Persecution of Christians has taken many forms over the centuries and is found in various forms around the world in our time. Where are we on this chart? Generally, the progression will be from left to right. Where is the breaking point for each of us? If we withstand the milder forms, we are more likely to stand a more severe form—all by God’s grace. If we cave under the milder forms, it will be very difficult to retain our integrity later on. Think of Daniel taking his stand first against eating non-kosher food, which strengthened his resolve to resist pressure to worship idols later on.
Chart from the blog of Rebecca Hamilton http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2013/03/degrees-of-christian-persecution-where-does-america-fit/
I’ve mentioned Daniel recently in my blog, but he comes to mind again as I think of the courageous stand the Greens, of Hobby Lobby, are taking.
Like Daniel, they have strong convictions about what God, in His holiness, requires and what He despises. Daniel and his friends had to make decisions about
–whether to eat the king’s non-kosher food (chapter 1)
–whether to worship the king’s image (chapter 3)
— whether to worship the king instead of God (chapter 6).
In each case they respectfully refused to be pressured into doing what the government required, choosing to obey God regardless of dire consequences. And God honored them, using them as showcases of His power and sovereignty to the king and his officials. In their case, He rescued them from a fiery furnace and from hungry lions.
I thank God for the Greens who are standing as a modern-day Daniel, as a light on a hilltop being viewed by everyone (Mt 5:14-15). May God bless them and use them to encourage us all to stand for what is right regardless of whatever the consequences may be.
I was deeply moved by a news article yesterday: “Please know that God is good to His church,” one Egyptian Christian said at an interdenominational prayer meeting of more than 10,000 people. “We are really blessed and see this time of tension as a chance for us to work for the Kingdom of God.”
Imagine yourself living in Jerusalem during the last days before Nebuchadnezzar and his armies wiped it out. As your world rushes toward oblivion, what is going on in this nation?
–Idol worship, with its immoral practices, is rampant .
–Crime and violence are everywhere. (Ezekiel 7:23)
–God’s holy place is the site of blasphemous practices. (Ezekiel 8)
–Preachers assure the people that God won’t punish sin. (Ezekiel 13:8-10)
–Parents are sacrificing their children. (2 Chron. 28:3 & 33:6)
–Bearers of God’s warnings are mocked and silenced.
What parts of this are not happening again today? As our nation and the whole world hurtles headlong toward certain catastrophe, how do we live?
Do we stick our heads in the sand? Do we shrug our shoulders? Do we drown it all out with false assurances? Do we commit to being faithful to God regardless of the consequences? Do we “stand up and raise [y]our heads, because [y]our redemption is drawing near”? (Luke 21:28)
Is God still in control? Yes! It’s all written in the book of Daniel. All present (and future) human governments will be demolished as those in the past have been, and will be replaced by God’s glorious and eternal kingdom. And the good news is that know I’ll be part of that! You can be, too .
Being totally non-athletic, I have painful memories of being the last chosen whenever teams were picked for recess softball games. But one ironic incident stands out in my mind. On this day, the teacher of my one-room rural Nebraska elementary school (yes, grades K-8 taught by one teacher) asked me and another student to choose up sides. Wow, this was my big chance to be on the winning side! I did my best to choose the bigger kids who did well in sports. But to my chagrin I found out, after the teams were chosen, that this was not for an athletic competition. It was a contest to see who could eat the healthiest breakfasts for the next week!
The book of Daniel is still on my mind. God humiliated and defeated proud kings, and they had to admit that God’s kingdom is the only one that will never be destroyed; His rule will never end (see 4:34-37 & 6:26-27). Though it may look like evil is surely winning, we know the end of the story. And I’m happy to know that I’m on the winning team. My Champion is in the wings, coaching us players through long, wearying plays. But I can hardly wait until he finally bursts out onto the playing field, single-handedly blows away his enemies and wins the ultimate victory! Won’t that be the day! So let’s hang in there. It will be worth it. And what a victory celebration is being prepared for us—out of this world!
Reading a book of the Bible in one sitting gives amazing perspective. A view of the forest which we miss out on if we dive in prematurely. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.) The book of Daniel has amazing messages for today. No, I’m not thinking primarily of all the prophesies with their strange creatures and the endless back-and-forth battles of the kings of the North and the South.
Daniel is well-known in Sunday School stories, especially for his escape from the lion’s den and his friends’ from the fiery furnace. But what is the significance of these stories and how do they fit together with each other and the other chapters of this book? Too often “Bible stories” are told without showing how they fit into God’s one great story.
So what is Daniel all about? Think of the three tests of faithfulness—refusing to eat the king’s food, worship the king’s image, or pray to the king instead of to God.
Think of the three kings of this book who were forced to acknowledge that their power was nothing compared to God’s. That their kingdoms could be removed like a puff of dust in the face of God’s eternal kingdom and almighty sovereignty which will demolish and outlast them all.
This encourages me today when faced with arrogant rulers or powerful pressures to conform. Like Daniel, I am a citizen of that Eternal Kingdom that will outlast them all. I determine to be courageous and faithful like he was.
Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command,
Honor them, the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.
A man of courage, principle and prayer—Daniel. He’s been brought to my attention both in my work (checking a translation of that book) and in our pastor’s sermon today.
Daniel and his friends passed through a series of tests to see whether they would stay true to God or cave in to pressure. Most well-known of these are the fiery furnace experience that followed their refusal to worship an idol, and the lions’ den experience that followed Daniel’s faithfulness to the outlawed practice of prayer.
But maybe the very first test was the most crucial—the matter of their diet. These young men had just been kidnapped from their home in Judah and brought far away to Babylon to be trained for service in the king’s court. And here was this great food being served up for them. Woops! Not kosher. Just a small thing? Not for them. These young men had been carefully taught values that stayed with them even when they left home. If they had caved in under the pressure of this one thing, would they have had the gumption later on to refuse to bow to an idol?
I pray that I, and those I love, will be strong in the “little things” and then strengthened by that to stand firm when the bigger tests come. May we be people of prayer and faithfulness, courage and conviction!
The other day I heard that three friends in ministry in the country where I work missed by just 10 minutes being on a bus that collided head-on with a tanker truck. Along with a prayer of thanks for sparing them, I acknowledge once more God’s sovereignty over the affairs of mankind.
This, I believe, is the theme of the book of Daniel, which I’ve been reading recently. The very second verse of the book says that God gave Nebuchadnezzar victory over Judah and permitted him to take sacred objects from the Temple of God!
Even pagan kings like Nebuchadnezzar had to acknowledge God’s rule over the affairs of men, kings and kingdoms. He saw a glimpse of this when he had three godly men thrown into a fire but evidently didn’t learn his lesson very well. Because in chapter 4, it is repeated several times that this king would have to learn the hard way that “the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.” Darius also acknowledged this in 6:26 when he discovered Daniel alive after a night with the hungry lions!
The last half of the book, which predicts future events that God has determined also demonstrates God’s sovereignty. This is a great comfort to me when I see the world falling apart around me.
Though earthquakes and tsunamis may come,
though terrorists may do their worst,
though the economy collapse,
though moral decay destroy our society,
though solar flares and other environmental conditions threaten,
“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!” He is still in control. He is working in all of these things to fulfill his perfect plan. And I have the privilege to be a part of that!