The following manuscript contains the prepared notes for the address I brought to the Georgia General Assembly on Monday, March 23, 2015. It was my privilege to serve as Chaplain for the Day at the House of Representatives. I was invited by my state representative, Chad Nimmer. I call him, "Brother Chad," because he is a member of my church and a faithful deacon.
There was much I wanted to say in the 5 minutes allotted for the morning devotional. Therefore, I chose to write out the text of the my message. I am confident I did not deliver it word-for-word so this is certainly not a transcript of the actual address.
Thank you, Representative Nimmer, Speaker Ralston, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Georgia House. I am both honored and humbled to be your chaplain for the day and to thank you for your service to the citizens of this great state.
I am well aware of the time and the limitations of my assignment today so I want to get right to my message and speak to you for a few moments on the subject of “The Desperate Need for Careless Leadership.”
Speaking of careless leadership, I am reminded of the story of two US Congressmen who were arguing about a particular revenue bill. One believed in higher taxes and a redistribution of wealth. The other one believed in lower taxes, private business, and personal industry. Both representatives were also farmers who came from agricultural districts.
So one farming congressman said to the other, “Do you mean if you had two farms you’d worked for and I hadn’t worked at all, you believe the government should require you to give me one of those farms?”
“Why yes, I do.”
“You mean if you had two combines you’d bought and paid for and I didn’t have one because I hadn’t worked, you believe the government should require you to give me one of those combines?”
“Why yes, I do.”
“You mean if you had two corn silos you’d bought and paid for and I didn’t have one because I hadn’t worked, you believe the government should require you to give me one of those silos?”
“Why yes, I do.”
You mean if you had two cows you’d bought and paid for and I didn’t have one because I hadn’t worked, you believe the government should require you to give me one of those cows?”
The liberal replied, “That’s not a fair question! You know I have two cows!”
Well, that’s not the “careless” leadership I have in mind this morning. I am using that word to describe leadership that is free from care, trouble, and unnecessary anxiety. Leadership that is care-less.
My Scripture text involves 3 of your favorite Bible characters: Hannaniah, Azariah, and Mishael. You probably know them better by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
In Daniel 3, these boys are in a fight for their life and it involves a fight for religious liberty. They are being persecuted by their culture and their government for their faith in the True and Living God.
And they emerge from this persecution with flying colors because they are care-less. Again there is a little play on that word “careless” because the Bible describes how and why these three Hebrew boys were care-less instead of care-full.
Notice first the command of Babylon
Daniel 3 tells the story of a wicked command that came from Nebuchadnezzar. He was the dictatorial despot who ruled the ancient Babylonian Empire with an iron fist. His was a wicked and torturous kingdom. The modern Islamic terrorist group, ISIS, would have little on the murderous activities of Babylon.
And the Bible records a Babylonian decree that these monotheistic Hebrew slaves would have to bow in idolatrous worship before a golden statue erected by governmental edict. Anyone who refused to bend and refused to bow would be cast alive into a blazing furnace of fire.
This speaks of the external pressures placed on them by their fallen society generally and their fallen government specifically.
Of course, in America, we have yet to strike a match to light the pilot lights on fiery furnaces but I’m afraid to tell you we are increasingly living in days not completely unlike Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon.
The ways in which our culture pushes, promotes, and even prefers ungodliness are nearly too numerous to mention. So in the interest of time let me just say a word about the life cycle of sin within a society.
A righteous society’s view of sin begins with prohibition. “You cannot!” Government, rightly understanding it has been ordained by God according to the Bible to punish evil and reward good also understands that rights flow from God, to individual people, and then to the government. Not the other way around.
So righteous governments and righteous societies, ones that understand, “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people,” realize they cannot condone evil or allow evil to go unaddressed because neither the society nor the government have the right to do so.
But if left unchecked, sin in a society moves from prohibition to permissiveness…From “You cannot” to “You may.” In this stage people, especially leaders, either turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the evil or actually seek to codify the right to do wrong. Long gone are those antiquated ideals that you should not do wrong.
But that’s not the last stop. It moves from prohibition (You cannot) to permissiveness (You may) to preference (You ought). In this stage of the cycle society actually PREFERS to promote and further the causes of those involved in evil rather than run the risk of actually calling right “right” and wrong “wrong.” In this dangerous stage, the only wrong is to call anything “wrong.”
Finally, if left unchecked, the cycle moves to punishment.
Here the societal and governmental view of sin has run full circle from you CANNOT to you MAY to you OUGHT to you MUST…OR ELSE.
You will either bend the knee to the new order, even violating your own conscience and religious liberty, or you will suffer the consequences…and they might even come from the hand of your own government.
That’s what these boys are up against. But the pressure not only comes from without, from the pagan governmental system, it also comes from within, from among their own number.
We see not only the command of Babylon but the compromise of believers
The pressure to bow and bend didn’t just come from the Babylonian king. These Hebrew boys faced peer pressure from their fellow Hebrews…from those of their own clan and kind…from those who were supposed to BELIEVE like them, THINK like them, ACT like them and DECIDE like them.
They had ALL been raised better.
They had EACH been taught better.
There were thousands of Hebrew slaves in ancient Babylon. And as best we know, only three exercised their God-given unalienable right to LIBERTY.
I can see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing up to the wicked king, “We aren’t going to bow…none of us…are…we…guys…”
And to their shock and dismay, they turn to see all of their colleagues with faces turned to the ground…bowing, bending, and balking.
If you’ve ever been surprised by who stands and who bows, you can relate to the shock these boys must have experienced. If the vote has ever been called and you found yourself standing alone while people who claimed to share your beliefs were bowing, you can relate.
These boys learned a hard life lesson that day…There’s no practical difference between a Babylonian on his face before the golden statue and all the Hebrews who claimed to denounce and disdain that golden statue but in the end bent and bowed as well.
They learned that Jewish boys and Babylonian boys all look the same when their heads are down, bowing before the golden statue.
They learned that your titles and labels don’t matter in the end. If Hebrews live like Babylonians, you may as well be from Babel as from Jerusalem.
So the Hebrews were brought before the king and examined. The king did his job. He wanted to know if what he had heard was true. You do understand that everything you read in the paper or the blogs isn’t true don’t you? So the king wanted to get to the bottom of the matter.
Once again in Daniel 3, the Bible says,
Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Did you catch that? They are facing immediate death and told to make an instant decision. Yet they say, “We are not careful.” Literally, we are not filled with care. We have no stress at all about this matter.
So what’s the answer? How can I be free of anxiety when facing such a decision?
We see not only the command of Babylon and the compromise of believers but the conviction of the boys.
The king brought them in and gave them a final command.
The command was immediate. There was no time to think.
Sometimes there is no time to table the issue or call for a subcommittee or blue-ribbon commission.
I mean, there’s no time to discuss what impact will heating the furnace 7x hotter than ever have on the red-breasted Babylonian hoot owl population.
No, the king said, “Here’s what is going to happen…right now.” There’s no time to think. There’s no time to study. The time is now.
You experience these pressures as lawmakers.
Sometimes a matter is tabled as well it should be.
Sometimes a matter is delayed and perhaps it should be.
But sometimes, the motion has been made and seconded. There’s been lively discussion and debate. Now the question has been called and it’s time to decide. The clock is ticking and your vote must be registered.
In that moment of decision, when the heat is on and the pressure is rising, a person discovers NOT ONLY what they believe in that moment…but what they really believed the entire time
You must understand that pressure doesn’t create leaks. It only reveals them. In a similar way, when the pressure is on to stand for right and liberty, what you do in THAT MOMENT reveals who…you…really…are. Not just who you were in that moment of decision but who you have been the whole time.
So, how can I…how can you face life’s big decisions without worry, anxiety, and stress? On moral, ethical, and convictional issues of the conscience, make up your mind now. Then when the time comes for a decision you don’t have to wring your hands or wrinkle your brow. Your convictions and conclusions were already established long ago.
Then when the pressure is on and the clock is running, you can be as care-less as care-less can be. You can tell the king to fire up the furnace if he must…I’m not going to bend. I’m not going to bow.