Thursday, November 24, 2011

Daniel’s Prayer of Thanksgiving

We so often think of this time of year as a time to thank God for all His blessings – material things – our homes, our cars, our wealth relative to the rest of the world, our country, our freedom, food, etc. For these things we most certainly should be thankful, but Daniel’s prayer of thanksgiving teaches us the importance of being thankful for much more. It reveals a great deal about the nature and character of God – the things on which are based all His blessings to us. We need to be especially thankful all the time, not just at a special time of year.

Daniel’s prayer is found in the second chapter of his prophecy. King Nebuchadnezzar had his dream of the great image, and it troubled him, because he did not know what it meant. He called in all of his magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans – in other words, his alleged “wise men.” Of course, these men were not truly wise at all. They had no connection with the God of heaven. It quickly became clear that Nebuchadnezzar did not really trust the wise men, because he demanded not only the interpretation but the content of the dream itself. When the wise men asked him to tell them the dream so they could interpret it, he accused them of stalling and threatened to destroy them if they could not tell him the dream, but he promised great rewards for anyone who could do so.

Their response rang quite true. Even these heathen “wise men” had enough sense to know that only God (or “the gods” as they put it) could do what the king was asking. The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh (Daniel 2:10-11, NKJV).

Nevertheless, the king gave orders to have all of the wise men of Babylon destroyed, and this order included Daniel and his friends. When Daniel found out about the king’s command, he went to his house, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. There they prayed and asked for the answer so that they might not be destroyed with the rest of the “wise men” of Babylon.

Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him. I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For You have made known to us the king's demand" (Daniel 2:19-23, NKJV).

This prayer recognizes the superiority of the God of the universe, the God of the Bible, over all false gods that men have created. This we should be thankful for on a daily basis, because if we did not have such a God, He most certainly could not provide for us all of the other things we think about when we list the things for which we are thankful.

Notice the specific content of the prayer.

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever…   God is eternal. He is outside of time. He is not limited as we are. We need to see things in eternal perspective and not just temporal perspective. He is eternally worthy of our praise and worship.

…wisdom and might are His.  God is all-knowing and all-powerful. All of our questions find their answers in Him, and He is the one who can do something about our situations. There is no situation too big for Him to handle.

He changes the times and the seasons…   God controls His creation. This contrasts God with Babylonian fatalism based on astrology. They looked to the stars, but God made the stars. God has power and control over all those things men look to. In spite of the evidence, man has chosen to worship the created thing instead of the Creator.

Romans 1 tells us that …the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever (Romans 1:18-20, 25, NKJV).

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1, NKJV),

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? (Psalm 8:3-4, NKJV).

He removes kings and raises up kings…   God is sovereign. This statement contrasts a sovereign God with the weakness of Babylon deities. We sometimes wonder why God allows certain men – dictators, tyrants – to be in power. We can be confident that He has His reasons. And ultimately, all will bow to Him.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11, NKJV).

He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things…   God is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. The wise men of Babylon were not really wise men. They were not recipients of divine wisdom. Man is completely dependent on God for wisdom. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:22, NKJV). There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).

He knows what is in the darkness…   There is no hiding place from God. He knows all about us.

…light dwells with Him.   He is the source of light, in contrast to the darkness. Only He can save human beings.

I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king's demand.  We ought to first and foremost thank God for all He is, and then it will be very natural to thank Him for all He provides.

Coming to grips with the very nature and character of God helps put all things into perspective. No matter what comes into our lives, we who know the Lord can accept it as from the hand of our Heavenly Father who knows all things, who is in control of all things, and who loves us with an everlasting love.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Two Fire Chiefs

There once was a fire chief whose time as chief was coming to an end. In all the excitement surrounding his impending retirement, he became careless about a number of things, including what he did with the used motor oil from the fire engines and other official vehicles. Instead of recycling it, he had it poured out on the ground near the fire station. He knew of the danger, and several of his employees warned him that something bad could happen, but his attention was focused elsewhere, and he ignored their advice.

The incoming chief was a younger man with very little experience. In fact, he had never even been a firefighter, but he had done a great deal of organizing for the firefighters’ union. He was to take charge at the end of the chief’s retirement ceremony. He had ascended to the position by promising “change” and also promising never to return to the “failed policies of the past,” such as putting out fires with water and other proven methods of fire suppression.

The day of the chief’s retirement finally arrived. The firefighters had planned a retirement celebration which had gotten underway. During the celebration, the oil near the station caught fire. (It was suspected that some of the new chief’s friends actually set the fire in an attempt to help him off to a good start by giving him a chance to look good right away.)

Soon the fire station itself was on fire. The retiring chief took charge and began the process of getting the fire put out with the help of all the firefighters present. Good progress was being made, but before the fire was completely extinguished, the time came for the transition of leadership to take place.

The new fire chief immediately announced that he was in charge, and although he had no idea what to do about the fire, he asked his predecessor to leave. Before addressing the issue, he gave an acceptance speech in which he proclaimed that from now on, all problems involving fires would automatically and almost miraculously cease due to his presence with the department.

Even though he had no answers, the first thing he did after his speech was stop all firefighting activity and call a press conference to make it clear to everyone that he had inherited the fire from his predecessor. He then formed a committee of college professors and lawyers to study the situation, and he appointed a “Fire Czar” to oversee the committee. He then went to the city council to request funds to finance the new committee and the new czar’s salary, complete with all the benefits and freebies appropriate for someone in such an exalted position.

After meeting with his new czar and committee, he returned to the scene of the fire and called another press conference to announce that a plan was in place to put out the fire, pending approval of the environmental impact study and completion of numerous other reports and studies. Since this was going to take some time, he sent all the firefighters on vacation. He then decided that he might as well play some golf.

When the studies and reports were complete and approved, he finished his 74th round of golf since the fire started, left the golf course, and sent some firefighters to fight the fire, which now was in the process of burning all the buildings within a mile in all directions, by pouring 5,000 gallons of gasoline on it. When the fire got bigger, he ordered them to pour 10,000 gallons of gasoline on it. Not only did the fire not go out as he had decreed, it now was totally out of control, engulfing many city blocks and creeping into the nearby forest.

He finally came up with a solution. He ordered his firefighters to pour 500,000 gallons of gasoline on the fire. This, of course, made the fire much larger, which surprised him greatly, since his ideology told him the fire should have immediately gone ont. It also used up most of the reserves of gasoline, which would be hard to replace, since oil drilling, pipelines, and refineries were all on his “hit list.” When people accused him of making the fire worse through his solution, he reminded them that he had inherited the problem, and if he had not poured the gasoline on the fire, it would have become much worse. People should be thankful that his efforts had saved the city from a much larger disaster.

Three years went by, and he continued to have gasoline poured on the fire. Of course, the fire continued to burn and get larger. He used up many city resources that had been designated for other things, including police personnel and equipment and additional firefighting equipment as he bought more and more gasoline. He continued to blame his predecessor – “I inherited this problem, and if I had not acted decisively, it would be much worse.”

He continued to believe that the only way to put out the fire would be to re-double his efforts with the gasoline, but some of his own men balked at that idea, suggesting that they needed to use the fire control efforts they knew would work. He again responded that it would be irresponsible to go back to the “failed ideas of the past,” completely ignoring the facts that those procedures had a proven track record of putting out fires and also that his procedure had done nothing but make the problem worse.

He continued to blame his predecessor – “I inherited this problem. It’s his fault.” He went on by claiming it was his opponents – probably those pesky police officers – not his own men, who were preventing him from doing what was necessary.

The fire never did get put out. Instead, it just ran out of fuel and went out on its own. However, at least he was able to continue to blame his predecessor, and he was able to get more borrowed money allocated to further cover the cost of his new committee. Of course, he did not use the revenue for that purpose. Instead, he gave it to his friends who ran the unions.

In spite of all of his efforts to make things better, it soon became obvious that total tax revenue was going down, because the fire had destroyed so many businesses and homes, forcing people out of the area, which in turn made the tax base smaller. This caused him to petition city hall to further raise taxes to make up the shortfall. He demanded that those who were already paying all the taxes be compelled to pay their “fair share.” That way, he figured he could raise enough revenue for more gasoline to put out the fire, but he could also give rebates to all those who paid no taxes at all. That would be “win-win” for him. Just in case the revenue did not come in from the greedy rich people, he made alternate plans to borrow whatever amount was needed from China. Hopefully, that would provide enough that he could actually exempt all those who liked him from paying any taxes at all and shift the entire tax burden to his political enemies.

Even though he knew, in spite of all of the evidence, that gasoline was extremely effective in putting out fires, he also requested an additional amount of revenue to study alternative fire suppression sources, since as ethanol, wind, solar, etc. He figured that would get him in good with the environmental lobby and other anti-oil groups.

He also requested twenty-five 50,000 gallon gasoline tanks to be used to fight future fires, if and when the city and the fire station ever got rebuilt. His wisdom told him that the best way to solve a problem is to do more of what caused the problem. Of course, the city and the forest were all but completely destroyed, but forests could grow again, and “the rich” and businesses, at least those who did not move away, could always be soaked for even more taxes in order to pay for more of his brilliant solutions to problems that weren’t his fault.

Thankfully, his term as chief finally came to an end, and there was nothing better at the end than it had been at the beginning. Actually, everything was much worse. But come on… at least he was sincere.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Tribute to My Dad: World War 2 Veteran

Wayne W. Livesay

June 16, 1922 – October 31, 2009

On this Veteran's Day, I honor my dad for his service to our country and for his service to our Lord.

My dad was not famous, but he did more for his country than most of us could ever imagine. He fought and bled for the freedom we all enjoy, even for the freedoms of those who today spit on the flag and make a mockery of the liberty we have in this country. His thirty-three missions in B-17 bombers were many beyond the average life-expectancy of bomber crews in World War 2. His nine months as a prisoner of war in Germany took a toll on his body that caused him to suffer until the end of his life.

In addition to his service to his country, he had a long life of service to the Lord, serving as a pastor and church planter, teaching adult Sunday school for many years, and presenting the gospel of Christ to unbelievers. His life’s verse was Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Go Lady Warriors!

Here it is … the first day of basketball practice … and I am not there. I finally came to a decision a couple of weeks ago … a decision I really knew I needed to make. I stepped down as varsity girls’ basketball coach and left the team in the very able hands of my long-time assistant.

As I saw the season approaching, I found myself doing something I had never done before … I was dreading it. I was dreading spending two hours a day in practice. I was dreading the games two nights a week, especially the away games and late return times on school nights. I was also dreading what it might do to my effectiveness in the classroom.

I always told my teams that basketball is a game, and games are played for fun. I also told them that if they could not have fun and enjoy it, they should not play. I know that applies to coaches, as well. Even though basketball, as well as other sports, can be a great vehicle for teaching biblical principles, what I do in the classroom as a Bible and math teacher is of far greater significance than anything I might do in the gym.

I knew a long time ago that when the time came to step away from coaching, I would just do it with no regrets. I thoroughly enjoyed my 22 seasons of coaching at the varsity level and several other seasons at the JV and junior high levels.

Coaching is very tiring and time-consuming, and we all reach the age where we have to slow down and realize we can no longer do everything we used to do. I step away with many fond memories of past seasons. The Lord was very good to me and to my teams over the years, and I thank Him for the experience.

Now I say to the team, “Go Lady Warriors! Play with all your might as unto the Lord! Have a great season!”

All of the Proof for Darwinian Evolution is Between the Lines