Well . . . I’m here! And the Brighton conference has begun. The sense of anticipation and excitement is incredible. Joyful reunions of friends who have been on separate continents are happening everywhere. We are really a family. We are really on a mission.
At the beginning of the week, I would ask that you pray for me. It is a busy week for me with typing, interviewing, and, of course, just meeting friends. My jet lag is improving quickly. I was also determined this year, more than usual, to press into God in the worship time. Sometimes when live-blogging, it’s possible to feel a bit detached from the goings on just because you’re typing away. Please pray for me about that.
Also, please pray for my long-suffering wife, Andrée , who I have left at home with our five children. May God carry her and give her real grace as what she is doing is more important than what I am doing. No one is going to die if I mistype a word here! I am already missing her and looking forward to seeing her again at the end of the week.
Right from the start I wanted to ensure I focused on God. Sitting near the front, and being intentional about it, I certainly found myself carried into an awareness of the presence of God by the thousands in the room, the worship band, and the wonderful words of the songs. We learned a great new song. It began, “His name is Jesus, Risen Savior” and was a triumphant celebration of the death and resurrection of our Savior. The song is from Lou Fellingham’s new album, which can also be bought as mp3 downloads. Vibrant is not a strong enough word to describe the feel of this worship time.
As Nigel Ring prepared to introduce our first speaker, he told us that 20 per cent of the world’s nations are represented at this conference. He read out the name of each country, and there was a corresponding “whoop” after each nation was mentioned. There are 52 nations in attendance:
Albania, Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil
Cambodia, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Ethiopia, France
Germany, Ghana, Guinea, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Latvia
Lesotho, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria
Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russia
Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tajikistan, Turkey
Uganda, Channel Islands, England, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland
Scotland, Wales, Ukraine, UAE, USA, Zambia, Zimbabwe
The preacher this afternoon was Stephen Van Rhyn. Stephen is the lead elder of Jubilee Community Church in Cape Town, South Africa. He is married to Anna and has two young boys, Josh and Ben, and one daughter, Bethany.
Stephen directed us to Daniel 1 and read the entire chapter for us. He entitled his talk Prevailing Under Pressure. You can download the mp3 of his talk or listen to it here:
More posts from this conference can be found on my TOAM08 label page.
Stephen set the scene by explaining the terrible trauma experienced by the Jews in being exiled. What was worse, these events were not random. They had been determined by their God who had saved them, and had now judged them. Their sin was to make God surplus to requirements. They had been warned not to reject him. They had been wooed.
Galatians 6:7-8 warns us that God cannot be mocked. Persistent rebellion against God will not go unpunished. God is faithful to all his promises, including the promise to punish the disobedient. This might seem discouraging, but because of what it shows us, we can be encouraged.
- GOD IS IN CONTROL
He is sovereign. By verse 4, it is no longer Nebuchadnezzar who had carried them off into captivity; rather GOD claims that HE had done it. There is an historically correct perspective, but the destiny of the people of God is in the hands of God.
We see in Daniel changing kings and an unchanging God. We meet superpower kings who come and go, but our God goes on forever! He is the one true King. Our God is the author of human history. In the midst of international dangers and everything else that is going on, we must hear that OUR GOD REIGNS.
When we know that God reigns, we not only survive difficulties, we prevail. He is also sovereign over the very details of our lives. Verse 9—God causes an official to show favor. Verse 17—God gave knowledge and understanding. There is no area outside of God’s control.
God has an eternal purpose—to glorify his Son through his Church. He has a unique plan for each of us that fits in with that bigger plan. Our prayer meetings and our missions will be different if we really appreciate that God is in charge.
- GOD IS A REDEEMER
Even in the midst of punishment we see the mercy of God. “Young man, no defects, etc.”—that’s the list of requirements for the average Christian woman looking for a husband today!
The key leaders were brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, but God had a plan. God sent a group ahead so that there was grace to the people of God. They lived for God in the midst of the culture without compromise. Daniel is part of praying in the promise of God to send the people back.
Before God disciplines a hard-hearted and rebellious people, he is already working on the solution! He sends a group on to be part of the redeeming purpose before he even punishes. God is more gracious than we are.
For example, in Ruth, while Naomi is ranting against God, he is preparing her redemption. We serve a Redeemer. If we think our life is a mess, God can fix it.
- GOD WANTS US IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF THE WORLD
Daniel is deported and bombarded by this alien culture. Was he to avoid it? Was he to resist it? Was he to protest? Was he to assimilate?
“It is comparatively easy to be faithful if we don’t care about being contemporary. It is also easy to be contemporary if you don’t
care about being faithful. It is the search for the combination of truth and relevance which is exacting.”
— John Stott
How can we reach out without selling out? How can we be faithful and relevant?
On external things, Daniel was flexible. He studied a foreign language. He changed his name. On the internal issue of his walk with God, he was inflexible.
Daniel resolved not to defile himself. For Daniel, it wasn’t really eating the food or wine, but rather because the food had been offered to idols. He demonstrated incredible courage. After all, you didn’t want to offend Nebuchadnezzar!
Daniel says it like it is. He doesn’t want to defile himself. This is real moral integrity. It is theological integrity also (see verse 17). Daniel had a great intellect. He had great gifting and ability naturally. He was also anointed. But Daniel demonstrated integrity by not trusting his ability, or even the amplification of his ability. Daniel humbly embraced the gifts. It was not Daniel’s brilliance that won the day, but rather the intervention of God. (Daniel 2:27-28) Daniel gave God the credit.
He also demonstrated spiritual integrity by guarding his relationship with God with his life. He was in it for the long haul. In Daniel 6, they could not find anything to pin on him. They knew that if they banned prayer, Daniel would still pray. He wouldn’t stop his communion with God.
Daniel shows us a panoramic picture of a sovereign God. He remained faithful, committed to the purposes of God. Compromise is not inevitable. Not everyone has a price. Daniel did not cave in. People who pursue God will make a difference.
“Those who honor me, I will honor.” 1 Samuel 2:30
Eric Liddell was faithful to God, not only because he would not run on the Sabbath—he relocated to China to preach the gospel. During the war he was in a prisoner of war camp. Churchill arranged a prisoner exchange, but he decided to give his prisoner exchange to a pregnant woman who was in the camp. He died so someone else could live.
You can live your life for God. You don’t have to give in.
More posts from this conference can be found on my TOAM08 label page.