Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Madness of King Nebuchadnezzar: Intro

God does not like pride. In fact, the Bible says, "The Lord detests all the proud of heart" (Proverbs 16:5a). This is not just a one-time statement against pride; the Bible says over and over again how much God does not like pride. In the New Testament, James says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

God actually opposes people who are proud.

I'm not talking about taking pride in your work or having a healthy self-esteem. I'm talking about conceit, the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one's importance -- the sin of pride.

God detests this.

And that's kind of strange because, in our world, that kind of pride is seen as maybe annoying but hardly something that might be a fatal character flaw. Visit your local bookstore and browse through the self-help section. See how many books you can find that will help you develop the quality of humility.

I've seen people disciplined by their church for sexual misconduct or financial misdeeds. I've never seen anyone called on the carpet by their church leaders for having a prideful spirit.

And yet...which causes more problems in the church: financial impropriety or pride? Pride is absolutely lethal to having a thriving relationship with God.

Godliness and pride are mutually exclusive.

I say all of this to set us up to look at what happens to King Nebuchadnezzar beginning in Daniel 4. The king goes mad. God actually drives him out of his castle and basically says, "If you're going to act like an animal, go all the way with that act!" And all of this happens for one reason. That reason is given in the final sentence of the chapter:

"Those who walk in pride he is able to humble" (Daniel 4:37b).

Monday, February 27, 2006

Meeting God in the Furnace

One other thought on this whole furnace business of Daniel 3: Do you ever wonder what they did while they were in there?

They were tied up so that they had to be carried to the furnace, but when King Nebuchadnezzar looked in there, they were walking around. And there was a fourth person in there -- probably Jesus.

I wonder what he said to them. I bet he called them by their old names -- the Jewish ones. I wonder if he told them how everyone up in heaven had been watching to see what they were going to do. I wonder if he told them how proud their Father was of them. I wonder if he told them that 2,500 years later some guy on the other side of the world would be writing about them on his blog.

I wonder if they asked him, "What's a blog?"

I wonder if he told them that followers of God who face persecution because of their beliefs would remember them and be encouraged just thinking of their strength of character.

I bet I know what they said to him: "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Anne Lamott says there are really only two kinds of prayer that she really knows: (1) Help me! Help me! Help me! and (2) Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

I wonder if they gathered together on the anniversary of the event, built a little bonfire and remembered their experience together. I wonder if they told their grandkids the story. I wonder if they ever pulled those clothes out and tried them on -- moth-eaten, full of holes and several sizes too small to fit anymore.

I wonder if, when the King called them to come out of the fire, there was any desire to stay right where they were.

And I wonder what life would be like for all of us if we stopped asking God to deliver us from the furnace and started asking him to meet us there.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Safest Place on Earth

Odd, isn't it?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego want to be delivered from the furnace.

But once they get in there, they find out it's the safest place on earth for them to be.

How many divine encounters have I missed out on because I avoided the discomfort and pain of a place where God was waiting to meet me?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

More Than a Vending Machine

The danger -- especially for those of us who live in these times of unprecedented affluence and wealth -- is that we might make God into some kind of cosmic vending machine. If we put our quarter in (in the form of prayer, Bible study, church attendance, etc.), the candy bar better come out (in the form of answered prayer, blessings, etc.). If it does not, I'm liable to kick the machine to bits and walk away in a huff.

So, the question I must ask myself in light of this story in Daniel 3 is: I'm I putting the quarter in just to get the candy bar? Is the whole thing set up as a vending machine in the first place?

Relationships don't tend to work very well when they are approached in this way.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

But Even If He Does Not....

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego make a tremendous statement of faith in Daniel 3. They affirm that the God we serve is able to do amazing things -- beyond anything we can ask or imagine.

But what they say next is arguably one of the greatest statements in the Bible. It reveals a depth of trust that I wish I had and hope to achieve one day. Here's what they say:

"But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:18).

Even if he does not. We know he can; that's not even a question. Of course he can. He has before. But even if he does not....

We all have dreams, hopes and aspirations. There are things about which we've all said to God, "Okay, God, I'm stuck here. You've got to help me. I know you can, so anytime you're ready...."

But what if he doesn't?

Is my devotion to God tied to what he will do for me?

If he doesn't deliver the way I thought he would, will my devotion to him dry up?

Have you ever thought through THAT situation -- you know the one -- and said to God, "I know you can do this, but even if you don't, I want you to know that I'm not going to leave this faith, I'm not going to bow my knee to something else"?

Can you say with Job, "Even if he kills me, I'll still trust him"?

Wow, that's a hard call. I want to focus on his ability to do great things for me. I don't want to think that it might serve some higher purpose for him not to come to my rescue.

Several hundred years after Daniel and his friends, another man found himself in a life-or-death situation. And he, like Daniel and his friends, prayed to God. He said, "Surely, there's got to be a way out of this. There's got to be another way, an easier way."

He prayed that prayer so fervently that his sweat came like blood.

But he finished that prayer by saying, "God, I know you're able to come up with another way, but even if you don't -- I won't walk away from you or my commitment to do your will."

And later that day, he joined with Job in saying, "Even if he kills me, I'll still trust him."

I know God is able. I think most people reading this blog believe God is able. That's not the question.

The question is: Have you ever thought through your worst case scenario and said, "Even if he doesn't..."?

Monday, February 20, 2006

The God We Serve Is Able

Most of the people who frequent this blog could tell you a story about a time when the odds were long and the forecast was dark. It didn't look good. In fact, it looked downright awful.

And then God mysteriously and miraculously came through!

The doctors were baffled. Your neighbors couldn't explain it. Your friends and relatives just laughed and hugged and danced and cried. It was amazing how God came through with just what was needed at exactly the right time.

We love stories like that. We ought to celebrate those kinds of stories, repeating them over and over to our children and our grandchildren. Stories of God's deliverance produce in us the kind of faith we need to survive life on this earth. They remind us that the God we serve is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than all we can ask or even imagine.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego make this tremendous statement of faith in the face of considerable odds. The King has just summoned them and makes it very clear to them that they must obey his will or be killed. Their response is classic:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king" (Daniel 3:16b-17).

I do not think it is possible for us to meditate on this statement enough: "The God we serve is able".

The God we serve is the God who gave a child to a barren couple who trusted him.
The God we serve is the God who brought 10 plagues down on the Egyptians.
The God we serve is the God who split the Red Sea in two.
The God we serve is the God who provided manna in the wilderness.
The God we serve is the God who crushed the walls of Jericho.
The God we serve is the God who did all these things and more, and he has not lost one ounce of strength.

He is able to heal, deliver, restore, repair, forgive, redeem and do all sorts of things we cannot even imagine.

Today, let this be your statement: The God we serve is able!

Pack A Lunch

I have technology that allows me to see when someone lands on my website. I can see where they've come from and what they do while they're here. I can even tell where their Internet Provider is. It gives me a general picture, though not a specific one.

So, I could see it coming. I knew what was going on. Someone typed my name in a search engine. They didn't spell it correctly, but the internet is very forgiving when it comes to spelling. They found my blog and began to read every single entry I've ever posted.

Talk about someone with a lot of time on their hands!

And then they started searching for specific things. They searched my blog for the word "baptism". Then they searched for "community church".

Okay, I can see where this is going.

But then it got personal; they searched the word "father".

I thought this guy was trying to dig up dirt on me (and maybe he was), but when he typed that word in I started to wonder if this wasn't about me but was about my dad.

My father is Dr. J.J. Turner for those of you who don't know. He is a man of God, a man I respect greatly, a man of learning and a man of integrity. He has been the greatest single influence on my life, and I would do just about anything for him. So, when you pick a fight with him, you've got one with me, too.

Well, "jc" finally found a couple of things objectionable enough to comment on. And this was his comment: "What does your Daddy think about all of this? Isn't he a known Gospel preacher for the Church of Christ? jc".

This comment was made in response to my belief that closed- or circular-scholarship has bred a fair amount of cult-like practices among some people in the Churches of Christ. I made that statement along with the idea that this is not the case among most members or leaders in the Churches of Christ. And I applauded the efforts of men like Rubel Shelly, Mike Cope and Randy Harris.

So, "jc" wants to know what my Daddy thinks about this.

JC, whoever you are, I actually called my dad and talked to him about this. He is a grown man, and so am I. He is a man of faith, and so am I. He is a student of the Bible, and so am I. We agree on many, many things -- most matters theological. We disagree over a few things and have agreed that none of the things over which we disagree amount to salvation issues.

His suggestion was that if you have questions about what he thinks, go ask him.

My suggestion is that if you do muster up the courage to have that conversation -- pack a lunch.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

You Just Never Know

Last year I was speaking at a retreat and found myself without a book to read. That is a very terrible thing indeed for me, because I am not always good at meeting new people and mingling with them. I much prefer to hole up with a book and come out when it's time to speak.

So, I was a little unnerved at the thought of having to go a full weekend without the comfort I find in books. And that's when God miraculously intervened, and I found a book on my nightstand. It was titled THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht.

This little book contains the most bizarre advice ever assembled: How to escape from quick-sand; how to hot-wire a car; how to fend off a shark; how to escape from a mountain lion; how to jump from a building into a dumpster; how to deliver a baby in a taxicab; how to survive if your parachute fails to open. Bizarre and fascinating, this book contains actual lists of what you can and should do if you ever find yourself in a life-or-death situation. Here's what the author says in the Preface:

"The principle behind this book is a simple one: You just never know.

"You never really know what curves life will throw at you, what is lurking around the corner, what is hovering above, what is swimming beneath the surface. You never know when you might be called upon to perform an act of extreme bravery and to choose life or death with your own actions.

"But when you are called, we want to be sure that you know what to do. And that is why we wrote this book."

You just never know.

A young college graduate gets sick and can't seem to shake it. He starts experiencing double-vision and night-sweats, goes to the doctor and discovers that he has Hodgkin's Disease. You just never know.

A wife and mother comes home to find her furniture out on the lawn and her husband in the back of a police squad car -- he's been arrested for embezzling money from his company, and they've been evicted from their home. You just never know.

Fifty years ago last month, a team of missionaries decided to take the gospel to a group of people in the jungle of eastern Ecuador. After several friendly encounters, five of the missionaries were found hacked to death by the very people they were trying to reach. You just never know.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had no idea what life was going to throw at them. They probably thought life was going to be a certain way, but it didn't turn out the way they thought it would. Things seemed to be going pretty well. They'd been promoted and enjoyed some measure of influence and power in their world.

And then things changed all of a sudden, and they found themselves in the middle of a Worst-Case Scenario.

What do you do when life throws you a curveball? When the parachute fails to open, and your worst nightmare turns into a reality?

You never know when you might be called to do something heroic or sacrificial. But when you are called, God wants to be sure that you know what to do. And that is why he wrote his book.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Knowing the Bible Too Well

It may sound odd for someone like me to say, but sometimes I think we may know the Bible too well.

Here's what I mean: when we know the stories ultimately have a happy ending, we tend to rush to that happy ending -- skipping over the important bits in the middle. Abraham and Isaac. David and Goliath. Esther, Mordechai and Haman. Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail.

Certainly, this is the case with Daniel 3 -- the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

The problem with reading these stories now is that most of us know how they end, and we want to speed our way through them to get to that happy ending. God delivers; his people are delivered; start the party.

But life doesn't happen like that. In life, you can only go one verse at a time, and you don't always know how this particular episode is going to turn out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I Am Not...But I Know I AM

That's the title of Louie Giglio's latest book: I Am Not...But I Know I AM. And it's a fitting caption for what happens in the last half of Daniel 2.

The King has had a bad dream, and he's ordered his advisors to tell him what the dream was and what it meant. They reply that such a request is hopeless -- no one can do something like that except the gods. And, unfortunately, the gods don't live down here on earth where we can ask them.

Daniel and his friends pray to God, and God reveals the dream and its meaning to Daniel sometime during the night.

Daniel goes to the king, and the king asks, "Can you tell me my dream and its meaning?"

Daniel -- believe it or not -- says, "No."

Actually, what he says is better than that:

"Daniel replied, 'No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries" (Daniel 2:27-28a).

Later on, he'll say, "This mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men" (v. 30).

Well, if Daniel didn't get the revelation because he's smarter or wiser than the other guys, why did he get it? I think he got it because he asked.

See, the king said, "I am in charge. I am the center of the universe. I am unable to sleep."

The other wise men said, "No one can do this except the gods, and they don't live around here. So, it's no use asking."

Daniel said, "I am not smart enought to figure this out, but I know the one who is."

Here's what the back of Louie's book says:

I am not but God knows my name.
I am not but he has pursued me in his love.
I am not but I know the creator of the universe.
I am not but I have been invited into his story.
I am not but I know I AM.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Why We Lose Hope

Nebuchadnezzar has had a bad dream and can't sleep. So, he calls his advisors and asks them to tell him what his dream meant. Actually, he asks them to tell him what his dream WAS and then tell him what it meant.

Their response is sad:

"The astrologers answered the king, 'There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men'" (Daniel 2:10-11).

If Nebuchadnezzar's problems stem from the fact that he thinks he's God. The advisors have a different problem. They know they're not God (or "the gods"). Their problem is that they have no access to whoever can help them.

That's a hopeless situation, indeed! They're unable to do something. They know there is someone out there would could do it, but there's no way to get that someone involved in their situation.


When I find myself living without hope, it's usually not because I think God's unable; it's usually because I forget that he's come to live among us.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Why We Burnout

I get to travel to a different church almost every weekend. This year, I've visited with churches in Virginia, Maryland, Colorado and Washington. Next week, I'll go to North Carolina -- the week after that Ohio -- the week after that Louisiana. I've been doing this for a while now, and there is one thing I find more than I like to think about: burnout.

Ministers burnout. Pastors burnout. Volunteers burnout. People burnout.

Symptoms of burnout include:

Interpersonal problems
Hostile or suspicious behavior

That's a partial list, but it's probably enough to have some of you thinking, "Yikes! That list feels familiar!"

In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar has a bad dream and can't sleep. He calls in his advisors and commands them, "Tell me what my dream meant!"

His advisors say, "Okay, tell us what your dream was, and we'll tell you what it means."

The King says, "No, I'm not giving any hints. Tell me what the dream was AND what it means! And if you don't tell me, I'll have you all cut into tiny pieces and your houses turned into public latrines!"

"But, sir," his advisors say, "we'll be glad to help you figure out what it means if you'll just tell us what it was."

"I see what you're all up to! You're just trying to confuse me! You're all against me!"

"But, sir, no one on earth can do what you're asking us to do. No one's ever asked anyone to do anything like this before. Only the gods could figure this out, and they, unfortunately, don't live here on earth."

Here, I'll stop paraphrasing and let the text speak for itself: "This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men in Babylon" (Daniel 2:12).

Frustration. Interpersonal problems. Aggression. Irritability. Hostile or suspicious behavior. Fear. Anxiety.

Looks like burnout to me.

Here's my take on burnout: I don't think burnout has as much to do with workload as we have thought. I think it has more to do with trying to do something you're not gifted to do. You can fake it for a while, but sooner or later it catches up with you. The longer you try to occupy a role you're not meant to occupy, the more likely you are to experience some of the symptoms of burnout.

Nebuchadnezzar thinks he's God. He tries to make everything revolve around him. But Nebuchadnezzar isn't designed to live like that. That's not a role he's equipped to play.

What would happen if you decided to resign from being the center of the universe?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why We Can't Sleep

I have trouble sometimes with insomnia. It's something I've struggled with since I was an adolescent. My brain sometimes starts going, and I cannot shut it down. It hardly happens anymore, but when it does I spend the next day walking around like a zombie.

"In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep" (Daniel 2:1).

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 62% of Americans have some trouble sleeping at nights. In a report filed yesterday, NBC News says Americans are turning more and more to sleeping pills like Ambien or Lunestra -- nearly 42 million prescriptions for some kind of sleep aid were filled in 2005.

There are often medical and psychological conditions that prevent someone from sleeping. For me (and for Nebuchadnezzar), there was something else keeping me awake -- it was neither medical nor psychological -- it was spiritual.

Don Finto once told me he had struggles with sleep, too. But he found that if he would just pray about whatever was bothering him, he'd drift off to sleep in no time. It sounds simplistic, but it worked for me. And I think there's something in that simple sleep aid that relates to what I wrote yesterday.

It's normal to take your problems to God, right? But when I forget that I'm not God, I take my problems to me and keep myself awake with them.

God never sleeps. That's by choice. There's a categorical difference between "not sleeping" and "can't sleep".

If there is a God who is not me -- a God more competent by far than me -- then I can take whatever's bothering me and leave it with him. He'll stay awake, and I can sleep.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I Am Not God

I've talked a few times on this blog about ontological dualism. I love writing and saying that phrase because it sounds so academic. And sometimes people from universities type that phrase into a search engine and land on my crazy blog.

Incidentally, when I was teaching through the life of Solomon last year, I did a three part series: Extreme Wisdom; Extreme Foolishness; and Extreme Sex. I blogged about those three lessons, and I still have people who "google" the phrase "extreme sex" and end up here reading about Song of Solomon. I find that pretty funny.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah...ontological dualism.

Basically, it means that there are two categories of things. Christians believe this, but they usually draw the line in the wrong place. Usually, we think of spiritual things and non-spiritual things. That's not Christianity. That's gnosticism -- or at least neo-gnosticism.

Christianity says there are two categories of things: God and not-God.

Nearly 15 years ago, Ernest Kurtz wrote the definitive history of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was titled NOT GOD. In the book he says that the first (and hardest) thing for an addict to accept is that he or she is not God. Here's a quote from the Introduction:

"...the fundamental and first message of Alcoholics Anonymous to its members is that they are not infinite, not absolute, not God. Every alcoholic's problem had first been, according to this insight, claiming God-like powers, especially that of control. But the alcoholic at least, the message insists, is not in control, even of himself; and the first step towards recovery from alcoholism must be admission and acceptance of this fact that is so blatantly obvious to others but so tenaciously denied by the obsessive-compulsive drinker. Historically, it has been the concept of divinity, the notion of the deity, that includes the idea of absolute control. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous, then, teaches first and foremost that the alcoholic is not God....

"But Alcoholics Anonymous is fellowship as well as program, and thus there is a second side to its message of not-God-ness. Because the alcoholic is not God, not absolute, not infinite, he or she is essentially limited. Yet from this very limitation -- from the alcoholic's acceptance of personal limitation -- arises the beginning of healing and wholeness."*

That message is not just for alcoholics; it's for me. All too often, I forget that I'm not God and try to control things that aren't in my power to control. It makes me fearful and anxious. It drives wedges between me and others. It sets me up for failure and frustration.

That's Nebuchadnezzar's problem in Daniel 2. He thinks he's God.

That's John Alan Turner's problem in 2006. I keep on forgetting the one thing that is most obvious to everyone else around me: I am not God.

*Ernest Kurtz, NOT GOD: A HISTORY OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), pp. 3-4.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Resilient People

Al Siebert has spent nearly 30 years trying to figure out why some people go through hardships and come out withered up people while others endure those same hardships and actually come out better than they were before. He has studied POWs, kidnapping victims and hostages. He finds what we all know is true: some people go through those terrible times and never recover; others go through the same terrible times and not only live to tell about it but end up turning it all to their advantage. Some people remain victims for the rest of their lives; others see themselves as survivors.

He labels the second category of people: Resilient.

From studying resilient people, Siebert has noticed several common traits among them. Daniel exhibits a number of those traits in Daniel 1. It might help you to read through the chapter before we go on. It's short. I'll wait.


Okay, Daniel does a number of things that reveal how resilient he is. First, he determines to live out his core values without compromise. In other words, resilient people are people of integrity. They do not allow others to determine their behavior. They avoid victimization and control what is in their power to control.

When Daniel decides not to defile himself with the king's food (Daniel 1:8-10), he makes that decision on his own. That verse is an interesting turning point in the story. Up until that point, the Babylonians had made all the decisions. They had decided where Daniel would live, what he would do and what his name would be. But Daniel makes a decision to control what is in his power to control -- even if all he can control is what goes in and comes out of his mouth.

Next, he figures out how the system works. Daniel goes to the guy in charge and tells him what he wants to do (that's another trait -- the ability to express yourself openly and honestly). The guy in charge likes Daniel (another trait is the ability to read other people) and tells him that he's afraid of what the King might do if Daniel goes through with the plan and doesn't look as good as the others.

Daniel basically says, "Well, he didn't say 'yes' but he didn't say 'no' either." So, he goes to the guy who is second in command and works out a plan (vv. 11-14). Another one of those traits of resilient people is the ability to adapt quickly.

Also notice that while Daniel is clearly the leader, he's not doing this alone. He's got four buddies going through all of this with him. Resilient people will go to ridiculous lengths to live in healthy community with others. Julius Segal has documented some of the ways POWs learned to communicate with each other to keep morale up during the most horrible conditions. It's striking to me that when it's forbidden, people will move heaven and earth to gain even a glimpse of community; but when it's encouraged, we expect it to just happen on its own.

We live in Babylon, and in Babylon we will not survive without deep relationships.

The final trait we see in Daniel is his optimistic outlook. He expects his plan to work (vv. 12-13). The whole chapter gives us a good reason to share his optimistic outlook. If you look at vv. 2, 9 and 17, you'll see what I'm talking about. Who's active through this whole chapter? God is working the way he so often works -- in hidden and unseen ways. God delivered them into the hands of their enemies to begin with (v. 2). God caused the official to show Daniel favor and sympathy (v. 9). Eventually, God gave Daniel and his friends knowledge and understanding (v. 17).

Optimism only makes sense if God is at work -- even in difficult times.

God calls us to do more than endure; God calls us to be resilient. He doesn't just want us to hold on and grit our teeth until we die. He wants us to grow through our hardships and know that something good can come out of something bad.

What if Christians lived like that? What if Christians demonstrated more resiliency?

What if we decided to stop acting like victims and determine our boundaries and behavior for ourselves?

What if we decided to stop having superficial relationships and determined to live in authentic and healthy ways with others?

What if we decided to stop being so panicky and lived out of a sense of vital optimism?

What if we lived as if there really is a God who is always at work -- perhaps hidden from our view -- but steadily moving forward with his plan to build a people who are rightly related to him and rightly relating to each other?

That's a group I want to be part of.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Resident Aliens

Karen Smith teaches Kindergarten at a Christian School just outside of Chicago, IL. A few years ago, during a presidential election, her class was talking about how important it is to vote. The kids asked Miss Karen who she voted for, and she told them that she is not allowed to vote here in the US because she is from England. She went on to tell them that a person from another country is called a "resident alien".

It's interesting what sticks in the minds of children. Later that day, during a prayer, one of her students prayed, "Dear God, please help people to stop being mean to Miss Karen by calling her an 'alien'."*

We are fascinated with aliens. Television shows like My Favorite Martian, The X-Files or Third Rock From the Sun -- movies like E.T. or K-Pax -- we love stories about aliens.

I think one reason we love these stories is because there are times when we all feel like aliens. The Bible affirms this, calling us "aliens and strangers in this world" (1 Peter 2:11). There's something in us that feels like a fish out of water, something that knows we don't belong here, that we were made for something other than this, bigger than this. We resonate with stories of aliens, because we all know that -- to some extent -- we are aliens ourselves.

That's one reason why the story of Daniel is so important for us. Daniel spends most of his life in a land he never intended to inhabit. He lives and he dies as a stranger in a strange land. He shows us all how to live as resident aliens.

*UNLOCKING THE BIBLE VOL. 2 by Colin S. Smith (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 2002).

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Most Underrated Old Testament Character

I have a group of guys I like to hang out with. We meet on Monday nights (though I've missed the past few weeks because of my travel schedule). One of our favorite things to talk about is underrated sports figures. We'll spend hours debating who the most underrated QB in the NFL is (Trent Green) -- or the most overlooked infielder in MLB is (Jeff Kent).

Who is the most underrated character in the Old Testament?

When we think of great Old Testament characters, there are some names that surface immediately: Abraham, Moses, David. Those are probably the big three. There are others that come after a moment's reflection: Joseph, Joshua, Solomon, Nehemiah.

Lots of books get written about those guys.

There are women, too: Deborah, Ruth, Esther. They get books and movies and sermon series all about them.

But, for some reason, I can't think of a single popular-level book written about Daniel. Nor can I remember ever hearing a sermon series about him. We know his stories -- refusing to eat the king's food, his friends being thrown into the fiery furnace, him interpreting the writing on the wall, his night spent in the lion's den.

Still, I can't remember anyone teaching through his whole story. Am I imagining this?

Why does Daniel get so little love from us?