April 1, 2016

Growing up in Babylon


Reading news headlines brings back memories. Thoughts of water park trips, the feeling of dropping at dizzying speeds through twists and turns of slides with names like The Toilet Bowl. The thrill, the moments of breathless panic, the utter exhaustion.

It makes me want to hold my breath - this downward, ever faster, desperate pull of our world. Huddle the kids close. Strap lifejackets on tight. I don't want them caught in the undertow and pulled to the deep.

As culture degrades, politics divide, social media dishes depravity and broken identity, how do we help them find their footing? How do we prepare them to stay afloat in the deep, not try to isolate them on the shore?

Today we finished the last page in Long Story Short. As we have journeyed through the lives of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah - men growing up and living for God through exile in pagan Babylon - the truths they held close, truths that inspired faithful lives in an unfaithful land, ring out loud and clear.

Better than a life jacket before a trip down The Toilet Bowl, these are the truths I want to equip my children with as they grow up in a culture that grows more and more like Babylon everyday. And in our culture that responds more to story than anything else, what better story to tell them than God's? His story is dazzling.

  • Leaders rise and leaders fall, but Jesus is the One True King - even seemingly untouchable leaders are in His hands.
    • Dazzle them with story - Nebuchadnezzar, proud enemy king, humbled and proclaiming God's glory in an open letter to the known world in Daniel 4. Cyrus, king of Persia, being stirred by God to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem in Ezra 1.
    • Arm them with truth - "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." Colossians 1:16
      "He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings" Daniel 2:21
  • Jesus, not our safety or comfort, is the greatest treasure - we were never promised an easy life. He promised that He is with us no matter what.
    • Dazzle them with the story - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking unsinged through a raging fire with Jesus at their side in Daniel 3. Daniel spending the night in a den of hungry lions, mouths shut tight by God's angel in Daniel 6.
    • Arm them with truth - "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20  
      "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
  • God will give us wisdom - walking in faith means we will often not know what to do. He will give us what we need when we need it.
    • Dazzle them with the story - Nehemiah humbling himself before God and then boldly requesting from King Artaxerxes permission, safe passage, and supplies to rebuild the conquered city of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 1-2. 
    • Arm them with truth - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." James 1:5
      "When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Matthew 10:19-20
  • We have nothing to fear if we fear God most - "even if He does not" faith grows from a true knowledge of God's character; He is good, He is able, He loves me, I can trust Him no matter what. 
    • Dazzle them with the story - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew without a doubt that God was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace. They also knew that God might not choose to intervene. Their faith was in God, not in the outcome they wanted. They would obey God, the One who was able, even if He chose to let them suffer. Daniel 3:18.
    • Arm them with truth - "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:28-31
Our days are dark and will grow darker. How can we equip our kids to grow up in this modern day Babylon-world?

Tell them His story. Dazzle them with His faithfulness. Equip them with the fullness of His truth painted in vivid detail, not in cartoon shadow. They need to know how very broken our world really is, and how good - how great - is our God.