Daniel & His Faith Community

-A Place For Spiritual Transformation!

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

I have personally witnessed great spiritual transformation in the lives of believers when they changed ONE thing—they began living in the community of faith! They got involved with other believers! They joined a Small Group; and, they began to share their lives & do life together! When King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, demanded that his wisemen & counselors reveal the meaning of his dream—and, what he actually dreamed—Daniel responded, to the crisis, by taking it to his faith community! “Then Daniel went to his house and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah about the matter” (Daniel 2:17).

-We Weren’t Created For Isolation!

Don’t try and wing life on your own! God didn’t create us for isolation—He created us in His image…He of the triune community! He created us for community with Himself; and, for community with each other! “Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance” (Prov. 11:14) Daniel did more than just hang out with his friends—he prayed with them! He urged “…them to ask the God of heaven for mercy concerning this mystery, so Daniel and his friends would not be killed with the rest of Babylon’s wise men” (Daniel 2:18).

-The Community That Prays Together!

Earlier, in the passage (v.10), the King’s counselors and advisors had told him that he was demanding something, from them, that “…no man on earth could do.” And, they were right! But, Daniel knew that a man fully connected to God, through prayer, could move God to do what “…no man on earth could do” & God responded! He answered their prayers & did the impossible. He gave Daniel the dream & the interpretation: “The mystery was then revealed to Daniel in a vision at night” (2:19).

-Praise: The Appropriate Response!

And, Daniel responded with praise (2:19-23); or, the only appropriate response when we’ve experienced a movement of God! He praised God’s name; or, His character & reputation! He praised God for His wisdom & power; and, for His Sovereignty over the times, the seasons & the nations! He praised God for the gift of wisdom & understanding that He shares with men! He praised God for revealing “hidden things” like dreams; and, for the grace He had personally extended him!

-How God Uses “Impossible” Situations!

Daniel’s story shows us that God uses the “impossible” situations, in life, to expose counterfeits—the Babylonian religion was the idolatrous worship of demons! God is beginning to kick out the props holding up the King’s “faith” in his counterfeit idols. God also uses the “impossible” situations, in life, to introduce Himself— “Here I am, King! I’m the one you’re really looking for!” Daniel answered the King: “No wise man, medium, diviner-priest, or astrologer is able to make known to the King the mystery…but, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (2:27) God also uses the “impossible” situations, in life, to sanctify & grow His disciples! With every obedient step, that Daniel took, he was growing more confident in God! Life is rarely just about YOU—it’s intertwined in the lives of others!

 

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Daniel & The God Of The Impossible

-An Impossible Circumstance In Babylon

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

I’ll never forget where I was on Friday, February 22, 1980 when the United States Olympic Hockey team shocked the world by beating the powerful Soviet Union team 4-3 on their way to an Olympic Gold Medal! It’s the hockey match that will forever be remembered as the “Miracle On Ice” because no one gave the U.S. team a chance of beating the Soviets. Daniel also faced an “impossible” circumstance in Babylon; and, after God delivered the miracle finish, Daniel was quick to deflect all the glory away from himself & redirect the praise to God.

-Anxiety & Panic Will Suffocate You!

This story—in Daniel, chapter 2—will encourage you as you face all the “impossible” circumstances in your own life! Daniel fleshes out how a believer can handle the stressful things in life & all the things we worry about! We all find ourselves, from time to time, in a situation we perceive to be “impossible.” The anxiety & the sense of panic can be suffocating. When chapter 2 opens—in Daniel’s book—we find Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar dealing with a case of insomnia over some dreams he had experienced (vs. 1-3). So, he brings together 4 distinct groups of people to help him make sense of the dreams. These would be like his “wise men” & counselors—the “diviner-priests” were scholars who claimed the ability to forecast the future; the “mediums” alleged the ability to communicate with the dead; the “sorcerers” practiced incantations or the casting of spells; and, the “Chaldeans” were students of astrology who studied the stars & other heavenly bodies to determine the future.

-An Impossible Demand!

The narrative continues (in v.4-9) when the King gives them an “impossible” assignment. He demands that they give him not only the meaning of his dream; but, that they also tell him what he actually dreamed! Now, we have the luxury of reading Daniel’s entire story in one setting; but, there are actually months & years involved! God is at work in the King’s heart. He’s using the King’s relationship with Daniel to challenge the King’s “world view”; and, his faith in Babylon’s idolatrous religion! We’re starting to see some cracks in the King’s belief system! There’s a parallel application for us—don’t assume you know what’s going on in someone’s heart!

-Caution: God At Work!

Don’t write off a person simply because of the words they say; or, the way they’re currently living their life! Daniel’s story confirms that God is at work; even, when it seems “impossible” that someone—like King Nebuchadnezzar—could ever come to faith! In vs. 10-13, the “wisemen” & counselors are unable to tell the King what he dreamed! This is Sovereign God, behind the scenes, planting seeds of doubt in the King’s mind. God intends to draw a clear distinction between the false gods of Babylon; and, the true God of Daniel! When King Nebuchadnezzar responds with a “…tell me what I dreamed & the interpretation; or, I’ll have you all killed…” the stage was set for Nebuchadnezzar’s introduction to the God of Creation!

 

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!

 

God’s High Regard For His Name

-He’s The God Of The Impossible!

There’s a great story, in 2 Chronicles 14, about a “good” king named Asa. That’s significant because Israel & Judah had a lot of “bad” kings.—“…Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the LORD his God…” v.2 says.  But, as God often does, in the lives of His saints, He uses “trouble” to grow our faith. In v.8, we read that “…Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah bearing large shields and spears, and 280,000 from Benjamin…”; and, then “trouble” shows up— “…Zerah the Cushite came against them with an army of one million men and 300 chariots…” Do the math! Judah was in a mis-match, a humanly impossible situation! And, what was King Asa’s response? “Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said, “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” v.11.

-Why Don’t We Pray First?

Why do we tend to make prayer our last resort? Isn’t it our predisposition to try & work things out in our own wisdom 1st? We have a penchant for gritting our teeth; and, trying to work things out in our own strength! Only after we’ve exhausted all human resources do we finally pray about it! Why? Are we afraid we’re bothering Him? Waking Him up? Scripture says, “…He never sleeps, He never slumbers…” I want to challenge you to go back to v.11 and reread Asa’s prayer—this is a model prayer for getting God’s attention!

-Circumstances? Or, God’s Glory?

While his prayer was about his “circumstances,” it wasn’t really about his “circumstances”! It was a prayer about GOD! It was a prayer expressing concern for God’s GLORY! “This battle isn’t about me God,” to paraphrase Asa’s prayer, “It’s about YOU! There’s no one besides YOU! YOU help those without strength! We depend on YOU! Your NAME is at stake here! Don’t let a mere mortal hinder YOU!” God DOES NOT help those you help themselves! That’s a human LIE! He helps those who are weak & depend upon HIM! Asa understood that God’s ultimate goal in all He does is to magnify HIS GLORY!

-God’s Glory: Our Greatest Concern!

How do you define God’s “Glory”? It’s kind of like His “BEAUTY”—God’s “BEAUTY” is in His perfection; in His character; in His moral excellence! “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” James 1:13. God’s highest goal is to preserve & display His infinite, awesome greatness & worth. That’s His GLORY! There is NOTHING of higher value! If God should have greater affection for anything He created, He would be unjust—He’d be an idolater!  So, here’s the principle—King Asa prayed right because his greatest concern was for God’s GLORY; not, for victory in this battle!  Our prayers should always be a request for God to bring GLORY to Himself through His answer! His GLORY, through the answer, is more important than our need!

 

 

How God Gets His Work Done!

-He Doesn’t Need My Wisdom!

The Church of Corinth was one messed up church—they struggled with sexual immorality; and, they fought over the Lord’s Supper; and, their doctrine on the resurrection of the dead was problematic! So, when the Holy Spirit provoked the Apostle Paul to write a letter & call them out, he reminds them of the 1st time they met when he had introduced them to the Gospel:  “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified….my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

-Don’t Sanitize The Gospel!

I’m not intending to read into the text; but, it seems like maybe they’ve become embarrassed over the Gospel. Perhaps they felt pressured to make the Gospel more appealing to their cosmopolitan neighbors by down playing the cross, the shed blood & the atonement. If so, there’s probably an application here for the western Church—have we digressed so far from our calling that we feel compelled to sanitize the offensiveness of the cross? Have we become so “seeker friendly” that we’ve become “Gospel unfriendly”? Do we crave the world’s approval so badly that we feel compelled to “market” the Gospel by packaging it in a more user-friendly format?

-God Only Blesses His Plan!

It seems, in the reading of this letter, that Paul is intent on changing some faulty thinking! They needed a doctrinal cleansing on HOW God gets His work done—He doesn’t need our help! He doesn’t want us to figure out how to DO CHURCH in our wisdom or strength! He will only bless HIS SOVEREIGN PLAN! Paul seems to emphasize interactive discipleship over “church programs”—life on life interaction! “…I came TO YOU…I was WITH YOU” he said in vs. 1,2.  Paul also emphasizes the power of God over human performance—human method’s will come & go; so, focus on the power of God to minister through us!

-Do Ministry By God’s Grace!

If our ministry focus is on US—how WE need to GET BETTER at it; or, how much effort WE need to put into it—WE will be ineffective at it! We’ll become neurotic & self-absorbed over whatever ministry we’re involved in because our efforts will center on us & our abilities rather than God & His power to do the spiritual work—that ONLY HE can do—in someone’s life! We’re talking about doing ministry by “legalism” vs ministry by “Grace”; and, GRACE wins every time! When we perform ministry in the strength of the flesh it puffs us up; and, gives us the allusion that we’re helping God out! He doesn’t need our help!

 

 

You Can’t Do Anything Without Jesus!

-Strength And Courage Won’t Do!

The beauty of Christ’s Commission, to us, is in it’s simplicity—“Go…make disciples of all the nations.” It’s hard to imagine how that could be misunderstood. As a teenage convert, to Jesus, the hard part was not the understanding; but, the doing! I understood the command perfectly well; but, carrying it out terrified me! I’d nearly go into a cold sweat every time I thought about sharing my faith with my high school friends. How could I ratchet up the strength and courage to do it? How would I know the right things to say?

-Arm Wrestling Doesn’t Work!

It wasn’t until many years later when someone finally shared with me, from Scripture, that I didn’t have to depend on my ingenuity to convince people they needed Jesus! I couldn’t arm-wrestle anyone into the Kingdom if I tried! In John 15, Jesus tells us that plan will never work! No one has ever come to Christ because of a big beautiful church building; or, a “professional” Worship Band; or, a multi-media experience!

-Regeneration Is God’s Work!

The work, of regeneration, is God’s work ALONE! It’s impossible for us to do the work of God in our own strength—“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” John 15:5.  This is at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry; and, He’s preparing His disciples for His departure. “I will build My Church,” He told them, “And, I’m going to use YOU.” But, they had to get one thing straight—“You can’t do it without ME! I am the Vine, you’re just the branches,” He taught them.  All the LIFE & all the POWER & all the RESOURCES to fulfill His Great Commission came from Him!

-Being A Fruitful Branch

And, the key to being a branch that produces fruit,  Jesus said, was to be connected to Him, the Vine! If we’re not abiding in Him we’ll shrivel up and die, Jesus says in v.6. We can’t make disciples in our own strength—by reading books about making disciples; or, witnessing to 5 people a week; or, memorizing Scripture; or, making ourselves accountable to someone else. That’s NOT where we find the POWER to do Jesus’ work! He alone is the source! This is one of the most devastating mistakes any Church ministry can make—doing God’s work “in the flesh.” Man’s effort won’t get it done!

-God Is Glorified When We Ask Him To Do It!

The work of God gets done; and, He is glorified, when we ASK Him to do it! Back to John 15, vs. 7-8 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified,” Jesus says, “that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” Jesus does the work, of God, for us & through us! Making disciples is HIS WORK! Every spiritual work is a supernatural work & only Jesus can do the super-natural! We’re just a branch; but, when we’re tapped into Jesus Christ, the Vine, He does great things through us! God is glorified!

 

 

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!