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It’s Here.

December 1, 2011

I think that we are officially in the Christmas season.  Everyone has had their thanksgiving meal, we’ve done the “black Friday” thing, and there are, at this moment, fake reindeer on the tops of houses.  As of 12:00 am this past Friday, we all entered into the cultural phenomenon that is Christmas.  So it’s now acceptable, for this month only, to order hot chocolate at Starbucks. People are shopping, they’re wearing their red and green tartan clothes, and the sleigh bells are ring-a-ling.  And listen…we’re all in.  Now, we don’t go full-out Griswold on the thing, but we’ve got the tree up, wreaths are on the windows, and we’ve got the music playing.

 If you will, and I sincerely hope you will, take a moment and read through Daniel, chapter 1.

 It might seem strange to begin a study of this book during this time of year.  And listen, I’ll concede that.  The Book of Daniel…as well as all apocalyptic literature…is generally ignored during this time of year.  What this book is going to show us is an example of men who did not compromise…who did not give in…of men who remained faithful.  Despite a cultural movement…and that’s what Babylonia was…much like what our Christmas season has become…these four men held firm in their faith, and stood strong in their convictions.

 At this point in history, let’s call it 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar II rules the world.  He is the supreme leader of the greatest empire on the planet…he has defeated the Egyptians and Assyrians…and he has captured the promised land of Israel.  Everything on the planet seemingly revolves around Babylon.  It’s just like when Christmas rolls into to town.  Everything is revolving around December 25.  And in verse 2, we see something of what Nebuchadnezzar thought of himself.  It says that he left Judah, “with some of the vessels of the house of God.  And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god.”  What he was attempting to establish is that he was greater than Yahweh.  He was letting it be known that he held the power.  And then, he went about purchasing the loyalty of his newly acquired servants.

 “But Daniel resolved.”  That’s a powerful opening to verse 8.  It’s simple; Daniel made a decision.  It wasn’t a huge decision…he chose not to eat the food of the king because it would make him unclean…he didn’t want to defile himself.  But even though it is a relatively small decision, it is in these small decisions that great victories are won.  What Daniel decided in that moment was to pursue a life of holiness…an idea that our culture often scoffs at.

 We live in a culture today that is centered on the idea of human comfort.  So…whatever is most convenient for us is obviously the best way to go.  But many of us, especially young people, have big dreams.  And Christian young people have dreams of where God will lead them, and use them, and move in and through them.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s a good thing to have big hopes for what God is going to do with you.  But it’s in the small things that many of us often compromise.  So the girl sleeps over because she’s too tired to drive home safely.  We skip church because we just had to stay up for that game.  We tell “white lies” because we don’t want people to get hurt.  And all the while, we are compromising on the life of holiness that Christ has called us to live.  It’s us, giving in, to the imagination of our hearts.  Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”  This is what Daniel did.  Even in the face of a cultural revolution…he remained faithful…he sought the kingdom of God.  Be careful this Christmas to seek first His kingdom…and His righteousness…and remain faithful.

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