We're glad you're joining us for a new beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast supported by Harvest Partners. Get more encouraging audio content when you subscribe to Pastor Greg's Daily Devos.
Learn more and sign up at harvest.org. Okay, that's a deterrent. I have a better one. Because you love the Lord and you would not want to do anything that would bring shame to His name. Let's be honest. We all like getting a nod of approval when we've done the right thing, don't we?
And then when we've messed up, we hope everyone was looking the other way. But today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie points out people of integrity do good even without getting credit and avoid the bad even when they wouldn't be blamed. We'll see some tremendous examples of that today as Pastor Greg introduces us to four young men from our Scripture text. We're in Daniel chapter 1. You know what's been said? Christians are a lot like tea bags.
You don't know what they're made of until you put them in hot water. Are you in the hot water of trial right now? Or are you in the hot water of temptation?
Well first of all I want to say don't freak out because you're not alone. It's actually a confirmation that you as a Christian are on the right track. 1 Peter 4.12.
Listen. It's strange if you're not going through a trial. It's strange if you're not being tempted. If you are going through trials, if you are being tempted, it's effectively the norm of the Christian life. And by the way, it's not a sin to be tempted.
I think we forget that sometimes. Because temptation comes at the worst times, doesn't it? Have you ever had a bad thought come to you in church? And you're thinking, how could I be tempted in church? Well the devil is going to hit you whenever he wants to effectively hit you. But the sin of temptation is not in the bait.
It's in the bite. If you see it for what it is and you reject it and you resist it, no harm, no foul. Temptation came knocking. You said no.
Done deal. But if you bring it inside of your mind, that's where the problems begin. It's been said you can't stop a bird from flying over your head but you can stop him from building a nest in your hair.
Now in my case there's not a lot to work with. That bird would have to bring his own materials. But you get the idea of what that saying means. The temptation flies over.
It's when you bring it inside. And to the point even Jesus Christ himself was tempted in the wilderness. So anyone can be. And if you're a follower of Christ you will be tempted. Now let me add something else to that.
If you would say to me, I can't remember the last time I was tempted, then you are either dead or worthless. I think I would say some people are right where the devil wants them. He has marginalized them. He has neutralized them. He would say, why waste time on them? I am going after that man of God that is starting to read his Bible every day and take his faith seriously. I am going after that godly woman that is actually engaging people with the message of the gospel.
Those people are trouble and I have got to stop them. So he is going to come with his temptations to those people. Well it's the hot water of temptation. Now here before us is a story of three young men that were in a real fiery trial.
I am talking about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It is a story of how they stood up for what was right even at the risk of losing their own lives because they were prepared ahead of time. Know this. Hardship, calamity, and tragedy, the loss of a loved one is going to come your way one day. And trials and temptations and testings will come too. So take steps now to be prepared then.
Listen. There is going to come a time when your faith is going to be tested. When people are going to challenge what you believe.
When temptations are going to come in your direction trying to pull you in the wrong way. And so the question you might ask is will I be able to stand when the day of testing comes? Will I be able to resist when the time of temptation comes?
My answer may surprise you. That is entirely up to you. Say no it is up to God.
No actually it is up to you. God will give you the strength to resist the temptation. God will give you the power to get through the trial but He won't do it for you. You see there are some things only God can do.
And there are some things only I can do. Only God can forgive sin. Only I can repent of my sin. God won't repent for me.
I have to do that. And in the same way only God can get you through your hardship but only you can take hold of His promises and believe Him. So if you want to know if you are going to make it in that day of testing you need to start thinking about it right now. The stand you make today will determine what kind of stand you will make tomorrow. The end of your life is determined by the beginning of it.
The evening is determined by the morning. It is not unlike building a house. The most important time when you build a house is not when you hang pictures on the wall or when you lay your carpet down or when you landscape it. Those are the fun parts.
The most important time when you build a house is in the wiring, the electrical, and the plumbing and having your foundation done properly. Because if you mess that up everything else doesn't matter. The same is true of life.
The most important time is in the beginning when you are laying the foundation and if you don't get that right everything else is of no consequence. Because when it is all said and done character counts. In fact it is the most important thing in a person's life. Not just what you think you are or what other people think you are but what you really are. It comes down to this.
When you are all alone, when no one is looking, when there is no one to impress, that is who you are. The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out. Why don't you go and commit certain sins? Is it because you are afraid of the repercussions? Why don't you go rob that bank? Think of all the money you would have. Well you don't do it because I would be caught. I would be arrested. Or do you say well I wouldn't do that because that is a sin and that is a wrong thing to do. Why don't you go and have that affair?
Well my wife would literally kill me if I did. That is why. Ok that is a deterrent.
I have a better one. Because you love the Lord and He would not want to do anything that would bring shame to His name. And He would not want to disgrace your family and hurt your fellow Christian friends and so forth. But the idea is why don't you do those things if you have real character that is where it all starts you see. The real measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out. What if you knew you could get away with it?
Would you do it then? That is a lack of character. Listen the stand you make today will determine what kind of stand you will make tomorrow. You decide what principles you are going to live by.
You are going to decide what road you are going to take. Well the Bible is a very honest book isn't it? And it tells us the truth about our heroes and our villains. If a hero messed up the Bible tells us that. We have people that started well and self-destructive like Saul and Samson. We have other people that started well but messed up toward the end of their lives like Gideon or Noah or even Moses. We have other people that had character from beginning to end and did well throughout their lives like Joseph and Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But a lot of times when we want to tell our own story we want to airbrush out those flaws and inconsistencies. But the Bible does not do that. When Oliver Cromwell had his portrait painted he said to the artist, Paint me warts and all. And the Bible gives us its heroes and its villains warts and all. Well here is a story of four young men that didn't seem to have any warts if you will.
I can't really find any deficiencies or flaws to speak of. I am talking about Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were ready for the big stuff later in life because they made a stand in a relatively small area. When we think of Daniel our mind usually races to Daniel and the... That's right. You got it. Daniel and the lion's den. And we think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We think primarily of the fiery furnace.
But the strength to make the stand in that day came from a stand they made in a much smaller area that we will look at in a moment. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of today's message in just a moment. But you know Pastor Greg many people are looking for hope these days. Especially young people.
They want to be part of something bigger. And I know we have some big plans to reach them in the coming new year don't we? We do Dave and let me say here's where you won't find hope. You won't find hope in the culture. You won't find hope in technology. You won't find hope even in many ways in politics.
Now all of these things have their place. But hope that comes from God. I like this acronym of hope that I heard H-O-P-E. Holding on with patient expectation. The Bible brims with hope. And that is our message that we want to share with this young generation and all generations. That there is hope for them in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And we want to offer this hope to as many people as possible in this coming year through our outreach ministries. Which of course include a new beginning. I'm asking you to join us at Harvest and become a partner.
A partner is just a friend that makes a regular commitment to us each and every month. They stand by us and that enables us to respond to the opportunities that are coming our way. I think we would all agree we live in the many ways a hopeless world. But through Christ we have hope. Life without God is a hopeless end.
Life with Him is endless hope. Join us and become a part of our team. And let's reach the world with a much needed message of hope.
Yeah that's right. And you know it's the most strategic time of the year. And maybe the most strategic time in our history with the plans we have for ministry in the new year.
Your investment can go further than ever. So please get in touch today to become what we call a Harvest partner. You can call us at 1-800-821-3300. That's 24 7 phone number 1-800-821-3300.
Or go online to Harvest.org. Well today we're considering the importance of integrity. As we highlight the examples of some remarkable men of God in the Old Testament.
Here's Pastor Greg once again. So here are Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego living in Babylon. Now how did four good Jewish boys end up in a place like that? Well God had warned Israel to stop turning to idols and false gods.
But Israel did it again and again. And the Lord said if you don't turn from these false gods I'm going to send you into captivity for 70 years. But they continue to worship the false gods. Then the Lord got specific and he said through Jeremiah in chapter 25 verse 8. Thus says the Lord God. Because you have not listened to me I'm going to gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon whom I have appointed as my deputy. I'm going to bring him against this land and its people and against the other nations near you. So God is saying now listen if you don't stop worshipping idols I'm going to bring Babylon led by Nebuchadnezzar.
So that was very specific. And I find it interesting that God referred to Nebuchadnezzar as his deputy. And yet here was a godless man in charge of a godless nation that was going to take a godly nation into captivity if they did not repent.
Yet they ignored God's warning and the Lord did exactly what he said he would do. I think about our own country. At one time I think you could say America was comparatively speaking a godly nation. I think you could say at one time in America we reveled in those Judeo-Christian values that gave us the liberty we all enjoy so freely.
But today in the United States things are different. Now there is a hostility in our culture toward the person that believes what the Bible teaches. Now it is becoming increasingly unpopular to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. So we thumb our nose at God.
We break His commandments left and right. And sometimes I wonder if the Lord would allow another nation to overtake us. Even a godless nation to do so. Oh that would never happen.
How can you say that? He let it happen to Israel. He warned them.
Could it happen to us? You know they loved idols so God sent them to Idol Central Babylon. Babylon was known to be a place of rampant idolatry where they worshiped thousands of gods.
Careful what you wish for you might get it. It reminds us of the story of the Israelites after they left Egypt. They were wandering in the wilderness. By the way it should not have taken 40 years. Why did it take them 40 years to get from Egypt to Israel?
Because men were in charge and no one would stop and ask for directions. No. The real reason was they were disobeying God and they were going around in circles. Hey haven't we seen that cactus before? I carved my initials in it but it is bigger now. Yeah.
You are going around and around. But the Lord provided for them and gave them their food every single day. It was called manna. They would wake up in the morning and right outside of their tent door manna would be waiting. And they would eat that manna. Well because they were in the wilderness for so long they got tired of manna.
They had read Moses' book 101 Recipes for Manna. They had you know banana pancakes and manna sandwiches and manna cotti and you name it they had it. And they got tired of it. So they started complaining and they said, hey we remember the good old days back in Egypt when we used to eat garlic and leeks and onions. And their breath must have stunk.
Right? And then they said, we miss meat. We are tired of manna. Every day it is manna. We don't want any more manna. We want meat. And they cried out for meat over and over again.
The Lord said, Moses stand back. I am going to give them what they want. And the Bible says heavens opened up and God rained quail on them. All these little birds just dropping to the ground. These people were so desperate for meat they didn't even kill the bird and prepare it. They ate it while it was still alive. And you know what the Bible says? It tells us that quail, that meat, turned bitter in their mouth.
Scripture says He gave them the request but He sent leanness to their soul. Again careful what you wish for. You might get it. I want this. I want this.
God says, I don't want to give that to you. I want it. I want it. I don't want to give it to you. I want it. I want it. No. Here.
Yeah! That is what happened to them. They wanted it and God said, ok. You got it. You want idols? You like to worship false gods? You don't appreciate me? You don't want my manna anymore? Welcome to Babylon ladies and gentlemen.
Let me see how that works out for you. So now they are conquered by Nebuchadnezzar exactly as God said they would be. Now Nebuchadnezzar he wanted them to abandon their faith. He wanted them to embrace the pagan Babylonian culture and religion.
It was the intention of Nebuchadnezzar to erase every vestige of identification between the Israelites and their god and he gave a decree that he wanted Israel's brightest and best brought into his court so he could have them indoctrinated in the ways of Babylon. And that is where our story begins. Daniel chapter 1 verse 1.
Let's read it. By the way I am reading from the New Living Translation. During the third year of King Jehoiakim's reign in Judah King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it with his armies. The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah. Interesting it says the Lord gave him victory.
When Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon he took with him some of the secret objects from the temple of God and placed them in the treasure house of his God in the land of Babylon. Then the king ordered Asphanez who was in charge of the palace officials to bring in some of the young men of Judah's royal family and other noble families who had been brought to Babylon as captives. So here clearly the king is looking for young Israeli men to corrupt. Verse 4.
Select only strong healthy and good looking young men he said. Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning and they are gifted with knowledge and good sense and have the poise needed to serve in the royal palace. Teach these young men the language and the literature of the Babylonians. Verse 5.
The king assigned them a daily ration of the best food and wine from his own kitchens. Now they were to be trained for a three year period and some of them would become advisors in his royal court. Their names are given. Verse 6. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Those were their names given to them as good Jewish boys. And by the way each one of those names reflected an attribute of the true God of Israel. But the chief official renamed them with Babylonian names. Hananiah was called Shadrach. Mishael was called Meshach. Azariah was called Abednego. But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to him by the king. He asked the chief official for permission to eat other things instead.
So we will stop there. So it is believed by many commentators that these four young men were somewhere between 14 and 19 years old. They were teenagers. Clearly they were raised in believing homes by godly parents. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to change that so he changed their names.
But he could not change their hearts. But their world as they knew it literally changed overnight. They went from a simple God fearing culture to a decadent one. These young men torn away from mother and father were placed in this alien culture of paganism and unparalleled luxury.
Up to this time they would have lived in basic conditions. Now they are in the very palace of the great Nebuchadnezzar. And Babylon in that day was an amazing city. In fact one of the seven wonders of the ancient world included the hanging gardens of Babylon. They were surrounded by jaw-dropping opulence. But there was no reverence for the Lord God in this place.
Everyone cowered in fear before King Nebuchadnezzar. And I wonder if this has happened to you recently. Your world has changed. You are living in a new place. Maybe you are in a college campus or your business has sent you to a different city.
Or you are in the military. Here is what you need to know. No matter where you go in this big old planet if you are a follower of Jesus Christ God will still be with you. And God was with them in this pagan culture. Nebuchadnezzar could change their names but he could not change their hearts. They had a God to serve and they had a stand to make. And understand that Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were facing heavy duty temptation. The world was their oyster. They were given the finest education. Before them were the most delicious foods and wine in the entire planet. Nebuchadnezzar was sure such young men would be seduced by all of this luxury.
But he had not considered one thing. They had character. Pastor Greg Laurie is just getting started in this study called Staying Cool When Things Get Hot. There is much more to come here on A New Beginning. Well we are in the studio right now with some special guests. Pastor Greg is joining us of course. And his wife Kathy is here today. It's always a pleasure to have Kathy. And we also have author Sally Lloyd-Jones. And what a treat to have Kathy Laurie and Sally Lloyd-Jones here with us on the program.
They've classed up the place Pastor Greg I've noticed. Well Sally has that beautiful British accent. And Kathy I know you love love Sally's writings.
You've told us that so many times before. Her writings are they're just they're like treasures. And I would never get rid of a book by Sally Lloyd-Jones even though my grandchildren are now some of them are teenagers. I still want to see these books and she calls this the board book which is a book for babies that are it's durable because babies throw things bite things and drool all over things. But this book will stand up to that. Honestly this book is a book for everyone. The words and the concept behind it Sally what inspired you to take a psalm one of the most beautiful and beloved psalms in scripture Psalm 139 and spell it out so simply and yet so profoundly for children and for adults. Well thank you for your lovely words.
That's very generous. I think we all live in this really strange time. I'm sure every generation said that but we're in a strange time. And a friend of mine once said no one's too young for the truth.
He was a writer who died a few years ago but I've never forgotten that. And I'm often thinking you know children are little tiny humans and they need what we need. We know that we need comfort and we need hope especially now. So I thought well babies do too and what if you can convey the comfort that God's given us through the word so that they can hear it. And I think the lovely thing is the Bible is written in lyrical language and I love it's a love story and a love letter to us from God because we're his children. So in a way babies are obviously his children but so are we. So adults and children are both really in the same position.
We have God as our loving father. So I wanted to write it in a way that would encourage babies. And I always know that if I do a good job and I really work hard to distill what's true then sometimes what God does with that is he ambushes the adult because it's in such simple words and it's got pictures.
But I think the adult hasn't got their defenses up and it can go straight to their heart. So that was one of the inspirations. I love quotes.
I collect them. One of them is from Simone Weil and she said, quote, Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity, end quote. And then this one from Georgia O'Keeffe, quote, Nobody sees a flower really. It is so small it takes time. We haven't time and to see takes time.
Like to have a friend takes time, end quote. And I thought, how beautiful that paying attention is a kind of generosity and to see something truly is something like loving. And then I thought, you know, we're in a world right now where we're so we're in an age of distraction.
We know we have our iPhones. Our attention is fragmented. It's really hard to focus.
It's really hard to even read a book. But the Bible says God isn't distracted. We have his full attention. And more than that, there's this lovely truth in this psalm that he can't stop thinking about. And I just thought, well, that is so if I could have a little child know that the God of the universe can't stop thinking about the little baby who is so small. But that's how God is.
He always is after the one and the smallest and the littlest. That's right. So I'm in studio with my wife, Kathy, with Sally Lloyd Jones. We're talking about Sally's new book, Known, and it's a paraphrase of part of Psalm 139. It's a beautiful book illustrated by Jago. Order a copy so you can see it for yourself and read it to your little ones. And we'll offer you this book, Known, by Sally Lloyd Jones for your gift of any size this month to help us continue on teaching the Word of God and proclaiming the gospel.
Yeah, that's right. And what a great resource to have in time for the holidays. Get in touch and ask for your own copy of Known, Psalm 139. We so much appreciate the partnership of our friends, and your investment right now can go further than ever before. There are some very exciting ways we're reaching out with the good news right now, and your investment touches lives. So thanks for partnering with us here at this important time of the year.
And we want to thank you by sending you the new book called Known, Psalm 139 by Sally Lloyd Jones. Just call us at 1-800-821-3300. That's 24-7, phone number 1-800-821-3300. Or go online to harvest.org. Hey, I don't know if you know about this, but we have a weekend service called Harvest at Home exclusively for people that are tuning in literally from around the world.
Listen to this. We even have harvest groups where you can get into a small group with folks from all around this planet of ours and study the Word of God. So join us this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, for Harvest at Home at Harvest.org. Well, next time, Pastor Greg points out that so many can't find the happiness they're searching for because they're searching for it in the wrong places. The source of real joy, next time. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to A New Beginning. This is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners. So for more content that can help you know God and equip you to make Him known to others or to learn more about how you can become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org.
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