Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Trials of Life

The end of Daniel, Chapters 11 & 12, is a huge prophecy that telescopes three-fold from close future events culminating in Antiochus Epiphanes, to the more distant destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, to the far-reaching end of everything.  In marveling at the detailed descriptions of the future, we may not, at first, find anything applicable to us today, but when we get to verse 26, we get this interesting passage:

“At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before. For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant. Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time. (Daniel 11:26-35)

This is right before the prophecy switches to being completely about the end-times.  Antiochus IV tries to defeat Egypt and fails.  Jerusalem hears a rumor that the king has been killed, and they take over their city again, restoring a true priest in the temple.  That's when Antiochus really gets mad!  He returns, sacks Jerusalem, and slaughters thousands.  This event in history, although it doesn't seem important, is important for God to get across to Daniel.  I believe it is because the attack on Jerusalem most closely resembles not only the destruction of the temple in AD70, but the last days before Christ's second coming.

That's all I want to say about the prophecy itself, but there are parts of this passage that we can really use to build up our faith:

1) We are in a holy covenant with God.  The world hates and attacks this covenant.

2) Those within the church who forsake the covenant (the false church) will be seduced and flattered by the world. We see this in all the worldly teaching that permeates the church today.

3) The true church, the ones who know God, stand firm and take action.

4) The wise among the faithful will preach the gospel and convert many.

5) The true church will have times of stumbling.

6) The false church will attempt to take over the true church through seduction and flattery.

7) Even the wise among the faithful will stumble, but God intends this.

This last point is where I want to focus.  Verse 35 states, "and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time." God has a purpose in his children stumbling: to refine and purify them.  Who are these people in the white robes and from where have the come?  Revelation 7:14 tells us, "these are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb." These are people who have endured great trials by putting their faith in Jesus Christ.  One of the biggest, most universal, deceits in the modern church today is the phrase, "come to Jesus; he will make your life better."  This makes sense in an eternal destiny way.  Heaven is definitely a better life.  But the false teaching lies in having your "best life now." Romans 8:28 reads, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  Notice:

1) This only applies to the elect (those who love God; those who are called).

2) This isn't saying "good things will happen" but "for good," as in, "for the good of the person."  Remember, things that are good for us aren't necessarily things we like or want.

3) The purpose mentioned is God's, not our own.  God's purpose for us may be martyrdom.  We know from the Daniel passage that God allows his children to stumble in order to refine and purify them--until the time of the end.  In other words, the trials and tribulations do not let up in this life.  "Come to Jesus and your life will get better" does not work.  It's unbiblical.  Now, if you strengthen your faith in Christ in the midst of the tribulations, you will find great joy in the midst of the tribulations, but the trials and persecutions will not stop.  James 1:2-4:

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  This is sanctification.  God does not deliver you from the trials so that you can do something really awesome with your earthly life.  Instead we find joy in the troubles that aren't going to go away.  Such joy is only found through faith in Christ.  When an unbeliever is experiencing trials, it is because God's judgment is coming early.  The last thing we want to do is tell those people that if they come to Christ, their trials will go away.  When they "try Jesus" and the trials don't fade, they will never truly come to Christ. This is why we see such a high congregational turnover in the mega-churches.  What we do instead is preach Christ and him crucified, from passages such as Daniel 11:26-35 or James 1:2-4, let the gospel have its effect, and if that person is elect, his or her heart will change, and while the trials themselves won't go away, the new convert will understand the joy that only Christ can provide in the midst of those trials.

This is a crucial distinction.  Jesus did not purchase a "better life now" for us with his blood.  He purchased US with his blood.  We are his possession now, and he will change our hearts.  Hear what our Lord says in John 17: "“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours."  Jesus purchased us with his blood, not a fuller life that we need the courage to "step into."  We will not find joy in trials if we are searching for that full life Jesus bought for us.  He bought us, ourselves.  We seek Christ's righteousness in his word, we see him glorified, we put our complete faith in him, and we then discover joy in the trials, even when they don't go away.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Giving Up Christ

I'm putting the end of Daniel on hold for a week, because I want to preach on something my 8-year-old asked me to read to her this week.  She requested a story from the bible, and so I read it, and I discovered some important details on the doctrine of election in the passage, along with a heart-breaking analogy to our relationship with Christ.  The passage is 1 Kings 3:16-28.

The story is straightforward and very popular.  King Solomon has just prayed for and received wisdom from the Lord.  This is Solomon's first judgment, and the wisdom he imparts is quite splendid indeed.  Here's the passage:

Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.” But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king.

Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

Yes, my 8-year-old sure picked a fascinating part of the bible to read!  Many words have been written about what true love looks like and what true wisdom looks like, but few have been written about Christ in this passage.  We see a crazy act in what Solomon decides.  This shouldn't work, but it does.  We expect the wicked woman to relinquish and confess, but she doesn't.  She would rather neither woman have the child than either of them.  She also knows that even accidental infanticide on her part will carry harsh punishment.  She won't confess.  We wonder if this will work on other things.  Sometimes it doesn't, sometimes it does.  My littles are fighting over a toy, and I take the toy away from both.  Sometimes one of them says, "that's fine, I don't need to play with it," which shows me that she was the one that took it from the other.  Sometimes both of them are unhappy with the toy going away.  Of course, the bible's version has life itself at stake.  A baby will die unless someone acts!

And the true mother does!  She would rather give up her precious child to the wicked woman than have the child die, and here is where an excellent allegory of Christ and his elect begins to unfold.  Here are two prostitutes.  All have sinned and fall short of  the glory of God.  They live in the same house, just like the elect and the reprobate live in the same world, grow in the same field, like wheat and tares.  Remember, the elect are sinners, too.  They are outside of the kingdom, to start, but God makes sure they enter his kingdom before they die.  So, all human kind can be seen as a couple of prostitutes in the same house.

One's son is dead and the other is alive.  The elect have a son: the living God, the Christ.  The reprobate have no son.  They have idols, false gods, things that have no life.  The sword represents judgment day, where both the elect and the reprobate face God and have to account for their lives on earth.  The reprobate point to their works in an attempt to earn their way into heaven, but their unrepentant sin keeps them out.  The elect point to repentant faith in Christ alone for their salvation, and God's judgment rules in their favor.  Here is where the analogy seems to break down.  In the story, the true mother gives up her son in order to save his life.  On judgment day, we aren't to give up the son but to embrace him and cling to him, so that he will protect us.

However, there is an important sentence in the book of Romans, chapter 9: "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh."  A sign of election is an intense desire to see others saved.  The reprobate would rather all suffer eternal death than some gain eternal life.  The ungodly don't just want to deliver themselves from hearing the gospel; they desire that none hear it, which is why they set up foundations to stop the spread of Christianity (in the West) and they use the sword everywhere else.  On the other hand, the elect would desire to be cursed forever in order to save some.

Jesus also demonstrates this behavior on the cross when he cries out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  His relationship with the Father was cut off.  Jesus gave up God to save his elect.  As a result, Jesus is given his life back and his relationship in the Godhead is restored.  Likewise, Solomon declares, "Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is the mother."  Christ is given to the selfless one.

Love is a fruit of the spirit, but not many can agree with what love looks like.  The ungodly merely believe its physical and romantic, or affection among friends.  It's getting along.  It's everyone being in agreement.  Love, according to Christ, is laying down one's life for one's enemies.  The elect reach out to those we disagree with.  We don't want to see the world get its comeuppance.  We would rather give up our salvation so that those who reject Christ might be saved.  Paul felt it.  Christ demonstrated it.  He died in our place.  He gave himself for us.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Spiritual Realm

Chapters 10-12 of Daniel make up a complete section, with 10 being the introduction to a new message that God brings to Daniel.  Before the prophecy, however, there is a new perspective on the spiritual realm that is given to Daniel, like a mini-vision.  It's not the message, but it is a powerful revelation about God's workings that we can learn from.

This is the third year of King Cyrus of Persia. He has already made the decree to send Israel back to its land and rebuild. Daniel did not return.  Probably because he was too old, but also God needed him to stay where he was. Daniel has been mourning for three weeks.  Why?  Remember what Ezra finds when he goes to Jerusalem?  Israel has fallen back into its sinful ways again, and he needs to preach the gospel to them.  That's years away, though.  Daniel's mourning is probably because he has seen how few people of Israel have accepted the king's offer to return.  They have fallen away to the point of indifference.

Now, Daniel is visited by an angel. The description of the man from verse 5 onward is very similar to John's description of Christ at the beginning of Revelation.  So this may be a Christophany, a vision of Jesus before the incarnation.  However, it may be Gabriel, who visited Daniel before.  It may be another Angel of the Lord, representing God to Daniel and speaking with his words. Daniel alone sees the vision, and the men who are with him do not, even though they are filled with terror and run away, leaving the angel alone with Daniel.  See Acts 9, where Saul is confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus and yet the ones who are with Saul see nothing. Daniel's reaction is the same as John's in Revelation: his strength leaves him, and he falls on his face.  Yet, it is God himself, who lifts us up.  We cannot stand in God's presence except that God forces us to rise.  Likewise, in verse 15, Daniel is mute, but when the angel touches his lips, he can then speak.  God is in control of our responses to his glory.  Think of the Lord touching Jeremiah's lips in his first chapter, or in Isaiah 6, when the Angel touches his lips with a burning coal.  In that case, the burning coal represented Christ, because Isaiah's sins had been atoned for and his guilt taken away.

Not only does Daniel see characters from the supernatural realm, he sees events that are taking place there.  Like in chapter 9, God sent his Word to Daniel as soon as he began praying, but the Word was delayed, in this case for three weeks.  Why? Because spiritual warfare is taking place.  Here is a clear presentation of what goes on behind the scenes in the supernatural realm.  We see this in many places in scripture.  In this case, the Word of God was delayed because a demon (prince) who is in control of Persia delayed it coming, and the Archangel Michael was sent to do battle, so that this current angel, be it Gabriel or another, could get the answer to Daniel.

Each evil nation has its own "prince," and Daniel is told that when Persia's demon is vanquished, Greece's demon will come to power.  But here is where in hopelessness, new hope is sown.  Israel has its own "prince:" Michael.  In verse 11:1 the angel speaking to Daniel reveals that he himself strengthened Darius two years prior.  This was probably in connection with the decree to permit the Jews to return to their homeland.  Long story short: God fights for us.  God sends us angels to fight for us.  Daniel doesn't command Michael.  Indeed, he has only just been made aware of him, but Daniel mourns and prays for his people, and God hears his prayers and acts by sending defense. 

Our first thoughts are, "Why does God allow this situation?  Isn't he God?  Can't God just wipe out the demons with one fell swoop? Can't he get the message through to Daniel instantaneously?"  Yes, of course he can!  Ours is not an impotent God.  But we must remember one of the 5 solas: Solo Deo Gloria, or "for the Glory of God alone."  Everything God does is to glorify himself to world, and if that means allowing devils to gain earthly footholds so that his angels can do battle with them, then that is what needs to be done.  That's why, even though the actual prophecy doesn't come until chapter 11, this vision of the goings on in the spiritual realm is very important.  Why does God achieve salvation for his children in certain ways?  He has his reasons.  Why does he allow evil to seem to flourish?  He has his reasons.  Here are some clues:

Peter writes in his second epistle, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."  A drawn out, spiritual battle gives people a chance to choose sides.  Which prince are you following?  The evil princes of Persia and Greece, or God's princes of Israel: Michael and Gabriel?

Paul writes in the ninth chapter of Romans, "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory..."  What inspires and reveals the glory of a kingdom more than a military victory?  We don't have to see the battle take place, we just have to know that its happening, like in 1666 when the English sailed out to battle the Dutch, the people of London couldn't witness the battle but they would hear back of the victories.  We can't see the battles, but the scriptures tell us that we are on the right side, and that our kingdom is and will be victorious.

We must not think the war between angels and demons should be the focus of our attention.  Many think the Christian life is about commanding angels to do our bidding and to rebuke the demons.  If something terrible happens to believers, our first reaction is to think there's a demon involved and get to work in spiritual warfare.  Remember, God disciplines those he loves, and he allows evil to happen as chastisement for believers and judgment on unbelievers.  Pray to God, not to demons or even good angels.  We are aware that the battle is happening, and that is enough, because the real purpose of knowing that such is taking place in the spiritual realm is to turn our attention back to Jesus Christ.

Even the angels are types and shadows of Christ, doing battle on our behalf, just as Christ did against the devil, rescuing us from Satan's clutches by the sacrifice of himself on the cross at cavalry.  The vision that Daniel is given of the supernatural, revealed to us today in the pages of scripture, is another aid, pointing us to Christ and the foot of the cross.

The vision, like the others before it, is disturbing and does not quench Daniel's terror.  In fact, it increases the terror.  As Christians, we should be wary of being comfortable. Strength and courage come to us when we are at rock bottom.  If we are comfortable, we rely on ourselves.  When we fail in that regard, when we have nothing else, we turn to God and he brings us up.  The Christian life is full of God's discipline.  When we are being chastised, we cannot think of this as a failure at being a Christian.  This means we are getting God's attention at the moment, and he is molding us further, like a potter with his clay. We are being sanctified.

God loves us at our most repentant and vulnerable.  God loves us when we submit to his Word and repent of our own self-righteousness.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Christ is making Daniel's path straight at this point, and he makes our paths straight by revealing his will in these pages. 

Jesus says in the beatitudes, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."  Daniel mourned for Israel.  Christians mourn for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This is our way of fighting on God's side for his kingdom, like Michael and Gabriel. The angels' actions are types and shadows of Christ's ultimate act in history.  All three of these levels--penitent prayer, spiritual warfare, and Christ's sacrifice--are three parts of the same whole: fighting for God's kingdom.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Seventy Weeks

We're not going to go too deep into the seventy weeks revealed to Daniel in chapter 9:24-27, but we should look at why they are important for us and for all of God's children throughout history.  This is another prophecy that Daniel can't do anything about but write down.  Many have tried to figure out what the prophecy means, and usually one can tell another's theology by how they interpret this passage.  Actually, this is a very clear prophecy, once you realize that the things that happen are both causes and effects.  The effects described may not happen in the time of the 70 weeks, but the causes do.  The chief cause is the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the chief effect is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, about 35 years after the chief cause, and about 30 years outside the timescope of the 70 weeks, but it is an effect.  There is nothing wrong with a prophesied effect occurring outside the scope of the prophecy timeline.  Christ's crucifixion and resurrection still have effect today, and we live well outside of the phophecy's timeline.

To make the interpretation quick, let's look at the passage.  Everyone pretty much agrees that 70 weeks means 70x7 years, so we have about 490 years to play with.  All of the things described at the end of the 70 weeks make the most sense about the coming of Christ. Christ puts an end to sin; he atones for iniquity; he brings in an everlasting righteousness.  Indeed, he is the most anointed one, the messiah, the Christ.  If we count backward 490 years from Christ's crucifixion, we get to the sending of Ezra to Jerusalem in 458. Why Ezra?  Why not the decree of Cyrus in 539?  Well, Ezra finds the people had again fallen into sin, and he is the one who gets true repentance and covenant faithfulness out of the people, so this is where the "rebuilding" actually begins.

There are also some effects we see in the Daniel 9:24 list: "to finish the transgression" and "to seal both vision and prophet."  These two things don't happen with the crucifixion but are big effects from it.  The Jews who reject Christ are eventually conquered in 70AD by Titus.  This is the finish of the transgression.  Finally, the New Testament is written, and the NT is definitely a sealing of both vision and prophet.  Nothing new needs to be added to scripture.  It is sufficient for all time.

The rest of the passage contains images of both causes and effects.  It took about 49 years to rebuild Jerusalem. Christ is the anointed one, the prince of peace.  Jerusalem was built in a troubled time.  The whole period between Jerusalem restored and Christ coming is a troubled time, with Alexander, Antiochus IV, and Rome hitting the area hard.  At the end of the time, Jesus is "cut off," which is legalese for "executed." Titus comes in 70AD and destroys both city and sanctuary.  The temple is desecrated before it is torn down, brick by brick, to get the gold plating in the cracks.  Jesus made a strong, unbreakable new covenant with his elect.  His death on the cross put an end to the sacrifices and offerings of the old covenant.  Finally, the desolator is eventually destroyed.  God raises up nations to conquer other nations, and these sinful nations are eventually destroyed themselves.  If we think of Rome being overrun by the Barbarians, then this indeed is a far-reaching effect of the prophecy.

Ok, we're done with the interpretation.  Now, what can we learn from this?  First, going back to verse 20, we see that Daniel has been praying, and as he is speaking and praying, confessing his sin and the sin of his people Israel, God sends Gabriel with the prophecy.  The archangel says, "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."  Indeed, God has ALREADY given us his word in response to our prayers.  Remember, God talks to us through the Bible.  How many times are we praying and feeling that we are not receiving an answer to our prayers, when God actually has already responded to our prayers in his scriptures?  If we can't find our answer in his Holy Word, then we have been asking for the wrong things, not praying within his will.  Everything we need to pray for and everything we need to know in response to our prayer is in the Bible.

Second, the chief cause in the prophecy is our only comfort.  Jesus Christ and him crucified is the ultimate cause of all our peace, all our joys.  He reverses our spiritual decays, he gives us strength and perseverance.  He gives us assurance of our salvation.  The search for the answer is not difficult.  You can flip to any passage in the Bible and find it.  Jesus Christ and him crucified is what the Bible is all about, from cover to cover.  When we discover it, peace and joy will reign in our souls, no matter what trials and tribulations happen to our bodies.

Finally, third, the effects of the cause are very real and far reaching.  Like the Jews who rejected Christ at the time of his coming, anyone who rejects Jesus Christ is doomed to the same fate.  70AD is going to occur again, and this time it won't be the locals but all the world who will be affected.  That is why we are to share the gospel in any way we can with everyone we know.  God tells us that when they stand before his judgment seat, they will have no excuse for why they rejected his anointed.  Jesus Christ is a free gift for everyone.  No one is excluded.  Everyone is given, by God's free grace, the gift of Jesus Christ.  But many will reject him.  Many do not have faith, and it is faith alone that grasps hold of our Lord and Savior.  Weep for the lost and pray for their salvation, for the time of judgment is near.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Praying like Daniel

Daniel 9 is a rich chapter, and it contains what could be called THE most disputed prophecy in the whole of the Bible.  That we will tackle next week, because the first half of the chapter is Daniel's prayer, and we can learn so much about how to pray from it. It's one of the best prayers in the Bible, and it's a shame that it is neglected, because of the second half of the chapter.  This sermon is going to be a practical one on prayer.

As we see from Daniel 9:1-19,

1) Daniel is motivated to pray by his study of the Word.  In verse 2, he is reading the scroll of Jeremiah, when he comes across the 70 years of the desolation of Jerusalem, and he calculates that it is coming to an end.  This drives him to intense prayer that includes fasting and sackcloth and ashes.  Why?  Isn't God perfect?  Isn't he going to do what he says he's going to do? Even though the restoration has already begun to take place, Daniel is motivated to pray. 

2) Daniel's prayer is one of repentance.

3) Daniel's prayer is not a series of commands to God but a series of praises for God.

4) Daniel acknowledges that his people sinned and continue to do so.

5) Daniel acknowledges that the Lord is just.

6) Daniel not only is inspired to pray by scripture, but he cites scripture in the prayer itself, specifically out of the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 28).

7) Daniel includes not only the prophesied punishment, but he reminds God of his prophesied righteousness and salvation.

8) Daniel continually enforces the point that he and his people are not worthy to receive mercy.  Israel has no righteousness of their own, but their restoration is entirely dependent on the Lord's mercy.

9) Daniel's petitions at the end of the prayer include requests for God to act and to forgive, both things that are eventually fulfilled by Christ's death on the cross.  Daniel is quick to add that acting and forgiving is not for Israel's sake but for God's own sake.  Remember, to God be the glory.

Now for the practical part.  Turn to Luke 12:22-34.  Let's pray this passage of scripture.  Let's say that we have been motivated by the Spirit, through scripture study, to pray this passage.

"Heavenly Father,

"You have told us through your Son not to be anxious about our lives, but we have failed.  We are continually anxious about what we will eat and what we will wear." Notice that we acknowledge our failure and sin.  We're not just jumping to "keep us from sinning" but saying that we flat-out sin. "We actually believe that our lives are no more than the insignificant things. We don't consider the ravens; we don't consider the lilies; even though you, gracious Lord, feed and clothe all of your natural creatures.  Even though we brought sin into the world and have corrupted everything, you sustain us and keep us in your hands.  Even though we have turned away from you, we are still valuable to you.  We have no righteousness.  We are unable to expand our lives one inch.  You have numbered our days, and only you know when our time comes."  There are some references to Psalm 139 and the curse in Genesis 3 here. Now, we can begin slipping petitions in: "Lord, we lack faith; please bestow on us just a little faith.  We seek the things of the world over your kingdom; please turn our hearts from worldly things and focus them on heavenly things."

Where God gives commands in scripture, do as Daniel does.  He doesn't say, "we've tried to keep your commands, please help us!"  He says, "we have failed to keep your commands, please don't destroy us!"  In this last section of the Luke passage (32-34) there are a series of commands.  It would be easy to slip into a laundry list of "helps," such as, "help us to not fear, help us to sell our possessions, etc."  But where Daniel's prayer points toward Christ to come, ours should end pointing to Christ having come and having succeeded in restoring the kingdom. Christ has saved us.  Christ has brought forgiveness.  Most importantly, God has acted. "Thank you for giving us the kingdom through the death of your son, Jesus Christ.  Even though we still fear out of sin, we see that it was your good pleasure to send your Son.  Christ sold his possessions, he gave to us needy sinners, he provided moneybags that will never grow old and wear out, and the treasure within is himself.  Christ does not fail. No one can steal him from his people, and nothing can destroy him.  Father, help us make Christ our treasure, and turn our hearts toward him."

These don't just have to be "we" prayers.  They can be "I" prayers, or you can pray for a specific individual who is struggling in these areas.  Remember, focus on our own sin and failure, Christ's sacrifice and success, and God's grace and glory.