problems don’t last forever

Category : Daneil, God, choice, hope, sin, trust

“His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor.  In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle.” (Daniel 11:20)

Why is it that the weekend flies by, but the work week takes forever?  Why do we find sitting through a lecture painful, but watching a movie easy?  Why does vacation come and go when our daily commute takes so long?

Unless someone has mastered time travel (if so, please let me know) then all of these things can be explained by one simple word: perception.

Perception is that finicky thing that changes our reality.  It makes us believe something has happened when it hasn’t.  It makes us hot when we should be cold, and cold when we should be hot (this is why you say “boy it’s hot” when it’s 50 degrees outside in February, but not when it’s 50 in August).

Perception can be a major obstacle to our faith.

Perception may tell us that we can never change, that nothing good will ever happen, and we will be stuck “here” forever.

We are most vulnerable to these tricks when we are suffering.  We somehow know that “all good things must come to an end” and “it’s too good to last”.  We even have clichés devoted to them.  But when it comes to pain and suffering we often forget that those things don’t last either.

This was true in Israel’s case.

After centuries of not listening to God, Israel finally found themselves overwhelmed by a powerful enemy (Babylon).  As part of their punishment for losing the war, many of their most highly educated men were taken captive to become slaves (this is what happened to Daniel).  While most of the women and children were just outright murdered.

Many Jews simply couldn’t believe this was happening.  They were God’s chosen people.  They had been set free from captivity already.  How could they be going back?!  They never really thought God would let something like this happen to them.  Although if they had paid attention to prophets like Jeremiah, they would have figured it out.

But nothing lasts forever.  At least not in this world.

And I think God was reminding them of this.  In the story of Daniel, God simply slipped two sentences into the conversation.  Gently saying, “you will see tax collectors gathering money for a powerful kingdom, but even in the midst of that, their country will fall apart.”

Not even captivity lasts forever.

That was a lesson that the Jews needed to remember.  Because they were going to spend a long, long time in captivity.  They had to know that there was hope.  They had to remember who to hope in.  Those were things they had forgotten.

Bad things don’t last forever.  Maybe we need to remember that from time to time.

i deserve this…

Category : Daneil, different, faith, living a life of faith

………

I deserve this.

How many times have we thought that?  How many times have we said it?  And lets’ be real here for a minute; It’s all too easy for us to do. 

The scary thing is, it doesn’t get any easier when you believe in God.  In fact, being a Christian may actually make you feel more entitled to deserving things.  At least if you look at how most of us act.

It seems to me that I meet far too many Christians who think they are entitled to things.  Whether it’s a belief that society should follow Christian values or that our lives should be free from pain, our sense of entitlement is profound. 

Even saying “well I’m a good person” shows just how deep our entitlement runs.  Because you aren’t a good person.  None of us are.  We all fall short of God’s standards.  It’s not as if we fall just a little bit short.  We aren’t even close.  We fall pathetically short. 

This is why Daniel’s actions are so interesting when he’s given the choice of eating unclean food (for Jews that meant ceremonially clean food, not unwashed).  He simply says to the King’s attendant, “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.” (Daniel 1: 12-14)

He doesn’t ask for special treatment.  He doesn’t say, “But I believe in God, I should be treated differently.”  He says, “Let me earn your trust.”  

Daniel responds to the Assistant’s fear.  Not by powering up and being angry and demanding.  Not by being bossy or condescending.  But by being willing to earn his trust.

How differently would Christians be perceived if we acted that way all the time! 

As you go forward this Holiday season, let me ask you one question: How would Christmas look in your family if you didn’t act with a sense of entitlement, but simply said, “let me earn your trust”?

obedience

Category : Daniel, God, faith, taking action

 

I have to admit, I didn’t expect to come back to the topic of obedience so quickly after prayer thursday. But sometimes God has a way of emphasizing a point.

Right after I finished writing that post I went to the gym and turned on my ipod to catch up on some Ravi Zacharias podcasts. Much to my surprise the topic on deck was Daniel’s life – specifically how he was able to stay obedient to God while virtually everyone around him was giving up God in favor of Babylonian ideals.

Ravi laid out three keys to Daniel’s success.

1. Resistence – Daniel knew where to draw the line. He recognized that there are some things we simply can’t do. Once we cross that line, it’s hard to get back.

2. Dependence – Daniel acknowledged that it was God who allowed him to act. He knew where knowledge, intellect, reason ended, and where faith and trust in God come into play. Because of this he was able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and save not only his life, but other’s as well.

3. Confidence – Daniel believed that God is who he says, and does what he promises. And that God alone would be his judge.

When I think about obedience in my own life I realize how often I fail at all three of these steps. But what strikes me is how often I fail at the first one. I often push the limits. I want to see just how close I can get to something without sinning. Isn’t that setting myself up for failure? Isn’t that asking to be disobedient?

Maybe I need to take a lesson from Daniel, and make an effort to not cross that line in the first place. Then, maybe it won’t be so hard to obey.

unChristian: overcoming failure

Category : CS Lewis, Daniel, faith, taking action

          

It’s pretty clear that as a group Christians behave in very unChristian ways.  We simply don’t present ourselves well to the world.   

As with most things in this world, there’s probably no easy answer.  We’re all broken.  We all make mistakes.  Even our good intentions often turn out to be miserable failures.  But what should we do if we fail?  What happens when we try our best and we still screw up?

There are two things I think will help. 

1.  We don’t need to be perfect.

CS Lewis once said “a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble.”  If we could be perfect on our own, Jesus never would have had to sacrifice himself for us.  Instead we need to remember that sometimes we fall down so that we can learn to stand back up.

The Bible is filled with examples of people failing and having to learn to get back up again.  Moses killed a man.  Peter denied Jesus 3 times in one day after promising he’d never leave his side.  David committed adultery.  But their stories don’t stop at the fall.  Their stories continue, showing each of these people learning to get back up again (some faster than others). 

And that’s what God wants for us.  He wants us to get back up and be vulnerable with others, to love them, and to show them who God is. 

2.    It’s okay to say, “I don’t know”

Sometimes Christians feel if they don’t provide perfect answers to every question “outsiders” will think we don’t know what we’re talking about.  Or maybe that’s just me!

Now I believe Christianity provides an answer to everything.  The more I study who God is, the more I realize just how well Christianity explains the world around me.  But just because there are answers, doesn’t mean I know them!  And that’s an important distinction to make. 

Take Daniel’s story.  Daniel prayed for 21 days with no answer.  On the 21st day an Angel came to him and said, “I have come in response [to your prayers].  But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days.” (Daniel 10: 12-13)  If this angel hadn’t explained this to Daniel he would have had no idea why his prayers had gone “unanswered.”

As Shakespeare once said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Sometimes the world is so complex that we don’t know exactly what’s going on.  And you know what?  That’s okay. 

There is no way to always be perfectly Christian towards other people.  As I said, we’re all fallen and broken.  But that doesn’t mean we should give up trying.  The goal is to always move closer to resembling Jesus.  And as long as we do that, we’ll ultimately change the way “outsiders” view Christians. 

is it true?

Category : bible, faith, trust

   

Is it true?

Sometimes I think we doubt God is real just because it’s so fantastic.  Can it really be true we’re forgiven?  That we’re loved?  That someone really cares about all our choices?

And yet it is all true.

But God doesn’t stop there.  He gives us proof so we will know it’s true.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had something really bad happen to them: they were thrown into a fire.  Yet they believed that God had the power to save them.  And they told King Nebuchadnezzar just that.  When they weren’t killed by the fire, Nebuchadnezzar had a choice to make.  He had to decide if what he saw proved God existed, or if he would ignore the evidence he saw with his own eyes.  I think this is one of the reasons why “bad” things happen to us, so that others will see God in action, and they can know too.