Life Examples From Daniel
About the Guest
Are you scared by what you see in the culture? Pastor Larry Osborne urges believers to leave fear behind and to bear the name of Jesus in a favorable way for the neighbors, coworkers, and unbelievers around them. Larry reminds us that Christ engaged the world, and so must we if we are to impact our culture for good.
Larry OsborneLarry Osborne has served as a Senior Pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, California since 1980. The church has grown from 128 to over 11,000 in weekend attendance, and has been honored as one of the ten most influential churches in America for its pioneering efforts in the multi-site movement, sermon-based small groups, and its creative approach to shared leadership. Larry’s books include Thriving in Babylon, Accidental Pharisees, Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret, Sticky Tea...more
Are you scared by what you see in the culture? Pastor Larry Osborne urges believers to leave fear behind and to bear the name of Jesus in a favorable way for the neighbors, coworkers, and unbelievers around them.
Life Examples From Daniel
Bob: There is a connection between living a spiritually-disciplined life and the character of your life; but at the end of the day, it’s the character that matters more than the disciplines themselves. Here is Pastor Larry Osborne.
Larry: You know what? You might never have family devotions / you might not ever go on a family vacation—you might break every rule that, at the conference, you are told to do to have a good family; and if you really walk with Jesus the way you are supposed to walk, you have incredibly high odds that that’s what your kids are going to be like when they grow up.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about strategies for raising children, who will love and serve Jesus in a culture where that’s not valued the way it used to be. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
So, do you think you’re a scaredy-cat Christian?
Bob: You don’t?!
Dennis: No, but I am a step away from being one. [Laughter]
Bob: You’re just right on the edge; huh?
Dennis: I’m telling you—
Dennis: —I can get terrified with the best of them. In fact, something our guest today mentioned on an earlier broadcast—I do watch some news programs in the evening; and it does feel like, to me, you are on a steady drip—almost like a transfusion of fear that’s coming into your veins. Truthfully, I’ve cut way back on my diet of how much news talk on TV—especially from those who are really marketing fear.
Bob: You know, our engineer, Keith, has an expression for this—can you punch in and tell everybody what your expression for this is?
Keith: The sky is falling.
Bob: Yes, Keith talks about everything—the sky is falling. So, chance for rain today— “Oh no! Oh no! The sky is falling!”
Dennis: Yes. And every day the news is broadcast, it’s like—
—and there is a new crisis today.
Well, we have a guest with us who has already said, as I indicated, that we shouldn’t be scaredy-cat Christians. Larry Osborne joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, Larry.
Larry: Thank you—great to be with you again.
Dennis: He and his wife Nancy live in Southern California. He is one of the senior pastors of a church that he joined, not long after it was founded by others—North Coast Church—which has 11,000 members in Vista, California—which that has to be a massive influence there in that community.
Larry: Well, it’s interesting—we’re so post-Christian in our culture—that you ask a lot of people, “Hey, where’s North Coast Church?” They go: “I don’t know. I’ve never heard of it.” It’s a different day and age.
Bob: You know, Dennis was talking earlier about Matthew 5—the command to be salt and light. It feels like, maybe, 30 or 40 years ago, we were more light. Today, it feels like we’re more like salt. We’re doing more preserving than illuminating in the culture today, just given where we are in the culture.
Do you think that’s right?
Larry: I think there is a lot of truth in that. I’d never thought of that before; but that’s a great word picture because part of what happens is—sometimes, we are not doing as good a job of being the light that we should, but also, our culture is not as interested.
Larry: So, now, we’ve got to do the real hard work of actually getting into the community / into the community organizations and infiltrating in a way that we can bear the name of Jesus in a very favorable way for people.
Dennis: You have written a book called Thriving in Babylon. It’s subtitled Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture. You tell a story in your book about how—when you were a college student / you were in graduate school—with a night crew in a grocery store. You were trying to be a witness, but—
Bob: Trying to be salt and light; weren’t you?
Larry: That’s right; I was. Back then, they called them “Jesus freaks.” My life had been turned around 180 degrees. I was so excited about the Lord that what I often did is—I made the mistake of sharing the Christian lifestyle instead of sharing Christ with people.
I thought I’d heard everything in a locker room; but let me just tell you—night crew—that’s way more—let’s say, “earthy.” So, well, what happened was—I heard people saying things—using my Lord’s name in vain. I would go, and I would try to correct their behavior. All I did was get ostracized. They just kind of looked at me and said, “Oh, well, that’s the Jesus freak over there.”
I found my ability of impact on their lives lessened the more I tried to make non-Christians live like Christians instead of simply coming alongside them, loving them, and waiting for them to ask why I was different—which, over the years, was a behavior I’ve learned to have. At that point, I had great impact on the lives of people.
Dennis: There are a lot of our listeners, who are looking at the culture—they are looking at their own lives / they’re glancing at their children—and they are thinking about: “I’m sending my kids out into that. They are going to grow up in that. They are going to form their own families in this culture.”
I find a lot of confusion among followers of Christ about what they should be doing and how they should approach some of these thorny issues that the culture is raising.
Bob: In fact, let me give you some of the alternative strategies for dealing with Babylon; okay?—you know these. Some people say: “Here is how you deal with Babylon—you cloister yourself from Babylon, you insulate yourself from Babylon, and you keep your area as clean and pure as possible. In fact, it needs to be a hothouse because your kids need to grow up in a hothouse experience so that they can have some roots when they get transplanted.” Is there a problem with that?
Larry: There is a big problem because, if you raise an oak tree for 15/20 years in a hothouse, then, put it out, and see if it’ll survive the winter—it won’t survive. When we kind of move into our holy huddle, we think we have impact; but we have impact kind of like the Amish community does.
They’ve pulled themselves back / live in another time. Tourists go there to eat their food and buy their furniture; but nobody says: “Wow! This is how I want to live.”
And that’s what happens to us when we live a different life in—what I like to call—a holy huddle. People will look at us—they might admire certain traits about us; but at the end of the day, it’s like the tourist, checking out and saying, “You know, that’s a really cool trait, but I don’t want it in my life.” You have to incarnate. That’s what our Lord Jesus did—He came into a world instead of shouting from outside. God could have just as well have done that—just said: “Hey. Listen. Here’s my speech—follow it.”
Bob: “I’m not going to get polluted with your evil culture. I’m just going to stand outside here and shout at you.”
Bob: We’re talking with Larry Osborne, who has written a book called Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture.
Here’s another scenario—it’s one, where it says: “We must infiltrate the power bases in the culture,”—
—whether it’s politics, or the entertainment industry, or corporate America, or the educational institution—“We have got to infiltrate and stand up for what we believe in those power bases in order to win the culture back.”
Larry: I think there is a seed of truth to that—if by infiltrate, we mean get involved, and be a part, and raise up—that’s exactly what Daniel did. Daniel was asked to study the occult for three years. He didn’t sit in the back and roll his eyes. He sat in the front row, took copious notes, and with the help of God, graduated number one in his class. Then, compared with all the previous graduates, was ten times smarter—along with his three buddies—than the rest of them. That’s what got him a really good gig in Nebuchadnezzar’s royal court. Then, he served Nebuchadnezzar so well that he kept getting promoted.
Now, nobody promotes somebody that’s not serving them well or that has a distain that they just kind of carry. So, I think there is a sense—but we don’t infiltrate to argue / we don’t infiltrate to be negative—
—we infiltrate to earn the right to be heard. From that position, we can have huge, huge influence; but we better not have a chip on our shoulder.
Dennis: You know, as I look at young families today, starting out, it seems to me that moms and dads really have to take a step back and do an analysis and an inventory of their own spiritual maturity. I mean, we’re looking at sending our children into this culture; and we, rightly so, should be concerned, and be wise, and be shrewd about how we engage. But I think it’s so important for parents to be modeling what they are teaching to their children. You can’t rush past modeling to get to the lecture. If you do, the lecture’s never going to get heard.
Larry: Absolutely. I’m an old youth pastor, and one of the things that I learned—it was a bit discouraging—but it didn’t matter what a kid was like in our youth group. Ten years later, he was much more likely to be like his parents than what he was in the youth ministry.
And so, at the end of the day, parents have to realize that what they model is what their kids are going to catch.
Yes, there are exceptions to it; but if I were to take a hundred young Christian kids in Christian families, 95 to 98 of them, at 30/at 40 years old, are going to have the same values their parents did. But what I often find out is—they’ll have the same values but a slightly different behavior.
So, if the parent modeled: “You can lie to the IRS. You can lie to somebody by saying, ‘I’m not home,’ because you don’t want to answer that phone call instead of facing it,”—what the kid will say is: “You can lie about what party you were at. You can lie about what you were doing.” And kids always know way more about their parents than the parents ever know. They are just much more observant than we think.
So, if I could wave a magic wand into every Christian family, I would simply have people walk in obedience to Jesus Christ. I could tell them:
“You know what? You might never have family devotions / you might never go on a family vacation—you might break every rule that, at the marriage conference, you are told to do to have a good family; and if you really walk with Jesus the way you are supposed to walk, you have incredibly high odds that that’s what your kids are going to be like when they grow up.
Dennis: And if you do make a mistake, perhaps, consider using the mistake as an opportunity to teach your children. I’ll never forget travelling across the fine state of Oklahoma with a van, and we had six kids. We were rolling down the road just a little too fast. One of the fine state patrolmen for the state of Oklahoma pulled me over and asked me to come back into the squad car. I went back there, and all of my kids’ faces were in the back window.
When I got back in the car, they said, “Hey, Dad, what was he doing?—asking for you to autograph a book?” [Laughter] I said, “Well, children, he was asking for an autograph, but not for one of my books.
“I just need to tell you I’m sorry I was breaking the law, and there is a consequence when you break the law.”
Now, I remember some of those moments very vividly of when I did things that were wrong in front of my kids. When I was convicted of it, I tried to do my best to get down on a knee, or look eyeball-to-eyeball with a child or with a group of my children, and say, “Daddy was wrong when he…” “You know, the way Dad spoke to Mom in that situation—we disagreed, but I shouldn’t have spoken to her like that.”
I think, as parents, we don’t lose credibility in those moments because we’re going to make all kinds of mistakes in our lifetime; but invite your children into your errors so that you can teach them how to repent, later on, when they make a mistake, and how to reconcile with another because they are going to need to ask for forgiveness.
Don’t you think that’s important today for our young people?—
—to be catching their parents—not only doing something right—but if they do find them doing something wrong, to see how the parent is handling it.
Larry: Yes, I think that makes a huge impact upon our children. As I said a moment ago, they know far more than we think they know. So, at the end of the day, trying to hide information from them or even trying to hide difficulties you are going through—I remember when my wife had cancer, and it looked really bad like she might not survive—by the grace of God, she’s doing fine—but my kids were young then. They said, “Could Mommy die?” “Yes, Mommy could die.” And bringing them along—there were financial situations we faced / there were pastor-in-a-church difficulties—without creating this cynicism or giving too much information.
I think one of the best things that Nancy and I did with our kids is—we assumed that they knew more than we thought, and we just brought them along—so all the way to telling them,:“We made a mistake here,” or “We did wrong,” or “We sinned here,” to simply taking them on the journey because every experience is a chance for them to figure out how to respond.
Invite them in rather than paint this image out there of something that’s not really us.
Bob: You know, one of the things that has always fascinated me about how Daniel lived in Babylon—and the reason why are talking about this is because the title of the book you wrote is called Thriving in Babylon—and you look at the principles from the life of Daniel. One of the things that has fascinated me is he was quick to offer a creative alternative rather than just saying, “I won’t do that.” He would go in and say, “Would this be acceptable if I did this instead?” That worked for him on a number of occasions.
Larry: The most famous one is in the first chapter, when he was asked to eat a non-Kosher diet. He was so respectful to the chief eunuch; and he says, “Is there any way…?” And the guy says: “I’d love to do it, but you don’t understand how bloodthirsty the king is. I can’t do it.” Then, he goes down the food chain to the guard—
—and with the same respect—it’s a ten-day test.
I think you can read between the lines at the end of the ten days. He said—this was a God-thing—“No, I’m not going to do it. I am willing to starve to death or take the consequences,” but he doesn’t wave that. He just quietly and very respectfully searched for alternatives, which we can do when a school district wants us to take a class we don’t want our kids to do.
I mean, when you go in respectful to people, they usually respond respectfully. When you go in and say: “Well, can I have a change? If not, here’s my lawyer,” well, immediately, they are going to get defensive because that’s exactly how we behave. We forget—non-Christians are just like us. If you treat me with disrespect, my wall is going to go up.
So, if I would just take a mirror to the school, the local little league, the soccer club—all the places where the world’s going to come into our lives—if I would just take a mirror and say, “Well, how would I respond if that person was coming to me, wanting to get out of some Christian thing I was imposing on them?”—and act that way.
Bob: So, let me ask you—and this will put you on the spot again—but let’s say there is a person in your church, who bakes wedding cakes or who does photography for weddings. They come and they say, “Pastor, I’ve just been asked to bake a wedding cake for the gay wedding—should I do that or not?”
Larry: I always like to step away from the issue. So, I would ask the question, “Well, if you were a landlord, and a gay couple wanted to come and rent your place, would you rent it to them?” And almost everybody says: “Well, I have to. That’s the law.” Well, “Bake their cake,” is frankly is my number-one mindset.
In the Christian community, one of our mistakes is—we’ve made one sin bigger than another sin—because a couple that’s cohabitating: “Oh, yes, I’ll make a birthday cake for you.” Okay; why? So, I think that’s where Daniel was amazing. Daniel understood the things that made him uncomfortable and the things that God forbid and that there was a difference.
Bob: But you know the argument on the other side, which they’ll say: “The cohabitating couple—I’m not participating in a rite before God. I mean, a wedding…”
Larry: Well, let’s go back, again. I love to step out of this situation because it helps to see the principle. “Would you lease an apartment room to them? Would you, if you had some rental houses?” “Well, yes,”—well, you’re participating in their living together. And so, at the end of the day, lots of people, who are very up in arms, don’t even know what their company supports or what’s done.
I keep going back to Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was godless—he attacked the Temple, he profaned the Temple, and he stole things from the Temple.
Larry: Yes, Daniel treated him with respect. He would not sin, but he had to be uncomfortable when he was called Belshazzar, which means Baal’s prince. So, your name is changed from “God is my judge,” to “Satan’s prince.”
Bob: I’m going to press this one more time.
Bob: Let say somebody in the congregation says: “I don’t feel, by conscience, I can take the pictures at this wedding.
“Should I violate my conscious and do that?”
Larry: No. I think, at the end of the day, though, you don’t have to wear all the reasons. I get people asking me—they are inviting—I don’t tell everybody, when I’m invited to something, why I can’t make it. I think sometimes we wear it as almost a badge of honor to be confrontational in situations where confrontation is not really going to bring out any particularly good result.
Bob: So, when do we say: “Okay, line drawn in the sand here—I’m not going to do this, even if you take away my liberties, or if you take away my life”? Do you do that if you are in Iran and they say, “Don’t talk about Jesus”?
Larry: I think that any time we are told to sin, we have to say, “Who am I going to obey—God or man?” But again, many of the issues that we really deal with—not the theoretical ones—so, our listeners, as parents, and families, and in the cubical workplace they are in, or whatever it would be—these aren’t really the issues / they are matters of taste. And at the end of the day, I go:
—“It’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s not okay to participate and sin yourself.”
Bob: Yes. Dennis, I know this is an area where some Christians disagree with other Christians. We continue to dialogue and sharpen iron on this kind of an issue and give grace to one another; don’t we?
Dennis: And we have to think these things through. I was thinking of James,
Chapter 1—just in terms of how we respond to other people. It says in verse 19: “Know this my beloved brothers. Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”
I have to confess here—this day in which we live has really helped me evaluate checking my anger at the door and being real careful about what I say and how I say it as never before. And I think, in the past—
—I’ve said this before on this broadcast—I would have made a very good Pharisee.
Larry: Wouldn’t we all? [Laughter]
Dennis: I mean, I would have made—
Bob: You wrote the book, Accidental Pharisees; right?
Larry: Yes, because every Pharisee gets there accidentally.
Dennis: Yes, I think, as we think about the things that do make us angry, I think it’s okay to be angry; but I think when we start taking that anger out on people and at people, we’ve got to really be careful and think about—again, a verse like that—“The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness that God requires.” And very, very important that we, as followers of Christ, leave the aroma of Christ with the people with whom we are interacting.
Larry: Yes, there’s a similar passage in 2 Timothy, Chapter 2, verses 24-26, I believe, which he talks about the Lord’s bondservant must be—and it talks about gentle, kind—and he names all of these characteristics—then, at the end: “…so that we may be able to rescue those who have been held captive to do Satan’s will.”
It’s a description of how you and I are to respond, not to the non-Christian, but the one who is leading the parade of Satan’s agenda—even they are worthy—it says “…kind to everyone.”
Bob: Yes, that may be—
Larry: Everyone is everyone.
Bob: Yes, that may be the text that I have read more often this year than any other text just because I keep coming back to “…must be kind, must be compassionate, must not be quarrelsome, must be patient with all…” and I go: “Okay, this is a good reminder. I need to hear this.”
Larry: And that is what keeps jumping out at me is—“to everyone”—and I keep trying to find—
Bob: —a loophole.
Larry: —a loophole. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, I just want to read that last part of that verse you just quoted: “…that they may escape from the snare of the devil after being captured by him to do his will.” If a person doesn’t know Christ, they’re ensnared.
Larry: Yes, and they are doing his will.
Dennis: They are enslaved to sin.
The issue for us is—we can’t be a slave to sin. We have to be a bondservant of Jesus Christ. That means we need to be imitating Him.
And I’ll just tell you—I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Gospels in the past year, just looking at how Christ responded to broken people caught in sinful behavior or caught in circumstances—some of which they have been a part of and some of which they had done nothing to deserve—Jesus was the premier example, for all of us, that we are to imitate.
Bob: Well, it’s a new day. I think we’ve got to acknowledge we are living in a different time than we were living 20 years ago. We better have a new strategy and a new way of thinking about how we are going to approach the day we are living in. And that is what you’ve outlined, Larry, in the book that you’ve written called Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture. It’d be a great book for people to go through in a small group or with other friends or family members—
—talk about how we engage with this culture in a way that is winsome, and is kind, and yet stands for truth. The book, again, is called Thriving in Babylon. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order a copy by phone.
By the way, the rest of this week, Russell Moore is going to be joining us. He’s written a book on this subject called Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel. And we’ve got that book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center as well. So, get more information about either or both books. Order them online; or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
You know, I think this conversation is really urgent and practical. These are the kinds of issues we are having to figure out how to handle, day in and day out, in a variety of settings—whether it’s in our workplaces, in our communities, wherever we are going—
—we have to ask the question, “How do we represent Christ well here?” especially, if it is with people who don’t share our worldview.
And I just want to take a minute here and say, “Thank you,” to the listeners who make these kinds of conversations possible—those of you who are supporters of FamilyLife Today, either as Legacy Partners / giving each month or those of you who will, from time to time, get in touch with us to make a donation.
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And of course, the need continues, week in and week out, here at FamilyLife Today. So, whenever you are able to make a donation, we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible. You can give, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone.
Or you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223. And again, we always appreciate hearing from you. Thanks for your support of this ministry.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow. As I mentioned, Dr. Russell Moore is going to be jumping into the conversation with us as we talk about engaging the culture. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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