The Cardinal Element

winter-2401Anyone who watched the Super Bowl last night would have to agree that it was an amazing game.  The last two minutes packed in so much action that it was breathtaking to behold — including the disappointing, but still impressive, touchdown the Steelers scored in the last thirty seconds of the game.  From the picture on the left you may gather that my family and friends are dedicated Cardinal fans, so the Steelers’ victory was indeed a blow — especially considering the fact that we were still soaring from their dramatic gain over Pittsburgh before that final touchdown.  To illustrate our ardent dedication, the only Steelers’ fan present was promptly thrown in a snowbank when the game ended.  Thus always to tyrants.

Rather than going to church yesterday we did our once-every-two-months Homeschool Fellowship:  a gathering of homeschooled believers in one family’s home.  One of the fathers leads the study and discussion and an assortment of the young people leads the music.  It is a very enjoyable time.  Due to my distraction over the Super Bowl, I did not post a sermon review for yesterday’s “service”.  Today, then, will have to do.

We have been slowly studying Daniel, and are currently in chapter two.  This particular passage details Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchanezzar’s dream.  We talked about Daniel’s faith and virtue, his merit to the kingdom, and his position as a wise man.  Daniel was surely something else.  He was different from the Babylonian astrologers and enchanters, but even among his colleagues he excelled. 

Daniel had something about him that separated him from the others.  It wasn’t a horizontal separation, but a vertical one.  He was not removed from others on a level of personality but on integrity.  Daniel was above and beyond.  This is what kept him at the forefront of current events throughout the reign of three different kings — each of which promised him greatness and riches for his wisdom.  Yet the integrity that gained Daniel his position also instigated his humility and deflection of praise to Almighty God. 

Integrity is a rare virtue in this day and age.  Integrity means you don’t change with circumstance; you don’t manipulate, connive, or weasel your way through life.  You have goals, purposes,  and convictions that are unmoved by the wave of society’s ideals.  To quote a much beloved country song:  “You’ve got to stand for somethin’ or you’ll fall for anything.”  This was Daniel.

This can also be us.  Integrity is a facet of the Christian character that cannot be emphasized enough.  Love and peace sound great, but the nuts and bolts of Christianity come down to how firm a foundation you stand on, and whether you even believe that foundation is real.  Remember, love and peace sounded great in the seventies too, where integrity went out with the doo-wops and poodle skirts.  The Christian faith is not all feelings and fuzzies.  It’s rock-solid. 

The Cardinal element in the Super Bowl didn’t quite cut the mustard, but what’s the cardinal element of your character?  Is it emotion and fluctuating feeling?  Or is it the eternal strength of integrity of heart?  That was Daniel.  Is there a Daniel in you?

You Will Never Walk Alone

I taught the preschool class today, and because of that I missed hearing the sermon.  However, I was sitting before the service listening to the worship team practice, and a song began to play that I couldn’t help sing along with.  It was “Jesus Paid it All”, one of my favorites when I was on the vocal team.  Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;  Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow… 

I smiled to myself and began to prepare my lesson for the morning.  The children were going to learn about Jacob, who was fleeing Esau and journeying to his Uncle Laban’s home.  I looked at the picture:  a weary Jacob, under a full moon, with a rock for a pillow and a staff at his side.  It was very dark, in the middle of the night, because Jacob had just awoken from his dream…

“So Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran.  And he came to a certain place and stayed there one night, because the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.  And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven… And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac… Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…”  (Gen. 28:10-13, 15)

When I sat at the round wooden table on my red plastic stack-a-chair, I read that last verse to the ten eager faces around me.  They trilled it in their innocent, happy little voices:  “I am with you andwill keep you wherever you go!”  Jillian peered out from under her blond bangs and lisped, “I went on a long trip once, and God didn’t stay here, he went with me ALLLLLL the way!”  A chorus of agreement resounded around the table at Jill’s exclamation.  As they chattered excitedly, Abigail leaned on my shoulder and looked up with wide green eyes. “I love God so much,” she sighed.  “I know He loves me too.”

In that moment I knew I didn’t need a sermon.  One little lesson for a group of four-year-olds was enough.  Their wide-eyed, reckless faith in God was a testimony to Jesus’ words:

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matt. 18:4-5)

The worship team began to play at the end of the service, and I heard the old hymn being sung by a hundred voices in the sanctuary:  Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;  Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow…  It reminded me that He is with me… He has paid it all.  Joshua tugged at my shirt and I looked down into his blue eyes.  “The muthic ith playing!  The muthic ith playing!”  I picked him up and whispered in his ear. “Yes, it is.”