Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not In Athens Anymore

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

Daniel 1:1

I read this article from The Gospel Coalition a day or two ago after hearing it referenced in a class covering Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation. In it, the author compares the modern stance of the church in America to the Babylonian exile. He writes:

Unlike Athens, Babylon is not interested in trying to out-think us, merely overpower us. Apologetics and new ways of doing church don’t cut it in Babylon.  Only courage under fire will.

Steve McAlpine, The Gospel Coalition

It’s no coincidence, then, that many of the points of the article resonated with me after spending the previous week studying in the first half of Daniel. Even a brief reading of Daniel 1 reveals that the conquering nation didn’t seek to compromise or share philosophy with the Jews. By isolating, re-educating, and renaming the captives, the goal was full integration and assimilation into Babylonian society.

The truth is, though, many of these points would have resonated with me even if I hadn’t been recently reading in Daniel. As a former atheist who once immersed herself in the darkness enough to see glimpses of how just how deep the shadows really stretch, the comparison of the current cultural trends to Paul’s speech on the Areopagus in Athens (see Acts 17:16-34) has always seemed a trifle naive to me.

After all, during the days of my darker bent, most of the denizens of the world I chose to associate with did not view Christianity or even the Christ Himself with the slightest degree of reverence. At best, I encountered apathy from them; total unconcern about the very idea of a Creator or God.

However, the majority treated the idea of God with scorn, derision, or open hostility. Not that the mention of God fell from my lips in those days. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I was on the side of the mockers. How great is the grace of God who can forgive me such a sin!

So it is that even now, just under two decades since my sin-blinded eyes were opened to the wickedness of me and the mercy and compassion of a God who loved me anyway, I still cannot reconcile the world I once moved in with a friendly Aeropagus debate.

What I can understand without the slightest hesitation is the warning my Lord left His disciples with hours before His crucifixion:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 15:19

You see, the men and women I knew then were not “very religious in every way,” as Paul observed of the Athenians. The people I knew then hated God, hated the very mention of Him. They were hostile to anything that challenged their freedom to do as they chose.

To me, even before reading the article, the darkness I have known reeks of Babylon – of conquest and assimilation. What I see is not a culture mildly interested in the Church and her God but a culture which will have nothing to do with a god it can’t make in its own image.

I agree with McAlpine; the culture is really just the world. And the world isn’t happy with concepts such as sin and rebellion or with the idea it may have gone wrong somewhere along the way. In fact, it despises the merest suggestion, thrusting it away with a perfunctory, You’ve no right to judge me! 

The world, in fact, believes that sin and evil are found, not in the human heart and in both public and private acts of injustice, but within the ancient and (to them) archaic moral system proposed by the Bible. How dare the Creator tell His creation right from wrong? Who does He think He is, anyway?

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

Luke 6:22

There it is, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Even though we are not at home in this Babylon, even though we must constantly withstand the pressure to name ourselves after their gods, entertain ourselves their way, worship as they want us to worship; even if we are threatened by lions and furnaces and social ostracism, we are blessed.

This doesn’t mean we give in to the pressure -far from it! We fill ourselves with the Lord so that the pressure of His Spirit within strengthens us to resist the pressure from without so we are not crushed. It also doesn’t mean we rant and rave and try to out-shout the Babylonians who apply the pressure.

When they say, “Just bow down, already; just eat the food, swallow the pill, drink the Kool-aid, and stop fighting the inevitable,” we don’t argue with them. We just stand firm on our conviction and trust in the Lord who calls us.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:12-13

And we pray. Pray for our enemies, for those who persecute us, pray to have compassion even when we are shown nothing but hate and disgust. We remember that it is not people who are the enemy; people are deceived as I once was. Our enemy is far more ancient and cunning.

And we wait for the day of our exile to be over and for our final Homecoming, hoping to bring as many as we can out of the darkness with us into the Light!

Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 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; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.
(Daniel 2:20-22)

Tuesday Prayer: Even If

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 

Daniel 3:17-18, NASB

YHWH Adonai, You are the great and mighty God; the God who saves us and in whom is found compassion, mercy, justice, and forgiveness. Whether our lives are filled with difficulty or ease, You are good, for You are unchanging even in the midst of a world in constant flux. Our opinion of You has no effect on the reality of You, our God, nor do our feelings towards you make any difference in who You are. Thank You for Your solidity in an unstable world. 

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62:2

Today, we thank You for the many times You have rescued us from some disaster or kept us safe from some evil scheme. However, Lord, we also recognize that You do not always protect us in this world. Sometimes, terrible things happen. Sometimes there is sickness, terror, pain, sorrow, torment, and death.

Faith in You does not guarantee us a pain-free life. If anything, faith in You prepares us to take up our crosses, daily choosing to die to ourselves and follow You. Choosing faith in Christ means choosing to participate in His suffering, but also to participate in His ultimate exaltation. Choosing to follow Jesus also means declaring open war on the enemy of our souls, opening us up to a greater scale of attack from his forces as he seeks to destroy and discourage us. 

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Mark 8:34-35

Knowing this, we choose You anyway, Lord. You are able to rescue us from any danger, yet even if You do not, we will serve You. Our choice to give our lives to You is not based on what You do for us but on the fact that You are who You are. The King of kings; the Prince of peace; the Mighty God; the Beginning and the End; the Holy One. We serve You because You are our God and because we love You, and no scheme of hell nor pain of life can ever tear that away. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

And so it is that we praise You for saving us from ultimate and eternal disaster through the sacrifice of Jesus. Thank You that You chose to draw us to Him, to enable our hearts to trust in Him. Without Jesus, we would be doomed to the futility of our own poor choices now and eternal suffering, but in Christ, we are renewed and redeemed to be useful to You once more and promised eternal life in Your presence.  

Use us, Lord, as You see fit. Give us an eternal hunger for You and for Your word, and pierce our hearts with sorrow for those who suffer in this world without the eternal hope we have in You. May this tenderness compel us to share Your truth boldly with others, pleading on our knees in intercession on their behalf that You might see fit to draw them to saving faith as well, amen. 

The Greatest Love

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

There’s a love story that bears repeating because it’s a love story on an epic scale. It spans time from the moment of creation and continues into a future unknown to mankind but known to his Creator. And it’s summarized simply in this one familiar verse.

For God so loved the world…

Life everlasting, and that just because you believe. Set free from slavery to sin and able to not only choose righteousness, but to desire to be righteous. It sounds almost too good to be true. Almost.

But there’s more to the story. There’s belief and there’s belief. I believe in Elvis, but that belief hasn’t changed the way I live my life, the way I think, nor what I do.

However, I believe in breastfeeding, and that made a dramatic impact on every aspect of what I did, how I thought – even on what I wore – for a year after each of my 3 children were born.

I believe in God. I believe He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah, who walked in the dust of this earth as a Man. I believe He lived the sinless life and willingly gave up that life as the exclusively complete atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

I believe He suffered greatly before He died; emotionally, socially, physically, and even spiritually. I believe He rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God where He makes intercession for all who have chosen to die to themselves and live for Him.

Because He suffered the unimaginable anguish of Roman torture, betrayal, and loss, I believe He is the only God who has an experiential knowledge of what it means to be a man.

And that belief has dramatically changed how I walk, talk, think, what I watch, what I buy, how I view others – everything. It’s changed everything.

That belief continues to change everything in me by a process known as sanctification. I believe this will continue until this body of mine exhales its last breath and I go to be with my Lord and King in the place He has prepared for me.

But it’s not just a love story for me. It’s for you, too.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled 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.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21

You see, I don’t want anyone to die without coming to know and love my God. If you could catch but a glimpse of His splendor, taste but a morsel of His love, feel just the tiniest press of the weight of His glory! I promise you that you will never be the same.

It’s hard, sometimes, in this world of looking out for number one to realize that we don’t need a god who serves us. He’s not a waiter or a butler here to cater to our slightest whim. He’s God – Uncreated, Unchanging, Holy, and Almighty.

But even so, even though the best among us has rebelled against Him, He offers us the Word: His love story to us. In the Bible, He spells out the rebellion of mankind after creation, the continual cycle of repentance and falling away, the unbelief, the disobedience, the pain we as a species have inflicted upon our Father who gave us life.

In that Book, He also begins right after mankind’s Fall to tell a tale of His future plan of redemption and salvation. The whole Book is filled with that tale, ultimately finding fulfillment in Yeshua Messiah – my Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the Word made flesh; the Love Story Incarnate. He is the Love Story of God, and it’s in the written Word that you can discover the character and nature of God the Father and the Word Who was with Him and Who mysteriously also was Him in the beginning.

My Yeshua. My Messiah. My King. The One I love to obey and am sorrowful when I fail to keep His commands.

He lived as an example. He died to redeem. He lives to intercede, and some day He will come back to claim His own.

Friend, I hope you will join the great cloud of witnesses on that great Day and that we can celebrate together in His presence forever.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:17-18

Tuesday Prayer: Love for Man

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

John 13:34-35

God who is Love, today we come before Your throne of grace humbled and contrite in heart. We are more grateful than words can express that You have chosen to open our eyes to the greatest Love of all; the Love of the Almighty expressed in the ultimate atoning sacrifice. By Your sacrificial love, all our crimes are forgiven and taken away as far as the east is from the west. 

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Psalms 103:11-12

Yet even with so great an example of humility and sacrificial love as Jesus demonstrated His life and death, even though the cost of our own sin is uncountable, we are prone to forgetfulness when it comes to extending that same love and forgiveness to other people. What a short-sighted and selfish people we are! Open our hearts more to understand the depth and breadth of Your love. Fill us with it so that we may love others just as selflessly as You love us.

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’

Matthew 18:32-33

And Lord, please change our vision so that we do not interpret the actions and motives of others only by how they affect us or make us feel. Instead, help us see others as You do. For those who are unsaved, remind us that we, too, were once lost, deceived, and living in active rebellion to the Living God. Show us how to view others with humility, understanding that only by Your grace are we saved and that they, too, may be saved by Your grace. 

Shape us into a compassionate people, believing the best intentions of others no matter how they hurt us and willing to forgive no matter how deep the wound. Keep us mindful of the cost of the Cross and of the hurts we’ve inflicted on others and on You so that we can keep our own attitudes in proper perspective.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:7

Thank You for allowing us to be covered in the righteousness of Your Son, Jesus, for without His covering, we would be laid bare in our shame and filthy in our sin.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

And Lord, make us to especially love our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are not actively living in love with each other, we have no draw to those on the outside of the church. Let us live out Jesus’s words and show the world we belong to Him by the love we have for each other. 

May it be, also, that we love others enough to tell them the truth about You, even if it is a difficult truth for them to hear. If any should die apart from Christ, may it never be because we neglected share the news of Jesus Christ with them. It is for Your glory and in His name we ask for this great overflow of compassion in our hearts and actions, amen. 

Tuesday Prayer: Love of God

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised!

Psalms 96:2-4a

Oh Lord our God, how blessed is Your name in all the earth! You are the Most High; the Creator of all that is; the One who is and was and is to come. Today we begin by praising Your name and exulting in Your faithfulness and righteousness. Thank You for giving us Your written word that by it, we may know You.

If You were not a compassionate God, we would have long ago been brought to nothing. Yet in Your mercy, You looked upon us in our rebellious state and had pity. You showed us grace when we deserved destruction and love when we deserved to be despised. Oh Lord, how can we know this and not love You back?

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

Mark 12:30

Please, Lord, forgive us any lack of love. Forgive us for ever allowing the worries of this world to cause us to doubt Your goodness. If we have allowed the pleasures of the world to take up a larger place in our hearts than You, we repent of that and ask forgiveness for it as well. Show us where these or any other acts of idolatry have replaced You in our hearts and lives, and prick our hearts to genuine and life-altering repentance.

Take our little love and grow it, Lord. Magnify it until all that we are is given over to You, bound by a love for You that is unbreakable, sturdy, and invincible. Where our love is small and weak, fill us with Your love so that we can return to You in kind the astonishing love You’ve already shown to us.

May we have a deep and abiding hunger for Your presence, Your word, Your Spirit, and Your Kingdom that never ends. We ask for this increase in our love for You in the worthy name of Jesus, amen. 

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:21

Tell Me a Story

Good afternoon, Blogosphere and all my bloggy friends. Once more, I am likely to be scarce for a bit while I work on a project which just fell into my lap. It’s a bit exciting and a bit scary because it has the potential to lead into something new for me. So today’s post is a dramatic shift from normal.

I can’t say much more about the project right now, but it will definitely occupy my time. I’ll still post at least once a week, but I may be slow answering comments and will definitely be limited as to how many blogs I can read.

I have a deadline and a substantial amount of research to do before I can start writing. And you can help me with some of it!

So today, I’m asking you to tell me a story.

Specifically, I want to hear about your best ever boss. I’d love to hear as many details as you can. How did he/she do the job differently? What stood out to you? Did they communicate well? Give good feedback? How did they handle difficult situations?

That’s not all… I also want to hear about the worst boss you’ve ever had. Gimme all the dirt you want, but keep it clean dirt – no profanity, no names or identifying features, nothing you wouldn’t want done to you on social media. Just the facts, but as many facts as you’d like to share.

Plenty of information to keep me busy for a while

Thanks a ton! I’ll be seeing you, if somewhat sporadically!

Tuesday Prayer: Joy

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

Psalms 16:11

Our God and King, You are our salvation and our very great reward. What a gift You’ve given us in Jesus! Of all the legends of other gods spoken of by man, only You cared enough to step down from Your throne, laying aside Your glory to confine Yourself to the limitations of Your own creation.

You alone, Lord, not only gave us commandments but kept them, living as man was designed to live – in perfect accord with and obedience to his Creator. Only You not only call for humility, You’ve shown us what true humility looks like.

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

John 13:14-15

Among all false gods who require a price from mankind, only You deserve one. And only You paid the price Yourself. 

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Romans 5:9

Forgive us, Lord, for taking lightly the awesome and unbelievable acts that You have done for us. Forgive us for forgetting whose presence we stand in when we enter the holy place to bring our prayers and supplications before the Throne of Grace. Where we have been careless, give us reverence; where we have been anxious, remind us of Your power and might. 

You are the Almighty God, the Most High who deigns to look upon us and listen to our childish babble because You love us as Your children. Let us never lose sight of the wonder of that fact.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

1 John 3:1a

Because of the sacrifice of Your Son, we may approach You with confidence in Him. If we approach in arrogance, teach us to approach You with respect and humility,  in trust and not in worry, knowing that Your promises stand forever.

As we draw nearer to You, teach us to love Your word as the very greatest gift alongside our salvation – the actual words and guidance of the Creator of the universe and the Author of our faith. Plant a deep and insatiable hunger for Your word within us and our families, and let us long to search its pages for the answers we seek.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Psalms 119:92, 97

And as we grow in faith and trust, praying and thoughtfully reading Your word, let it be that we honestly find joy in Your presence and pleasures forevermore at Your right hand. Expose the temporary nature of worldly pleasures and fill us so with Your Spirit that our joy is nothing more than Your joy filling us and spilling out.

May it be that joy will spill out on others who need it today, bringing light and laughter into lives filled with darkness and weeping, amen.