BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE


Diana and I have just spent a wonderful weekend with our long time friends Dick & Francie Emery. Dick was our first pastor when we became Christians in Bonita CA in 1981.

Dick has always been a favorite of ours as well as a close friend over many years and an excellent  pastor and preacher. The following sermon is a sample of why he is such a good preacher and teacher; solid Biblical teaching weaving Biblical truths into our personal lives and teaching us how to better live our lives in an often hostile world.

Hope you enjoy.


FOLLOWING CHRIST IN A PRECHRISTIAN WORLD

“BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE”

DANIEL 1

INTRO.

VIDEO-BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE

ONE OF GARY TRUDEAU’S DOONSBURY COMIC STRIPS PICTURES THE IRRELEVANCY OF THE CHURCH TO MANY IN OUR 21ST CENTURY WORLD.

FIRST FRAME “YOU KNOW, POPSTER, YOU GUYS OUGHT TO GET MARRIED ON THE SPACE NEEDLE (SEATTLE)! AND HAVE FIREWORKS OR SOMETHING!”

SECOND FRAME “OR HAVE IT AT A CYBER CAFÉ, SO ALL THE GUESTS CAN PLAY ON THE WEB! OR AT A SIT AND SPIN (LAUNDROMAT), WHERE EVERYONE CAN DANCE AND DO THEIR LAUNDRY AFTER THE CEREMONY!”

THIRD FRAME “UM——ACTUALLY, WE WERE THINKING OF A CHURCH.” A CHURCH? WHAT DO PEOPLE DO AT CHURCH?”

FOURTH FRAME”GET MARRIED.” “PERFECT!”

TODAY IN SOME PLACES AND AMONG SOME PEOPLE, NOT ONLY IS THE CHURCH SEEN AS IRRELEVANT, IT IS INCREASINGLY SEEN AS THE ENEMY.

SOME TIME AGO ANDRE CODRESCU DID A SATIRE ON CHRISTIANS ON NPR. HE ESPECIALLY FOCUSED ON THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN THE RAPTURE.(EXPLAIN) “THE EVAPORATION OF 4 MILLION WHO BELIEVE IN THIS STUFF WOULD LEAVE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.”

JEWISH LAWYER, MICHAEL HOROWITZ HAS WARNED CHRISTIANS THAT THEY COULD BE THE VICTIMS OF THE HALOCAUST OF THE 21ST CENTURY.

DAVID BARRET, MISSIONS PROFESSOR AT REGENTS COLLEGE, SAYS THAT TODAY, ‘ONE OF EVERY 200 CHRISTIANS CAN EXPECT TO BE MARTYRED IN HIS OR HER LIFETIME.”

WE CAN LOOK AT SUCH REALITIES AND DIRE PREDICTIONS AND BRAND OUR DAY AS THE POST-CHRISTIAN ERA, WHICH I THINK IS A NEGATIVE WAY OF LOOKING AT IT, OR WE CAN SEE OUR DAY AS NOT UNLIKE THE 1ST CENTURY, A PRE-CHRISTIAN ERA. I THINK THAT OPTION IS PREFERRABLE FOR IT SPEAKS NOT OF DEFEAT BUT OF OPPORTUNITY. I THINK THAT IS THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION.

LISTEN TO AUTHOR AND SEMINARY PROFESSOR, LEONARD SWEET’S DESCRIPTION OF OUR DAY FROM HIS BOOK, “SOUL TSUNAMI”

“WE ARE LIVING IN A WORLD THAT IS TRYING TO FIND OUT WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LIVE, NOT UNDER CONDITIONS OF ZERO GRAVITY, BUT UNDER CONDITIONS OF ZERO MORALITY. WHAT WERE ONCE SEEN AS STONE TABLETS COMING FROM THE MOUNTAIN ARE NOW SEEN AS SAND CASTLES BUILT ON THE SEASHORE. WHY DOES SATIRE FARE SO POORLY IN POSTMODERN CULTURE, WHILE ONE-LINERS, SARCASM, AND DETACHED IRONY FLOURISH? IT’S BECAUSE, SATIRE REQUIRES A MORAL STANDPOINT. MORAL WOBBLING HOBBLES DEEP HUMOR”

THE APOSTLE PAUL,IN HIS LETTERTO THE BELEVERS IN ROME, DESCRIBES THE 1ST CENTURY WORLD. IT COULD AS EASILY BE A DESCRIPTION OUR DAY.

ROMANS 1:29-31 “THEY HAVE BECOME FILLED WITH EVERY KIND OF WICKEDNESS, EVIL, GREED AND DEPRAVITY. THEY ARE FULL OF ENVY, MURDER, STRIFE, DECEIT AND MALICE. THEY ARE GOSSIPS, SLANDERERS, GOD-HATERS, INSOLENT, ARROGANT AND BOASTFUL: THEY INVENT WAYS OF DOING EVIL; THEY DISOBEY THEIR PARENTS; THEY ARE SENSELESS, FAITHLESS, HEARTLESS, RUTHLESS.”

TODAY, AS THE CHURCH, WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO MINISTER IN JESUS NAME IN A PRE-CHRISTIAN CULTURE. THAT’S GOOD NEWS IF YOU AND I UNDERSTAND HOW TO BE CHRIST FOLLOWERS IN A PRECHRISTIAN WORLD. THAT’S WHAT I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS.

WE WILL BE LOOKNING AT THE LIFE OF A MAN WHO PREDATED THE N.T. ERA BY HUNDREDS OF YEARS, AND YET, HIS EXPERIENCES ARE RELEVANT TO THE FIRST CENTURY WORLD AND TO OURS. HIS NAME IS DANIEL. HE WAS A PROPHET OF GOD DURING THE TIME OF ISRAEL’S EXILE IN BABYLON. BABYLON WAS THE SUPREME PAGAN CULTURE OF THE DAY. HE AND SOME OF HIS HEBREW FRIENDS WERE CALLED ON TO LIVE OUT THEIR FAITH NOT ONLY IN THE PAGAN SOCIETY OF BABYLON, BUT ALSO IN THE VERY COURT OF THE KING.

THE KING OF BABYLON DECIDED TO CHOOSE SOME YOUNG MEN FROM HIS JEWISH CAPTIVES WHO WERE, INTELECTUALLY AND PHYSICALLY A CUT ABOVE EVERYONE ELSE, TO GRACE HIS COURT IN ORDER TO CONTINUALLY REMIND HIMSELF OF HIS GREAT VICTORY OVER THE JEWS AND THEIR GOD. DANIEL AND THREE OF HIS FRIENDS WERE CHOSEN FOR THIS LIFE IN THE KING’S COURT. THUS THE KINGS COURT BECAME THE SETTING FOR THE LESSONS THAT DANIEL HAS TO TEACH US. DANIEL, WHO FINDS HIMSELF BETWEEN IRAQ, (MODERN DAY BABYLON) AND A HARD PLACE, TEACHES US THAT THE STRUGGLE IS NOT TO MAKE THE CULTURE GODLY, BUT TO LIVE AS GODLY PEOPLE IN A HOSTILE CULTURE.

WHEN THE CURTAIN OPENS IN DANIEL CHAPTER 1 WE FIND DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS NOT JUST SURVIVING AS FOLLOWERS OF THE TRUE GOD, BUT, ACTUALLY, THRIVING. HOW DID THEY DO THAT? HOW DID THEY LIVE SUCCESSFULLY BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE? ANSWERING THAT QUESTION IS WHERE WE BEGIN IN THIS SERIES OF MESSAGES.

DANIEL 1:3-5 “THEN THE KING ORDERED ASHPENAZ, CHIEF OF HIS COURT OFFICIALS, TO BRING IN SOME OF THE ISRAELITES FROM THE ROYAL FAMILY AND NOBILITY—YOUNG MEN WITHOUT ANY PHYSICAL DEFECT, HAND-SOME, SHOWING APTITUDE FOR EVERY KIND OF LEARNING, WELL INFORMED, QUICK TO UNDERSTAND, AND QUALIFIED TO SERVE IN THE KING’S PALACE. HE WAS TO TEACH THEM A LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE OF THE BAYLONIANS. THE KING ASSIGNED THEM A DAILY AMOUNT OF FOOD AND WINE FROM THE KING’S TABLE. THEY WERE TO BE TRAINED FOR THREE YEARS, AND AFTER THAT THEY WERE TO ENTER THE KING’S SERVICE.”

THE KING HAD A CLEAR STRATEGY FOR ENCULTURATING THESE YOUNG JEWISH MEN. THEY WERE TO BE THOROUGHLY INDOCTRINATED INTO BABYLONIAN THINKING BY STUDYING UNDER THE MOST LEARNED BABYLONIAN SCHOLARS, OVER A THREE- YEAR PERIOD. WHEN THAT WAS COMPLETED THEY WOULD BE PLACED IN THE KING’S SERVICE. THE EDUCATION PROCESS OUTLINED FOR THEM WAS TO CHANGE THE WAY THEY SAW THE WORLD. THE PROCESS WAS CALCULATED TO MAKE THEM THINK LIKE BABYLONIANS, REPLACING THEIR BIBLICAL WORLD VIEW WITH A PAGAN WORLD VIEW.

IF YOU AND I ARE GOING TO SUCCESSFULLY FOLLOW CHRIST IN A PRE-CHRISTIAN WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT THERE IS A CLEAR CUT STRATEGY IN OUR SOCIETY TO CHANGE OUR THINKING FROM A BIBLICAL, GOD-CENTERED, WORLD VIEW TO A HUMANISTIC, MAN CENTERED, WORLD VIEW. THE STRATEGY IS PRESENT IN THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM, THE MEDIA BIAS AND THE SOCIAL ENGENEERING OF OUR DAY.

CHRISTIAN AND CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST, CAL THOMAS WRITES:

“ THE HUMANIST LEFT KNOWS THE ONLY WAY IT CAN CREATE SUBSTANTIAL NUMBERS OF NEW IDEOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL ROBOTS EAGER TO FOLLOW IN THEIR FAILED FOOTSTEPS IS TO IMPRISON SUBSTANTIAL NUMBERS OF CHILDREN IN GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS WHERE THEY ARE FORCE-FED LIBERAL IDEOLOGY AND LIED TO ABOUT SEX, ABOUT HISTORY, AND ABOUT A WHOLE LOT OF OTHER THINGS AT TAXPAYERS EXPENSE.”

“THEY AND THE VALUE SYSTEM THEY FORCED ON AMERICA HAVE GIVEN US CONDOMS IN THE SCHOOLS, NOT SELF-CONTROL AND VIRTUE: RECREATIONAL DRUGS AND NOT THE HIGH THAT COMES FROM HONOR, DUTY AND CHARACTER; NO-FAULT DIVORCE, NOT COMMITMENT AND DETERMINATION TO WORK THINGS OUT NO MATTER HOW ONE FEELS; PRENUPTUAL AGREEMENTS AND A NUCLEAR STRIKE ON THE FAMILY; AIDS AND LOW QUALITY TELEVISION THAT INCREASINGLY FOCUSES ON THE REGION BETWEEN WAIST AND THIGH, RARELY VISITING THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT.”

SO HOW DO WE HANDLE THIS AS FOLLOERS OF CHRIST? DO WE WITHDRAW FROM THE CULTURE? THAT CERTAINLY IS AN OPTION, AT LEAST TO AN EXTENT. THE PROBLEM IS IF WE WITHDRAW WE FAIL TO BE WHAT CHRIST HAS CALLED US TO BE AS THE CHURCH. WE FAIL TO BE “SALT AND LIGHT.”

WE CAN BECOME ANGRY AND SCREAM AND YELL, BUT THE BIBLE INFORMS US THAT TRUTH SPOKEN IN ANGER DOES NOT PRODUCE THE RESULTS WE DESIRE. JAMES 1;20 “MAN’S ANGER DOES NOT BRING ABOUT THE RIGHTEOUS LIFE THAT GOD DESIRES.”

WHAT DID DANIEL AND HIS YOUNG COHORTS DO? THE STORY IMPLIES THAT THEY APPLIED THEMSELVES TO THE REQIRED CURRICULUM, WHILE ALSO IMMERSING THEMSELVES IN THE TRUTH SO THAT UNTRUTH DID NOT MASTER THEM. SO THE PRINCIPLE FOR US IS THIS. IN ORDER TO THRIVE AS A CHRIST FOLLOWER BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE;

· DO ALL YOU CAN TO ENCASE YOURSELF IN THE TRUTH.

ANALOGY- SCUBA DIVER-WET SUIT

DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS WERE FULLY IN THE CULTURE BUT IT IS OBVIOUS THAT THEY DID NOT LET THE CULTURE PENETRATE THEIR WORLD VIEW. THEY WERE PROTECTED BY THE TRUTH.

IT REMINDS ME OF JESUS PRAYER FOR HIS FOLLOWERS IN JOHN 17:15-18

“MY PRAYER IS NOT THAT YOU TAKE THEM OUT OF THE WORLD BUT THAT YOU PROTECT THEM FROM THE EVIL ONE. THEY ARE NOT OF THE WORLD, EVEN AS I AM NOT OF THE WORLD. SANCTIFY THEM BY THE TRUTH: YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AS YOU SENT ME INTO THE WORLD, I HAVE SENT THEM INTO THE WORLD.”

HERE ARE SOME PRINCIPLES:

1. TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO IMMERSE YOUR MIND AND SPIRIT IN BIBLICAL TRUTH.

2. BE BALANCED. YOU SHOULDN’T OVER-INDULGE THE CULTURE BUT NEITHER SHOULD YOU IGNORE THE CULTURE.

3. OBEY THE TRUTH. BE DOERS OF THE TRUTH AND NOT JUST HEARERS.

OSWALD CHAMBERS WROTE:

“YOU CANNOT THINK A SPIRITUAL MUDDLE CLEAR, YOU HAVE TO OBEY IT CLEAR—THE TINIEST THING WE ALLOW IN OUR LIVES THAT IS NOT UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS QUITE SUFFICIENT TO ACCOUNT FOR SPIRITUAL MUDDLE, AND ALL THE THINKING WE LIKE TO SPEND ON IT WILL NEVER MAKE IT CLEAR. SPIRITUAL MUDDLE IS ONLY MADE PLAIN BY OBEDIENCE.”

DO YOU WANT TO NOT ONLY SURVIVE BUT, ACTUALLY THRIVE BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE? ENCASE YOUR SELF IN TRUTH.

THE STORY GOES ON:

VERSES 6-7 “AMONG THESE WERE SOME FROM JUDAH: DANIEL, HANANIAH, MISHAEL AND AZARIAH. THE CHIEF OFFICIAL GAVE THEM NEW NAMES: TO DANIEL, THE NAME BELTESHAZZAR; TO HAHANIAH, SHADRACH; TO MISHAEL, MESHACH; AND TO AZARIAH, ABEDNEGO.”

· DANIEL (GOD IS MY JUDGE) TO BELTESHAZZAR (BEL’S PRINCE)

· HANANIAH (GOD IS GRACIOUS) TO SHADRACH (COMMAND OF AKU)

· MISHAEL (WHO IS LIKE GOD) TO MESACH (WHO IS LIKE AKU)

· AZARIAH (GOD HAS HELPED) TO ABEDNEGO (SERVANT OF NEBO)

THE CULTURE WAS ATTEMPTING TO CHANGE THEIR IDENTITY. EVERY TIME THESE YOUNG MEN HEARD THEIR NEW NAMES THEY WERE REMINDED OF THIS. THEY DIDN’T REBEL AGAINST IT. IN FACT WE HAVE NO RECORD THAT DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS CAMPAIGNED TO RESTORE THEIR RIGHTFUL NAMES. INSTEAD THEY SEEMED TO LIVE WITH A QUIET DETERMINATION TO REMEMBER WHO THEY REALY WERE AND WHO THEY REALLY BELONGED TO. SO, HERE IS THE POINTOF APPLICATION FOR YOU AND ME.

*DETERMINE TO LIVE EVERY DAY WITH A QUIET FORTITUDE THAT COMES BY FAITH.

LIKE THESE YOUNG JEWISH MEN IN BABYLON OUR CULTURE IS ATTEMPTING TO CHANGE OUR NAMES AS CHRIST FOLLOWERS. THEY DO SO EITHER BY TEMPTING US TO COMPROMISE WHO WE ARE, OR BY LABELING US AS INTOLERANT, UNINTELLIGENT BIGOTS. THIS IS NOT NEW.

“IN 19TH CENTURY FRANCE THE GOVERNMENT WAS PERSECUTING THE CHURCH. THEY ARRESTED A PRIEST. THE POLICE COMMANDER ASK HIM, ‘WHOM DO YOU SERVE?’ ‘GOD’ REPLIED THE PRIEST. ‘WHERE DOES HE LIVE?’ ASKED THE COMMANDER. ‘HE LIVES EVERYWHERE’ ANSWERED THE PRIEST. THE COMMANDER TURNED TO ONE OF HIS OFFICERS AND SAID. ‘WRITE DOWN, SERVES GOD WHO IS A VAGRANT.’

AGAIN, HOW ARE WE TO HANDLE THIS IN FOLLOWING CHRIST BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE? (1.) MAKE SURE THE LABELS DON’T FIT. (2) LET SUCH THINGS RUN OFF OF YOUR BACK, LIKE WATER OFF A DUCKS BACK. THAT’S EVEDENTLY HOW DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS HANDLED IT.

“WHETHER SOMEONE IS DEVALUING YOUR CHARACTER, HURLING RACIAL SLURS, OR ASSERTING TYRANNICAL AUTHORITY, THE GREATEST CHALLENGE IS NOT TO STOP THE PERSON, BUT RATHER TO STOP YOUR MIND FROM MUTILATING YOUR OWN IDENTITY.”

KEEP YOUR IDENTITY FULLY IN CHRIST.

DANIEL ACCEPTED THE FACT THAT IN BABYLON HE WOULD BE KNOWN AS BELTESHAZAAR BUT, AT ALL TIMES HE DID NOT LOSE SIGHT OF THE FACT OF WHO HE REALLY WAS, DANIEL, A FOLLOWER OF THE ONE TRUE GOD.HIS IDENTITY WAS GROUNDED IN HIS FAITH. THAT REALIZATION GAVE HIM THE FORTITUDE TO NOT JUST SURVIVE BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE BUT, TO THRIVE.

THE STORY GOES ON AT VERSE 8.

VERSE 8-16 “BUT DANIEL RESOLVED NOT TO DEFILE HIMSELF WITH THE ROYAL FOOD AND WINE, AND HE ASKED THE CHIEF OFFICIAL FOR PERMISSION NOT TO DEFILE HIMSELF THIS WAY. NOW GOD HAD CAUSED THE OFFICIAL TO SHOW FAVOR AND SYMPATHY TO DANIEL, BUT THE OFFICIAL TOLD DANIEL, ‘I AM AFRAID OF MY LORD THE KING, WHO HAS ASSIGNED YOUR FOOD AND DRINK. WHY SHOULD HE SEE YOU LOOKING WORSE THAN THE OTHER YOUNG MEN YOUR AGE? THE KING WOULD THEN HAVE MY HEAD BECAUSE OF YOU.’

DANIEL THEN SAID TO THE GUARD WHOM THE CHIEF OFFICIAL HAD APPOINTED OVER DANIEL, HANANIAH, MISHAEL AND AZARIAH, ‘PLEASE TEST YOUR SERVANTS FOR TEN DAYS: GIVE US NOTHING BUT VEGETABLES TO EAT AND WATER TO DRINK. THEN COMPARE OUR APPEARANCE WITH THAT OF THE YOUNG MEN WHO EAT THE ROYAL FOOD, AND TREAT YOUR SERVANTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH WHAT YOU SEE.’ SO HE AGREED TO THIS AND TESTED THEM FOR TEN DAYS.

AT THE END OF THE TEN DAYS THEY LOOKED HEALTHIER AND BETTER NOURISHED THAN ANY OF THE YOUNG MEN WHO ATE THE ROYAL FOOD. SO THE GUARD TOOK AWAY THEIR CHOICE FOOD AND THE WINE THEY WERE TO DRINK AND GAVE THEM VEGETABLES INSTEAD.”

AS A MAN IMMERSED IN A PAGAN CULTURE, DANIEL SET CERTAIN BOUNDARIES THAT HE WOULD NOT ALLOW HIMSELF TO CROSS. HE REFUSED TO EAT THE FOOD PRESCRIBED BY THE KING. THE PROBLEM WAS NOT THE LAVISHNESS OF THE FOOD OR THE STRENGTH OF THE DRINK, NOR WAS IT THE EATING HABITS OF A PICKY PERSON. THE ISSUE WAS FAITHFULNESS TO HIS GOD. ALL THE MEAT AND WINE IN THE KING’S HOUSEHOLD WAS FIRST OFFERED SACRIFICIALLY TO THE BABYLONIAN GODS. ACCORDING TO GOD’S LAW, FOR DANIEL TO PARTAKE OF IT WOULD BE TO PARTICIPATE IN IDOLATRY. SINCE DANIEL WAS AN ASTUTE YOUNG MAN, HE KNEW THAT JEWISH IDOLATRY WAS PRECISELY THE REASON HE WAS IN BABYLON. HE WOULD NOT BLUR THE LINE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG AND DECIDED TO JUST SAY “NO!”

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING RELEVANT IN ORDER TO INFLUENCE OUR CULTURE AND ALLOWING ONESELF TO BE TOTALLY ABSORBED BY THE CULTURE. YOU CAN’T INFLUENCE A CULTURE IF YOU ARE ABSORBED BY IT.

IF YOU AND I ARE GOING TO THRIVE AND NOT JUST SURVIVE, TODAY BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE, WE NEED TO KNOW WHERE TO DRAW THE LINES OF FIDELITY IN OUR LIVES. THAT’S THE THIRD LESSON WE LEARN FROM DANIEL.

· MAKE SURE YOU DRAW CLEAR BOUNDARIES OF FIDELITY IN YOUR LIFE.

HERE ARE SOME PRINCIPLES FROM DANIEL’S EXPERIENCE TO HELP US DO THAT:

1. MAKE UP YOUR MIND AHEAD OF TIME. DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT TO DETERMINE YOUR BOUNDARIES. DANIEL DETERMINED AHEAD OF TIME WHAT HIS BOUNDARIES WERE.

2. MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND EACH SITUATION CLEARLY. DANIEL UNDERSTOOD THE PRESSURE ON THE KING’S OFFICIAL TO CARRY OUT HIS INSTRUCTIONS. HE LISTENED

MATTHEW 10:16 “I AM SENDING YOU OUT LIKE SHEEP AMONG WOLVES. THEREFORE BE AS SHREWD AS SNAKES AND AS INNOCENT AS DOVES.

3. FIND A WAY TO COOPERATE IF POSSIBLE. DANIEL WORKED AT FINDING A WORKABLE COMPROMISE. COMPROMISE IS NOT ALWAYS A DIRTY WORD. IT CAN BE A WAY OF SHOWING RESPECT AND SUBMISSION TO AUTHORITY AND CAN BE A KEY TO EFFECTIVE WITNESS.. (MATT. 5:41 IF YOU ARE CONSCRIPTED TO GO ONE MILE GO TWO)

4. LEAVE THE OUTCOME IN GOD’S HANDS. DANIEL DID WHAT HE THOUGHT WAS RIGHT FOR ALL CONCERNED AND LEFT THE OUTCOME TO GOD. GOD HONNORED HIM AND CAME THROUGH.

DEAN MERRILL IN HIS BOOK, “SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY CHURCH” WRITES:

“IN THE CONFLICTS WE FACE TODAY IN A SELF-CENTERED HIGHLY IRRELIGIOUS SOCIETY, WHO KNOWS WHAT GOD MIGHT DO IF WE TRULY EXPECT HIM TO ACT.”

BECAUSE HE APPLIED THESE PRINCIPLES, DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS DIDN’T JUST SURVIVE, THEY THRIVED BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE.

LISTEN TO THE REST OF THE STORY:

VERSES 17-20 “TO THESE FOUR YOUNG MEN GOD GAVE KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF ALL KINDS OF LITERATURE AND LEARNING. AND DANIEL COULD UNDERSTAND VISIONS AND DREAMS OF ALL KINDS. AT THE END OF THE TIME SET BY THE KING TO BRING THEM IN, THE CHIEF OFFICER PRESENTED THEM TO NEBUCHADNEZZAR. THE KING TALKED WITH THEM, AND HE FOUND NONE EQUAL TO DANIEL, HANANIAH, MISHAEL AND AZARIAH; SO THEY ENTERED THE KING’S SERVICE. IN EVERY MATTER OF WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING ABOUT WHICH THE KING QUESTIONED THEM, HE FOUND THEM TEN TIMES BETTER THAN ALL THE MAGICIANS AND ENCHANTERS IN HIS WHOLE KINGDOM. AND DANIEL REMAINED THERE UNTIL THE FIRST YEAR OF KING CYRUS.”

ISN’T THAT COOL? SEE HOW GOD HONORS THOSE WHO HONOR HIM WHEN THEY ARE CAUGHT BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE.

HERE’S THE BOTTOM LINE. RATHER THAN HIDE FROM EVIL YOU AND I, THE CHURCH, ARE CALLED TO ENGAGE OUR CULTURE—NO MATTER HOW PERVERSE IT MAY BE. YET, WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT THERE IS ALWAYS A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER OF BEING SUCKED IN AND ABSORBED BY THE CULTURE AROUND US. AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST WE CAN’T ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN IF WE ARE GOING TO ADVANCE GOD’S KINGDOM AND CHANGE OUR WORLD. THE ONLY WAY TO THRIVE AND NOT JUST SURVIVE IS TO BE FULLY ENGAGED WITH GOD AT THE SAME TIME.

THAT’S THE LESSON WE LEARN FROM AN ANCIENT FOLLOWER OF GOD NAMED DANIEL WHO WAS CAUGHT BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE.

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