Thursday, January 26, 2012

Standing Strong in Our Crazy Culture - Lessons from Daniel the Prophet

"From the Inside Out" Series

Victoria Falls - Zambia, Africa by Lisa@The Warming House

Our culture continues to grind away at us . . . luring us, tempting us, enticing us, infiltrating our every breathing moment. It saturates our minds with the foolish idea that we can find satisfaction and fulfillment if we could only buy that pair of shoes, have hair like that gorgeous movie star, have a body like the model with the six-pack abs, date a certain guy, drive a particular car, get into that sorority, fit into that group, get that job, sit on that board of directors, have a certain amount of money, travel to other countries, get married, receive that promotion, earn that scholarship, or live in a certain-sized house. 

The constant torrent of materialism, corruption, immorality, sexual images, money, greed, technology, power grabbing, infidelity, addictions, fleshly desires, worldly values, and perspectives that oppose God's principles threaten to sweep us away. Many of us are barely treading water in the midst of its current. So how in the world do we survive the onslaught of our culture with our character and God-honoring faith intact? Is it even possible?

The power of Victoria Falls - one of the seven great wonders of the world. Reminds me of the powerful influence of our culture.

In the Old Testament, Daniel was a victim of war. He was captured and taken from his family when the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom of Judah. Because he was a good-looking guy, intelligent, and well-educated, he was placed in a golden-boy program where he was groomed for service to the king. 

During that time, he was placed into a 3-year education program and given a life of luxury where he was offered the choicest food and wine from the king's table. 

His God-honoring name, Daniel,  meaning "God is my judge" was changed to Belteshazzar meaning "lady protect the king." How insulting!

These things were all done in an attempt to assimilate him into the Babylonian culture - a culture filled with luxury, abundance, pleasure, materialism, sexual immorality and pagan gods.

One lone tree withstanding the torrents of rushing water much like Daniel standing strong in his culture.
By Lisa@The Warming House

did not waver in his faith . . .
                   stood strong in his convictions . . .
                                    and survived persecution without
                                    giving in to the culture

10 things Daniel did:

  1. He refused the king's food because it had been sacrificed to pagan gods, and the "strong drink" because the Babylonians didn't dilute their wine with water like the Jews did. Neither the food or the wine met the requirements of the Mosaic Law.
  2. He loved his fellow man - even those who oppressed him.
  3. He didn't pander to people for their approval. When kings asked him to interpret their dreams, he boldly and bravely shared the true visions God gave him even though the meanings behind some of them could have angered those kings and brought about his execution.
  4. He didn't pursue fame. He always gave credit to God for the visions causing others to praise God.
  5. He was a stand-out in Darius' government because of his extraordinary spirit.
  6. He was trusted and respected by kings - even though they were his nation's enemies.
  7. His character was impeccable. When others became jealous and tried to find fault in him, they could not find any ground of accusation or evidence of corruption. Angelic beings recognized him as being "highly esteemed."
  8. He was loyal and refused to betray the God he loved by worshipping the king's false gods as demanded in the king's decree - even though the consequence for disobedience was death.
  9. He trusted God completely when he was thrown into the lion's den and God saved him. 
  10. He didn't sell out for power. When Belshazzar (an arrogant, evil, and disrespectful king) offered him a position of power for interpreting the handwriting on the wall, Daniel refused it.
Daniel was a man who lived from the inside out.

Why was he like this?

Even though Daniel lived in a culture that didn't recognize God's ways or follow his principles, Daniel still chose to obey God's laws.

It wasn't the Law Daniel loved above all else.

You don't resist a culture, go against a king's decree, and risk your life on numerous occasions for a love of the Law.

Somewhere along the way, Daniel had encountered our very real God in a very real way and it rocked his world. Daniel loved God deeply and fervently. He loved him more than his position, his comfort, his fame - even his own life. What he found in that relationship was so irresistible and satisfying, it was worth far more than anything the world offered. God was at the center of his whole being and his entire existence. Everything in his life flowed out of that relationship.

Unless a man is sincere in his love for God, he will not be able to persevere and remain constant.

As Daniel resisted the culture, he inspired others, encouraged exiles, influenced world leaders, and impacted the culture around him.

Do you like the state of our culture today? Are you happy with the direction our world is headed? Are you like me? Would you love to see some "Daniels" rise up in our world today - people who sincerely love God and humbly walk in faithfulness to his ways . . . people of character who bravely step forward (especially in our government) to do the things that desperately need to be done. 

God changes the world by changing individuals.  So here's the truth - you can be that modern-day "Daniel." When you pledge your total allegiance to God (not the world) his power and strength inside of you will make you a stand-out in our culture and I promise you change will come as you live for him. 

How closely are you clinging to the attachments of this world? What or who is at the center of your world? How sincere is your love for God? 

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

With hope here at The Warming House . . .