The Daniel Generation

In our day it’s important to realize we are bridging key cultural shifts. For those my age (somewhere north of 39, you know) it is key we pay attention.

This is a word I think the Lord dropped into my heart as I listened to a great preacher utilize the text from Daniel:

He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. (Daniel 11:32)

As I was listening to the message, these seven thoughts came to my mind and I jotted them down:

  1. We will go through the fire.
  2. We may face the lions.
  3. We are called to discern the times.
  4. We are called to BLESS our enemies.
  5. We will not be loved, generally, by this culture.
  6. We must find our depth in God through fasting, prayer, and the Word.
  7. Know God, stand firm, and take action.

Let us live with power and anointing in these days!

It was all because of a diet?

We are beginning a series this Sunday I am calling “Allegiance.” It is a series on the life of Daniel and the three Hebrew friends. My goal is to reflect on the lives of people who lived in a truly hostile environment and still carved out their deep faith in God to not only “live for God” but… hold on to your seats here… bless the hostile culture in which they found themselves. 

Daniel 1 is up first and we will NOT be talking about nutrition!

How Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ended up with incredible wisdom wasn’t reflected in their nutrition package.

20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. (Dan. 1:20)

Let’s talk about what Daniel DID have that set him apart… and how that reflects in our present day.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Daniel’s Prayer of Confession

In this season, it’s not just about “our” sins (on a personal level), but OUR sins as a whole.

When Daniel gave confession for Israel, he didn’t lay it on those who had gone before. He had done nothing wrong in his life to personally bring Israel into captivity, but in this prayer, he inserts himself into the confession. Note how many times he uses “WE.”

In our confessions, we don’t need to blame the other person or group. We need to genuinely realize it’s US… together… that need prayer.

4 As I prayed to the Lord my God, I made this confession:

Please, my Lord—you are the great and awesome God, the one who keeps the covenant, and truly faithful to all who love him and keep his commands: 5 We have sinned and done wrong. We have brought guilt on ourselves and rebelled, ignoring your commands and your laws. 6 We haven’t listened to your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our leaders, our parents, and to all the land’s people. 7 Righteousness belongs to you, my Lord! But we are ashamed this day—we, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all Israel whether near or far, in whatever country where you’ve driven them because of their unfaithfulness when they broke faith with you.8 Lord, we are ashamed—we, our kings, our leaders, and our parents who sinned against you. 9 Compassion and deep forgiveness belong to my Lord, our God, because we rebelled against him. 10 We didn’t listen to the voice of the Lordour God by following the teachings he gave us through his servants, the prophets. (Dan. 9:4-10)

It’s so easy for us to pray, “Lord, forgive us (but what I really mean is that group over there)…”

Today… let’s pray with Daniel.

Blessing Those With Whom We Disagree

I butchered that title somehow, so I can’t wait to have the English major jump in and correct me. 😉

The series I have been preaching on Daniel has been incredibly challenging. The continuing thought through this whole study has been how to live in blessing toward those who are “enemies.”

Walter Brueggemann preached a message on Daniel a few years ago and mentioned the attitude of Daniel in aiding Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 4 the king had a dream that meant he would fall into insanity for a period of time. Rather than rejoice over the plight of his enemy, Daniel mourned over the interpretation and begged Nebuchadnezzar to take a way out. Daniel had a deep care for the man who brought down his nation.

The way we hear people throw around sarcasm and rhetoric today, you would think we’re all out for the demise of anyone who disagrees with us. I can understand that in the world, especially in the world of politics. I don’t like it, but I understand it.

But when it comes to the church, we’re just as nasty at times. We disagree horribly with each other, then there are certainly streams of Christian ideologies that seem to wish for the death of the “wicked”, etc.

This journey through Daniel challenges me. Am I looking to bless those with whom I disagree? Do I honestly pray for God’s best in their lives?

There can be disagreements all day long with whoever is president. But the level of nastiness seems a bit shameful. When George Bush was president I would listen to “liberal” Christians wish vile things on the man. I listen to “conservative” Christians do the same thing to Barack Obama. When we don’t like someone, we really don’t like someone!

We need a Daniel generation that will understand WHO they are in Christ, be unafraid to take those stands, but also live in blessing to those around them… even those with whom they may disagree.

 

Stand

Daniel 3 is one of those great kids’ stories. The fiery furnace. Standing up to the king. Not bowing to idols.

As I prepare this chapter for preaching, I am coming to really not like this chapter. My series is looking at the example of Daniel in hostile territory and learning how that speaks to us in our ever-changing culture. Facing idols and the possibilities and repercussions just isn’t pleasant.

We can rejoice in the fact that God delivered the three Hebrew men. We can shout out about deliverance.

But I find two difficult truths surfacing in this passage:

1. We really CAN believe God for deliverance in moments of intense confrontation, but that means we must be willing to stand. 

2. While God is ready to come through in those moments, he is also looking for his people to be ready for the “but if God doesn’t deliver” reality.

The challenge is this: We should be ready to stand, and we certainly should ask for God’s gracious and powerful deliverance. We can be ready for God to deliver, but can God count on us for the boldness to stand even if he doesn’t deliver. 

I am not liking this passage.

Resistance

In physical training, the only way to get muscles to grow and get the fat off is to push the body. The body has to meet resistance. When resistance happens, growth can occur.

In spiritual training, it is the same principle. We don’t get growth by smooth sailing. We get growth through resistance. It is the necessity of growing our spiritual muscles through spiritual discipline. We put ourselves in a position of being out of our comfort zone in some way.

I am preaching through the first six chapters of Daniel to start the New Year. Daniel flourished because he met resistance. When spiritual matters, and his own life, were on the line, that’s when he saw the results of spiritual growth.

Smooth sailing is nice, but it does not sharpen our spiritual senses. Daniel was constantly in a position of testing and he could then see his God come through in the toughest of situations. Don’t flee from the tough road. Walk it and watch what God can do in your life.

The Struggle of Revelation is We Want to KNOW

As we read through Revelation this week, another key passage to reflect on is Daniel 7. The whole book of Daniel would be good, but Daniel 7 really sets a base for how the early Church was hearing what Jesus was saying.

Does it answer any specific questions? No.

It is good to remember this, though: Daniel didn’t get any specific answers, either.

He is watching these beasts and these magnificent scenes unfold before him and he wants to know what each beast means. He is just like us.

But what he is told is to focus on the outcome. Look at the Ancient of Days. Look at the son of man. Look at the kingdom being handed over to the people of God. That doesn’t keep Daniel from asking again what the fourth beast meant.

We all want to KNOW. We want the details.

We would do well to remember this: If God didn’t tell Daniel what those things meant specifically, why does he owe me any further explanation?

Read Revelation focusing on the matters God tells John are important. See if you can get a broader picture.

The Debt of Love

Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law.  (Romans 13:8, CEB)

This whole passage, from Romans 12 to 13, has kept my mind going for quite some time. Without our lives being a living sacrifice and our minds being completely transformed (Rom. 12:1,2), the rest just doesn’t follow. But IF we live in the power of the Cross and all the Spirit to transform our minds, there is something incredible that is possible.

In the context of Romans 13 and the view of governmental authority, I am struck by the stance Paul takes. Even in Roman times, the call was to submit. Let God deal with the leaders. THEY have to answer to God. Let God truly take care of the rulers. I am not particularly a fan of that, quite honestly. I’d rather have a coup. 😉

Thinking over a couple of Old Testament examples on how to view true enemies, I think of the very different roles of Daniel and Jonah. Daniel rose to great levels of influence within the Babylonian regime. They were the enemy. Nebuchadnezzar was always lumping in Daniel with the rest of the magicians. Yet, Daniel stayed loyal to God and to his king. In Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream. When Daniel received the interpretation he knew it meant bad news for Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel had some choices to make. He could let the interpretation stay hidden, he could tell the king the interpretation and just chuckle about it (out of sweet vengeance), or he could try to help Nebuchadnezzar out. He chose to try to help out his enemy. He let Nebuchadnezzar know that if he would repent the dream wouldn’t be fulfilled. Daniel did not have to do that.

Yet, he truly loved his neighbor. He looked out for the highest good. (We have so convoluted that “love” thing. We think it’s just giving people what they want.) He wanted Nebuchadnezzar to choose the right way.

Then there is Jonah. He hated Nineveh and was quite happy to hear God was ready to wipe them out. He wasn’t happy God wanted him to go preach to them. He knew if they repented God would relent and Jonah would rather see Nineveh burn.

We have those choices in our own lives. We can know what is ahead for someone who we may not like, or someone that just doesn’t like us. How do we approach that situation? Do we relish their possible demise, or do we grieve over their choices?

The debt of love is not some fake emotional response. The debt of love is incredibly hard, especially if it is in the context of dealing with enemies.

Which path do we take? Daniel or Jonah?