If I Were The Devil

I preached from Daniel 10 yesterday morning. Daniel is a key text when it comes to looking behind the curtain of everyday life and seeing the spiritual battle that is going on all around us.

12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.” Daniel 10: 12-14

I took a few moments on Sunday and talked about what I would do if I were the devil. Thought I would take a few moments and expand upon it here on my blog.

I would get Christians to obsessively watch the news.

I would get Christians to use social media in such a way that brings dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ.

I would keep Christians from praying and going deep in the Word of God.

I would get Christians focused on talking about Covid, politics, masks, vaccinations. The last thing I would want them to talk about is the gospel.

I would get Christians angry at other people who come from different theological and political tribes.

I would get Christians to begin to lose interest in being a part of the local church. Sunday attendance is not that bad, but I would keep them from meaningful community.

I would use Christians to stir up division and strife with others in the church.

I would make Christians confused about the priority between being a patriot and being a follower of Jesus Christ.

I would get Christians to believe the intoxicating lie that they can only make changes in the world if they are in a position of power.

I would lead Christians to believe that making disciples and investing in people is optional.

I would get Christians to believe in all kinds of modern day false prophecies.

I would use fear to rob them of their joy. I would make them so unhappy that they would be terrible advertising for the Christian life.

The Importance of Prayer (Sermon) Daniel 9:1-19

God has really been stirring my heart lately about the importance of prayer. We have been adding some corporate prayer times to our monthly schedule as a church because we strongly believe that if we want to see the Spirit of God at work in a powerful way we must take prayer seriously. I don’t do this often, but I am sharing with you the sermon I preached this past Sunday. It is from Daniel 9:1-19 and in this passage Daniel reveals what it looks like to go beyond maintenance prayer to front line prayer. Once you click on it you can go to the 39:00 minute mark for the beginning of the sermon.

The Importance of Prayer from Daniel 9:1-19

D-Groups (Making Disciple Makers)

We are investing more time and energy to make sure that as a church we are helping people to go and make disciples. Here are a few of the things that we have been working on recently:

  • We have changed the name of our disciplemaking groups from Life Transformation Groups to D-Groups.
  • We have significantly updated/improved the material in the D-Group manual. Now there is a much stronger emphasis on each person being in the Word during the week and coming to the weekly gathering ready to share what they have been learning.
  • Now we have a pastor (Glenn Walker) who is going to oversee the entire process and make sure that it becomes a vibrant part of our church. This is really a key in my opinion. Hoping that a disciple making culture takes root organically is a nice idea, but I don’t think it is realistic.
  • We will be creating training videos for D-Group leaders.
  • We had a meeting this past Sunday and took about an hour to explain the importance of each Christian taking the Great Commission seriously and how we can equip them to do so.

HERE is the D-Group manual. Lots of time, energy, and revisions have gone into it.

I would love to hear how you are raising up disciples who will go and make disciples. You can leave a message here or you can email me at michaelw@newlifeefree.org. Seriously, I would love to hear from you!

Daniel 7 “The Return of the King”

Introduction: REM, It’s The End Of The World

Do you remember the band from the 1980’s, REM? I do. They had a song called “It’s The End Of The World” and it goes on to say, “and I feel fine.” Tragically, for many people when the end of the world comes they won’t feel fine. This is not just a pastor overstating something for dramatic effect, it is the sobering truth.

Read passage: Daniel 7


15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.

23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,

there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,

which shall be different from all the kingdoms,

and it shall devour the whole earth,

and trample it down, and break it to pieces.

24 As for the ten horns,

out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,

and another shall arise after them;

he shall be different from the former ones,

and shall put down three kings.

25 He shall speak words against the Most High,

and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,

and shall think to change the times and the law;

and they shall be given into his hand

for a time, times, and half a time.

26 But the court shall sit in judgment,

and his dominion shall be taken away,

to be consumed and destroyed to the end.

27 And the kingdom and the dominion

and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven

shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;

his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,

and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”

There are 4 beasts which represent different empires and rulers

The four empires, in chronological order:

Babylon: Having it’s wings torn off is most likely a reference to when King Nebuchadnezzar was humbled because of his great pride.

Medo-Persia: Being raised up on one side is most likely a reference to the fact that the Persians were more powerful than the Medes.

Greece: Their speed of attack was like a leopard, they had no rival. The four heads pointed to the fact that Greece’s Empire would be divided under 4 different leaders.

Rome: The fourth kingdom. The ten heads are leaders that would appear in the future. The eleventh head is a reference to the Antichrist.

Daniel’s response is that he was greatly troubled by all that God revealed to him.

The Ancient of Days takes his seat

Verses 9-10 mentions one of my favorite names for God, the Ancient of Days. This is a reference to God the Father.

His clothing was white like snow communicates his holiness.

His throne of flaming fire, and a river of fire flowing from his presence speaks of the fact that he will bring judgment. A topic that many churches fail to speak of, but nonetheless it is a part of the Word of God.

Books were opened. In Revelation 20:15 we learn that this is the Book of Life, also called the Lamb’s Book of Life. All those whose name is not in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire.

The beasts are judged and the 4th beast is destroyed

We see Daniel 7 unfolding in the future in Revelation 19.

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and mall the birds were gorged with their flesh.

The kingdom is given to the Son of Man

The Son of Man is a reference to Jesus Christ. This is a name that Jesus frequently used to describe himself. Jesus took the title from the book of Daniel. Son of Man means a number of different things: 1) it means that Jesus is human 2) it means that Jesus is divine 3) it means that he is coming back one day in the clouds.

Matthew 24:30, speaking of Christ’s return says this, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven.”

The context of this passage leads us to believe that this will be a literal, earthly reign of Jesus on earth

How are we to respond to all of this?

We need to be on guard against merely attaining head knowledge. The main goal of this passage is not meant to give you the tools by which you can draw up a cool chart of the end times. The goal of this passage is to get you to live differently in light of the return of Jesus!

We need to be ready for spiritual warfare. We are living right now in a Babylonian culture. The devil and his other fallen angels are real and they want to stop and destroy us. Are you praying? Are you in the Word of God? Are you fighting a spiritual battle or have you been distracted by civilian pursuits (culture war)?

We need to make sure that our life reflects the awesome glory of God. We should be holy as God is holy. Is your life being transformed into the image of God? We should be living every day life with a sense of urgency. Does the thought of the Second Coming of Jesus cause us to live differently? Do you have a passion for the lost?

We need to be assured that Jesus wins! In the end, the battle between Jesus and the Antichrist is really not much of a fight. It is the breath of Jesus that overpowers the Antichrist. Fully showing the awesome power of Jesus.

“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” -2 Thessalonians 2:8

Daniel 6 “The Cost of Discipleship”

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Introduction

The evil one wants to use the Babylonian culture that we are immersed in every single moment of the day to lead us to compromise our faith so that we are no longer a threat to him. That is exactly what the devil was trying to do in Daniel 6

Read Passage: Daniel 6:1-24

1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared2 to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

We want to follow Jesus and stay comfortable at the same time

Let’s take a moment to recall an earlier story in the book of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to an idol. Their commitment to God on full display. Regardless of how others interpret this passage they did not know for certain that God was going to keep they from being burned to death. They went to the furnace because they could not fathom the idea of rejecting God and worshipping another a false god.

In chapter 7 we find the same kind of radical faith in the life of Daniel.

Think about this for a moment, Daniel would rather be eaten by lions than stop praying. Prayer is a primary characteristic of a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 16:24 we hear these words from Jesus, “24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

What might the cost of discipleship look like today?

We can quickly find the answers to that question in Daniel 7.

  1. Radical commitment to God. Daniel is an older man at this point in time. He might be nearly 90 years old. Daniel has been tempted with great power and money. He has also had his life threatened. In every situation Daniel is committed to God and walks according to the truths found in Scripture. Comfortable Christianity is not Christianity. Jesus is calling us to die to ourselves and to follow him. What is your faith costing you these days? What sacrifices are you making for King Jesus?
  2. Prayerful. The other leaders in the Medo-Persian Empire were obviously jealous of Daniel. Daniel was the favorite of the king and for good reason. Daniel was filled with the Holy Spirit and he always sought to be obedient to God. The other leaders are jealous of Daniel so they manipulate Darius so that they can move into positions of greater power. Daniel shows us just how committed he is to prayer in this story. Is there any wonder where his strength comes from? It comes from seeking God continually through prayer. I believe that God is calling all of us to become serious about prayer. If we hope to see great things happen in our church and the six counties all around us we simply must become Christians that are serious about prayer. We now meet 2 times every month for corporate prayer. Will you join us?
  3. Grateful. Verse 10 tells us that Daniel was grateful to God. Really? Grateful? As far as we know Daniel had never married and did not have kids. He is 90 years old and he is on the verge of being fed to the lions. What did Daniel have to be grateful for? Daniel was grateful to God because he based his life on the Word of God and not his circumstances. If we look to our circumstances for happiness we will be on a miserable roller-coaster. Daniel knew that God was sovereign and that even in the chaos of life that God was working out his plan for the good for those who love him. Is you life characterized by gratitude? Are we good or bad advertisement for God? When people look closely at our life do they see joy?
  4. Daniel had a theology of suffering. This is closely related to the last point. A theology of suffering means you know that suffering comes to the righteous and the unrighteous and that God can use it redemptively in our lives and for his glory. Without a solid, biblical understanding of suffering we will never find contentment or peace in this lifetime.
  5. Integrity and personal holiness. Daniel’s enemies were looking hard for areas of sin in his life and they could not find any! Think about that for a moment. Would we come out so clean if we were so closely scrutinized? Do we want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives? We will need to confess and repent of our sins before the Spirit will work mightily in our lives. Are you struggling with any secret sin or strongholds? Will you make the life-changing decision to repent of your sin?
  6. Live as salt and light. Our mission as a church is to make disciples who make disciples. Our vision is to be deeply rooted in the six counties all around us. The vision encourages us to see every day life as our mission field. Are we keeping our spiritual eyes open for the people that God is bringing into our lives?

How does this story point us to Jesus?

We already know that all of God’s Word points us to Jesus. We are incapable of living like a disciple without the life of Jesus in us.

Daniel was sent into a broken and wicked culture, so was Jesus.

Daniel lived with integrity, so did Jesus.

Daniel was unfairly accused, so was Jesus.

Daniel emerged from the lion’s den alive, Jesus emerged from the tomb alive.

Daniel is pointing us all to our daily, ongoing need for Jesus.

Daniel 5 “Remember Death”

Introduction: American culture does not like to think about death

One of the things that people are most uncomfortable talking about is something that we all experience, death.

  1. People used to die at home and everyone in their family had to deal with it. Now people die out of sight in a hospital.
  2. Medicine makes us think that we will live forever.
  3. At funerals we dress people up and put on makeup so that they actually look like they are still alive.

When I officiate a funeral I always warn people to take the opportunity to really think about the temporal nature of their life. The tendency is to drink some alcohol or run back to work. Try to forget about death.

Thinking about death now will give you the opportunity to live life fully awake and for the glory of God.

Read passage: Daniel 5

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son,6 Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed8 in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”9

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

We are all sinners

King Belshazzar was living it up. It was a lifestyle totally at odds with God. At this massive 1000 person party (some scholars think it was more like an orgy) Belshazzar was there getting drunk with his wives and his concubines. The king makes the terrible drunken decision to use the cups from the temple to drink his booze from. Instantly the hands appear and the writing goes up on the wall.

Get this. There is at this moment an army all round them. Yes, even while they are partying. This reminds us that our time just might be up at any time. Our days are short and they have been numbered.

Paul reminds us that we are all more like Belshazzar than we might want to admit. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23

Due to our sin there is judgment

God brought judgment against Belshazzar immediately. The writing on the wall was in Aramaic and the words were MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. Daniel tell us what it means. Belshazzar’s days are over, he was weighed and he did not measure up, his kingdom was going to be taken from him that very night.

The Medo-Persian army killed him that very night and took over his Empire.

Reminds me of Matthew 24:36-39. The people in Noah’s day were partying and living it up. When their time was up, it was up. How about the people in your life? Do they know the infinite beauty and power of Jesus Christ? Have you forgotten that their days are numbered? Are you coasting spiritually when you need to be living with urgency because we don’t know our final day?

Use your few days wisely

Right before a battle Maximus said this to his soldiers, “What we do in life echoes for all eternity.” Whether you like Gladiator or not the quote is legit. How you live now matters for all of eternity. Does your life reflect this?

Think about Jim Elliott and his family. Went to Ecuador to bring the gospel to the people who lived there. Maybe you know what happened. The people he came to share the good news with murdered him. Did Jim waste his life? The answer is no.

Two years later his wife went back. Let that thought sink in for a moment. She went back to the same people that murdered her husband. This time the gospel was received and many people were saved.

We need to seek after Christ for our own well being with all of our might. Talk to him, know him, love with, walk with him. Is Jesus the burning center of your every day life?

Paul had some words for death, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Paul did not fear death. The reason is that he knew Jesus Christ had overcome death and sin through the cross. This is one of the main reasons Paul was so bold for the gospel. If death had been defeated what in the world do we have to be afraid of? There should be nothing that hinders us from sharing the good news with the lost of this world.

We need to work so that others know Jesus personally. Do you have a heart for the lost? I mean, seriously. Our hearts so quickly become cold and indifferent to the fact that there are people all around us headed for hell. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in us so that we care about the lost sons and daughters of God.

4 Things God Is Impressing Upon My Heart (#2 Prayer)

The last video I shared with you was about asking God to give us a burning zeal to know Him and experience. I hope you will watch it. This video is about the fact that God is impressing on my heart that we need to pursue God through corporate prayer. An important distinction is also made between maintenance prayer and front line prayer.