Our Reclaimed Hope

Daniel 12

What a ride! Fourteen weeks in the book of Daniel. Terrifying visions, steadfast faith, incredible courage, uncompromising commitment, a new chapter. The rules have changed during the Time of the Gentiles. Where doing the right thing once brought blessing, it now brings a curse (ex. fiery furnace and lions’  den). Conforming to the surrounding culture brings comfort. Good is called evil, and evil good. Right and wrong are a matter of public opinion. Following God will not be easy, but for those with insight and the courage to persevere, their inheritance is secure. As the divine messenger says, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” In the midst of a world seemingly out of control, Daniel is reminded (and reminds us) that God is still in control… “For wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the ages; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.” So don’t give up, don’t give in…God wins.

The first six chapters of Daniel are story…the adventures of Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia. Daniel receives his first two visions while Belshazzar is king…still under the dominion of the first beast, Babylon. He receives these visions before the “handwriting on the wall” of Daniel 5. Daniel’s prayer and the last two visions are during the time of Darius/Cyrus. Why is that important? Because Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den (Daniel 6) could very well have come after this final vision. His response to persecution/suffering should inform our response…God can, God will, but even if He doesn’t, He is still sovereign and actively involved in the events of my life and is working for my good and His glory. And just as prayer was an indispensable part of Daniel’s life, it should be of ours as well.

God’s faithfulness to deliver the fantastic four…His faithfulness to deliver His people throughout history … should cause God’s people to want to be faithful in the face of tribulation and oppression. The Daniel’s visions are given within a context of persecution…there was tremendous pressure for him to compromise and even abandon his faith. Daniel writes to persuade folks who are suffering persecution to hold fast their faith and endure because God will rescue them even through death by resurrection (many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake…to everlasting life). Like the fantastic four, we too are tempted to compromise and abandon our faith, but don’t do it. We are called to live out our faith in a hostile world no matter the cost, being available to be used by God to boldly, yet compassionately point those on our impact list to Jesus, knowing that good triumphs in the end. Don’t give up, don’t give in…Jesus wins.

Is your name written in the book? Only those whose name is written in the book will be rescued and resurrected to everlasting life. And the only way to have your name written in the book…trusting in Jesus to rescue you. Then you too, like Daniel, will receive your allotted inheritance in the eternal kingdom. If your name is not in the book, or if you’re not sure…if you don’t know the God that Daniel speaks of today, the God of heaven, the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, the Revealer of Mysteries, the Rescuer of our souls, please don’t wait. Only those who have insight, whose names are in the book…who have trusted in Jesus for everlasting life will be a part of His eternal kingdom. The rest will spend an eternity apart from Him. Lack of understanding will be no excuse.

May God give us the courage and steadfastness of Daniel to face life in the fourth kingdom, and may we do it with an undying hope.

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

Weekend Passage – August 8

Daniel 12

The Time of the End

12 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”

Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river and the other on that bank of the river. And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. 10 Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. 11 From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days! 13 But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.”

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

The Abomination of Desolation

Daniel 11

History and prophecy. This passage gives us hope for the future. Understanding how God fulfilled the now historical aspects of Daniel’s vision in the past gives us confidence…it strengthens our faith and hope that He will do the same with those aspects that are yet future. God is sovereign over, and is actively involved in, the events on the world stage…past, present and future; and He’s also sovereign over, and actively involved in, the events of our lives as well. Don’t give up, don’t give in, God wins.

The description of the political and military intrigue of this passage is a kind of blueprint of history…folks fighting back and forth, trying to expand their kingdoms by any means necessary, whether by deceit or treachery or outright war. It’s true of both nations and individuals. As Solomon famously said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” But even more fascinating is the battle that has raged for millennia over this one piece of real estate…Israel. We see it even today. And no doubt that current events are playing somehow into Daniel’s vision of the future.

We are reminded once again that evil will not ultimately triumph. Good overcomes evil. The Seed of the woman crushes the head of the serpent. God wins in the end. Jesus defeated Satan at the cross, but we await the final working out of his defeat. In the meantime, we live under the dominion of the beasts, where evil is called and good is called evil. We should expect this to be a time of suffering and opposition from the enemy, as we are called to follow God and to oppose wickedness. And like the martyrs under the altar in Revelation 6, we may wonder, “How long, O Lord…?”

Though “evil does not reign supreme, neither will it ever cease altogether until God reigns supreme.” The road is not an easy one, and our determination to follow the Lord will be tested again and again. Sadly, many of the Jews living at the time of Antiochus IV gave up on the faith of their fathers and gave in to the culture. But there were those who refused to give up or give in…those who had insight, who relied on their God, gave understanding to the many. The answer to “how long?” is, “not forever.” And the good news is…we are not alone in the struggle. Jesus promises never to leave us or forsake us. He’s also placed us in a body of believers so that we can bear one another’s burdens and take up arms for the spiritual battle together. We look forward to the day when God, who has rescued us from sin and death through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, will one day bring us into His glorious kingdom. Our hope is resurrection…Daniel 12. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. God 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

Weekend Passage – July 25

Daniel 11

Conflicts to Come

11 “In the first year of Darius the Mede, I arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him. And now I will tell you the truth. Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece. And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases. But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendants, nor according to his authority which he wielded, for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them.

“Then the king of the South will grow strong, along with one of his princes who will gain ascendancy over him and obtain dominion; his domain will be a great dominion indeed. After some years they will form an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the South will come to the king of the North to carry out a peaceful arrangement. But she will not retain her position of power, nor will he remain with his power, but she will be given up, along with those who brought her in and the one who sired her as well as he who supported her in those times. But one of the descendants of her line will arise in his place, and he will come against their army and enter the fortress of the king of the North, and he will deal with them and display great strength. Also their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold he will take into captivity to Egypt, and he on his part will refrain from attacking the king of the North for some years. Then the latter will enter the realm of the king of the South, but will return to his own land.

10 “His sons will mobilize and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one of them will keep on coming and overflow and pass through, that he may again wage war up to his very fortress. 11 The king of the South will be enraged and go forth and fight with the king of the North. Then the latter will raise a great multitude, but that multitude will be given into the hand of the former. 12 When the multitude is carried away, his heart will be lifted up, and he will cause tens of thousands to fall; yet he will not prevail. 13 For the king of the North will again raise a greater multitude than the former, and after an interval of some years he will press on with a great army and much equipment.

14 “Now in those times many will rise up against the king of the South; the violent ones among your people will also lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they will fall down. 15 Then the king of the North will come, cast up a siege ramp and capture a well-fortified city; and the forces of the South will not stand their ground, not even their choicest troops, for there will be no strength to make a stand. 16 But he who comes against him will do as he pleases, and no one will be able to withstand him; he will also stay for a time in the Beautiful Land, with destruction in his hand. 17 He will set his face to come with the power of his whole kingdom, bringing with him a proposal of peace which he will put into effect; he will also give him the daughter of women to ruin it. But she will not take a stand for him or be on his side. 18 Then he will turn his face to the coastlands and capture many. But a commander will put a stop to his scorn against him; moreover, he will repay him for his scorn. 19 So he will turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land, but he will stumble and fall and be found no more.

20 “Then in his place one will arise who will send an oppressor through the Jewel of his kingdom; yet within a few days he will be shattered, though not in anger nor in battle. 21 In his place a despicable person will arise, on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred, but he will come in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue. 22 The overflowing forces will be flooded away before him and shattered, and also the prince of the covenant. 23 After an alliance is made with him he will practice deception, and he will go up and gain power with a small force of people. 24 In a time of tranquility he will enter the richest parts of the realm, and he will accomplish what his fathers never did, nor his ancestors; he will distribute plunder, booty and possessions among them, and he will devise his schemes against strongholds, but only for a time. 25 He will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South with a large army; so the king of the South will mobilize an extremely large and mighty army for war; but he will not stand, for schemes will be devised against him. 26 Those who eat his choice food will destroy him, and his army will overflow, but many will fall down slain. 27 As for both kings, their hearts will be intent on evil, and they will speak lies to each other at the same table; but it will not succeed, for the end is still to come at the appointed time. 28 Then he will return to his land with much plunder; but his heart will be set against the holy covenant, and he will take action and then return to his own land.

29 “At the appointed time he will return and come into the South, but this last time it will not turn out the way it did before. 30 For ships of Kittim will come against him; therefore he will be disheartened and will return and become enraged at the holy covenant and take action; so he will come back and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. 32 By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. 33 Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days. 34 Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. 35 Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.

36 “Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all. 38 But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know; he will honor him with gold, silver, costly stones and treasures. 39 He will take action against the strongest of fortresses with the help of a foreign god; he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him and will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price.

40 “At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through. 41 He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon. 42 Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. 43 But he will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels. 44 But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

A Renewed Spirit

Daniel 10

This is probably the clearest reference that we have to spiritual conflict in the OT. Spiritual warfare…angels fighting demons. The fate of the ancient world in the balance…sounds like it would make for a great movie. But this is no movie. What was happening to Daniel was real. And the spiritual conflict is no less real today, although we, the church in the West, have all but convinced ourselves it doesn’t exist. Not so in many places around the world. Last spring I took a trip to Nepal where spiritual warfare is more palpable. Much like many 2nd and 3rd world countries, temples and idols are everywhere and the spiritual oppression can be felt.

While the church in the West may be turning a blind eye to spiritual opposition, the American culture at large is not. There is a dangerous fascination and preoccupation with the occult and the demonic. They’re considered entertainment…they’re seen as cool, trendy, edgy, no big deal, cute or even laughable (Sabrina the teenage witch, Supernatural, The Secret Circle, Charmed, Hocus Pocus, tattoos depicting death or demons, tacos named El Diablo, Twilight). Hollywood seems to be fascinated with it. Horror movies in general.

When it comes to the spiritual realm, we have strayed away from biblical truths. What we learn from Daniel in this passage is this: Daniel’s prayer is somehow a part of this process. An angel was sent in response to Daniel’s prayer, the angel battled the prince of Persia, this dark angel, this demon, to deliver Daniel the message, and Daniel’s vision into the spiritual realm was so disturbing that he was terrified. There are powerful forces of evil at work in the kings and nations of the world to defeat and overthrow the people and the work of God…but there are also more powerful forces of good working harmoniously together who will overcome the wicked opponents…good triumphs over evil, the kingdom is in good hands, its success is assured.

Just as there was a “prince” of Persia and of Greece, there are “princes” behind the earthly kings and kingdoms of the world today who actively oppose God and His people. Terrorists attacks around the world. The ferocious violence of ISIS. The recent Supreme Court decisions…all are clear examples of that opposition where evil is called good, and good evil…where truth is determined by public opinion. And just as Daniel fasted, mourned and prayed, so should we. Prayer is a bloody battleground, where violent and decisive conflicts are fought over the souls of men and women, boys and girls in time and eternity…

C.S. Lewis saw 2 errors…basically ignoring the reality of devils or becoming overly consumed with them. We tend towards the former. In some ways, I think it’s easier to believe in God than the devil, even though a great deal of Jesus’ ministry was casting out demons. Most of us are functioning atheists when it comes to the dark side and its minions. And I believe that’s why many of us are defeated and enslaved by sin so easily. We are totally unaware that we are in a battle. Not fun to think about, but…the good news is, if you have trusted in Jesus, you, like Daniel, are highly esteemed (greatly beloved). Jesus has already won the day. At the cross, He conquered sin, death, and all the forces of darkness. Jesus promised, “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.” Jesus has already defeated the strong man and plundered his house. So when spiritual warfare comes, and it will, we are not to fear, but to pray, like Daniel, to the One who has already rescued us, Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the woman. And now we wait, as Daniel did, for Jesus’ return.

If you have not trusted in Jesus, know that only He can rescue you from the spiritual forces of wickedness that are fighting for your soul and are holding you in bondage. And He longs to rescue you if you will simply believe in Him…that He died in your place as a substitute for your sin, your rebellion against God. When you believe in Him, He rescues you from sin and death and gives you life eternal with Him in His kingdom. Don’t wait. Trust in Jesus today.

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

Weekend Passage – July 18

Daniel 10

Daniel Is Terrified by a Vision

10 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and one of great conflict, but he understood the message and had an understanding of the vision.

In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.

Daniel Comforted

10 Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said to me, “O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future.”

15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. 16 And behold, one who resembled a human being was touching my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke and said to him who was standing before me, “O my lord, as a result of the vision anguish has come upon me, and I have retained no strength. 17 For how can such a servant of my lord talk with such as my lord? As for me, there remains just now no strength in me, nor has any breath been left in me.”

18 Then this one with human appearance touched me again and strengthened me. 19 He said, “O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!” Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, “May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. 21 However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

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