Christianity 201

October 31, 2019

Helping People Connect with God in an Increasingly Godless Society

(This “Shrunk Sermon” is from a series on The Book of Daniel which begins here)

by Clarke Dixon

How can we help people connect with God in an increasingly godless society? Fewer are calling themselves Christians. Fewer are committed to attending church. Fewer people turn to churches in times of spiritual seeking. People now look for wedding officiants instead of pastors. People now desire a celebration of life rather than a Christian funeral. There is no doubt that people in North American and Western Europe have been turning away from Christianity. With this being the trajectory, are we able to help them connect with God?

In Biblical times Babylon was more godless than we are. King Nebuchadnezzar makes Prime Minister Trudeau, President Trump, and President Putin, all look like angels. Yet in Daniel, chapter 4 we see something remarkable:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. Daniel 4:37 (NIV)

Nebuchadnezzar, a far-from-godly king over a truly godless empire made a God-connection! God’s people were very much in the minority, so we cannot give credit to prayer in schools, or Bible based laws. Church attendance was at an all time low! There is therefore hope for Canadians. If Nebuchadnezzar can make a God connection, anyone can. There are lessons for Canadian Christians in Daniel, chapter 4.

First, note Daniel’s heart:

“Upon hearing this, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) was overcome for a time, frightened by the meaning of the dream. Then the king said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, don’t be alarmed by the dream and what it means.’
“Belteshazzar replied, ‘I wish the events foreshadowed in this dream would happen to your enemies, my lord, and not to you! Daniel 4:19 (NLT)

Daniel’s heart broke for Nebuchadnezzar. There is no doubt about Daniel’s heart for God. However, Daniel also had a heart for Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was moved by what he knew would happen to the king. Keep in mind that this is not a good and godly king. This is a not a friendly empire. This king had thrown Daniel’s friends into the fire. This king had threatened to destroy all the wise men, including Daniel, when they were unable to discern his dream. This empire had invaded Daniel’s homeland and taken people, including Daniel, as captives. Yet, it touched Daniel’s heart that Nebuchadnezzar was about to experience misfortune. Daniel was loving the enemy long before Jesus taught us to do so.

Do our hearts break for those who experience disconnect from God? Nebuchadnezzar was very different from Daniel. He had a different background, grew up speaking a different language, followed a different religion, and therefore had different values. Do our hearts break for those who would seem to be very different from us?

Do our hearts break over the struggles and misfortunes of others, even perceived enemies, or do we say, “told you so”? Do our hearts break for people? Do we faithfully love others? Broken hearts will be the evidence.

Second, note that Nebuchadnezzar’s connection with God was a journey.

Nebuchadnezzar had glorified Daniel’s God before, in chapter two. That did not stop him from throwing Daniel’s friends into a furnace in a fit of rage in chapter three. Chapter four ends with a stronger connection between the king and God than ever before. Yet there is likely more distance to go in Nebuchadnezzar’s understanding of the divine and his relationship with God. The path to, and with, God can be a long journey.

A relationship with God is always a journey. In previous Kanye West albums I have heard some Christian thoughts. In his latest album, called “Jesus is King,” there are nothing but Christian thoughts. Kanye is on a journey! Yet Kanye calls into question the ability of established Christians to walk that journey with him:

Said I’m finna do a gospel album
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Feelin’ like nobody love me
Told people God was my mission
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me

https://genius.com/Kanye-west-hands-on-lyrics

Helping people connect with God is a great privilege, at any point along the journey. Daniel never gave up on Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel never wrote the king off, but served him with heart. Do we give up on people? Have we given up on our nation? Do we engage with people, serving others as Christ served us? Or do we isolate ourselves? Worse, perhaps we might prefer to isolate them. Are we faithful in our journey with people, as they are on a journey in their relationship with God? Relationships will be the evidence.

Third, watch for God’s heart work.

There was an essential ingredient that Nebuchadnezzar needed for a better connection with God. He needed humility. In Daniel chapter 4, God, not Daniel, takes Nebuchadnezzar on a journey of self-awareness and God-awareness:

29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. . . 34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. . . . 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. Daniel 4:29-34,37 (NIV)

Nebuchadnezzar is taken on a journey from thinking he is the best, with no need for God, to an awareness that he is, and has, nothing without God. Nebuchadnezzar does not make a vital connection with God until he is humbled. He needed some heart work, and God brought about that heart work.

People will not connect with God without some heart work. Merely sharing information won’t establish a God connection. Hearing the truth is often not enough. Daniel could say it, and he did. But Nebuchadnezzar did not learn it until he experienced it. The king had all the information he needed. Daniel put it in his head. However, the king did not have the humility to accept it until God prepared his heart. Still, it was important that Daniel say it. Are we committed to faithfully sharing the Good News of God’s love in Christ, even when we are being ignored? Are we faithful in engaging people’s minds, while we look to God to open hearts? Prayer will be the evidence.

Conclusion

Fewer people seem to be making a connection with God in our not-so-Christian-anymore society. We might despair. But there is hope. If Nebuchadnezzar can make a vital God-connection, anyone can. Daniel was involved in that connection. We can be involved also. Are we faithful in our love for people, really and truly loving our neighbour, even our enemies, as Jesus calls us to? Are we faithful in our journey with people, every step of the way, even the smallest steps, even steps sideways or back? Are we faithful in engaging people’s minds, while we look to God to open their hearts?

September 5, 2018

Revelation Brings the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth

We draw on resources from a variety of writers, spanning the spectrum from conservative Reformed to Charismatic. Today is the latter as we return to an excellent devotional from Rick Joyner of Morningstar Ministries.

Go to Heaven, Now

Genesis 28:12-17 tells of a remarkable experience that Jacob had, which is also relevant to us today:

And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth
with its top reaching to heaven; and behold,
the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

And behold, the LORD stood above it and said,
“I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac;
the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.

Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth,
and you shall spread out to the west and to the east
and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants
shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go,
and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you
until I have done what I have promised you.”

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said,
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”
And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

The first point that we should observe here is that to Jacob the dream was real. Dreams can be a window into the heavenly realm. For this reason dreams have been one of the primary ways the Lord has spoken to His people from the beginning. In Acts 2, we see it will continue to be one of the primary ways that He speaks to us at the end. It is becoming increasingly crucial as we proceed toward the end of this age that we understand dreams, be ableto discern those that are from the Lord from those that are not, and be able to interpret them.

The second point is that Jacob saw a gate into heaven, and when he saw into heaven he was given a revelation of his purpose on earth. The purpose of all true prophetic revelations is so His kingdom will come to earth, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. True prophetic revelation will always be practical.

The third point is that the word translated “angel” in the text above is the Hebrew word mal’ak (mal-awk’), which Strong’s defines as: “from an unused root meaning to dispatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically, of God, i.e. an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher): KJV—ambassador, angel, king, messenger.” The point is the messengers that are to ascend and descend upon this ladder are not just angelic beings, but God’s messengers, which we are called to be.

The fourth point is that the messengers of God are called to ascend and descend upon this ladder. A primary purpose of prophetic revelation is to call the church to rise above the earth and to dwell in the heavenly realm now. Just as the revelation to Jacob spoke of the land he was lying on, the purpose of our entering into the heavenly realm is to bring the blessings and benefits of that realm to earth.

For the next point we need to read John 1:49-51:

Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God;
You are the King of Israel.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you
that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?
You shall see greater things than these.”
And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened,
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Here we see that Jesus is Jacob’s ladder. The rungs on the ladder are the progressive revelations of Jesus. When we come to know Him as our Savior we take a step. When we come to know Him as our Lord we take another. When we come to know Him as the Lord above all lords we go higher. When we see Him as the One through whom and for whom all things were made, we take another step, etc.

The purpose of our study is to see our step-by-step progression to spiritual maturity. Understanding Jacob’s ladder is the center-piece of our study, and our calling. It is the calling of every Christian to be a messenger of God, to continually enter into the heavenly realm—where we get our message or blessing for the earth. We do this by increasing our knowledge and understanding of Jesus, who He is and where He now sits—above all rule, authority, and power.

We must become more than comfortable in the heavenly realm; it must be our home—where we are more at home there than we are on this earth. I saw a sign by a church that said, “We are just a waiting room for heaven.” That is not what we are called to be. We are called to be a gateway to heaven through which people can enter into and begin to experience heaven now! Every time we ascend we will descend with a blessing for the earth. The blessing we come back with is a piece of heaven—evidence of its existence.

In this way, we should be turning every place where we are called—our churches, jobs, and homes, even the places where we shop into an outpost of heaven. The way we do this is the Way, Jesus. Even heaven would not be heaven without Him. The Lord is what makes it heaven. As we ascend by the progressive revelation of who He is, we will see more glory, and we will carry that glory with us. This is the call of Revelation 4:1-2:

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven,
and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet
speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you
what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit;
and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.

That same door is open for you right now. The Lord is calling us to come up to where He sits. Just as there seems to be no limit to the expanding universe that we can see, neither is there a limit to the one we can only see with the eyes of our hearts. He has not limited how far we can go, even to sitting with Him on His throne. What could we possibly have better to do?

You can find additional Scriptures regarding this teaching in Ephesians 1:18-23 and 2:4-7.

~Rick Joyner


Subscribers: We again apologize for the lateness of today’s devotional.

July 26, 2010

On Asking God to “Disturb” Us

This was posted earlier this month at Jay Cookingham’s blog Soulfari:

Disturb Us, Lord – 1577 – A Prayer by Francis Drake

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the Waters of Life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery:
Where losing sight of land
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push us in the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.