home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > November 12th > WHEN CULTURE BEGINS TO ZIG IT MAY BE TIME FOR CHRISTIANS TO ZAG

WHEN CULTURE BEGINS TO ZIG IT MAY BE TIME FOR CHRISTIANS TO ZAG

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF DANIEL

¶ But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.  And God gave Daniel favour and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs
Daniel 1:8-9

Daniel’s world had been turned upside down. As a young well-to-do Jewish boy who grew up in a highly regarded family with parents who took their devotion to Yahweh seriously, he too would have expected that all of his training would have led him to follow in his father’s and Grandfather’s footsteps in the service of the King’s royal court. Even as a young man in his early teenage years he would have expected to one day take a wife and pass the baton of his knowledge and privilege to his son too. But then his world began to be shaken. The early stages of the disruption began when he was not yet a teen and a very upset and tearful young man from Anathoth, not too much older than himself, stood on the temple steps and denounced the wickedness of the King of Judah. Daniel would have remembered hearing this teenage prophet call the King and the people of Judah to repentance before the Lord’s wrath came upon them. This virgin prophet warned of the destruction of the temple and the invasion of the world’s most vile people — the Babylonians. The disruptions from this highly emotional priest-prophet continued until he was barred from entering the city, but undaunted, he wrote his prophecies out and his secretary, Baruch, deliver them in his stead. Despite the scorn, mocking, and eventual imprisonment, Daniel witnessed the tenacity of the one who came to be known as “the Weeping Prophet” and some seventy years after Jerusalem was indeed destroyed by Babylonian forces (just as the prophet had foretold), Daniel referred to his copy of the now late prophet’s words and turned them into a prayer.

…I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
¶ Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
Daniel 9:2-3

 

THE DAY DANIEL’S WORLD COLLAPSED

The day the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem was the day Daniel’s expected world collapsed. His dreams of being a royal bureaucrat, a husband, and a father were destroyed that day. Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasive visit to Jerusalem was a humiliating one. He deposed the existing king, appointed and renamed a new king, and then took for himself the cream of the young trainee bureaucrats to enter his service back in Babylon. Daniel, at this stage could have only have feared what his selection would have entailed? Would he ever see his parents again? Would he be rescued by the new King’s military forces and reinstated to his position in the royal Judean court? Would Yahweh, the GOD of Israel, ignore his years of faithful devotion and not answer his prayers for his deliverance from this nightmare?

The day that Daniel was forcibly taken from family, his home-land, was also the last day he would never see his parents or his beloved city with its temple again. Upon arriving in Babylon as a fifteen year-old, things only got worse when he discovered that the price for entering into the King of Babylon’s service was the very essence of his manhood. As a result, he was now to submit to “the chief of the eunuchs” (Dan. 1:8).

 

YET DANIEL

¶ As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel 1:17-18

Daniel’s ability to zag in the midst of a culture that was entirely committed to zigging began as soon as he arrived in Babylon. His zagging involved his commitment to worship God despite his circumstances. It involved him being faithful to God even though he had ample opportunity to do otherwise with little to no immediate consequence. It involved him choosing to ignore his very negative circumstances and to press into God to become a man attuned to God’s voice (he would late become recognised as the Prophet Daniel).

Daniel eventually realised that his dream of perhaps one day being restored to home-land was never going to happen. Rather than wallow in bitterness and disappointment, Daniel zagged by being the best public administrator that he could be. Due to his excellent work ethic the day came when he rose to the position of Prime Minister of Babylon. Along the way though his faithfulness to Yahweh led to the king of Babylon humbling himself and surrendering his own life to the God of Israel. Strange things happen when someone committed to being faithful to God (“zagging”) lives among a culture that is hell-bent on zigging!

¶ Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.
Daniel 5:13-14

THE APOSTLE PAUL’S INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO ZAG

¶ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2

The birth of Christianity marked the beginning of a new world. The old world at the time Christ walked the streets of Jerusalem was a world where “might was right”. The new world that Jesus established was a world where humility was now among the highest virtues. It was a world caring for each other was prized. It was a world where generosity toward the less fortunate was honoured. It was a world in which the each believer valued their obedience to the One True God. Living in the new world of Christ required zagging in a world where everyone else was zigging. And I suspect that the world we now live in today also a world where zigging is what is demanded — and in Christ’s new world (which He called His Kingdom) we are still called to live our Romans 12:1-2 and zag.  

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

4 Comments

  1. Archibald Norman Macdonald

    Daniel certainly had it all together and set a standard that was reachable. Keep on preaching it brother

    Reply
  2. LYDIA

    I cannot help the Southern drawl…”Aint that a fact”. Strange things do happen when zigging is what is demanded from the masses and demanded it is…and yet …to zag can be done without bowing to peer group pressure whether that is at school, in the workplace or in any area of society, seeing as Christ is calling us to stand firm…to dare to be a Daniel. So dare to preach, continue to preach and just like the prophets of old continue on regardless Andrew!

    Reply
  3. John Sands

    I never realised before that Daniel was probably forcibly castrated. Thank you for adding this to my shrinking knowledge pool.

    Reply
  4. Julie Sladden

    May the Christians of today, facing challenges and pressures of many kinds, follow Daniel’s lead by ‘zagging’ in a world where everyone else is ‘zigging’.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR ATHEIST & MAGICIAN PENN JILLETTE TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN?

I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.

THINK ABOUT THIS

In Australia, it’s football finals time and the U.S. the last Grand Slam event for the year has just concluded. I find a lot of life lessons from observing elite athletes — including and especially those who play football and those who play tennis. Most people might consider football to be a team sport and tennis to be individual sport. But the distinction is not so clear these days. Often times footballers are individually coached by “position coaches” and a tennis player is often just who the public sees of a team of people responsible for the performance of that player. At the time of writing, there are remaining four Australian Rules Football (AFL) teams about to play off in the Preliminary Finals (including my beloved Geelong Cats). Last weekend, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain defeated Casper Ruud of Norway. Both players have intriguing stories which I will mention shortly. In the AFL, after a disastrous last season, the Collingwood Magpies appointed a new coach for this season, Craig McRae. Even though they got off to a slow start this season, under McRae’s oversight ended up having an 11-straight winning streak toward the end of the season and now look like genuine  Premiership contenders. What do Carlos Alcaraz, Casper Ruud, Craig McRae, and the Collingwood football team, all have in common? All the players at the elite level of their sport make an enormous commitment to train, practice, sleep, hydrate, and eat a regulated diet. Yet at the very highest levels in their respective sporting codes the difference between the elite and the extra-elite is no longer skill or fitness. In fact, the difference between them is so applicable to everyday life that it may be the most relevant and do-able thing you hear for a long time. So, think about this.

LOOKING BACK OVER THE PAST 200 YEARS

As Kim and I enjoyed our weekly coffee-date this morning at Stillwater, she looked out ruminatively across at all of the development that has taken place over the years where the North and South Esks merge to form the Tamar River.

“I wonder if the settlers who came here two hundred years ago” she asked, “could have imagined the silos would have been built over there and then turned into a luxury hotel, or that two bridges would have been built here, or that their tiny village would grow into a large city?”

“What’s more interesting” I responded, “is if anyone today can envision what it will all look like in another two hundred years!”

And my response then got me thinking. Could it be possible to imagine what Launceston will end up looking like in two hundred years—and, what about our church? What will our church will look like in two hundred years?

relevance-intact-the-place-of-the-church-in-tasmania

Tasmanian churches play a vital role in our state as a moral compass and social leader. Our moral compass was given to us 2,000 years ago by Christ  who then commissioned the Church to preach, teach, and care in His Name. The Church’s role as a social leader was instigated by Jesus who embraced the shunned, condemned oppressors of the vulnerable, and upheld the sacredness of every human life and taught His followers to do likewise. Two thousand years later, Tasmanian churches gather weekly and continue proclaim the good news that Jesus taught, care for the poor and homeless, feed the hungry, welcome refugees, and provide thousands of young Tasmanians with an education. This is why the former Examiner deputy editor recently described the Tasmanian Church as “the most fundamental pillar in society” but then described it as being led by “a pious clique of fancy robed hypocrites, with less and less relevance each year to the wider community” (28/8/2022). The basis for his sharp criticism is grounded in his assessment that the Tasmanian Church has not recalibrated its moral compass to align itself with culture’s progressive values. Here’s why I disagree with the esteemed former deputy editor.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN AND THE INN-KEEPER

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR? The Jewish leaders had a very strict understanding of who God accepted and who God rejected. Obviously, they taught, God had accepted the Jews as His favourite – particularly Jewish men. Jewish women were sort of accepted, but only as second-class members of God’s people. This obviously also meant that unless a gentile (a non-Jew) converted to Judaism they could not be accepted by God. Therefore, God rejected all gentiles — and He especially rejected Roman gentiles — but He reserved His ultimate rejection for Samaritans! Jesus then tells the Temple-lawyer the story of the Good Samaritan.

THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.