Monday, August 31, 2020

Daniel 5 (Pt 1)

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 anymore 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?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Daniel 4 (Pt 3)

Daniel 4:37 (ESV)

[37] Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

 

Of all the people in the world, who would have expected Nebuchadnezzar to say the words in the verse above? Not only was he a pagan king, not only was he the king who built an image that he required everyone to worship, not only was he the one who ransacked Jerusalem and worked to convert young Jewish boys to his own culture and religion, but he had been clearly and specifically warned by God, and he hadn’t listened.

 

Nebuchadnezzar saw the power of God in Daniel 3. He was deeply shaken by a dream in chapter 4 that Daniel interpreted. The dream indicated that Nebuchadnezzar would lose his mind for seven years. Daniel specifically warned him, “Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan 4:27). Still, King Nebuchadnezzar continued in pride and arrogance, not submitting to Daniel’s counsel.

 

I wonder how many people we have written off concerning the Faith. How many people have we pre-judged, assuming that they would never come to faith? How many times have we shared the gospel with someone only to have them reject it and we give up on them? I remember an old pastor challenging me as a young pastor. He had asked about a common acquaintance and I responded that I thought his family had given up on him. He pointed his finger at me and said, “Never give up!”

 

Only God knows a person’s heart. Only God knows what it will take to bring a person to their knees in faith. Only God can change hearts. Who would have thought that Nebuchadnezzar would have uttered the words of verse 37? Who would have thought that the alcoholic man who walked out of the room when he found out I was a pastor would one day sit in my church office surrounded by the elders of the church and say, “All I know is that God loves me and I love him.” Who would have thought it? But it happened!

 

Never give up! Don’t hound people. Don’t stalk them with the gospel. But never give up. Keep praying for them. Keep watching for God at work in their life. Keep connected. Love them no matter what, and you just might see God bring them to their knees as he did Nebuchadnezzar. Never give up!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Daniel 4 (Pt 2)

 Daniel 4:28-31 (ESV)

[28] All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. [29] At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, [30] and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” [31] While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you,

 

Daniel 4 is unique in that all but a short paragraph is written by Nebuchadnezzar. Verses 28-33 describe what happened when Nebuchadnezzar’s pride brought about his downfall. The rest of the chapter is a description of the events leading up to his downfall, and the events following his downfall written in the first person by Nebuchadnezzar. After losing his mind for seven years, his sanity was restored. Along with his sanity, his “majesty and splendor” (vs 36) were restored as well. He wrote, “I was established in my kingdom and still more greatness was added to me” (Dan 4:36). But notice the change. In verse 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power.” In verse 36 he recognized that his greatness was given to him. He concluded, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Dan 4:37).

 

The King moved from “Look what I built” to “Look how great God is.” He recognized that all he had was a gift from God. James 4:6 quotes the Septuagint version of Proverbs 3:34, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” That is exactly the lesson that Nebuchadnezzar learned, and it is exactly the opposite of what the World would have us learn. The World says, “Be proud of who you are. Recognize your greatness. Strive for greatness.” God says that we need to realize that all we have is a gift from God that he can add to or take away at a moment’s notice. Our greatness is not in ourselves, but in our identity with Christ.

 

The Apostle Paul had to learn the same lesson. In Acts 23:6 Paul was described as, “A Pharisee, a son of Pharisees.” He in Philippians 3:4-7 he wrote that,

though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Regarding the Law, Paul was blameless. From the perspective of the Pharisee, Paul had much to be proud of. Paul concluded something very different. At the end of the verses quoted above, He concluded, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” In Galatians 6:14 Paul wrote, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” He learned that his greatness was not in himself, but in his death to the world and in the resurrection life he had through faith in Christ.

 

It seems that in a world where pride and self-exaltation are prized, there is more insecurity and feelings of insignificance than ever. In a world that exalts the beautiful people, actors and actresses, Social Influencers, and media stars, a close look at their lives will reveal that many of them have a fa├žade of beauty and an inner life of emptiness or even self-destruction. Facebook, Instagram, and other social networking platforms have not helped any. For the most part people post images that give the impression of beauty, accomplishment, and having it all together. That is the lie that leaves them and everyone else searching for accolades while withering inside.

 

It is time we listen to Nebuchadnezzar and the Apostle Paul. A pagan king and a Christian Apostle both have the same message for us. “All [God’s] works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Dan 4:37). You can either come humbly before God, or you can be humbled by God. It’s your choice.

Daniel 4 (Pt 1)

 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 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?

Friday, August 21, 2020

Daniel 3 (Pt 3)

 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 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.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Daniel 3 (Pt 2)

 Daniel 3:8, 9, 12 (ESV)

[8] Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. [9] They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever!

[12] There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not set out to make a name for themselves. They did not even disobey the King’s orders as a means of rebellion and protest. When I was a child I would envision the scene taking place on a large plain. Everyone was standing as a group around the image. When the music played and everyone bowed down, there in the middle of the group stood these three men. The King saw it at once and was enraged. But that is not how it happened. The King seems oblivious to their disobedience until “certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews” (Dan 3:8).

 

Sometimes we are thrust into the forefront of a controversy, but we should never go looking for one. The three friends were not trying to start a revolt. They were not defiantly standing for all to see. The real conflict came because of the malicious accusation of some Chaldeans who were likely jealous of their promotion in the previous chapter. How does one respond to malicious accusations? They did not respond in kind. They do not appear to be angry, or defiant. They simply spoke the truth no matter what the consequences. The King asked them three questions. Is it true that you do not bow before my image? Are you ready not to bow before the image? What god can possibly deliver you? Their response was simple, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us . . . he will deliver us . . . But if not, . . . we will not serve your gods” (Dan 3:17-18). They did not try to explain themselves or defend themselves. They simply spoke the truth in a non-anxious manner and accepted the consequences.

 

So often we are quick to defend our rights. We get angry when our rights are violated. We post angry messages. We react rather than respond. We demand to be treated equitably. But as Christians we are called to die to our will, not demand our rights. We are called to love others, not defend ourselves. We are called to peace, not anger.

 

False or malicious accusations make me angry. I feel that I have the right to have people speak the truth about me. I have the right to quietly practice my faith. When people challenge that, accuse me of things I did not say or do, twist my words to make them mean something other than I intended, or attack my faith and practice, my first response is anger. I imagine that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were no different, yet their faith in God allowed them to respond without fear or anxiety.

 

As Christians, we say that we believe in the one, true God. Do our actions betray us? How do we respond to false accusations? How do we respond when people twist our words into something we did not intend, or take them out of context? How do we respond when we are maliciously accused and attacked? How do we respond when unreasonable demands are made?

 

When Nehemiah was questioned about his demeanor by the king in Nehemiah 2, it says that he was “very much afraid” (Neh 2:2), but he “prayed to the God of heaven” (Neh 2:4), and spoke to the king. When anxiety arises, when fear or anger begins to well up within us, may we learn to pray to the God of heaven and then respond in faith and peace. We can trust God even in the midst of malicious attacks. It is in that non-anxious response that people see Jesus in us. May we learn to practice these words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-26,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”


 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Daniel 3 (Pt 1)

Daniel 3:1 (ESV)

[1] King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.

In the previous chapter of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar saw an image in a dream. Daniel’s interpretation was that Nebuchadnezzar was the golden head. He would be replaced by three other kingdoms successively, followed by the Kingdom of God which would do away with all other kingdoms. The chapter concludes with Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings” (Dan 2:47). Then he builds an image of gold in the very next chapter.

 

What the image was has been debated. Some think that he tried to recreate the image from his dream. Because Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold in chapter 2, and because the image he builds in chapter 3 is gold, others suggest that the image is an image of Nebuchadnezzar himself. Either way, it reveals something about human nature. He required all his officials to pay homage to, or worship the image. It involved falling on their faces before the image just as Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face before Daniel in chapter 2. It seems that we are always trying to put our personal spin on God.

 

One person says, “I like to think of God as Daddy.” Another says, “No, God is the great Lawgiver. We must respect his authority.” A third says, God is my buddy. He is always there for me.” Each of these individuals have some truth about God, but they miss the bigger picture. God is an intimate Father. He is the great Lawgiver. He is a personal friend who will never leave us or forsake us. Each of those images or titles tells us something about God. None of them tell us everything about God. When we settle on one image, and only refer to God in that way, we make God less than God. He becomes only our loving, intimate Father, only the Lawgiver, or only our personal friend. When we make God less than God, then we begin to use him for our purposes. We lose sight of the truth that we were created for his purposes.

 

Nebuchadnezzar made an image of Gold. In Acts 8, Simon the magician wanted to use God to retain power and influence. In the gospels, the Pharisees wanted to use God to maintain a life ordered by the Law of God rather than realizing that the Law pointed to something greater. Jesus said of the Law in Matthew 5:17 “I have not come to abolish [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfill them.” The Law was intended to point to the one who would fulfill the Law. In 2 Kings 5 Naaman had leprosy. Elisha told him to go wash in the Jordan River seven times to be healed. He was angry. The rivers at home were better rivers. Why should he wash in the Jordan? His servants reminded him of the source of the command. He washed in the Jordan and was healed. He learned that he had to come to God in God’s way rather than demanding that God work his way.

 

In about 1971 I remember a former druggie walking down the middle of a deserted street at night shouting out, “Jesus is the ultimate high!” But if that is all Jesus is, then he is nothing more than another way to feel something. He is just another way to an experience. Our theology becomes very small when we attempt to fit God into our pet view of God. There is an old children’s chorus that said, “He’s big enough to fill the mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar reasoned from his dream to an image to be worshipped. Daniel’s friends reasoned from God to the image, and refused to worship the image. Our starting point changes our perspective. Too many times I have heard people say something like, “I like to think of God as . . ..”  They reason from an experience or a need in their life and develop their theology from there. That is backward. Rather, we should start with who God is, and interpret our needs and experiences in light of that truth.

 

Human nature wants a God we can hold, inspect, and control. We will worship a God like that because it is a god created in our own image. The Forest Service used to call fires that they started on purpose Controlled Burns. They don’t call them that anymore. They are now called Prescribed Burns because they realized that no fire is really controlled. I wonder how often we view God as a controlled god who is there to grant us our wishes and keep us happy. Nebuchadnezzar created an image that he could see and control.

 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego worshipped a God who is greater than they. They could not control him, they could only trust him. When commanded to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image, they responded, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan 3:17-18). Whether God saved them or not, they would worship no other god because a God you can manipulate and control is no god at all.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Daniel 2 (Pt 5)

 Daniel 2:44 (ESV)

[44] And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,

There is a lot of corruption in government today. There are oppressive governments, corrupt governments, and anti-Christ governments. There are governments that lie to their people and governments that lie to the rest of the world. There is oppression, chronic poverty, genocide, and more. The good news is that these governments will not stand forever. “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed” (Dan 2:44).

 

How do we live in light of that truth? What difference does it make to us now? There are at least three ways in which this truth should affect our lives today. First, as believers in Jesus Christ we submit to those governments under which we live, knowing that today’s systems are only temporary. We submit with discernment. We recognize that if the authorities demand something of us that is against the truth of the Scriptures then we can no longer submit. There is a line that we cannot cross. Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly where that line is, but there is a limit to our submission,. We live under a human government, but we are primarily subjects of a higher king.

 

Second, we live as citizens of the Kingdom of God that is here and is yet coming. There is a now and not yet aspect to the Kingdom. Believers in Jesus Christ are citizens of Heaven and subjects of the King. As such we are ambassadors to a broken world. We submit to local governments not because they are the ultimate authority, but because as ambassadors we respect the laws of the land in order to represent our King well. Our primary goal, as believers in Jesus Christ, is not to be good citizens, but to be good representatives of a higher authority.

 

Third, we live in expectation of God’s fulfillment of his kingdom. Believers are citizens of that kingdom already. We have free access to the king at any time. But we also recognize that this is not the end. There is coming a time when Jesus will return. There is coming a time when all the kingdoms of this earth will end. There is coming a time when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Php 2:10-11). We live in anticipation of that day. We recognize that we are but stewards of all that we have. We understand that we will one day answer to God for how well we represented him on this earth. Jesus said it like this in Luke 12:32-24,

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Daniel 2 (Pt 4)

Daniel 2:46 -47 (ESV)

[46] Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. [47] The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a dream that disturbed him. It so disturbed him that to make sure he had the correct interpretation, on threat of death he required the wise men to tell him the dream first and then the interpretation. God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel, who then went to the king. Daniel’s prayer, before revealing the interpretation, included these words, God “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Dan 2:21). The king’s response after hearing the interpretation was, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery” (Dan 2:47).

 

In the dream God revealed that after Nebuchadnezzar there would be three more kingdoms. Each kingdom would be lesser in value. The final kingdom would be destroyed by the Kingdom of God. Historically that proved true. The Persians followed Nebuchadnezzar. The Greeks eventually conquered Persia. The Romans came next. During their reign Jesus came to say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). Thirty-one times Jesus refers to the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew. Where Jesus is, there is the Kingdom.

 

Why did God reveal this to Nebuchadnezzar? There may be many reasons. Only God knows the mind of God. There is, at the very least, one primary reason for the revelation. God was demonstrating to Babylon, and to the Jews in captivity, that the world was not out of control. God sets up kings and he brings down kings. He set Babylon in power. He would replace Babylon with Persia. That happens at the end of chapter 5. He would replace Persia with Greece, who would be replaced by Rome, who would be destroyed by the Kingdom of God. Even though the People of God were in exile, their temple destroyed, and their capital city in ruins, God was in control.

 

It seems that we are so fickle that when anything bad happens we say, “Where is God?” God never stops being God. He has gone nowhere. We are so me centered that we lose the big picture. When President George W. Bush on in the White House, God was in charge. When President Obama was in the White House, God was in charge. With President Trump in the White House, God is in charge. Whoever the next president will be cannot change the fact that God is in charge. As Daniel said, “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings” (Dan 2:21). As Nebuchadnezzar said, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings” (Dan 2:47). As Paul wrote in Romans 13:1, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” That was written when Nero was Emperor. As a friend recently pointed out, Nero’s wickedness and immorality makes our politicians look like Sunday School children. Despite Nero’s depravity, Paul still wrote, “There is no authority except from God.”

 

I have been disturbed recently by the attitude of some Christians. The disrespectful, angry, violent, vile things they have to say about some of our politicians makes me wonder if they really believe Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, and Paul. I have not approved of all that our presidents and governors have done, but I am called to respect them and to recognize that they are there by the hand of God. I can trust him to accomplish his purpose. It may not be comfortable. It may not be a future I would choose. It may not be a president or governor I like. But God never stops being God. It is time we started living as though that is true.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Daniel 2 (Pt 3)

Daniel 2:14 (ESV)

[14] Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon.

Daniel 2:17-18 (ESV)

[17] Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, [18] and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

 

How should a believer in Jesus Christ respond to a crisis? In Daniel 2 Daniel and his friends were facing execution along with all the king’s wisemen, enchanters, etc. He responded in two ways. First, “Daniel replied with prudence and discretion” (Dan 2:14). The word “prudence” is the translation of an Aramaic word that means prudence, counsel, or discretion. Daniel 2:4 is the only place in the Bible this word is used. The word “discretion” is the translation of an Aramaic word that refers to good judgment. Daniel didn’t panic. He didn’t react. He used good judgment and  wisdom in responding.

 

Too often our first response is to react. I heard someone recently say that if you react to critics you are not leading, you are following their lead. Panic causes us to do strange things. It will cause a person just a few feet from safety to drown. It will cause a person lost in the mountains to cross roads rather than follow them to safety. Reaction is proper in its place. When we touch a hot surface we react by jerking our hand away. But reacting to spiritual danger often leads us in the wrong direction. Daniel didn’t lash out at the king. He didn’t try and rally the wisemen against the king. He responded with wisdom and good judgement. He remained a non-anxious presence because he trusted God.

 

Daniel’s first response to the crisis was to use wisdom and good judgment. His second response was to call his friends to prayer. He “told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery” (Dan 2:18). Too often prayer is considered a last resort. A crisis arises and we react. We feel pressured to respond quickly before it is too late. We call an emergency meeting and talk the issue to death. When all else fails we ask people to pray. What if prayer was our first strategy rather than our last strategy? What if, in the face of a crisis, we called people to prayer and then sought an solution?

 

In these days of instant communication it is easy to post a Facebook call to prayer, or start and email chain letter requesting prayer. Before long there are hundreds, or even thousands praying. I find it interesting that Daniel didn’t tell his friends, “Run quickly and call everyone you know to prayer.” He simply asked his three closest friends to pray that God would reveal the mystery. This may suggest that there is something relational about prayer. It clearly demonstrates the truth that the effectiveness of prayer is not increased by the sheer numbers of people praying. The power of prayer is not in the number of people praying, it is in the God to whom we are praying. Daniel’s faith was not in his friends or in his friend’s friends. It was in God.

 

This chapter is about the superiority of God over the gods of this world. Sometimes I wonder if we really believe that. If we did, we wouldn’t panic at every apparent threat. In faith we would seek to respond with wisdom and good judgment. We would seek God’s answer in prayer. We would keep our eyes on the Almighty and remain a non-anxious presence in an anxious world. When panic rises and begins to cloud our judgment, when fear causes us to react, when crises demand a response, may we learn to turn our eyes to God. May we learn to truly trust Him and respond in wisdom, good judgment, and prayer.

 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Daniel 2 (Pt 2)

 

Daniel 2:11 (ESV)

[11] The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

Daniel 2:27-28 (ESV)

[27] Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, [28] but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:

 

In Daniel 2 King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that disturbed him. He called together all “the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans” (Dan 2:2). He was so disturbed by the dream that he made a request no king had ever made. In order to make sure that he had a correct interpretation of the dream, he requested the interpreters to not only tell him what the dream meant, but to first tell him what the dream was. Their response was, “No one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Dan 2:11).

 

Daniel’s response was quite different. In a non-anxious manner he simply requested an appointment to tell the dream and its interpretation. Then he went to his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, and asked them to pray. When we came back to the king with the interpretation he said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (Dan 2:27-28). The word “God” that Daniel used is the same word the wise men used when they said that only the gods could answer the king’s request. The difference is that they had no way to hear from the gods. Daniel knew God as one who speaks to and interacts with men.

 

The name used in these verses is Elohim. It is the generic name for God that can either refer to the gods of the world or to God of Heaven whom the Jews served. For the world, the gods are inaccessible. If they speak at all, they speak in riddles that must be interpreted. Thus the wise men said, “Tell us the dream and we will tell you what it means.” They were good at bluffing their way through an interpretation that may or may not be correct. For the Jews, God is accessible. He speaks to people. He answers prayers. He demonstrates power. He spoke to Moses. He demonstrated his power on Sinai. He spoke to Elijah, sent fire in response to his prayer, and answered his prayer for rain. He showed Daniel Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. God is the God who interacts with people.

 

God is a God of relationship. He is the God who became flesh, lived among us, died in our place and raised from the dead. God is not a distant, inaccessible god. As believers in Jesus Christ, he is with us, his Spirit dwells within us, and he has invited us to come confidently before his throne at any time. God is not a god who must be begged and pleaded with in order to hear us. He is not a god who must be cajoled, enticed, and flattered in order to answer our prayers. He is the God who took the initiative to restore relationship with us through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. We do not serve a god who is one of the gods of this world. We do not serve a god who is a truth among many truths. We serve the one who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). There are not many roads to God, nor many truths from which to choose. There is truth and there is lie. The truth is that Daniel was a non-anxious presence in an anxious time because he served a God of relationship who answers prayer.

 

God did not answer Daniel’s prayer because Daniel was somebody special. He heard Daniel’s prayer because God is a God of wisdom and might, as well as a God of mercy (Dan 2:18ff). That is the God we serve. In times of high anxiety, God is a God of peace. May these verses speak to us today as we face anxious times.

Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

[4] Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. [5] Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; [6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Daniel 2

 

Daniel 2:46-49 (ESV)

[46] Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. [47] The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” [48] Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. [49] Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

 

This is not the behavior of a king. In these verses the king falls on his face and showed honor and respect to Daniel. The word translated “homage” is sometimes translated worship. It is the same word used in the next chapter when Daniel’s friends are instructed to worship the golden image. Here is a king on his face before Daniel. Having someone fall on their face before you in homage or worship is fitting only for a king or a god, yet the king falls before Daniel.

 

The wise men and magicians had told the king that, “The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Dan 2:11). Yet here is Daniel, a man who apparently hears directly from the gods. Or, as Daniel would say, “There is a God in Heaven who reveals mysteries” (Dan 2:28). God in Heaven is a God who “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise  and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Dan 2:21).

 

We celebrate those words: God is a God who “changes times and seasons, he removes kings and sets up kings,” (Dan 2:21). We swear that we believe those words. We cling to those words, yet we often act as though they are not true. We wring our hands at every election. We are filled with anxiety because of Muslim immigrants moving to our country. We are dazed with fear because of violence in our streets. We are an anxious people talking about God, but living as though he does not exist.

 

Daniel and his friends watched their homes destroyed, their family and friends killed, and their temple raided. They were dragged off to a foreign country where people speak a foreign language and practice foreign customs. They were threatened, and then trained in a foreign culture. Their names where changed. Their identity was robbed. Their system of worship made impossible. Yet they lived as though they truly believed that God is God of gods, and Lord of kings. We sit in relative peace and prosperity. Even those living in poverty in America are the envy of many in the world. Still, we wring our hands and live as though God were dead, all the while singing, “King of kings and Lord of lords; Glory, Alleluia.” Our words do not match the anxiety of our emotions. There is a disconnect between our tongue and our heart.

 

It is convicting that a Babylonian king gets that truth better than we do. God is working his purpose and will. He sets up kings and brings them down. The Apostle Paul reminds us that, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1). Daniel understood and believed that. Daniel’s friends understood and believed that. King Nebuchadnezzar understood and believed that. Why don’t we?

 

Friday, August 7, 2020

 Daniel 1:17-19 (ESV)

[17] As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. [18] At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. [19] And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king.

I imagine that some of the other young men that were brought into captivity with Daniel and his friends would have thought they had it pretty good. They were eating the king’s food and wine. They were preferentially treated. Sure they had to learn Babylonian language, history, and culture, but life was pretty good. Why just eat vegetables like Daniel when you could eat top of the line cuisine from the king’s table?

 Hebrews 11:25 talks about Moses “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” Daniel understood that. He chose vegetables over “the fleeting pleasures of sin.” In the end, Daniel and his friends became favorites of the throne and were given the best positions. The king “found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom” (Dan 1:20). Those who enjoyed the king’s food ended up with lesser positions.

 Every day we make choices. As believers in Jesus Christ, we can choose to indulge self, or reckon self as dead. Jesus said it like this, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Paul wrote, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11).

 It seems that we have that choice daily, sometimes hourly. The choices we make lead us further and further down a particular path. How were Daniel’s friends able to stand up to the king when he told them to worship his statue? How was Daniel able to pray, knowing that it was against the law and would likely result in the Lion’s Den? It started with the choice they made on Day One of their time in Babylon. “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself “ (Dan 1:8). The resolve that moved them to ask the steward for a test established a pattern of life for those men that sustained them in darker times.

 I read last night that China destroyed a large Evangelical church building in Hong Kong. Would we have the resolve to continue to worship God if that happened? Would we stand for the name of Jesus Christ if we faced death like the Christians of Uganda did in the 1970s under the bloody regime of “The Butcher,” Idi Amin? How can we expect to shine the truth of the gospel in dark times when the choices we make today are too often about self-fulfillment rather than self-denial?

 I remember a song we used to sing as children, “Dare to be a Daniel. Dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm. Dare to make it known.” Those words were written by Philip Bliss in 1873, but they are as challenging today as they were when they were written. What choices are you making each day? Are you choosing self-fulfillment or self-denial? Philippians 3:19 speaks of those whom verse 18 calls “enemies of the cross of Christ.” It says, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Are you choosing to follow the leading of the Spirit or the leading of your own appetites? Perhaps the words of Joshua, in Joshua 24:15, are appropriate, “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Daniel 1:7-8 (ESV)

[7] And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

[8] But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

 

Babylon gave Daniel and his friends new identities. Daniel means God is my judge. Daniel’s Babylonian name is either a reference to the king or to the god Bel. Hananiah means God has favored. The meaning of his Babylonian name, Shadrach, is uncertain. Mishael’s name means who is what God is, or who is like God. His Babylonian name, Meshach, is likely related to the Babylonian moon god. Azariah’s name means Jehovah (YHWH) has helped. His new name, Abednego, means servant of Nebo (god).

 By renaming these four young men the Babylonians had two goals. First, they wanted to remove their previous identity and allegiance. Second, they wanted to create a new, Babylonian identity, thus creating allegiance to Babylon. Our identity, how we see ourselves, affects how we see our world as well. In an episode of the TV show Andy Griffith, Andy’s buddy Barney is drinking punch at a party. Barney’s heart has just been broken by an old girlfriend who is now married. As he is drinking the punch his speech gets slurred and he appears to be getting drunk. Andy says to him, “If you are trying to get drunk you won’t get it from the punch. There is no alcohol in it.” Barney’s speech immediately clears and it is obvious that he is not drunk. In just thinking that he was drinking something alcoholic he began to act as though he was drunk. That may not be realistic, but it illustrates a great truth. How we think of ourselves affects how we act.

 When we think of ourselves as sinners we make excuses for our sin. “I couldn’t help myself.” When we think of ourselves as saints, holy ones, we realize that we do not have to live in a manner contrary to the nature, character, and purpose of God. As believers in Jesus Christ our identity is Christ. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I am in Christ and Christ is in me. Christ is my new Identity. When Daniel was taken to Babylon they tried to change his identity to Babylonian. No matter what they called him, Daniel knew his true identity. When a person comes to faith in Christ they have a new identity. They move from worldly to Christian, identified with Christ. They move from being sinner to being saint. Their identity is not determined by what they do, but by Christ himself. We are given a new identity.

 The world may call Christians hypocrites, uncaring, unloving, even evil. Don’t listen to the lies. Our identity is Christ. We are new creations in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:17). As new creations in Christ we are called to live as citizens of Heaven serving as ambassadors of Heaven in a foreign land (see 2 Cor 5:20). We are to be a blessing to those around us, seek their good, live a Heavenly life in an earthly realm, represent God to men, and let them see Jesus in us. May it be so.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Daniel 1:17-21 (ESV)

[17] As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. [18] At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. [19] And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. [20] And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. [21] And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

 Jeremiah wrote about the Babylonians, and about how God’s people were to respond to them. He said, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer 29:7). This is exactly what Daniel and his friends did. In order to protect their overseer, they offered a test. “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see” (Daniel 1:12-13). They made their overseer look good. When they were presented to the king, they were found to be “…ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom” (Dan 1:20). As a wise man, Daniel stayed in the service of the king “…until the first year of King Cyrus” (Dan 1:21).

 Daniel and his friends could easily have worked against the system. They could have served as spies. They could have undermined the king’s authority and influence. They could have functioned as subversives, working to bring down the people who destroyed their city. But they didn’t. Following Jeremiah’s instruction, they worked for the welfare of the city into which they had been brought.

 Because of our theology (what we believe about God), and our eschatology (what we believe about the end of the world), we have often assumed that this world was unimportant. “It is all going to burn up anyway” (see 1Pet 3:11-13, and Rev 21:1). But that ignores the fact that in the meantime God made us stewards of his creation. That ignores the fact that while it will all burn one day, we do not know when that will be. It ignores his instructions for how we are to live in the meantime. We are often more interested in the politics of our world than we are in goodness, justice, and righteousness. It is more important that we work for the good of the city, country, and people God has placed around us, than that we work to ensure that the right party remains in office. If God loved the world so much that he sent his son to die for it, does that not suggest that we ought to love the world as well?

 Yes, I know that John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1Jn 2:15). But John defined what he meant by the world as, “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1Jn 2:16). When he wrote that God “so loved the world” (Jn 3:16) he was referring to something different. He was referring to the people of the world. He was referring to his creation. We should never love “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life,” but we should certainly love the people whom God created in his own image, and the creation he designed for them.

 I fear that in our focus on eternity we have failed to understand Jeremiah’s advice. Daniel was to seek the welfare of Babylon. Babylon, throughout the Bible, is considered the seat of evil. This is where the Tower of Babel was first built, yet Daniel was to seek its welfare. How can we do any less? Is it not through works of creation care, justice, and care for the poor and needy that the love of Christ is most evident in us? Is it not through seeking the welfare of others that we best demonstrate the character of God? Jesus did not say, “There will always be poor, so don’t worry about it.” He did not say, “They are going to die anyway, don’t worry about the sick.” He did not practice avoidance of sinners in order to stay pure. The people he got truly upset with were not the sinners, but the hypocritical religious elite, the church goers. Jesus loved the poor, cared for the sick, and spent time with sinners. Jesus so loved the world − the broken, lost, sinful world − that he gave his life for it.

 God is calling us to love as Jesus loved. He is not calling us to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. He is calling us to follow Daniel’s lead, and seek the welfare of Babylon. What a challenge! May the mind of Christ and the love of the Father be seen in us each day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Daniel 1:3-6 (ESV)

[3] Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, [4] youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. [5] The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. [6] Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.

When Jerusalem fell to Babylon, young men were carried away and brought to the king’s palace to be trained. The plan was to turn the cream of the crop from Israel into good Babylonians. They were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans (Babylonians), and given the best food from the king’s portion. They also changed their names. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were to be known as Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel means “God is my judge.” Hananiah’s name means “God has favored.” Mishael means “Who is what God is?” Azariah means “God has helped.” Their names were related to Israel’s God. Their new names were related to different Babylonian or Persian gods.

 This is what the enemy always tries to do. When we trusted Christ, the scriptures say that we became new creations, “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2Cor 5:17). The Enemy wants to change our identity. He wants to rob us of our identity in Christ, and try to convince us that we are no different, that we are unchanged. If he can change our identity, if he can convince us that we are still broken sinners bent toward sin and away from God, then he has undermined our faith. When we believe that we are new creations in Christ, we live as new creations in Christ. When we believe that we cannot help but sin, we quickly give in to sin. Fear only takes us so far.

 Understanding our new identity in Christ is foundational to a walk of faith. Babylon tried to change the identity of Israel’s God-worshiping young men. Daniel and his friends refused to accept this new identity. They worked for the good of their captors, as Jeremiah had warned them to do, but they never lost their identity as God’s people. I am convinced that many of our failures as believers is because we do not truly believe that we are new creations in Christ. We do not really believe that the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each believer, is able to keep us from sin. We do not believe that we are crucified with Christ, buried with him, and raised to new life. We believe that we are forgiven. We believe that we will be new a new creation in Christ when we see him. But, we have bought into the Enemies lies as to our identity now. We walk by sight, and not by faith. We fail because we do not believe that we can do anything else.

 What kind of life is that for a child of God? With Daniel, we need to resolve that whatever the Enemy calls us, whatever mold the World tries to squeeze us into, we will never forget who we are. We will not defile ourselves with the lies of the World, the Flesh or the Enemy. We are new creatures in Christ and we rest in that truth.

 


Monday, August 3, 2020

I wrote this over twenty years ago, but it spoke to my heart again this morning. Let me share it with you.

As I sat in my study this morning praying, the kinds of things that kept coming to my mind to thank God for was not my home, my car, my computer, my bed. It was things like the people God has placed around me and brought into my life. The fact that when I don’t know how to pray the Holy Spirit translates my prayers into the will of God, I don’t have to worry about how to pray, I just pour my heart out to Him and let Him take care of it. The faithfulness of God even in my unfaithfulness. The fact that even when I feel like a spiritual failure God has already overcome the old sinful nature and given me new life in Christ. Even the irritants that God brings into my life to keep me from getting stale. Remember milk before it was homogenized? The cream would separate out and rise to the top. To keep that from happening you had to occasionally stir it or shake up the container. Sometimes I think God sends irritants and even irritating people into our lives to keep us from settling out into layers and relating only to those who are like us or doing only those things which we like to do. To be effective and to be all that we are to be as a church God sends irritants to keep us shaken up a bit. To keep us whole milk, so to speak. So I found myself thanking God for the irritants that He brings into my life. Thanks Giving ought to be a focal point of our lives and our worship. It acknowledges the person and authority of God. Let me challenge you to pick a spot on the road between home and church. Make it your thanks giving reminder. Begin a practice of giving thanks all the way from that point to church in preparation for fellowship and worship. May God make us thanks giving people and a thanks giving church.

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...