Exhibiting Godly Character

October 4, 2015


Those who play professional sports have guidelines for speaking to the media. Team members do not go out and say whatever they feel like saying. The team is supposed to present a unified front. It is the same when a large company is called on the carpet for something. Company reps must support the company. We all intuitively understand the need for this and we probably think it is okay as long as laws are not being broken and people are not being hurt.

It is also important for Christians to present a united front. In Jn.17 Jesus prays that we might be one; that we might dwell in unity. Jesus says that we should be known for our love for one another.

As we wrap up in the book of Daniel I want to say that in a post-Christendom society Christians must exhibit godly character.


A couple of weeks ago we saw in Dan.5 how Daniel read the handwriting on the wall announcing the demise of Belshazzar’s reign in Babylon. That very night Belshazzar was defeated by the Medes and the Persians, and Darius the Mede became king. By this time Daniel would have been close to being 70 years old. Verse 1 tells us that there were 120 satraps (provincial governors) ruling in the kingdom with three high officials over these 120 satraps. Daniel was one of the high officials. In v.3 we learn that Darius was planning to promote Daniel over the whole kingdom because it was quickly becoming clear to Darius that Daniel was extraordinary. He had an excellent spirit in him.

Now imagine yourself working for a company and your company is bought out by a bigger company. The bigger company brings in its own people and corporate culture, but you are retained as a vice president because of your expertise and knowledge of the product. The new president begins to realize that you ought to be promoted over the other vice presidents. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the other vice presidents harbored ill will towards you. I mean you were never a part of the bigger company. No doubt those other vice presidents will have many conversations about you and seek to oppose you. This is what happened to Daniel. Once the word was out that the king planned to promote Daniel, all the other high officials and Satraps got together to see what they could do to disqualify Daniel. I mean, Daniel wasn’t even a Mede or Persian. He was a Jewish captive.

In v.4 we learn that they left no stone unturned in trying to find something against Daniel. And this is what I want us to think about. They could not find anything against Daniel because Daniel lived a faithful life. In other words, Daniel was trustworthy. Daniel was not careless in his work, nor was he corrupt. Now one would think that the others would find Daniel’s life to be compelling, but that is not often the case in our world.

Last Sunday evening I was outside looking at the eclipse and our neighbor and I were catching up. She is an attorney who worked for a company that wanted her to carry out illegal actions. She refused and blew the whistle and was fired. The EEOC only accepts a few cases each year. They accepted her case and after a number of years found serious illegalities in that company. She has been unable to find work as an attorney because she was blackballed. Now she is being exonerated. She told me last Sunday that she used to believe in the general goodness of mankind, but has since come to see that most people are willing to corrupt themselves. And she’s right.

My hunch is that the high officials and satraps did not like Daniel because under Daniel’s watch it was far more difficult to carry out corruption. What we do not know from the passage is what it must have been like for Daniel to show up every day for work, knowing that these others were against him and talking about him. I mean, it is never easy to work when you know others do not like you and are in fact, working against you.

These satraps and high officials finally determined that if they were going to disqualify Daniel they would have to challenge his loyalty to the king by forcing him to compromise his loyalty to God. What they did not realize is that Daniel was loyal to the king because of his loyalty to God. As a believer in God, Daniel’s life exhibited the highest sort of character and integrity. Godly character is powerful. But godly character often brings opposition in this ungodly world.

So these guys got together and devised a plan to have the king sign into law a document that would require everyone to pray only to king Darius for the period of a month. And why not? Darius was a newbie on the throne and it would be helpful in establishing loyalty to him. King Darius was clueless about what this might mean for Daniel. After all, Darius was a pagan and didn’t see any harm in it. So he signed the document into law.

Men and women, in a post-Christendom society, morality and law are relative. Fewer and fewer people today believe in moral absolutes. If morality is not absolute, then law is always negotiable.

Now if you are a Christian then it means you embrace moral absolutes that come from the character of God and are expressed in the Ten Commandments. So when God says, you shall not lie, he means it. And when God says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” he means it. And when Jesus comes and tells us that the Ten Commandments are to be written on our hearts so that we understand that hatred is equivalent to murder and lust is equivalent to adultery, we embrace the truth of this. We seek to embody the goodness of God in our character. Such character is always good for the world to see. And such character will always eventually bring trouble to us from the world. Do you embody godly character?


I am assuming that most of us here are professing followers of Jesus Christ. We have called upon the name of the Lord to be saved from our sins and have received his eternal kind of life. Of course we all know that there are many sinful desires and habits that reside in our bodies and exert a powerful presence in our lives. So having a godly character is something we must pursue and cultivate on a daily basis. How do we do that?

When the king signed the document into law, Daniel did what he always did. Look at v.10 (read). What’s wrong with Daniel? Any normal person would have gone home and shut the windows in his upper chamber. Any normal person would have waited until dark to kneel in prayer to God. But Daniel didn’t respond in this way. It was his practice to kneel in prayer three times a day as he faced towards Jerusalem, where the temple of God had been located. Daniel was a man of prayer. Prayer is one of the most important activities of a godly life. Daniel made time to pray. He was disciplined in his prayer life.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m not really disciplined in my prayer life. In fact I don’t pray in any regular sort of way and I seem to be doing okay.” Men and women we do not pray so that we may be doing okay day in and day out. When we pray we are cultivating an intentional dependency upon God. When we pray we are seeking strength from the Lord to honor and exalt his name in every dimension of our lives. When we pray we are seeking to align our thoughts, desires, and activities to be consistent with the ways of God. If you think you are doing well as a Christian without a regular turning to God in prayer, then your definition of “well” is shortsighted and sub Christian. How can I say that? I can say it because Jesus himself was a man of regular prayer. If Jesus saw the need for regular prayer, what makes us think we don’t need it? There was a lot riding on Daniel as he lived his life in Babylon and he did not fail to pray, even when prayer to God was outlawed.

But there’s more. Look at Dan.9:1-2. “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans--in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.”

Daniel had been reading, studying the book of Jeremiah, the prophet. Daniel was a student of God’s word. We know that since Daniel grew up during the reign of king Josiah that he was taught the Law of God, the first 5 books of the Old Testament.

Now why is reading the Bible so important? It is important because it is the primary means through which our minds can be renewed so that our lives can be transformed into the image and character of Christ. Again, there are many professing Christians who think they are doing just fine without a regular reading of the Bible. But what I can tell you is that without a regular, thoughtful reading of the Bible, your life will not reflect the character of Christ. You may be a moral person. You may be a nice person. But your life will not reflect the priorities of God and his Son, Jesus. And the reason is because you do not have the priorities of God in your heart. Being moral and nice is wonderful, but it is not the same as being godly.

2Pt.1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” How do we gain a knowledge of God? It is through the word of God.

If Daniel was afraid, it certainly doesn’t show. The pattern of his life with God was well set and he was not about to change it in order to preserve his life. Daniel had come to understand that God is the one who secures a person’s life. We can never secure our own lives.

If you have any desire to become a godly man or woman it is important to pursue regular prayer and thoughtful Bible reading. If you have little desire to be a godly man or woman then you need to consider what your relationship to God is. Those who know Christ desire and seek to be like him.


We know the story. Daniel was thrown into the Lion’s den. The King realized the treachery of the high officials and Satraps, but he could not change the law. As Daniel was being thrown to the lions the king said to him in v.16, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!" King Darius was so upset that he spent the night fasting and he could not sleep. The first thing in the morning the king went to the lion’s den and cried out, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions.”

And Daniel called back, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm."

It says in v.23, “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” Then the king took the wicked men who devised the scheme and threw their entire families into the lions’ den where they were consumed.

Now look at v.25-28 (read). What is the purpose of having a godly character? Well, for one thing, it is the best way to live life. But far beyond that, the purpose of living a godly life is to show to the world the goodness and power of God. We do not pursue godly character so that we can have material prosperity and wealth. That is not God’s promise to us. We pursue a godly life so that God might be glorified in our lives.

I guarantee that many Christians today would think that God had let them down if they were thrown in a lion’s den. They would be thinking, “Is this the way God treats one of his children?” Think about that. Think about how God treated his only Son, Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sakes. Such thoughts did not enter Daniel’s mind because he knew the goodness of God. His life was secure in God.

Brothers and sisters, often our vision is too narrow. We live for ourselves and our families but we do not see that our lives have significant purpose in proclaiming the glory of God in this dark world. Recently I was listening to a lecture by Dallas Willard. He said, “Imagine someone asking you what you do and you respond with the words, ‘I am the light of the world.” But that is exactly what Jesus says about believers in the Sermon on the Mount. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world because we show the glory of God in how we live. Daniel was not living for his own glory; he was living for the glory of God. Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

How can you begin to live each day for the glory of God? Here are five steps. 1. Read a portion of scripture from the New Testament or Psalms. 2. Memorize verses that will help you focus on God and his ways. 3. Pray Ps.119:36, which says, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” There are many verses like this you can pray. 4. Spend time with other believers in worship and fellowship. 5. Make prayer be as normal as breathing in your life.

In the past month alone three high profile Christian leaders have had to resign their posts for violating their marriage vows. Two of these were caught in the Ashley Madison scandal. One was a Christian college president. Earlier this summer we heard about the Duggar family, former pastors Matt Chandler in Texas, Matt Mikela in Michigan and Tullian Tchividjian in Florida, along with former U.S. House speaker, Dennis Hastert. These all profess to be followers of Christ. Now of course, we are redeemed sinners, but we are redeemed sinners who have been filled with the Holy Spirit. We belong to God and not ourselves. Men and women, this is not a time for spiritual laziness. We must exhibit godly character to the glory of God. Amen

On Being Faithful

September 13, 2015

While we live our lives day by day great changes are afoot. And change usually involves upheaval. I enjoy reading biographies of U.S. presidents. I am struck by all the upheaval that continues to occur in the history of our country.

Most of us just try to steer clear of trouble until we are forced to take a side. And when we are forced to take a side issues of morality and justice are usually involved. And issues of justice and morality are connected with religion and faith. And if our faith commitments are at odds with the majority opinion, we are in trouble.

As Christians now living in a post-Christendom society we are experiencing some trouble. Our Christian understanding of morality is not in sync with the morality of our present culture. In the Bible it was often this way for those who trust in God and his Son Jesus. Today from Dan.3 I want to say that in a Post-Christendom society Christians must be faithful to Jesus Christ.


In society and government, things can seemingly change overnight. For many years the issue of slavery and states’ rights simmered in this country. As the abolitionist movement gathered strength tensions mounted. With the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, South Carolina was the first of eleven states to secede from the union. On April 12, 1861 at 4:30 am, everything changed when South Carolina attacked Fort Sumter. With that the civil war began. Things can change quickly.

Daniel and his three friends were trying to make the best of their situation in Babylon. God had blessed Daniel with an amazing promotion to become ruler of the whole province of Babylon and his friends were also promoted. But then, one day king Nebuchadnezzar decided to build an image of gold, 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. I imagine it took some time to construct this image. Perhaps Daniel and his friends were concerned about it. But then the day came. The gold image was ready and a decree was issued.

The king summoned the satraps, the prefects, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the various provinces together and he told them that when they heard the worship band, they were to bow down and worship the golden image. This included Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

So what was this image all about? From what I’ve read it was probably not an image of the king, but rather an image of his patron god, Nebo. So these officials would be bowing in worship of Nebo. But it is a little more complicated than that. In reality it was an act of religious loyalty to the king himself. After all, it was the king who was giving the command. I have heard people close to the president of the United States say things like, “You don’t say “No” to the President.” If that is true in our society where there is free speech, just imagine how true it was in a society in which the king held the power of life and death. In fact, v.6 tells us that the king made it clear that if anyone did not bow down he would be immediately cast into the fiery furnace. Well there you have it. Almost overnight, the faithfulness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was going to be challenged.

In the latest issue of Christianity Today I was quite surprised to read the following. “In 1920, Southern Baptist statesman George W. Truett gave his most famous speech, “Baptists and Religious Liberty,” from the steps of the US Capitol to an estimated 10,000–15,000 attendees. He taught that Baptists and Americans had a shared goal: “Democracy is the goal toward which all feet are traveling, whether in state or in church.” It is hard for me to imagine an Evangelical saying such a thing in today’s climate. In fact Russel Moore, the 8th president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention recently said, “[F]or too long we have assumed that the church is a means to an end to save America. America is important. But the end goal of the gospel is not a Christian America. The end goal of the gospel is redeemed from every tribe and tongue and nation and language. We belong to another kingdom.”

Now I am glad to be living in the United States. I deeply appreciate our democratic and free government, but democracy is no more a friend to grace than a monarchy or even a dictatorship. As Christians, we have been blessed to live in a country which has a history of embracing many Judeo-Christian principles of law. That could also be true in a monarchy or even a dictatorship as long as the king or the dictator firmly embraced Judeo-Christian principles. We have been fortunate to be able to freely practice and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in this country.

But things are changing for us as Christians in the United States. The ability to act on our beliefs is beginning to be challenged. And currently it is being challenged around issues of rights and discrimination. The Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage has put Christians on the defensive. Our faithfulness is being challenged.

This past year Kim Davis was elected county clerk of Rowen County, Kentucky. Currently, Kim is refusing to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples. The situation came to a head this past week when the Supreme Court of the United States denied Davis’ request for a stay of an order that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and she was sent to jail. This past week she was released. Davis is trying to act on her Christian beliefs regarding marriage. The same is true for Jack Phillips of Colorado, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, and for Barronelle Stutzman, the 70 year old florist in Washington State who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, and for photographer, Elane Heguenin, who refused to photograph a same-sex wedding. All these folks have been vilified and the courts have ruled against them.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were put on the spot. The stage was set for a showdown. The king did not give anyone a choice in the matter. Suddenly things had escalated and they had to decide what they were going to do.


The worship band began to play. Everyone bowed down. O wait a minute! Who are those three guys in the back standing up? In v.8-12 we learn that some of the Chaldeans approached Nebuchadnezzar with an accusation. The Chaldeans were at the top of society. My sense is they were jealous and despised these Jewish men despite the fact that Daniel had saved their lives by interpreting the king’s dream. In v.12 they make it clear to Nebuchadnezzar that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego pay no attention to the king. They do not serve his gods and did not worship the golden image. The king was furious and immediately summoned the Jewish men. Look at v.14-18 (read).

Well obviously the accusers were trying to make Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out to be completely disloyal to the king. That wasn’t the case at all. They were as loyal to the king as their faith in God allowed. They sought to do everything the king commanded, but here the king was demanding that they worship an idol. Their prior and greater loyalty was to God. And you get the sense here that they never even questioned whether or not they should bow down. When the king gave them a second chance their response was immediate. “No.” There was no way they could have worshipped the idol. That would have been the height of disloyalty to God.

Now some Christians might think, “Well, in my heart my loyalty is sure. I worship God. And God knows that. So who really cares if I bow down to the image? I’m just trying to get along in a very difficult situation.” But when you do that you become a house divided. By bowing you’re your body, you contradict your conscience and you disobey God. You are like Peter saying, “I do not know this Jesus of Nazareth.” In 2Tim.2:11-13 Paul writes concerning Jesus, “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful--for he cannot deny himself.”

This brings me back to Kim Davis. From what I can gather, Kim Davis views the issuing of marriage licenses to same sex couples as a compromise of her faith in Christ. For her it is a matter of conscience, and it is rarely wise or good to go against your conscience. On the other hand, she is an elected official and her salary is being paid in part by the same sex couples applying for marriage licenses. She is claiming that the government is robbing her of her first amendment rights. The first amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

In our country the rules have changed and Kim Davis does not feel she can abide by the new rules. Like the Chaldeans, the same-sex couples are accusing her of violating the law. And she is violating the law in order to remain true to her conscience.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were willing to pay the price to be faithful to God. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O King that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Any questions? I don’t think so. It sounds pretty clear to me. They were thrown into the fiery furnace. Now it seems to me that this great country of ours could find a way to accommodate Kim Davis and others, especially in light of the fact that there are many Christians in this country. That said, if no provision is made to allow Kim to exercise her 1st amendment rights, It seems to me, that she should resign her post unless she decides to slog it out in the courts. There is a price to pay to follow Christ.

Obviously, these are not easy decisions and I imagine there will be many more situations in which Christians must think carefully about how they are going to respond. Neither the baker, the florist, nor the photographer were trying to be unkind or discriminatory. They were trying to graciously live according to their beliefs. Over the years, the perception in our country is that business owners could operate their business as they saw fit. But things are changing. Is it discriminatory for a business owner to decide to serve one and not another on religious grounds? Does the business owner have that right? In a post-Christendom society those making the laws are not thinking from a Christian perspective and it will become more difficult for us. If the law said that I must perform same-sex weddings I couldn’t do it.

In 1Thess.4:10-12, we read, “But we urge you, brothers…to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” And in 1Tim.2:1-2 Paul writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” All of us must seek to live according to God’s word and our conscience. If we are commanded by law to do something that clearly violates Scripture we must be ready to pay the price as these men did.


In v.15 Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘And, who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” It is never wise to disrespect God. Obviously there is a God in heaven who doesn’t mind the heat. The men were thrown into the fire and as Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace he saw four men walking around and the fourth looked like a son of the gods. Many of us believe this was pre-incarnate Christ. The king called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out of the fire and when they came out there was no evidence of any kind that they had been in a fire. The three men would have never known or experienced God’s faithfulness to his people unless they had been willing to go into the fire. They feared God more than they feared Nebuchadnezzar and the fire. They loved God more than they loved their lives. And God delivered them. In Lk.14:26-27 Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

The king was astounded and impressed with their integrity and loyalty to God. In v.28 he says, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” Then he made a law that no one was to speak anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego upon punishment of being torn limb from limb. And then he promotes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Faithfulness is not a bargaining chip. We don’t think, “Okay, if I am faithful to God in this situation, he will deliver me from the fire and reward me afterwards.” That is not the lesson to be learned here.

We are faithful to God because he is God, our Creator and Sustainor. We are faithful to Christ because he is God, our Savior, King and Lord. As our lives reflect the gracious kindness of Christ in this world and as we live faithfully with Christ, others will take note. If God delivers us from persecution and hardship while we live in this world, God be praised. If he doesn’t, God be praised. This world is not our home; we are just passing through. Our life is not our own. We have been bought with a price.

Now I find these issues difficult to discern. I think we need to exercise grace as believers try to figure out how to personally respond. Bluster and arrogance is surely not the way. Being in power is not our goal. Being faithful to Christ is our goal. Maintaining our rights is not our goal. Maintaining our faith is our goal. In a Post-Christendom society Christians must be faithful to Jesus Christ.

Revealing the Glory of God

August 30, 2015

There are really only two kinds of people in this world. There are those who embrace God and his Son, Jesus Christ, and there are those who do not. Some may believe God exists but they do not acknowledge him as God. And those who believe in many gods have also failed to acknowledge the one, true God who exists in a plurality that we refer to as the Trinity.

Because God is the creator and sustainor of all things, because God created mankind, and because God is good, he has chosen to reveal himself to mankind. He has revealed himself through the immensity and complexity of the natural world. He has revealed himself in the Word of God. But the clearest, most important revelation of God to mankind is in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is God in the flesh.

However, there is another way God reveals himself to mankind. We see this again and again in Scripture. We see it in Daniel. It is very important to understand that in every society God desires to reveal his glory through his people.


In the 2nd year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream. Scholars suggest this dream occurred between April of 603 and March of 602. It would seem that Daniel and his friends had not yet completed their three years of study. Perhaps that is why when the king called all the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to meet with him, Daniel and his friends were not in that meeting.

Notice what the king wanted them to do. In v.4 these wise men asked the king to share his dream so they could interpret it. But in v.5 we learn that the king wanted them to tell him the dream and then to interpret it. And if they could not do it, they would all be torn limb from limb and their houses be destroyed. As you can imagine they were quite upset. In v.10-11 we read, “The Chaldeans answered the king and said, "There is not a man on earth who can meet the king's demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh."

Clearly the king did not have much faith in his wise men. He was not about to share his dream with them because he wanted to be sure that their interpretation was correct. In v.12 the decree is given that all the wise men of Babylon were to be destroyed.

When Arioch, the king’s captain came to take Daniel and his friends into custody to be killed, you notice in v.14 that Daniel spoke to Arioch with prudence and discretion, asking why the king was acting in such haste. When Daniel understood the situation, he went to the king and asked that the king appoint a time when Daniel could reveal the dream and its interpretation.

Wow! What a gutsy thing to do. No one else was stepping up to meet the king’s demands. But you might remember that in Dan.1:17 we learned that Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. He had some experience in interpreting dreams. But still the situation was alarming for no king had ever asked the wise men to first tell the dream.

In his commentary on Daniel, Gleason Archer writes, “The stage was now set to show the reality, wisdom, and power of the one true God, Yahweh, as over against the inarticulate and impotent imaginary gods the magicians worshiped.” So who set the stage? Obviously God did.

I want us to see that no matter how godless or idolatrous a culture might be, God is deeply committed to revealing his Name, his goodness, his power, his glory. In Ex.9:16 God tells Moses what he should say to Pharaoh. Moses is to say, “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”

When the Lord revealed the dream to Daniel, Daniel gave thanks and in v.21 we read, “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” God is very involved in the affairs of the world.

As the church loses its place of honor and respect in society, as we continue to recede in our ability to influence our culture and government, we may wonder what God is doing. And if the day comes when Christians in the United States are persecuted for the cause of Christ, we may wonder why God would allow this. We may even wonder where God has gone.

God has not gone anywhere. God is still on his throne and he is still concerned to see his name exalted and proclaimed in all the earth, including the United States. God is always setting the stage for his glory to be revealed.

Now this is not just true on a national and political level. It is also true on a personal level. In the places where we work, go to school and live, God is setting the stage for us to proclaim the glory of his name. In other words, when you go to work, when you go to school, when you are at home and with friends, God is present and he is interested in seeing his name publically honored. We can be confident that God is present and working. So when you go to work remind yourself, “God is here and working to honor his name.

Now Daniel did not have to try and second guess God as to when he needed to step up. It was clear. If he didn’t step up death was eminent for all the wise men. Well, as believers in this world, I do not think we need to worry about trying to figure out when we should step up to the plate. If we are surrendered to the Lord, I believe God will make it clear. Honoring his name will be our natural response as the opportunities arise. God is in control and since he is most interested in seeing his name and glory proclaimed, God is all over that. And there are many examples of this in scripture. God is continually setting the stage to reveal his glory.


There are a number of ways in which Daniel honored the Lord in v.17-45. Before we look at these examples, let me say that honoring the Lord begins with the surrender of one’s entire life to the Lord. Honoring the lord is not just doing certain Christian rituals. It flows from a surrendered heart. In 1Cor Paul writes, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Paul was not interested in making a name for himself in Corinth. He wanted to proclaim Christ. Paul was God’s man.

Daniel was not interested in making a name for himself. He was interested in honoring God with his life. When God is going to make his name known, he uses those who honor him.

So when Daniel was given time to consider the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream it is instructive to see that the first thing he did was to gather his friends for some serious prayer. The fact is, Daniel did not know the dream. In v.18 Daniel told his friends “to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.” And when the vision was revealed to Daniel he did not hesitate to give thanks to God in v.20-23.

If God is going to use us in our post-Christendom society, we must be a people of prayer, asking God in his mercy, to give us what is needed to know how best to proclaim his name in ways that our culture can hear. Truth be told, because things have changed so much in our culture, sometimes we are at a loss to know how best to bring the gospel to others. It is like a mystery to us. But of course, it is not a mystery to God. Do we want to proclaim his name? We need to seek his mercy.

Once Daniel knew the king’s dream and its interpretation, he was brought to the king. The king asked, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?" Daniel did not say, “I can.” Rather Daniel used the opportunity to honor God. In v.27-28 we read, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.”

As Daniel described the dream he took every opportunity to highlight the power and glory of God. Look at v.37-38 (read). The king’s dream spoke of various empires that would rule on the earth. But God was going to set up a kingdom that would stand forever. Of course we believe that kingdom is the kingdom of God with Christ as its king. Verse 44 says, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.” And finally in v.45 Daniel says, “A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure." Daniel honored the Lord before the king, letting the king know that his authority to rule came from God.

Coming from a well to do family in Brentwood, TN, 18 year old Katie did not feel compelled to go to college. She did feel compelled to go to Uganda. In December of 2006 she spent a brief time in Uganda and was immediately captivated with the people and the culture. In the summer of 2007, Katie returned to Uganda to teach Kindergarten at an orphanage. As she walked the children home from school, she was shocked to see the number of school-aged children walking along the road, playing with friends, washing their families’ dishes, or digging in the fields. She learned that most schools in Uganda require school fees, making it difficult for poor families to afford an education for their children. God laid it on Katie’s heart to start an Education Sponsorship Outreach matching orphaned and vulnerable children who are unable to afford schooling with sponsors anywhere in the world. An annual gift of $300 enables one child to go to Christian school and provides the necessary school supplies, 3 hot meals each day, spiritual discipleship, and medical care. Originally intending to have only a handful of children in the program, Katie had 150 signed up by the end of 2008. Today the program sponsors over 700 children.

Later that year, in 2008, she established a 501(c)3 non-profit organization called Amazima Ministries International. “Amazima” means “truth” in the native Luganda language. The organization seeks to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people of Uganda who need it most.

Shortly thereafter, Katie was introduced to the Karimojong people of Masese. Living in poverty, and losing their children to malnutrition and starvation at an astounding rate, she noticed their desperate need for nutritious food. She started what is now the Masese Feeding Outreach, which provides meals to 1,200 children Monday through Friday. This program allows the children to attend school and therefore not be forced to beg on the street. Amazima also provides medical care, Bible study, and general health training to the Masese community.

As her friendships developed in Masese, Katie wanted to help the women in the village provide for their families, for the Gospel to take root, and for them to be change agents in the community. She initiated a self-sustaining vocational program to empower these women to generate needed income by making unique Ugandan magazine bead necklaces. The necklaces made by the women are sold in the United States. The money the women receive for their beads allows them to support their family and send their children to school.

Now the mother of 13 adopted Ugandan daughters, Katie says, “People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me, ‘Good job.’ Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people.”

I don’t know about you, but at age 18 in comparison, I feel like I was still learning to tie my shoes. Katie could have gone to college and had a successful career in the United States, but Katie has chosen to honor God with her life. She is proclaiming the name and glory of God through her selfless servant’s heart and her public love for Christ.

Daniel and Katie willingly offered themselves to meet needs as they depended solely on God. God uses those who honor him and put him first, those who are willing to be second; those who are willing to step up when the need arises. Do you live to honor God?


In 1Sam.2:30 God says, “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” Now look at Dan.2:46-49 (read). Daniel publically honored God above king Nebuchadnezzar. King Nebuchadnezzar honored Daniel because he realized that Daniel was able to do something that none of the other so called wise men could do.

But the king also recognized that it was God, the God of gods who enabled Daniel to do this. The king did not ask, “How did you do that.” It’s because Daniel made it very clear from the beginning that God is the One who reveals dreams.

Think about what happened here. This Jewish captive was promoted to ruler over the whole province of Babylon and over all the wise men. Daniel wasn’t promoted because he was so brilliant. He was promoted because he honored God and God honored Daniel.

God always honors those who honor him. Now I imagine you might thinking to yourself, “Well wait. There are many Christians in the world who honor God and they are paying for it dearly. God doesn’t seem to be honoring them. In fact we could look at Jesus himself. Jesus publically honored God more than anyone else in this world and look at what happened to him.

So we must qualify this thought. God always honors those who honor him either in this life or the next. It wasn’t until Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave that he was exalted to the highest place so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God. 1Pt.5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”

Daniel received much honor in Babylon, but as we will see, that honor put him in some difficult places. When God honors us in this world, it is only so we have a greater platform to honor him more in this world by expressing his love and goodness to others and by pointed all to Jesus.

Men and women, our highest privilege is to honor God and reveal his glory in and through our lives. So in all our relationships we want others to see that we belong to God and serve him. In our work and our studies we want to honor God. We live for God and his son, Jesus. Why? Well, because God is God and because God has blessed us in every way through his Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, Lord and King. Is God honoring his name through you in this world? Are you surrendered to him?

Three Important Questions

August 23, 2015

Is the United States a Christian nation? Many would say, “yes,” because many of the first settlers were Christians fleeing persecution. In addition to this, the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and a number of the founders professed faith in Christ. From the beginning Christianity has been the predominant religion in the United States, but that is changing. If I asked, ‘Is the United States a godly nation,” we would probably have to say, “No.” There were some bright moments of great religious revival, but underneath the veneer of Christianity there is little godliness. Christ is not honored in this country, except by his followers.

If I were to ask was Israel of old a Jewish nation, of course we would all say, “Yes.” After all, God himself established Israel as a nation and called Israel his chosen people. But if I asked, was Israel of old a godly nation, we would have to say, “No.” There were some bright moments of religious reform and revival, but for the most part the people of Israel were idolaters and did not walk in faith and obedience to God. In fact, Paul said that not all of Israel is Israel.” In Prov.14:23 we read, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Two weeks ago we looked at Joseph. Joseph lived at the beginning of the nation of Israel. Today we look at Daniel. Daniel’s story takes place when Israel is defeated and exiled to Babylon. Daniel would have been taken to Babylon in 605 B.C. Jerusalem was finally destroyed in 586 B.C. Daniel and his friends went from living in a Jewish culture to a completely pagan culture. This morning I want to say that a changing culture requires Christians to answer three significant questions.

I. WHO AM I? Dan.1:1-7

As I mentioned, Israel was not a godly nation except for a few bright moments when godly kings brought religious reform. Daniel grew up in one of those bright moments. King Josiah was a committed believer in God and brought great religious reform, turning the people back to God. He was the last good king of Judah. Daniel and his three friends were thoroughly Jewish and committed believers and worshippers of God. They did not practice any kind of idolatry. Their identities were primarily defined by their Jewishness and their faith. These were godly men.

When Nebuchadnezzar first came to Jerusalem in 605 B.C., he took many members of the royal family and the nobility of Israel back to Babylon. He took the brightest and best, the cream of the crop. His plan was to enlist the best of those he conquered into government service. Daniel and his 3 friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were all chosen to enter into a three year program in preparation for service to the king. No doubt there were other Jewish men chosen but our focus is on Daniel and his friends.

Nebuchadnezzar’s plan was to give these chosen men brand new identities, because when you are in Babylon you do as the Babylonians do. They were enrolled at the University of Babylon. The course was intense. They would have to learn how to speak Chaldean. And they would also have to learn to read the Sumerian and Akkadian languages. In Babylon, all the official documents were written in Akkadian and a great deal of Babylonian literature was written in Sumerian. They would have studied a curriculum of religious, magical, astrological and scientific literature.

Along with their schooling, Daniel and his friends were given new names, names that reflected various Babylonian gods. Daniel was called, Belteshazzar, which refers to the god, Bel. Hananiah was called Shadrach (Shuduraku) after Aku, the moon god. Mishael was named Mechach (MisaAku) after Aku. And Azariah was named Abednego, after the god Nebo.

The third part of their preparation for government service involved a diet of food and wine from the royal table of Nebuchadnezzar. They were given the best food so that they would be strong and healthy.

The culture and society that we live in plays a powerful role in shaping our identities as individuals. The laws and customs of our society help to bring order and structure to our living. But more often than not, cultural influences will not lead us into godly living. From the very beginning of our country slavery had a profound effect on the way people thought. So much so, that many professing believers tried to justify slavery from the Bible. Jefferson Davis seemed to have a profound encounter with Christ, but he believed in slavery until his death.

There are profound cultural ways of thinking that are having a powerful influence on followers of Christ today. Materialism, tolerance, and pluralism exert a powerful influence on the church in the United States in ways that we may not even be aware of because it is so much a part of how we live. Generally in the United States we embrace a “Live and let live” way of life. This is a free country. Well, as long as Christian concepts and principles dominate our culture, it works for us. But now, as we are moving into a post-Christendom society, more secular principles for living shape our culture and our thinking.

Our changing culture is changing us and so we must ask ourselves the question, “Who am I.” What defines my identity? As Christians we would say that Jesus Christ and the Scripture defines who we are. Daniel and his friends were enrolled in the University of Babylon where they were taught all about the Babylonian way of living. When a person becomes a Christian that person enrolls in the Academy of Christ where they are taught all about Jesus and the Jesus way of living. The classroom is the Church. The textbook is the Bible. The teacher is the Holy Spirit. But what does the current dismal rate of church attendance say about the church and about Christians in general?

You may say that you are a Christian but can you say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ?” What is it that distinguishes us from our pagan culture and our non-Christian friends? Do we “honor Christ the Lord as holy” in our hearts, as Peter tells us to do?

Some Christian thinkers are welcoming the post-Christendom society because they believe it is going to purify the Church. In other words, they think that currently there are many in the church who are not really Christians at all. Are you a Christian? By that I mean, have you repented of your sin and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Have you embraced Jesus as your only Savior and Lord? Are you his follower? Do you embrace his teachings? Is Jesus your life?

I just have to point something out. Not only were Daniel and his friends enrolled in the University of Babylon, but they were given new names. In that day, a person’s name had bearing on their identity and character. Isn’t it interesting that when a person embraces Christ by faith, in Rev.2:17 it says that believers are given a new name, a new identity, a new character. It is the character of Christ who is our life. We must ask, “Who am I.”

II. WHO DO I SERVE? Dan.1:8-20

Who we are will always be expressed by how we live. Paul tells us in Rm.12:2 that we are not to be conformed to this world. In other words, “Do not let the world shape you according to its mold.” Of this we can be sure, our culture and society will always seek to bring us into conformity with itself.

Now even though Daniel and his friends had been taken to Babylon against their will, and had very little say over their life in Babylon, they were given an opportunity to make something of their new life. They had a chance to enter into government service. In a pagan culture that will usually require some compromise. We are not living in Kansas anymore.

In v.8 we read that Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or wine. Now think with me for a minute. Back in Jerusalem, Daniel would have studied the Law of God, in Babylon the curriculum was very different. They were studying about Babylonian religions, magical arts, astrology and science. The Law of God forbid any dabbling in magic and Is.47:13 speaks negatively about astrology. Why didn’t they refuse to study these things?

It seems to me that when you study something you do not have to agree with it or embrace it. When you study something, you gain information and you have a better opportunity to figure out why you don’t agree with it. Not only that, but in studying these things Daniel and his friends would have a much better understanding of the people they would be dealing with. I’m not suggesting that there is never a risk in studying a secular subject. Sometimes Christians who are not well versed in the Faith will study and leave the Faith. Ideas are powerful, but they can be rejected.

To me there is a difference between studying something and eating something. Daniel and his friends discerned that eating the king’s food would defile them. Was it because the king’s food was unclean according to Jewish food laws? Surely that would be part of it. Was it because the king’s food and wine would have probably been offered to false gods? That is probably also true. Whatever the reasons, they discerned that they should not eat the food. It strikes me that one can take knowledge into himself and reject it. It does not have to shape his life. But when we eat food it becomes part of us. You can’t reject it once it is eaten. Eating that food represented a physical embracing of the pagan lifestyle of Babylon.

We have a New Testament example of this. In 1Cor.10 Paul is addressing the question about whether it is appropriate for a Christian to eat meat that has been sacrificed to an idol. On the one hand Paul says, “Idols are nothing. If you go to someone’s house and they serve you meat bought at temple, don’t ask questions. Just eat it. It won’t hurt you.” But that said, Paul goes on to say, “Don’t go to the pagan temple to enjoy a meal there.” In 1Cor.10:16-21 Paul writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” In fact, in a papyrus fragment are found these words, “Chairemon invites you to a meal at the table of the lord, Serapis in the Serapeum, tomorrow the fifteenth from nine o’clock onwards.” Paul says, “Don’t go to the pagan temple to eat a meal sacrificed to demons.”

Notice what Daniel did not do. He did not go to the chief of the eunuchs and say, “You know that food is unclean. You are all a bunch of pagans and I’m not going to eat with you folks.” Daniel did not criticize the culture. The Babylonians were only doing what Babylonians do. Instead, Daniel graciously asked if he could be allowed to not defile himself according to his beliefs. He asked the steward to conduct a test. For ten days they would eat only vegetables. After ten days they should be evaluated to see how they fare.

The chief of the Eunuchs was concerned because he did not want to disobey the king. That would be dangerous. Nevertheless the test was conducted and in v.15-16 we learn that, “At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.”

Now Daniel and his friends could have served themselves and chosen to just go with the program, but when they asked the question, “Who do we serve,” the answer was, “We serve the living God.”

How important this is for us. In our culture there is great freedom to say and do pretty much anything we want. But our aim is to serve God as we follow Christ in the way we live. In Rm.12:1 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.“

In a post-Christendom society our goal is to serve God without compromise. But we want to serve God as graciously as we can. Rm.12:17-18 says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”


I want to be brief here. In v.2, 9, and 17, we find the phrase, ‘God gave.” In v.2 it refers to the fact that the Lord gave the kingdom of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it was an act of judgement. Because the people of Israel had turned away from God in idolatry, God sent them into exile. But God’s purpose was to work repentance in the hearts of his people. That is always his purpose. Our best life is lived in worship and obedience to God, our creator. So this act of judgment, was also an act of mercy. He spared a remnant for himself.

In v.9 we read that God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs. In v.17 we read, “As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” In fact, at the end of their 3-year program they were interviewed by the king and it says in v.20, “And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.”

These men were trusting in God. They may not have understood all that God was doing, but they trusted in God and sought to honor God in their lives.

Brothers and sisters, in this post-Christendom society ask yourself, “Who am I, Who do I serve, and Who do I trust? Are you a committed follower of Jesus Christ? Amen

No Need to Wring Your Hands

August 9, 2015

What does it mean to live in a post Christendom society? In his book, After Christendom, Stuart Murray defines post-Christendom as “the culture that emerges as the Christian faith loses coherence within a society that has been definitively shaped by the Christian story, and as the institutions that have been developed to express Christian convictions decline in influence.”

This has already happened in Europe and is happening in the United States. In the U.S Christianity has enjoyed a privileged status both in the culture and in politics. Over the years of our history by-in-large the culture has embraced Judeo-Christian ideas. The church has had a great deal of influence and acceptance so much so that politicians felt it important to identify as Christians. We have been known as a Christian country. But now Christianity is being pushed out onto the margins of society and we do not hold a privileged status anymore.

This morning I want to begin a series of messages on how Christians respond when culture turns against them. The idea came as I was thinking about people in the Bible who experienced a significant change in culture. Joseph and Daniel immediately came to mind. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, while Daniel and his three friends were exiled to Babylon. I will begin with Joseph since he appears in the book of Genesis. As society becomes more secular, believers must rest in the providence of God.


The story of Joseph begins in Gen.37. In v.1-4 we see that not only was Joseph a tattle tale, but he was the favorite of Jacob’s 12 sons. Favoritism is a recipe for family disaster. When Jacob honors Joseph with a special coat that would have been worn by a supervisor, the brothers are indignant. In addition to this, Joseph has dreams that he tells to his brothers and father. The dreams show Joseph in a place of authority and his brothers, mother and father all bow down to him.

It was too much for the brothers. As soon as the opportunity presented itself they devised a plan to kill Joseph. But Reuben, the first born persuaded them against it and eventually they end up selling Joseph to some Midianite traders who in turn sell him into slavery in Egypt. In v.36 it says, “Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.”

Suddenly Joseph is in a new land, with new gods, with a new language, new customs and new ways of living. The cultural rug was pulled out from under him. Joseph is a slave in Egypt. To be fair, I need to point out that there were other slaves in Egypt from the land of Canaan, and who knows but that Joseph met some of them. But since Joseph was a believer in God, he may not have had much in common with the pagan Canaanites.

When I was in my teen years, the Jesus Movement was becoming a well-known phenomenon in this country. We all thought it was cool to grow long hair and listen to the new Christian rock music being written. We thought nothing of rolling tracks into toilet paper rolls so that people would get a tract in the rest rooms. We wore tee-shirts that had overt Christian statements on them. We were regularly going out to witness and generally we were well received, at least by other teens. What I am saying is that our witness didn’t surprise or really offend anyone. In 1977 when Jimmy Carter was elected President he was a Democrat who was born again. It was okay for a Democrat to be an Evangelical in those days.

In my life-time, the culture has changed. The Jesus Movement died out in the 80s. We would never roll tracts up in toilet paper today. People are offended when we talk to them about Jesus. And I doubt that any politician who made a big deal about being born again would get very far in the Democrat or Republican Party. And whereas, years ago we would invite an unbeliever to see a choir concert at our church, today, few unbelievers are all that interested in even stepping into a church. The culture has changed on us. Many others examples could be given. Joseph found himself in a different culture and…


The story of Joseph picks up in Gen.39. There we learn because of his integrity and ability to manage the household of Potipher, Potipher puts Joseph in charge of the entire estate. Potipher trusted Joseph and didn’t even concern himself with his estate. Things were going well and looking up for Joseph.

We know the story. Potipher’s wife saw that Joseph was well built and good looking and she tried to seduce Joseph. At first Joseph tried to explain that sleeping with her would be a great wickedness against Potipher and God, but she wasn’t buying it. Day after day she pressed. One day she caught him by his cloak and when he ran away, she was left holding his cloak and accused Joseph of trying to rape her. Joseph didn’t have a chance. When you are a cultural outsider, the rules often go against you. So it was with Joseph. Just as things seemed to be going well he was falsely accused and thrown into prison.

Time went by. In prison the prison warden saw that Joseph was a leader. And he put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners. More time went by and at some point the cup bearer to Pharaoh and a baker in Pharaoh’s household were thrown into prison. They both had dreams and amazingly Joseph was able to interpret the dreams and all that Joseph said came true. The baker was put to death, while the cup bearer was restored to his position in Pharaoh’s house. Look at Gen.40:14. Joseph says to the cup bearer, “Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.” But that didn’t happen and Joseph remained in prison for another 2 years. His life in Egypt had become very disappointing and difficult.

Yes, Joseph was a strong believer in God, but there were no churches or anything like that. He had no contact with his family. I mean, where was his support group? Joseph was largely on his own.

Now the things that happened to Joseph can happen anywhere. All of us can be falsely accused and even falsely put into prison. I realize this, but because our culture is changing many are deeply concerned about the potential difficulties Christians may face. For example, in Sweden, “all anti-homosexual speech is a criminal offense, including sermons or Bible readings that condemn homosexual behavior.” Canada has also passed hate speech laws, although those laws do not include the Bible as being hate speech. Nevertheless Christians and pastors in Canada must be careful. Could this happen in the United States? It surely could, but as far as I could discover there are no similar hate speech laws in the U.S.

With the Supreme Court ruling regarding same sex marriage, many are concerned that the next bomb to drop on the church is the withdrawal of our tax exempt status. If we lose our tax exempt status, it will go very hard for most congregations. Many congregations will have to close their doors.

Others are concerned that eventually pastors will be required to perform same-sex weddings. Our elders are currently looking at changes we need to make in our church constitution to help protect the church.

But more significant for us as believers is that generally in our country there is less tolerance for Christian teaching and morality. Followers of Christ are regularly discriminated against in the work place and in public schools. Christian professors who teach at secular universities are sometimes denied tenure because of their Christian beliefs. One would think it would be an easy decision for congress to defund Planned Parenthood in light of the recent revelations which show that Planned Parenthood is trafficking in the sale of aborted body parts. But so far it is not happening. As the culture tips further away from Christian principles it will become increasingly difficult for us to openly practice our faith. So how do we look at this? We must remember that…


Let’s go back to Joseph. In Gen.41 to the end of the book we learn the rest of the story. Eventually Pharaoh has a dream and the cup bearer remembers Joseph. Joseph is brought before Pharaoh and he interprets the dream concerning 7 years of abundance and 7 years of famine. Joseph is promoted to 2nd in command just under Pharaoh. Eventually the famine comes, but because Joseph has prepared well, there is food in Egypt. At some point Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to buy food. Because Joseph is in a powerful position he is able to bring his entire family to Egypt. Joseph rescues his family. I’ve left out a lot of detail, but there are two observations I want us to see.

First, in this pagan culture, Joseph was faithful to God. When Potipher’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, he was very clear to say that he would not commit that wickedness against God. When the baker and cup-bearer came to Joseph, we read in Gen.40:8, “…And Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me." And then when Joseph was brought before Pharaoh to hear his dream, we read in Gen.41:15-16, “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it. Joseph answered Pharaoh, It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” And then after he interpreted the dream we read in Gen.41:28, “It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” And again in v.32, “And the doubling of Pharaoh's dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.”

Sometimes in a culture where God and his Son, Jesus are not welcomed, we shrink back from identifying ourselves as followers of Jesus. Joseph did not shrink back. Had he not honored God, God would not have honored him. As Christians in a post-Christendom culture, we must confidently honor God without fear. We must put Jesus Christ first in all we do and say.

Secondly, in the story of Joseph we are brought face to face with the providence of God. When we talk about the providence of God we mean that God is working in every circumstance to bring about his good purposes. This truth shows up often in this story. For example, when Joseph was a slave in Potipher’s house we read in Gen.39:2-3, “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” Verse 5 continues, “the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field.”

When Joseph was in prison we read in Gen.39:20-21, “But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison.”

Was Joseph aware that God was granting him favor? Perhaps. But at the same time being falsely accused and thrown into prison for a number of years would make one wonder if God was really pouring out his blessing.

The main example of God’s providential working is seen when Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream and was made second in charge over Egypt. By skillfully managing the 7 years of abundance Joseph provided for all Egypt during the 7 years of famine. But more importantly, Joseph rescued his family. Once Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, his brothers were afraid that Joseph would seek revenge. But no. Look at Gen.45:4-8. “So Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, please." And they came near. And he said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”

Again, in Gen.50:19-21 we read, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

In the Bible we read the story of God’s ultimate purposes. In Eph.1:9-20 we see that God has made “known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Jesus Christ was born as a Jew of the tribe of Judah, one of Joseph’s brothers. Through Joseph God was preserving his people so that Christ could come in the fullness of time.

We do not know what is going to happen to the Christian church in America. My sense is that we are going to continue to lose ground as far as our influence and power is concerned. My cousin who teaches philosophy and who is basically atheistic regularly posts articles and census studies that show the decline of the church. He has disdain for conservative evangelicals because he feels evangelicals are just another wing of the Republican Party.

We should not be worried about the church of Jesus Christ. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. God is working his purposes out and it is for us to be faithful and to learn to work within the new realities of our culture. I will have more to say on this later. It is for us to not become discouraged, but to trust in the Lord, our God.

 Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hanity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and others say the sky is falling. Well it is. And as Christians we may be in for the worst of it. But God rules over all, and Christ is building his church. We do not take our marching orders from those men. We fix our eyes on Jesus. We will not shrink back but press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Lord's Supper: More Important Than Ever

August 2, 2015

On June 26 a strong message was sent to the Church in America. On that day, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. The split decision of the court mirrors the deep divide in our society regarding same sex marriage and similar issues.

But, in my opinion, the court’s decision is just another indication that we are now living in a post-Christendom society. In other words, there was a day when Christendom enjoyed a majority status that included a great deal of authority. This is no longer the case.

Lord willing, over the next weeks I hope to bring a series of messages dealing with the question of how do Christians live in a culture that has turned against Christianity. In some ways the situation is like going into a dark room in your house only to painfully discover that all the furniture has been rearranged and you are tripping over and bumping into everything. And as we come to the Lord’s Table this morning I want to say that in light of our post-Christendom society, the Lord’s Supper is vitally important.


Some years ago at the beginning of a message I handed out a little assignment. We took about 10 minutes for everyone to write down their understanding of the gospel. On the whole I was encouraged to see that most of us have a handle on the basics of the gospel.

In the 1980s a long simmering debate surfaced in evangelical circles known as the Lordship salvation controversy. This discussion tried to answer the question of what it means to have salvation by grace alone through faith alone. The debate is more complex than what I can say here.

I was raised in a time when the gospel was defined as receiving Christ by faith as one’s personal Savior. So we would pray a prayer of salvation to receive Christ. But what happened is that many people would pray a sinner’s prayer and there seemed to be no transformation in their lives whatsoever. And so some preachers began to emphasize the importance of receiving Christ as Lord. Christ must be the Lord of one’s life.

In time some pointed out that when Jesus preached the gospel he called people to follow him, to become his disciples. The church was challenged to not just make converts, but to make disciples, as Jesus told us to do. This resonated with me because there were a number of times when I shared the gospel and a person would pray the sinner’s prayer, but never make any attempt to walk with Christ. So I started using phrases like, “embracing Christ by faith.” When a person comes to receive Christ it involves a total committing of a person’s trust and life into the person of Jesus and his teachings. Obviously at first most of us do not have a handle on what a total committing of our lives means, but we surrender as much as we know ourselves and we continue to surrender to Christ as we grow in him. In this understanding, salvation is not just a onetime event. Instead it is an ongoing journey beginning with repentance and conversion that blossoms into an ongoing transformation of our lives as we follow Jesus.

There was a time in our country when it seemed that most people had a basic understanding about sin and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. So when the gospel was preached by evangelists like Billy Graham, many could understand and turn to Christ.

Today we live in a different world. Today, many people do not think they are sinners and therefore they see no need for a Savior. Many have the idea that if there is a God he would surely not condemn anyone to hell. In addition to this many are offended by the idea that salvation is only through faith in Christ. How arrogant to think that Christ is the only way.

It would not surprise me if we found that there are people in our church who do not think they are really sinners in need of a Savior. We would all admit to committing various sins, but we don’t think our sins are all that bad, certainly not bad enough to send us to hell. What is more, some may even think that sincere followers of other religions will also be saved apart from Christ.

It is my sense that our pluralistic society which no longer accepts moral truth, has had a detrimental influence on the church, and as a result we now have gospel-lite. The cross is not really necessary to be a Christian.

This is why the Lord’s Supper is vitally important. We cannot enter into the Lord’s Supper without coming face to face with the cross of Christ. And we cannot come face to face with the cross of Christ without recognizing the fact that we have all broken God’s good rules for living. Deeper than that, we have all broken the first commandment by failing to love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In fact we have rebelled against God, putting ourselves in the place of God. We are all idolaters.

At the Lord’s Table we come to understand it was our sin that put Christ on the cross. Notice what Paul writes in v.24. “And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In Lk.22:19-20, we read, “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Christ died for our sins.

No matter how you slice or dice it, the gospel is not good news apart from the bad news that each of us is in desperate need of Christ. This is not a call for us to be all negative and to have low self-esteem. No one is suggesting that we become morbidly introspective. But it is a call for each of us to acknowledge our sinful rebellion against God expressed in self-directed living.

Again, the gospel does not portray a God who is vindictive and who takes delight in punishing people. Rather the gospel tells us the good news that God loves each of us and graciously sent his Son, Jesus to pay the penalty for our rebellion against him. Who does that? We have all rejected God in our hearts, but God has sent deliverance through the death and resurrection of Christ. To reject Christ is to spurn the love, grace and mercy of God. Once a person rejects God what is the alternative, except life without God and that eventuates in hell.

If we are not careful our culture will cause us to think that we don’t really need Jesus. When we come to the Lord’s Table we are reminded of the great price that was paid for our salvation and we are thankful.


In v.26 Paul writes that in the Lord’s Supper we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” In other words, we regularly observe the Lord’s Supper until he comes again to take us to be with him. By regularly observing the Lord’s Supper, we are able to recognize that being saved is receiving the life of Christ within us.  When we eat the bread and drink the cup we are symbolically saying that we have received the life of Jesus to live out in our bodies until he comes.

There are a number of plants whose seeds remain dormant until just the right conditions occur. For example giant sequoia trees produce pinecones that contain up to 200 seeds. The cones do not release their seeds unless a fire comes and melts the cones that are glued shut by a strong resin. Until that happens, the seeds just sit there.

Now there are people who claim to be Christians, but you would never know it. It’s as if the life of Christ in them is dormant. These people might say that they have repented of their sin and embraced Christ by faith, but for some reason, the life of Christ in them seems to be inactive. Is that possible? I don’t think so. When Christ comes to dwell in a person, his life engages our life and we seek to live according to the character and virtues of Christ.

Just listen to a number of verses from Colossians. In Col.1:21-23 Paul writes, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard….” In Col.2:6-7 we read, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” In Col.3:1-4 Paul writes, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

There are many verses in the New Testament which make it clear that those who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved, receive his life and live life in active relationship with Christ. The gospel is not just about having our sins forgiven. It is about receiving and living out the resurrection life of Christ in us.

Now you may be a nice, decent sort of person. That’s good, but most unbelievers are nice, decent persons. Being nice and decent is what is expected in our supposedly non-judgmental society. Followers of Jesus are nice, decent people, but it goes much deeper than that. The key to following Christ is dying to self. We die to self when we give Christ, his teachings, and ways of living first priority in our lives. We live for Christ. We live in and with Christ. What regular practices do you engage in that foster a Christ like life in you? The Lord’s Supper is one of those practices that continually calls us to this way of living.

So as we gather around the Lord’s Table, it is important to assess whether or not you have entered into the life of Christ by repenting of your sin and calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved. And it is important to assess whether or not you are actually living life with and in Christ. If you concluded that you are not saved or are not living life with Christ, then this is the time to turn to him. Jesus Christ is our only hope for abundant, eternal living. Amen.