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June 17, 2017

I love this time of year.  VBS, hot summer days, sticky afternoons, and a good old thunderstorm that can pop up at any time, and then the wind blows really hard!  Most people would love each day to be 70 degrees, blue skies and the sun shining; but, life comes at you fast.  No matter what type work you do or where you live, the wind of change always blows.
Last week in part one I mentioned that there is more adventure, more political intrigue, more death threats, more raw courage in the life of Daniel than all of the blockbuster movies put together.  I am talking about Raiders of the Lost ArkMission ImpossibleThe Bourne Conspiracy and Star Wars 41 or whatever the number is…and everything else put together.  And those are fake stories.  This life really happened to this guy named Daniel.
This amazing story starts when Daniel is about 15 years old and ends when he’s 85 and it’s an amazing, life-changing story.  He had nothing to do with the decision but he felt the effects; you might even say he was swept up in a real wind storm! 
The nation of Israel had fallen into a huge spiritual decline.  God was pretty ticked at them, because they had fallen into idolatry, immorality and injustice. Sound familiar? NO?? Just look around at our society today. Think God has a reason to be upset with us too?  Now in Daniel’s time, there were prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah and Zephaniah who were saying, “Guys if we don’t get our act together we are going to lose our freedom.  We need to shape up, or our nation will look like a tornado hit it!”
If you read history that’s exactly what happened.  In 586 B.C. God allowed the most powerful empire of the time, the Babylonian Empire, with a guy named Nebuchadnezzar as the emperor, to swarm into Israel and devastate the country.  They destroyed the capital of Jerusalem and they took 25 percent of the population of Israel as prisoners of war back to Babylon for 70 years.  Some of those people lived and died in a foreign land.
One of those carried off in that prisoner of war situation was a young teenager named Daniel.  He was about 15 years old.  He was separated from his parents.  As far as we know he never saw them again, and he never got to go back to his home country!  But the rest of his life was an amazing ‘rags to riches’ story where he starts off as a prisoner of war and he ends his life as the most powerful man in the empire, except for the emperor. He saves the empire and actually outlasts three administrations.  Nebuchadnezzar and Belteshazzar (Daniel’s new name given to him by the emperor) not only led the Babylonian Empire, but had also taken over the Assyrian Empire.  Then when the Persians came in and Cyrus the Great took over their empire, this new regime killed pretty much everyone, except Daniel.  Daniel actually leads two of these three emperors to faith in God.  Daniel retires at the age of 85, but is then called out of retirement to save the empire one more time.  I think this is an amazing, amazing story.  In our new series-Is Your Tree House Sturdy- we are going to look at the different tests that you are going to go through in life.  You may as well know them.  God tells you in advance what they will be.
Last week we looked at the first test which is when you go through major change. You will go through major change many times in your life.  Remember those five things God wants to do in your life, the five things you need to learn when you are going through major change?  If you missed that message, please go to our website, and listen to it.  
This coming Sunday we are going to look at a different kind of test, not major change, but the test of social pressure.  Have you had any of that hard-blowing wind lately?  You know the ones that try to sway you in one direction of another?
Have you been pressured to conform to something that you know is not right- by your boss, by the government, by any authority in your life? How about by your friends, or peers, do they pressure you to do something that you know is not right?
You need to remember this one thing that I learned a long time ago: Before every blessing there is always a testing.  
It’s true! The Lord tests the heart. If you are going to be blessed by God you are going to be tested by God.  If you are going to be used by God He is going to show you that you CAN pass the test! He wants to show you that you are ready to handle the power, the blessing, and the influence – all the things He wants to give you.
He is going to test your character, integrity, humility, generosity, loyalty, faithfulness, and truthfulness.  When you pass the tests from God, you get promoted.  When you get promoted you get more power, more influence and God will tell you things that He wouldn’t tell anybody else.  This is why Paul was taught so much and wrote so much of the Bible, because God spoke to him so much more than anyone else.  Why?  Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 NCV,“We speak God’s message because God tested us and trusted us to do it.  When we speak, we’re not trying to please people, [he said I’m not conforming to anybody but we’re trying to please] God who tests our heart.”  So remember when the winds are whipping around your tree house, you are being tested by God for great things to come your way!
I want to close with a poem called “Pressed”
Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;
Pressed so intensely it seems beyond strength.
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul;
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll;
Pressure by foes, and pressure by friends;
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends. 
Pressed into loving the staff and the rod; 
Pressed into knowing no helper but God. 
Pressed into liberty where nothing clings; 
Pressed into faith for impossible things. 
Pressed into living a life in the Lord; 
Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured.1

1.    Annie Johnson Flint, "Pressed," from Poems That Preach, compiled by John R. Rice (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1952).
Make Every Day Count!
See you Sunday, come and let’s pass the test together