Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Daniel 11

Daniel 11:1 (ESV)

“And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.


The individual speaking in the above verse is the angel who brought a message to Daniel from God. An angel from God confirmed and strengthened a pagan king. How can that be? That is the same question Habakkuk had. He cried out to God, “When are you going to judge your people for their sin?” God answered, “Judgment is coming at the hands of the Chaldeans.” Habakkuk’s next question was, “God, how can you use them to judge us? They are worse than we are.” He was asking how  God could possibly use a pagan king. The question in Daniel is: How can an angel from God confirm and strengthen a pagan king?


Here in the United States of America some have been saying that Donald Trump is God’s anointed for leading this country. Others have been asking: How can God possibly anoint a man like Donald Trump? My question is: No matter who ends up in the white house after this next election, can you accept that God placed him there? Now, it is true that in the previous chapter of Daniel we saw that evil angels, or demons, can influence a leader and a country, yet Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” How do we put that together?


Let’s establish a foundational truth here as we try to answer that question. God can and does use people who are not committed believers. If he can use a donkey to speak to a prophet, he can use anyone (see Numbers 22). For example, Isaiah 45:1 says, “Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus.” God calls Cyrus king of Persia his anointed. He anointed him for specific purposes, “to subdue nations . . . to loose the belts of kings, to open doors . . . that may not be closed.” A pagan king was God’s anointed.


Since Donald Trump is president of the United States of America we acknowledge that he is there by God’s will and purpose. If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris become the next President/vice-president of the United States, they will be there by God’s will and purpose. What God’s purpose is, he has not revealed. Can either of these, Trump or Biden, be influenced by demons rather than angels? Certainly, just at the Persian kings were influenced by demonic forces. But demonic powers can only go as far as God allows. There is a great battle in spiritual realms, but the good news is that God sets the parameters of the battle. Satan prides himself in being King of the World (see John 12:31), yet despite his delusion about being as great as God, his power and his time is limited.


We cannot see what is happening behind the scenes in the spiritual realm. Therefore, we need to be careful about calling anyone in political power either demonic or anointed by God. God knows. God is working his purpose. Whether it is a purpose of judgment or blessing, only time will tell, but God is working his purpose. Let us be careful then not to malign or exalt someone beyond what we can know. God knows. He is working his purpose. In that truth we rest, wait, and watch. In that truth we find hope even in the darkest times.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Habakkuk 3:16-19

 Habakkuk 3:16-19 (ESV)

[16] I hear, and my body trembles;

my lips quiver at the sound;

rottenness enters into my bones;

my legs tremble beneath me.

Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble

to come upon people who invade us.

[17] Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

[18] yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

[19] GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.


As Habakkuk lays his concerns before God throughout this short book, his thoughts turn to the greatness of God. He reflects on God’s power, his majesty, and his frightening, awe inspiring presence. An awareness of God’s powerful majesty takes the strength out of his body. “my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me” (Hab 3:16). But as God said, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9). Habakkuk finds himself experiencing weakness in the presence of God, but it is in that weakness that he can finally say, “I will quietly wait” (Hab 3:16).


When we face difficulties, attacks, failure, or pain, we try to build up our courage and be strong. We even say really spiritual sounding things like, “Never question God,” or “Never ask why.” But that is not what Habakkuk did. He questioned God. He honestly laid out before the Almighty his questions, fears, and concerns. In his confusion he encountered God. Having reflected on the power and majesty of the Almighty he gave up trying to be strong. In his weakness he came to understand that God had everything under control. He did not have to be strong. “God, the Lord, is my strength” (Hab 3:9). His strength was not in his own ability to screw up courage and stumble on. His strength was in contemplating the immense greatness of God himself. God’s strength was made perfect in Habakkuk’s weakness.


When we are facing things too big for us, too painful, too difficult, too challenging, stop trying to be strong. Turn your eyes to Jesus. Be honest with him about your weakness, fear, uncertainty, and inabilities. Reflect on the greatness of God himself, and let his strength sustain you. With Habakkuk we can say, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab 3:18). It is in our weakness that the power of God shows up. Rest in him.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Habakkuk 2:2-4

 Habakkuk 2:2-4 (ESV)

[2] And the LORD answered me:

“Write the vision;

make it plain on tablets,

so he may run who reads it.

[3] For still the vision awaits its appointed time;

it hastens to the end—it will not lie.

If it seems slow, wait for it;

it will surely come; it will not delay.

[4] “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,

but the righteous shall live by his faith.

 As believers we give lip service to faith, but too often walk by sight. When we can’t see God’s judgment coming against evil and injustice, we begin to doubt. When we can’t see relief coming in our time frame, we wonder if God has abandoned us, forgotten us, or rejected us. Our faith is based on our sight rather than our sight being based on faith. The LORD answered Habakkuk, “The righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab 2:4).

What does it mean to live by faith? It means to trust God’s word when we don’t see how it is possible. It means to trust God’s presence when we can’t feel him there. It means to walk in God’s ways when we don’t see the benefit. For Habakkuk it meant being assured of God’s judgment coming even when he couldn’t see it and didn’t understand how God could bring it the way he indicated. Walking by faith means that I read the scriptures and listen to the Spirit. It means I see my world through the lens of the Bible and the Spirit, not the other way around.

What does your experience tell you? Does it tell you that the wicked keep getting away with their wickedness. Believe that it will not always be so. Does your experience tell you that the world is getting worse and worse, and that the Enemy is winning. Believe that it will not always be so. Does your experience tell you that there is no value in self-denial or sacrifice? Believe that the reward is coming. With Habakkuk we must learn to live by faith and not by sight. That is why it is so important to be meditating on God’s Word daily. It helps us keep a faith perspective for the righteous live by faith.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Habakkuk 1:3-6

Habakkuk 1:3-6 (ESV)

[3] Why do you make me see iniquity,

and why do you idly look at wrong?

Destruction and violence are before me;

strife and contention arise.

[4] So the law is paralyzed,

and justice never goes forth.

For the wicked surround the righteous;

so justice goes forth perverted.

[5] “Look among the nations, and see;

wonder and be astounded.

For I am doing a work in your days

that you would not believe if told.

[6] For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,

that bitter and hasty nation,

who march through the breadth of the earth,

to seize dwellings not their own.


In this first chapter of Habakkuk the prophet struggles with two injustices. First, the people of God are living in sin. They are not living by God’s Law. Habakkuk knows that the Covenant under which they live says that God will judge his people if they do not keep his law, yet he sees no judgment coming. How can God let this go on?

 The second injustice comes from God’s response. He will not let this go on. He will send the Chaldeans to judge his people. This throws Habakkuk into further confusion. The Chaldeans are worse than God’s own people. How can he use such evil people to judge his own people?

 God has an answer in the next chapter, but for now, suffice it to say that we tend to look at life through a very narrow lens. If we do not see God answering now, we wonder where he is. If ungodly people prosper, we wonder if God really has the control he claims to have. God sees things through an eternal lens. When he says that people will not get away with their sin, you can believe it. God is playing the long game.

 We can only see the present and remember the past. God has the future in his hands. What we see as ungodly people getting away with their sin, God sees as giving them just a little more time to repent. They won’t get away with it in the long run. What we see as a tragedy God sees as motivation to turn to him. Habakkuk can’t believe that God would send the Chaldeans to judge his people. That is unbelievable in his world. Yet God had a plan and they would not get away with their violence forever. The truth is they were eventually destroyed by the Persians. The Persians then allowed God’s people to rebuild their land. God knew what he was doing.

 In our own world we give lip service to the God of justice, power, majesty, and glory, yet we often live with the fear and consternation of Habakkuk. How can this go on? Well, it won’t. The good news is that God promises, one day “every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom 14:11-12). So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” It may look like the world is spinning out of control and the ungodly have the upper hand, but the game is not finished. One day all will be set right. Count on it. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Daniel 7 (Pt 3)

Daniel 7:17-18 (ESV)

These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth.  But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.


That is the message of Daniel 7. Four kings. The fourth, a destructive kingdom. The fourth will devour, break, and stomp on everyone and everything. Devastation and destruction will follow him. He will make war with the saints and prevail over them (Dan 7:21). Thankfully that is not the end of the sentence. Daniel 7:21-22 says, “This horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them,” until the Ancient of Days came. When The Ancient of Days comes, “judgment is given to the saints of the Most High, and the saints possess the kingdom.”


Bad things happen to good people. We live in a broken world under the influence of the Enemy. Unfortunately, when bad things happen we often begin to doubt the goodness of God. “Where is God?” we cry out. “Why doesn’t he hear? Why doesn’t he do something?” We want immediate relief. We want immediate answers. But God is not a tame God to jump at our every whim and will. He is working a plan set before the foundation of the world.


Jesus warned that bad things would happen to those who follow him. Jesus said in Matthew 24:9-10,


[9] “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. [10] And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.


In John 16:1-2 he warned,


[1] “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. [2]  They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.


The American church in particular has fallen for the lie that if we follow Jesus everything will be wonderful, comfortable, and easy. When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, he called them to come and die. That is the call he places on each of us as believers. Come and die, for you have been crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20). Come and die, for you are indeed dead to sin and raised with Christ to new life (Rom 6:1-4).


We tend to focus on the new life part and forget the dead part. This world will continue to grow darker. The king of the fourth kingdom will make war with the saints and prevail over them (Dan 7:21). It is the next word, the first word of verse 22, that changes everything, “But.” When it feels like the world is prevailing, when if seems like the Enemy has won, when it looks like the church has lost the battle, remember that “but.” It leads us to victory. The little horn of the fourth kingdom will make war with the saints and prevail over them, “But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever” (Dan 7:21-22).


It is always darkest before the dawn they say. Sometimes the darkness is palpable. Sometimes the darkness is so thick you can touch it. Sometimes the darkness seems to engulf everything in its blackness, but. . . The darker it gets the closer to dawn we are.


Whatever is happening in your life, you can trust God. No matter how dark it gets, we have this assurance that our full victory is yet to come. We will one day possess the kingdom, and that possession will never end. Believe it!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Daniel 7 (Pt 2)

Daniel 7:27 (ESV)

[27]  And the kingdom and the dominion

and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven

shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;

 his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,

and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

 Looking back through history the kingdoms of the world have been powerful and glorious. Some of them have been destructive. Some have been unifying and peaceful. But in the end, for all that they achieved, they came to an end. No kingdom of mankind is eternal. But “His kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom” (Dan 7:27). No glory compares to God’s glory. No greatness compares to God’s greatness. No kingdom compares to God’s kingdom. “All dominions shall serve and obey him” (Dan 7:27).

The great kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome have all fallen. Their glory lies in ruins. It seems that every generation has a different ruler or nation threatening mankind’s peace, or even its existence. But in the end, they all fall. The same could be said of personal glory. Business men grow empires only to be replaced by someone else. The wealthy build immense homes only to leave it behind when they die. Ecclesiastes is right when it concludes that all is vanity under the sun.

 That raises the question: What am I building? Am I giving my life to that which will last for eternity, or am I building an empire of reputation, wealth, experiences, or stuff that will all be left behind? Am I giving my life to building that which is under the sun, or to he who created the sun? The glory of this world will fade, but God’s glory lasts forever. In the words of Joshua, “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Josh 24:15).

Monday, September 28, 2020

Daniel 7 (Pt 1)

Daniel 7:1 (ESV)

[1] In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter.

 Daniel’s vision of four beasts in chapter 7 left him anxious and alarmed (Dan 7:15), so he asked the meaning of the vision. You would think that after an explanation of the vision Daniel’s anxiety would disappear, but that is not the case. After the explanation Daniel wrote, “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart” (Dan 7:28).

 What is going on here that has Daniel so deeply concerned? He was told that the beasts are four kings. It is the fourth king that has Daniel so troubled. Daniel 7:23 (ESV)

[23] “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,

there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,

which shall be different from all the kingdoms,

and it shall devour the whole earth,

and trample it down, and break it to pieces.

That is enough to cause anyone to go pale. This is a kingdom different from all other kingdoms. It is a worldwide kingdom whose characteristic is devastation and destruction. It is enough to leave Daniel pale and alarmed.

There is good news in the vision, but the bad news is so overwhelming that Daniel hardly takes notice of it. The Son of Man came before the Ancient of Days, and

             [14] And to him was given dominion

and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one

that shall not be destroyed.

 That is the kingdom Jesus talked so much about. That is the kingdom that believers in Jesus Christ have been given a down payment on in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is the kingdom we anticipate and look forward to. And yet, with Daniel, the earthly kingdom often leaves us pale and alarmed. The worldwide kingdom of destruction is the bad news. The kingdom of the Son of Man is the good news. There is hope even in the darkness.

 Few people really like change. We have our established rhythms of life that we are comfortable with. We go to work. We go to the grocery store. We take time off for rest and recreation, at least some of us do. These rhythms are what we are comfortable with. When someone comes in and forces a change on us, we get anxious. Just look at the worldwide effect of Covid-19. People are wearing masks. People are not allowed to gather as they once did. Life is changing. In reaction people are anxious. People are irritated. People look for someone to blame.

 The truth is, nothing stays the same. Life changes. People get old. People get diseases. People die. Change is forced on us. But there is hope in the darkness. Whether we are facing a worldwide kingdom of destruction, the devastating news of untreatable cancer, or simply the requirement to wear a mask that makes it difficult to breath, there is good news. In the darkness, may we keep our eyes fixed on the good news of the Son of Man.

 In his kingdom all things will be set right. Death comes to an end. Pain comes to an end. War, disease, and earthly politics come to an end. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:14). In the darkest of times may we take heart in the good news of the King who is coming again.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Daniel 6 (Pt 2)

Daniel 6:8-9 (ESV)

[8] Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” [9] Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.


The contrasts in this chapter of Daniel are revealing. The powerful King Darius is limited by his own law. Once the law is signed, it cannot be changed. Daniel, despite a law that makes it illegal to pray to anyone but the King, continues to pray. Darius is frantic. Daniel is his key man in the kingdom, yet Darius’ own law requires him to put Daniel in the den of lions. Daniel is at peace. There seems to be nothing that shakes Daniel throughout this entire story. Darius has a sleepless night with great anxiety. Daniel appears focused and rested.


[21] Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! [22] My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm” (Dan 6:21-22).


James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” In a series of events that would logically lead to Daniel’s death, Daniel prospered. Under a law that made it illegal to pray, Daniel continued to pray. His steadfast faithfulness was rewarded.


James does not necessarily promise that our faithfulness will be rewarded in this lifetime, but this lifetime is not all there is. This life is simply the test, the precursor to the real thing. For those who are believers in Jesus Christ, there is a life experienced today in relationship to God through the indwelling Spirit. That indwelling Spirit is a down payment on life eternal. Ephesians 1:14 says that the Holy Spirit “is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:22 says that God has “put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”


Daniel did not have that same guarantee, but he did have a knowledge of God’s Word.  He knew that at Solomon’s dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8, Solomon prayed, in verse 48, that if God’s people were in exile and they prayed toward Jerusalem and toward the temple, that God would hear, forgive, and protect his people. That is exactly what Daniel was doing. In Psalms 55:17, King David wrote, “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.” Daniel understood the Old Testament precedent for praying three times a day. This approach to prayer was in line with the evening and morning sacrifices required by the Law of Moses. When Daniel prayed, he was remaining steadfast in his faith, no matter what the consequences might be.


As our world changes and spiritual darkness seems to be gathering like dark storm clouds on the horizon, are we ready to remain steadfast in our faith? Do we know what the scriptures require of us? Like Daniel, may we be a blessing to those around us without compromising the truth of God. Like Daniel, may we remain non-anxious because we know who holds the future. Like Daniel, may we remain steadfastly faithful because we have steadfast faith in the God who holds the nations in his hands.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Daniel 6 (Pt 1)

Daniel 6:6-9 (ESV)

[6] Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! [7] All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. [8] Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” [9] Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.


Daniel 6 sounds an awful lot like the politics of our day. People are jockeying for position, manipulating the system, and either exposing or creating a scandal around their political enemies. It is not about right or truth. It is simply about position and power. Sound familiar?


The significant thing about this story is that Daniel does not allow himself to get caught up in the scandalous politics of his day. He simply continues to act with integrity, and continues to walk with his God. Too often when things look like they are going against us we sink to the world’s level and play by their rules. We begin to talk compromise, we expose scandalous behavior, we play dirty politics like the rest of the world. We rationalize that we are in the world, therefore we must play by the world’s rules. But that is not how Daniel lived.


His prayer was not a protest. It was simply a continuation of biblical behavior. When Solomon dedicated the temple in 1Kings 8 he prayed “Listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive” (1Kng 8:30). Solomon’s prayer was based on the instructions and promises of God given in the Law. When Daniel was praying, he was simply acting on that biblical truth. He was pleading with God toward the location of the desecrated and destroyed temple, knowing that God in heaven heard his prayer. Too often we turn our prayers into public protests. That is not what Daniel was doing.


Three things are significant in this story. First, Daniel never compromised his integrity. His political enemies could find nothing to accuse him of. They could find no wrongdoing, so they had to create a scandal. Second, his integrity landed him in the lion’s den. We sometimes talk and act as though doing the right thing and walking in integrity and truth will always cause things to turn out right. Sometimes it lands us in the lion’s den. Are we willing to die for the integrity of our faith? Daniel was. Third, God protected Daniel and worked his purposes. In the end, Daniel’s political enemies ended up lion food. Daniel was promoted. There is no promise that the story will end up that way for us. The end of Hebrews 11 celebrates the faith of those who died for their faith.


Hebrews 11:35-38 (ESV)

[35]  Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. [36] Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. [37]  They were stoned, they were sawn in two,  they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— [38] of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

 Not everyone who believed God was saved from death. Daniel survived a night with the lions and came out without a scratch. Paul was beaten, stoned, and eventually killed for his faith. Either way, they played by God’s rules, not man’s, and God’s purpose was accomplished. They never compromised their integrity.


What is fascinating is that they were also well liked. Neither Paul nor Daniel were opposed because they were obnoxious about their faith. They were opposed because their integrity and their faithfulness to scripture was seen as an obstacle to those less honorable and more duplicitous. Doing the right thing doesn’t always make everyone happy. On the other hand, just because something seems right to us does not make it right. With Daniel, we need to walk in integrity and biblical faithfulness no matter the consequences. It is time we stop playing the world’s game by the world’s rules. It is time we walk in integrity and biblical faithfulness no matter what people think of us or what they say about us. Are you willing to go there?


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV)

[7] “Will the Lord spurn forever,

and never again be favorable?


The first nine verses of this psalm express absolute hopelessness. The psalmist seeks God, yearns for God, pleads with God, all to no avail. There is no word from God, not answer, no relief. No one but God can bring comfort, and God is not comforting. Psalms 77:3-4 express his despondency and despair:

[3] When I remember God, I moan;

when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

[4] You hold my eyelids open;

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.


Nothing changes until the perspective of the Psalmist changes. Verses 10-11 pivot from a self-perspective to a God-perspective. They move from “Woe is me! When will God fix this?” to “I will remember the deeds of the LORD.”

[10] Then I said, “I will appeal to this,

to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

[11] I will remember the deeds of the LORD;

yes, I will remember your wonders of old.


In our dark hours it is amazing what changes occur when we simply stop thinking of ourself and center our thoughts on who God is rather than what he can do for me. I fear that I sometimes treat God more like a medicine cabinet than an eternal God. He is there to fix things, or to make me feel better when I have a pain or problem. When our thoughts turn from “When will God fix this and make me better?” to “Oh God, how mighty you are!” something changes in us.


Psalm 77 ends with the psalmist reflecting on the power of God. The very next psalm, Psalm 78, begins with these words, “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!” Now, we cannot know whether those two psalms were written together, but God intentionally put them together in our Bible. The Psalms move from despair, to reflecting on who God is, to teaching others about the “the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps 78:4).


Today, whatever darkness you are walking through, I challenge you to turn your thoughts from you to God. Don’t look to him to fix anything. Simply meditate on who he is. Reflect on his past works, and on the expressions of his greatness that surround us. Let your thoughts turn from you and your condition to the Majesty of God that shines through the darkest night. You might find that you even feel better. Or, to use C. S. Lewis’s words, you might find that you are even surprised by joy.

Daniel 11

Daniel 11:1 (ESV) “And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.   The individual spe...