This is the “Living In Babylon” Collection of blogs in one file.
LIVING IN BABYLON: Clear the Clutter
Today we begin a 5-week blog series that will focus our attention on a basic truth that not all of us want to admit. We find it difficult to admit if we can at all. There should be a support group for those who realize this truth. This truth makes me very sad and very angry at the same time. This truth fills me with questions. At times, I am filled with worry because of this truth.
What is that truth? We no longer live in a Christian nation.
If you are a ‘believer in Jesus Christ’, you are absolutely living in a foreign land. I am not even sure if I can use the term ‘Christian’ anymore without having that term mixed with politics and certain unBiblical ways of thinking that muddy what Jesus Christ taught. Sometimes people identify as ‘Christian’ and then explain what they believe are nothing like what I would expect and what I mean when I used the term ‘Christian.’ I feel so stupid saying that, but it is true. We no longer live in a nation rooted in Biblical values, but rather we live in Babylon.
Babylon began in Genesis 11 with the building of the tower of Babel which was an actual tower that people tried to build in order to take control from God. Babel was that place where people on purpose tried to replace God. In the Book of Revelation and in other prophetic books in the Old Testament, Babylon became a symbol of a society that marches to the beat of its own drum away from God and away from His way of living. We live in Babylon.
OUR CULTURE… ‘FAITH FOR EXILES,’ Kinnaman & Matlock, 2019, pages 19-21
You may or may not realize that we live in a very fast-paced and complex culture. Our culture influences you whether you want it to or not. The pace and the complexity of our culture didn’t have to, but it leads us away from God in many areas. It seems like much of our culture is engineered to push God out and to push ‘self’ up.
Our lives accelerate fast. News is fast. News is so fast that an event anywhere in the world can be reported on in real-time to anywhere else in the world. The speed of information is incredible and also comes many times at the expense of actual facts. The pace of life and the rate of change on things is so accelerated that most of the time we can’t keep up. We live in the age of the screen. Most people live with advanced computing power in the palm of their hand and those devices drive how we see the world and how we interact with it. Technology makes everything easy, but it also makes everything fast and accessible and easily manipulated.
How does this fast pace draw us away from God? We do not have time for Him. We take kids to this sport and have that event and when Sunday comes around we are tired. Go go go go crash. Travel ball happens on Sunday and we choose that over Him. We are so busy we just catch church online instead of coming in person and we think it is the same. It is not. The pace at times pushes God out.
Our lives are also increasingly complex. Everyday life feels more and more uncertain and complicated. ‘Cause and effect’ used to be a normal way to think, but anymore it feels like life is unpredictable and people are even more unpredictable… their reactions are unpredictable. Take topics like politics or vaccines or facemasks or gender identity and you cannot predict the conversation you will have with someone. Even someone in your own household.
In the midst of this accelerated and complex culture, what defines life is changing and it is changing quickly. We live in a pluralistic culture that is quite open to truth from any source because there is no Absolute Truth or one way to see the world. The Bible is no longer the source of truth, but is one of many voices people listen to and consult when trying to understand their life. The Bible rarely holds central authority over people or society. All kinds of voices can be accessed instantly and not all voices are for our benefit or are even wise.
DANIEL IN BABYLON
Life is indeed different in Babylon which is what Daniel discovered in twenty-one verses of chapter 1 of the book written by him and bears his name. Daniel 1 shares with us some of Daniel’s story about how he found himself living in Babylon and how he anchored his soul in faith.
BESIEGED, GAVE, AND BROUGHT
Chapter 1 of Daniel begins with three keywords: besieged, gave, and brought. First, we see the people of God under attack by the forces of Babylon. They are besieged. This is not anything symbolic or metaphorical, King Nebuchadnezzar literally and physically marched his armies to the doorstep of Jerusalem and surrounded it. God’s people were under attack. Besieged. The armies of Babylon cut off all trade and imports of food and water and blockaded the city so the inhabitants would suffer and die.
Second, we see that God used Babylon to discipline His people who had turned away from Him and He allowed the Babylonians to win the attack. God ‘gave’ them over. We know that God promised this would happen if the people did not change their ways because He told them through prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Hosea. They did not listen. This was the result.
Third and perhaps most important, the Book of Daniel begins with a very interesting action word in Daniel 1:2 which summarizes the predicament Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah find themselves in. The action word in Daniel 1:2 is “brought” [ESV, NASB, NET, LEB, RSV, AMP]. The NIV and KJV use the more descriptive words ”carried off” and “carried into.” Daniel and the others are “carried off” from their homes, family, friends, and influences they had known in their young lives. They, as the result of the sin of the nation and the siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, are now prisoners of war and exiled away from home. You see, the Babylonians conquered whole people groups and societies by attacking, taking the best and brightest away from home, and then re-educating and brainwashing them as good Babylonian citizens.
BURDENS OF NEW FOODS AND NEW NAMES
Chapter 1 continues to tell us about the life of Daniel and others are in and this new life brought them burdens and issues they had to face. Verse 5 tells us they were to be trained and indoctrinated for three years and then they would serve the king. The boys were in a foreign land and were now forced to eat foreign food… some of it against their religious beliefs outlined in the Law of Moses. What would they do? The culture they were living in tells them one thing, but their religious beliefs tell them another. In this chapter we see specifically there is conflict of the body and mind.
There is conflict of the body because the verses share with us that the foods offered to them from the king was not religiously acceptable to the Jewish young men. Do they go along with the culture or do they remain true to what they know is correct in God’s sight? This is not easy. How do we know it’s not easy? Daniel and the other 3 are not the only ones captured, but they are the only ones we hear about.
The boys decide to stand their ground and remain faithful to God. Daniel took a risk and decided to follow his beliefs. There was a whole test set up that many of us learned about in Sunday School or VBS when we were children… this is when Daniel and the others ate vegetables and religiously clean food while the others being educated ate from the king’s table.
There is also conflict of the mind because not only was this physical food test before them, but in the midst of all of the changes and challenges, Daniel 1:7 tells us the Babylonian officials were giving the boys new names. They are away from home and are learning a different way of life and customs. They are forced into this test of their religious convictions. And now their names are even changing. The boys’ names were changed as a way of encouraging them to forget God and the traditions of their homeland and to become conformed to the ways and gods of Babylon. It was a forced assimilation. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians wanted Daniel and his companions and all captured people to conform to the pattern of their world and a name change was one step toward that goal.
Names have meaning and power and direct us. The name of a thing is important. The name of a person is important. When you redefine a term or a thing or a person, you can make it be whatever you want and truth is lost.
“Daniel” means “God is my judge” in Hebrew. “Belteshazzar” means “Bel protects his life.”
“Hananiah” means “God is gracious” in Hebrew. “Shadrach” means “Command of Aku”
“Mishael” means “Who is what God is” in Hebrew. “Meshach” means “Who is what Aku is”
“Azariah” means “God has helped” in Hebrew. “Abednego” means “slave of Nebo”
I hope you can see that living in Babylon means a change of identity and what is important. The Babylonians did not want young men who believed in the God of Israel, but wanted young men who worshipped Bel, Aku, and Nebo. The Babylonians wanted people to conform to their way of life. The pressure on these young men must have been tremendous. They are pressed on all sides to change every aspect of their being. I can imagine them having some sleepless nights.
GOD IS FOUND FAITHFUL
God is in the middle of all the clutter and stress and pressure. Verse 9, God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the steward. In verse 17, God gave Daniel and the others learning and skill. In verse 17, God gave Daniel understanding of dreams and visions. In verse 20, God made them ten times better than all their co-workers. Daniel and his companions found that in the midst of the pressure to change from Jerusalem to Babylon that God was faithful to them in the middle of it all. These young men found that if they abided in the presence of God and committed themselves to His way of life, that there is strength and hope and a firm foundation in Him.
Jesus said the same thing in John 15:4-6 (ESV): Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Daniel and Hananiah and Mishael and Azariah found that the chaos and the clutter could be dealt with when they based their lives on what they knew to be from God and what they knew to be tied to Absolute Truth. This was not easy. As we will see from their lives I the rest of the book, it was not always smooth sailing for them because Babylon as meant to beat and bend and force faith out of them. They had to be intentionally intimate with God to hold on.
CHALLENGE: CLEAR OUT THE CLUTTER
We do not live in a Christian nation. The question is: What are you going to do about it?
* Clear out the clutter and spend time in God’s Word soaking up His voice and His will.
* Clear out the clutter and worship Him often in spirit and in truth.
* Clear out the clutter and pray to listen for God’s voice and share your heart with Him.
A mindset is a way of thinking that can be developed and shaped by experiences, but overall shapes how we view our world and how we shape our lives. We are talking about the right mindset for a believer in Jesus today as we live in a culture that does not encourage faith in Jesus Christ, but rather discourages faith in Jesus. The right mindset for a believer in Jesus is formed by the Bible, experience with God, and viewing our lives and the lives of others through the wisdom God teaches. Not all mindsets are the same.
LIVING IN BABYLON: The Right Mindset
Today we continue a 5-week blog series (2 of 5) that will focus our attention on a basic truth that not all of us want to admit. We no longer live in a Christian nation and we are living in a land where God is not the priority and just about everything in our culture is designed to pull us away from God. If you are a ‘believer in Jesus Christ’, you are absolutely living in a foreign land. We do not live in a nation rooted in Biblical values, but rather we live in Babylon. Babylon has a completely different mindset than what is presented to us in God’s Word for those of us who are citizens of the Kingdom of God.
WE LIVE IN BABYLON, ‘FAITH FOR EXILES,’ Kinnaman & Matlock, 2019, pages 21-24
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ living in the United States today you are caught between two ways of living. There are two ways at war in our society and they most of the time do not get along and do not mesh.
The first way is what is described in the Bible as the way of life in God’s Kingdom. A relationship with God is prized as well as morality and purity and the desire of God to redeem whole families and neighborhoods and for everyone to come into His Kingdom. Believers in God take their definitions of life from the Creator. Believers in God look to Him for answers to vexing questions about life because life is confusing! This first way roots identity and sexuality and politics and money and raising children and all aspects of life in the purposes of God and follows His designs.
The second way is against the purposes of God. The prevailing attitudes and collective values and assumptions about human purpose are not based on God’s Word or God, but rather on self. Babylon teaches that we cannot live with people who are different than us because those people are intolerant and must be punished. Babylon says that sex and sexuality is defined by us and the movements of our own hearts. Technology and the opinion of the masses and the loud minority teach us how to live wisely.
3 BOYS AND A KING: MINDSET OF ASSURANCE IN GOD
We find Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (in Daniel 3) caught between what their faith in God tells them and what the king of the land tells them. The Kingdom of God says one thing and Babylon says another. King Nebuchadnezzar sets up a large statue and everyone is supposed to bow down and praise him and pray to him. It came time to bow down and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not. Everyone is bowed down but them.
They felt that they could not and should not.. Their values based on the Word of God stated that they should have no other gods before God in Heaven. Their beliefs stated that they should not worship idols as gods or pray to anyone or anything else other than the God of Heaven. You and I know those beliefs as part of the 10 commandments. I want to be clear on this that this is a big deal. Bowing down to another so-called-god is a big deal. It is a line that God drew in the sand that believers in Him should not cross. This was not minor pressure, but a major deal.
The values of Babylon in which they lived stated that the king was to be worshipped and prayed to and you were to tow the line or you would be punished. You are to worship as the king commands. The king and the state come above religious beliefs. The punishment was pretty severe in that they would be tossed into a fiery furnace to end their lives. Any punishment that ends your life is severe.
How did they respond?
DANIEL 3:16-18 (ESV): 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.”
What does their response to King Nebuchadnezzar tell us about their mindset?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had a mindset of assurance in God. Everything in their culture was telling them to bow down to idols and pray to a false god and yet they could not. They remained faithful to Truth. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had assurance that God would deliver them from the trial. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also state that even if they are in the midst of punishment and perhaps are not sure of the outcome, they still will not bow down. They anchored themselves in God and assured themselves of His faithfulness. They will be faithful because they believe God to be faithful. That is powerful faith. I personally believe their statement of their assurance in God is the most profound statement of faith in the whole Bible.
What we are talking about with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is not theory. It is not theory for us! This is practical living based on being sure in God in Christ. You and I are living in Babylon and we are encouraged and told that adopting certain beliefs or values are no big deal and yet those practices and beliefs draw us away from God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego teach us to side with God and be assured that He is right. He is correct.
Now, I am not talking about things that do not matter. I am talking about in the major no-room-for-debate areas in which we are caught in the middle.
Authority of the Bible and the presence of Absolute Truth
Abortion Rights and the Rights of Newborns
Definition of Marriage and the Epidemic of Living Together (cohabitation)
Gender Fluidity and Same-Sex Attraction
American Politics and its damaging mix with Christianity
Racism and Black Lives Matter and White Privilege and Social Justice Issues
These things matter in our society and it matters what we believe and how we act. It matters that we are yoked with God and not with the culture. God must dictate what and how we believe about these issues and we must be assured that He is right and good and correct even when our culture tells us we are wrong and evil and incorrect. We must side with God even if our own hearts tell us otherwise.
Our mindset must be that we stand our ground with God and be assured He is right. This mindset is not based on emotions or experiences, but rather on God, His faithfulness, and the Truths presented in His Word.
APPLYING THE RIGHT MINDSET
Our mindset must be that we stand our ground with God and be assured He is right. This mindset is not based on emotions or experiences, but rather on God, His faithfulness, and the Truths presented in His Word. Our mindset must be that God has placed us where we are to seek His wisdom from the Bible and to then share that wisdom with those around us. We to this with gentleness and respect and know that our culture is in upheaval.
This mindset should be applied when we are on social media. Just because you read it and it sounds good to you does not mean that it is true or should be posted. Our culture tells us that you can do anything or say anything from behind a computer screen. That simply is not true. You can sin behind a computer screen just as you can face-to-face. God does not want you sharing garbage from the internet just because you think it sounds true. Share truth… God’s truth… with the people around you and do it with gentleness and respect.
This mindset should be applied when we are dealing with groups that may be pushing agendas opposite of our beliefs. Speak up and stand up for God and let the rest go by.
This mindset should be applied to extracurricular activities. If you are a coach or a leader, bring your values and God to your team with you and do not keep them separate. Don’t schedule practices on Wednesday nights. Avoid Sunday practices and games. Bring the kids along with wisdom from the Bible. Instill in the team that their identity is not found in the sport, but from God Who made them and fashioned Him in His image. Make character count rather than pushing the kindergartener to make a lifetime commitment to a sport so they can make money and be successful.
Your mindset matters as you live in a culture that wars against your Biblical beliefs. Pretty much everything is designed and is conspiring to distract you, impact you, and draw you away from God. You need to be ready. You need to prepare your children. You need to prepare your grandchildren.
Prepare by having the right mindset. Our mindset must be that we stand our ground with God and be assured He is right. This mindset is not based on emotions or experiences, but rather on God, His faithfulness, and the Truths presented in His Word.
LIVING IN BABYLON: The Writing on the Wall
#1 What do we find in this passage?
#2 How does this relate to our culture?
#3 How should we respond?
We continue a 5-week blog series (3 of 5) that focuses our attention on a basic truth that not all of us want to admit and that is that we no longer live in a Christian nation. We live in a land where God is not the priority in politics, marriage, values, sexuality, entertainment, education, family, and worldview. Just about everything in our culture is designed to pull us away from God. We do not live in a nation rooted in Biblical values, but rather we live in ‘Babylon.’ ‘Babylon’ was a real place in the Bible, but in the Bible, it also became a symbol for a culture or a society that marches away from God and away from His way of living. We live in ‘Babylon.’
WHAT DO WE FIND IN THIS PASSAGE?
We find in this passage a Babylonian King named Belshazzar who is absolutely full of himself. He throws a party for himself and his closest 1000 friends. During this party, he decides to break out the best items in his treasury to use and these items happen to be from the Temple in Jerusalem. These items were dedicated to God Almighty. He knows this. He knows his father captured them and he knows where they are from and he proceeds to profane them on purpose because he wanted to highlight himself. If he had a camera, imagine the types of selfies he would have taken with wine and items from the temple and his closest 1000 friends. Belshazzar wanted to be known as a great king and decided that throwing lavish parties and entertainment and showing off was the way to accomplish this.
God noticed. God always notices. Supernaturally God writes on the wall of the palace and everyone sees it. God joins the party and does a little Pictionary action on the wall to get the king’s attention. Does He get the king’s attention? He does. I love how verse 6 says ‘his knees knocked together.’ The king is visibly shaken and calls in all his wise men to decode it. They can’t decode it. That makes him even more upset and even more unhinged.
He thought he could figure out the message on his own with his own resources, but he could not. His queen is a bit wiser than he and she remembers about a guy named Daniel who interpreted dreams for the last king. Daniel was a big deal for his father Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 13, Daniel is brought in and he reminds the king about things he already knows. He boldly reminds the king that the party and using the items from the Jewish temple was very much flipping God Almighty the bird and he would pay for it. I know it sounds crude or rude for me to describe it in that way, but I want you to understand what Belshazzar was knowingly doing.
Verses 21-22 are telling. The king’s father was disciplined by God, ‘until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom He will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this…” Belshazzar decided to follow his culture and go his own way away from God and harden his own heart. He would pay for it. There is no humbleness before God Almighty in this king and only a hard heart and a desire to go his own way. He is absolutely full of himself.
The ‘writing on the wall’ (this is where that phrase comes from) literally is a warning from God Almighty to King Belshazzar. Daniel told the king the message from God and it was a message that would be carried out that very night:
Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end;
Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting;
Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
King Belshazzar dies that very night. History tells us (the Babylonian Chronicles and the Cyrus Cylinder) that Babylon was taken ‘without battle’ and all indications were that the Persians marched in with little effort and took over because the Babylonians were in full party mode and no one was paying attention.
HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO OUR CULTURE?, “FAITH FOR EXILES,’ Kinnaman & Matlock, 2019, pages 24-27
If literal Babylon was around today, the internet would absolutely be used in the same way our culture is wrapped on the internet. The internet and all of our devices inform us and connect us, but also distract and entertain. Whatever comes across computer screens or phones or tablets has our attention for hours on end and becomes our filter for lives and informs our worldview.
* Disney defines what a family does or does not look like.
* Facebook, which is fake most of the time, tells us how our lives are going compared to others.
* Memes, that aren’t even true, inform our beliefs about politics.
* Youtube videos provide a grid by which we test what is real.
* Media and news reports tell us what is true and what is false and we just accept it.
* We Google the answer to deep questions and assume what we are given is correct.
Our screens demand our attention and mold how we view the world and make us focus only on ourselves and focus us on distraction and entertainment. I noticed even I do this. Braeden was gone last weekend and got back into town Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, he and I went to breakfast. On our way, I asked him about his trip and we chatted… all the while I rudely and mindlessly played a game on my phone. Why? Why could I not stop being distracted and looking at my screen to focus on him and the explanation of his weekend? It is our culture.
Belshazzar was absolutely distracted and dedicated to entertainment so much that not only did he willfully and knowingly misuse God’s items from the Temple, but he lost his whole kingdom in one night. All for entertainment and distractions.
We also live in a culture that rejects moral and religious underpinnings of life and leads many to find answers in ourselves. Everything is about us and customized to us. Liberty mutual says you can customize car insurance so you only pay for what you need. A gym is called ‘Youfit.’ Selfies exist. Instagram exists to promote self. Phrases like ‘you do you’ and ‘love who you want’ are seen as good and correct and wise. Burger King says ‘Have it your way.’ Our view of ‘self’ is at the center and individuality is prized over all else. There is a me-sized world out there and there is a me-first set of expectations for much of life.
Belshazzar absolutely shows this in his actions. He was completely focused on himself and rejected the lessons his father had learned and Truth he already knew.
This Babylonian cultural thinking has invaded the church when it comes to being distracted and making trustworthy consistent commitments. Commitments are different in Babylon where we live and commitments are based on if it fits into my schedule and doesn’t inconvenience me. Christians, even those who are committed, are busier than ever and the current national statistic is once a month in a worship service is consistent attendance. That’s sad.
It is not uncommon for people to attend different groups at different churches and for loyalty and commitment to one church to be non-existent. Spreading out your activity at multiple churches means you are not committed to one place which is a lack of commitment.
It is not uncommon for people not to show up even when they say they will; be there and are scheduled. Many are Christian consumers who want to go to church to be fed and entertained, but not be asked to serve or to give money.
Youth group used to serve as a main social outlet for teens, but now is replaced by sports and social media.
The number of hours of personally connecting and fellowshipping and studying the Bible for discipleship has dropped considerably because of distractions and other priorities and an attitude shift.
Babylon has invaded the Church.
This Babylonian cultural thinking has invaded the church when it comes to individuality and me-sized focus. There are many people who think that ‘solo discipleship’ is a real and possible thing which is why we skip out on Bible study groups or corporate worship or corporate times of prayer. We don’t need that stuff. We can do it ourselves or watch a video and it is all the same. That’s not true, but it is what we think… because of our culture.
If you can do it all on your own, it isn’t Christianity.
If you can do it all on your own, it isn’t Church.
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
You and I should have in us the desire to be a resilient disciple of Jesus Christ that is able to navigate our culture and maintain a healthy relationship with God no matter what comes our way. We should want to teach our children and our grandchildren the same thing. Our culture is a virus that infects every part of our lives and wants to distract us and draw us away from God. I hope you see that a Christian identity in a rarely engaged church community is not enough to remain faithful. Distractions are strong. The pull of self is natural. Entertainment and the influence of tech screens are powerful.
The writing on the wall tells us that you and I must understand that what our culture offers is not lasting. The culture of the United States that is drifting more and more quickly away from Christian values does not produce a soul surrendered to Jesus Christ. Our Christian faith and commitment to the Church and our time spent in the Bible has been weighed and is found wanting. When we find our commitment and loyalty to Christ divided, we fall. Its all ‘writing on the wall.’
We need to acknowledge and realize that this war and this tug on our souls is real and it impacts us personally. We do not need to be distracted. This virus of our culture is real and it is drawing us, our children, our grandchildren, and our brothers and sisters in Christ in a significant way away from a vibrant life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not fake news that we no longer live in a Christian society and our society actively works against faith. This is truth and we must face it and be actively aware and not distracted.
We need to make sure that we are living our lives for the approval of the Almighty God and not for ourselves or the people around us. On the surface, saying something like that sounds dismissive and close-minded, but I do not mean it in that way. We must live our lives, mold our values, view our world, and pattern our families not after self or the world or other people’s families or what we see on a screen, but rather pattern ourselves after what God has designed. We live to please Him. We live for His approval. A resilient disciple of Jesus Christ has a focus on being the servant of Jesus and allowing the demands of self and our own heart and culture to pass by.
We must invest ourselves in our faith community. That is part of being a servant of Christ. Church is not just a Sunday only thing. It isn’t. Studying the Bible is not 5 minutes a day with a cute story attached. Worship is not only three songs on a Sunday morning. Prayer is not just something before meals and when we are in trouble or before be buy a lotto ticket. We must take our commitment to Jesus Christ and being His disciple seriously and we need to return our commitment to Him to a normal acceptable level… a level acceptable to Him! This truth is for everyone no matter your age or generation or gender or where you are at in your Christian journey.
How will you respond?
What do you need to do differently?
LIVING IN BABYLON: The Lion’s Den at Work
My first job I ever had was at the Wagon Wheel Theater on a US Army Base in Baumholder, Germany. It was run by AAFES which runs all of the stores (PXs) and grocery stores (Commissaries) on bases overseas. I worked usually on the weekends a few nights a week. I was 16. I was the only teenager who worked at the theater and all of the other employees were the spouses of soldiers who were on active duty.
Most of the time working was just fine and fun. No big deal. I would go home smelling like popcorn, but that was the only problem really. Except… except whenever the soldiers would ship out for training (‘going to the field’) those ladies would spend every single shift complaining and carrying on how they had to do life by themselves. They complained about their husbands, the Army, their kids, and the people who were the commanding officers. I have got to tell you, working there was eye-opening and comical and what I could call a ‘Lion’s Den’ when the soldiers were gone. I never heard my mom complain like that, but to be fair my dad’s job was a bit different. I tried to keep my mouth shut because if I tried to inject some, ‘This is what you signed up for’ or ‘It is only temporary’… they would absolutely eat me alive with their comments. Besides, I was a 16-year-old kid who knew nothing. I learned a valuable life lesson: When three ladies are having a conversation when they are complaining about men… run away.
I mention that memory of mine because today we are talking about work and we are also talking about a lion’s den.
Today, we continue a 5-week blog series (4 of 5) that focuses our attention on the basic truth that we no longer live in a Christian nation. We live in a land where God is not the priority in politics, dating, marriage, values, sexuality, entertainment, education, family, or worldview. Just about everything in our culture is designed to pull us away from God. We do not live in a nation rooted in Biblical values, but rather we live in ‘Babylon.’ ‘Babylon’ was a real place in the Bible, but in the Bible, it also became a symbol for a culture or a society that marches away from God and away from His way of living. We live in ‘Babylon.’
OUR CULTURE, ‘FAITH FOR EXILES,’ Kinnaman & Matlock, 2019, pages 151-153
The culture in which we live, in Babylon, is overall about ambition. In a 2010 survey of teenagers (Barna) who are now in their twenties, 26% expected to be famous by the time they were 25 years old. Famous on Youtube. An influencer. It is ambitious to think that you will reach a peak of success or fame while in your 20s. Fame is important in Babylon. Name recognition is important as well.
Success and accomplishment are important in Babylon and success should come without having to ‘pay your dues’ or ‘work your way up from the mailroom.’ That is the old way of thinking. Our culture expects with a few clicks and a few videos that someone can go ‘viral’ and be famous overnight and be a millionaire in a week. We think it is silly, but it happens often and we think it can happen to us.
The world of work and business and self-employment and side-hustles is all important because marriage and family is being pushed back until later in life for many. Some things that used to be valued have been devalued and in their place is the need to be noticed and affirmed on a regular basis. In Babylon, people take time to make a little money here and a little money there instead of one place. Traditional workplaces are going out the window and COVID simply helped that along. In Babylon, people would rather be their own boss than work for someone else. In Babylon, expecting the government to help is normal. All of these truths mix to create the current climate of jobs and income in our society. Overall, work is important when living in Babylon, but work has to fit us and must bring us success pretty quickly. That is the culture in which we live.
One of the things we notice about Daniel in these opening verses of Daniel 6, is that his job is government work. He is a bureaucrat not a farmer or a soldier. He is a paper pusher and someone who is an administrator not a laborer or a doctor or a teacher. Also, he was good at his job… not just good… but excellent because verse 3 tells us that God was blessing Him. Daniel’s job was in no way religious, but secular and out in the world and he was using his unique talents and gifts to work and honored God while he worked. I think it is important to make sure we know that.
We also notice, in verses 4-5, that Daniel did his work with excellence and faithfulness and the people who were looking to accuse him did not find fault in him. They tried to find fault with him but his integrity was tight.
This is a principle that is key for us as we are believers living in Babylon. The key principle in these verses is that we need to work with excellence and perseverance and faithfulness no matter what job we are doing. That is what God calls us to do. That is what our identity in Christ calls us to do. We reflect our Savior when we work. A resilient disciple at all times realizes they are serving Jesus Christ… even if that is at work. Even when that is at a job you hate.
There is a passage in the New Testament that confirms this for us. The Apostle Paul teaches the same principle to the Christians in Colossae. Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV): “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
We see in these verses that Daniel worked in a stressful environment that was not friendly to him or his faith. His co-workers were jealous of him and did not wish for his success. I would say they probably actively worked against him most of the time. We see overall in these verses that his co-workers were so intent on getting rid of him that they made up policies designed to attack his faith and trap him.
The environment was one of adversaries and false partnerships and bribes and accusations. This is the work environment of Daniel and others. How did Daniel approach living and working in this type of society? How did he maintain his faith? How did he keep his head on straight and his heart right?
Daniel was a man of prayer. Daniel was a man of routine prayer. I love verse 10 which shows us that Daniel knew exactly what was signed and he chose to be faithful to God no matter the policy laid out against him. What words would you use to describe Daniel? Some might say stupid or stubborn or ignorant. I would not use those words. Daniel knew exactly what happened and exactly what the end results would be and knew his faith. I would use words like faithful, steadfast, immovable, and full of integrity.
We find a principle here that there may be policies or co-workers that we have to deal with that directly oppose our faith, but we are called to be prayerful and faithful. I am not talking about policies that rub against your personal preferences, but rather people that actively oppose faith. It is our job by prayer and with the Holy Spirit to distinguish between personal preference and a ‘thus sayeth the Lord.’
There is a passage in the New Testament that confirms this for us. The Apostle Paul teaches the same principle to the Christians in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV): Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
It is not in vain to prioritize our faith and prayerful and to be steadfast in Christlikeness when at work or when facing issues in our career that make persevering in faith difficult. Prayer is a core value for us as we keep our minds and hearts centered on God in the midst of events or co-workers or policies that draw us away from God.
King Darius realized too late he had been duped by his underlings to get rid of Daniel who was a rock star for him. Darius wisely relied on Daniel as other kings had done. King Darius had to follow the letter of the law and tossed Daniel in with the lions and had a sleepless night.
Daniel relied on God. That night a bona fide supernatural miracle happens. It is a miracle because when a human being is put into a den of hungry and most likely mistreated lions, the lions should overpower the humans and break their bones to pieces and eat them. That is normal. Daniel explains to King Darius in the morning that God sent an angel and shut the lion’s mouths with duct tape. Maybe. We don’t know how, but God’s angel calmed the lions, and Daniel was saved.
In a gruesome turn of events, the people that schemed to put Daniel there were themselves tossed in with the lions and died.
As I was thinking about Daniel, a passage from the New Testament came to mind. 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV): Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Daniel presented himself rightly and was not ashamed of his actions or why he was in the lion’s den. His conscience was clear. That is a fantastic place to be when the world blows up around you. If you and God are good and your conscience is clear with the people around you, there is no better place to be when hardship comes.
I hope you can see that Daniel was a man of prayer and principles at work and he did not let his society remold him and shape him away from his values. We need to be the same.
LIVING IN BABYLON: Stay on Mission
Blockbuster, Walden Books, Borders, Toys R Us, KB Toys, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, Sizzler, Circuit City, Jello Pudding Pops, Bugle Boy Jeans, Minolta, Mervyns, Excite, Ask Jeeves, Hollywood Video, Crystal Pepsi, Kinny Shoes, and so many other companies and products you assume are out there are gone.
The reasons for these companies and brands not being around are various. Mismanagement. Downturns in the economy. New technology took over. Failure to adapt. Rival companies did it better. Some of them lost sight of their mission and purpose. They are gone as a result. Keep that last reason in mind… ‘lost sight of their mission and purpose.’
Today, we finish a 5-week blog series (5 of 5) that focuses our attention on the basic truth that we no longer live in a Christian nation. We live in a land where God is not the priority in politics, dating, marriage, values, sexuality, entertainment, education, family, or worldview. Just about everything in our culture is designed to pull us away from God. We do not live in a nation rooted in Biblical values, but rather we live in ‘Babylon.’ ‘Babylon’ was a real place in the Bible, but in the Bible, it also became a symbol for a culture or a society that marches away from God and away from His way of living. We live in ‘Babylon.’
In this 5-week series, we have focused on the life of believers in God who were forced to live in Babylon and draw important life principles for us.
We discovered first (1 of 5) that Babylon is pressing us with clutter and complexity and fast-paced life and the only way to be a resilient disciple of Jesus is to prioritize intimacy with Jesus and our priority must be our relationship with Jesus above all else.
We discovered second (2 of 5) that in a society that draws us away from God regularly, we must have a mindset that we stand our ground with God and be assured He is right because He is always faithful and we need to be effective and faithful right where we are at. God will be faithful to Himself and we must trust in Him and in His way.
We discovered third (3 of 5) that our culture drives us to be all about ourselves and me-sized and self-centered and to prize entertainment and distractions. As a result, investing in our faith in our church and in relationships is a wise use of our time, energy, and effort to help us sharpen our identities in Christ and serve others.
We discovered fourth (4 of 5) that our culture is very self-centered and fame oriented so we need to work with excellence and perseverance and faithfulness no matter what job we are doing and we need to be prayerful and faithful when the workplace turns into a lion’s den and gives friction when it comes to faith.
OUR CURRENT CHURCH CULTURE, ‘FAITH FOR EXILES, ‘ Kinnaman & Matlock, 2019, page 33
Before we dig into the Scripture, I want to share with you a little bit about our culture and how it relates to Christianity and the Church. I am not talking specifically about your church alone, but the big ‘C’ church which would include Christians of many different flavors across our country.
Folks that study culture and church and do surveys (Barna Research) tell us that there are 4 different groups that a church may encounter in our culture that express some kind of faith in Jesus. Each of these different groups have different practices, beliefs, perspectives, and attitudes when it comes to the Christian faith. I am not talking about folks who are complete non-Christians and have never heard about Jesus, but those who have expressed some kind of Christian faith at some point in their lives.
First, there are the Prodigals. These people do not identify themselves as Christians even though they might have expressed faith in Jesus as a child or a teenager. They once were Christian and now they are not and have left it behind. This is 22% of the people they surveyed.
Second, there are the Nomads or the unchurched. These folks identify themselves as Christians but have not attended church in the past month. Also, the vast majority of Nomads haven’t been involved in a church for six months or more. They say they are Christians but there is no evidence to support this profession of faith. This is 30% of the people they surveyed.
Third, there are the Habitual Churchgoers. These are the 38% of people that have attended church at least once in the past month, but their lifestyle and core beliefs are not really Christian. Their behaviors do not match what they profess to believe. Christian faith is more of a casual thing for them and not a core part of their identity.
If you are keeping track of percentages, we are at 90% of people who profess some kind of connection with Jesus (or used to) who are not all that committed and the core values and beliefs of the Bible. Faith does not impact their lives on a daily basis.
Fourth and finally, there are the Resilient Disciples. These are 10% of the people they surveyed who are Christ-followers who attend church at least once monthly and are engaged in church other than just attending church services. They trust firmly in the authority of the Bible. They are committed to Jesus personally and believe He died and rose again. They also express a desire to transform society as an outcome of their faith. These folks are open to and committed to deepening their relationship with God in all parts of their lives.
What this means as we look at the big ‘C’ church as a whole is that probably only 10-20% of people in our culture are taking faith seriously and the rest are not. The other 75% show up and sit in the pews or have stopped showing up altogether. There is not a lot of commitment. Not a lot of serving. A whole lot of living one way Monday thru Saturday and then showing up to church services when they feel like it. Like I said, our nation is no longer a Christian nation.
We live in Babylon were faith in Jesus is not a serious thing. As Christians live in Babylon, commitment and the desire to live as a disciple of Jesus becomes less and less appealing. Worship is less important. Bible and prayer are less important. Wednesday Bible studies and prayer times are sparsely attended. Youth group and VBS and children’s events are less attended. In its place are sports, planned family events, school, work, and entertainment of all kinds that take priority over faith. That is the culture we live in. The Church is in danger of not being on mission and losing sight of our purpose.
So, what message does the Bible have for us when it comes to a culture that seems to be shrinking the influence of the church?
What does a resilient faithful disciple look like in our day?
What should we believe? What should we do? Who should we be?
What should we believe and do when faith becomes less and less important in our society and maybe even less and less important in our own families?
How do we stay on mission and keep the purpose of the Christian faith in front of us?
First, we have a passage from Daniel 7. If you are not familiar with the Book of Daniel, it can be divided into two parts. Chapters 1-6 give us episodes and seasons in Daniel’s life as he lives in Babylon and chapters 7-12 give us prophecies and visions that Daniel received as he served the Lord. Our message today centers on staying on mission and keeping the purpose of front and center in our lives. Living this way is counter to our culture.
DANIEL 7:13-14 (ESV): I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Daniel tells us about his vision. It is an important vision. In this vision and prophecy, we are introduced to an important figure. This hero is given the nickname ‘Son of Man’ and He receives a Kingdom that includes people from all over the world and has no boundaries and us an eternal dominion. This Kingdom is given by the Ancient of Days to the Son of Man and lasts forever.
You might read that and not know what Daniel is writing about. Daniel is writing about Jesus Christ. The title Ancient of Days is one of Daniel’s favorite titles for God. He is highlighting that God is the beginner of all days and is the Uncaused Cause of everything. The nickname ‘Son of Man’ is Jesus’ favorite title for Himself in all four Gospels and in the Book of Revelation.
What we have in Daniel 7 is a prediction and description of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords Jesus Christ having a kingdom that has no boundaries and lasts forever. This kingdom is set up, as many of Daniel’s other visions show us, against what the world offers. The world and the culture around us offers one thing and demands one thing and the will of God and the life He has for us is many times pretty much the opposite. His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).
If you consider yourself a Christian, you are part of a spiritual kingdom that is set against the culture in which we live. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a Christian and maintain mission and purpose and faith in Jesus Christ.
To live as God’s people, to follow the Son of Man in His kingdom and to stay on mission with Jesus, you have to choose. Just going along with the culture just isn’t going to cut it. The conditions of our culture demand that we choose each day Whom we will serve.
Choose if your children and grandchildren watch TV and movies with homosexual parents.
Choose if you allow music heavy with cursing or anti-police rhetoric in your home.
Choose if you let Christian nationalism and unnoticed white privilege come out of your mouth.
Choose if you will pray as a family for meals in restaurants.
Choose if you allow your teenagers to work on Sundays.
Choose if you will allow children and grandchildren the choice to come to worship or not.
Choose if you will allow children and grandchildren the choice to come to youth group or Sunday school.
Choose to stay silent or speak up as sports teams practice and play games Sunday mornings.
Choose in prayer how you will vote.
Choose carefully what memes you share on Facebook and twitter and what you complain about.
Choose if you will spend time every single day in the Bible.
Choose if you will spend time daily in prayer.
You and I have a choice to make to be on mission and be countercultural to what we see around us. Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not a one-time thing, but a daily choice to follow Him above what our culture peddles into our lives.
* What decisions do you need to make?
* What changes do you need to make?
Jeremiah was a man that saw the exile to Babylon coming for the People of God, but no one listened to him. He saw it coming, saw it happen, and lamented over the destruction of the People of God. He writes about this in the Book of Jeremiah and in the Book of Lamentations. Jeremiah wanted the People of God to stay on mission but they did not.
Jeremiah has much to say to us. Jeremiah 29 is both a blessing and a curse for us. Jeremiah 29 is a blessing for us because Jeremiah writes encouraging words to the People of God about how to stay on mission and keep God at the forefront of their lives as they live in exile in Babylon. That is awesome! Jeremiah 29 is a curse for us because Jeremiah 29:11 is one of those verses that Americans take out of context over and over again and apply where it doesn’t belong.
Jeremiah is writing to people who have lost many things in their lives and are now living in exile in Babylon. How should they live? How do they maintain their faith in this new land? They are literally asking: What should we believe? What should we do? Who should we be? Everything in their culture is a strong current pulling them away from God.
Verses 4-7 command us not to quit, but rather to step forward in life and be faithful. Jeremiah encouraged them to live life as normal. Life does not stop because our culture is different or we have a disastrous setback or there is a law that curbs our faith. Build houses. Have gardens. Raise children. All of the normal things of life need to go on faithfully before the Lord no matter where we are or no matter what is going on in the culture around us. Jeremiah tells the People of God to make the best of their situation all the while they are faithful to God. They were to build lives and tend them and even to seek the well-being and peace of the place where they lived. When the city prospers, they will prosper.
Verses 8-14 command us to be careful to whom we listen when it comes to spiritual matters. The reason for this warning in Jeremiah 29 has to do with false prophets that were advising the People of God not to put down roots because the current situation would be over soon. Jeremiah proclaims exactly the opposite message by stating that the exile would be long. We know if was at minimum 70 years. These verses share with us that the culture they lived in, and by extension, the culture we live in, is not going to snap back to some kind of faithfulness to God. It isn’t going to happen. We live in a post-Christian culture. Period. Get used to it. Things are going to get worse, not better, when it comes to culture and Christianity.
In the midst of this world that draws us away from God, we have promises from God to hold onto in verses 8-14.
Yes, in verse 11 God promises prosperity and welfare, but the context is life being difficult and living faithfully against the grain of culture. Verse 11 does not say that God has plans to prosper you with money or fame or comfort because you pray for it and you say you are a Christian. Jeremiah communicates to the exiles that welfare comes from the Lord when we abide in Him and live the way He wants. You’ve got to be on mission and faithful to God for those showers of blessings to come down. That is what verse 11 says.
Yes, in verse 12 God promises that when we pray to Him, He hears us. That is a fantastic promise. Our God is ever-present to help us as we live counterculturally for Christ. He has not left us alone. God never leaves His people alone. He always has a way out or a plan or a deliverer. When I think about Christians today, I remember that we have the Holy Spirit with us and He is always by our side in easy times and in difficult times.
Yes, in verse 13 God promises that when we seek Him we will find Him. He promises to be faithful and keep His promises for those who have been faithful to Him. The People of God are in a different culture and I can imagine that they were not so sure all the time what to choose or who to be or what to believe. God says that when we seek Him, we will find Him. When we look for His way, He will be there and be found.
If you consider yourself a Christian, you are part of a spiritual kingdom that is set against the culture in which we live. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a Christian and maintain mission and purpose and faith in Jesus Christ.
To live as God’s people, we need to commit to living everyday life for God. Jeremiah mentions the simple everyday things of life need to be dedicated to God and we need to abide in Him continually if we are going to stay on mission and survive and thrive in the culture.
In everyday life, make prayer a mission.
In everyday life, commit to being faithful and holy in your attitudes.
In everyday life, seek the fruit of the Spirit.
In everyday life, put others before yourself and serve them.
In everyday life, do what is right even when it hurts.
In everyday life, believe and know that God is working for your good.
In everyday life, you and I must abide in Jesus and make Him our priority or our culture is going to sweep us away from God. We must choose each and every day to serve the Lord.
ONE LAST ENCOURAGEMENT: ON MISSION FROM GOD
I want to mention one last encouragement. Jesus Christ absolutely knew that His followers would be living in situations that were not favorable to their faith. He knew that the message of the Gospel might be seen as close-minded or judgmental or even misused and misquoted. He knew all of that and yet He commanded us to be on mission for Him no matter what is going on around us. We must live counterculturally for Christ.
What was the mission He gave us?
MATTHEW 28:19-20 (ESV): 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
MARK 16:15 (ESV): And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
ACTS 1:8 (ESV): But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
We have now spent these five blogs focusing on our culture that is drifting further and further from God and presses us to walk away from our faith on a daily basis. It all comes down to you and I choosing what or Whom we will serve. It is my prayer and my challenge for you that you will choose to serve Jesus and not the culture you see around you.
If you don’t, it won’t just be Blockbuster, Walden Books, Toys R Us, Oldsmobile, Mervyns, and all those other companies and products that will have disappeared, it will be your faith that went belly-up and can’t be found anymore.
END OF ‘LIVING IN BABYLON’ COLLECTION