Stupidity Is Not A Virtue

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF DANIEL

One of the worst things about the English language is that too often we don’t really know how to use our own words.  DATA, for instance, is plural.  There’s no such thing as one data point.  Or, take the word CORPORATE.  When you see that word I suspect you’re thinking of Microsoft or Amazon as examples (I live in Washington State).  Well, originally it just used to mean any task undertaken together.  You know, lots of people corporately coming together for a single purpose.  It used to be that the *opposite* of corporate was an idiot–literally a solitary single person who didn’t go for the BENEFITS of being part of the group.  It used to be that AN IDIOT was just somebody who stuck to himself–in a peculiar way.

“Oh, oh.  I know where you’re going,” you might be thinking.

But I’ll tell you the word that’s been messed up the most and that’s the word ‘CHURCH’.  Christians aren’t idiots.  We know that a church is a group of people–it’s a CORPORATE GATHERING of the body of Christ.

But let’s face it: when you think of THE CHURCH, you’re probably thinking of a building.  The truth is, it’s so easy to think of THE CHURCH as a building because it’s easier for THE CHURCH to be a place more than a way of life.  We can visualize a place and identify with it better.  It’s safer when it’s a building we go to once a week more so than AN ATTITUDE which defines our lives.

Well, that might be what we think, but it’s too limited.  At times, I fear we may be in danger of losing our CORPORATE notion of CHURCH.  I believe the fellowship I’ve been gathering with for the past 5 years has a better understanding of CHURCH as a people, but we can always do better.  We do a pretty good job of carrying for each other, praying for one another in times of need.  But even we have friends and neighbors and colleagues that NEED us as well.  Too many isolated people are imprisoned voluntarily in the cells of their own homes when what simply they need most is companionship and friendship of a God-breathed individual more interested in serving God than himself.

Our God is a CORPORATE God.

Not in the sense of the way of doing things according to some rules laid down, but in the sense of togetherness that He desires for us.

WE WORSHIP HIM IN COMMUNITY.

It’s a community centered on Jesus to be sure, but it’s not, as we suppose, just a ‘Jesus and me‘ thing.

SCRIPTURE  Daniel 2:14-30

In my study this week and at first thought, I noticed a missing detail, but it is a detail that shows up time and time again centered on RELATIONSHIP. Think about the RELATIONSHIP that Daniel has with Arioch, the king’s captain.  Think about the RELATIONSHIP Daniel has with his young friends.  See how it is these relationships ultimately bring Daniel closer in relationship to God.

Well, okay, Arioch’s job was perhaps to bring Daniel a bit closer to God than Daniel was expecting, but I noticed here, how Daniel was able to talk with him so freely.  Clearly, Daniel and Arioch had a pre-existing RELATIONSHIP, so string that together that Daniel could ask Arioch to risk not only his job but his neck, in delaying the king’s order.  That doesn’t happen by accident.  I sure that they must have spent time together.  There’s nothing to suggest that Arioch could have cared a lick about Daniel’s god.  But he CARED about Daniel.  And through RELATIONSHIP he could learn to appreciate his god, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s so true.  We are often the only Bible our friends will ever read.

STUPIDITY ON DISPLAY!

One cold and rainy day while visiting my brother and his family in Texas, we had all decided to venture out to the family property, the Ranch, and see all the progress that had been made.  After arrival, we reluctantly got out the vehicles into the inclement weather, shivering, but trying to stay enthusiastic.  My dad, my wife, and my sister-in-law’s sister decided it was wiser to remain in the car.  My dad was in the front seat while the girls were in the back seat, unnoticed by dad.

After seeing the family out in the cold and wet elements he shouted, Stupid, Stupid, Stupid not noticing the ladies in the back seat grinning, knowing that he had no idea they were there..  My wife still muses at the event.

I noticed in this passage of Scripture the only STUPIDITY on display is the one who is acting by himself?

I mean, why is the KING so furious that he wants to kill off the entire government?  WHY?  Because he is acting foolhardy and alone.

This isn’t CORPORATE unless perhaps if you were a big accounting firm.  Corporate acts are slow and deliberate because they benefit from counsel.

More importantly, I specifically noticed the FELLOWSHIP of the believers present: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  They all came together to PRAY.

It just so happened the Word came to Daniel.  That’s a group in total HUMILITY to God and to each other.  I doubt they cared which one of them actually heard from God directly.  They were simply living out the commandments.

GOD IS COMMUNITY.

They didn’t go to Temple (Church) together–Temple was over 800 miles away, and it was in ruins.  They simply came together out of common LOVE for an uncommon God who had supernaturally reached out to them and chose them for His kingdom.  I’m sure sometimes they wondered about their ‘chosen people’ status. But they knew if they were going to be FAITHFUL, they needed each other.

Today, we’d call that an Accountability Group:  A group of people comes together for the sake of the GOSPEL.

They come together in HUMILITY…COMMON LOVE for God and for one another.  They extend that LOVE to the world around them and they lift each other up.  When one is hurting, they extend God’s love.  When one of them is missing, they’re there.  And when one of them is REJOICING, they’re each lifted up in praise.

Christians are called to be a COMMUNITY of Christ-like believers that realize as great as our individuality is, our CORPORATE presence is in the WORSHIP of our King is even greater than ourselves.

As Christians, we are CALLED to overcome the world (1 John 5:5).  We do that precisely by being greater in LOVE, COMPASSION, and FRIENDSHIP.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘They will know that we are Christians by our…doctrines, or our theology–even our potlucks.’  No, the world recognizes how we love one another, how we visit one another, and how we care for each other.

THE PRINCIPLE laid down in Daniel is CORPORATE WORSHIP–with Mishael, Hananiah, and Azariah.

It is a PRINCIPLE I see all across the Bible.  For every great hero in the Bible, there’s a companion:

  • Adam had Eve
  • Moses had Mirian
  • Aaron and Joshua
  • Joshua had Caleb
  • David had Jonathan
  • Ester had Mordecai
  • Paul had Barnabas, even Jesus had Peter.

When the Lord said that it was not good for man to live alone, I think He meant more than just males and more than just marriage.

Daniel had Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego.

In Daniel 1, Daniel was already in close communion with these fellows.  In Daniel 3, you are probably familiar with the fiery furnace story.  These three are never mentioned except in COMMUNITY with one another.  Daniel is chock full of stores of integrity and courage in the face of dire circumstances–standing up when everyone else bows to the culture.

How did they do it?  They did it together!

How would you have liked to be a part of that small group?  I’m sure they had their squabbles and disagreements.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Shadrack thought Abednego was always late for the prayer group, and I wouldn’t be surprised that perhaps Meshach needed to shower more often.  I’m sure that each of them was an individual who was great in his own right–after all, you don’t get to be princes by being a wallflower.

But it’s a testament to their sense of CORPORATE LOVE for God that we don’t know anything about of these guys except as part of a group.

These men were all great, but they were all equal before God.  You cannot acknowledge God’s complete, scale-altering greatness, not see that any comparison to your fellow man is but petty foolishness.  That would be stupidity!

After praying corporately, Daniel is given the answer to the secret of the king’s dream.

[19]  Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of Heaven.

[20]  Daniel answered, Blessed, be the name of God forever and ever!  Doe WISDOM and MIGHT are His!

[21]  He changes the times and the seasons;  He removes kings and sets up kings.  He gives WISDOM to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding! 

I certainly don’t find stupidity in those who are blessed by God with “WISDOM” and “KNOWLEDGE” and “UNDERSTANDING”, do you?

We are all beings created for FELLOWSHIP with God and others.

WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER!

__________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search, advanced settings.

Dictionary:  Webster’s Online Dictionary.

Bible used:  Amplified Bible (AMP).

Kissing FROGS and Hugging PORCUPINES

One of my favorite authors, Chuck Swindoll, in his book Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes, wrote the following regarding ourselves and other’s “frogness” in life:

Floating On A Lily Pad
Floating On A Lily Pad

“FROGS feel slow and low, ugly and putty, drooped and pooped.  I know, because one told me.  The FROG FEELING comes when you want to be bright but you’re dumb.  When you want to share, you are selfish.  When you want to be thankful, but filled with resentment.  When you want to be great…but you are small.  When you want to care, but you are indifferent; yes, at one time or another, each of us has found themselves floating down the great river of life, frightened and disgusted, but to frightened to budge.” 

Scripture Reading in John 15:12-17  [Amplified Version]:

[12] This is My commandment; that you love one another [just] as I have loved you.

[13] No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends.

[14] You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do.

[15] I do not call you servants (slaves) any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing (working out).  But I have called you My friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father.  [I have revealed to you everything that I have learned from Him.]

[16] You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], He may give it to you.

[17] This is what I command you; that you love one another.

The Fairy Tale of Endo…

In this particular Fairy Tale (and others too), the FROG wasn’t really a frog.  He looked like one because…a wicked witch cast an evil spell on a prince.  Only a kiss from a beautiful young maiden could SAVE him.  Then one day, a beautiful young girl lays a big sloppy kiss on the frog’s slimy lips, and in a great puff of smoke…he changes back into a handsome prince.  They marry, have a ton of kids, and live happily ever after. The End.

Our Task In Our Churches Across the Land Isn’t A Fairy Tale…

“Kissing Frogs and Allowing Ourselves to Be Kissed!”

Faithful Christian LOVE has a way of rescuing kings and queens and their “frogness” [i].  I believe we must do more than “wishing” we were different in our communities.

I’ve learned by practical experience, I need to be more intentional about telling others that the church I’m a part of, is a loving community!  But it will take more than just telling…it will require me to be an active “lover”.

WHY SO?

Because of the reason for the Command of Jesus (John:12a, 17).  Not once, but twice within six short verses: “love one another”.

Our Selfishness Often Gets In the Way of Loving the Brethren…

My wife and I never told our kids when they were little how to be selfish.  And yet our youngest, even at the age of four, on any given day, would have no problem taking one of his older sister’s toys away.

Israel’s neighbors haven’t a problem finding ways to torment and mistreat them, because of their hatred.  Certain things come “naturally” to fallen man–sin and selfishness in the heart.

“Use it or Lose it!”

I believe we’re NOT intentional about creating a loving environment; an accepting community, a fellowship of mutual service and sacrifice and if we don’t use what God has made available, we might just lose it.

It often seems, too many churches leave “loving one another” to chance: “I’ll let my wife LOVE ON OTHERS. I’ll stay out-of-the-way of the crowds.”

The Apostle John’s Thinking On the Matter…

Jesus’ repeating command must have made a lasting impression.  Maybe more than any other disciple, John sought to obey these words of his Master.

How revealing then, a few years later, John would write in the Letter we call, 1 John, the following:

1 John 3:14:

We know that we have passed over out of death into Life by the fact that we love the brethren (our fellow Christians).  He who does not love abides (remains, is held and kept continually) in [spiritual] death.

“NO ROOT, NO FRUIT” –

Wow!  When I meditated on that verse (read and re-read the words), God really spoke to my spirit.  John is saying, the sure sign of being “SAVED”, is a sure internal testimony of my outward profession of my faith.  If there isn’t any fruit, there isn’t an attachment to the “Vine” JESUS (John 15:1-11).

Is Loving Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus Easy?

If it were easy to LOVE those of us in the church, there would be no sign of a miraculous work of God happening in OUR midst.

If LOVE for the brethren were a natural occurrence, you wouldn’t know and have the Life of Holy Spirit permeating your souls in the loving process.

If LOVING each other was something we could do apart from prayer, humbleness, and dependence of God’s grace, then LOVE would prove nothing.

But John tells us:  “Here is a sure sermon for your own soul, a testimony that you are abiding in Christ, IF…you can love Christians!”  

Even knowing this, sometimes its hard to LOVE OTHERS in the Body of Christ:  Some are crusty, prickly and painful to be around.  It’s not simply “kissing frogs”, but “hugging porcupines.”

 JESUS COMMANDS such LOVE, otherwise, we would avoid it entirely.

Hugging Porcupines
Hugging Porcupines

GOD’S STANDARDS OF PERFECT LOVE FOR US:

“LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU”  (John 15:12 b.).

JESUS loved us in giving His life.  Human relationships are strengthened when a man sacrifices for a close friend.  The Apostle Paul speaks of this LOVE in detail:

Romans 5:7-8:

[7] Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die.

[8] But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.

The Family of God and their SACRIFICES:

If SACRIFICE doesn’t cost you something, then it isn’t a sacrifice.  It cost Jesus His life because of His LOVE for us.

Beginning the conversation…the Heart & Mouth Connection.

Every family has secrets–the special stories and nicknames, ways of communicating that are unique to the closest relationships you have.  In fact, one of the ways we have to bring other people into a closer relationship, is sharing with them a special aspect of our family life.  Looking for something you might have in common: family ancestry, where you’re from originally, etc.  But you are going to have to open up heart and mouth to find something in common.  Yep, we’re going to have to get off our “lily pads”.  It probably will be uncomfortable; might even feel insecure.

JESUS’ APPOINTMENT…CHOOSING US! 

“JESUS LOVES ME [“US”], THIS I KNOW.   FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.”  

Jesus loves us by choosing and appointing us to bring God the glory in the world and through the FRUIT that we are to bear.

Everyone with young children, or in my case, grandchildren, knows frustration comes in helping them to do something; we’re tempted to say, “It’s easier to do it myself.”

I’ve thought at times, out of frustration, regarding the need for evangelism in Whatcom County.  God could have found a much easier way to communicate the message other than the local churches.  But of course, that isn’t His plan.

God’s Plan for His Church…

But JESUS loves us, appointed us to bear fruit in this place…at this time.  With this LOVE STANDARD as our active goal…not another “church program”, but an individual goal, create opportunities to develop and demonstrate LOVE to one another.

Many conservative churches preach “LOVE YOUR WIFE AS CHRIST LOVES HIS CHURCH–and that’s a clear biblical command.  But rarely do we talk about loving “fellow believers” as Christ loved the church.  Yet here in this passage of Scripture, JESUS says, “THIS IS MY COMMANDMENT”–this is My PLAN!

There is POWER available for LOVING one another…

JESUS has made known to us the church, the Word of God is His will for our lives.  It’s not complicated.  It’s NOT a family secret.  It is a crystal clear commandment in the Bible.  And the Word of God is LIVING & ACTIVE; it doesn’t simply just urge us to do something (enjoin), it EMPOWERS US!

GOD’S WORD BECAME FLESH:

“IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself” (John 1:1).

“And the Word (Jesus) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth”  (John 1:14).

JESUS HIMSELF chose us to bear fruit and Jesus is God in human flesh; He doesn’t fail.

When He commands LOVE, He also guarantees its fulfillment.

Sitting On A Lily Pad As It Floats Down the River…

With JESUS on our side, we must succeed in transforming our churches into a visibly loving and caring community.  We’re going to have to get off our “Lily Pads” ; show our community we care!

Being the peruvial LIGHTHOUSE…where the building with our name on a large out-front sign…where everyone who drives by will see and want to come in to worship is sitting on a LILY PAD.  They’re “wish-in and a hope-in” the surrounding community will see the Light.

If we want to be a LIGHTHOUSE to our community, we will need to be “moving Lighthouses”, not stationary structures.  People need to see how we LOVE one another; with FRUIT-BEARING branches and God’s Light shinning on the fruit.

Last but not least…

We have our words; our prayers.  Whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name, He gives.  When we pray for grace (favor)  to LOVE…even some other FROGS…God will show Himself strong and powerful answering that prayer.

Now go out and Kiss A FROG, maybe even Hug A PORCUPINE or two, and know that Holy Spirit will be there to comfort you:

John 15:26, 27 AMP.:

[26] When the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) comes,  Whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth  Who comes (proceeds) from the Father,  He [Himself] will testify regarding Me.

[27] But you also will testify and be My witnesses,  because you have been with Me from the beginning.

 

Footnote: [i] Glenn Durham, Pastor at Church of the Covenant.