Thursday, December 28, 2017

Daniel 9:8-9, 18 (ESV)
[8] To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. [9]  To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him

[18]  O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.

When believers, who are well versed in their Bibles, think of Daniel 9 they often think of the last paragraph that contains a prophecy of the restoration of Jerusalem and of the Abomination of Desolation that Matthew 24 makes reference to. It is a passage that dispensationalists hold as important in understanding End Times prophecy. But, there is so much more to this chapter.

Daniel’s prayer is especially revealing. First, Daniel prays for the restoration of Jerusalem because he found in the writings of Jeremiah that there was to be 70 years between the destruction of the city and its rebuilding. Daniel’s prayer was based on God’s revelation. Our prayers too ought to be based on God’s Word, not our wish and our will.

Second, Daniel’s request is not based on what he thinks God’s people deserve, but on the mercy of God. Too often we approach prayer as though it were a bargain with God. “God, I’ve been good. Please grant me this wish.” It sounds a lot like a child on Santa’s lap. “Have you been a good little boy or girl? What do you want for Christmas?” But Daniel understands that a petition grounded in our goodness is pointless. Rather, he honestly acknowledges the sin of God’s people, and then asks for restoration based on the mercy of God. “For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy” (Dan 9:18).

Evangelicals would give their lives for the gospel of salvation by grace through faith, not of works (see Eph 2:8-9). Yet when it comes to living out their faith, and especially when it comes to their prayer life, they tend towards a works based belief system. We so easily slip into the theology of Job’s comforters. We begin to believe that bad things happen because we are bad. Prayers are not answered because we do not have enough faith, or because we have not been good enough. But prayers are never answered because we are good enough. Prayers are answered because we served a gracious and merciful God. And how much faith equals that of a mustard seed? Surely not much. We deserve nothing, yet God has granted us more blessings then we can count.

Johnson Oatman Jr. published a song in 1897 that comes to mind: Count Your Blessings. Our blessings are more than we can count even in the darkest hours. When we live in a theology of works, we fail to see and acknowledge the great blessings of God’s mercy and grace. When we believe that God hears us because we are good, or because we have enough faith, our eyes are constantly on us. We are looking to see if we are good enough. We are trying to muster up enough faith. But the mature believer knows that our eyes are to be fixed not on us, but on our Savior. It is his mercy that grants us innumerable blessings. It is his grace that accepts us and invites us into his throne room. And it is his peace that surrounds us not because of who we are, but because of who he is.

“We do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy” (Dan 9:18). So, let us be honest about our weakness, our brokenness, and our sin, and let us turn our eyes to Jesus, “The founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2). I love the lyrics of the old Irish hymn written somewhere around 14 centuries ago:

Be Thou my Vision
O Lord of my heart
Nought be all else to me
Save that Thou art
Thou my best thought
By day or by night
Waking or sleeping
Thy presence my light

It is not about us. It is about Him.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Daniel 8:27 (ESV)
[27] And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

Two thoughts struck me as I read Daniel 8 multiple times over the past week or so. First, the great power of the Medes and Persians was a force against which no one could stand (Dan 8:4). Still, a more powerful force came against it and conquered it. We are often impressed by the power of a nation, the intelligence of a scientist or professor, the personal magnetism of an individual, or the influence of those our world considers important. Yet there is always someone greater; there is always some force more powerful. Those we are so impressed with are just people in the end. There is always someone greater. The standard by which we measure greatness is not the standard God uses.

Second, even though Gabriel was told to give Daniel understanding, in the end Daniel says, “I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it” (Dan 8:27). Daniel was overwhelmed with what he saw, but he did not understand it. We do not need to understand all of scripture. We do not need to have a clear understanding of the End Times. Perhaps if we did understand, we would be as appalled as Daniel, as overwhelmed with God’s greatness, man’s evil, and how the story will end.

Whether we understand, or are clueless, we can trust. Whether we are people of power, or powerless, we can understand that the greatest force is God himself. We do not see the future. We cannot fully comprehend how things will end. We do not have the ability to bring about things as we would like. What we can know is that God saw it all long before we were born. He has planned the end from the beginning. The power of people and spirits are ultimately powerless. Only God stands above creation. We can rest in that truth.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

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 of what I am 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).

Saturday, December 16, 2017

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 “And 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 to 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 you or what they say about you. Are you willing to go there?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What is the role of obedience in the life of the Believer? I just discovered something I wrote over 20 years ago that addresses that question. Let me share it with you.

            What is the relationship of obedience to the life of the believer? Is obedience important? Does God care if I obey him? Am I saved if I do not obey God? If salvation is by grace, through faith, not of works, then where does obedience fit in? How does grace and obedience relate to one another? These are difficult questions that we struggle with for, on the one hand we do not want to develop a works centered salvation that somehow merits God’s approval. On the other hand we have too many verses in the Bible that talk about obedience to simply throw it out the window altogether. If I am to go on in my Christian life in the same way I began, and I am, then I must be careful that I do not develop a works centered understanding of sanctification either. Yet, I cannot ignore the fact that God calls me to obey him. Nor can I ignore the fact that when God speaks of obedience he speaks authoritatively, that is, I am to obey because of his authority, not just because I happen to feel like it. How do I put all this together? Let’s begin by asking and attempting to answer a few basic questions.
How was I saved? Was I saved by works or by grace? I was saved by grace, through faith, not of works (Ephesians 2.8-9). Did I come to God or did He draw me to himself? When I came to faith in Christ I heard that I must receive Jesus as my savior by faith. I did that. As I look back, however, I understand that both the desire to be saved, and the ability to believe Him were gifts of grace from God. Jesus said no one can come to him unless the Father draws them (John 6.44). So I received and believed, but I received and believed because the Father was drawing me even though I did not understand that at the time. My salvation, then, was not of works, but of grace appropriated by faith as a result of the Spirit of God convicting and drawing me to Christ.
How am I made holy? I am made holy, or sanctified in three ways. First, I am sanctified already by faith in Christ, that is, I have been separated from the penalty and power of sin. Second, I am in the process of practically experiencing, or living out sanctification in this life, that is, I am being separated from the practice of sin. Third, I will be eternally sanctified when I am with Christ, that is, I will be separated from the penalty, power, practice, and presence of sin for ever.
How does the process of being separated from the practice of sin work?  Through the Word, the Church, and the Holy Spirit, as well as His discipline, and the circumstances of life that God has complete control over, He is working in me both the desire and ability to do that which pleases Him (Philippians 2.13).
Does God really care whether I do that which pleases Him? Is obedience important? Absolutely! There are too many verses in the Bible that stress obedience for us to suggest that it is not important.
Why is obedience so important if I relate to him by grace instead of works? Obedience has nothing to do with gaining God’s approval or getting Him to like us. Why I obey is as important as how I obey. I do not obey to gain God’s approval, I obey in response to His approval. “We love him because He first loved us”(1John 4.19). It has everything to do with who we are in Christ. A diamond should never act like a piece of glass, though many a piece of glass has attempted to imitate a diamond. We are a diamond in Christ. When Paul was asked, “Should I keep sinning so God’s grace will be even greater?” He protested in response, “God forbid! How shall we who are dead to sin keep living in it?” The motivation for obedience is not in attempting to find God’s approval or somehow trying to get on His good side. We are already approved! We are already on His good side. The motivation for obedience is simply that anything less is directly contrary to who we are. We aren’t sinners anymore. We are possessors of new life, God’s life. Disobedience is simply, and completely, inconsistent with who we are. But I still feel like a sinner. That is not the point. God never asks you to live consistent with who you feel you are, but with who He knows you to be on the basis or your relationship to Christ. Take it by faith!
But there is my problem. I keep trying to obey and I keep failing. I know that I am a new creature in Christ but I keep living like the old man. What am I doing wrong? Failure is a part of the process. Failure keeps casting us back in dependence on God until I finally cry out in total frustration, “Who shall deliver me?” God gently responds back, “ I have delivered you! What you cannot do, I have already done in Christ, and I have empowered you by my Spirit. Just trust me.” (Romans 8). In the same way that I appropriated salvation by faith as a result of God’s grace, I can now appropriate God’s power over sin by faith as a result of His grace.
So obedience is the result of the life of Christ reckoned to me and the work of the Spirit within me? Yes. Both the motivation to obey, and the ability to obey find their source in God. Remember Philippians 2.13, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
What is the relationship of obedience to the life of the believer? Obedience is the normal expression of the Spirit filled life. Is obedience important? Absolutely, because anything less is inconsistent with who I am. Does God care if I obey him? Certainly He does, for He loves me too much to be satisfied with sin in my life. He does not want to see me living beneath my position in Christ. Am I saved if I do not obey God? Yes, the gaining, and keeping of our salvation is not dependent on what we do, but on what Christ did. We will never completely escape the influence of sin in this life, we will only understand more and more how deeply that influence goes and how gracious God is in relating to us on the basis of Christ, not works. If salvation is by grace, through faith, not of works, then where does obedience fit in? Obedience is the practical expression of our salvation. How does grace and obedience relate to one another? Obedience is the result of God’s grace in my life.
Two more questions then. First, how should I view God’s commands in scripture, and how should I teach them? Every command of God is scripture that he expects you to obey is an expression of the life of Christ. For example, when God says, “Love your neighbor.” What He is really saying is, “I have shed abroad my love in your heart and I desire to express is through you to your neighbor.” (See Romans 5.5). I respond to God’s commands by recognizing them as expressions of the life of Christ and recognizing my dependence on Him to express them in keeping with His holiness. Someone once said that we should view every command of God as a promise. God is saying that this is what he will produce in us. Second, Does that mean that I shouldn’t do anything unless I feel like it in order to ensure that I am following the Spirit’s leading? No, that is not what it means. The Spirit speaks to us through the Word as well as in our hearts. Therefore, when God’s word commands, I respond in submissive, dependent obedience, recognizing my need for Him to work His work through me. The Christian life is a life of active obedience that flows out of rest in the provisions of Christ.

I must never back away from the concept of obedience, but I must always understand it in terms of submission and dependence, never in terms of acceptance and approval. I must never think of spiritual life as a formula, add 2 parts confession, 1 part prayer, 3 parts obedience and I’m spiritual. I must understand spiritual life as a process of growth. God is in the process of taking me through experiences in life that He will use to motivate me, hone me, guide me, mold me into His image by His grace as I appropriate His life through faith.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Daniel 5:29-31 (ESV)
[29] Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
[30]  That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. [31]  And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

The glory of man is short-lived at best. Daniel was clothed with royal clothing, given a gold chain to wear, and made third in the kingdom. He would have been the envy of every wise man, counselor, and noble in the kingdom. Yet Daniel knew that it meant nothing. By morning it was all gone. Babylon had fallen to Persia. Whatever glory the Babylonian king had conferred on Daniel was meaningless. There was a new king in town.

The world has not really changed. People are still vying for wealth and attention. But it is short-lived. The idols of my youth are now dead or old. There are new idols, new gods of the media, new “beautiful people.” But it won’t last. So many die young. The few that live to old age often live in emptiness with little hope or meaning. The glory of this world is fleeting. The wealth of this world cannot stop the process of death that grips us all. We strive for a big house only to discover that we don’t need all that room any more and it is too much to take care of. We strive for wealth only to give it all to the medical professionals. We work hard to stay healthy only to discover that eventually our health fails us. The glory of this world fades, and it fades quickly.

Belshazzar was king. Much of the known world was under his control. He felt secure in his position. He reveled in his glory and wealth. Then a hand wrote on the wall, and by morning he was dead. Ecclesiastes is right. In Ecclesiastes 2:17-19 Solomon wrote,

So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.

If the wealth and glory of this life are all that we have then what is the point? It will all turn to dust one day. Someone will sort through our stuff. They will hoard it, sell it, or throw it in the trash. One man told me he was buying stuff and storing it in his garage so that when he died his kids would have to get rid of it. If that is the biggest goal we have in our hearts, to amass stuff in order for someone else to get rid of it, we have too small a goal. If that is all our lives are about then we have too small a life. We have learned nothing from Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Daniel.

What are you giving your life to? Temporal stuff or eternal value? Learn from Daniel. Let us humble our hearts before God and pursue only that which lasts for eternity. What are you giving your life to?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Daniel 4:1-3 (ESV)
[1] King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! [2] It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
[3] How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

We are always enamored with our own creations. We are intrigued by our own photographs. When we look at a group photo we always look for ourselves. We want to know what we look like. Let’s face it, we are a narcissistic people. The same is true in politics. Leaders from around the world brag, boast, threaten, and insinuate, jockeying for positions of power. All the time they are unaware of the truth Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way. They have no power but that which has been granted them by the Most High God.

Nebuchadnezzar was impressed with his own greatness. God took his mind from him for a period of time in order to show him that it is only God who is great. Anything Nebuchadnezzar accomplished was at the mercy of God. “(God’s) kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation” (Dan 4:3). Our present-day politicians, business leaders, and spiritual leaders would do well to remember that.

Whether or not we are in positions of power and influence, this is a truth we must never forget. We talk and act as though the President of the United States has some power to change the world. We talk and act as though terrorists and warmongers offer a real threat. We talk and act as though the economy is in out of control, and business leaders have the ability to control the economic and political outcomes of nations and peoples. But the truth is, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1).
Daniel 4:34b -35(ESV)
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
 and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will” (Dan 4:35). What if we thought, talked, lived, and acted as though that is actually true?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A friend had a couple questions from my last post. He wondered about my reference to God's reputation, and about my reference to a war of the gods. It occurred to me that others may have the same questions so I will post my response to his questions here.

I’m going to answer you second question first. Deut 10:17 calls God, "God of gods and Lord of lords." Ps 136:2 says, "Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting." It reminds me of Paul's words in 1 Cor 8:4-6:

[4] Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” [5] For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— [6] yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

In other words, you are correct that there is but one God, yet there are the gods of the world. Paul equates the gods of the world with demons in 1Cor 10:20. A war of the gods then is both a battle of faith systems, and a conflict between demons and God. War does not mean that both sides are equal, or even comparable. It does not imply that either side might win. The point is that God is God of gods. He is master of angels and demons. Satan constantly tries to lift himself up as the god of this world. 2Cor 4:4 calls him the "god of this world." Yet even though he believes himself to be an equal to God, there is no contest. In Daniel, God was demonstrating his superiority. The phrase "a battle of the gods" is a reference to the superiority of God over the gods of Babylon (whether demons masquerading as gods, or simply man-made belief systems). Either way, God demonstrated his superiority. So, are there gods other than God? Yes and no. There is no God but god, yet Satan and his demons often masquerade as gods. To go back to Paul, on the one hand idols are nothing. On the other hand idols are demons. There is a sense in which both are true.

As to your first question: The reputation of God is always on the line in the lives of those who claim to follow him. There will always be those who malign God. There will always be those who look at evil in the world and blame God. God's reputation is not on the line in the sense that he is on the verge of making a bad decision. It is on the line in the sense that his followers are often on the verge of making bad decisions. In Daniel 3 the three young men acted in a manner that brought glory to their God. It did not matter whether God spared them. What mattered was that they would not dishonor him by bowing to the King's statue. What unbelievers know or believe about God is often based on what they see in his followers. My goal in life is not to preserve my comfort, but to exalt the reputation of my God. To say it another way, my goal is to glorify my God. In Daniel, whether he spared the three men, or allowed them to burn, his reputation would have been preserved because these three men were willing to put their lives on the line for their God. Not many are willing to do that. God acts to draw men to himself. In Dan 3 God chose to do that through sparing his followers and demonstrating his power over the Babylonian gods and the king's fire. In the end God will be glorified. The real challenge is whether I, as a believer, am living to glorify him now, or simply living to pursue my own personal peace and affluence. God's reputation is on the line every day in the decisions that I make. Thus Jesus instructs us, "...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5:16).

I hope you find these clarifications helpful.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Daniel 3:13 (ESV)
[13] Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. [14] Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? [15] Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Nebuchadnezzar had an image made that was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. He then called everyone together for a dedication of the image. The dedication was apparently not the issue for Daniel’s friends. They appear to have been at the dedication. The issue came when they were instructed to worship the image. We might be tempted to think that this is just semantics. The word worship means to bow down. Maybe he wasn’t asking them to actually worship the image, but just to honor it. But the chapter clearly connects the image with the other gods of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar says to Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, “You do not serve my gods or worship the golden image” (Dan 3:14). Further, he claims that there is no god capable of delivering them from his power. This is a battle of the gods.

This is not about protecting these three friends. They are willing to die for their faith. What is at stake here is more than their lives. It is the reputation of their God. It is fascinating that Nebuchadnezzar has men throw them into the furnace for him, but when he sees them walking unharmed in the furnace with a fourth individual, he personally goes to the furnace and calls them out. Nebuchadnezzar realized that their God is a god like he has never seen or heard of before. The gods of the world, the gods of the Babylonians are only as powerful as their ruthless kings, but here is a God who is more powerful than fire, which destroys everything. Here is a God over whom Nebuchadnezzar has no power. This was a battle of the gods, and his gods lost royally.

He did not respond by requiring everyone to worship their God, but he did make a law that no one was allowed to disrespect their God. God’s reputation was on the line. In the end God was glorified. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were more concerned about the reputation of their God than they were about their own lives. It reminds me of Paul’s words in Romans 12:1-2,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.   Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Or his words in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego put their lives on the line for the reputation of their God. We, on the other hand, have a hard time missing a meal for the reputation of our God. Perhaps we do not know our God as well as we would like to think. My new Ukrainian friend in Odessa grew up with a father in Russian prisons because he was a Baptist minister. He spent 17 years in prison because of his faith. Believers in many countries around the world put their lives on the line daily for the sake of their faith. We complain if the heat is to high or to low, or the music is too loud, or too slow.

Sometimes I wonder if we really know the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at all. At the end of Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar recognized that there is no god like Daniel’s God. At the end of chapter 3 he made a law that no one was to disrespect their God. How often does our attitude, words, or lifestyle disrespect the God who revealed dreams to Daniel and spared his friends from the fiery furnace. Have we forgotten that we worship the same God they did? May our lives glorify him today rather than disrespect him, as is too often the case. The reputation of our God is on the line every day. May people see Jesus in me today. May he be glorified.

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 abso...