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We have real hope we’re called to share. But how we share it makes a difference.
Christians today face a dilemma: in a world that seems to reject everything we believe, how do we walk closely with God without caving to pressure or alienating those we hope to reach?
In this eye-opening new book, Chris Hodges provides a solution by examining the life of the prophet Daniel, who persevered in a corrupt culture that closely resembles our own—and emerged as an influential force in God’s redemptive plan. Full of scripture and seasoned with Hodges’ candid personal insights, The Daniel Dilemma shows us that we can hold firmly to biblical beliefs without becoming obnoxious, insulting, or mad. We can stand strong while loving others well. Because standing for truth isn’t about winning the argument; it’s about winning hearts. And when we learn the secret of connecting before correcting, we discover that we can respond to today’s hard questions without compromising grace or truth.
With fresh insights and practical ideas, Hodges encourages Christians struggling with our cultural reality to hold God’s standards high and his grace deep—just as Jesus did, and just as his followers today are called to do.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Chris Hodges is the founding and senior pastor of Church of the Highlands. Under his leadership, Church of the Highlands has launched campuses all across the state of Alabama and has grown to more than 45,000 people attending weekly. He also cofounded the Association of Related Churches, launched a coaching network called GROW, and serves as chancellor of Highlands College, a two-year ministry training college. Chris and his wife, Tammy, have five children and live in Birmingham, Alabama.
Read an Excerpt
The Attempt to Rename Me
It ain't what they call you; it's what you answer to.
— W. C. Fields
My name is Christopher Wayne Hodges.
My parents really didn't have any rhyme or reason for choosing the names Christopher or Wayne; they just liked those names and the way they sounded together. As it turns out, the name Christopher means "Christ-bearer," which seems fitting. I like the fact that my name and what I do are one and the same. Every year I have the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus with hundreds of thousands of people. I represent Christ. I am a Christ-bearer. My name defines me accurately. It validates me. I like my name.
But it's not the name I always believed.
Growing up, I wasn't very popular. I didn't have any athletic skills, I wasn't very smart, and I was pretty shy. That led to some fairly intense bullying from those who saw me as someone they could pick on without any repercussions. I tried to avoid it, even laugh it off at times, but it didn't work. I had to do something — anything — so I decided to win friends by taking on a new persona: Mischief Maker. I'd be the one to take the dare, crack the jokes, or do the ridiculous stunt just to make the crowd laugh — and hopefully accept me.
My strategy seemed to work, for a while. I made a few kids laugh, and I got noticed. But then I began getting into trouble on a regular basis. Basically, I was trying to live out a name that wasn't who I really was. It was the name I thought I needed so I could find acceptance and be liked.
But when I turned fifteen years old, I gave my life to Jesus, and the process of healing and redeeming my name began. I discovered the calling on my life and a passion to share Christ with the world around me. Soon I had no doubt in my mind that I had been named by God — that I had a God-given identity that he knew before I was even created. But I could only be the man he created me to be if I understood and accepted my true name.
What's in a Name?
I learned the hard way that names are important. What we believe about ourselves influences every decision we make and every action we take. And that's why, when my wife, Tammy, and I started having children, we decided to be very intentional about naming our children: Sarah Beth, Michael Robert, David William, Jonathan Bryan, and Joseph Christopher.
Okay, the truth is, we just liked the name we gave our daughter, Sarah. There wasn't any deep spiritual reasoning. We're from the South and had just moved to Colorado when she was born, so we wanted something that sounded Southern. Later we discovered that Sarah means "princess," and she reflects this royal quality in every way.
When we started naming the boys, we came up with a formula: a biblical or Hebrew first name followed by a family name.
Michael (after the archangel) Robert (after my dad)
David (after the giant-slayer, psalmist, and king) William (after Tammy's dad)
Jonathan (after David's best friend) Bryan (after my grandfather Alvin Bryan)
Joseph (after the son of Jacob in Genesis) Christopher (after me)
Curiously enough, we've noticed over the years that each of our boys embodies the traits of both the Bible character and the person in the family for whom they're named. Coincidence? Maybe. But there is something to this name thing.
Of course, we all have names. Whether or not we reflect the characteristics of our given names at birth is not the point. What matters most is the name we have written on our hearts and minds. It's what we believe about ourselves and then live out.
Maybe you were labeled "stupid" or "fat" as a kid, and despite earning a college degree or running 5Ks, you still see yourself based on those childhood labels.
Perhaps you've let sickness define you. Cancer or diabetes or MS is not only your disease, but it's also become your identity.
You might let your relationships define you. You're a husband or wife, an ex, a sister or brother, a boss, an employee.
Perhaps rejection, divorce, and betrayal have become your identity.
You may have let circumstances determine your name. Maybe the death of a loved one, tragedy, or bankruptcy have become your identity.
What's your name right now? What are the names you secretly feel are attached to you like gum on the bottom of your shoe? It's important to identify these. The names you allow to label you often title the scripts you live by. What you believe in dictates what you live out.
This explains why the number one goal of your Enemy, the Devil, is to attack your identity. He wants to give you a different name — one that stands in direct contrast to the name God gave you when he created you.
We live in a world where people have become adept at doing what is right in their own eyes, defining their identities according to their own constantly shifting ideas. From school-age children who want to change their genders to couples of the same gender planning their weddings, it's increasingly acceptable to pursue what feels right.
"Live your own truth" has become a bumper-sticker mantra for generations conditioned to believe they are entitled to reinvent themselves and live any way they choose. Reality TV portrays how anyone can be a star — models, bachelors, chefs, home buyers, politicians, and tattoo artists — as long as they remain "true to themselves."
I can see why this idea might be appealing, this freedom to embrace the desires our hearts harbor within them. After all, if I allowed my feelings to dictate my decisions, I probably wouldn't qualify to be a pastor. Instead, I'd be trying to make as much money as possible in order to create the most comfortable, pleasurable life possible, playing golf at every great course around the world. And while I may still struggle with those desires sometimes, I know I can't trust them to determine what's ultimately best for me. God has created me and called me for his purposes, not my own.
No matter how much I might wish I were a millionaire golf pro, I know that's not the life I'm called to live. The truth is, we don't have the privilege of defining ourselves, and there are limits to how far we can reinvent ourselves. Why? The reason is simple: we've already been defined by God, our Creator. God knows who he made each of us to be, and in the end his design is always better than what we come up with on our own.
Daniel understood this core truth. His faith in God tethered him to it throughout his time in captivity. Steeped in a culture that elevated sensual pleasure, idol worship, and moral decadence, the Babylonians focused on many things other than God. And as they sought to assimilate their new subjects, they tried to pull Daniel and his fellow captives into their lifestyle by casting shadows on their identities. Notice the very first thing that happened to Daniel and his friends once they arrived in Babylon:
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king's service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility — young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace....
The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. (Dan. 1:3 — 4, 7)
In those days, when victors integrated enslaved captives into their own culture, it was customary to change the captives' names as a sign of ownership. The Israelites belonged to their captors now; no longer would they be known by their old names from their homeland. But these Babylonian names weren't simply different names; these new names were meant to obliterate the Israelites' identities.
They were a mockery to their Jewish heritage.
They turned truth inside out.
They were idolatrous names.
By comparing the original and Babylonian names of these four Hebrew young men, we get a clear picture of our Enemy's strategy, the same one he uses on us today: he labels us with a new name so he can lie to us about a false identity. Let's take a closer look at how this happened with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
From Daniel: "God is my judge" to Belteshazzar: "Lady, protect the king"
The first thing the Babylonians did was change the gender of Daniel's name — an inherent part of each person's identity. They also shifted the focus from God to human. With this new name, Daniel's identity, at least on paper, changed from a man held accountable by an all-powerful God to that of a woman who must protect her sovereign. In their culture, this was a terrible insult. The meaning of Daniel's new name was the antithesis of his former Hebrew name.
From Hananiah: "Yahweh has been gracious" to Shadrach: "I am fearful of God"
The Babylonians inverted the focus from God being good to God being bad. Instead of viewing him as gracious, kind, and loving (all implied by the name Hananiah), this new name echoed with the kind of fear you'd feel standing before a tyrant, a maniac, or a monster.
From Mishael: "Who can compare to my God? No one!s" to Meshach: "I am despised, contemptible, and humiliated"
Once again, the Babylonians chose a name that subverted the goodness of God in our relationship to him. It shifted the focus from our confidence in God to cowardice.
From Azariah: "Yahweh has helped" to Abednego: "The servant of Nebo"
Azariah went from being a son or heir of Yahweh, a term of endearment for the living God, to being the slave of another man.
As you can see, in every case, the Hebrew captives' new names obliterated the true nature of God that had been represented by their names and reoriented their identities to become people who served their Babylonian masters.
Let's review these shifts in identity:
We don't have to ponder for long to realize our Enemy's attempt to make this kind of inside-out identity change continues all these years later. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were subjected to new names that rejected the truth about who God is and who they were in light of that. We still see the Enemy looking for opportunities to cast confusion on God's goodness and our identities today.
Consider, for example, the way society continues to redefine gender, gender relationships, and marriage, which is reminiscent of the gender change in Daniel's renaming. Things that were once inherent to who we are have now become flexible and up for debate. Our culture claims these qualities can be shaped to suit what a person wants with no regard for God's original design. But you and I know this is not true! There is purpose in how God makes us, and we must clearly know who we are in Christ to stand firm instead of acquiescing to who our culture says we should be.
Another way the Enemy tries to change our identities is by making it seem foolish to remain faithful to God. In Daniel's day, this attempt to shift perceptions about God was approached in a tribal way, often through conquest and assimilation. These days it's done through many different methods, from comedy and satire to controversy and scandal within the church. If the Devil can discredit the Bible and disgrace the church through division, dissension, and immorality, then he's succeeded.
As a result, most Christians today are intimidated by the world. We've become convinced we should keep our faith private, relegated to church one day a week. The world is so bold in expressing its multitude of beliefs, convictions, and "personal truths," while Christians are shamed into silence, so embarrassed by their faith that they become apologetic in a way that has nothing to do with sharing the gospel.
This is exactly what our Enemy wants to accomplish through a cultural identity change. He wants to distract us from focusing on our relationships with God and instead get us to focus on pleasing others, being enslaved to their approval. It's easy to get caught up in the number of likes, Facebook friends, positive comments, and retweets we can accumulate. It feels good to have this seemingly clear proof that we have value, that our choices have value, that they are right. It's intoxicating, this twenty-four-hour access to continual validation.
I struggle with the desire to please others as much as anyone. We might have an amazing service on Sunday with record-breaking attendance and more than a hundred decisions for Christ, and yet it only takes one negative, critical e-mail about that service to ruin my day. Instead of giving God glory for all the wonderful things that happened in that service, I get hung up wondering what I could do to please that one person who didn't like our church. I have to remind myself it's not about what I'm doing; it's about what God's doing through me, through others, through the church.
Otherwise, this shift in focus, this distraction, this change in who we orient our lives around, accomplishes the exact same thing as the changing of captives' names in ancient Babylon. Our identities shift when we value those looking at the art more than the Artist.
Your New (Old) Name
When culture shifts, we need to know who we are. Scripture tells us this truth: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jer. 1:5). You are who God made you to be. You are a unique, beloved child of the Lord of the universe, your Creator, Redeemer, and Savior. You have a unique purpose for your life that no one else has had or will ever have. You are a coheir with Jesus, adopted into the family of the King and granted eternal life with him in heaven after your mortal life on earth has ended (Rom. 8:17). This is your true identity.
Unless we're grounded in who God made us to be, the way we see ourselves will easily morph into an illusion — a cultural mirage. The truth of who we are will still be unshaken, but it will be covered with a veneer of lies. How does this happen? We lose sight of our God-given identity and act according to an off-kilter mental self-portrait: "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7 NKJV).
Our Enemy has become adept at convincing us to accept false labels. First, he gets us to accept cultural definitions of who we are. When we do, others around us get to create the standards for how we measure up — or more often, how we don't.
From peer pressure to cultural standards of beauty and success, our society continually directs our focus to external qualities. Stereotypes, or labels for people largely based on their appearances, rely on the same strategy. They reduce us to the lowest common denominator until we see ourselves, and eventually others, as only a redneck, a blonde, plus-sized, or disabled. These may be our physical characteristics, some of which affect our perspectives and worldviews, but they don't define who we are. Many of us would say we know that, but if we hear people tell us often enough that we're no good because of some trait, then we may start to believe it, however subconsciously.
Another way the Enemy utilizes false labels is by convincing us to allow our past to define who we are. He calls us "liar" or "hypocrite," "failure" or "unclean." This is the big one — the struggle so many of us have that drags us down and undermines our faith. We overlook the fact that God knows every moment of our past and loves us as if he didn't. In fact, he wants to redeem our past, but too often we get in the way because we refuse to let go of our old labels.
The glorious truth is that when we let God control our lives, he gives us a new identity. We see this gift displayed in the Bible in the way God so frequently changed the names of those people who encountered his love and forgiveness in a dramatic way. Jacob went from being a coward, who deceived his father and conned his brother out of his birthright, to being Israel, the nation of God's chosen people. Abram went from being a wandering nomad with a problem telling the truth, to Abraham, an unlikely father at an old age whom God blessed for all generations. Then there were Peter (Simeon) and Paul (Saul) in the New Testament — two more examples of new identities proclaimed by new names.
Excerpted from "The Daniel Dilemma"
Copyright © 2017 Chris Hodges.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Lysa TerKeurst ix
Introduction: Balancing Act-Standing Firm and Loving Well xiii
Part I Culture's Greatest Impact: Confused Identities
Chapter 1 The Attempt to Rename Me 3
Chapter 2 The Strategy to Tame Me 20
Chapter 3 The Test to Claim Me 37
Part II Culture's Greatest Test: Whom Will I Worship?
Chapter 4 When They Say I Must 55
Chapter 5 When They Say I Can't 73
Chapter 6 When They Question God's Right to Be God 90
Part III Culture's Greatest Question: Who Is in Charge of My Life?
Chapter 7 End-Times Insanity 109
Chapter 8 The Art of Dying 124
Chapter 9 It's a Control Issue 142
Part IV Culture's Greatest Culprit: Unfocused and Busy Lives
Chapter 10 My Days Are Numbered 159
Chapter 11 My Life Is Unbalanced 173
Chapter 12 My Heart Is Divided 186
Part V Culture's Greatest Need: Truth and Grace
Chapter 13 Connecting Before Correcting 201
Chapter l4 The Secret of Influence 219
Chapter 15 How Then Shall We Live? 233
Conclusion: When Is Jesus Coming Back? 250
About the Author 263
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
LOVE this book. So much good stuff in here. Chris gets to the core of things and gives simple, yet effective ways to stand strong in a world of compromise. How do we stand for our Christian beliefs yet love others? I’m not an expert but I know I have somehow manged to do it in my classroom. One of my students who is very open about his lifestyle tells me my class is his happy, safe place. I didn’t create that by preaching at him I created that by being kind and listening to him. He knows what I believe yet he sees that I care about him. I will never condone his lifestyle but I will love him. Chris gives practical advice how we all can do that. I have highlighted so much from this book I can’t share it all but here are a views quotes: “Truth without grace is mean. Grace without truth is meaningless. Truth and grace together are good medicine.” “Worship is not about responsive readings or singing hymns. Worship is surrendering yourself to the power, majesty, and goodness of your Creator, letting God be God — even when you don’t understand what he’s doing or when you disagree.” Love this one: “We should really consider whether we’re willing to give praise to a team of athletes who don’t even know us but stay silent before the God who created us. It all comes down to worship.” There’s so much more but I just suggest you pick up the book and give it a read for yourself. I really enjoyed this. A copy of this book was given to me through Netgalley.com. All opinions are my own.
This book redirects the skewed screams of culture to the Truth of God’s word. There is an art of dying and being reborn into Truth. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made. We are loved, adored, and forgiven. But we’re called to change, to live a life of full redemption and freedom. This surrender is counter-cultural to our desire for independence and control. We’ve been conditioned to what the world has said about hard subjects, but we must surrender and follow our Creator’s guidance. The Daniel Dilemma is part theology and part discipleship. First, Pastor Chris teaches and fills us with Truth and application. Then he guides us on how to disciple others. How do we stand firm and love well? What does that look like? How do we best live by example? This book will equip you to be bold, love deep, give grace, and be free in sharing whose you are. Every believer needs to read this. Have your tabs and highlighters ready. It will be one of those books you’ll refer back to for years to come. Stand firm, friends. Love God and people well.
The Daniel Dilemma holds within its pages a vivid picture of what it looks like to stand firm and love well in a broken world. Teaching from the book of Daniel, Chris Hodges writes how a person can be passionate about God's truth and compassionate towards people by sharing Daniel's character and story from the Old Testament. From commonly heard Bible stories like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to more unfamiliar stories like Daniel's interactions with King Darius, The Daniel Dilemma sheds light on how bold faith and gentle love need not be at odds. Hodges keeps his readers enamored and his book engaging through sharing personal experiences, insightful quotes, and practical applications. Not to mention, the pastoral voice that remains from cover to cover also gives a person the sense that they are in a conversation with an old friend rather than reading a book. To say this book is a must read is an understatement. Today's society is in desperate need of fresh perspective and clear teaching regarding God's command and God's commission. It is this societal, and more so human, need that The Daniel Dilemma discusses explicitly.
It's the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance. This book shows us how to love well and stand firm at the same time.
Such an important message for us today. It can often feel like we have to choose between standing up for what we believe and loving others, but The Daniel Dilemma shows us through the examples of Daniel and Jesus, that not only CAN we do both, but that it is BETTER when we do both.
Such a timely read! I love that I can use what I learn from this book in real-life situations.