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

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

The Big Reveal

Genesis 45

Both the boys and Jacob are stunned when they learn that Joseph is alive. But maybe even more stunning is the revelation of God’s work in the events of Joseph’s life. Seeing his circumstances from God’s perspective allows Joseph to properly interpret events and forgive his brothers. Looking back it’s easy to see God’s hand, but what about in the midst of his circumstances…as he was being beaten by his brothers or when he was in the bottom of the pit or when he was sold to the Ishmaelites or to Potiphar, what about when he was falsely accused and spends years in prison, what about when he was forgotten for two years…God’s plans for our good are not always simple and transparent. Often we are tempted to ask, why me? It’s easy to discern God’s will through miracles, signs & wonders, but not so much through ordinary events. As believers we can trust in God to bring about His good purpose despite what others intend. It was true for Joseph, and it’s true in our lives as well. There have been many times in my life that I’ve wondered at the path that God had me on, but looking back I see His fingerprints, guiding and directing my steps. Even in the seeming detours, the wilderness experiences, those were times of preparation for the next phase on the journey.

But what about you? Can you see God’s hand at work in your life? Do you believe that He can bring about His good purposes for you even in the midst of your current trial? It was important for the Israelites to understand that as they marched through the wilderness. It’s important for us to understand as well. Instead of chalking it up to luck or happenstance, we need to seek clarity on what God is up to. His plan often takes us through suffering…Romans 5…but it’s the fastest route to spiritual maturity. It’s the furnace of God’s love that purifies, tests and strengthens our faith, so that we begin to look for like Jesus. Suffering aligns us to Jesus more than anything else.

It struck me that there are two different paths taken to suffering in Joseph’s story. Joseph sees God’s fingerprints all over his circumstances and comes to the incredible conclusion that God is working good in spite of the evil intention of others. Jacob on the other hand, exclaims, “Everything is against me!” For Joseph, his suffering is making him more like Jesus. For Jacob, his suffering puts a pause on his spiritual progress…and it’s over twenty years before he’s back in the game. Don’t let that be you.

I love the picture that Joseph paints of God…He’s not only sovereign over the events of history, He’s also personally involved in the lives of His people. He is gracious and compassionate, a God of mercy. “God sent me ahead to preserve many lives…” It’s a word of life, not death. God in sovereign grace has guided Israel’s history. And God in sovereign grace is guiding our history as well.

My prayer for us…that we would continually be stunned by God’s work in our lives and that we would see clearly the evidences of His handiwork even in the most mundane and ordinary of circumstances.

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

 

Back to Egypt

Genesis 43

The healing process has begun for this fractured family. Jacob is praying, and maybe hoping again for the first time in twenty years. The brothers are acknowledging their sin. Joseph has a front row seat. Good news because the plan of redemption rests with this motley crew. Through them all the families of the earth will be blessed, because from their descendants and more particularly through the line of Judah the Head-crushing Seed of the woman will come, a guy we know as Jesus. God could have chose any other way…He could have entrusted the mission to angels, He could have caused the rocks to cry out…yet He allows the plan to rest on this family. There is no plan B. Very risky proposition considering their track record. Sound familiar? His plan of redemption now continues with us, the church. A ragtag, motley crew…and considering our track record… Yet He has no plan B. We carry forward the plan of redemption.

Through this story we see both the mercy and the grace of God, working through circumstances and people to bring about restoration and healing. Jacob’s prayer. The steward’s consoling words. Joseph’s blessing. The compassion and mercy that we see reflected in Joseph is but a foreshadowing of the compassion and mercy, the grace of his distant Nephew, Jesus. Jesus, the One whose compassion and mercy drove Him to a cross to rescue you and me, who like Judah became Himself the guarantee so that we might be reconciled/returned to the Father. The One who like the Father, is waiting with open arms for His prodigal child to come home.

So whatever the weight of sorrow or guilt you may be carrying…tragedy that you have engineered or that has befallen you, may you experience His grace and mercy today.

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

Amazing Love…Advent: Love

Revelation 21.1-8

John wanted his readers to lay hold of the hope for which they had been saved, that even in the midst of suffering the afflictions and persecutions of this present darkness, this present evil age, they could be encouraged that they would one day be rescued and vindicated by the sudden appearance of Jesus, whose coming would destroy the powers of evil. Throughout the New Testament the message is clear: this future hope should impact our lives today…our behavior and devotion to Jesus. So John writes Revelation to encourage us as believers to persevere in the present because of the coming victory of God through Jesus Christ in His Second Advent…don’t give up, don’t give in, Jesus wins!

Looking at this glorious picture of God’s victorious reign reminds us of His amazing love for us. The lengths that He has gone to so that we might be reconciled to Him, that we might become His sons and daughters are nothing short of incredible. From the first few chapters of Genesis, He’s been relentlessly pursuing us. It started with a promise…Genesis 3.15. One day He would send the Head-crushing Seed of the woman to rescue us from the sin and death caused by our rebellion against Him and provide a way back to the garden. That promise was fulfilled in the Person of His Son Jesus in His First Advent, who lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, was raised the third day, and ascended to the throne of God. By believing in Him the Bible tells us that we have eternal life. To those who thirst…the water of life without cost. The retirement package is chill…paradise with Him forever.

Now we wait with anticipation His return…not as the sacrificial Lamb, but as the conquering Lion, not as the Baby in a manger, but the fierce Warrior-King on a white horse.

But today is the day. John’s encouragement to believers is also a warning to those who are not following Him. Judgment is certain. Jesus is coming back. The consequences are final. There will be no escape. No watching from the sidelines. You are either for Him or against Him. My prayer is that you are thirsty today…I love that His relentless pursuit continues till the end. The offer stands open, to drink from the springs of the water of life without cost.

So don’t give up because following Jesus is sometimes hard. Don’t give in to the culture around you. Why? Because Jesus wins! Amen, come Lord Jesus!

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