Disciples of the Kingdom and Refugees

I’ve waited to openly discuss this until some of the initial reactions have died down, but these are some running thoughts and similar to ones I had a couple years ago when stuff blew up on social media about the issue of refugees and the US. I know that the “fight” isn’t over for many, at least on the political side.

It may disappoint you that I’m not going to take a position here on the travel ban or the executive order on refugees or the Trump administration. I’ve made it clear I didn’t vote for Trump, but the reality is this: Trump is rolling back to the same number of refugees that Obama allowed for the first six years of his administration, and the travel bans are not new for Democrats or Republicans to do from time to time. It is legal, however right or wrong it may be.

The question I will be answering today is this: if I feel a deep conviction and passion from God about the morality of helping refugees, what should I do? Or what should we do? I’m going to give one option that hasn’t been discussed very often but is more biblical and Christ-like than much of the current conversation.

A couple thoughts before I give my suggestion.

It is interesting how many liberal/progressives become interested in doing what the Bible says when they can use it to beat conservatives over the head with it. So much of it is out of context and hyper selective, that it is almost impossible to take seriously. For example, I saw a post from someone on the liberal side where they quoted from Leviticus about taking care of the foreigner, etc. Setting aside the contextual problems, should we do all that Leviticus now says about how we treat people? I would suspect that person would not support such a broad stroke when it comes to other laws and rules in Leviticus.

Perhaps some people respond well to being called names, lectured and beat about the head with the Bible, marginalized and demonized for genuinely held beliefs, but it doesn’t seem to be working from my perspective. Since I’ve heard how many people dislike the “judgment” and “Bible-thumping” that they claim comes from one side, I find it fascinating how quickly it is resorted to in arguments from the same people. One should not be surprised when that approach doesn’t work.

It is possible I’m giving some liberal/progressives more credit than they deserve. It may not be designed to work, to bring people to spiritual truth, to unify under principles of the Kingdom of God, to follow the truths of the Bible. For some it may simply be another weapon to attack a human enemy with and further divide, a way to express anger and vitriol, which is not the purpose of the Bible, in any debate.

For many, I know they genuinely believe in the Kingdom. They believe in following the principles of the Bible. They believe that Jesus is Lord and desire to follow him with all of their heart. And from that place, their hearts of compassion cry out to help the least of these, those who are hurting and alone, and they apply that heart to refugees. I know they exist. Many of them.

If you are one of those I just described, the following suggestion is for you. It is radical and will only make sense to those of that ilk. The rest can stop reading and dismiss.

What if we really were like Christ? What if we truly took the ideas of the Good Samaritan, and the Gospel of the Kingdom, and we applied them to this situation?

In our cultural and political context, what could we do that would unify and be an amazing testimony to others in our country, and even the world, about the power of the Spirit of God and the Church? What if we were to “be like Jesus”?

America is still taking in 50,000 refugees. We are talking about another 20,000, although this solution could even accept more than that.

Address this letter to President Trump, at the White House. Here is the address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500.

You would copy, paste, and fill in the blanks with your own information.

President Trump,

My name is _____________. I am writing to you because I am very passionate about the Christian obligation to help those in need, those that desperately need our help. I appreciate that our country is still helping 50,000 refugees, but I feel that we could do more. So much more. I believe we can give hope and redemption to many if we would simply reach out. 

I disagree with your recent actions on this issue and your reasons for it, and I pray that you will find wisdom and a change of heart. 

Because of my convictions that this is a dire need and an international crisis, I ask that you allow those of us who are willing to take personal responsibility for refugees to come into our country. I ask that you allow each as individuals the freedom to be compassionate with our personal lives and finances to help those in such desperate circumstances. I am willing to make the personal sacrifices to fulfill my own convictions.

I will agree to be legally and financially responsible for the following:

  1. Food, clothing, and shelter for up to ________ refugees.
  2. Education, health care, and job training where applicable.
  3. If the refugees under my care commit any crimes, I will pay their fines or serve their punishment.

I am willing to sign legal papers documenting these commitments. 

Mr. President, I believe you – and the world – will see the power of compassion and the heart of God as these families find hope and transformation.

My contact information (phone, email, and address): ____________________.

Thank you and God bless you,

_____________________________

Now, some of you just said “that’s ridiculous” or “that’s impossible.”

“With man this is impossible; with God, all things are possible.” – Jesus.

As a conservative estimate, there are 300,000 churches in America. 300,000. We would only need 20,000 churches to take legal and financial responsibility for one refugee to get back to Obama’s numbers including the Syrian people, less if a church takes a family. That’s, at most, 7% of the churches in America taking responsibility as an organization or supporting an individual or family in their congregation with this conviction.

Some more numbers – at least 1,200 churches in America are “megachurches” with more than 2,000 people attending every week. They could each take a family of four and cover more than a fourth of the number of refugees needed.

Of course, I’m being stingy with some numbers. Why would only 7% of the churches in America take on the responsibility of a refugee? Surely more than half support more care to the foreigner and the refugee. That’s 150k churches.

Can you imagine the story if the White House got 20k letters from people willing to do this radical thing? How about 50k? How about 150K? Could we really take care of 150k more refugees in America?

If the Church would decide to be the Church, then yes, we could. We would be Jesus’ hands and feet in a more real and relational way that would truly transform people.

Even if Trump did nothing, what a story and testimony it would make. I can only imagine how heaven would sing.

Or we could continue to sue one another and beat each other over the head with the Bible. Maybe that will work one day.

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 9 – God is Looking for Daniels Tdoay

The rest of the book of Daniel, the final 6 chapters, are about visions Daniel has about kings and kingdoms. I wanted to highlight the exchange in Daniel 9 where Daniel prays for his people. It is instructive to our role in our current culture and world.

Daniel records these visions and puts them in context, giving us empire and king as a reference for when this happened, and additionally, if we knew the time in which he wrote it, a further understanding of its importance.

As the Persians and Medes conquer Babylon, and in the first year of Darius I, Daniel begins to fast and pray to God for the Jews after reading the writings of the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah had written about how Jerusalem would lie “desolate” for 70 years but God would bring the Jews back. The time was coming soon, and now the empire was under new management. Would this be fulfilled soon?

I want to note that Daniel was reading the modern prophets, the people who heard from God in his day. He was a student of the scripture and open to seeing what God was doing today, here, now, through those scriptures. I hope we do the same. We can.

Now, Daniel’s response could have easily been to just wait it out and see. Why not? He had a good position in the empire, he was taken care of, safe. God had protected him time and again. Just wait and see. God will do what he’s going to do.

But that’s not Daniel’s response. After seeing God’s promise through Jeremiah that there would be a Jewish return to Jerusalem, Daniel enters into prayer and fasting, calling on God to do what is in His heart. He uses this time to align his desires with the will of God.

He humbles himself by wearing sackcloth and putting ashes on his body, cultural signs that he was in mourning and humble. And he prays to God.

Daniel’s prayer is fascinating, but the most important part for us to understand is that he identifies with the people of God that had been in exile for their sin. Even though the scripture never says that Daniel sinned, in fact uses him as this righteous model time and again, and even though Daniel held a prominent position in the new Persian empire, Daniel chooses to lump himself in with the sinful people that need forgiveness and deliverance.

As Christians and people in the Kingdom of God, is this our response? When we see the redemption God has planned for us and the people of God, do we humble ourselves? Do we fast and pray for God’s redemption, plead with him desperately, knowing that only God can accomplish his will? Do we identify with those that sin, those that need redemption, even though we have been redeemed? Do we cry out on their behalf?

Or do we look at those that sin and think they deserve their misery or blindness? Do we have pride as if we deserve our redemption? Do we criticize God and his plan (“how can a God of love exile his people for 70 years”)? Or do we simply go about our own lives and become immersed in the cares of life that perish with the using?

God desires a people like the former, a people like Daniel.  That’s what God is looking for, a people who understand the power of the Kingdom and the heart of God for redemption, a people who are willing to be and live humble, a people willing to sacrifice time and effort in prayer and fasting, a people willing to align themselves with the heart of God rather than a political or social agenda.

As we move forward in chapter 10, Daniel continues to war in prayer, to the point that the angel says Daniel’s prayers helped Gabriel overcome the Prince of Persia.

Daniel didn’t quit, either.

In conclusion, let’s remember that it was under the Persian kings that Ezra and Nehemiah went back to Jerusalem and took Jews with them to rebuild the worship in the Temple and the walls around the city. Daniel’s prayers had impact. Let’s remember Daniel as we seek to move more people in our nation and culture to redemption and the wonderful realm of the Kingdom of God.

Peace.

 

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 8 – One Way to Shut Them Up

Getting back to the chronology in the story of Daniel, after Belshazzar messed up and lost the empire of Babylon, Persia came in and took over. We pick up with Darius, an important historical figure, and how he organized his empire into 120 provinces and placed governors over them. Daniel was one of those governors.

Important to note that Daniel was a leader in the Babylon Empire and then transfers over to the Persians. Was his prophecy over Belshazzar famous enough that Darius trusted him? Some may have seen it as political maneuvering – Persia was growing and gaining power during the end of the Babylonian rule. This is speculation, but Daniel had enough integrity and wisdom to be a leader among a conquered people (Jews), a conquering Empire (Babylon), and the Empire that conquered Babylon (Persia).

Daniel proved himself among the other governors as an excellent leader, to the point that Darius was thinking of putting him over the whole Empire, like a Joseph in Egypt situation.

The other governors wouldn’t have it, obviously. Why would this Jew get to take over the top spot? The problem was this – they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. Nothing. The only way they could get him was through his faithfulness to his God.

Jealousy and pride blind people, especially if their heart is rebellious to the truth. A reasonable and intelligent person would look at the evidence – a man who was full of integrity and wisdom, to the point that he was going to be given the top position in the Empire, and did nothing wrong, and radically faithful to his god – and maybe put those together. Possibly, there was a benefit to being radically faithful to Jehovah, even through difficult times. Maybe we should follow this God, as well?

Nah. Let’s take him out. Obviously the solution.

So they go to Darius and manipulate him into signing a law that made prayer to any other god punishable by death. Not realizing their intent to destroy Daniel, Darius signs it.

A quick point about Persian law – it could not be undone. Once a law was signed, it had to be acted upon. Even the King could not undo it. This was the issue in Esther with Artaxerxes and what became the Jewish celebration of Purim.

As an aside, the Old Testament points this out several times, and it is significant in our understanding of why Jesus had to die on the cross and rise again. God gave a law in the Garden that those who ate of the tree would die, and we are all still under that consequence and law. As the New Testament and Paul point out, a change of covenant and law had to take place in order for us to have eternal life. As in Esther, a new law had to be written and established to counteract the previous law. We had to die to sin and be reborn alive in Christ. The Old Law has its effect but the New Law and covenant overwhelms it. The death and resurrection of Christ, therefore, was a legal exchange unto a new eternal realm. There’s lots more to say about that … but I’ll leave it there …

In Daniel’s case, we have to realize that the attack upon those faithful to God still exists. It is a spiritual thing but plays out in political and social situations. Because people are rebellious against the true God, they act out their rebellion in violence and persecution of those faithful to Him. Christians are the #1 persecuted group in the world (not America, but the world … although the roots of that persecution have been laid here, as well). More Christians were martyred in the last century than all the centuries combined. The kingdoms of this world are violently opposed to the Heavenly One that is over them all and take it out on the Heavenly ambassadors.

Jesus spoke clearly about how sharing truth with the “dogs” (the spiritually unclean) is dangerous because they will react violently and attack you personally.

Often, when people reject us and choose to lie and think the worst of us, it has nothing to do with anything we’ve done but more to do with the evil in the hearts of others.

Please don’t take my statements to mean that Christians are perfect. If we have wronged anyone, we should take responsibility and ask forgiveness and take the consequences. But that doesn’t discount the truth of what I’m getting at.

There are consequences for following hard after God. There are benefits, to be sure, eternal and immediate all at once. But one of the consequences is a world that will hate us.

Modern Christians are uncomfortable with this. Jesus also said clearly that the world will hate you because it hated him. This idea that the people of the world should love us and think well of us because we’re so nice is unbiblical. Some will see our love as love and respect us and listen to the truth. But if someone reacts violently and is offended, it doesn’t naturally mean we did anything wrong. In fact, we may have done something very right.

And what we should not do is to stop speaking truth and declaring the love of the Father because people may be offended. I’m telling you THEY WILL BE. It’s a promise. Seek God alone for how we should speak and act and the wisdom in how and where, but don’t allow the world to manipulate us to cease spreading the gospel with their overactive ideas of offense. God knows better how to love than they do.

Daniel didn’t stop praying. He read the law. He knew the consequences. He prayed and remained faithful anyway.

He didn’t fight for his rights. He didn’t seek revenge on those that were against him. He didn’t try to change the law. He took the consequences.

Because he knew he reported to a greater King.

Too often we try to combat the worldly with worldly means. We belong to a more powerful Kingdom than any on earth. We don’t need the laws of this world to protect us or allow us to declare the awesomeness of God. We don’t need to shut people up when they attack us. God is capable of doing that, and he will see that they reap what they sow. Daniel knew this.

Don’t you think that Daniel, who had the King’s ear, had enough influence to fight back with politics and manipulation and the power of the Empire?

“We don’t wrestle with flesh and blood but principalities and powers in the spiritual realm.”

Daniel fought back by remaining faithful, by refusing to stop his radical faithfulness to God, by resting in the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven God had revealed to him. He knew the rest would work out in his favor, one way or the other. He had evidence of it from his three friends and a fiery furnace years before and in his own life. He saw how others, the kings of Israel and Judah and kings of Babylon, sinned and fell into judgment. He knew people reap what they sow.

He trusted all of that instead of responding in kind.

And when he was thrown to the lions, God shut their mouths. And in the morning, Darius was happy to see Daniel alive. And the King threw those attackers and liars and cowards to the lions.

They were torn to pieces before they hit the ground.

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 7 – What Daniel meant to Christmas

When we think of Christmas, we don’t think of Daniel. We think of Micah and Isaiah, but not Daniel.

We should.

Daniel was the greatest figure in Jewish leadership until the birth of Christ; there were others, of course, like Ezra and Nehemiah and different prophets like Ezekiel. Daniel spoke clearly about a coming Kingdom and what that would mean not only to Jews, but to the world.

First of all, Daniel revealed the reality that God’s people did not need to be physically in charge for the Kingdom to be in complete control. Neither did the people of God need to be perfect. The Jews were under judgment from God and subjected to political oppression, and yet the whole of Daniel declares that it doesn’t matter. God is real. There is a Kingdom. And God doesn’t need one of his people to be on the throne for him to redeem and influence the world.

In other words, the fact that they were currently under an oppressive rule and in a foreign land did not make the Kingdom of God less real.

This was an important lesson for the Jews, and they did not fully learn it. When Jesus begins to preach the Kingdom, the Jews were adept at political maneuvering and the experts were experts at looking for a physical throne and a Messiah to take that earthly kingdom back to its height. Jesus had a different calling, a higher one, that didn’t include placing the world under one earthly throne but each individual nation under a heavenly one.

Their rejection of Jesus was not because he wasn’t big enough but because God’s plan was too big for them.

Second, Daniel clearly describes the time frame of when this Kingdom would come. Other prophets, like Isaiah, detail the Messiah himself and connect him to that final Kingdom. Through the dream of the statue given to Nebuchadnezzar and other prophetic numbers, the time of Christ wast the time for this new Kingdom.

And the fact that Jesus’ proclamation was “repent, for the Kingdom of God is here,” would have placed Daniel at the forefront in their minds. They knew history and the stories of the exile – were reminded of their failures daily by their low status in the most powerful Empire in the world at the time, the Romans. Daniel was not too far from their thinking.

While prophetic numbers can be manipulated and confusing from the Bible, combined with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Jesus wasn’t the only Messianic figure walking around during that time.

He was simply the only one that died and rose again.

Third, the Wise Men. “Wise Men from the East.” Daniel was educated to be a leader in the Babylonian Empire and served as such. With Nebuchadnezzar and his son, Belshazzar, we get continued references to the “wise men” of the Empire that could not interpret or understand these visions and dreams while Daniel could. Three of Daniel’s friends, also educated as he was, refused to bow to a big golden statue. These four were counted among the “wise men” of Babylon and then Persia.

This was no small thing. These were vast Empires with treasures of knowledge available to them. Babylon and especially Persia were well known for their high culture and education. Daniel was a leader and governor of both great Empires.

How would these men from the East have such detailed information on the Messiah and astrology? Perhaps because Daniel, as a governor in Persia, would have had such a huge influence? Seems more than plausible.

Wise Men traveled from the East – symbolizing these two Gentile Empires and Daniel and his friends – and bowed down to a baby.

Bowing was a big thing. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wouldn’t bow to a statue under threat of death. When angels show up in the scripture and people bow to them, the angels say, “Whoa. Get up. I’m not the one you bow to.”

The fact that they bowed to baby Jesus was a huge statement. He was not a normal man. He was God.

Those are the main points, but there’s a lot there. Read through Daniel again and think about the Christmas story, about the declaration of the angels of the King being born and the world being blessed, about the Wise Men from the East and their unashamed worship of this little baby, about how Daniel had nothing to fear from any other kingdom on earth because of the Kingdom of God. It’s fascinating and encouraging.

Merry Christmas.

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 6 – God’s Got Your Back

Eventually, Nebuchadnezzar dies and his son, Belshazzar becomes king of Babylon.

We pass things on to our children, whether we mean to or not. While we think of earthly possessions as things we pass down, we also pass down things like character and moral failings.

The religious term for this is family sin, which is debatable under the New Covenant, by the way – Christ breaks all chains. But it doesn’t take a spiritual mystic to see the reality of how sons seek to be like their fathers. As people, we take our cues from the models in our lives, for good or ill, and sons seek to emulate their fathers in a number of ways. This can be conscious or not.

Our family relationships are foundations that we must understand as we grow. We are responsible for our own choices, but the influence can be overwhelming. To be clear, there is healing in the power of Christ and the love of the Father in heaven to set us free from those earthly expectations and reconnect us to the heavenly design.

Belshazzar received Babylon, but he also seems to have mimicked his fathers penchant for pride and boasting.

The new king decides to have a feast. Nothing wrong with a party, but he invites a thousand of the lords of Babylon. A thousand lords … which we can assume included their own retinues, as well, wives and families and servants and such, not to mention his own wives and concubines. A feast for three to five thousand wealthy people? What a party.

Belshazzar gets a little drunk on wine. It’s a party, after all. And then he makes his mistake. He gets people to bring in the vessels of gold and silver from the Temple in Jerusalem. Why? So the wealthy rulers of Babylon can drink wine from them.

Now, it may not seem like a big deal to us today, but God had instructed the Israelites to keep those things clean and holy, for his use alone. Part of the reason Israel was given over to a foreign nation was that they didn’t keep up proper worship and showed off the riches of the Temple to Babylon in the first place (by King Hezekiah).

Therefore, this was a huge insult, and it was intended to be one. Showing Babylon’s superiority over those pesky Jews.

God was not amused.

We should realize that the Jews were not perfect. Far from it. They had done horrible and detestable things. God had sent prophet after prophet that they had either ignored or persecuted or even killed. All to get them to turn and repent, and they had not.

But they were still his people. And as we see in Esther and Ezra and Nehemiah, he takes care of his people even while they were under oppression and punishment.

If you don’t know the rest of the story, God interrupts the feast and writes a message on the wall that scares the crap out of everyone, especially since they don’t know what the message means. Belshazzar offers untold riches to any of his “wise men” that could interpret the message, but they couldn’t. The Queen remembers this guy, Daniel, who was like a god with his wisdom, and so Daniel – after refusing money and wealth – shows up and gives the interpretation of the message:

“Your father had to be taught to humble himself before God. But you didn’t learn the lesson. And you should have learned.

“Your days are numbered, as are the days of Babylon.” In other words, you really messed up.

The king died that night. Darius and the Syrian Empire took over from there.

Christians aren’t perfect. We are far from it. But we are his children, even moreso than Israel was, born of God in the Spirit. We are his Bride. And no matter how imperfect we are and under conviction from God in what we should be doing, God still takes care of us and protects us.

Two things to take from this. First, it is dangerous for individuals or authorities or governments to mock, insult, or oppress Christians. I’m not defending every action by anyone who claims to be a Christian, but as the Apostle Paul says, we have to remember they are not our servants but God’s. And God is able to deal with his people one way or another. If a government wants to survive, it must give freedom to those with convictions from God, whether they agree with them or not.

I’m not suggesting some sort of “Christian” government or a theocracy. That already exists in the Kingdom of God. And I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t be held accountable to the law. However, a government invites danger and judgment when it instead marginalizes or oppresses the convictions of those born of God, even when it makes it “law.”

Not to mention, the people of God tend to grow closer to Him and stronger when forced to resist unjust law and oppression of the Gospel of God. No nation has been able to kill the Bible or Christianity in two thousand years. Seems prideful to think one can now.

Second, Christians do not have to defend themselves. God is big enough to defend us. Period. Daniel didn’t have to organize a radical protest in the streets with signs or burn down shops and cars to make the point this was a horrible thing to God. He didn’t have to make snarky memes and put them on FB.

God took care of it. The Kingdom is strong enough.

Daniel, however, did speak truth and address the king of Babylon and the judgment that God declared.

Of course we should get involved in the public sphere to use our influence for better communities as much as is possible. But that’s not our primary mission.

Our mission is to declare the Gospel. To the world, that is offensive enough. And the power of God is behind that mission. He may not fight for us to keep more or less of our taxes or get the president we want, but he will always show up for those willing to give their life for the Gospel. Always.

And if God is for us, no one can be against us.

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 4 – We Will Not Bow

no-salute-hitlerNow Nebuchadnezzar has seen the amazing truth that God’s Kingdom rules over all. He bows before Daniel after the revelation and interpretation of his dream, and he declares that Daniel’s God is the true God. And he promotes Daniel and his three Jewish friends to leadership positions in the Empire.

So the King of Babylon humbles himself and learns how to worship that true God, right?

Interestingly enough, Nebuchadnezzar has this dream that tortures and troubles him, and sees this huge statue destroyed, and his response … is to build an enormous golden statue of himself and make everyone bow down to it.

This thing was impressive. It was ninety feet tall, as tall as a football field is long, and made of gold. It spoke of the King’s power and wealth. Nebuchadnezzar set it on a plain so there would be room to worship it. He ordered his top officials to come to the field and bow to it.

As a quick thought … don’t assume because a leader who seeks power says some things that sound spiritual that their hearts have changed. Many times, in our search for qualified leadership, we can be swayed by words when actions will reveal the heart. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Power over others is seductive and addictive, more than any other vice we can imagine. It does not mean power WILL corrupt, but it has great power to do so and we must be careful not to be manipulated by the words of politicians and those that seek it.

Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego were given power. Because of their testimony to God, they were given leadership positions. As a condition of that power, they had to bow to Nebuchadnezzar.

I’ve said it before, but if anyone had a reason to buy in to Babylon it was Daniel and his friends. God had judged and seemingly forgotten his “chosen people,” and they had been given the greatest luxuries and resources of this vast empire. If they simply went with what they could see, they would have chosen Babylon. No one outside of crazy religious people would have blamed them for bowing to maintain their position and, ultimately, their life.

But they didn’t.

Under threat of death from a fiery furnace, they refused to bow.

Nebuchadnezzar was upset. Enraged.

Their logic, and Daniel’s, was interesting. They were willing to serve Nebuchadnezzar but not worship him. There’s a difference.

As spiritual people who live in earthly nations, we must see this difference. We must recognize the difference between serving earthly leaders for peace and good … and bowing to them. Citizens of the Kingdom bow to no one, which WILL put is in conflict with the governments of this world. To what degree depends upon how much the worldly government demands our worship.

This does not mean that we seek to make the government a spiritual entity. That is how governments and leaders seek our worship, to cross that line from a humble and temporary institution to something more than its intended role. Those of the Kingdom must remind government of its limitations and the church of its eternal calling. It might enrage the government, but that is part of our call in the world.

Even if it costs our life. For Shadrach, Meschach, Abed-Nego, they know that God is able to deliver them, but “Even if he doesn’t, we WILL NOT BOW.”

We know the story. God does deliver them, giving testimony to their stand for truth and the Kingdom – you know, after a dream of its power and everything – by standing in the midst with them. The King says, “I see a fourth one in there, like a god.” An angel, or God himself or Jesus, was standing there with them. They escape unscathed.

Nebuchadnezzar “repents” and promotes them again.

Citizens of the Kingdom must realize that it is love to know this difference, to remember that we have a duty and a calling to not bow to earthly nations or leaders. We cannot lead people to truth by participating in a lie.

And it is for their good that we refuse to bow to them. It is love to tell the world that there is only one Person worthy of our worship, and that is the only true God. Our refusal to bow will seem arrogant to those that seek power, but it is the ultimate humility to worship the only One that is Worthy. Despite how offended others may be, our testimony of God’s sovereignty is serving them for their own good and for peace but with an eternal perspective from an eternal Kingdom.

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 3 – The Dream of the Kingdom

baby-jesusSo before I begin on this next part of the series, let me say that while I was correct that it has been an historic election, I was wrong in my prediction about the ultimate result. I agreed that there were Trump supporters the pollsters didn’t and couldn’t measure for various reasons, but I did not think it would have made that big of an impact.

The main point of the post, however, is still valid. In terms of the Kingdom of God, the election did not matter. Neither Trump nor Hillary can help, hurt, or hinder the Kingdom of God. And this week’s blog is the prime example of that.

So far, I’ve talked about the type of character and faithfulness that it takes to be God’s representative in a situation. If anyone had reason to betray their faith or believe God had betrayed them, it was Daniel and his three friends. Yet they did not. Standing for truth and God will always be counter cultural, to some degree, no matter how some paint or white wash their political views. We see that clearly with Daniel.

So what was the dream? Many have studied this dream, so I will simply summarize it for us and then make some points.

God told Daniel Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and it was this:

“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” – from Daniel 2

This was a powerful dream full of symbolism and meaning. Just as God gave Daniel the dream, he gave the interpretation. The statue represented kingdoms, empires. And Babylon was the first.

Now, to understand this imagery, we have to delve into a little language and cultural context. For the time, and Jews in particular, the “head” of something was the source of it. Yes, leadership and authority was involved, but that derived from an idea of the SOURCE of something. Biblical thinking was that the SOURCE of something was important, eternally important, even, and determined the end of it. Source determined end. To change the end, we must change the source.

There’s a lot to cover there, but as reference in the New Testament, when Paul talks about Jesus being the HEAD of the church or man being the HEAD of woman, he is talking about SOURCE, where it originated from. We could also reference the Old Testament ideas of building an altar from uncut stones, cut without human hands. Anything else was unworthy for sacrifice.

So Babylon is the source of worldly empires and kingdoms. We could argue the history of that, given Egypt and China and other powerful nations that were before or contemporary to Babylon. But Babylon was different, spiritually. It supplanted the Jewish nation as the power in that region, and if we follow that symbolism, then the rest of the empires after Babylon follow incredibly into place and the prophecy is amazingly accurate.

But the point of the dream is not the details of the empires, however. The point of the dream is that there is this other Kingdom that comes in (a stone uncut by human hands) and breaks into the scene after these other have had their time. This Kingdom’s impact is so great that all the others, despite the material which with they are made, are ground to dust by this Heavenly Kingdom and forgotten. It’s like they didn’t exist at all. Ever.

We could argue the details here, but we won’t. The message is simple. There is a Kingdom that is so powerful and transcendent that no other empire or nation can resist it. And this is because of the source of that Kingdom.

The source of the Kingdom is heaven, eternal, from God and the Spirit. As I’ve said before and will say again – temporal has no power over the eternal, the earth has no power over the heavenly, and man cannot stop God.

I love my country. I love America. I hope for the best. But it cannot compare or compete with the Kingdom of God. One day America will be a distant memory, or forgotten entirely. The Kingdom of God is all that will remain.

As we get into Christmas, this is what the birth of Jesus announced to the Jews who were looking and paying attention: the only Kingdom that will remain has come. The King Himself is here.

They were thinking of Daniel.

And in a world full of corruption and oppression and violence and division, this was great news. The best news ever, actually.

In a country that is full of violence and division and misinformation and political idolatry, it still is.

Peace.

 

The US Election, Daniel, and the Kingdom of God

This has been, and will continue to be, an historic election. There have been other divisive elections in our country, none more so than 1860, but the level of known corruption of one candidate compared with the lack of political experience and acumen in the other is fascinating to me, as a history major and an American. Add in the transparent failings of the media at large and the abundance of social media and leaking of digital information … there’s never been anything like it.

Fascinating in its tragedy, for sure.

But there is a spiritual side of this that is true. Not convenient, but true.

First, on the election. My prediction is that Hillary Clinton will win. Support for Trump is deceptive due to the bullying by the media and some liberals in our country, so that prediction may be off. But I say she will win because she operates in the extreme “by any means necessary” philosophy, with the goal being gaining power for herself. She has rigged one election that we have proof of, and major news outlets and our justice system refuse to hold people accountable for fair elections. Our president, who once demonized her but now supports her, even told illegal immigrants not to worry. Just go out and vote.

They are Marxists and communists in their philosophy and beliefs, so this is consistent with those inhuman beliefs.

Our justice system as a whole has decided she’s above the law, despite clear evidence she has proven unfit and immoral and corrupt.

I believe that Hillary Clinton could sacrifice kittens to Voldemort on live TV in one hand and bash in the heads of little Hatian children in the other, all while laughing with glee, and people would say, “At least she’s not Trump!” Others would praise her for being so progressive.

As an aside, let me say I have the utmost respect for those few and rare liberals who are calling her out, strong women and others like Jill Stein. I may disagree with their political positions but I honor their intellectual integrity.

Trump has his issues, so much so that it is valid whether a Christian can sensibly vote for him, but for every negative about Trump, factual or imagined, Hillary is ten times worse in reality.

She is anti-religious liberty, anti-woman, anti-children, anti-democracy and will of the people, immoral, racist, and anti-feminist. All of this by her own words in her own emails.

And she will probably be president by Tuesday night.

Since the media colludes with her and the justice system refuses to hold her accountable and voters participate in the tribal division and other parties can’t find a candidate to truly unify us … America will get the president it deserves.

I do not say it with condemnation  or glee. That is tragic. It breaks my heart. I relate to the prophets of the Old Testament more than ever.

But I am not afraid.

I am not afraid because of Daniel.

I’ve been writing some blog articles on the book of Daniel and his story. The main point of those articles (and as I continue to write them) is that despite the oppressive government of Babylon and Persia, the Kingdom of God was still in control.

Story after story illustrates this. Daniel and his resistance to the luxury of the new nation. Daniel interpreting the dream through the power of God that showed the supremacy of the Kingdom of God. Three men refusing to bow to an idol and surviving a fiery furnace. Daniel and the lion’s den. All of it shows us that the power of the Kingdom does not rely upon the cooperation of the worldly government.

I am not afraid because I am a part of the Kingdom of God. It is the Kingdom of Heaven. It is eternal. We have the Spirit that raised Him from the dead.

No person or government on Earth can kill a church whose Spirit is more powerful than death. What is temporary and earthly cannot limit what is eternal and heavenly.

God’s goal is ultimately not a great America. It does not please him for it to be destroyed or divided, but his ultimate goal is a thriving, radical, loving, powerful church, discipled and operating in the Kingdom of God. He will use whatever he’s given to accomplish that.

As I’ve said before, God will sacrifice what is temporal and will not last for that which is eternal and will last.

The gates of Hell will not prevail against a church built on Christ alone.

The question to the believers in our country is not who you’re voting for. Now, don’t misunderstand, a mature believer has prayed and sought God’s wisdom on how to use that right. But there is a bigger question we need to be asking ourselves.

Are we prepared to do the work to be the church we’ve been called to be?

Will we sacrifice our convenience and luxury and entertainment for discipline and generosity? Will we decide to be missionaries in our own nation? Will we continue to laud our bigger meetings, or will we seek true discipleship in the deeper things of the Kingdom? Will we continue to slide along and compromise with the ways of the world, or will we stand in the truth and find creative ways to resist the tide of decadence and corruption and speak the truth in love? Will we unify on the person of Christ and the power of the Spirit which alone has the power to change, or will we blame other Christians who didn’t vote the way we did?

Will we be the kind of church that busts the gates of Hell wide open?

If our answers to those questions are opposite the realities of the Kingdom of God, then it will not matter who wins on Nov. 8.

Even if we wake up on Nov. 9 and Trump supporters have done the near impossible of outvoting Democrats, the dead, and illegal aliens, many of them voting more than once, God is looking for a church that will wake up to its destiny in him.

I am thankful for other Christian leaders with a greater voice than mine who have been saying much the same thing. It encourages me.

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 2 – Bravery and Truth

braveryNebuchadnezzar had a dream.

We all have dreams, all the time, and mostly they are weird or silly. Every now and then, we have a dream where we think it means something. Those are rare. Even more rare is when we have a dream where we KNOW it means something and can’t figure it out.

God talks to us in a myriad of different ways. God is a holistic god so it should be easy to understand that his methods of speaking to us by the Spirit are as varied as our personalities and experiences. Truth is the same, don’t get me wrong, but God loves us so much that he seeks to converse with us through any avenue he can … and that includes our dreams.

Nebuchadnezzar, as we already pointed out, was a powerful king that had established an empire and finally conquered Judah and Jerusalem. And he has a dream that disturbs him, severely. Disturbs him to the degree that he put out an order to all his magicians and sorcerers and seers – tell me the dream and the interpretation or I’m going to kill you.

While not the nicest thing he could do, he was an oppressive king, after all. Of course the magicians and all complained and asked him to tell them the dream so they could interpret. He was clear. Nope. If you’re the real deal, you could tell me the dream first.

For those that advertised their spiritual prowess, that makes sense, but it terrified them because they couldn’t do it.

Enter Daniel, in the middle of his Babylonian education. He had set himself apart through his eating habits – and other ways, I’m sure – and he hears about this drama in Babylon.

God shares the dream with Daniel. The dream was clearly “bad news” for Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar, but Daniel is forced into a choice. People will die if he doesn’t share what he knows. but it’s not the wisest thing in the world to let the king know his kingdom is temporary and a better one will destroy it.

Daniel has made a habit, however, of setting himself apart and obeying in ways that could place him in danger. His character shines in this moment in two ways – in his obedience to God and in his compassion to those in Babylon.

I don’t want to move past that point too quickly. The magicians and seers and others were ungodly and wrong about many things. Who knows? Perhaps they saw the fall of Jerusalem as the fall of God or those truths. Either way, in a religious sense, these were detestable people according to the law. And yet part of Daniel’s choice is to save them, to have compassion on them as he shares a dangerous truth.

I do not want to justify saying unpopular things for their own sake, but part of our call is to stand and speak truths that the majority will not like. It isn’t to “prove we are right” but to seek to save others. Me being right does not save anyone. Me expressing the truth, as unpopular as it may be, so that people can be reconciled to the one true God may very well save some.

Did you know that “cowards” are on the list of people who don’t get to enter the Kingdom of God? To be clear, I’m not excusing people with a big mouth. But let us not let the culture determine what is or is not taboo for discussion. Agreeing with a lie is not the way to lead people to truth. That is not love. That is not compassionate, despite how contrary to the culture that might seem. It takes bravery to express truth contrary to the world.

And it will be contrary, because to express the Kingdom of God means the end to the kingdoms of this world.

Which we will discuss next week …

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 1 – The Interpreter of Dreams

stand-apartAs we discussed last week, Daniel and his three friends were subjects of a conquering kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon attacked and messed with Judah for a few years, first making them a vassal, but after the Kings of Israel were “rebellious” in refusing to pay tribute, King Nebuchadnezzar decides he’s had enough and just destroys Jerusalem and the Temple there.

But he takes a few “choice” young men to groom and educate. It is an interesting program of indoctrination – take intelligent, good looking young men, woo them with the palatial comforts and educate them in the imperial culture, and then use them as examples of how it is beneficial for all conquered peoples to assimilate into the new culture. Daniel and his three friends went through this.

Daniel leads his friends to separate himself and keep himself pure within this program. It is such a strict program, that when he asks the stewards over them if they could do something different, the steward is afraid of royal retribution and punishment. To summarize, “I don’t think you get to do your own thing.”

Even though God had given the Jews over to the Babylonians as a punishment, Daniel felt the conviction to be set apart for God in a real and practical way.

While Daniel is known as the interpreter of dreams, we must remember that before God uses him in this way, Daniel had been intentional about seeking God and being faithful in the midst of oppression.

Daniel decided they couldn’t consume the fine foods and wine. He and his friends would eat vegetables and drink water. And he challenges the steward: if they didn’t appear healthier after ten days, then they would give up their convictions. They challenged in faith, and God blessed them for their “fast.” They did look better. As you can imagine, eating differently would mark them every day as separate from everyone else.

And that is who God used to interpret the dream of the King.

It is not biblically more spiritual to do the “Daniel fast.” That’s not the point.

But the principles are important and instructive for us today.

How are we saying “no” to the culture around us? As our government and culture adopts more of the Marxist ideology and godless ideas, this is more and more necessary for us to discuss and examine as disciples of Christ and citizens of a different Kingdom.

We will be mocked for saying “no.” That is the reality. There will be fear of standing out. Daniel had to deal with this. But if we are going to stand for the Kingdom within an increasingly godless and perverse culture, then there must be resistance and independence, ways that we show where our citizenship lies. This will threaten earthly empires and kingdoms.

The revelation for how we say “no” to our culture and stand out is up to Jesus and the Father. We must get our revelation from him, otherwise there will be no conviction, no strength of grace for endurance in that discipline. For it will require discipline.

And we must have people walking through it with us. We must have people we are vulnerable with that we can say, “Hey, God is telling me to do this,” and then they can walk through it with us or hold us accountable. Daniel had this in his three friends.

Could Daniel have done it alone? With God’s help, yes. But God has designed us to need one another, especially in the Body of Christ in the New Covenant. We will need each other more as our culture adopts more Marxist ideology (and religion … it is a religious belief and agenda, despite what they say to the contrary).

We cannot expect God to use us in powerful ways – and he is using and will continue to use many in powerful ways – unless we are willing to stand for him first. That is essential. It must come from revelation and conviction of the Holy Spirit, and it will scare us and challenge us. It will not be comfortable. But it is essential for what God has for us in the future.

Peace.

Next week – Part 2 – The Dream of the Kingdom