Posts tagged ‘Daniel’

October 26, 2012

Prayer as Discipline: Persistent and Repetitive

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 119:34-36
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 11; Psalm 119:25-48

Delay: As we have seen this week [1], although spiritual disciplines do not save us, they do lay us in the way of allurement of the gospel, which is the good news of Jesus that does save us. In particular, the spiritual discipline of prayer brings us into joyful communion with the Lord, as we pour out our hearts to Him in praise, thanksgiving, confession and petition. On Tuesday, we thought about unanswered prayers [2]. But sometimes we experience delayed answers, not unanswered prayers – although we may not know it at the time. Yet why would the Lord delay in answering our prayers?

Reasons: In A Body of Divinity, Puritan pastor Thomas Watson offers four possible answers: (1) Because he loves to hear our prayers: “You let the musician play a great while before you throw him down money, because you love to hear the music.” (2) Because He wants to humble us lest we too easily think that we have earned a ready answer or that we think He is our butler, not our Sovereign Lord. (3) Because we are not yet fit or circumstances are not yet ready for the blessing that we seek. (4) Because He longs for us to prize the mercy we seek all the more when it finally comes. [3]

Persistence: In other words, without offering persistent and repetitive prayers for what we want, we may become proud when the blessing comes. In Romans, Paul teaches that one of the most dangerous things God can do is to give us what we want without prayer [4]. For it confirms what our hearts already want to believe – namely, that things are going well for us apart from God. Then, when the blessing comes apart from prayer, we rob ourselves of joy in God because we are not filled with gratitude for His provision.

Prayer: Lord, We know that you have good and wise reasons when you delay to answer our prayers. Therefore, we pray as the Psalmist did, “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” [5] Increase our faith in you as our Provider and guard us against pride by tethering our blessings to our prayers. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Goal of Godliness.” 22 October 2012. 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers.” 23 October 2012. 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Kingdom-Centered for the City.” 24 October 2012. 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Word-Centered.” 25 October 2012.  |  [2] 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers.” 23 October 2012.  |  [3] Thomas Watson. “A Body of Divinity.”  |  [4] See Romans 1.  |  [5] Psalms 119:34-36 ESV

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October 25, 2012

Prayer as Discipline: Word-Centered

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 119:14-15, 18, 24
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 10; Psalm 119:1-24

Aspirations: As we begin to pursue prayer as a spiritual discipline [1], we often come with high aspirations to create spontaneous and meaningful prayers – even grandiose prayers like the one offered by Daniel [2]. When that does not happen, however, we can get discouraged and confused, which can lead us to stop praying altogether. Thus, we must learn to pray so that we persevere in it. For although we thought about unanswered prayers on Tuesday [3], “The greatest tragedy in life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer” [4].

Guides: Thankfully, in the Bible itself, God has given us more than 650 prayers to use and enjoy. The Psalmist delighted to go to God through the Word: “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways … Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law … My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times … Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors” [5]. Today, we can rejoice in the Word even more than the Psalmist. For we know that it points to the Word Made Flesh – that is, Jesus Christ.

Scriptures: In Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Repeating God’s own words after him, we begin to pray to him. We ought to speak to God and he wants to hear us, not in the false and confused speech of our own heart, but in the clear and pure speech which God has spoken to us in Jesus Christ. God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer. For here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us to pray. The words which come from God become, then, the steps on which we find our way to God” [6].

Prayer: Lord, Teach us to pray according to your Word. Teach us the difference between the things that our hearts produce by themselves – wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings – and prayer, which is produced only by the cross of Christ and the work of the Spirit. Cause our hearts to delight in your Word so that we find our way to you. Amen.

(Optional) Post-Reflection Prayers: We have created a one-page sample set of morning prayers (here) and a one-page illustrative list of prayers in the Bible (here). If helpful, use these to pursue an intentional prayer life and let us know what you think.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Goal of Godliness.” 22 October 2012.  |  [2] 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Kingdom-Centered for the City.” 24 October 2012.  |  [3] 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers.” 23 October 2012.  |  [4] F.B. Meyer (wiki)  |  [5] Psalm 119:14-15, 18, 24 ESV  |  [6] Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible (Kindle Location 34-35). Kindle Edition.

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October 24, 2012

Prayer as Discipline: Kingdom-Centered for the City

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Daniel 9:18-19
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 9; Psalm 117-118

Precipice: How does a culture change? “To say that we are living through a time of momentous change,” wrote Wilfred McClay in The Wilson Quarterly recently, “may seem merely to restate the blazingly obvious. But it is no less true, and no less worrisome, for being so” [1]. McClay argues that we are in “a moment of profound social transition in which an entire way of life is in the process of being inexorably transformed, but in which the precise shape of this transformation is yet to be fully determined.” How will its shape be determined? McClay suggests reading Toqueville’s Democracy in America. The Scriptures and history, however, suggest praying kingdom-centered prayers.

City: When Daniel read the scroll of Jeremiah, he went to God for mercy. On behalf of the people, he confessed: “We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled” [2], and prayed: “O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name” [3].

Korea: Going to God in prayer for daily bread is crucial for spiritual vitality, but we must go to Him with kingdom-centered prayers if we want cultural renewal. In 1907, a revival in Korea was started and sustained by kingdom-centered prayer, and it transformed the culture: “When the [prayer] meetings concluded and the men returned home, they took the revival with them … All through the city, men were going from house to house, confessing to individuals they had injured, returning stolen property and money, not only to Christians but to heathen as well, till the whole city was stirred. A Chinese merchant was astonished to have a Christian walk in and pay him a large sum of money that he had obtained unjustly years before’” [4].

Prayer: Lord, We are at a cultural precipice and long for the gospel to shape its transformation. Therefore, we know that we must come to you in power with kingdom-centered prayers. Humble us and do our city good by showing us your face. May your kingdom come. Amen.

(Optional) Post-Reflection Prayer: Not only do kingdom-centered prayers change cultures, they also help us sustain the spiritual discipline of prayer in our lives. As you read Daniel 9, which appears below, pray on behalf of your city, culture and church.

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Footnotes

[1] Wilfred McClay. “The Tocquevillean Moment … And Ours.” The Wilson Quarterly. Summer 2012.  |  [2] Daniel 9:5 ESV  |  [3] Daniel 9:18-19 ESV.  |  [4] Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge. A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan (2010).

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October 23, 2012

Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 116:1
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 8; Psalm 116

Prayer: As we saw yesterday [1], spiritual disciplines are ways to lay ourselves in the path of God’s grace. This week, we will think about one of those disciplines – prayer [2]. Interestingly, Americans are overwhelmingly convinced that there is a God who answers prayers. In fact, according to a 2010 Gallup Poll, 92% say that there is a God, and 83% say that this God answers prayers [3]. The Psalmist celebrated, “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy” [4].

Unanswered: If we are honest, however, we doubt whether God answers our prayers, and our doubt often keeps us from praying, which then keeps us from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. In Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference, Philip Yancey writes, “Unanswered prayer forms a barrier that blocks any desire to keep company with God … and poses an especially serious threat to the faith of trusting children” [5]. He continues, “I do not doubt that God answers prayer. Rather, I struggle with the inconsistency of those apparent answers” [6]. Why does God answer some prayers and not others? He suggests that unanswered prayers sometimes “trace back to a fault in the one who prays” and other times “trace back to God’s mystifying respect for human freedom and refusal to coerce” [7].

Fundamental: Our most fundamental prayer, however, is always answered. As Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” [8]. Our primary prayer is that the Lord’s name be made holy. In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” [9]. Was his prayer answered? No, in the sense that the cup did not pass. Yes, in the sense that the Father’s will was accomplished. As a result, his deepest prayer – namely, the joyful redemption of his people – was answered.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that our prayers often do not end, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” For we struggle in knowing how to pray for the things that we perceive as needs in light of our primary prayer, “Hallowed be your name.” Yet teach us to devote ourselves intentionally to prayer as a discipline, as you increasingly show us that you are always working to make your name holy in our lives by answering our deepest prayers and giving us our deepest joys [10]. Amen.

(Optional) Post-Reflection Worship: Be Still, My Soul

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Footnotes

[1] See 843 Acres, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Goal of Godliness.” 22 October 2012.  |  [2] Luke 5:16 ESV; Jesus prayed (e.g., Matthew 6:5-9; Luke 9; 18:1); the Scriptures command us to pray (e.g., Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17)  |  [3] Jeffrey Jones. “Few Americans Oppose National Day of Prayer.” Gallup. 5 May 2010.  |  [4] Psalm 116:1 ESV  |  [5] Philip Yancy. Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan (2006), p.216.  |  [6] Id. at 220.  |  [7] Id. at  232. Obviously, the topic of unanswered prayers and the reasons for them is a complicated and nuanced one. This quote by Yancey is a summary that is unlikely to be fully satisfying, in which case I point you to the entirety of his book, especially Part Four (“Prayer Dilemmas”), which includes chapters 16 (“Unanswered Prayer: Whose Fault?”), 17 (“Unanswered Prayer: Living with the Mystery”), 18 (“Prayer and Physical Healing”), and 19 (“What to Pray For”). Given 843 Acres’ limited 400-word count, this reflection hopefully acts as an honest admission that we struggle to believe that God answers prayer and also is a spark to ignite a desire to learn more about and practice the wonderful and mysterious discipline of prayer.  |  [8] Matthew 6:9-10 ESV. See also Luke 11:2 ESV.  |  [9] Matthew 26:39 ESV  |  [10] One of our deepest prayers is, “Cause me to hallow your name, to cherish it, to treasure it, to exalt in it, to love your glory and majesty more than anything.” As we increasingly pray like this, our prayers and desires increasingly align with the heart of the Lord and, then, we increasingly see the fulfillment of His great promise, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 ESV).

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October 22, 2012

Spiritual Disciplines for the Goal of Godliness

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 115:9-11
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 7; Psalm 114-115

Disciplines: “Ours is an undisciplined age,” wrote Raymond Edman, past president of Wheaton College. “Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism” [1]. Today, Edman is only partly right. We may deride spiritual discipline as legalism, but we do not live in an undisciplined age. We are disciplined to record our favorite television shows, wash our clothes, make social plans, and go to work. We value discipline. So why do we cringe when we think about spiritual disciplines?

Godliness: The plan of God is to ensure that every Christian will ultimately conform to being like Christ [2]. Yet we do not wait for holiness to happen to us; we pursue it [3]. And we pursue it by delighting ourselves in the purpose of godliness [4]. Godliness is the goal. Do we want godliness? Do we want integrity in the face of dishonesty, joy in the face of adversity, courage in the face of fear and hope in the face of discouragement? This fruit and power comes through discipline. As Tom Landry, former Dallas Cowboys coach, said, “The job of the football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be” [5]. In other words, we pursue spiritual disciplines that may not come naturally because we long for godliness.

Trust: Although we must cultivate our communion with Christ, our cultivation is merely the channel, not the basis, of our salvation. We are saved by the work of Jesus, not our spiritual disciplines. Yet God has given us disciplines as a means for receiving His grace. The spiritual disciplines are ways that we place ourselves in the way of gospel allurement and in the path of His grace [6]. Then, by His mercy, we answer the call of the Psalmist: “O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield … You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield” [7].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we are disciplined about the things we value. Therefore, since we value godliness, we long to be more disciplined about pursuing it. As we look upon the cross, give us a vision of costly, not cheap, grace [8]. Show us how to lay ourselves in the ways of gospel allurement so that we cultivate our communion with you as a means of grace. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] V. Raymond Edman. “The Disciplines of Life.” Scripture Press Foundation. Wheaton, IL. 1948.  |  [2] Romans 8:29 (“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son …” ESV)  |  [3] Hebrews 12:14 (“Strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” ESV)  |  [4] 1 Timothy 4:7 (“Train yourself for godliness.” ESV)  |  [5] Tom Landry, as quoted by Ray Stedman in Preaching Today (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, n.d.), tape number 25.  |  [6] Jonathan Edwards once preached, “Endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by keeping yourself out of the way of [carnal] allurement. We are to avoid being in the way of temptation with respect to our carnal appetites. Job made a covenant with his eyes (Job 31:1). But we ought to take all opportunities to lay ourselves in the way of enticement with respect to our gracious inclinations. Thus you should be often with God in prayer, and then you will be in the way of having your heart drawn forth to Him. We ought to be frequent in reading and constant in hearing the Word. And particularly to this end, we ought carefully, and with the utmost seriousness and consideration, attend the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which was appointed to draw forth the longings of our souls towards Jesus Christ. Here are the glorious objects of spiritual desire by visible signs represented to our view. We have Christ evidently set forth as crucified. Here we have that spiritual meat and drink represented and offered to excite our hunger and thirst; here we have all that spiritual feast represented which God has provided for poor souls; and here we may hope in some measure to have our longing souls satisfied in this world by the gracious communications of the Spirit of God” (Sermon 13: “Spiritual Appetites Need No Bounds.” in The Puritan Pulpit. p. 235.  |  [7] Psalm 115:9-11 ESV  |  [8] In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it, a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for those sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

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October 19, 2012

IN NOT OF: Killing Our Pride

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Daniel 4:30
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 4; Psalm 108-109

Pride: “We Build It,” sang the speakers at the Republican Convention. The slogan was a jab at Obama’s campaign speech in July, when he said: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life … If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen … The point is that, when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative but also because we do things together.” [1]

Boasting: As Nebuchadnezzar looked upon his kingdom, he declared, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” [2] God responded with judgment: “Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” What was wrong? After all, had he not led his country militarily and politically?

Humility: Pride looks at everything and says, “I did it and I am due it. Life is by me and for me.” As Tim Keller says, “Pride is a form of cosmic plagiarism. You claim to be the author of something you are not” [3]. Obama was only partly right. Yes, “somebody else made that happen,” but that “somebody” – at the most fundamental level – is God, not government. He chose when, where and to whom we are born. As Paul wrote about Jesus, “All things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” [4]. Yet Jesus himself let it all go. He was beaten, pierced and marred beyond human likeness. And he did this to kill our sin – even our pride – to bring us to God: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” [5].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that pride lives insidiously in our hearts. We rarely take the time to acknowledge that everything was made by you and for you. Instead, we think, “We Built It.” Forgive our cosmic plagiarism and expose to us the danger of our pride. Then lift our eyes to Christ, who laid down his life to give us ours. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Ron Elving. “GOP’s ‘We Built It’ Refrain Is Both Puzzling and Telling.” NPR.  |    [2] Daniel 4:30 ESV  |  [3] Tim Keller. “Pride: The Case of Nebuchadnezzar.” 5 February 1995. Sermon on Daniel 4:24-37.  |  [4] Colossians 1:16-17 ESV  |  [5] 2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV

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October 18, 2012

IN NOT OF: Living Our Testimony

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Daniel 3:16-18
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 3; Psalm 107

Tolerance: It is a problem to claim exclusivity in a pluralistic society. In our culture, people are free to worship any god they choose – as long as they do not claim that their god is the one true god. To claim exclusivity is to invite discord and oppression. So, if we want peace, everyone must be tolerant. Right?

Worship: King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded everyone to worship it. He did not say that the worshippers of the Lord could not worship the Lord; he merely said that they had to worship the golden image in addition to the Lord. Those who refused were burned alive. When the king heard that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not bow down to the image, he sentenced them to the furnace, asking, “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” [1]. They responded, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, 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 you have set up” [2].

Lives: They did not argue with Nebuchadnezzar. They were respectful, not defensive, willing to accept his sentence. Nebuchadnezzar, however, was full of arguments. Yet they let their lives be their testimony. There is a time for intellectual defenses of the faith, but oftentimes the best way to defend truth in a pluralistic society is to live it out. Hundreds of years later, Jesus came to the pluralistic Roman Empire to preach the kingdom of God. He did not merely use words; he healed people, obeyed the law, died on a cross, and rose from the dead. In response, the apostles testified about the gospel and many became martyrs.

Prayer: Lord, We live in a pluralistic society that is hostile to our faith. Yet you call us to live it out in our cities – even in the face of danger. May we look at the cross and see that you were silent in the face of your accusers – even as you suffered, bled and died for them. May we be oaks of righteousness, confident in our faith and dependent on your mercy. Amen. [3]

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Footnotes

[1] Daniel 3:15 ESV  |  [2] Daniel 3:16-18 ESV  |  [3] For additional reflection on this passage, see Tim Keller. “The Man in the Furnace.” 7 May 2000. Sermon on Daniel 3:14-29.

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October 17, 2012

IN NOT OF: Building Foundations

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Daniel 2:44
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 2; Psalm 106

Success: In The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes, “In a Village Voice column, Cynthia Heimel thought back on all the people she knew in New York City before they became famous movie stars … When they became successful, every one of them became more angry, manic, unhappy, and unstable than they had been when they were working hard to get to the top. Why? Heimel writes: ‘That giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything OK, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to fill them with ha-ha-happiness had happened, and the next day they woke up and they were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable’” [1].

Anxiety: King Nebuchadnezzar had everything. His kingdom was the most powerful in the region. Yet he could not sleep because his dream troubled him. He was so disturbed that he almost killed all his wise men because they could not interpret his dream. Yet Daniel went to him and, through the word of the Lord, interpreted it. In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image made of strong metal with feet of clay. The image was struck by a stone and shattered. Daniel told the king that the image represented his kingdom, but its foundation was weak and, as a result, it would be destroyed. In its place, Daniel said, “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed … It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end” [2].

Foundation: Nebuchadnezzar had built his identity on his own power and might, which was weak and crumbling. He was haunted by fear and anxiety. The only kingdom that does not have clay feet is the kingdom of God. Jesus, the stone rejected by the builders, destroys every other kingdom. Like Nebuchadnezzar, all of us are building kingdoms with clay feet if our foundation and motivation is not the Lord. We are worshipping images that will be destroyed by a mere stone.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we are often tempted to build kingdoms that have clay foundations. As we seek to be Christians in our pluralistic society, teach us to do the hard work of asking what our foundations and motivations are. Expose our true foundations so that we run to Jesus, whose kingdom will never be destroyed. Amen. [3]

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Footnotes

[1] Tim Keller. The Reason for God.  |  [2] Daniel 2:44 ESV  |  [3] For additional reflection on this passage, see Tim Keller. “The Dream of the Kingdom.” 30 April 2000. Sermon on Daniel 2:24-35, 44-46.

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October 16, 2012

IN NOT OF: Taking Two Names

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Daniel 1:20-21
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 1; Psalm 105

Minority: For the first time since researchers began tracking the religious affiliation of Americans, the United States does not have a Protestant majority. Last week, the Pew Forum released a study showing that only 48 percent of Americans identify with the Protestant faith, while 20 percent claim to be atheist, agnostic or no religion [1]. How are we, as Christians, to live in a pluralistic society? Do we assimilate? Separate?

Exile: King Nebuchadnezzar took the Israelites from Israel, where the culture supported the worship of the Lord, to Babylon, where the culture was hostile to it. He then selected a few of the elites to undergo Babylonian leadership training. After three years of education in enchanting, astrology and divining, they stood before the king and received new names. “Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.” Although these men mastered the Babylonian culture and received Babylonian names, they did not forsake the Lord or His Law. And He gave them favor before the king: “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” [2].

Distinct: These men excelled in the pagan Babylonian culture, but they lived distinctly as believers in the Lord. They did not assimilate or separate. Instead, they lived with integrity in the pluralistic, polytheistic and unbelieving world of Babylon. As we know, this is not easy. On the one hand, we must ask, “How does the gospel affect how we live and work?” If we are not asking this question, we have assimilated. On the other hand, we have no rulebook or list to follow. Yes, we have the Word, but we need wisdom. If we despair of having to do the hard work of seeking out wisdom, then we have isolated ourselves.

Prayer: Lord, As we look to the cross, we see Jesus, who did not assimilate or isolate himself. Instead, he became man and dwelt among us. Yet he lived a perfect life and fulfilled the law to redeem us. Teach us to look to him, the ultimate exile who became sin for us. Set our minds to seek wisdom from your Word so that we know how to live as Christians in our pluralistic society. Amen. [3]

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Footnotes

[1] The Pew Forum. “‘Nones’ on the Rise: One in Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation.” 9 October 2012. See also Laurie Goodstein. “Number of Protestant Americans Is in Steep Decline, Study Finds.” The New York Times. 9 October 2012; Natasha Lennard. “Non-religious on the rise.” Salon. 9 October 2012.  |  [2] Daniel 1:20-21 ESV  |  [3] For additional reflection on this passage, see Tim Keller. “The Dream of the Kingdom.” 30 April 2000. Sermon on Daniel 3:14-29.

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