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May 23, 2016, 8:38 AM

Out of the Furnace

I once went swimming in some hot springs, in the middle of winter, at roughly 7000 feet above sea level, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.  It was amazing.  There was literally a pile of snow on the "pool deck" from where the caretakers had cleared a path for us to jump in.  The experience was very cool (no pun intended) as the water kept us perfectly warm (hot even) despite the frost that was building up on our hair, eyebrows, and beards.  

Here's the big problem with that:  we had to get out of the pool.  Which meant submitting our entire bodies to the punishing wind and temperatures of a Colorado winter.  The walk from poolside to lodge was brutal... Quite an experience; we went through all extremes of temperatures from stepping outside, jumping in the water, a few of us dove into the snow bank near the pool, got warmed up again in the water, then ran inside to dry off.  I think I will name the experience:  "A Flat-lander's Guide to Getting Hypothermia."  (on sale today!).  

We were comfortable in the hot springs... but we couldn't stay there forever.  I wonder what it felt like for the three guys thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar!  Not a hair burned, so we have to guess that the fire was a comfortable experience.  Throw in the fact that JESUS joined them (!!!!!!) and you've got a really neat experience to pass on to the kiddos.  Much like I believe Daniel totally snuggled up to some lions over night in the den, ordered pizza, and watched some Full House reruns.  

Regardless of how we imagine the experience, the three guys had to walk out of the furnace.  On the inside there was Jesus (!!!!!!) and complete immunity as no one could get close to them. On the outside there was captivity, service to Babylon, a pagan king, and members of the royal court who wanted them dead.  Which would you rather have?  I think I'd stay in the furnace too.  Maybe order up a fiery chariot to join the flames and hitch a ride with Jesus (!!!!!) back to Heaven.  

 But alas, it was not meant to work that way.  They had to leave the comfort of the furnace and face the world around them.  So do we.  Our influence might be veiled, or hidden completely, but there are individuals who are needing a taste of God's mercy in their lives and its our job to deliver.  Just like Peter's request to build little houses for Elijah, Moses, and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, our hope of keeping ourselves away from the world will be denied.  In that instance, Jesus knew there were hoards of people waiting for them at the foot of the mountain.  

Your fiery furnace might look a lot like your bed, house, or the silence you offer to people around you.  Walking out of those safe zones is torturous.  For others the furnace looks a lot like our churches, the places we occupy on Sunday mornings (and if you're super holy: Sunday nights, too).  That's a dangerous statement to make, I know... but its scarier to admit that its true.  We get comfortable with Jesus in our safe place from the world, tell him how much we love and want to serve him... Then walk away heads down and hearts turned inward.  The world needs us!  Not with protest signs or shouts, but to quietly love, pray, and serve.  

When Daniel faced the music of prayer being kicked out of Babylon, he went to his room and prayed quietly.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood quietly at the back of the service when everyone in the kingdom bowed to the statue (they weren't in front waving their arms, drawing attention to the fact that they disagreed with the political regimes of Babylon!).  And when faced with the fiery furnace, they quietly put their confidence in God.  When they walked out they didn't (as I totally would have) do a touchdown dance celebration or trash talk their victory and how awesome their God is.  They went about their business of serving Babylon.  

Its time to leave the furnace and get back to the business of loving God and loving people.  

Isaiah 43: 1 - 2   1But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

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