Diane and I served as Team Leaders at last week’s PLI Leadership Essentials Immersion in Aurora (Chicago area), Illinois. We shared some teachings along with Jock & Gail Ficken (co-leaders of PLI), Pastor Steve & Ursula Sohns (Resurrection Lutheran Church in Spring, TX), as well as facilitating discussions and coaching sessions with the pastors and their wives present for the event. We also introduced and installed Phil & Kyrie Klopke as co-leaders of PLI’s 1000 Young Leaders Initiative.

A very engaging presentation was given by Pastor Nick Price, who showed us how one can share the gospel story in a simple way that may be…

  • summed up in a single sentence,
  • explained in a few minutes, and
  • invites a conversation that could last for hours.

Here is a video of his presentation:

PLI is dedicated to multiplying missional leaders who want to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We have a high priority of sharing the Gospel message and this presentation offered us a simple way to do that.

When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”

18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me.19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince. – Daniel 10:15-21


Magenta-Tinged Rose – II | Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

Easter Sunday is always a great time for the church. Lilies, brass choirs, fanfares, proclamations of Jesus’ victory, and many people in the pews singing their praises to God. Everyone goes to church on Easter.  I was utterly shocked, however, a few years ago when I learned that my sister and my mom went to Cracker Barrel for Easter. Not after church, not before church. For Easter they went to Cracker Barrel. I have nothing against Cracker Barrel; in fact I eat at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant/store regularly. But for Easter?!?

Easter is a time for us to celebrate surrounded by fellow believers who bolster our spirits. We’re not alone in our confession that Jesus is risen; he is Lord! Many people swell the attendance rolls, but also encourage us to hold to the faith that Jesus has conquered death, sin, and Satan.

Daniel is told here that not only is he not alone, but that the battle that must take place is not his to fight. The angel tells Daniel that he is taking on the King of Persia, and that the prince of Greece would come to the battle as well. Sadly, however, this angel is accompanied only by Michael. Michael is an archangel (cf. Jude 9). As such he is a mighty warrior of God’s angel army. Only Michael will join the battle against these enemies.

We do not know the inner workings of the spiritual realm. We know only two things:

  • There is a battle that has been won, and yet is not fully consummated, but will be in the end; and
  • God’s angels are mighty and serve for his will and for our good.

We cannot always know the ways of God, but we do know that our ultimate victory lies with him and his angel host. We may not have as many allies in our battle against Satan and his horde. But we have those who fight for us and for our good.

I believe I encountered an angel once, and that he served to clarify my stewardship of God’s grace and gifts. I am thankful for all God’s angels – the mighty warriors who battle Satan, and the kind messengers of God’s grace such as we see here interacting with Daniel.

And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.” – Daniel 10:10-14


Magenta-Fringed Rose | Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

I first encountered this passage in 2003 when I was reading a book by John Eldridge, Waking the Dead. This was a particularly powerful and insightful book for me because I took the time to work through a companion workbook as I read it. It was my morning routine. It was, for me, a book more insightful even than Eldridge’s Wild at Heart.

The point that he made regarding this passage has to do with the spiritual battles that are raging all around us, and of which we are often unaware. God moves to answer our prayers the moment we voice them. But the answers do not always come as quickly to us as the answer is sent by God.

Here we have a look into the spiritual realm in which realities, powers, kingdoms, and dominions battle – often hidden from our view. All we see are the delays, complications, disappointments, and upheavals of daily life. Seldom do we imagine that angels are contending with one another – good versus evil angels; demons versus God’s host; principalities of evil versus God’s powers in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

Somehow the words of Daniel 10:12-13 opened my eyes to the outplaying of God’s answers to prayer. The angel was sent on the first day Daniel began to intercede for Israel and its people. But there are other forces in the world that must be contended with. Kings and kingdoms are set up and put down at God’s bidding. In the case of Israel’s captivity as well as their future deliverance, those would be accomplished by real kings in real time.

God seldom snaps his fingers and makes it so. More often the outworking of God’s will takes place over time. We have even a glimpse of why that is often so: God is patient and delays (in our minds and from our point of view) so that we and others may repent and come to faith in Jesus (2 Peter 3:9).

Next time you pray, and the answer does not appear immediately, consider how God may be working in someone else’s heart to get them to a better place before you are able to experience the fullness of his answer. And know this: When we pray, God acts.

God has things well in hand, and is working even now toward a consummation of his ultimate plan for all time and eternity – more often than not, behind the scenes – and he will prevail. He has shown that in Jesus’ resurrection and promised it in his word.

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.

In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.


Beauty Seeking Light | Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

I recall sharing this story with a group of 8th graders. Describing the appearance of this man of Daniel’s vision, I told them that his appearance would put him at 11 on a 10 point weirdometer. They seemed to like the description. It does seem to evoke a certain image. Indeed this servant of God is at least a bit weird. His message is way beyond weird.

His appearance is not all that is unique; even the sound of his voice is overwhelming. Daniel’s response is appropriate: he falls on his face in deep sleep. Literally. He does a faceplant and seems not to move. When was the last time that you’ve been so overwhelmed by the appearance and voice of a messenger of God that you fell on your face before him?

God doesn’t always show up like this – all guns blazing. More often he shows up in the still small voice (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13). Most powerfully God has spoken to us by the babe of Bethlehem, the innocent, gentle, humble Jesus of Nazareth. Too seldom we are overwhelmed by the voice of Jesus.

What will bring Daniel to life is a message of grace, hope and insight from the messenger. It is the same with Jesus: when his words hit home he brings grace, hope, and life. When that happens it reveals the truth of the statement: “I’ve never been surprised by God’s judgment—but I’m still stunned by his grace!” (Max Lucado, Stunned by His Grace).

Would that we were more often so stunned.


“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” – Daniel 9:24-27


Budding Pink Rose | Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

My favorite kinds of movies and books are those in which the bad guy eventually gets his just deserts. The corrupt and hypocritical warden is found out (Shawshank Redemption). The hero wins the beautiful lady’s heart (choose any romantic comedy). Simple, but not without much intrigue, challenge, plot twists and setbacks along the way.

Life on earth is not often that way. The good guy doesn’t always win. The woman of valor doesn’t always prevail. In real life, moreover, the presence of evil goes seemingly unchecked all too often. Corrupt politicians get re-elected time after time. The drug lords and human traffickers seem to be immune to prosecution. The slick lawyer gets the guilty off scot-free.

While the particulars of this passage from Daniel defies simple interpretation, the bottom-line message is simple and clear: the “desolator” will be brought to an end; the “decreed end will be poured out on the desolator.” Evil will not always hold sway. Satan will not forever have his way. His end is decreed. God has set a time. His days are numbered.

If, like Daniel, you are in even the latter days of such a reign of evil and terror, these words can embolden faithfulness, sustain hope, and bolster love. God’s word was given to us not only for the purpose of our salvation, but to bring us under the rule and reign of God, and as such to enlist us in his mission of saving the world from the evil influence of the desolators all around us.

Jesus refers to the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15, which references this passage from Daniel. This refers initially to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, but ultimately to events surrounding his ultimate return in glory. The end will come. For God’s people that is good news. For desolators of all kinds this will be the very bad news of their demise.

Read Daniel 9:20-27

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God,21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. – Daniel 9:20-23


Frost-Kissed Rose | Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, Florida | January 2018

If you read the remainder of Chapter 9 you may have a better grasp of its specific meaning than I do. Having looked at it recently and interpreting “weeks” as sevens (the actual meaning of original Hebrew), and considering these to refer to years, gets a number of different spans of time.

There are those given to discovering or at least exploring the specifics of these dates. I am not one of those persons. That is mostly due to my personal wiring; I just don’t think in that way. It also has to do with my appreciation for the timing of God, and the “upper story” of God’s work in the world. While God works in real time, and we experience life in real time, God’s greater work is best understood in the larger context of the Story of God – from Creation, to Redemption, to the Consummation of all things under Christ.

To that end, verse 23 of this chapter is precious to me. God moves toward us in answering our prayer as soon as we pray. He is not bound by time, though we are. He is not hurried by our impatience or slowed by our complacency. When we pray, God acts.

There are two great reasons for God’s action toward us and in response to our prayers. First of all, as Gabriel tells Daniel, “you are greatly loved.” What a wonderful truth for us to embrace! We are greatly loved by the Great God who is above all, and yet to deigns to hear our prayers. This is the kind of truth to steady our hearts and to secure our hopes. When we pray, God hears and moves – because he love us.

He does so, also, because he has promised to do so. It is the nature of God not only to love us, but to let us know that we can approach him in prayer. It is the love of God which moves him to make promises and the righteousness, holiness, and character of God that moves him to keep his promises.

Promises are cheap to those who have not intention of keeping them. But when we hear God’s promises, and when we call upon him in prayer, those promises are precious. And when we pray, God answers. Come Lord Jesus!

“O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” – Daniel 9:16-19

Keith and Krystyn Getty’s beautiful hymn, In Christ Alone, expresses important spiritual truth in a compelling lyric and tune. But the grace and truth the hymn conveys has not been without conflict and challenge. One particular phrase has been a source of controversy: ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied…

There have been those who would wish to change those words to say, ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, The love of God was glorifiedWe don’t like wrath. We would wish not to speak of it. We would rather speak of God’s love, kindness, and grace. We would prefer to ignore God’s judgment against sin, and our need to appease God’s wrath.

We best pray when we do so from an attitude of humility and acknowledgement that we have no standing before God on our own basis. We are like a debtor who owes a debt he can never repay, and for which our banker is requiring immediate payment. We’re broke. We cannot offer anything. Humility is all we have. In fact, in human terms we have been completely humiliated, for we must beg for mercy, and the one to whom we are begging seems to love to see us grovel.

That, however, is not how God is. We are deeply in debt to him; beyond that which we could ever pay for all eternity. But he is no harsh loan officer. He is not set against us. He is merciful, kind and good – even though he is also just, holy and righteous.

We do, nevertheless have a strong position before God: we are called by his name. To put us to shame would sully his glory. We are his. We belong to him. He cares all about us. People know that.

We have two reasons by which we can be confident in our prayers: God is merciful, loving, gracious, good, and kind. And we are called by his name. When we pray in the name of Jesus, we invoke both God’s grace and the name he puts on those who believe in him. That is a powerful name. Our prayers in his name reach the highest realm of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ name bolsters his grace, and gives us hope.