Daniel: Debunking The American Dream!

-Even If He Doesn’t, We Won’t Bow!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

I love the response of Daniel’s 3 friends—Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah—when King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that they bow down & worship his gold statue; or, face death in the fiery furnace: “If the God we serve exists, then HE CAN rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and HE CAN rescue us from the power of you, the King. But EVEN IF HE DOES NOT rescue us, we want you as King to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).  They trusted God  to deliver them either by miracle or by death! They trusted God even if it was part of His Sovereign will NOT to deliver them by a miracle! Their trust in God was not just tied to delivery from the furnace—“EVEN IF He does NOT,” they said, “We won’t bow to your false gods.”

-Will You Trust God With Whatever?

By application, we have to be careful that our trust in God is not limited to delivery by miracle! Sadly, the “gospel” being preached in the majority of our American churches is all about “ME”—it’s “MAN-centered”, not “GOD-centered”—“If God doesn’t deliver me from the ‘furnace’ of my bad circumstances, than He’s not to be trusted!” That’s where false teaching begins—with MAN’S WAY! God’s Gospel always begins with GOD! And, it contrasts the holiness of God with unholy mankind! God is always righteous & we’re not! We’re born, into this world, under His judgment and wrath—broken, depraved, in need of mercy & grace that is only available to us through Jesus’ atonement, for our sin, on the cross!

-The False Gospel Of The American Dream!

The so-called “American Dream” is a perversion of God’s true Gospel! It promotes an entitlement mentality of a bigger & better “YOU”—your “right” to own a home; your “right” to a high-paying job; your “right” to affordable health care; your “right” to be delivered from the “furnace”! The false gospel of the “American Dream” says Jesus came to make us bigger & better—that’s NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ! He didn’t come to make you a better YOU! He came to put you on a CROSS & die to SELF!

-God Is The Treasure We Seek!

To His disciples, Jesus said: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). We don’t just need a little “makeover.” We need to DIE! Our “SELF” needs to be crucified & born again in Christ! That’s the true Gospel! This story wasn’t about the delivery of Daniel’s friends from the furnace! This story is about GOD & His eternal purposes—and, Daniel’s 3 friends were submitted to that whether it meant delivery by miracle or by death! That’s their testimony—having relationship with God was of far greater value to them than life itself! By their willingness to entrust their lives to God’s plan & purpose—rather than their own—they made God the treasure to desire more than anything else!

 

 

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Daniel: No Prosperity Gospel Here!

-The “False” Prosperity Gospel!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

Because the Western Church has been influenced by the prosperity “false” gospel, it seems almost SHOCKING to read that “…the Lord HANDED OVER Jehoiakim, king of Judah…” to Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:2). How could God orchestrate the removal of “…some of the Israelites from the royal family & from nobility…”; like, Daniel & his 3 friends (v.4)? These guys were royalty! They were used to the good life! But, God turned their lives upside down; and, you won’t understand Daniel’s story if you don’t get that!

-It Would Be Like ISIS

This would be like ISIS “laying siege” to our own country; and, then uprooting you from your family & homeland; and, carrying you off to some middle eastern country you don’t know! You’re forced to learn a new culture; and, a new language! That was Daniel; but, he still trusted that it was God’s will to be uprooted from his homeland & dragged off to Babylon.

-The Typical Sunday School Answer

Most bible scholars believe that Daniel & his friends would have been teenagers. There is no mention of their parents! It would have been “customary” for Nebuchadnezzar to have them killed in the siege against Jerusalem; probably, before their very eyes as a “fear” & “control” tactic! Just another layer of hurt & heartache they would have felt! Daniel’s story is the exception—I’m afraid that most children’s church & S.S. curriculum teach, from Daniel, that God will deliver you from the lions & the fiery furnace if you’re just obedient; and, you have faith! Right? But, as far as we know, Daniel was the only one the lions didn’t munch for lunch; and, his 3 friends were the only ones to escape the furnace! They were the exceptions!

-Daniel Wasn’t A Rock Star

Daniel’s story does NOT teach us that if we live obedient lives God will never let anything bad happen to us! We have to BATTLE the dominant “Christian Culture” on that one; because, the prosperity gospel has trickled down into our doctrine more than we know; and, it’s altered the way we teach bible stories like Daniel! Be encouraged! Daniel wasn’t a ROCK STAR; and, you don’t need to be either! Fall in love with Jesus; and, run hard after Him! Be faithful! Be available! Be teachable!

-The Real Story

The real story is about Daniel’s unwavering faithfulness to God in a GODLESS CULTURE. In the midst of incredible spiritual darkness, the nation of Israel is compromised by apostasy & idolatry; and, evicted, by God, from the land of promise; and, exiled to an ungodly place! God sought for young men He could use; and, He found Daniel & his 3 friends to be faithful to that calling. In our age—at THIS TIME—God is looking for a faithful remnant of believers who will be like Daniel in this present age of darkness! If you’ve been trying to write your own story, give it back to God—ALL of it! And, let Him take it from here! Let God write His plan into your life; and, enjoy the eternal rewards of His “…well done good & faithful servant…”

Daniel: Designated Survivor!

Who Can Resist Reading Daniel’s Story?

(NOTE: This Is The 1st In A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

I love action movies! That’s where I browse when I’m looking for something to watch on Netflix—action movies, thrillers & drama!  I love reading those kind of books too—the Joel Rosenberg political & prophetic thrillers; and, almost anything Ted Dekker! I quickly became a “fan” of Daniel, the Old Testament Bible character, after I became a follower of Jesus in Junior High. Who can resist the stories of Daniel in the “lion’s den”; and, his three friends being thrown into the “fiery furnace”? I remember sitting by the record player—do you remember those?—and, listening over & over to a recording of the action highlights, of the book of Daniel, being dramatized! I loved it! I couldn’t imagine a more action-packed story!

End Times Prophecy!

Then, when I went off to Bible college, I was introduced to a whole new way of looking at the book of Daniel—END TIMES Prophecy! I remember evangelists coming to chapel & using the book of Daniel to show us where we were on God’s prophetic calendar.   Through my years of study in God’s Word, since Bible college days, I’ve discovered, however, that there’s another story line that weaves through Daniel’s book that was hardly broached by either my Sunday School teachers; or, my Bible college professors—it’s the “back story” to the lion’s den & the fiery furnace.

It’s A Faith Narrative!

It’s the narrative of Daniel’s faith in God; and, how he lived out his faith in one of the most wicked environments the world has ever known! It’s my purpose, over the next few weeks, to introduce you to THAT faith—a faith that was never promised deliverance from hungry lions; or, a fiery furnace! Daniel & friends had no expectations of being rescued—that’s the point of their faith! We tend to miss that point; and, focus on God’s deliverance from danger & persecution “if we just have enough faith.” That’s how we usually teach it, isn’t it? But, we completely miss the point of the text if we teach that Daniel’s faith hinged on God’s deliverance. NO! Daniel & his 3 friends remained faithful even when they fully expected to die.

Daniel’s Story Is Still Relative Today!

Like Daniel, we live in a world that pursues new levels of wickedness & ungodliness—a world that’s becoming more & more intolerant of Christians! Babylon far exceeded the wickedness of our own culture; and, yet, Daniel’s faith survived intact. In fact, we see that he thrived despite his environment—despite the threats against his faith! That’s something we have in common with Daniel. We live in a culture that increasingly opposes our faith in Jesus Christ. Remember, Jesus told His disciples that “…ALL who want to live godly lives WILL suffer persecution.” The question about persecution, for us, is not “if” but “when”! It IS coming! Be ready! Not everyone survives the lion’s den & the fiery furnace! Don’t think we’re insulated—in “Christian” America—from persecution! We’re NOT a Christian nation!

 

 

The Church: Designed To Change Us!

The Local Church Community Sanctifies Us

Jesus never intended that we would “lone wolf” the Christian life as an individual! Rather, it was His plan to use the local church “community” to sanctify and change us! Read Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus; especially, chapter 4. It was clearly NOT his intent that we view “the Church” as some “universal body” out there somewhere! He spoke to the body of faith that made up the local Church of Ephesus.

The Body Ministers To The Body

In v.16 he tells this church that it’s the “WHOLE BODY” that ministers to the “WHOLE BODY” & spiritual growth happens in the corporate life of the church when all the individual members are working together properly— “In LOVE, building each other up!” Clearly, the “each other” referred to the believers in the Church of Ephesus; not, some “universal church” on the other side of planet earth—we can pray for believers on the other side of the planet; but, it’s simply impossible to build up believers with whom we have no contact!

Jesus Uses Other People To Change Us

Jesus intends to use all the different people, with their diverse personalities & traits, to change us! He uses the difficult people, the annoying people, the “special grace” people, and, the sinful people to smooth out our rough—and, sometimes sinful—edges! “From Him the whole (“local church”) body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the (“local church”) body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part (of the “local church”)” v.16.  It is by our unique, diverse, spiritual experiences, with God, that together—as a “local church”—we have the opportunity to provide rich counsel & support to each other! For the one struggling with alcohol addiction, there are believers, in the body, who’ve been delivered from it! For the one struggling with sexual sin, there are believers, in the body, who are winning that battle with the Spirit’s help! So, there’s someone who will stand with you & encourage you in the fight! For those who admit they are a gossip; or, a liar; or, have anger issues; or, a cursing tongue; or, they’re bitter—someone in the local church body has been there; or, they’re fighting the same battle; and, together there’s mutual support!

There’s An App For That

Jesus designed the Church to be that community, or family, that meets one another’s needs! Someone, in the local church family, has either overcome the sin your struggling with; and, can offer support; or, someone is fighting the same battle & together you can keep each other accountable & see God do a sanctification work in your lives!  In summary, here’s what Paul is telling the local Church of Ephesus: God makes us stronger “collectively” than we will ever be “individually.” It’s the lone ranger sheep, not engaged in the community life of the Church, that the wolf goes after! He’s easy prey! Now, perhaps your wondering where you can find this kind of church! I’m afraid they are few; and, far between! Pray! Ask God’s Spirit to direct you! Search out this kind of church; and, BE that kind of church member! God Bless!

 

 

I Am Not The Church! We Are!

-Jesus Sanctifies Us Through His Church!

Jesus uses His Church as a significant means to produce His intended changes in our lives.  Now, for many professed believers, in America, that is dissident because the Western Church has been such a huge disappointment & embarrassment. The problem has never been with Jesus’ Church; but,  with the human operation of His Church! We’ve “institutionalized” it when Jesus created it to be “communal.”

-What The Church Should Look Like

The Apostle Paul sets up what the Church should look like in his letter to the Church of Ephesus—I think we forget that this is written to a specific, local Church! He writes to “…the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus…”; and, 9 times in 6 short chapters he refers to them as the “Church”—“ekklesia” is the original Greek word; and, it literally means a “called out assembly.” God calls out His Church of Jesus-Followers from the people of the world; and, the point of their being “called out” is to “assemble” in “community”; or, “communally” like a family; and, to meet each other’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

-The Church Does Life Together

Just take the time to read through ch. 4 of Ephesians; and, don’t read it through the glasses of your “American Church culture.” The “you’s” are NOT to be read as individual “you’s”—it’s “YOU”, the CHURCH, the community of believers doing life together! “I urge YOU (the Church of Ephesus),” Paul says, “to walk worthy of the calling YOU (the Church of Ephesus) have received…” It’s a corporate calling—YOU, the Church of Ephesus, have this calling TOGETHER! Paul says they ought to be so entrenched in their calling, TOGETHER, that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in the way they do ministry as a BODY—v.2 “with…humility…gentleness…patience & love…”; v.3 there should be unity in their community that’s Holy Spirit driven “…with a peace that binds US.”

-The Local Church Is One Body

Read it in context—the “US” is the Church of Ephesus! And, the Church of Ephesus is ONE BODY (v.4); and, Paul doesn’t break the body down to it’s “individual” parts until we get to v.7, “…now grace was given to each one of us…” And, this “grace” came to each individual—in the Church of Ephesus—in the form of a GIFT (v.8) from Jesus, our Messiah & Savior, to build up their local Church in Ephesus!

-Jesus’ Goal For His Church

In ch.4, v.13, of Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus he writes, “…that we (the Church of Ephesus) reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of Jesus growing in maturity…” Because of our “American Church Culture” we read into that our “individual” walk with Christ; but, that’s NOT the context of Paul’s words! Their individual spiritual maturity was not to be a “solo” act! Paul is saying that the goal was a spiritually mature “Church community”—a Church no longer resembling a bunch of immature little brats (v.14); but, mature believers speaking the truth to each other in love (v.15).  In the next verse, Paul tells them it’s the “whole body” (the Church of Ephesus) that ministers to their “whole body.” So, here’s the application—Jesus intends to use our local churches to sanctify us as individuals! We grow spiritually in the BODY!

 

When Good Things Become Bad Things!

-Is There Passion For God & Man?

I appreciate believers that are “free thinkers”; who, think outside the box; who, challenge the way things have always been done! Not with a spirit of rebellion; but, brothers & sisters, in Christ, that are just passionate for God; and, passionate for the souls of men! And, they’re always questioning whether there’s a better way to do God’s work more successfully—men & women given to prayer; who, are begging God for wisdom to do His work His way! Followers, of Jesus, that are not trapped by the traditions of men; even, traditions of the church that can be elevated to a place of idolatry & prominence above the Word of God, if not viewed carefully!

-It’s Time To Look In The Mirror, Church!

It’s time to look at ourselves through the mirror of God’s Word, Church! It’s time to ask ourselves the tough questions; to, investigate whether we’ve gotten off course; if, we’ve settled for something less than the best of God’s plans for us! Because all the good things we do can become bad things when our motive isn’t pure and holy!  The Apostle Paul called out the Church of Corinth for using their gifts, for ministry, only when they could be seen prominently!  The praise of men can be intoxicating! Jesus noted that many religious leaders, of His day, prayed when they could be heard in public; and, fasted only to be seen of men; and, gave money if honored for it! We all have to guard against false motives when doing our ministry! Are there certain things that are “beneath us” because no one would see us?

-The Church’s Sole Purpose For Existence!

The Apostle John, in 1 John 3:16-18, says that our ministry is properly focused when it’s motivated by a love for Christ; and, a love for others! Jesus’ ministry was others-focused—“love” for the Father; and, “love” for a humanity crushed by sin! Good things also become bad things, for the Church, when they are given priority over Jesus’ mandate to “…make disciples…” That is our sole purpose for existence! That has to be the grid through which we make all our decisions, Church! If that’s not how we do ministry, the “tyranny of good things” will rule instead! We can do a lot of “good things” disobediently!

-Are We Living Like A Pharisee?

It’s always been man’s way, since “the Fall”, to form our own rules; and, ask God to bless them! Like the Pharisees, in Jesus’ day, we wanna play god! We’ve organized our churches as if God exists to meet our needs & cater to our comforts! Our discussions often revolve around what we want rather than what He wills! It’s time to repent; and, come home to the Father, Church! It’s time to admit how prone we are to exalt our work over God’s will; and, our dreams over God’s desires; and, our plans over God’s priorities! God’s blessing only comes to His Church when we live to make Him known among the nations!

 

Don’t Expose My Idols!

-Jesus Said Some Hard Things

Jesus earned quite the reputation for crazy, difficult, and hard sayings during His 3 1/2 year ministry on this planet. He said things like “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you”; and, “…it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”; and, “…let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God”; and, perhaps the craziest, “…if anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

-Does This Offend You?

At one point, the Apostle John says the crowd, that followed Jesus, could take it no longer and said: “…this is a hard saying; who can understand it?” At that point Jesus turned to them & asked them, “Does this offend you?…there are some of you who do not believe.” (John 6:60ff) In that statement, we gain some insight into the reason for Jesus’ hard sayings—His intent was to flush out the unbelievers, in the crowd, so they might acknowledge their unbelieving heart & come to genuine faith; that, they might trust Christ for salvation.

-Don’t Sanitize Jesus’ Message!

Unfortunately, I’ve read more than one commentary try and explain away what Jesus said….trying to soften the blow of His message by making it more palatable and politically correct! But, when you try and “sanitize” His message it loses the impact of the Gospel. Jesus fully intended to be offensive to His self-righteous audience; and, to shake up the religious leaders that taught a works-based, performance-driven salvation—“If your righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees,” He said, “you’ll never see heaven.” To the rich man, He said: “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” In all His “hard sayings,” Jesus was putting a spotlight on the false gods and idols in people’s lives. These were the things that people valued more than Creator God; and, Jesus exposed their idolatry!

-But, Aren’t Idols Bad Things?

That’s what we think; so, we try to re-interpret what Jesus said because He just couldn’t be calling all those good things we love—like family, career, our standing in the public eye—as idols, could He? We want to believe that idols are bad things; but, that’s rarely the case! Tim Keller, in his excellent book Counterfeit Gods, says, “…the greater the ‘good’, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.”  Jesus came to set things in order—God’s in charge; He is King; He is Lord; and, He alone is to be worshipped! He has all authority over my life; and, He is to be valued as the ONLY treasure, above all His creation!