Daniel: Trust God With Your Life!

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

-When Crime Is Not A Sin!

Let me start this post by making another interesting point about God’s prophet, Daniel—He purposely committed a “crime” against a human government so he would not be guilty of committing a “sin” against God!  The scene unfolds in chapter 6, of Daniel’s book, as the enemies of Daniel deceive King Darius into signing “…an edict that for 30 days, anyone who petitions any god or man except you, the king, will be thrown into the lions’ den” (v.7).  An agreement that, if followed , would force Daniel to commit the sin of idolatry against his God.  Something he would not do! So, when he was observed praying to his God the trap was set & he was arrested for treason against his King & sentenced to death, a pit full of hungry lions to be his executioners! So, he purposely & knowingly committed a “crime” against a human government to avoid committing a “sin” against his God!

-Familiar Territory!

This was familiar territory for Daniel! Much earlier, in his life, he had observed how his 3 friends—Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—had made a similar decision when faced with their choice to obey God or man (see chapter 2). Instead of lions, they faced the prospect of death in a fiery furnace! But, Daniel noted that God delivered them! God always delivers—whether by a miracle; or, by death—but, He always delivers! When King Darius, who was NOT Daniel’s enemy, realized that he had been duped, he worked hard to deliver Daniel from certain death; but, he could not (v.14). The most powerful man, in the world, couldn’t deliver him from “…the law of the Medes & the Persians, that changes not…”

-The Weakness Of Man!

What a picture of the weakness of man! Even the most powerful, of men, was unable to reverse the inevitable! Don’t trust in man! Don’t trust in yourself! Trust God! Oh, how we need to learn that, don’t we? When Daniel submitted to God’s Sovereign plans, God was able to use his life circumstances to build another person’s faith! Daniel focused on God’s “big picture.” Without God’s help, we will always focus on our circumstances!

-Take Off Those Glasses!

We tend to see all our pain & suffering through the lens of our own self-centered glasses! We need the Holy Spirit’s help to remove the glasses of self! To deny self! Daniel saw God use the trouble in his life as a testimony that led first, to King Nebuchadnezzar’s faith (ch.4); and, now brought King Darius to faith! “Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting. No diversions were brought to him, and he could not sleep. At the first light of dawn the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he reached the den, he cried out in anguish to Daniel. “Daniel, servant of the living God,” the king said, “has your God whom you serve continually been able to rescue you from the lions?”  Even when facing the prospect of death, Daniel remained influential in the King’s life! He persistently incarnated God’s truth in the way he lived!

 

 

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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!

 

 

What If Persecution Comes To America?

We Don’t Think It’ll Happen Here!

We sit in our offices & our homes watching the stories of persecuted Christians play out, from afar, on our monitors & our TV’s! Christian persecution happens in other nations; but, not ours! We may not say it out loud; but, the unprecedented freedoms that Christians enjoy in this country have led us to some unrealistic—even UNBIBLICAL—expectations. I’ve seen it in the political rhetoric!

An Entitlement Mentality

Many American believers have a sort of entitlement mentality; like, persecution just can’t happen here! Now let me be clear—I do not have a death wish! I pray that the persecution of Christians will not spill over our borders & into our land! I pray for God to send revival to His Church; that, the Church will fall deeply in love with God again & out of love with the created things of this world; that, God will open the gates of heaven to the spiritual refugees all around us & awaken them to faith in Christ; and, that God will do all that without a loss of freedom & without persecution here. But….what if that’s not God’s way for us?

What About His Sovereign Plan?

What if it’s part of His Sovereign plan to bring judgment to our sinful nation; and, as He often did with Israel in the Old Testament, use nations even more sinful than our own to bring about His judgment? The Apostle Peter talks about this: “For it brings favor if, mindful of God’s will, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if you sin and are punished, and you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you…” 1 Peter 2:19-23.

Looking More Like Jesus

In summary, God uses persecution to make us look more like Jesus! That’s what Peter says here! Many Christians feel justified to be angry & lash out at those who persecute or harm them! We desperately need the Holy Spirit’s help to understand how we’re supposed to respond to suffering, persecution & mistreatment in a way that makes us look more like Jesus; and, we need His grace to live it out!

When Death Is Gain!

When Paul wrote the Church of Philippi, “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain”; He was saying that he loved Jesus so much that to lose everything in this life in order to be with Him was “gain.” Jesus was worth more than anything he might have or experience in this life. Death was a “GAIN” to him! If it should be God’s will to bring persecution to America, I pray God’s grace to ask my tormentor’s this question: “In Jesus I have my sins forgiven; He has restored my relationship with God my Father; I have an eternal home in heaven that’s being prepared for me right now; what can you offer me that’s better than that?”

 

Why Is There Evil & Suffering?

That Is A Hard Question!

Some of the most difficult questions I’ve ever had to answer begin with “why”—Why did my baby die? Why does a loving God allow suffering? Why is there hunger and starvation in the world? Why does God allow terrorist killers like ISIS to exist; and, why does He allow them to kill Christians? Why do sex trafficking, human trafficking & slavery exist if God is in control? Why earthquakes, tsunami’s, hurricanes & tornadoes if God is love?

There Are No Easy Answers!

First, I’ll not try to pretend that there’s an easy answer to these questions! I’ll try not to offer the usual “pat answers” & smugly look the other way! I would ask you to open your Bible to Romans 8 as I intend to reference it through this post. In v.20, the Apostle Paul makes a difficult observation: “For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it…” That seems like an obvious reference to Adam & Eve’s “Fall” in the garden! He’s saying that our present suffering, in part, is the result of God’s judicial act against Adam’s disobedience.

Adam’s Apple

There’s an old Hungarian proverb that says: “Adam ate the apple and our teeth still ache.” It means that because of Adam’s “headship” over the human race, his sinful deed was passed down through our human nature. His “headship” also carries the idea that we all sinned “in” Adam; or, if given the same opportunity, we all would have sinned just like he did. So, that’s where all the “futility”, the groaning; and, the corruption began. God followed through on His threat that, “…the soul that sins shall die.”

Hope In The Suffering

Though it sounds bleak, v.20 finishes out with these words, “…in the hope that the creation would be set free from the bondage of corruption.” In other words, pain and suffering will not continue forever! There’s a day coming when ALL of creation—including those who put their faith in Christ to save them—will be redeemed from this world’s “futility”!

The Justice Of God

God’s act was just and righteous; and, it carried with it a purpose. After their sin, God removed Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden, Genesis says, so they would not eat of the “Tree of Life” and be eternally separated from Him. He, therefore, placed the curse on creation “…in the hope…” that it would reveal, to us, our brokenness & depravity; and, set us free from our bondage to sin. So, when our “why” questions are directed at God—almost like an accusation—they’re misplaced! We need to stand in front of a mirror, when we ask “why”; and, humbly admit: “All the pain & suffering in the world is because of my sin ‘in Adam.’ All the ‘suffering’, all the ‘natural disasters’, all the ‘futility’ is my fault!” Our “hope” is ultimately not in this world; but, in the Resurrected Christ who will one day resurrect our broken bodies in Glory! Hallelujah!

What About Near Death Experiences?

They’re Wildly Popular!

If it’s your goal to write a popular book, you might want to consider making “heaven” your subject matter. Don Piper’s book, 90 Minutes In Heaven, was so wildly popular—with more than 7 million copies sold in 50 languages—that they made it into a movie, Heaven Is For Real. It’s about a 4-year old boy’s near death experience. Another popular book, Miracles From Heaven, is about a sick girl’s near death experience; and, it also was made into a movie.

What Does Scripture Say?

So, what are we to make of these near death experiences? What light, if any, does Scripture shed on the subject? What we must affirm is that these experiences are subjective to the individual claiming to have experienced it; and, can not be held up as revelatory or inspired on an equal plane as the Word of God. If someone claims a near death experience that is contrary to Scripture we must choose Scripture and reject the experience.

Confused About Heaven?

There’s a lot of confusion, in the church, about heaven! I’ve talked with believers who assume it’ll be “boring”—sitting in the clouds & strumming a harp for all eternity! Where have we come up with all these fanciful notions about heaven? It’s not as if the Bible is silent about heaven! There’s enough revealed in Scripture that should convince every believer that heaven is too good for anyone to miss; and, that the alternative is too horrific to wish on anyone.

Keep It Gospel-Centered!

Our conversations with people need to be centered on & saturated in the Gospel, not heaven! Heaven might be the starting point because of all the books and movies out there that have captured people’s attention; but, we need the Spirit’s help to steer the conversation toward the gospel! We’re commissioned by Jesus to make disciples; not spend time hypothesizing what heaven might be like. So, the next time you find yourself in a gab session, about heaven, direct them to Revelation 21. Tell them it’s the most detailed information we have about what God & His Word says about heaven!

God Will “Pitch His Tent” Among Us!

God’s dwelling will be “with humanity, and He will live with them” according to Revelation 21:3. That word “dwelling”, in the text, means “tabernacle” or “tent.” The Apostle John is saying that God will pitch a tent and live with us in the new, heavenly Jerusalem. Try to grasp the beauty of what that means! Our struggles, in the flesh, to know God; to walk with Him; to know His heart, His will & His mind; will be ended! No longer will God be far off, distant, transcendent above His creation. We will see Him face to face; and, we will know Him!

What Happens After We Die?

That Question Has Some Anxiety Attached To It

I’m convinced that even the most devout follower, of Jesus Christ, approaches death with some anxiety. You can be secure in your faith & in your relationship with Jesus! You can totally believe that you’re going to spend eternity with Him; but, still have a certain fear because of the “unknown”! There’s always some anxiety when we’re forced into something new; what does it feel like to die? In part we fear death because it’s beyond our control, isn’t it?

Don’t Fear The Reaper

It’s that image of the Grim Reaper lurking around the corner; stalking us; and, we never know “when” he’s gonna show up, do we? John 14:1-6 begins with Jesus words to His disciples: “Let not your hearts be troubled…”; and, He tells them why in v.6: “…because I am the way, the truth & the life.” If you’ve placed your trust in Jesus’ atonement work on the cross than you don’t have to fear death because Jesus IS your life! The fear of death can paralyze you; but, knowing you have eternal life in Christ sets you free from that fear! And, in that text, Jesus tells the disciples that they don’t have to fear death because after they die, they get out of here! “I will come again,” Jesus says in v.3, “and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Death Benefits

That’s one of the benefits of death—we get out of here! No more heartaches & betrayals; no more worries & anxieties! Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble.” And, don’t we know it! Jesus shared another benefit in v.2—after we die, we get a room in God’s Big House! “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told that I go to prepare a place for you?” God has a house! Not a hotel! Not an Inn; but, a big house! He’s not going to run out of space; and, if you have life in Christ, there’s a room reserved for you, with your name on it! We’re not going to be guests in a lodge! We’re His CHILDREN! We’ll live in His house with Him! In v.3 Jesus said: “I will take you to myself!” That’s the best part of death! We “inherit” Jesus! He’s the real “treasure” that we seek; and, we’ll have Him—ALL of Him—when He takes us to Himself!

We Don’t Mourn Like An Unbeliever

I have watched many friends & loved ones die; and, I mourn! But, not for them! I don’t wish that they could come back to me! I would never wish that upon them! I would never wish for them to come back to this place! I mourn for ME! That I remain behind! While I suffer & mourn the temporary loss of their friendship, I rejoice for them! I’m jealous for them; and, I long for the day when we’ll be reunited in a better place; but, NOT HERE! Oh, there’s some tension there, isn’t there—we still have Jesus’ Kingdom work to do while we remain! But, we don’t hold too tightly to anything here!