The Thrill of Hope

Genesis 3.1-19

God created a perfect world. All that God had made was good, including the man and his wife. It’s paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? It’s hard to describe the catastrophic results of one single disobedient decision. Welcome to life as we know it. Every act of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

What was the sin of the garden? It was rebellion. It was pride in its purest form. The Image-bearers were not satisfied with merely bearing the Image…they wanted to be the Image. Instead of trusting their loving Creator who had so “fearfully and wonderfully” made them, who had entrusted them with representing Him to His creation, who had made them king and queen over planet earth, they rejected Him and spurned His love. They sought to oust Him and take His place. They wanted a shot at the title.

But lest we too quickly fault our first parents, we see that same act of rebellion repeated legion in our own lives. If man and woman in a perfect environment fail to follow God on their own, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Jesus.

The thrill of hope is…God’s not done yet. The thrill of hope is…God’s pursuit of His wayward children. The thrill of hope is…forgiveness of sin and eternal life. The thrill of hope is…the LORD God… a restored relationship with our Creator, sons and daughters of the high King.

That’s why I love Genesis 3.15…what we couldn’t do for ourselves, God will do, when He sends His Son, Jesus, as the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman, whose dying words, will be, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do!” The Thrill of Hope is…Genesis 3.15.

Those of us who have trusted in Jesus…aka the seed of the woman…are at war with the seed of the serpent, not by choice but because of the hatred and hostility they have toward us. Guess what side the culture is on? Adam gave up not only his innocence in the fall, but also his right to rule. He gave that to the serpent…“the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”  So those who follow God suffer not only the consequences of theirs and others bad choices and the effects of a fallen world, but also the attacks of the enemy. And yet hope is possible because the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman has come…Jesus has come…and He has defeated the Adversary. And now we wait with all of creation for the time when Jesus will come back, not as the Suffering Lamb, but as the Roaring Lion…not as a Baby in a manger, but as the Conquering King. He will come back to set all things right…

May you experience the thrill of hope this Christmas season and the amazing love of God who didn’t give up on us even in our rebellion, but who has pursued us and did what we could not do, provide the way back to Himself through Jesus, the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story with…The Weary World Rejoices.

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This post is based on our Advent Series, The Thrill of Hope. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

A Plentiful Harvest

Luke 10.1-24

News of the kingdom spreads through the missionary efforts of the 70. While the threat of rejection is very real, still the harvest is plentiful. We need more workers for the harvest.

Not only were these disciples to be workers in the harvest, they were to pray that God would raise up more workers…folks who, having responded to the message of the kingdom, would themselves become workers reaching out to others. That process continues today. If you are a believer, then you are one of the workers that someone else prayed for. Who are you praying for? Who do you have on your impact list? Who can you bring one step closer to Jesus?

You see workers in the harvest are not a special class of believer…discipleship is what we are all called to. Jesus doesn’t make a distinction between different categories of believers…we do. So everyone who trusts in Jesus is to be about the harvest…sharing the message of the gospel and helping others grow in their faith. Christianity is not a spectator sport…it’s full contact. It’s down in the trenches. It’s reflecting Jesus to your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, teammates, or anyone else that God brings across your path. Some will accept and some will reject. The kingdom is coming…those who accept will be citizens of the kingdom. Those who reject will be with those who oppose the kingdom and will not escape judgment.

The time is short. If you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus, today is the day. Now is the opportunity. Don’t wait. Come to Jesus as a child…simply trusting in Him to rescue you. Then you too can rejoice that your name is recorded in heaven.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we rejoice that our names are recorded in heaven this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Suffering Before Glory

Luke 9.28-45

When we began the Luke series last fall, one of the things we talked about…what Luke wanted us to do as we read through his Gospel…is to examine the evidence so that we might be able to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”

We’ve come a long ways since then, and no doubt we still have a ways to go. Now we’ve reached a pivotal point in Luke’s story. Last week Peter rightly answered our question for us…“Who is Jesus?” He is the Christ of God. But what does that mean? The disciples thought that they knew what it meant…a Conquering King bringing in a glorious kingdom. The overthrow of Rome and Israel once again in a place of prominence on the world stage. And while Isaiah talked about a Suffering Servant and there were hints of adversity to come (Genesis 3.15), still Jewish folks living in the 1st century were expecting a fierce Warrior-Messiah like David.

While there were plenty of OT prophesies to justify their expectations, there were also personal reasons why folks would want a Conquering King…we all want to be on the winning side. Their expectations weren’t wrong, just mistimed. Jesus will come back as Conquering King. Everyone who is on His side will win with Him. But first He would be the Suffering Servant. Suffering before glory.

I think sometimes we have a similar timing problem. We like the glory part. We like the kingdom part. But we don’t like the suffering part. And if we are honest with ourselves, many times we do anything we can to avoid it. We want to follow Jesus without cost or consequence. And yet the constant testimony of Jesus and the rest of the NT is that suffering is a fundamental part of the Christian life. But the good news is…we are never alone in suffering for Jesus. Somehow Paul says that we can experience the perfect peace of God in the midst of chaos, joy in the midst of pain, hope in the deepest darkness. We don’t have to give up or give in because Jesus wins. And we have a heavenly Father who delights in us and desires our good, who loves us so completely that we will spend an eternity trying to comprehend it.

Sometimes ours isn’t a timing problem, but a “Who is Jesus?” problem. We are looking for a Jesus who meets our expectations. We want Jesus to rescue us from our sins, but we don’t want Him to change us too much. We want Him to heal us or fix our marriage or solve our financial problems…we want Him to be Savior in lots of ways, but we don’t really want to listen to Him. We don’t want His words sinking into our ears. We don’t want Him to be Lord of our lives. We want Him to make much of us…we don’t want to make much of Him.

But Jesus is both Savior and Lord. He is Suffering Servant and Conquering King. He is both Lamb and Lion.

Maybe today is the day that you need to let Jesus’ words sink into your ears. Maybe today is the day that you need to see Him in all His glory as both Suffering Servant and Conquering King. Maybe today is the day that you need to recommit to following Jesus, no matter what the cost. Maybe today is the day that you need to be reminded that suffering comes before glory.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be willing to follow Jesus in both the good and the hard times this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

In the Image of God

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule … over all the earth’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1.26-27

Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here? Great thinkers have wrestled with these questions for millennia. How I answer those questions will determine how I live my life, my worldview, how I interact with others.

If I accept what the culture says about the meaning of life, then I’m just 1 of 7 billion+ other human beings on planet earth evolved from goo over the span of billions of years. I am the product of time and chance. Life has no meaning beyond the here and now, so the best I can hope for is to eat, drink and enjoy, do what feels good, regardless of the consequences. After all, there’s no such thing as God or divine law or eternal consequences. Other human beings are tools to be used for my pleasure or to further my ends, or they are obstacles to be squashed.

But if I accept what the Bible says about the meaning of life, then I’m of infinite value because I bear God’s image. I have an incredible destiny and have tremendous potential because I have been made in His likeness to reflect Him to His creation (what it means to “rule”). As an image-bearer, I am loved with an unfathomable, incomprehensible love by Creator God. It means also that others have infinite value as fellow image-bearers, and that I’m to love them as such.

When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, their rebellion, their sin, as we see in Genesis 3, marred the image…it didn’t erase it. It separated us from Creator God, resulting in our death and put our destiny and potential in serious jeopardy. And if not for this amazing God, our story would end in despair. We would never reach our potential and could never fulfill our destiny. We would be forever separated from our Creator. But He wasn’t done yet. Even in the midst of our rebellion, He made a promise and provided a way that we could be rescued and our relationship with Him could be restored, our destiny and potential realized…through faith in the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, the Redeemer of Genesis 3.15, who we know as Jesus.

As a pastor, I see so many folks who have believed the lie that their lives have no purpose. That’s why drugs and pornography and prostitution and abuse and all manner of other awful things that we do to ourselves and others are so rampant. Those caught up in these things fail to see their own worth and refuse to acknowledge another’s. It’s the predictable consequence of accepting the philosophy that says, “You’re an accident.”

What you believe matters. You were made in the image of God.

Until next time…stay salty.

The Long Awaited Hero

Luke 3.15-38

John’s job was straightforward…prepare the way for Jesus, so that when Jesus came folks would be ready to receive Him. His coming would be good news for those who were ready…but His coming would be bad news indeed for those who were not.

Jesus is the long awaited Hero of our story. It was confirmed by both the Father and the Spirit at His baptism. It was confirmed by His ancestry tying Him to the promises God made to David, Abraham and the serpent (Genesis 3.15). He is the Hero of our story…the One and only One.

John knew his place before God. He knew he wasn’t the Hero…that even he needed to repent of his sin. True repentance and a life of faith come from a deep understanding of who God is, and who we are before Him. He is our Creator and our Redeemer. He is the boss, we are not. John understood who God was and had the right perspective here on earth. He knew that the most important thing he could do with his earthly life was to spread Jesus’ message, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

John’s audience only had two options…accept his message and repent (aka believe in Jesus) or reject his message and face judgment. There was no middle ground. There was no riding the fence. There was no “one foot in, one foot out”. The choice was simple…

The same is true for us today. We can either choose to believe in Jesus, or we choose to reject Him. There is no middle ground. There is no “both” option. Those who believe in Jesus should be evident by their actions…actions that flow from a life that has been transformed by Jesus. John calls it “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance”. As believers, living the way John the Baptist did, our lives should be marked with gratitude, confidence and freedom…gratitude knowing how good God is…to create us and then provide a path of repentance after our rebellion. How can we not live a life of gratitude, knowing that we are loved that much? Everything has been taken care of by Him. Confidence that our salvation is wrapped up in what Jesus did.. not what we do. That should make us breathe a sigh of relief. Freedom to love others despite how they love us.

Those who have not believed in Jesus, whether they’ve rejected Him outright or have not heard the gospel are mostly revealed by their actions…actions that flow from a life that is still dead in trespasses and sins. For them, Jesus’ coming is the unquenchable fire of judgment. One thing I want to be clear…we were all on the path of destruction. Every one of us. But Jesus came to offer a way of escape. He came to rescue us. So those who reject Jesus will face judgment, not simply because they rejected Jesus…we were all on under judgment, condemned to hell because of our rebellion against our Creator long ago…but because they rejected His offer of rescue. If that’s you, or you suspect it might be you, please know that it doesn’t have to be. The Bible says that if you believe that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came to earth and lived a perfect life, the one we were supposed to have lived, He died a sacrificial death in our place, He was resurrected on the 3rd day conquering both sin and death, and that He is now at the right hand of God the Father, you are saved.

Then Jesus will be your long awaited Hero.

 

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live like those who have been rescued and transformed by Jesus.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Luke 2.1-21

Mary had a little Lamb…what a simple story with life-changing implications! Mary’s little Lamb is none other than the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is not only the long-awaited Jewish Messiah who came to save His people from their enemies…both physical and spiritual, but He’s also Lord who is worthy of all worship and praise and honor…and obedience.

The heavens erupt in praise at His coming, and the shepherds catch the excitement. The people are amazed, and Mary ponders. So what will you do? Do you know Jesus as both Savior and Lord? If so, are you experiencing the joy that salvation brings? Do you have a sense of excitement about the Word you’ve heard? Do you have the desire to tell others the good news? If so, good. Keep proclaiming the good news. If not, why not? Have the cares of this world and your present circumstances robbed you of your joy and excitement? Spend some time this week, like Mary, pondering the truth of God’s Word and the amazing realization of your rescue. It really is good news. Ask God to reignite that fire in your belly, that excitement about following Him.

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord today, I want to invite you to take that first step. Jesus came as Savior, the Hero and only one who could rescue us. Unlike the kings of this world who may be able to save from mortal enemies, King Jesus came to save us from our real enemies, both sin and death. Unlike earthly kings who promise peace through force of arms, King Jesus brings peace that invades every aspect of our being…peace with God, peace with men, peace with creation and peace with ourselves. Jesus came not just as Savior, but also as Lord. He is our Sovereign and deserves our allegiance. But unlike the kings of this world who force subjugation and seek only their own good, King Jesus is a benevolent Ruler who invites submission and seeks the good of His subjects.

 

 May we experience afresh and anew the uncontainable joy and excitement that salvation brings, and may we share that joy with others as we tell them about Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Divine Pronouncement

Luke 1.26-38

Mary’s obedience…her submission to the Lord’s will reminds me of a contrast that Soren Kierkegaard made when he was wrestling with Genesis 22 in his essay, Fear and Trembling, between the knight of faith and the knight of infinite resignation. The knight of infinite resignation obeys God purely out of a sense of duty and obligation. He does what’s required, but only because it’s required. The knight of faith also obeys and does what’s required, but he or she does so with joy and expectancy. We will see next week…Mary is definitely the knight of faith.

This is the greatest news ever…since the time of the fall, the people of God have been looking for the promised Head-crushing Seed of the woman. The Hero who would come to rescue them and lead them back to the garden and restore their relationship with Creator God. And now He’s here!

Mary is an unlikely candidate to be the mother of the Messiah from an earthly perspective…in this age of celebrity we might have expected someone more prestigious, someone more connected, a little more flash or a bigger deal, not a young, poor small town girl. I’m glad God’s not caught up in the things that we are. I’m glad that He always redefines our view of family and grace. He sees her humble heart, that she’s poor in spirit…she’s desperately craving His grace. She was reflective…pondering the angel’s words, believing and submissive. She’s a great example for us.

God is fulfilling His promise to David, and not just to David, but to all His people from the time of the fall…we can trust God to fulfill promises today. Promises of everlasting life and an eternal kingdom, of His presence with us. Only God can accomplish these things…He can do great things and use whomever He chooses to accomplish His purpose however He wishes. You are not insignificant in God’s design…in His plan to reach the valley. From an earthly perspective, Mary was a nobody from a nothing town in the middle of nowhere, but not so from the heavenly perspective. She had a significant role to play in God’s plan of redemption, so do you. He wants to use you to impact the folks around you for His kingdom.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost … He comes to a needy people…those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy and need for a Rescuer, not the proud and self-sufficient. Do you recognize your desperate need for Him?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

The Restoration Process Part 2

Daniel 9.20-27

What was the essence of God’s message to Daniel? God has a plan for history…a plan to vanquish sin and its consequences once and for all and to usher in His eternal kingdom. A return to the garden. Creation. Fall. Redemption. Recreation. This would be accomplished through Messiah the Prince who would be cut off and have nothing…Genesis 3.15 “He will crush your head and you will crush His heel.” It will look like losing along the way…to the end war, desolations are determined…but victory is assured. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. God wins.

But if this vision relates to Daniel’s people, why do we care? God’s promise to Abraham…through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. We know that the promise is ultimately fulfilled through Jesus…but Jesus is a very Jewish Messiah. His sacrifice will be for the whole world, but He came first for the Jews. We care because, as Paul tells us in Romans, we are grafted into the root. If God doesn’t keep His promises to Israel, why do we think He will keep His promises to us? Well, we might say, “But they were disobedient. They followed after false gods. They worshiped idols.” Have we been any different? So we should be Israel’s greatest cheerleaders. God’s plan has always been for the nations…Nebuchadnezzar and Darius are microcosms of that in Daniel… Salvation is not a birthright, but a gracious gift; and Israel His chosen people.

We know that Jesus defeated sin and death at the cross, that in Him is eternal righteousness, the fulfillment of prophecy and God’s presence with us. All that was accomplished in the spiritual realm at His death and resurrection. But we don’t see the full working out of that yet, as the author of Hebrews tells us. We are still awaiting the time when faith becomes sight, when heaven and earth, the spiritual and the physical come crashing together once again, when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. God’s sovereignty is unchallenged in the heavenly realm. The battle is for planet earth. Romans 8…creation groaning awaiting freedom from corruption.

I love the fact that Gabriel tells Daniel that he is highly esteemed (Hebrew “precious”). If you are a follower of Jesus, the same is true of you. We are living in the time between the 69th and 70th weeks, a time of persecution and suffering for the people of God. God has not forgotten us. His Spirit dwells within us, He will neither leave us nor forsake us. So don’t give up. Don’t give in. God wins.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, know that a primary purpose of prophecy is to warn folks of impending judgment. The desolater is desolated. The outcome is already determined. Those who side with God are citizens of the eternal kingdom, but those who oppose Him are citizens of earthly kingdoms that are doomed to destruction. The time is short. Don’t wait.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

The Restoration Process Part 1

Daniel 9.1-19

We are going to do something a little bit different in response to the passage this week…I want to invite you to follow Daniel’s example and pray. We’ll use Daniel’s prayer as a guide.

We’ll start with adoration…in adoration we praise God’s character. “I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments… 7Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord…9To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness…” Now spend a few minutes praising God for who He is in your own words.

Next we’ll move to confession…in confession we acknowledge our sins against God and against others. I love the fact that Daniel includes himself in his prayer (we 8x), acknowledging, “I’m part of the problem, fix me.” “5we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 6Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land. 7Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day— to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. 8Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; 10nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. 11Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. 12Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. 13As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. 14Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.” Now spend a few moments confessing where you’ve blown it in your relationship with God and others. Then move to a time of confessing where we as a church have blown it…both as a local expression and as the church in America.

Next we’ll move to thanksgiving…in thanksgiving we thank God for what He has done. “15And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day.” Spend a few minutes thanking God for His work in your life, in the life of our church and in the nation.

Finally supplication…in supplication we bring our requests before God, humbly yet boldly approaching the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Faith believes, accepts and approaches God as our covenant God in and through Jesus. “16O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. 17So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. 18O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. 19O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” Now spend some time praying for our nation…for our leaders, just laws, for repentance, restoration and revival, for the recent Supreme Court decisions, for wisdom on how we should respond as a church…how we can best engage the culture, remembering that there is only one eternal kingdom. All the kingdoms of the earth will one day fall…our hope is not in the things of this world, but in the One who came to rescue us and lead us to the eternal kingdom…King Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the woman. Amen, come Lord Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Reclaiming the Kingdom Part 2

Daniel 7.19-28

Why does God give Daniel this revelation? Although he lives through the first beast (Babylon) and into the time of the second beast (Medo-Persia), he would not be around to see the fulfillment of the majority of the prophecy. How would an ancient Israelite have received it? Remember that Daniel is writing during a time when Israel is under the rule of foreign powers. Folks have started to return to Jerusalem. The walls and the temple will soon be rebuilt, but they will still be under the rule of the nations. They would not know the world that their fathers had known. They would not see Israel fulfilling her Abrahamic destiny of being the blesser of the nations. Instead they would only know life under foreign occupation and rule. And Daniel writes somehow to encourage them…to encourage them not to give up or to give in because God wins.

But how would this be an encouragement to folks who had no hope of life returning to “normal”? Daniel gives us two perspectives of reality in this chapter: one earthly and one heavenly. From the earthly perspective, there is apparent chaos as the sea (picture of the nations) is stirred up and one kingdom after another arises only to be conquered by the next successive kingdom. And each kingdom will be opposed to God, so if you are one of the saints, it will look like you are on the losing side, especially during the time of the fourth beast. In Genesis 3.15 God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed…”

From the heavenly perspective, God is in complete control. The Ancient of Days is seated on His fiery throne. His sovereignty is unquestioned. The beasts may roam the earth, but they are subject to God. Their dominion is a delegated dominion. And there’s coming a time when heaven and earth will once again be reunited, the kingdoms of this world will be judged and an eternal kingdom will be set up. In the end, the saints’ victory will be manifest. History is moving toward a climax in which good triumphs over evil. And the book ends with the hope of the resurrection (12.13).

The hope of the ancient Israelite was resurrection (12.2-3). It wasn’t a comfortable family-life. It wasn’t a good job. It wasn’t even a return to Jerusalem. It was the resurrection where they would receive their share in the eternal kingdom, where they would walk its streets and serve its King. Daniel’s encouragement was to live life today as citizens of the eternal kingdom. If they focused on their present circumstances, it sure wouldn’t have looked like they were on the winning side. But if they looked beyond their circumstances, Daniel gave them glimpses of God winning – seeing Him praised and His sovereignty acknowledged by the most powerful men in the world (Nebuchadnezzar and Darius); and the boys’ willingness to face death in the fiery furnace and the lions’ den rather then compromise their faith.

Today we find ourselves under the dominion of the fourth beast. We are living in a world that devours and tramples, that overpowers and wears down the saints. We are living in a world that is venomously hostile not only toward God, but also toward His followers. A world in which violence is king…just look at the top rated video games, the top grossing movies, the sporting events we pay extra to see. Not unlike Ancient Rome. In Genesis 6, it was because of the violence of man that had greatly increased on the earth that God finally said, “Enough is enough” and sent the flood. Each successive kingdom has been more violent than the one before, and so we should expect to experience the trampling down and the devouring. We should expect to be attacked and persecuted.

Daniel’s encouragement to us is not to place our hope in the things of this world, the present earthly kingdom in which we find ourselves. Our hope is not in a better job with better benefits, or reconciled relationships, or the right education for my kids. It’s not the American Dream. Our hope is in the resurrection…where we will walk the streets of the eternal kingdom, where we will serve our King. Daniel’s encouragement to us is the same as was his encouragement to the ancient Israelites: live your life as a citizen of the eternal kingdom. Influence others by our uncompromising faith in God. To often we want to claim dual citizenship…living in both the earthly and heavenly kingdoms, hoping to enjoy the benefits of both. But we can only live in one of them…only one can claim our allegiance. Jesus said something about that… “No man can serve two masters for he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” James writes, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…” Be prepared to suffer. Persevere until the end. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. God wins.

I love the scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where our heroes, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come to the aid of King Theoden to defend Helm’s Deep. They’ve received word that a large army of Urai-hai, a beastly army created by the wicked wizard Saruman, is on the march. With a small band of defenders, the only hope of winning, maybe better, surviving, is the mighty fortifications of the fortress itself. Then the elves show up, and it seems that our heroes might have a fighting chance. But then the enemy pours into the valley and covers it like blanket. The battle begins and our heroes seem to be holding their own until the wall is breached by an unnatural explosion. The bad guys pour in. The good guys are overwhelmed. The hope they had placed in the wall and the elves was misplaced.

Theoden, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are in the last fortified chamber with the Urai-hai crashing the door. Theoden, tempted to give up, remarks, “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” I love Aragorn’s answer, “Ride out with me. Ride out with me and meet them.” Theoden, “For death and glory…” Then Gimli says, “The sun is rising…” “Foul deeds awake. Now for wrath. Now for ruin. Now for the red dawn.” The band rides out through the sea of Urai-hai just in time to see Gandolph and the riders of Rohan coming up over the ridge. They overwhelm the bad guys below and the day is saved.

Living life in the fourth kingdom many times feels like we are on the losing side, especially as Jesus followers. It feels like the enemy is crashing the door down looking to devour us. We are often tempted to give up or give in. But remember the earthly kingdoms are temporary. They are given dominion for a short period of time. The Son of man is coming to set up an eternal kingdom that will never fail or fade. The enemy has already been defeated, though we don’t see it fully yet. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.

If you are not a part of His eternal kingdom today, please don’t wait. Each kingdom fell in a moment of time. This one will too. And when that moment comes, it will be too late. You can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom by trusting in its King. By believing that Jesus came and lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death and was raised again to life conquering both sin and death, the Bible says that you can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom. A son or daughter of the King. That you too would not have to give up or give in because Jesus wins!

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster