Adapted from a teaching by Dr. I. Dix Winston on Pulpit Freedom Sunday – Crosspoint Community Church, Centennial, Colorado
Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor in the United States, championed a piece of legislation called the “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” (HERO). The ordinance included a provision for an “Open Bathrooms Component,” which the mayor argued was necessary to correct a perceived discrimination against transgender individuals. This provision would force Houston business owners to allow cross-dressing men, or men who simply claim to identify as women, unfettered access to women’s bathrooms, showers, locker rooms and other facilities. The Houston City Council passed the measure in May, 2014.
In response, a group of five Houston area pastors, and their church members, organized a drive to repeal the bill, gathering over 50,000 signatures—well above the 17,259 signatures required to place the referendum on the ballot. The mayor and city attorney rejected those signatures, and a lawsuit ensued. Even though the pastors were not a party to the lawsuit, as part of the court proceedings, Houston city lawyers served subpoenas to the five pastors, demanding the production of “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity.” If they refused to comply with those subpoenas, they were threatened with contempt of court and eventually—jail.
THE CURRENT CRISIS
John S. Dickerson in his outstanding book, The Great Evangelical Recession, states that there is a growing storm coming, a hurricane is approaching—a cultural tsunami is headed our way. He writes, “In the coming decades United States evangelicals will be tested as never before, by the ripping and tearing of external cultural change—a force more violent than many of us expect. Evangelicalism in the United States has stood strong through centuries of difficulties and setbacks. She has not seen anything quite like what she will see in the next fifty years.”
The broader host culture is changing faster than most realize and Pastor Dickerson is correct. Look at how quickly the culture changed on same-sex marriage. Just one decade ago, in 2005, all but seven states had either a constitutional or a statutory ban on same-sex marriage. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court, without any legal basis I might add, ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. One could barely absorb the shock of that lawlessness before the secular culture rapidly pivoted to promoting transgenderism. Just one month later, Bruce Jenner, now known as Caitlyn, was celebrated in the international media as “she” accepted ESPNs Arthur Ashe award for courage. Those who voiced their disapproval over this display of deviancy were quickly labeled as “haters.”
The secularists have been quite successful in demonizing those of us who hold to biblical values. They aggressively attempt to, at the very least, marginalize us, but more so, silence our views through personal smear campaigns. Unfortunately, those bully tactics have been profoundly effective. If you support Judeo-Christian tradition and values, are pro-family, pro-natural marriage, and hold to the belief that children deserve both a mom and a dad, you are a hate-monger, a bigot, and a homophobe. If you believe in the sanctity of life, advocate for the protection and defense of the unborn, you hate women and don’t want women to receive “health care.” If you believe the country should secure its borders and enforce its immigration laws, you are a xenophobe. If you believe the country should live within its financial means, you hate poor people and minorities—you are a racist.
This erosion of Judeo-Christian influence on our culture has resulted in the rampant destruction of religious freedom in this country. We have men and women who, because they won’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding—any other cake they will—have had their livelihoods destroyed. Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, who for many years had made flower arrangements for one particular gay couple, politely declined when that couple asked her to provide flowers for their same-sex wedding. She declined, citing her religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. Although she had served not only this gay couple for many years, but had also served and employed many homosexuals for her entire career, the ACLU and the Washington attorney general sued her for discrimination—and won, destroying her business and robbing her of her livelihood.
This rapid rate of change towards secularism will further accelerate as the two oldest generations of Americans die. The rising generation clearly rejects our traditional American values. Make no mistake about it—these changes have already reached an intensity where they directly affect the church and our lives as individual evangelicals. In fact, we are being persecuted right now.
In the book by J. Paul Nyquist, Prepare: Living your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture, Nyquist quotes theologian Geoffrey Bromiley’s definition of persecution as follows: “Persecution is the suffering or pressure, mental, moral, or physical which authorities, individuals, or crowds inflict on others, especially for opinions or beliefs, with a view to their subjection by recantations, silencing, or, as a last resort, execution.” In other words, it is a “societal marginalization of believers with a view to eliminating their voice and influence.”[
If you’ve ever been in an office situation, a family gathering, or a social event, in which some moral issue came up and the conversation supported that which is contrary to biblical morals, and you were afraid to speak up—you’ve been persecuted. My brothers and sisters—they don’t have to kill us if they can silence us. If they can silence us, they’ve already won the battle. Far too many of us are remaining silent with regard to biblical values.
All tyranny needs to gain foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
Bob Dylan was right when he sang, The times, they are a changing.” Changing they are indeed, and quickly. What should our response be to these changes? There is a biblical roadmap on how to navigate the storms that are coming our way, and how to respond to this national and spiritual crisis. Merriam-Webster defines a crisis as “an unstable, or crucial time, or state of affairs, in which a decisive change is impending. Especially one with a distinct possibility of highly undesirable outcomes.” A decisive change—a fundamental transformation.
It’s not just domestically in the United States where things are at stake of having highly undesirable outcomes. We have Russian soldiers within miles of Israel’s border. We have Russian gangs attempting to sell fissile material to ISIS. We have a president who has designed a deal to provide, and fund—to the tune of more than one hundred billion dollars—a path to a nuclear armed Iran. Christians and Christian history are being wiped out in the Middle East by those on a genocidal rampage. Muslim migration into Europe will change that continent forever. We are drowning in crises.
Domestically, we see the effects of that growing crisis in several ways. We see it with the anti-Christian abandonment of biblical marriage. As we abandon the smallest unit, that smallest form of government, the nuclear family—the civil society will collapse. We see it in the protection and elevation of special interest groups. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups are elevated and given special protections that no other groups receive, especially Christians.
Hostile actions towards Christians are on the rise. We saw this tragically in Roseburg, Oregon on October 1, 2015 when someone who was undoubtedly possessed and controlled by Satan himself, had people stand up and proclaim their religion. If they said “Christian,” he replied, “good, you’ll see God in a second,” then proceeded to shoot them in the head, killing them instantly. I think those martyrs did see the Savior in that very second. The first martyr of the Church of Christ was Stephen, and when Stephen came home—Jesus stood! I believe Jesus gave the same martyrs welcome to those who were slaughtered in Roseburg.
Finally, the utter disregard for the lives of the unborn has debased American culture like never before. Little babies are being murdered through the practice of abortion—they are being physically manipulated during that Mengele-like procedure—for the purpose of procuring the highest price for their tiny little body parts. This exploitation of the most innocent and defenseless human beings in our society is nothing less than unadulterated evil.
On September 18, 2015, 177 members of the House of Representatives voted against the “Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” a bill that would require health care practitioners to “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age; and…following the exercise of skill, care, and diligence required [to] ensure that the child born alive is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.” One hundred and seventy-seven acts of evil took place in the United States House of Representatives on that very day.
One might think we were living in the ancient world—an unenlightened and brutal society, with no regard for human life. In that world, millennia ago, it was commonplace to abandon a baby to the elements—his fate sealed by exposure, hunger, thirst, or worse—attack by wild animals. But no, we are living in the most blessed and prosperous nation in all of human history, yet have little regard for our most innocent and vulnerable. For the people of this nation to support a law denying a defenseless little baby a chance at life is downright diabolical.
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
THE POGO PRINCIPLE
The establishment clause of the Constitution guarantees us the free exercise of our religion. That is a First Amendment guaranteed right, bestowed upon us by our Creator, that the United States government is trying to deprive us of today. If they succeed, what will be the next constitutional right they try to take away? How did we get here? This kind of governmental tyranny—and make no mistake, it is tyranny—would have been unheard of just a decade ago. Frankly, I believe the problem is not in the White House, it is in the Church House. We would have never gotten into this mess if pastors had acted like pastors, and Christians had acted like Christians.
The “Pogo Principle” states—“we have met the enemy, and he is us.” The problems that we are now facing, have come about because of what we, as pastors and Christians, are not doing. What is the one thing that has to take place for evil to triumph? Good men and women to do nothing. We’ve become complacent while this tyranny has been sneaking up on us. It’s here people. Time to wake up!
One example of the Pogo Principle is Christians not voting. In discussions with other Christians and pastors on the topic of politics, I will often hear them say, “we are supposed to be concerned with the Kingdom of God, have our minds set on Heaven, seeking the face of God and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33). I say, that is absolutely right. That is what we are supposed to be doing first and foremost, but not to the exclusion of being salt and light in this sin-sick world as Jesus Christ also commanded.
Christians similarly quote the story about Jesus when Jesus said, “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God the things which are God’s” (Mark 12:17). They try to use this passage to say that we are not to be concerned with the things of government, which ignores the entire first half of Jesus’ statement. Jesus isn’t saying to not be involved. In fact, He is saying the opposite—to be involved. To render unto Caesar means to participate in the political process, and to render unto God means to pursue the spiritual path He has revealed to us. These activities are not mutually exclusive.
We, as Christians, living in the United States, have a unique responsibility that was given to us when those men and women who came before us pledged their sacred honor, willing to rebel against a tyrannical government, so that we could live in a country governed by “we the people,” through our elected representatives. Some will use the Scriptures of Romans 13, pointing out that it tells us we are to be in subjection to the governing authorities. This it does. However, what this doesn’t point out is that we, as American Christians, have the opportunity to elect those who make the laws to which we are to be subjected. That, my friends, is what the Bible calls stewardship. We are stewards of the righteousness of God. Paul didn’t get into this topic in Romans 13 because he was addressing Roman Christians who had no rights at all. Most of them were slaves—they had no right to vote. Why are American Christians living as if we too are Roman slaves? Yes, we are to be in submission to our government, but we get to choose that government at the ballot box and we have a sacred obligation to do so by voting, and by voting biblical values.
Here are some statistics that will illustrate for us why we are in this predicament. In 2012, there were about 311 million citizens in the United States, 26% of whom self-identified as evangelicals. That calculates to 80 million evangelicals, and in that election, only 32 million evangelicals voted. Obama won that election by about 5 million votes. The most disturbing outcome of that election was that six million of the 32 million self-described evangelicals who voted—voted for Obama. The other 48 million evangelicals sat home. A non-vote was a vote for Obama. I’ll grant you that the alternative, Mitt Romney, was not a great choice, but at least he ran on a pro-life, pro-natural marriage platform.
Six million evangelicals handed Obama the throne. I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but if you are a Christian who is serious about your spiritual life—serious about your eternal life—you have no business voting for death or deviancy. There will be an accounting of our works done here when we stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10-Bema Seat). How can a Christian look Jesus in the face and explain that he or she knowingly voted for candidates that openly promoted policies in favor of killing babies—inside and outside of the womb—and also the defilement of the sacred union of marriage?
This president is the most anti-family, anti-Christian, pro-abortion president we have ever had. He was on the cover of Newsweekmagazine as America’s first gay president. As a senator in Illinois, he is on the record—captured on audio—as being in favor of infanticide. It’s not a baby until it leaves the hospital—that is his policy, and the policy of the 177 members of the House of Representatives who voted against the “Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” in September, 2015.
With that in mind, we need to now turn our focus towards the pastors of this country, and their sacred duty to lead their people in biblical morality. In Acts 20:20, the Apostle Paul was addressing the Christians at Ephesus when he said,how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house” and in verse 27, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” May I suggest that voting pro-life is very profitable for the unborn, and also for your soul? Voting pro-family is very profitable for this country, and for your soul also. To shrink means to cower, withdraw, pull back. Unfortunately, there are far too many pastors who are shrinking from their God ordained duty.
There is a local pastor, who, during the 2012 election, allowed some church members to hand out Christian voter guides, information brochures that simply informed the people of the candidate’s positions on issues that concern the church, or at least should concern the church. This pastor, after some very vocal blowback from his more liberal congregants, put a stop to that outreach. He shrank from his duty—he caved under pressure. This pastor would no longer permit the dissemination of this factual information, and offered this ridiculous reasoning to the church, “Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat.” That is a correct statement, I will grant him that. Jesus was not a Republican or a Democrat, because those parties did not exist 2000 years ago. However, our God is a holy, omnipotent God who has made His moral will known through His love letter to mankind—the Bible, and He is a God who will hold us accountable for how we use (or don’t use) our votes. As an example, had the election turned out differently in 2008, we would not have two Obama appointees, Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan, on the Supreme Court—both of whom voted in favor of same-sex marriage. Elections matter.
Do you know who they feared the most during the American Revolution? The most feared political activists were known as the black-robed regiment. It was the black-robed pastors who were speaking to their congregations, emboldening them to speak out against evil and to defend biblical morals who were most feared during that war. What happened to the pastors?
Some say it began in 1954 with Lyndon Baines Johnson, and what was known as the Johnson amendment. According to David Fiorazo, in his book The Cost of our Silence,, “Texas Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson, was a powerful politician running for reelection as Senator, but two anti-communist, tax-exempt groups were opposing him and passing out literature during the campaigns. He contacted the IRS and found the group’s activity was legal, so he sought other options to fight them.
“Johnson shrewdly appeared on the Senate floor on July 2, 1954, and offered his amendment to a pending, massive, tax code overhaul bill. The bill was supposed to modernize the tax code.
“Records indicate an absence of committee hearings on the amendment. No legislative analysis took place to examine the effect the bill and the amendment would have, particularly on churches and religious organizations. The amendment was simply created to protect Johnson.
“The Johnson Amendment was passed by Congress as an amendment to section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code… stating entities that are exempt from federal income tax cannot “Participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of – or in opposition to – any candidate for public office.””[
That is not only a bad law, it is an unjust law, passed under the radar to protect the political future of one man. However, there is something that trumps the Johnson amendment. It’s called the first amendment, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” (Emphasis mine).
This is why Pulpit Freedom Sunday is so important. Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an organized effort by pastors across this country to speak truth from the pulpit, to exercise their free speech rights, and to challenge the unconstitutional laws that seek to regulate the content of their sermons. II am convinced that there will come a time when you and I will have to engage in civil disobedience to protect our God given rights as acknowledged and affirmed under the United States Constitution. Civil disobedience is sanctioned in the Bible under certain circumstances.
There are several instances in the Bible where we find civil disobedience—where we find believers who are caught in the snare of a government that has dictated, demanded, or coerced them into violating the moral will of God. Before we get into the topic of civil disobedience, let me state it clearly—civil disobedience is allowed when the government compels you—as an individual—to violate the moral will of God. It is not permitted when the government allows others to do so, such as the allocation of taxpayer funds towards immoral causes. The reason some laws allow others to violate the moral will of God is because most Christians these days do not honor their spiritual and civil duty to vote. They have been—and continue to be—poor stewards of God’s blessings upon them, including the blessing of living in liberty. This is why that liberty is rapidly declining and as it does so, we see the rapid rise of tyranny.
Rebellion to tyranny is obedience to God.
The first instance where you find civil disobedience in Scripture is when the Hebrew midwives were commanded by the Egyptian Pharaoh to kill all of the male Jewish babies (Exodus 1). They refused. They let the baby boys live and lied to Pharaoh about it. God blessed them greatly for their obedience to His Word. “God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them” (Exodus 1:20–21).
Another instance is found in Acts chapter 4 when the Apostles Peter and John were thrown into prison for preaching the Gospel, which was forbidden by the authorities. These authorities were attempting to compel the apostles to violate the moral will of God, and they civilly disobeyed those authorities. Like the apostles, we too are to disobey ungodly laws. Peter said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20). The apostles were again confronted later when the authorities reminded them of the command to not preach the Gospel and Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
I find it interesting that we all extol—and for good reason, because she was a champion of civil rights and a sister in Christ, a godly woman—Rosa Parks. The law said, “Rosa! Back of the bus!” That diminutive, yet strong and courageous woman would not obey that immoral and unjust law. Instead, she promptly took her rightful place in the front of the bus. That is civil disobedience—refusing to obey an immoral and unjust law—and she was rightly celebrated for her courageous stand. The reason I find it interesting is because today, when another Christian woman, Kim Davis, engaged in civil disobedience, she was shunned, excoriated, and rejected, even though she broke no law. (I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what law she violated).
I will venture a guess that all of us could list dozens of laws that are broken by authorities who despise people of faith, and they do so without consequence. Take for example San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome who in 2004, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into federal law in 1996 by then President Bill Clinton. That was an act of civil disobedience and it was applauded by the secularists. Our former Attorney General Eric Holder, and current President Barack Obama, both refused to enforce that federal law, even before it was struck down in 2013 by five, unelected, black-robed lawyers. Apparently, the black-robed regiment of pastors has been replaced by the black-robed lawyers on the United States Supreme Court. How did we allow that to happen?
If we, as Christians, want to get back what we’ve lost with regard to our religious freedom, we are going to have to unify as a group and take a stand—even unto civil disobedience. We are going to have to fight for it because we are losing those freedoms—and quickly.
Abraham Lincoln, in his 1863 Gettysburg Address, said this, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Well, it is perishing from this earth. It is perishing because Christians have become disengaged from the political process, as Christian pastors have allowed that to happen.
From the blood of Bunker Hill to the blood covered fields of Gettysburg, to today’s blood soaked sands of Afghanistan—we owe it to these men and women who died for our liberty, who sacrificed their lives so that we could have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people—we owe it to them to be involved in the political process—to not let those who seek our demise, who seek to kick us out of the public square, who seek to squander the hard fought battles to secure our liberty—we owe it them to fight as hard as they did, to see to it that the voices of our people will not only be heard, but feared and respected. We are a force for God, for good, and we need to proclaim that boldly.
THE DANIEL OPTION
Does Scripture tell us how to live in an increasingly hostile, secularized culture? Yes, it does. The harsh reality is that, in fact, the Lord Jesus Christ knew full well that we would be persecuted, living in a hostile environment, and knowing this, He gave us some good advice. Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16). He also said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18), and also, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). As J. Paul Nyquist wrote, “believers can expect to be exposed, not protected.”Daniel, the Old Testament prophet, models for us how to live in that exposed and unprotected environment as he did exactly that through the 70 year exile of the Jews in Babylon.
We learn of that exile through the following account: “The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy. Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand. All the articles of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his officers, he brought them all to Babylon. Then they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its fortified buildings with fire and destroyed all its valuable articles” (2 Chron 36:15-19).
Think of what it would be like here if nukes went off in our major cities, our entire government was destroyed, our country invaded, our churches burned, and our people murdered, captured, and forced into slavery. That is what happened to Israel. It was utter desolation.
After the desolation of Jerusalem, those who survived were deported to the foreign land of Babylon. Second Chronicles 36: 20-21 tells of that deportation, “Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept Sabbath until seventy years were complete.” (Emphasis mine).
Notice the purpose of this desolation—to fulfill the word of the Lord. God is patient and compassionate towards sinners. He sent His prophets repeatedly to warn the people of Israel of their apostasy. The prophets continued to shout, “Thus saith the Lord!” God warned them persistently about what would happen if they continued on their path, and, He continued to send the prophets right up to the point of their destruction and deportation. Why? Again, to fulfill the word of the Lord, and it was done through one particular prophet—Jeremiah.
What was going on here? He tells us in verse 21, “until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept Sabbath until 70 were complete.” The Prophet Jeremiah told them to rest the land in the seventh year, and on the sixth year, God would provide enough crops to sustain them through the seventh year so they would not plant. Why did God do that? Two reasons. First, He wanted them to know that it was not their land. He owns all the cattle on the hill. Everything. Second, He wanted them to trust in Him for their provision. They did not. Instead, over 490 years, they stole 70 sabbatical years from God. That is why they went into exile for 70 years. Similar to the United States, where the problem is not in the White House, but in the Church House, in those days, the problem was not in Babylon, it was in Jerusalem. They had slowly forsaken their holy obligation to God’s Word!
The first thing a secular government attempts to do in order to gain power over and control of its citizens, is to indoctrinate them—to change their thinking, change their minds—change their worldview. Why is that? Because, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7).
Erwin Lutzer, in his enlightening book, When a Nation Forgets God, writes about the many ways in which Adolf Hitler successfully indoctrinated the masses through propaganda campaigns. Lutzer first quotes from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, “The first task of propaganda is to win people for subsequent organization…The second task of propaganda is the disruption of the existing state of affairs and the permeation of this state of affairs with the new doctrine, while the second task of the organization must be the struggle for power, thus to achieve the final success of the doctrine.”
Lutzer follows up with, “It is chilling to think of what Hitler could have done if he could have used today’s media to gain followers. His speeches, broadcast on radio and propaganda movies, were persuasive, but with the modern means of instant communication, his task would have been much easier.” It is chilling indeed, and we see the same tactics being used by organized secularists today.
Indoctrination arises through a variety of propaganda spewing venues. We see this in the United States currently, with the cultural and political propaganda spilled onto the citizenry from Hollywood, academia, and the mass media. As Andrew Breitbart once famously said, “politics is downstream from culture.”This is all done in an effort to change our biblical worldview into a secular worldview, first culturally, then politically, and it is working. Within the story of Daniel and his friends, we find the secret to stand against that indoctrination.
Daniel and his friends were caught up in the desolation and deportation of Jerusalem but in spite of their predicament, they were determined to stand righteously before God. While held captive in Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar tried to indoctrinate them into the Babylonian ways. Daniel 1:4-7 describes the scene, “youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego.”
Nebuchadnezzar wanted to change their language from Hebrew to Babylonian, wrongly thinking this would eradicate their Hebrew roots. He wanted to change their food, to destroy their kosher ways. Finally, he wanted to assign them new names, each of which spoke of a Babylonian god, whereas their Jewish parents chose names that would be meaningful to them in the Jewish religion. The name “Daniel” means “God is my Judge.” Of those three things, Daniel refused to eat the king’s food or drink his wine. This because the king’s food was not kosher, and his wine was used as a sacrifice to the Babylonian gods. Partaking in the king’s food and wine would violate the Holy will of God.
“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials” (Daniel 1:8-9). Daniel chose to set his mind against defiling himself and God followed by granting Daniel favor and compassion. We have to set our minds too.
Daniel and his friends maintained their determination by setting their minds on the righteousness of God—purposing to not make the same mistake their forefathers did—and refused to eat the king’s food and drink his wine. God therefore showed favor upon them and they were promoted. In Daniel 1:18-19, at the end of this period of indoctrination, the commander presented the sons of Israel to Nebuchadnezzar. The king was impressed with Daniel and his friends over all of the others and therefore promoted them to his personal service.
In the second year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he had a dream that troubled him deeply, one that he could not understand. He called upon his magi to not only interpret the dream, but they had to recount it first, and they had to do so under penalty of death. Every sorcerer, magician, astrologer, and conjurer in the kingdom were about to be executed when Daniel stepped up and asked the king to allow him to recount and interpret the dream for him. He was determined to prove the power of God to Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel and his friends prayed all night and God revealed the dream and its meaning to Daniel. The next morning, Daniel interpreted the dream for King Nebuchadnezzar. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king’s court” (Daniel 2:46-49).
In Daniel 3:1-15 we learn of the persecution of Daniels friends. Daniel was not part of this persecution. Many scholars believe the reason is that he was on a diplomatic mission for the king at the time it occurred. During that time in history, the Caesars would ride into town after a triumphal win in the defeat of another army. As they rode in victorious, with all of the conquered armies and prisoners of war behind them, there would be a slave in the chariot, whispering into the ear of the victorious leader, “all glory is fleeting.”
However, this king did not heed that call to humility and instead declared that everyone was to worship him as god. He commissioned the building of a huge gold statue, made in his likeness, and told the people that at the sound of the trumpet, they were to bow down and worship this statue. Daniel’s friends refused to do so. When the trumpet sounded, everyone in the kingdom hit the deck except for those three, young Jewish men. They stood—rock solid righteous. When King Nebuchadnezzar heard of this disobedience, he summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to his court. Daniel’s friends had been good government workers, so the king gave them a second chance to bow and worship his golden image, but they would not.
King Nebuchadnezzar then asked them why they refused to bow to and worship his statue.
They boldly declared their obedience to the one true God. Further, the proper legal way to greet the king was to say, “O king, live forever,” but they did not address Nebuchadnezzar with that salutation, because it was a lie—he was mortal, just as they were. “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up”” (Daniel 3:16-18).
Daniel’s friends set their minds, took a stand, and boldly spoke out for the God of Israel. They did so knowing they would be thrown in the king’s fiery furnace for their disobedience, but they had faith that God would deliver them, and even if He did not deliver them in the earthly realm, He would deliver them from this earth to Heaven. They were prepared to be obedient unto death. The conflagration, the brutal choice of Nebuchadnezzar to destroy them was prepared, and in his anger, the king ordered his people to heat that furnace to seven times its normal temperature. Nebuchadnezzar then commanded his most valiant warriors to tie up Daniel’s friends and throw them into the furnace, so they did. The fire was so intense that the warriors who did so were destroyed by the heat, yet it only consumed the ties that had bound Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego (Daniel 3:19-23).
When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace, he saw four men, not three, the fourth to be “like a son of the gods.” I believe the fourth to be the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in his preincarnate state. “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them” (Daniel 3:24-27).
It is worthwhile to note that Daniel himself went through his own persecution in Daniel 6:3. Daniel had been obedient to God throughout his entire life, and through Gods blessings had achieved the status of holding high office in the pagan kingdom as an administrator. At the age of 80 years, having been in office for 60 of those years, other government officials became jealous of his high standing and conspired against Daniel to have him removed from office. Not able to find any transgression to use against him, they tricked then King Darius to pass a decree that should anyone be found praying to any god other than the king, he would be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel was faithful and continued to pray to the God of Israel, which when discovered, earned him the promised fate, and he was tossed into the den on one dark night. But, God was faithful to Daniel and delivered him the following morning—unharmed. When the king saw this, he issued another decree—it was a decree for all of the people in his kingdom to fear and revere Daniel’s God, and Daniel continued to prosper in Babylon.
Back to the conflagration, when Nebuchadnezzar called Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego out of the fiery furnace, and witnessed them coming out of that fire unharmed, Nebuchadnezzar extoled the God of the Israelites, and declared that any person, nation, or tongue that spoke out against the God of these three Jews would be destroyed (Daniel 3:28-30).
The persecution of Daniel’s friends, and later Daniel himself, bore witness to the inhabitants of the pagan kingdom of Babylon, and the kings of Babylon themselves, that our God is the one true God. He delivers His people and is all powerful, all knowing, and all present. Contemporary Christians living in the United States can use this story as a model for how to live in our own Babylonian exile.
Jesus Christ commanded us to, “occupy until I return.” He did not call us to evacuation. That is what was so wrong about people calling on the elected Rowan County, Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis, to resign after she refused to issue a same-sex marriage license and was thrown into jail by federal authorities. Davis had this to say, “I’m very steadfast in what I believe. I don’t leave my conscience and my Christian soul out in my vehicle and come in here and pretend to be something I’m not. It’s easy to talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” Why should she resign? What jobs are Christians allowed to have in the United States? Well, according to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who ironically compared the rulings of the United States Supreme Court to those of the Third Reich—Christians who are unwilling to obey unjust and immoral laws of the land should resign their jobs—evacuate. That advice, from a black-robed lawyer, is in complete contradiction to that of God, and what is left of His black-robed regiment. Would you rather have a Christian representing you in government, or someone who bows before the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar?
Thank God that Daniel and his friends had a pastor (the Prophet Jeremiah) who would encourage them while they were in captivity. He advised them to occupy, not evacuate. How does one occupy?
Jeremiah 29:1-10 lays out Gods plan on how to live in Babylon, the strange new land of the exiled Jews. I believe we are living in our own Babylon today. The Prophet Jeremiah, who had previously warned them about their apostasy, sent the letter 1,000 miles to the Jews. The letter gives them their mission. He tells them to build houses, plant gardens, take wives in marriage, have children and multiply, and to pray for the city and seek its welfare. In other words, keep living! We need to do so as well. We need to pray for our country and seek its welfare by voting for biblical candidates. If you don’t vote, you are not seeking the welfare of this country and you are violating God’s protocol for living in a foreign land.
In verses 10-15, God promises to restore the Jews to their land. That promise was given to the nation of Israel, not to America. What we do know as believers is that God promises to restore us to Heaven, either through physical death, or through the rapture. Either way, this is the ultimate restoration, but until then, we are to occupy until He comes.
There are four things we can learn from Daniel. We need to set our minds, stand for biblical principles, speak up for biblical morals, and be prepared to suffer. If you have an opportunity to talk with friends, neighbors, and coworkers, I hope you will. But, here is a warning—if you take a stand and speak up, you will surely show up on Satan’s radar and as a result, you will suffer persecution. Be ready, and know that life is too short to not take a stand for Jesus.
Abraham Kuyper, the great missionary, statesman, and theologian made this statement, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
We are in a battle—make no mistake about it. And, like the final fictional battle in The Lord of the Rings, we must not shrink. Aragorn speaks to us today. The setting takes place at The Battle of the Black Gate, where the hobbit Frodo Baggins and his companion Samwise Gamgee, are trying to get rid of the ring at Mordor, but they don’t know how to get through Sauron and his forces without losing the ring to them. So, Aragorn forms a battle strategy to march on the Black Gate as a diversionary tactic, one that will draw Sauron and his armies toward them, allowing Frodo and Sam to get the ring through Mordor to be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom.
As these armies are assembled, on this plain for this final battle, Aragorn looks around, seeing the terror in the eyes of his soldiers. After a long pause, Aragorn shouts, “Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
By all that I hold dear, Ambassadors of Christ, men and women of Heaven, I bid you to stand this day! THIS DAY WE FIGHT!
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 FoxNews.com. Exclusive: Kentucky Clerk: ‘This is a fight worth fighting.’ By Todd Starnes. September 3, 2015.http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/09/03/kentucky-clerk-am-prepared-to-go-to-jail.html
 LifeSiteNews.com. Justice Kennedy: Christians with convictions resigned under Hitler and they should today too. By: Fr Mark Hodges. October 29, 2015.https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/justice-kennedy-christians-with-convictions-should-resign-from-govt-jobs