Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque.
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship, by the word, to the world.
Lord, it is so much fun to be your children. And Lord, living in this country of ours, we sometimes take for granted the enormous mercies that you have given to us, the advantages we have in terms of books and media and resources that are at our disposal. But Lord, you said, to whom much is given, much shall be required. So we pray, Lord, that you would do a work inside of us that would be worthy of what you have done for us.
We know nothing can compare to the great work of Calvary. But we just pray, Lord, that the appreciation in our hearts would never cease and the message of truth would never grow old. And I pray, Lord, that though you have changed us, that you would still change us, that we would be transformed, as Paul said, by the renewing of our minds. We ask for that in Jesus' name. Amen.
If this were a recovery meeting, I would begin by saying my name is Skip, and I'm a non-conformist. I grew up that way. I was the last born of four boys in the Heizig family. And I didn't want to be like everybody else in the family. I wanted to go my own road. I think everybody's like that.
And so when I think back to my childhood, there were ways that I did that. One way that was very embarrassing, I'll confess to you now-- I don't think I've ever told this story-- is when I was a little kid, we had neighbors from Holland. And I read these books about the boys who used to wear wooden shoes. This was 200 years ago, 300 years ago. And for some reason, I thought wooden shoes would be very cool. So these neighbors brought me some wooden shoes from Holland. And, I kid you not, I went all over town, even on my bicycle, wearing wooden Dutch shoes, clanking around every single store. And everybody looked at me like I am the biggest geek in my town. But I did stand out. It wasn't normal.
Later on, I redeem myself. I got a motorcycle. No, I didn't wear my wooden shoes while I wrote the motorcycle. But it was like, you know what? Everybody drives cars. I want to drive a motorcycle. I didn't want to conform to the normal mode of transportation.
Even when we came to Albuquerque and started this church, there were some things I wanted to do differently. I understood that most churches receive offerings. And I'm not opposed to that. I just wanted to do it a little bit differently. So we have agape boxes around the auditorium. We started out with coffee cans. And then we went to the big leagues. We got agape boxes instead of Folgers coffee cans. And I know that's not normal, it's not orthodox.
In fact, we had a pastor in town who found out about this. And he took me under his wing. He goes, I just want to teach you the ropes of ministry, because you will never survive as a church in this town unless you know how to take an offering properly, boy. So I just said, with all due respect, I appreciate that. But I think God's able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think with agape boxes, or with cans, for that matter, at that time.
And then, I remember a sweet brother in this town who was a minister. And he saw what we were doing, and that I obviously didn't know what I was doing. So he thought I needed to be respectable and he offered to buy me a robe. I just want you to get that picture. Is it there? Can you see me with a robe? So you want me to wear a robe while I preached, because, again, that would be respectable. And so I said, well, do they come in leather? Because that might be cool. I don't know. Again, I just had to say you know, I don't think so. I think jeans are just more my style rather than the robe. I just don't think Lenya would like it if I came home wearing a robe. So I opted out of that.
And so I've never been one to just do things normally, or go along with the status quo. It was Henry David Thoreau, the great American poet and author, who said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." Quiet desperation. And I bet you, if you were just to study the faces of people in malls, where you work, as they drive, if they ever put their phone down and get a good look at their face, you could see that is written all over the countenance, that people live lives of quiet desperation. And lots of people are content to just go along with the status quo.
Now, the term status quo, it's a Latin phrase that means the state in which, or the way things are. It's the way things are. It's the state of affairs. The way things are. If you've ever had somebody say well, that's just the way things are. It is what it is. In other words, don't fight it. Don't buck against it. Don't go against it. Settle for it.
But I don't think we should settle for it. I think the bible calls us to a holy defiance of the status quo. Paul the apostle said, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might prove what is that good acceptable and perfect will of God."
When I refer to status quo, I'm referring to life without significance. Life apart from living according to God's plan. That is following the status quo.
And no one lived against the flow better than Daniel the prophet. When it comes to the Old Testament, you want to see someone who bucked the system, it was Daniel. He drew lines in the sand that he would not cross over. And we're going to read one of those in just a moment.
But get the picture. Daniel was a Middle Eastern refugee, an Iraqi refugee. He found himself in a hostile political environment. He found himself in a pagan religious system. And then, he had people around him who became very jealous of him and tried to become his undoing, eventually. So he had a lot of stuff going against him. There is no reason that Daniel should have survived, given those circumstances.
But Daniel didn't just survive, he thrived. I like to think of it this way-- when the waves of life came crashing down, Daniel decided to go surfing. He thought, I'm going to ride these waves. If these waves are the will of God for my life, I'm going to learn how to master these things. And I'm going to get propelled forward.
26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, said something so profound. He said, "It's better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to join rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the dark shadows that know not victory nor defeat." Very, very profound.
Now, I contend that you ought to go on an adventure. Think of your life. Think of the Christian life. That's going on the alternate adventure. Going on an adventure with the providence of God.
Now here, I want to give you a little example. There are two scriptures that I want you to think about side by side. One is found in Isaiah 40. You don't have to turn there. And the other is found in Deuteronomy chapter 33. And Isaiah 40, listen to this. It says, "God held the oceans in the palm of his hand, and he measured out the heavens with the span of this fingers." That's one verse. Then the other one is Deuteronomy 33, that says, "Underneath you are the everlasting arms."
So get the anatomy here. God looks at the heavens and measures it with a span. The span is from forefinger to thumb. That's a span. But underneath you are the everlasting arms.
I don't know if you saw the moon the other night, but it looked so big. That was harvest moons on the horizon. It looked enormous. The moon is about 200,000 miles away from Earth. Did you know you could walk there? If there was a bridge to the moon, you could walk from here to the moon in 27 years. That's if you made 24 miles every day on foot, you could get to the moon in 27 years.
But if you could go a bit faster-- let's say you could go the speed of light-- the speed of light, anybody know it? 186,000 miles per second. If you could go 186,000 miles per second, so you've got the latest, greatest, coolest airplane that can go that fast, you could make it to the moon in 1.5 seconds. 1.5 seconds going 186,000 miles per second.
So let's say, well, that was fun, but that was quick. I want to go a little further. You could make it to Venus in two minutes and 18 seconds. You would sail past Mercury in 4 and 1/2 minutes. And you'd make it to Jupiter in 35 minutes and 11 seconds. That's going the speed of light.
So let's say you're in it for half an hour. You've just seen Jupiter. So it's like, OK, that was cool. So now, I want to see the nearest neighbor star in the galaxy which is Alpha Centauri. Now, that's going to take you 4.3 years. 4.3 years going 186,000 miles per second to see the nearest neighbor star.
OK. But you've got time on your hands. So now it's like, I want to see where I live. I want to see the whole Milky Way galaxy. Well, the Milky Way galaxy, to get from one end to the other would take you 100,000 years traveling at 186,000 miles per second. And if you made it that far, you haven't even gotten out of the front yard, because they tell us there are billions of other galaxies.
OK. So God looks at that, and goes, it's about that big. That's how big it is to me. I can measure like that. But underneath you are the everlasting arms. What do you got to lose? Right? You're not going anywhere. If God can do that with the universe and he's got you by everlasting arms, live a little bit. Take a few risks. Enjoy the ride in life. Roll down the windows and catch the breeze. Don't be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your minds.
Now, I want to look at Daniel chapter 1 with you. A large chunk of this chapter, not all of it. We don't have the time. But I want to help you do that. I want to give you, I want to show you, four truths, four principles, that will help you do that.
Here's the first truth. And you all know this one. You already know this one. You have this down pat, some of you. Here it is. Life happens unexpectedly. Some of you discovered that a long time ago. Life just sort of happens. And you plan and you plot. But then, something out of nowhere just happens all of a sudden and shakes you to the core. Life happens unexpectedly.
Verse 1, 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 the king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the House of God which he carried into the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god."
Two short statements in verses one and two. Two short statements that describe the same single event from two different perspectives. You can't miss this, because you need to see this. It's woven throughout all of the scripture. The same event, two different descriptions.
First is the vantage point of secular history. It says in verse 1, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. Those are the facts. That's history. That's the viewpoint of secular history. You could look it up. It happened.
But look at verse 2. Same event. Different vantage point. This time, not the vantage point of secular history. This time, the vantage point of biblical theology. Look at verse 2. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim-- that's the king of Judah-- into his hand. You see. God's behind the scenes here.
There are the factual events, but then there's the actual event. Two viewpoints woven into one. Two perspectives. And you see this throughout the scripture, woven together. Man is active in history. But God is always proactive in history.
So here's the facts. Beginning in 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar started flexing his military muscle and taking over the world. He became the world-governing empire. The city of Babylon was the largest city in the world at that time. In 605 BC, he started taking over nations like Judah, where Daniel lived, where the temple stood. And then, he besieged it again in 597 BC. And he besieged it again in 586 BC, when the temple was completely destroyed, burned with fire. And people were killed-- slaughtered-- while thousands of others were taken captive to the land of Babylon.
But here two different perspectives are shown. Secular history. One is biblical theology.
One of the captives that came to Babylon was young Daniel. His name means "God is my judge." He wasn't like 25 or 35 or 45. He was about 15 years old, between 15 to age 17, when he is abducted, made a refugee, and taken 800 miles to the east to Babylon.
A few years ago, I traveled over to Babylon. I've been to Iraq now twice. The first time I went to Iraq, I drove there from Amman, Jordan. I didn't drive there. I hired a taxi cab. We hired a taxi to take us from Amman to Baghdad. It took us 25 hours by car one way. I was with a taxi driver who liked Madonna music and was a chain smoker. It was the trip from hell.
But as we were going, and I'm listening to Madonna for all this. I was driving me nuts. I finally had to tell the guy, you will take that out of your tape deck. I thought of the captives and that long march to the east and what they must have felt like. God has abandoned us. And this isn't at all what we expected. Life happened for them unexpectedly.
Now, there's a basic rule I bet you know. If you don't, you need to know it. Life isn't fair. Life isn't fair. All kids want life to be fair. That's not fair. It ought to be fair. If you do good things, good things should happen. If you do evil things, only those people should see evil things happen.
But you know better, don't you? You know that you can expect the unexpected, that life happens unexpectedly. Could be a phone call telling you about a son or daughter that was an accident. Could be a doctor giving you a report. Here's your lab results. They're shocking, as you find out. Could be a notice where your boss says, I'm sorry. We don't need anymore. You're terminated. Whatever it might be, life happens unexpectedly.
In my life, I've received three phone calls that changed my life. I know I'll have more before my life's over, but the first one was a call from my father telling me that my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. It was so shocking to me. I was a young believer in Christ. I asked all the why questions, like everybody does. But that brought into my life, at that point, a level of uncertainty about my future that I had never experienced before. Now, I just wondered what could be next. Could it be worse than this? What else will happen? I became very shaken to the core with that first phone call.
Another phone call I received years later was on the very day we were getting ready to do an outreach here in town, a big crusade outreach. And my wife went to the doctor for her checkup. She was pregnant with our second child. Couldn't wait to have number two. And she said, I lost the baby. Doctor's going to do a procedure to remove the baby. And it's over. It felt like somebody just punched you in the gut. You know that feeling, when you hear news like that?
But it wasn't over. That was just the beginning of my day. By the end of the day, in the afternoon, my mother called-- same day-- and said, your father just died. So two generations of my life were gone instantly in one day. One below me and one above.
There would be other days, of course, like the day when I discovered my wife had malignant tumor. She had cancer. She had to have it removed. The doctor took it out. I was there on the day of surgery. And he walked out of surgery. And he took off his mask, and he said, the tumor was large. And it was malignant. And he said, I think, I think I got it all.
I never like to hear a doctor say, I think I got it all. I want to see a doctor go, we got it all. It's over. He didn't say that. He goes, I think I got it all. But in case I didn't, she's going to have to have very rigorous rounds of chemotherapy. So just get ready for what that looks like, what that's going to be like. And again, I just remember being hit by the word malignant and chemotherapy. And I thought, how is she going to take it?
Well, that's five years ago. Five years later, she's doing great. And the Lord has just really, I think, brought a healing to her life.
But here's the principle. When life happens unexpectedly, God is moving supernaturally. You don't know what the why is all about yet. I know you want the why answered now. But there are always two sides of your history, your story. There's the factual side. And then, there's the actual side. The factual side of who, what, when, where. But then, there's the actual side. And that is the why.
And you don't get that answered all the time immediately. But God is moving behind the scenes. As John Nelson Darby wrote, "God's ways are behind the scenes, but he moves all the scenes that he is behind." so God's the director of the show.
Nebuchadnezzar might think he's something special, but he's just a pawn on God's chessboard being moved around so that Daniel can get into a place of prominence. That's really what this is all about. This young teenager is about to achieve a level of influence like nothing he imagined. And I love Proverbs 21-- "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, and like the courses of water, he moves it wherever he wishes."
Hey, how about Romans 8:28? Don't we all love that one? Right? We love to fall back on that one. "God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him, the ones that are called according to his purpose." That's always a soft pillow for tired hearts, for troubled hearts. God is working behind the scenes.
That's the first one. Life happens unexpectedly.
A second truth you need to know-- and it's shown here in chapter 1 of Daniel-- is that the world demands conformity. It's great. So this trial of Daniel is just getting started. Not only is he abducted and taken captive, but he's about to face a round of pressure that he has never experienced before.
Verse 3. "Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge, and quick to understand, who had the ability to serve the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and the literature of the Chaldaeans. And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time, they might serve before the king. Now, from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. To them, the chief of the eunuchs gave names. To Daniel, he gave the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abednego."
Now, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon wants to take the captives and turn them into Chaldaeans, full-fledged Babylonian-thinking Chaldaeans. And so he inaugurates a four-tiered plan to make them forget who they were and get them to think in different terms.
First thing he did was isolation. That's the whole thing of taking a person captive from his homeland and moving him out of that setting that he knows so well, that comfort zone, and moving into a whole new place-- his place, Babylon. So now, he's isolated from friends. He's isolated from family. He's isolated from temple worship. He's isolated from the wisdom of the fellowship of the Jewish people. He's isolated from the reading of the Torah, the law of God. All about that is past history. And now, he is isolated in a whole different environment.
Second, indoctrination. After isolation, he indoctrinated them. Notice it says in the text, he taught them the language and the literature of the Chaldaeans. Now, that doesn't sound so bad, right? Sounds good to me. He's taking them to school. He's paying the tuition. Sounds like a cross between Luminosity and Rosetta Stone. I'm up for that. It doesn't sound bad.
However, this isn't about becoming brilliant. This is about becoming brainwashed. It's designed to erase all the memories of his past, all the value system of his past, and reintroduce the literature of the Chaldaeans, which, according to the historians, was filled with learning how to practice divination, to read omens in the sky, to determine the will of the many gods that were in Babylon. It was a three-year graduate course designed to brainwash Daniel and his friends and anyone else to forget their past and be introduced to a whole new reality.
Sounds a lot like college to me. I've always been amazed, really, at how teachers in our colleges, our universities, who are paid to actually teach biology and math and English seemingly go out of their way to dismantle a belief system that their students might have. I discovered that on my first day of college. I've told you this before.
My first hour of Integrated Zoology, my teacher said, do I have any students here that believe in God? And I raised my hand. I'm a naive freshman. So I went, over here. See my wooden shoes? Over here. I thought he was going to say, oh, God bless you. I'm a Christian, too. Oh, no. He said, my aim in this class is to dismantle what you believe. And I thought, now, that's an odd way to begin a class in integrated zoology.
So Daniel is up against that isolation, indoctrination.
Here's a third thing that Nebuchadnezzar is up to-- intimidation. We read in verse 5 that they were given daily provision of the king's delicacies and the wine which he drank. OK. Let me back up a little bit.
First of all, for a Jewish kid from Jerusalem to just hit the streets in Babylon would be so intimidating. I mentioned Babylon was the biggest city in the known world at the time. The Greek historian Herodotus tells us that the walls of Babylon were 320 feet tall, 85 feet thick. It covered the entire circumference of the city. The river Euphrates ran right through the town. Flanked on either side of the river were 26-feet-wide white limestone sidewalks with red tile trim that was on each side. It was magnificent. In the middle of the city was the palace of Nebuchadnezzar with the hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the world. And back then, even, those gardens were watered with hydraulic pumps that lifted the water out of the river and watered those gardens so that his wife, Nebuchadnezzar's wife, would think, this is just like the place where I grew up, the lush lands of the mountains where she had been taken from.
So any Jewish kid from Jerusalem looking at Babylon, the wow factor would be enormous. It's like if you lived in Berlin and you go to Boston. Or New York. Wow. Times Square. Awesome. You're dazzled by it. The intimidation was enormous.
But what's up with this food that he was given, the delicacies? Well, these delicacies were first offered to pagan gods and then brought to the king's table, and from the king's table given to these that are in school being trained. So it's not it's not farm-to-table. It's pagan-altar-to-table. And that was the idea, is to get them into the worship system of these gods. The best wining and dining of the caterers that Babylon could afford.
Now, all of that was designed to get people like Daniel and his buddies to go, we never had this in Judea. We never ate food like this. We were never given a wine like this. We never saw a city like this. And then, to get them thinking, this place is bigger and better than what we had. And our God didn't protect us from these people who have taken over the world. Maybe our God isn't the true God. Maybe their religious system, the pantheon of their gods, maybe that's the real system. All of that was meant to intimidate.
So isolation, indoctrination, intimidation. The fourth tier in his little scheme is to re-designate them, to give them new names. Daniel, which means "God is my judge," his name has completely changed to Belteshazzar, which means "May Bel protect the king." Bel being one of the chief deities of Babylon. Now, you know that the most personal thing you possess is your own name. When somebody takes away your own name to make you forget your background and your history, that person wants to control you utterly and totally.
Couple of years back, some of you will remember, in the newspaper there was a girl from Iceland. The government took her name away. You remember the story? Her name was Blair. Her parents gave her the name Blair. But the government said, well, that name doesn't appear on the official government list of proper names to call your kids. I hope you're thinking there is such a list? In Iceland, there is. And so the government took her name away. It went to court. And until it was resolved, the government called her simply girl. How demeaning is that? Your own name is taken away.
So these four people, these captives from Jerusalem, are given a re-designation.
It's interesting, I was talking this last weekend, the folks up in Santa Fe, our campus up in Santa Fe. And this man came to me afterwards. And he wrote me this week. And he just says, you mentioned those four things that Daniel and his friends went through. The isolation, the indoctrination, the re-designation, and the intimidation. And he goes, I used to work in the mob back in New York and New Jersey for the Genovese family, the syndicate crime family. He said those are all the same four things that were done to all of us. Even down to the renaming. You get a different handle. You're Bugsy from now, whatever it might be. They give them whole new names.
So given this, and yet the bible says, don't be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind. How on earth is that possible? When you are a teenager taken from home, life is crashed down on you unexpectedly, you get all of this taken away from you, how do you survive it?
Takes us to our third truth. Courage begins inwardly. Verse 8 is the key verse. "But Daniel." I love that. I just love those two words. But Daniel. A lot of bad stuff happened. But Daniel. These guys were taken from their homes. But Daniel. They were given new names. But Daniel. They were intimidated. But Daniel. Something else is going on with Daniel. He's going to make a decision.
Look at it. "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with a portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank. Therefore, he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself."
Courage begins inwardly. The isolation, the indoctrination, the intimidation, the re-designation was met by Daniel's determination. I am not going to cross this line and defile myself and dishonor my God. Courage is always an inside job. It always begins in the inside. And it happens when your decisions become your convictions.
Please notice that phrase. It says, "Daniel purposed in his heart." Literally, the Hebrew says, Daniel placed upon his heart not to defile himself. In other words, Daniel made a decision, and then he took that decision, and he placed that decision on his heart, so to speak. Like a template. Like a grid. And he said, this is how I am going to live the rest of my life. So his decision turned into a conviction. He placed that upon his heart.
Now, why this is so important? Because everything that happens from here out on the Book of Daniel depends on that verse. Daniel's effectiveness or not depends on that verse. The rest of what happens with Daniel's influence happened because of what Daniel did in that verse. So the effectiveness of Daniel's life depends on the decision of Daniel's heart.
It's much like a farmer. A farmer reaps in the fall what he plants in the spring. And he plants this truth in his heart. He won't be defiled with the portion of the king's delicacies.
All of your life is filled with crisis points, choices, decision points, forks in the road. Every single day, there's some choice you make. If it's the small as the click of a mouse, which site you're going to go to, you are making little choices. And where you are today is largely because of the turn in the road that you took yesterday.
But Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself. I call this conquering your inner space. I just want to elaborate for a little bit.
Remember back when the Americans conquered outer space? That's how the newspapers reported it. We've conquered outer space. It was 1969 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Now, some of you weren't alive back then. But you remember this. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. You remember that?
On that day in 1969, when he walked on the moon, the headlines were, we've conquered outer space. And we were all stoked. We did it.
I'm going to tell you something. That's cool. But it is not nearly as important as conquering your inner space. What happens inside of you, your thought life, how you manage the thoughts that go through your mind. And when the decisions of your mind become the convictions of your heart, which produce the actions of your life, then you've conquered inner space.
That's why Proverbs says "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it proceed the very issues of life."
He purposed in his heart. He conquered his inner space. He said yes to all this stuff, but no to that. I'm not going to defile myself with the king's food.
You're going, so what's up with the food thing? What's Daniel doing with the food thing? And making a big deal out of it. It's just a matter of I want Chick-Fil-A instead of chorizo and eggs? So what? right? He's 800 miles from home. Nobody's going to see him do this. It's not going to hurt anybody. When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians. What happens in Babylon stays in Babylon.
But Daniel didn't see it that way. See, for Daniel being a Jewish kid, he learned about Levitical law, kosher foods, things he couldn't eat versus kosher foods that he could eat. And it meant more than just regulations and rules. It meant, I made a covenant with my God and I'm not going to break the covenant with my God. So you know what? You could teach me all this junk in the schools. And you could even call me a different name. But I'm not going to violate my conscience when it comes to disobeying my God.
So Daniel, he's again 15 to 17 years of age, didn't look for an excuse, because he was living with a purpose. And you don't need an excuse when you're living your life with purpose.
Now, how was he able to do this? This is pretty amazing, that he was able to say no. It almost cost him his life, as you read through this chapter and the next chapter. But it's like a scuba diver. I have a few friends who do it. They're scuba divers. They're trying to get me into doing it. I've always liked above the water more than below the water. And if I'm in the ocean, I want to be on a surfboard. I like the sun. I don't really like the depths. But they're saying oh, you gotta go scuba diving. But you've got to get all these techniques and regulators and wet suits and training and learn how to pressurized so that you don't get nitrogen necrosis and all that bad stuff.
So that tells me that we were not meant to live in the ocean. Weren't meant to be down there. And you can't even go very far down. You can go like 250 feet. You don't want to go much more than that. And you have to do it in increments, anyway. And yet-- and here's the reason why-- the pressure of the ocean is so enormous. And even if you've just gone into a pool and gone down, you have to clear your ears, because you know what the pressure's like.
So God put fish in the ocean. And some of these little fish can go down hundreds and thousands of feet. And so it'd be pretty intimidating to be a diver. You got all that stuff on, going down. And this little fish goes by, waves at you, and goes way, way, way, way, way, down. Real thin little skin. How on earth is that little fish able to survive at those depths.
Here's the answer. The pressure inside equals the pressure on the outside. The secret of those little fish is the pressure on the inside equals the pressure on the outside.
How was Daniel able to survive all of the pressure of his culture, his society? Because the pressure on the inside equaled all of that pressure on the outside. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he made a decision. He purposed in his heart. His decisions became his convictions. He knew where to draw the line. He lived with that grid, with that template.
And he said, I'm willing to die for it. This is the purpose that I have made in my own heart. He didn't want to defile himself.
There are things that defile us. I don't have to give you a litany of them. You all know in your own life things that, if you get close to them, if you get involved with them, if you get around them, they're going to defile you. They're going to taint you. Might be a relationship. It might be a certain kind of beverage. It might be certain internet sites or books that you visit. But things can defile you.
So where is the purpose? When does that part kick in, where from the inside, there is a developed pressure to counteract the pressure on the outside? And you can only live that way if you purpose in your heart, and because you know that God is always watching. I want you to think about that.
I'm holding a microphone right now. Soon, I'm going to put it down. You're thinking, I hope you do it much sooner than much later. But I'm going to put it down. And I'm going to walk away. And I'm going to say things to other people. You won't know what I said. But every single conversation I have, God will hear every one. Microphone is always on with God. It's never off. And the camera's always rolling with God.
And people are so afraid they're going to catch me if I say something or do something wrong with their little iPhone. God sees it all anyway. The ways that matter before the eyes of the Lord. And he ponders all of his goings. So the camera's always on. The microphone's always on before God.
The problem that Moses made, you remember, when he killed that Egyptian because he was hurting a Hebrew, it says, Moses looked this way and that way, and then he killed them. Moses probably didn't look that way.
That's our problem. We look this way and that way. But when you consider the covenant with God, and you purpose in your heart, or your decisions become your convictions there's sufficient pressure built up within you to withstand the pressure on the outside. That's where it begins.
So life happens unexpectedly. World demands conformity. Courage begins inwardly. Let me give you fourth and we'll close. We'll have our doughnuts.
To me, this is the best part of the story. God rewards loyalty. God rewards loyalty. I think this is important to realize that when we, as Christians, live in a certain way, there's payoff. There are rewards. God rewards those who diligently seek him, the bible says.
Let's see how it happened in Daniel's life. Verse 17. "As for these four young man, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom. And Daniel had understanding and all visions and dreams." Notice what God did for him. "Now, at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king interviewed them. And among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore, they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them 10 times better"-- literally, in Hebrew, 10 hands better or higher. 10 times better.
What you got? I got that times 10. How wise are you? Times 10.
"--than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. Thus, Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus." So notice what God did to reward them. He gave them an increased aptitude and intellect. And God added supernatural favor.
But to me, the best part of that is the last verse. Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus. You know what that's called? That's called influence. Because verse 1, who's the king of Babylon? Tell me, who's the king of Babylon in verse 1? Nebuchadnezzar. I know it's hard to say. But you know it now. It's Nebuchadnezzar. Who's the king in the last verse? Cyrus. That's four kings. There was Nebuchadnezzar. There was Nabonidas, called Nebuchadnezzar II. There was Belshazzar in chapter 5. And then, there was Cyrus when the Medes and the Persians took over.
Daniel lasted 70 years, and thus impacted four-- not one, not two, not three, but four-- world emperors. He influenced them. That's the reward. The reward when you purpose in your heart is that God presents you to the world to be an influence to people, to see other people change through your life. That's part of the adventure. The influence that goes from your life. It's amazing, really.
I can think of another way I've shared my belief on this. I'll just put it out there. I think Daniel's influence went far beyond four kings. I think we still sing every Christmas about the influence of Daniel the prophet in Babylon. I think we have the story a little bit wrong. We say, "we three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar." We sing that. But we're singing about a group of people called the Magi.
And history tells us the Magi were a group of the priestly caste of the Medes that came from the courts of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, originally. And that Daniel was placed, in the Book of Daniel, over the Magi of Babylon.
So I just am curious-- how do you get guys, when Jesus is born in Bethlehem of Judea, to travel 800 miles from Babylon, coming, saying, we're looking for a king of the Jews? Why do you care about a king of the Jews? And who tipped you off, anyway? Who told you about somebody who's going to come from Judea? I can only think of one person who might have influenced them. And that would be Daniel. Because if you look at the second part of the book of Daniel, it's replete with prophecy after prophecy, detailed prophecy, about who this ruler, this king would be. This messiah of the Jews. So I think the influence of this one man has continued throughout all of history.
I want to close with a question. I want you to decide after I ask this question which of these two you're going to be. Are you like a thermometer? Or are you like a thermostat? I'll explain, then you decide who you are.
A thermometer goes up and down, depending on the ambient temperature. If it's warm around the thermometer, thermometer goes up. If it's cold around the thermometer, it goes down. There are thermometer people that go up and down depending on what the crowd's doing. Crowd laughs at that stupid, lame, dirty joke, you laugh at that stupid, lame, dirty joke. That's a thermometer.
Thermostat is different. Thermostat isn't affected by the temperature. The thermostat regulates the temperature. Might not be right away. But by the influence of a single life, do you know that your environment can change by the encouragement, by the smile, by the positivity, by the truth, by the gospel that you bear? You can actually serve to change your environment. That's a thermostat.
So now, which is it going to be? Are you going to be a thermometer, up and down with the crowd? Or are you going to come in, purposing in your heart not to defile yourself? And you're going to put your foot down. And by God's grace, you're going to influence a few people along the way. That is a thermostat.
I told you before about that's spinster who lived in the Midwest. Her name is Nancy. Nancy lived a little house in a little town in the Midwest. She really didn't do much wrong. She didn't really do much right. Fact is, she really didn't do much of anything. And she died, eventually, in this little town. And so the head of the newspaper found out about Nancy Jones. She died. And he had to come up with something to put in the newspaper. And by the way, the funeral home said, while you're at it, we're going to put it on her grave marker.
Well, he didn't to know what to write about Nancy Jones. He didn't even know Nancy Jones. He just heard the name. Old Spinster Jones lives in that house. So I don't know what I'm going to write. So he decided, I won't write it. But the first employee that walks through the doors, in the morning I'll assign it to them.
First guy that walked in was the sports editor. So he goes, you've got a new job. You're going to write something for the gravestone of Nancy Jones. Now, I haven't seen it, but I hear if you go to this little town in the Midwest, there's an interesting grave marker that says, "Here lies the bones of Nancy Jones. Her life, it held no terrors. She lived in old maid. She died an old maid. No hits. No runs. No errors." Just like a sportswriter, right?
Boy, I don't want to live that way. Do you? I don't want to live so safe because I don't want to make any errors? But you know what? You might make a few hits or runs along the way. Remember, God measures the heavens like this. He's got you like this. Why not live a little bit? Why not step out? Why not dare to be a little bit different? By God's grace, attempt something great for his glory.
How about it? Make a choice to live with purpose. Or are you OK with pointless? Are you OK with petty? I don't think so. You're a child of God. Got nothing to lose. Span. Everlasting arms.
Father, we end there. You're a big God. You are almighty God. You are the can do anything God. And underneath us, our lives, are everlasting arms. You've got a grip on us. You've got a grip on our situation. Life is not out of control. You are on the throne. You are in control. You measure this universe as if it were just a plaything. And yet, you have chosen us to be your children. We are royalty. We are sons and daughters from the courts of the king of heaven.
I pray, Lord, that we would honor you with the choices we make inwardly, the courage we exhibit in our hearts, and our lives would be filled with a new sense of wonder and amazement at what you can do not only in us, but through us. I pray, Lord, that after tonight, we'd never be satisfied with status quo, with a life without meaning and purpose. I pray we would rise above it. And rather than being a thermometer person, we'd be more like a thermostat. You'd use us to change, to influence, people around us for your glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.
What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly father, dedication to studying his word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heizig, visit calvaryabq.org.