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

The Den of Redemption

Daniel 6

There are lots of parallels between this story, commonly referred to as Daniel and the lions’ den, and the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego’s experience with the fiery furnace. Both stories point to God’s active involvement in the lives of His people. Both point to His power to rescue in miraculous ways. Both point to His sovereignty over the nations. Sometimes we think that maybe that was true then, but what about now? Let me challenge you to spend some time today reflecting ways that you’ve seen evidence of God’s active involvement in your life. I think you will be blown away by His fingerprints all over your situation, in both good and bad times. He never leaves us or forsakes us. Our God can, our God will, but even if He doesn’t…

There’s no doubt that God can rescue, but the big question is…why does He choose to rescue Daniel? By this time Daniel is in his 80’s. He’s an old man, who’s lived a long life. He’s already a citizen of God’s eternal kingdom, he’s a son of the King, his future is secure. Why not a martyr’s death? Like Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah aka Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, I believe God rescues Daniel, not just for Daniel’s sake (he dies eventually), but 1) to remind God’s people that He is with them even during times when earthy kingdoms are ruling over them, and 2) to introduce Darius to Daniel’s God.

You see, counting Darius, we only know of two folks that Daniel has been able to introduce to the living God. Two folks that have passed from death to life…Nebuchadnezzar and Darius. Yet that’s a pretty impressive two. Jesus picked 12 ordinary guys…a lot like us…and poured into their lives for 3 years, at the end of which time, one betrayed Him, one denied Him and the rest abandoned Him in His darkest hour. Yet 11 of these 12 guys changed the world after seeing the resurrected Jesus. Daniel’s two were the most powerful men in the world, who both sent out decrees to the nations praising the one true God. Because Daniel was available, God used him to boldly yet compassionately reach these two guys. Like Daniel, you may only have influence on one or two lives, but how will God multiply that influence in later generations?

But you may be thinking, like me, I’m not Daniel. I’m not one of the disciples. A friend of mine and I were talking about this passage. He said, “Daniel was the right guy for the job and God used him to accomplish His purposes. We just finished Acts. Paul’s uniqueness was a theme that kept popping up – rabbinical training, Roman citizenship, even his legacy of persecuting the church – all those things allowed him to accomplish the work that God has set before him. God’s faithfulness to His people through the uniqueness and faithfulness of His servants. We’re not Paul, we’re not Daniel, but we can know for certain that we ARE the right guy/gal for a job in service to His kingdom.” God has uniquely gifted and equipped the folks that He’s placed around you, you’re 8-15. Like Daniel, Paul, the disciples and countless saints that have gone before, He wants to use you to impact His kingdom for eternity. Are you available so that as God gives opportunities, you may boldly yet compassionately point others to Him?

The question’s been asked, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” In other words, what impact is your faith having on your life? Do folks “catch” you obeying the law of your God? Realize there will be adversaries…Genesis 3.15 warns us that there will always be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Just like Daniel they will look to catch you…will they catch you compromising or courageously following your God? (1 Peter 4) Daniel at 80+ years old is determined to finish strong. He wasn’t done until he was done…better to burn out than fade away. (What about you?) Daniel’s hope is not fixed on fleeting things like earthly kingdoms…his hope is in the Rock cut without hands, the One who will set up an eternal kingdom that will not fade. That gave him the courage to face certain death knowing that God would be with him, rescuing him by faith in danger not from danger. Sounds a lot like 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

 

Beyond Repair?

Daniel 5

Last week the great king Nebuchadnezzar learned a valuable lesson in humility. There’s only one God, and only one King of the universe. Nebuchadnezzar’s right to rule was a gift from the true King. We saw that anyone can be transformed by God.

Belshazzar also saw himself as a great king, but he was not a wise king. While Nebuchadnezzar was guilty of sacking the Jerusalem temple, he at least he showed reverence for the sacred nature of its vessels…not so with Belshazzar, not only does he drink out of them thus profaning them, he also uses them to worship his gods…gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. Reminds me of Romans 1. “Although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man, and birds and four footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over…” Ironically, Belshazzar didn’t know the difference between the living God and dead idols until it was too late. Nebuchadnezzar humbly worships God and respected Daniel. Belshazzar was arrogant, dishonoring God and doesn’t know Daniel. Belshazzar fails to follow Nebuchadnezzar’s example. Even Daniel’s tone with him leads us to believe he was not the man Nebuchadnezzar was.

Belshazzar has undoubtedly heard the stories of Nebuchadnezzar’s life-changing encounters with God…the dream of the great statue that God through Daniel both revealed and interpreted; Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego’s miraculous rescue through the fiery furnace; and even Nebuchadnezzar’s 7-year stint as a wild animal…but we are all, like Belshazzar, skeptical, selfish people before God changes our hearts. No doubt Belshazzar had opportunities to respond over the years, following the example of Nebuchadnezzar by becoming a God-follower, but instead he chose to do his own thing. In chapter 5 we see God’s response to an unrepentant heart. The Lord acts swiftly with Belshazzar. The supernatural special effects of the hand have a decided impact on Belshazzar…it’s more than just a spooky, floating hand writing on the wall. Belshazzar knew this was for him…the implications might impact the kingdom, but this was personal. His sin was found out. He was undone. For each of us, there is that moment when our sin is found out and we are undone…we know we can’t escape. How will you respond? We are given opportunities in life to respond to God, but sometimes it’s too late. Our time to respond has passed and our life on this earth is over leading to an eternal death.

These two similar, but contrasting stories…of Nebuchadnezzar and of Belshazzar…should cause us to pause. While Nebuchadnezzar reminds us that anyone can be transformed by God, Belshazzar, on the other hand, reminds us that not everyone will be because of their choice to harden their own hearts. Even when the handwriting was revealed to Belshazzar…even then he might have repented and turned to the living God and have been rescued…his response is not repentance, but to give trinkets to Daniel. He trusts in the power of his earthy kingdom to protect him…a faith that was sadly misplaced.

We all like Belshazzar have been weighed in the balance scales and found wanting. But the good news is that though each of us has been weighed and found wanting, there is One who was weighed and found sufficient. That’s Jesus. Remember He is the Hero we’ve been looking for since the garden when our first parents rebelled. The Head-crushing Seed of the woman who was promised, the Rock cut without hands, who alone could reconcile us to Father God. And in the Gospels, we see Jesus arrive on the scene. He lives a perfect life and dies a sacrificial death and is raised on the third day, conquering both sin and death. When we trust in Him, the Father sees His sufficiency instead of our inadequacy. Jesus died and rose again so that we might also die with Him to sin and be raised again to eternal life, so that we might be transformed into the image of Jesus, learning to live and love like Him. There are only 2 choices in this life…eternal life or eternal death. We don’t know when it will be too late to respond, when we will be “weighed and found wanting” so if you haven’t trusted in Jesus and you are feeling and seeing God’s pursuit of you, why wait? Belshazzar is an example to us that tomorrow is never promised.

The handwriting is on the wall…

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

He Is Risen!

Matthew 28.1-17

Both the women and the guards are witnesses to the miraculous events of that first Easter morning. But two wildly different conclusions…Jesus is alive…fear and joy, resurgence of faith and hope reborn, eternal life, reconciliation of heaven and earth… or Jesus is dead…fear and trembling, deception and despair, death…

Resurrection proves…Jesus was the Hero (Messiah) He claimed to be…Jesus resurrection set him apart from other religious leaders, viz. Muhammad, Gandhi, Buddha, Moses…, His death did in fact satisfy God’s just punishment/the penalty for sin, Jesus is able to raise us to spiritual life, Jesus will give us eternal life. And as He promised, He will be with us always, even unto the end of the age. Do you know this Jesus? Who are you in the story? The women or the guards?

Friday I told the story of three trees that each had aspirations of greatness…one to be a box holding great treasure, one a mighty ship sailing the seas and one to be the tallest of trees pointing to the Creator. But when the woodsmen came, their hopes and dreams were dashed. The first tree had been made into a feeding trough, the second into a flimsy boat and the third into lumber.

Just like the trees, the disciples despaired. Hope was gone. Jesus hung lifeless on the cross. But just as the cross was not the end of Jesus’ story, so the story of the trees continues.

“Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. “I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew she was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

That was better than being the tallest tree in the world. – The Tale of Three Trees

The resurrection changes everything! The disciples went from despair to radically changing the world. Jesus makes all the difference. He brings purpose and meaning, real hope and change. Eternal life that starts today and never ends.

If you find yourself in the place of the women in the story…you believe that Jesus is alive then your job is to proclaim that good news (that the long-awaited Hero has come) to those in your circle of influence who don’t know the hope of the gospel. If you find yourself in the place of the guards in the story…I would invite you to reconsider. Today could be the day that you pass from death to life.

So with new meaning…Jesus is risen, He is risen indeed!

Until next time…stay salty.

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

A Journey’s End

Genesis Wrap-up

Genesis begins with a man in a garden enjoying perfect fellowship with God…it ends with a man in a coffin…a haunting picture of the terrible consequences of sin introduced when we revolted against our Maker. Death has invaded our world and taken us all captive. Yet hope remains alive because of the faith of the man in the coffin. God would one day send a Hero to rescue us and provide a way back to the garden and perfect fellowship with Him. The amazing news today is…the Hero has come.

Jesus, God’s only Son, came and lived a perfect life…a life totally in tune and dependent on His Father. He died a bloody, horrible, sacrificial death. Was raised the third day proving that He had conquered both sin and death and ascended to the right hand of the Father. By faith in Him, the Bible says that we like Adam and Noah, Abraham and Joseph, can be declared righteous…not because of anything that we have done, but because of what Jesus did. He is the Genesis 3.15 Head-crushing Seed of the woman…the innocent dying for the guilty so that the guilty could be declared innocent.

The God of Genesis is a God who loves deeply, who creates and restores, who rescues and guides, who redeems evil. He is the Bringer of hope. He is the God who blesses…bless and blessing mentioned more in Genesis than anywhere else in the Bible. He is gracious and merciful…but He is also just and He will punish those who reject Him.

Like the ancient Hebrews, we need to be reminded that we are God’s image-bearers. Although that image was marred through the fall, we are still of infinite value. You are of infinite value to Him. You are no accident. Do you believe that? I think if we truly did, we would behave differently. The proof of your value is the price paid to redeem you…the eternal Son of God. Only by trusting in Jesus can the image truly be restored and your purpose truly be realized. Make today the day.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The End?

Genesis 50

A good death is a fitting end to a good life. This passage about two good deaths…about dying well, in faith, knowing that physical death is not the end of the story…a reminder that as believers we are sojourners looking for the heavenly city. Sandwiched in between these two good deaths is a reminder that living well is also a challenge…

Genesis begins with a man in a garden enjoying God’s presence…it ends with a man in a coffin anticipating a restoration of that presence. The devastating effects of sin are painfully clear…death has invaded this world through sin and holds us all captive…yet the faith of the man in the coffin speaks equally clear of God’s purpose to break the power of sin through a people that He has chosen to carry forward the plan of redemption, that ultimately the promised Head-crushing Seed of the woman, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Conquering King, the Hero of our story who would come to rescue us, destroying both sin and death, leading us back to the garden and restoring our relationship with our Creator God.

Though death is a very real and painful experience this side of the garden, death is not the last word, it’s not the end, in the lives of believers. We, like Joseph, die in hope. I love what John Donne, the 17th century poet and churchman wrote…

Death, be not proud, though some have called you

Mighty and dreadful, for you are not so;

For those whom you think you overthrow,

Die not, poor Death, nor yet can you kill me.

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; Death, you shall die.

—John Donne

C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series concludes with these words from Farewell to Shadowlands, The Last Battle “And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion…And for us this is the end…But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Until next time…stay salty.

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