Category: Daniel

Returning to the Lord

The first Sunday in January is a good time for a congregation of God’s people to renew our dedication to the Lord. It’s the perfect day to start over, to renew vows, to make fresh commitments. And in Scripture, a lot of the time, when God’s people seek renewed relationship with the Lord, they begin with corporate confession and repentance.

Using biblical texts from 1 Samuel 7, Ezra 9, and Daniel 9, we spent this past Sunday together at Central confessing our corporate sins as a 107-year-old body of believers. We talked about the sins of pride and racism, legalism and sexism, self-reliance and apathy, consumerism, materialism, sectarianism. We haven’t committed all these sins ourselves. Our leadership and our church today are not guilty of all those sins. But in the history of our congregation and in the history of Churches of Christ, we have all been guilty of all of it. Some of these sins we still commit. All of them still impact us to some degree. So, in the manner of God’s people as described in Scripture, we confessed.

One of our shepherds, Tim McMenamy, worded a heart-felt, gut-wrenching prayer of confession from his knees on behalf of the church, recalling the sins of our past and the sins of our present. Another of our elders, Steve Rogers, led a prayer of corporate repentance from his knees, making vows to God on behalf of the congregation that we would renounce the sins of our past and present and seek only the Lord and his ways. And then we offered the church some time to confess their own sins, sins in their families, sins from their distant past, or sins that have them ensnared in the present. Our elders and ministers and our spouses were positioned all around the worship center to graciously receive and pray for our people. We lifted them up to God and begged him to provide his promised forgiveness and righteousness and peace.

It was different. It was very quiet in there. And powerful. Only a few, it appeared, actually took advantage of the opportunity. But those who did experienced those blessings of forgiveness and righteousness and peace.

Immediately after the service concluded, several people came to me to thank me for the special focus of the morning and for the way the assembly had been planned. And I think I must have expressed — non-verbally — some disappointment in the visible response from our congregation during the time of confession and repentance. One of my many, many faults — one I should probably confess regularly before the church — is my sin of impatience. I’m terrible with that. I don’t very much of the time practice what I preach there. And I do a lousy job of hiding it. But, good grief, of all people the preacher should know that God is at work in powerful ways that we don’t always get to see.

And Clay Harper reminded me of that Monday.

Clay called me on the carpet for my disappointment. That’s what good and faithful Christian brothers do; that’s what happens in genuine Christian community. And then he reminded me of the truth I had preached the day before, that God answered the prayers and provided the promised blessings regardless of how engaged the people were in what was happening.

In Samuel, the people approached the prophet looking for ways to fix their relationship with God. They begged him to intercede for them and participated fully as a congregation in the prayers of confession and repentance. In Ezra, the leaders of the people came to the prophet and the people (a lot of them, but maybe not all of them) eventually followed and participated in the confession and repentance, some of them under the threat of loss of their property. In Daniel, it doesn’t look like anybody else is there. The prophet prays confession and repentance to God on behalf of the people, but there’s no indication anybody has any idea he’s doing it.

More than likely, we have people in our church family located at every point on that continuum. From begging to make things right with God and willingly putting away their idols and sins, to almost being forced to confess and repent and reluctantly participating, to not taking part in the exercises at all, we’ve got folks all over the map there. All those different reactions and responses were present in our assembly Sunday.

The good news is that in all three scenarios in Scripture, God answered the prayers immediately, while the prayers were still being prayed, and provided the forgiveness and peace.

In Samuel, while the people are in the middle of confessing and repenting, God answered. God showered his people with victory. He destroyed their enemies right there on the spot and blessed them with peace. Same thing in Daniel. While he was in the middle of his prayer of corporate confession and repentance, God spoke to Daniel about forgiveness of sin, about everlasting righteousness, and peace. In Ezra, God provided his grace immediately and withdrew his anger.

I don’t know where you are with confession and repentance before God. I think if you’ve made some New Year’s resolutions to our Lord, they have to begin with confession and repentance. I don’t know where your church is with that. I don’t know how your elders might feel about corporate confession in a church assembly. I don’t know how many in your family or your congregation would enter in to that kind of exercise willingly, how many would have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming, and how many just wouldn’t participate. I don’t know.

But I do know this: the common thread in all three stories of corporate confession and repentance in Scripture is that God answered. He responded immediately, as soon as the prayers began. He did it consistently then and he’s doing it faithfully right now. Why don’t you and/or your church give it a try?

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Congratulations to Central’s own Joe Bain who will be inducted tomorrow into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame here in Amarillo. Coach Bain was the boys track coach at Amarillo High School for 30 years, winning 15 district championships, including one in his last season in 2006. He also served as a long time assistant coach for the Golden Sandstorm football team under Larry Dippel, coaching the defensive backs in 1992 when the Sandies advanced to the state semi-finals.

Coach Bain poured his heart into hundreds of young men in this region, constantly encouraging them, consistently challenging them to be better, always leading to greatness by the example of his own deep character and integrity. Lots and lots of young men are thanking Coach Bain this week for the tremendous influence of godliness he had on their lives. And at least one older guy who only just met Coach Bain three years ago is thanking him for that same leadership and influence he has on my life right now.

Peace,

Allan

Outnumbered

Do you ever feel like it’s you against the world? I mean the whole world; every single person in the world is against you. Do you ever feel like that?

I think Scripture teaches that men and women of God are going to have those feelings quite often. It’s stated very matter-of-factly in the Bible. If you’re walking in the light as a child of God, it’s going to seem sometimes like you’re all by yourself.

The writer of Daniel sets up the story of the fiery furnace in a particular way that illustrates the entire world as standing opposed to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel 3:2 tells us that all the “satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial officials” were summoned to the dedication of the king’s giant image of gold. Then in the very next verse, the writer reminds us that all the “satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial officials” assembled for the statue’s dedication. In verse four, the herald addresses “nations and men of every language.” Same thing in verse seven, “peoples and nations and men of every language.” They all fell down and worshiped this idol.

They all worshiped the idol, the king. The whole world. All the government. All the officials. All the important people. All the people of prestige and status. All the educated people. All the well-trained and successful people. All the people in charge. Every nation, every language — they are all represented here. The writer of Scripture says the whole world ignored the commands of God and bowed down before the statue.

Everybody except these three young boys who told the king, “The God we serve is able to save us, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold” (Daniel 3:17-18).

Once the three men are delivered by God, it’s interesting to me that the “satraps, prefects, governors, and royal advisors” gathered around the furnace and were commanded by the king to praise the God of Israel (Daniel 3:27-28) and that “people of every nation or language” were also warned to speak well of our God (Daniel 3:29).

The story reminds me that some day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the Lordship of our God in Christ. It’s going to happen. This world that stands opposed to you will recognize our God some day. You’re on the right team. You serve the Almighty God. He will rescue you. And you will be rewarded for your faithfulness to him.

In the words of the true and reigning King of the Universe, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”

Peace,

Allan

Learn to Praise

“Is this not the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” ~Daniel 4:30

We must be praisers of God. We are mostly praisers of people, praisers of things, praisers of ourselves, praisers of almost anything and everything but God. But we must learn to praise God. We must give him glory. We must give him honor. We must give him credit.

We must stop praising technology. We must stop praising innovation. We must stop praising politicians and platforms and parties, celebrities and athletes, preachers and churches, corporations and CEOs. We must learn to praise God.

Without him, we are sinners condemned to hell; with him, we are righteous sons and daughters of his eternal glory. Without him, we are an assembly of misfits and morons with no potential for good; with him, we are a community of heaven’s ambassadors on a mission to change the world. Without him, we are blind and lost; with him, we can see and we are saved. We must learn to praise him more and praise him better. We must give him more glory and honor.

We must stop just sitting there in our Christian assemblies, Sunday morning after Sunday morning, refusing to praise our God. Young people, old people, and everybody in between — we must learn to praise God. We must stop sitting there as spectators while others praise. We must stop the selfish and sinful practice of choosing when to praise and when not to praise according to who’s leading and what they’re leading. We must stop the arrogant practice of, even in our singing, while singing, being proud that we’re praising correctly, being proud that we’re doing it right. We must stop spending twenty minutes at a time writing down requests for prayers of physical healing and financial deliverance and start spending hours on our knees together in earnest prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the God who has already rescued us.

We were made to praise him, created to bring him glory, empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to give him honor. We were meant to turn our eyes and energies toward him, never toward ourselves. Good things happen when we praise. When we praise God, we actually feel better — physically, emotionally, spiritually — because we’re doing what we were always designed to do.

Power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise. None of it belongs to us. All of it belongs to our God.

Peace,

Allan

Daniel’s Innocence

I’ve missed something in the story of Daniel and the Lions Den. I know about the praying three times a day toward Jerusalem, the King’s edict outlawing that practice, Daniel’s insistence on obeying God rather than man, his execution sentence, and the angel of God that shut the mouths of the killer cats. I know all that. What I’ve missed all these years is Daniel’s over-the-top integrity in every single facet of his life. I’ve missed his uncompromising character that controls every aspect, reigns over every compartment and category of his existence.

Daniel is so good, so loyal, so successful that King Darius is planning to make him second in command. Daniel’s peers become upset and look for ways to discredit their rival.

“The administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” ~Daniel 6:4

They’re looking for a scandal. They’re searching for some dirt. Something. Anything. They’re desperate. They want his job. They’re jealous. They deserve it more than he. They’re afraid. Daniel knows where all the bodies are buried. They’re digging through his trash. They’re talking to all his neighbors. They’re stalking him, trailing him, studying him, trying to discover his one vice, his fatal flaw.

“Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.'” ~Daniel 6:5

You ever noticed that before?

Can people say that about me? Would people who know you say that about you?

“We will never find any basis for charges against this man unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

If someone were looking to find fault with you, how hard would they have to look? Could they check the “history” on your computer browser, the menu on your DVR, the text messages on your phone and still say there’s no fault here? What if they interviewed your spouse, had lunch with your co-workers, talked to your kids? Would the report be good? What if they had access to your emails? What if they sat in the back seat as you drove home from work? Let’s say they followed you around for a month and analyzed every word that came out of your mouth, recorded your every action, wrote down your every move. Would the enemies looking so hard to find fault with you finally slam their pencils down in frustration and hurl their recording devices through the window and shout in frustration, “There’s nothing wrong with this person! Unless we can make loving God and loving others illegal, we’ve got nothing on this guy!”

I’m afraid on some days the men trailing me would be done before lunch. It wouldn’t take long.

I pray that, by God’s grace and the transforming power of his Spirit, I’m getting better.

You, too?

Peace,

Allan

How Long?

How Long?When faced with the prospect of preaching to people who refuse to respond in a nation that refuses to change, Isaiah asks the Lord, “How long?” (Isaiah 6:11). Daniel asks the same question toward the end of the 70-years of exile, “Lord, how long?” (Daniel 8:13). The souls under the altar in John’s end time vision repeat the same question, “How long, Sovereign Lord?” (Revelation 6:10)

Surrounded by the problems of this world, confronted daily by the mystery of evil, a powerless spectator as sin and Satan and death and violence and disease seemingly have their way, we’re left to ask the same question.

“How long?”

I don’t know. Nobody knows.

However, you can be certain of this: the darkness of whatever present circumstance you’re enduring cannot adequately hide the glimmer of hope in the promises of our all-powerful and all-loving God.

Our Father is compassionate and gracious. slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. He will turn our mourning into dancing. He will remove our sackcloth and clothe us with joy. He will shine light into darkness. And he will bring life out of death.

Trust him. Seriously. It’s what he does.

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RedRibbonReviewThere are 72 hot summer days left until the Cowboys kick off their 2009 season. And in our countdown of the second-best players in Cowboys history by jersey number, today we honor offensive lineman Tony Liscio.

Liscio came out of Tulsa in 1963 and played eight full seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, mainly as a backup offensive tackleTonyLiscio behind Ralph Neely and Forrest Gregg. In fact, 1966 was the only season Liscio started all 14 games. The Cowboys lost the NFL title in the Ice Bowl in Green Bay the following season and came up three-points shy in Super Bowl V in 1970. It was during the off-season between ’70 and ’71 that the Cowboys traded Liscio to San Diego for Lance Alworth, the move that  brought “Bambi” to Dallas for his final two years.

But Liscio never played a down for the Chargers. He strained both hamstrings in stretching drills at the San Diego training camp and they shipped him to Miami.  But his back was killing him, he was limping and in constant pain, so he just retired.

Until halfway through the ’71 season.

#72In the middle of November, the Cowboys were desperate for help at left tackle. Ralph Neely had broken his leg in a motorcycle accident. Don Talbert had broken his foot. And Forrest Gregg was too old to carry the load. So Tom Landry called Liscio on Monday November 15. He was at the Cowboys practice on Wednesday. His right leg was heavily taped from his ankle to his hip. Both shoulders were aching. His right knee hurt. But he was the starter against the Redskins that Sunday, a 13-0 win over Washington that gave Dallas the division championship.

(By the way, Liscio was wearing #64 during this “comeback” because Talbert had been given #72 after the trade.)

Liscio didn’t allow a single sack during his eight starts in the last half of that season and post-season of 1971. In fact, the Cowboys never lost another game that year, running the table to go on to capture their first NFL championship, routing the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. Lance Alworth actually scored the first points in that Super Bowl, a quick toss to the left side. Liscio’s side. Cool.

Happy Fourth,

Allan