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.