Daniel 1 (Part 1) Introduction

This past Sunday I began preaching through the amazing book of Daniel. I plan on preaching through every chapter and verse of the book. As I started thinking and praying about preaching from this book I was amazed at how timely for the world we live in today. About fifty years ago Richard Niebuhr famously wrote in his book, Christ and Culture, about the different ways that Christians should respond to the culture in which they live. Many others have written on this same topic with a variety of opinions. I am loving Daniel because we learn so much by watching how a godly man (actually he was a teenager in the opening chapters) responds to a quickly changing culture (from Judah to Babylon!)

So my plan is to make a post here each week regarding every chapter of Daniel. Yes, I am even going to preach through the 70 weeks. Buckle up! Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas along the way.

INTRODUCTION

What in the world is going on in the USA?

We imagined 2021 might be a fresh start and things would get better. As Bono says, “nothing changes on New year’s Day.” Anger, polarization, cynicism are rampant. Sexual immorality has become status quo. There is gender confusion. We are post-Christian. Secularism feels like a growing religion. Moral absolutes seem old fashioned. What in the blazes is happening?

We are living in a BABYLONIAN CULTURE. How do we live as exiles, on a day-to-day basis, in a Babylonian culture?

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Author: Daniel, his name means “God is my judge”

Babylon: At the time of Daniel Babylon was the largest and most powerful city in the world. The Euphrates River ran through the city. Today the remains of the city of Babylon are in the city of Iraq. The primary god of the Babylonians was Marduk. To the honor of Marduk there was a 7 story ziggurat. A ziggurat is in the shape of a pyramid and this one went about 300 feet high.

The invasion of Judah by the Babylonians: Before the invasion of the Babylonians into Judah, in the year 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was invaded by the Assyrians. 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came in and conquered Jerusalem. Remember, after the rule of king Solomon the kingdom was divided into the north and south.

Why did the conquest of Jerusalem take place? In Isaiah 24:1-6 we read this:

1Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate,
and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.
2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the slave, so with his master;
as with the maid, so with her mistress;
as with the buyer, so with the seller;
as with the lender, so with the borrower;
as with the creditor, so with the debtor.
3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered;
for the Lord has spoken this word.

4 The earth mourns and withers;
the world languishes and withers;
the highest people of the earth languish.
5 The earth lies defiled
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.

6 Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,
and few men are left.

Outline: Chapters 1-6 are amazing stories that many children know. Chapters 1-7 are filled with visions and prophecies that many scholars have a hard time understanding and interpreting.

Languages used: 2:4-7:28 is in Aramaic, the rest is in Hebrew

Main points of Daniel 1) God is sovereign over all 2) We are called to live a holy life as exiles in a Babylonian culture

EVEN IN THE DARKEST OF TIMES, GOD IS IN CONTROL

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 

Things had gotten really bad for Israel. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been invaded by Assyria in 722 BC. Now the southern kingdom had been invaded by Babylon. It is not possible for a nation to sink any lower. The very God who had raised them up and chose them now is the One who is judging them for their lifestyles of rebellion.

God is the One who gave Jehoiakim into the hands of the Babylonians. In Jeremiah 21:5 we read, “I (God) myself will fight against you, with outstretched hand and strong arm, and in fury and great wrath.”

The invasions by other super powers into Israel was by the very hands of God. Not luck. Not bad fortune. God was judging the sins of his people people they had broken his covenant.

We are tempted today to believe that God is out of control. We will start believing these lies will begin to experience worry, stress, and anxiety. The greatest antidote to anxiety is an understanding and belief in the sovereignty of God.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. -Matthew 10:29

GOD WILL PLACE US IN DIFFICULT SITUATIONS TO USE US FOR HIS PURPOSES

3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family1 and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. -Daniel 1:3-4

Judah invaded, temple of God has been looted. The vessels of God were placed in the house of a pagan god (Marduk). The Babylonians think that by bringing Daniel and the other exiles to their city that they are winning. But God is very strategic. Daniel and his friends are going to be used by God in some incredible ways.

God has placed you right where you are at for a strategic kingdom purpose. You might not like your job. You might not like your neighborhood or your city. But you are not there by accident. God wants to use you for his holy purposes. How can God use you at home, school, in the workplace?

WE MUST STRIVE TO NOT CONFORM TO OUR BABYLONIAN CULTURE

8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. -Daniel 1:8

The Babylonians wanted to assimilate the Jews through their culture. Daniel and his friends were given new names. Names that were connected to the Babylonian gods. Daniel stood firm when it came to the food he was going to eat? Why? Could be for several reasons. Perhaps the food had been offered to idols. Maybe the food broke their dietary laws. What we do know is that this was a compromise that Daniel knew that he could not make.

This assimilation makes me think of modern day universities. Professors with degrees promoting philosophies that run contrary to the Word of God. All too often our young people are being assimilated into our Babylonian culture to the colleges that we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to.

In Scripture Babylon came to represent all culture that works against the will and design of God. In 1 Peter 5:13 we find, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.”

When Peter wrote this letter he was not anywhere near Babylon. What in the world does he mean? Peter was using Babylon as a metaphor for any culture that is totally at odds with the kingdom of God.

The world’s strategy is to reprogram you through a Babylonian culture.

Entertainment: Screens, the internet, social media is impacting us far more than we are aware of.

Wealth: Persecution does not seem to work against Christians. In fact, persecution seems to fan the flames of Christianity. Wealth, now that is a different story. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” -1 Timothy 6:16

Politics: We will be talking about this on a number of occasions throughout this series. Politics is making people angry, volatile, depressed, and at times so mad that they are literally willing to kill people because of their political beliefs. We are being discipled by the nightly news. The result is that we are bringing contempt upon Christianity by the watching world.

Sexual immorality: The only thing that is new about this is that sexual immorality is becoming more main stream. We allow things into our minds and homes that 20 years ago we never would have dreamed of.

How does this chapter point us to Jesus Christ?

I am of the strong opinion that every book of the Bible points us to Jesus Christ. In Luke 24 we read this, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Daniel was a prophet and his words, prophecies, and visions point us to Jesus Christ.

Think of the missionary likenesses between Daniel and Jesus. Left the safety of home, entered into am incredibly dangerous culture, all for the sake of God’s redemptive purposes.

We will stay in chapter 1 this coming Sunday. We will be looking specifically at some really bad ways Christians respond to culture, and some biblical ways as well.

Thoughts? Ideas? Love to hear from you!

Stop Being A Nice Christian

Nice/nīs/adjective 1.pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory. “We had a nice time.”

Yes, I know that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). And no, I am not advocating that being a jerk online, or in person, is the way to go. But I do want to suggest that God is calling each one of us to much more than merely being nice.

It seems to me that being nice can actually be motivated by a fear of man.

We are afraid to speak up, so we are nice.

We want to fit in, so we are nice.

We know our convictions are counter-cultural, so we are nice.

We want people to like us, so we are nice.

In John 15:18-19 we read these words from Jesus:

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Jesus knew that there would be times when we as Christians would be rejected and hated because of our beliefs in the Word of God.

Here is a sobering thought, we could live our whole life never creating waves and being nice and have zero gospel impact in the lives of the people all around us.

When was the last time that you clearly and boldly articulated the gospel to a person that needs to know Jesus? When was the last time you took a stand for the truth in the middle of a conversation that was about gender and sexuality? When was the last time you graciously confronted a brother or sister in Christ due to the fact that they were engaged in a sinful lifestyle (Galatians 6:1)?

Let’s not be ruled by the fear of man and be willing to speak truth to a world that desperately needs to hear it.

Is anti-bullying a trojan horse in our public schools?

This Sunday I am preparing to preach a sermon on transgenderism. Then on Jan 22 our Care Ministry is going to be hosting a movie about sexuality and transgenderism. You can learn more about the event HERE.

So, I have been doing a lot of reading and studying as of late. One book that is utterly fascinating is “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” by Abigail Shrier. Shrier has done an excellent job when it comes to research on this topic and it shows in her writing.

On page 71 she begins to talk about the connection between transgenderism and anti-bullying policies and laws. I wanted to learn more about this because the city in which I live has been having these types of discussions.

How did a radical view of gender become so common place?

How did educators and activists manage to mainstream a radical view of gender through the schools? Like so many successful sales, this one was facilitated by irresistible packaging: anti-bullying. Appealing to both a moral imperative and Gen X parents’ extreme preoccupation with the children’s physical safety, the pitch was hard to resist. All of this sexual orientation and gender identity was necessary-educators claimed-to prevent the battery, harassment, and acute psychological distress of LGBTQ children. p. 71

Shrier’s point is that the radical view of gender is taking place in our schools, at least partially, by anti-bullying initiatives.

Anti-bullying is great, but what else is happening here?

I have no doubt that legislators who pass anti-bullying laws and educators and school boards who implement gender identity and sexual orientation are sincerely concerned about the welfare of LGBTQ-identified students-as all decent human beings ought to be. But where a measure taken to fix a problem goes so far in excess of remedy, it becomes clear that simple remedy was not primarily what the fixer had in mind.

This is the sense in which so much under gender identity and sexual orientation, delivered with the tireless passion of priests, pretext for an ulterior motive. There is simply no good reasoning for insisting that students be made to imagine themselves as gay or transgender of pansexual. There is no very good reason to imagine they might be a boy in a girl’s body or a girl in a boy’s. There is no reason to teach students, in the words of one of the most highly regarded manuals, that the “expression of transgender identity , or any other form of gender expansive behavior, is a healthy, appropriate and typical aspect of human development.

Let’s pause for a moment. The above paragraph should concern you quite a bit. Is there a better way to promote anti-bullying in our schools? Yes.

All that’s required is the insistence that the students display decency, civility, and kindness to their classmates. Follow the Golden Rule. Stand up to bullies. And singling out of others for their differences-physical, religious, sexual, or otherwise-should be met with neither indulgence nor toleration. Bad behavior should be met with swift punishment. p. 72-73

The point that is being made is that any reasonable person hates the idea of bullying. And furthermore, that in the schools (and society in general) we should work to stop bullying. But, we don’t have to go so far as to “indoctrinate” young children in “gender ideology.” As parents, and concerned citizens, it is imperative that we stay alert to what is being taught and promoted in the schools where we are sending our children.

“Irreversible Damage” by Abigail Shrier is a must read.

Transgenderism

On Sunday, Jan 10th, I will be preaching about transgenderism.

Our Care Ministry is going to be hosting an event about the topic of transgenderism on Thursday, Jan 22, 6:30 pm.

Why are we doing this? We want to address this issue because we love people and we want them to know God’s Word and to experience it’s life transforming power.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 22, 2021

6:30-9:00PM

NEW LIFE CHURCH


In His Image is a critical and urgent message designed to equip the church to answer culturally controversial questions about gender and sexuality from a biblical perspective. Every church in America is filled with hurting people asking these tough questions: Can you be gay and be a Christian? What if someone genuinely feels trapped in the wrong body? Did God make me this way? Is change even possible?

This feature-length documentary presents much-needed truth with compassion and clarity through powerful personal testimonies, careful Bible teaching, and scientific evidence.

Please join us as we watch the movie together.

Following the movie, Denise Shick will join us via Zoom for a Q & A session.

8960cb_6d8e3bf9bd174e51a9c29e9541c73352_mv2.jpg

Denise Shick is the Founder and Director of Help 4 Families, a Christian ministry that compassionately reaches out to family members who are grappling with the emotional and spiritual issues encountered when a loved one identifies as transgender. She is the author of My Daddy’s Secret, When Hope Seems Lost, Understanding Gender Confusion—A Faith Based Perspective, and has published articles in The Federalist, American Thinker, The Daily Signal, and BarbWire.

The Vanity Of Running Programs

What God Has Been Doing In Me Lately

Over the past year or so I have had an increasing desire to see the Holy Spirit at work in a new and powerful way. I have been asking God to start with me. Little did I know that telling God that I want to know and experience him as much as I possibly can that it would mean…pain. Why did I fail to recognize this? Your guess is as good as mine. The pain came from confession and repentance of sin in my own life. I think back to Isaiah right before God sends him out on mission. First things first. Isaiah must see God in all of his holiness and glory and simultaneously be undone by his own sin. Then Isaiah is ready to do ministry. As I have been reflecting on spiritual renewal it seems the pattern over and over again in Scripture is that repentance is the starting point for God to be at work in a new way.

The beautiful thing about confession and repentance is that there is a renewed sense of intimacy and joy in Christ. The worship songs you hear are sweeter. You begin crying when you hear stories of how God is at work. There is a energy and determination that grows within you to see the sleepy awakened and the lost saved. There is no better place to be then just one step closer to Christ.

The Vanity Of Running Programs

As I have been praying for the Spirit to be at work in a new way in my life, family, church, and the community all around me I have become aware of the futility of simply running programs in the church. First you must understand that as a church we have talked about our mission (the Great Commission), we have brought in a consultant to help us work on our Vision (Deeply Rooted In Six Counties). We just wrapped up working with another consultant to help us develop a leadership pipeline. I definitely believe we need to plan and strategize, but it is not enough. Not nearly enough.

I am preaching through the Psalms of Ascent and this coming Sunday I am preaching on Psalm 127. Here is are the first two verses:

1 Unless the LORD builds the house,

those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the LORD watches over the city,

the watchman stays awake in vain.

2 It is in vain that you rise up early

and go late to rest,

eating the bread of anxious toil;

for he gives to his beloved asleep.

Perhaps another way of putting is that unless the LORD (YAHWEH) builds the house you are just wasting your time. Three times in this passage Solomon tells us that doing things in our own power and strength is nothing more than spinning our ministry wheels. Lots of smoke but no fire.

Maybe we are all asking the wrong questions. We ask things like, how did it go on Sunday? Who was there? How many were there? I’m thinking the better question is, how was the Spirit of God at work? What took place that only can be explained by the Holy Spirit being present and active?

These questions, kinda like repentance, lead to pain. Perhaps some of you in ministry know what I mean. It’s much easier to count numbers than it is to honestly evaluate if the Holy Spirit is really at work or not.

What Would Spiritual Renewal Look Like?

The elders and I are reading a wonderful book by Ray Ortlund Jr called “When God Comes To Church: A Biblical Model For Revival Today.” You can get the book for free HERE. It is excellent. It is biblical. It is dangerous. Why do I say dangerous? Because it is wrecking me for the status quo and giving me a stronger desire to see God at work in our church and community. Ortlund describes renewal like this:

When God rends the heavens and comes down on his people, a divine power achieves what human effort at its best fails to do. God’s people thirst for the ministry of the Word and receive it with tender meltings of the soul. The grip of the enslaving sin is broken. Reconciliation between believers is sought and granted. Spiritual beings, rather than material things, capture people’s hearts. A defensive, timid church is transformed into a confident army. Believers joyfully suffer for their lord. They treasure usefulness to God over career advancement. Communion with God is avidly enjoyed. Churches and Christian organizations reform their policies and procedures. People who had always been indifferent to the gospel now inquire anxiously. And this type of spiritual movement draws in not just the isolated straggler here and there but large numbers of people. A wave of divine grace washed over the church and spills out on the world. This is what happens when God comes down. And that is how we can pray for the church today.

My response to this? Holy Spirit come.

All Of This Leads To Prayer

I do have a longing to see spiritual renewal happen. But I am more convinced then ever that the only way it will happen is when God’s people pray. Fervent prayer. Church wide prayer. Persistent prayer. A kind of praying that heats up our heart first and then spreads to others. I must make prayer more of a priority in my life and it must become more of a priority in the life of my church.

Finding Joy As We Are Waiting And Praying For Renewal

There is a spiritual danger in all of this talk about spiritual renewal in our lives and in the church. How do we respond when we pray and we don’t see it happening? I have learned the hard way that if I am not careful all of this longing for God to work can lead to frustration and disappointment. “Why isn’t it working?” “God, what is wrong with everyone?”

For me the key is to keep watching and finding joy in the small evidences of God’s grace. I must find my joy in Christ, not necessarily whether or not my prayers for revival happen on my time table. I must patiently, persistently continue to pray for God to work in a new way and still love God and others as I live in the in-between.

The Reality of Hell

Here is a sermon I recently preached about the reality of hell. It is a counter-intuitive thing, this sermon has been one of the most requested sermons that I have preached in quite some time. I’m thinking the reason for that is that this is a topic that is not preached about much these days. To fast forward to the sermon you can go to 24:45.

“Not called!’ did you say? ‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face — whose mercy you have professed to obey — and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.” -William Booth

What is Progressive Christianity?

Perhaps you have had conversations with people and as you talked about Christianity their beliefs began to appear quite different from what you grew up believing. Topics such as sexuality, gender, authority of Scripture, reality of heaven and hell, etc.

But you had a hard time figuring out where their beliefs were coming from. You were wondering why their faith was so different from the orthodox faith you have held onto for years. In our culture this is going to happen more and more. And the book I am introducing here is a great place to begin to understand what is going on.

I want to strongly encourage you to buy and read the book, “Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity” by Alisa Childers.

In the book Alisa does a good job of communicating what progressive Christianity is and why we so urgently need to know about it.

What are the main beliefs of progressive Christianity?

  1. They don’t see the Bible as inspired or authoritative for our life. “Make no mistake, just like historic Christians, progressives find Scripture compelling. The difference is that, rather than viewing it as the authoritative Word from God to people, they see the Bible as an antiquated library of books that we can examine like ancient relics. In their view, the Bible is our spiritual ancestors’ best attempts to understand God in their own cultures, using whatever knowledge they had at the time. Because humans now have a higher and wiser view of God, progressives believe we can now read the Bible the way it is meant to be read-not as the authoritative Word of God, but as our predecessors’ spiritual journal.” p. 155
  2. They don’t believe in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. “However, with their denial of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, many progressive Christians take it one step further: Jesus is no longer our Savior but an example of how we can do good works in the world and forgive others. That has become the highest virtue, and all other truth claims are judged by it. Thus the progressive gospel is Jesus + social justice.” p. 105
  3. Hell and judgment have been rejected. “With it’s view of the Old Testament God as petty and spiteful, it’s denial of God’s wrath and hell, and its discomfort with the blood atonement of Jesus, progressive Christianity looks a bit like warmed over Marcionism.” p. 112
  4. They believe in universalism. “…it’s simply the belief that all human beings (and in some cases, even fallen angels) will be saved and spend eternity with God. Some in the progressive Christian paradigm deny the idea that sin separates us from God altogether, rendering any need for a meaningful “salvation” unnecessary.” p. 186

These are not all the progressive beliefs that are mentioned in Alisa’s excellent book. Instead, these are the beliefs that she mentioned that stand out to me. The book also does a wonderful job of carefully explaining how these progressive beliefs are wrong and what the Word of God actually teaches. Again, I would encourage you to buy and read the book.

“As I’ve learned, progressive Christianity is not simply a shift in the Christian view of social issues. It’s not simply permission to embrace the messiness and authenticity in Christian life. It’s not simply a response to doubt, legalism, abuse, or hypocrisy. It’s an entirely different religion-with another Jesus-and another gospel.” p. 76