to qualify them for service. Yet, their God given favor prevailed, and they were allowed to remain obedient to their own dietary laws, and were still placed in service of the royal palace. However, they overcame that hurdle only to run into another when King Nebuchadnezzar erected an idol and demanded that all people bow in worship to it.
Comparison then to now:
The Hebrew men were shown new customs to follow, they were tempted with their appetite of hunger with new foods to eat. Food fit for a king.
They were submerged in learning, learning of a foreign culture that was going to prepare them to hold an esteemed position, a position that could have appealed to their carnal mind.
Then finally, they were told to fall down in worship before the statue or be tossed into the fiery furnace. They were presented a boundary telling them just how far their faith was allowed to go.
Our submersion into our culture shows us less obvious new customs to follow through various lures that appeal to us the same through our natural craving and appetite for; greatness, self-rule, and instant gratification, all creating boundaries for our faith serving as idols begging to be erected waiting for us to fall down in worship of requiring no self-sacrifice, less rejection, and no pushing against the grain of society.
What they understood:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 6:16-18
They understood that God’s kingdom was not to be built by satisfying natural appetite.
They understood that following the customs of this world, and the instant gratification it uses is not the path to “greatness”.
They understood that there was more hope in the fiery furnace than what could be found bowing down to any man-made idol.
They had no desire for King Nebuchadnezzar’s acceptance, and they understood there was no greater path for living this life than the one revealed to them through the Lord.
If we want to live authentic lives for Christ, we must understand and accept these truths. The statue that Nebuchadnezzar made could NOT DO ANYTHING for the people of Babylon, which is exactly the same as the idols of this world. They’re powerless false gods that may feel good, but lead us away from the One True God that is ALL Powerful, ALL Able, ALL Sufficient.
What’s different between us and them?
They took something with them into battle, and that something was the word of God. Whether they held a physical copy, or only what they had so intentionally worked to hide in their hearts, doesn’t matter really matter. What matters is it was there and they didn’t keep it in a box. They took it and not only that but they activated it when they chose to rely on what it said, and when they did it transformed into a weapon that gave them the ability to stand when they were told to bow.
If that’s not enough for you, or if the Old Testament seems so far away that you struggle to draw parallels, consider our, Savior Jesus Christ. God, wrapped in the flesh. He endured temptation in the wilderness. Jesus, the One who came to die so that we can live. The One who provided a pattern for us ALL to follow. He experienced these very same temptations that tried to appeal to his flesh, his carnal mind, and shown a new god to follow. He walked through it, and just the same, He used His very own word, which when activated became a sword that destroyed every attempt of the wicked one who tried to deceive him.
Amazing isn’t it? The power of an activated faith! It is astounding. It’s a power that the Enemy knows good and well, and is the very reason he works so feverishly to keep yours at bay. He understands what is unleashed once you realize your ability to activate it through the power of choice, and that’s why he presents idol after idol to you in an effort of persuasion to distract and bind you from ever knowing the extent of God’s ability, and His love for you.
I wonder today, if you find yourself in a place tempted to bow to the gods of our culture; the god of bitterness, social acceptance, tolerance, inactivity, negativity, self-love, instant gratification, etc?
Maybe you’re afraid of what others will think if you choose not to take part in gossip, and instead bow down to that idol of tolerance.
Maybe you’re battling the struggle that keeps your mouth silent when the Lord asks you to speak a word of encouragement, and instead you bow down to the idol of fear.
Maybe you’re afraid to open your mouth in prayer for fear of what others will think and instead you begin to bow down to the idol of acceptance.
Maybe you’ve been persuaded to hide the Light of the Gospel, the one God has revealed to you, but you’re too afraid to speak, and instead you bow down to the idol of political correctness.
If you find yourself mulling any of this, I encourage you to read the record of these three men found in the book of Daniel. Understand with certainty that the temptation they faced, and what we face today is much the same, and the “weapon” they used to maintain their stance, is the very same one that we have waiting for us to take up. In fact, it’s a piece of the Armor that so many of us forget as it sits within our reach every day. It’s the sword of the spirit. The one that possesses the ability to destroy the hand of the culture that tries to gain a hold and strip us of our faith.
I wonder today, if you would be willing to make time to sit at the foot of His thrown in prayer, open His word, and allow it wash your mind of the things of this world. Let it open your heart, and strengthen your stance so that when temptation comes to you, and begins to appeal to your carnal desires, that you’ll identify the powerful choice, that possesses that good part that will not be taken from you. Choose to sit at His feet in obedience, and when you do, you’ll find that the God we see so mighty in battle for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is the same God who waits ready to be mighty in battle for YOU.
Romans 12:1-2 MSG says, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
That’s what these Hebrew men did so well. They fixed their attention on the Lord full of intention and focus. They embraced what God had for them, and were changed by it.
So, back to my original thought, was our response to our daughter’s injury odd to our new-found friends? I still don’t know, maybe they’re Christians, we’ve not gotten to that point in our relationships yet, but what I do know is my daughter is perfectly fine, and these beautiful people have genuinely and warmly reached out to our family to ask how she’s doing which has given us an opportunity to testify that God is our protector and our Healer. What I also know, is that this world is hungry for more, the more that we have inside of us, and it’s the more that they will never see if we choose to shove our faith into the box it says we should, and that my friends is a sad truth that I refuse to accept for a moment longer, and I hope you will too. When you see a choice to be made whether to follow this world or follow Jesus, my prayer today is that you choose Jesus above the noise and customs of our culture by activating your faith and allowing it to become evident through your obedience to Him – Choose Him.