That was me as I finished Ezekiel and moved into Daniel this morning.
If you ever read through the Bible in a year from Genesis to Revelation, you are well aware that many of the books are difficult to get through. It is as much a discipline to stay tuned in each day as it is to just show up and read it.
Some books are full of narrative that catches the interest and is the fodder for much of childhood Sunday School and VBS material.
But rarely if ever would you sit the little ones down on carpet squares and do a puppet show of Jeremiah or Ezekiel. The words they were given to speak were harsh words of the coming judgment.
Jeremiah’s object lessons are strange and Ezekiel’s visions so unlike anything of this world; it is hard to make concrete connections with the message as it moves along.
But every word of Scripture is God-breathed and so I have approached both of these books asking the basic questions you, too, may have learned in some Bible study somewhere.
What do these passages teach me about who God is and who we are, and how do I respond to this knowledge?
Well, I can tell you that in both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, I know that God is holy and we, on the other hand, are not.
We seem bent on trying to skirt around acknowledging Him as Sovereign over the universe and take any easier route to what we think is good for us and will make us happy.
We tend to whine and complain about everything and it is a cycle for us to realize how empty we are without Him, look at the pit we have landed in, cry for help and reach up for the hand that is always extended.
Until we have gone too far.
And then there is some serious discipline that is done out of a supreme love that none of us can fully understand but we get a glimpse of when our toddler is having a temper tantrum over our refusal to buy some useless trinket and we hold fast in our “no’.
So today, I finished Ezekiel with all the question marks in the margins that I have left behind on this year’s read through, and I moved into the book of Daniel.
And once again I am struck by the contrast between Daniel and his three friends and the rest of the young men who were taken into captivity to serve in the courts of the King of Babylon.
I heard a wonderful sermon about this once and the pastor pointed out that Daniel didn’t determine in his heart to not be defiled when he walked into the palace and saw the table they had set for them.
He must have decided this stance on the long road between his origin of birth and the place where he would spend most of his life and eventually die.
Daniel would never return to Jerusalem.
But he never became a Babylonian.
In the Bible and in our own human history, as we read accounts of the men and women who chose God in whatever culture they were living in, we see not only who God is, and who we are, but who we can be when we determine in our hearts to remain faithful.
I am thinking of any brave young brothers and sisters in Christ who may have crawled out of bed a bit earlier than usual so they could join up with youth group friends to pray over their school.
See You At the Pole has been around since at least our own three were enrolled in public school back in the day.
A student-led initiative, it was up to the kids to promote and invite and set it up with the administration. It was also up to them to put together any music, prayers, and event organization for the morning gathering.
Of course, my generation of parents were definitely hands on, and while we certainly did let them do their own programming and leading; we did have to drive in the early years and so we would form a circle around their circle and basically wipe tears as we listened to our young ones sing and offer prayers and operate whatever sound system they managed to come up with via a boom box…because it was, after all…the 90’s.
One year, I stood around that circle in front of the high school two of our kiddos attended.
As we were nearing the end of the small service, the other students began arriving for the day. With my back to the sidewalk and my head bowed, I wept a new kind of tears.
Jeering words and taunts began to flow from behind me as the circle of young believers in front of me continued to sing a worship song and close in prayer for their classmates, teachers and school.
Suddenly I got a fresh understanding of what we were asking our kiddos to do every day.
Go in there and be a light…share Jesus…invite your friends to church…be a world changer.
Easier said when your circle is mostly other Christian moms. Sure sharing Jesus with people who are at least mildly interested makes one think that it shouldn’t be that hard for young ones to do the same.
But what about when you are ridiculed?
What about when you are held to a standard of the caricature of a Christian by those who do not understand that you are well aware you fall short all the time? Because even those who are not believers (and often especially those) will call you out on what they know to be moral values and label you a hypocrite, even if they do not hold to those standards in the least.
How about the work place where you could be fired or at least severely reprimanded for sharing your faith openly? If you don’t think that’s a thing, you don’t know some sweet Christians who have had it happen. I do. It’s a thing.
As adults, we can be a bit more choosy about where we spend our time and who can have access to our faith life.
For our children to walk openly as Christians in a daily school setting is not an easy road. They have nowhere to go but the halls, lunch table, locker room and a desk sitting amidst 20 plus other desks.
Being a light on a hill sounds appealing until you feel quite alone shining forth.
So today a prayer for the ones who pray, sometimes alone, around unknown settings in their schools:
Heavenly Father, I lift up our young Christian students to you.
Lord, I know you see them in the midst of these difficult times of conflict, covid and culture shift.
For our kids who are trying to live for You, I pray for an added measure of knowing Your presence with them today.
I pray You would tangibly walk alongside them as they go from class to class.
I pray You would give them Your heart for the lost and broken.
I pray you give them the gift of wisdom and discernment and knowledge of You and Your ways.
I pray You would strengthen them in the face of temptations and You would pour Your spirit into them to know truth, to live truth, and to speak truth in love.
I pray You would daily remind them of who they are in You and that You would help them beyond their years and experience to be people of mercy, grace and love.
I pray for those who have somehow become isolated in a small group of believers and may have forgotten that You were a suffering servant.
I pray they would not become so insulated in belonging to a smaller group of like-minded people that they forget You came to seek and save the lost.
I pray they would remember that they are following YOU, not a YOUth group.
I pray that their sense of belonging comes, not from their current circle of Christian friends, but because they belong first and foremost to YOU through Your blood <3
I pray for youth leaders and parents to have wisdom as they give them love, encouragement and counsel.
I pray for the fulfillment of Your promise that in the last days You will pour Your Spirit out on our young people.
Thank You for Your love, care and protection over our children because in truth, they are Your children.
In Jesus’ Name
a prayer from my heart on this SYATP morning 2021 <3