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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Seek Knowledge – The Elect Lady

Hosea 4:1-5:15 

How bad does it have to be for God to say that He doesn’t care that much that your daughters and your wives are prostituting themselves and committing adultery? I guess it isn’t that God doesn’t care. It is more so that the people are probably upset about their women but God is calling them on their double standard. The people have rejected knowledge. They have rejected that God is God and that Baal is not.

These chapters are pretty typical for prophecy. I don’t feel like there is much more to say but to remind ourselves that we can easily stand back and point a condemning finger at Israel and forget that there needs to be a time of reflection. Do we in any way become concerned about the sins of the people around us while ignoring the same types of sins taking place in the church? Are there idols we worship instead of God while going about the practices of worship? Let us always be the priests that God calls us to be.

2 John 1:1-13 

There is a lot of speculation as to who this “elect lady” is. Some take this literally as a specific individual. I thought I’d read through the letter this time with the mindset that “elect lady” is a metaphor for the church and “her children” as those who are in it. This type of language wouldn’t be uncommon and the “you” at the end of the letter are plural. This would also mean that “the children of your sister” are referring to their sister church, who are chosen by God.

This letter dates around 90 A.D. and persecution of Christians in Asia Minor was on the rise. This is my speculation but it could be possible that John is writing with this kind of language in order to not draw attention to where community of believers might be meeting. Persecutors might not pay as much attention to a woman and her children. John has more to say to them but wants to speak to them in person. Writing too much about Christ could draw unwanted attention. Like I said…this is my speculation.

Truth about Jesus coming in the flesh is essential for Christians. John warns not to accept any teaching that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh and not to accept the teacher. Jesus had to come in the flesh in order to die. He had to die in order to be resurrected. He had to be resurrected for us to have any hope that we too will have death conquered and be resurrected ourselves.

From the very beginning Christians were called to walk in love. Have we deviated from this command? How can we go about loving one another more so than we do now? John says this is what has been taught from the beginning. Let’s put this command into practice more fully each day than we have the day before. This is how we become the first century church more and more.

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Adulterous Wife & Children and Faith

Hosea 1-3

How does God feel when you choose to put other things before him?  How does he feel when you choose sin over disobedience?  Like a boss with a lousy employee?  Like a father with disobedient children?  Like a master who can’t get his servants to work hard?

So then God told Hosea to go and take a wife of unfaithfulness and have children with her who would be unfaithful to him.  That’s how it feels.  Ouch.  I think it’s easy for us to read these chapters of Hosea and ask, “How could God do this to one of his own prophets?  That’s so unbelievably cruel.”  But that’s the wrong question.  The question is, “How do we, God’s own, do this to our God?  That’s so unbelievably cruel.”

And yet, in the moment of total agony God goes to Israel (and sends Hosea to his wife).  “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover.”  SO I BOUGHT HER BACK!  This is one of the most powerful examples of extreme forgiveness in the entire Bible.  What we expect is for Hosea to demand an apology, that his cheating ex-wife must grovel before him, that she must earn his love again.  After all, Hosea has the legal right to stone her.  He has a right to revenge.  And yet, due to nothing Gomer has done, Hosea goes and forgives her.  He loves her.  He does all of the work to mend the relationship that Gomer threw away.  Hosea has to completely give up his right to get the revenge, the justice, that he deserves.  And he doesn’t stop there, but he pays money to the man she has been cheating with to purchase back his own wife.

That’s the kind of love God has for us.  That’s his forgiveness.  That’s who paid the price for us to return to a relationship with God.  And the prophecy God has here is that Israel will come around and fall in love with God again and fall in love with the descendant of David, the man Jesus.  And then he goes on to change the names of the children from shameful names to names of blessing.  God will redeem his people, restore his people and win back their hearts.  What a powerful and romantic story of God’s love for us.

1 John 5

Those who have faith are God’s children and they love God and love their siblings.  In addition, they win.  We win.  Because of Jesus, we know live out lives full of our faith, our baptism, our love, our obedience and we have won the victory.  So act like it.

And then the last verse of the first letter from the Apostle John: “Dear Children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”  It’s so simple and yet so pointed that it makes it clear that the older Apostle is burdened by how many he has seen fall away for so many unworthy reasons.  His final closing word of advice is to stay focused and keep God in your heart.  Don’t let anything else sneak in and fill your heart.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

End of Daniel – Love, He Means It!

Daniel 11:36-12:13 

I told Kent the other day that I miss the first few chapters of Daniel where I can get my mind somewhat around what was going on. This is where I remind myself that this was really important to the people that it was written to and they may or may not have understood its imagery. Studies in Daniel are all over the map on what people believe to be going on. All I can say is this…if you want to understand Revelation; you have to have a good understanding of Daniel. Below is a verse-by-verse chart borrowed from a professor at OC, Stafford North. It covers chapter 11. As far as chapter 12 goes…there are varied opinions and we’ll just leave it at that. If you’re interested you can give the chart a read. I won’t lie to you…I mostly just cut and pasted it J Skip down to the bottom for my post on 1 John.

The Prophecy in Daniel 11 Fulfillment from History
*v.2. Three kings in Persia and the fourth shall be richer than them all. Spoken in the reign of Cyrus. The first three are Cambyses, Smerdis, and Darius Hystaspis. The fourth is Xerxes.
*v.2. The fourth, richest and powerful, will stir up all against Greece. Xerxes led a major campaign against Greece in 480 BC. Nearly won but was finally defeated in the Battle of Salamis.
*v.3. A mighty king stands up who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. Alexander the Great of Greece.
*v.4. His empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds. It will not go to his descendants. Alexander fell at the height of his power in 323 BC. Kingdom was divided among four generals: Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Cassander, and Seleucus.
*v.5. King of the South shall be strong. One of his princes shall be strong above him. (In succeeding verses, the King of the South is always referring to the ruler of Egypt although to a succession of kings.) Ptolemy received Egypt, to the south of Israel, so he is called King of the South. One of his generals, Seleucus, eventually ruled more territory than Ptolemy. (Since Seleucus reigned in Syria, he was the King of the North. He and his successors are called by that name in the prophecy.)
*v.6. These two rulers shall be joined through the marriage of the daughter of the King of the South with the King of the North. Ptolemy II became king in 285 BC. In 281 BC, Seleucus was murdered and succeeded by his son Antiochus I. Antiochus II became king in 261 BC. Hostilities between the kings of north and south had been going on for several years but were ended when Bernice, daughter of Ptolemy II married Antiochus II. Antiochus had already separated from his wife, Laodice.
She shall not retain her power and his power shall not last. After her father died in 250 BC, Antiochus II divorced Bernice taking back Laodice who then poisoned Antiochus and encouraged her son Seleucus II to murder both Bernice and her child. So the whole plan for the political marriage fails.
v.7. One from her family line will successfully attack the King of the North. The brother of Bernice, Ptolemy III, becomes King of the South. He successfully attacks Seleucus II.
v.9. King of the North will attack the King of the South but will return to his own land. Seleucus II, in 240 BC, regained much of his territory but was defeated when he attacked the King of the South.
v.10. Sons of King of the North shall attack the King of the South. Three sons of Seleucus II attacked Palestine in 221 and 219, a territory of th
  King of the South. By 217, they had taken all of Palestine but Ptolemy IV defeated them at the Battle of Raphia.
v.13. King of the North returns with a larger army. Antiochus III becomes strong and wins Battle of Panion and the Egyptian general flees to Sidon. In 198 BC, Scopus, the Egyptian general surrenders.
v.16-17. King of the North now occupies all of the “glorious land” and comes with equitable conditions. He shall give his daughter in a political marriage but this will not bring success. Antiochus III occupies all of Palestine. He deals equitably with them, sending money for the temple service and releasing the Jews from some taxes. He betroths his daughter Cleopatra to the 7 year old Ptolemy V. The marriage is consummated five years later but Cleopatra sides with her husband and not her father, so the ploy fails. (Not the famous Cleopatra.)
v.18. He shall turn his face to the isles and shall take many but a prince shall bring him down. After Hannibal was defeated by the Romans is 202 BC, he came to Antiochus III and encouraged him to move toward Greece and the islands. He made efforts to do this but was soundly defeated by the Romans (prince) at Thermopylae in 191 BC and at Magnesium in 190 BC. The Romans taxed him heavily and took his son, Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, to insure payment.
v.19. He shall turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land but shall fall. Antiochus III marched against the revolting Armenians and robbed their temples but was slain by the Elamites. So he died in disgrace.
v.20. His successor will send out a tax- collector who shall be destroyed but not in anger or in battle. Seleucus IV comes to the throne. He sends a tax collector named Heliodonus to take money from the temple in Jerusalem. Soon after, Seleucus IV is removed from the throne, perhaps by poison.
*v.21. He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who obtains the kingdom by flatteries. (Q: How would this connect with previous prophecies?) A: Dan. 8:9, 23—the little horn. Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) was not the rightful heir because he was a brother to the dead king not a son. By flattery, however, he won the support of some to gain the throne.
He will invade the kingdom and by intrigue shall win. An overwhelming army shall be swept away before him. Both it and the prince of the covenant shall be destroyed.  

He wins over Ptolemy VI (170) and deposes Onias II, prince of the covenant, the high priest, so he can put in another who will pay him more and do more to force the Jews toward Grecian culture.

v.25. He shall fight with the King of the South who will have a great army, but shall lose. Ptolemy VI fights against Antiochus IV, but loses.
v.27. The Kings of the South and of the North meet at one table but it shall not prosper. Antiochus IV and Ptolemy Philometer called a truce and met at a conference table. They lied to each other and formed an alliance but they failed to throw out the claimant to the throne, Ptolemy Physcon.
*The King of the North then returns to his own country and his heart shall be against the holy covenant. Antiochus IV returns with spoils of war through Palestine on his way to Syria. He plunders even through the land of the Jews.
v.29. He will again attack the South but without as much success. In 168, Antiochus attacked Egypt again (168 AD), but is not victorius.
*Ships of the western coastland will come against him and he will have indignation against them. Egypt asks for help from Rome which sends ships and soldiers. They come and defeat Antiochus. As he returns to Syria, he passes in anger through Israel.
*v. 31. He shall profane the temple and take away the continual burnt offering. He shall also set up an abomination that makes desolate. He seeks to get the Jews to be more like Greeks. He offers swine on the altar and made observing the drunken orgy to Baccus compulsory. He prevents from their practice of the Sabbath and feasts.
v.32. Some will go against the covenant but others will be faithful and strong. Some accept his ways but many others refuse to participate in his idolatry.
v.34. Some resist Antiochus. They will be purified by trial even to the time of the end, because the time is appointed. Judas Maccabeas (a Jew) leads a resistance against Antiochus IV starting in 166 BC, but not with complete success. They eventually succeed in driving him out when he has problems elsewhere to which he must attend.

1 John 4:1-21 

1-3 – I know of a church that recommends that every new Christian spend a year only reading the Gospels so that they can distinguish the difference between the voice of Christ and other voices. Jesus says a lot of crazy stuff that are in contrast with things we hear in our culture that we have “Christianized.” Though I think this is a good teaching, I am not sure this is exactly what John is getting at. You know a spirit is from God if it accepts that Jesus Christ was resurrected (in bodily form).

4 – I had someone ask me at different times if I was worried about demon possession, voodoo, or if I was superstitious (I’m only a little stitious). My response is generally the same, “No, I’m a Christian.” Verse 4, amongst many other passages in the Bible, is where I get this answer. The One who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world. How do you live out this reality?

7-21 – Do you want to know God? Love. This is incredibly profound. We search the Scriptures to try and know God. You can come to a knowledge of the attributes of God but you’ll never truly know God if don’t love one another. Who? One another. That person in the church that is hard to love. You love them with the love of God. In doing this, God’s love is made complete in us and God becomes visible.

God is love. God’s Spirit lives within us. How do you know if you have the Spirit? Live in love. Will there be anything to fear on the Day of Judgment? My Grandma at times has broken down crying when talking to me, wondering if she’s done enough to make it to heaven. This fear breaks my heart. I simply grab her hand and remind her that she is in Christ, God’s Spirit is in her, and she has nothing to fear on Judgment Day because she is God’s special possession.

The last part of this section is worth keeping in mind always. How can the love of God be in you if you hate your Brother or Sister? This seems to be a major theme in the early church. We’re told that if there are differences between us we must settle them before going to the alter for communion together. How can we take communion, recognizing the love of God poured out on the cross, and still hate those who are in our Family? Examine your relationships. Allow Christ to fill the gaps between you. Find the love that God has for you and allow it to transform your relationships with your Brothers and Sisters who you are at odds with. God’s love is sacrificial and may require you to take up your cross in that relationship and die in order to save it. Those who love God must also love one another.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Daniel’s Super Specific Vision and Love One Another

Daniel 11

What is Daniel talking about here?  Well, with the the 20/20 vision that hindsight provides, we can match the prophecies with what we know to be the historical events.  And so, without any further ado, Dr. Stafford North’s chart showing the fulfillment of prophecies mentioned in Daniel 11.

Here it is: Daniel 11 12

1 John 3

Here we are in the middle of the first epistle written by the Apostle John.  The more you read John, the more you see that he is the kind of person who see things in black and white, right or wrong.  So when he talks about love and the actions that back it up, he tells us that how we love people is an indicator as to whether we are sons of God or sons of the devil.  What proves our conversion?  John says that loving our Christian brothers and sisters proves it.  After all, Jesus set the ultimate example of how to love others by giving his very life.  We should follow this example and love others sacrificially.  Enough of saying we love each other.  John wants us to prove it through our actions.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Daniel’s Visions and Antichrists

Daniel 9-10

There has been much written about the vision Daniel has in chapter 9.  To even attempt to summarize the views would be well outside the scope of this daily blog.  I will offer you the follow analysis from Dr. Stafford North’s Bible study on Daniel and the following linked chart of the seventy sevens.

“The prophecy of the seventy sevens is truly an amazing one. At the least, it gives
a general picture of the history of Jerusalem from its rebuilding after the exile
until its next destruction for another rejection of God. It is also remarkable
because it relates the mission of the Messiah and tells us that his coming will be
shortly before the second destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus speaks of this very
prophecy as He also prophesies about the coming destruction of Jerusalem in 70
AD.”

You can check out a visual of this here: Daniel 9 Visual

1 John 2-3

After disliking every image that "antichrist" turned up on Google, I decided this guy is how I feel about antichrists.

This is an extremely important chapter for understanding many verses that are often misused by people who either 1. read the Left Behind series 2. don’t properly understand apocalyptic literature or 3. like to use strong language to describe politicians they don’t like.  There is not one antichrist who will become ruler of earth and set up some grand end of the world battle while Israel rebuilds a Temple.  Additionally, people and politicians you don’t like aren’t THE antichrist either.  Who are these antichrists?  They are (mostly former church members) people who deny God and deny Jesus.  Their lie is that there is no God or Son.  It seems that this is especially true of those who are trying to promote this lie, this heresy and cause others to join their opposition to the Gospel, so Christians must be wary of such deception from these antichrists.

As those who fellowship with Christ, we must realize that we are children of God and even though the world doesn’t realize it, we have something great already and something even greater in store.

Psalm 121

One of my dad’s favorite psalms.

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Lions, Leopards and Bears…Oh My!

Daniel 7

And we have arrived at the long awaited genre of apocalyptic literature in the Bible.  With only thirty days left, I guess it had to happen eventually.  Daniel and Revelation include a large amount of apocalyptic writing, a style common in the ancient world.  This form of literature uses images, numerology (numbers as symbols) and often graphic pictures to communicate something.  They are prophetic, usually involve some form of judgment, and often include at least a hint as to what the appropriate interpretation would be.

Daniel 7 tells of a dream Daniel has where he sees four beasts.  A winged lion, a lopsided bear, a leopard with four heads and a beast that looks like parts of the others with lots of horns.  We know from the interpretation given in the book that these represent kingdoms.  Now, throughout history Christians have often tried to fit the fourth beast/kingdom into their modern and current situation (i.e. the beast is the papacy, the British Empire, the Muslims, America, etc.)  However, I think that the dream here seems to best be understood in light of the dream Nebuchadnezzar had in Daniel 2.  In that dream, the fourth kingdom is represented by iron and clay feet and it is ultimately destroyed by the rock that comes out of the mountain not made by man.  This rock then becomes an eternal kingdom.  Today, we know this kingdom as Rome, the kingdom in power when Jesus came and established an eternal kingdom.

The kingdoms in Daniel 7 are the same as those in Daniel 2, which means:

  • Winged Lion is Babylon
  • Bear is the Medo-Persians
  • Leopard with four wings and four heads is Greece
  • The 10 and then 11 horned Beast is Rome

The Holy People of God described in this passage in Daniel would have been assumed to be Israel, but we know are actually Christians.  Daniel sees the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus, the establishment of God’s people, and the persecution they will undergo at the hands of Rome.

And then Daniel saw one like a son of man coming into the presence of the Ancient of Days (God).  This son of man is given all authority, power and sovereignty over all the nations of the world and his kingdom is eternal.  It will never end.  What a beautiful and powerful prophecy about the coming of Jesus, the Messiah and the Kingdom he would establish.  No wonder Revelation will again return to this language and these illustrations to explain what Jesus is doing in Rome as Christians are being persecuted.  The King we worship rules over all and will rule forever.

Here is a chart that shows all of this more clearly (with thanks to Dr. Stafford North and ebiblestudy.org for the material).  Click on this link eBibleStudy_Daniel to check it out.

1 John 1

God is light and only light.  There is no darkness in him at all.  So you say that you want to be in Christ and have a relationship with God?  Then get rid of your darkness.  Quit living in sin, but instead live a life worthy of being in the light.  Pursue the things of God and love the things of God.  Quit tampering in sin and evil and the temptations of this world on the side.  God can forgive and will forgive, but live as if you’ve been forgiven.

When the Apostle John writes, he doesn’t leave much room for grey.  It’s black or white.  Good or evil.  Lost or saved.  Light or dark.  John wants you to make a decision.  God loves you and invites you in and has forgiven you.  So now what are you going to do?  Are you in or out?  Pick a side and live accordingly.

 

Proverbs 28:23

“In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.”  

The authors of this book might disagree.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Courage Greater Than Daniels – Scoffers Gonna Scoff

Daniel 6:1-28 

This is one of the few Old Testament stories from when I was a kid that is exactly as I remember it when reading it as an adult. I have a deep admiration for Daniel. When he was told that he could no longer pray to God he then prayed to God for strength and help. Daniel is the kind of guy that can stand out amongst everyone in Babylon and not succumb to the pressures of being in the spotlight of the dominant culture in the world. In our continual comparison of America and Babylon, how often do we bow to the pressures of how our culture wants us to be instead of standing out amongst our culture, trusting that our God will take care of us?

In our tradition we do not practice Ash Wednesday but I do want to stop for a moment and reflect on what today means in Christianity and how it applies to what we learn from Daniel today. Ashes remind us of our mortality, that from ash we came and to ash we will go. But thanks be to God that Easter is on the horizon and the resurrection is coming. Death has been conquered for us. Everything leading up to Easter is to remind us how different life is now that the Resurrection has happened. Daniel lived out his faith in the reality that God would protect him and take care of him. We live in the reality that God has taken care of us fully in Christ, death has been conquered, and there is nothing and no one who can stand between God and us. We live in the reality of a modern day Babylon, how much greater should our courage be than Daniels?

2 Peter 3:1-18 

Scoffers gonna scoff…after two millennia are Peter’s words more comforting than they were within a few decades of Christ’s ascension? Where is the return of Christ? When is God going to redeem His broken creation? Things seem to just keep trucking along like they always have…

Remember who formed the earth and who is in control. This whole “God’s timing” thing can get a bit annoying because we’re pretty impatient. It says a lot about God that He has not redeemed His creation yet. He is incredibly patient when we are not. He wants everyone to have a chance to come to repentance so He is slow in keeping His promise.

The description Peter gives for the end of time seems to be ignored in a lot of conversations. Not only will everything on earth will be destroyed but heaven as well. All will be laid bare. We are people who look forward to this day because this is when the New Heavens and New Earth will come. All will be made new again and righteousness will reign. So…make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with God.

I want to point out again that Peter and Paul are writing to some of the same people. It is common for people to try and make a case that the Christianity as we know it today was started by Paul and isn’t what Christ or the Apostles intended. We have an example here of the unity that was found in the early Church between Peter and Paul. Peter affirms that Paul writes the Truth in all of his letters.

I love that Peter then says that Paul is sometimes hard to understand. I hear people often say that the Bible is simple and can simply be read. Peter here says that Paul’s teachings are hard to understand ignorant and unstable people distort (probably unknowingly) to their own destruction. This is one of the major reasons I think God’s Word needs to be read and discussed in community. You can read it on your own but it is essential to be in dialogue with others to keep your understanding in check. Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Writing on the Wall and False Teachers

Daniel 5

I love sayings that have their origin in Scripture but nobody knows it.  Today’s reading is where we get the saying, “He could see the writing on the wall.”  The saying means that the end was near and they knew it.  Of course, that’s exactly how this story ends up for Belshazzar.

First things first though, Belshazzar probably isn’t actually Nebuchadnezzar’s son.  There is a pretty significant amount of time (at least several years and possibly decades) between their reigns and four other kings ruled between them, which is why nobody seems to even remember Daniel.  Belshazzar was probably referred to as his son because it was his grandfather or simply as his successor as king of Babylon.  Daniel, who was once in charge of my of Babylon seems to be forgotten by nearly everybody.

As the story unfolds, we see that Belshazzar crosses a line.  Certainly he has already oppressed God’s people and been a tyrant.  But don’t think that you can make a mockery of God’s holy things.  When you go pull out the cups from the Temple and start using them to toast idols and false gods, then things about about to go very badly for you.  We see this when the Philistines place the Ark of the Covenant in Dagan’s Temple.  We see it when pagans throw pigs in the Temple.  We see it here in Daniel as well.  Respect God’s stuff and definitely don’t use it to worship idols.

When Daniel interprets the dream, even though it means destruction for the king, he is rewarded greatly and made third in command over the empire, which falls that night.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Daniel is that God continues to keep him safe during transitions between rulers.  Often the third in command would be killed when a new regime came to power.  Instead, Daniel continually emerges from a conquered people and rises to power with a new leader.  God remains faithful to him and continues to work through him to speak truth to power.  It’s also worth noting that while most prophets were sent to God’s people, Daniel spends most of his ministry giving God’s messages to Gentile nations.

2 Peter 2

One of the least favorite topics of Christians today and throughout history is when false teachers, especially those with truly evil motives, put on sheep’s clothing and deceive both the church and those outside of the church.  This shameful act is damaging to other Christians, but also badly hurts God’s ministry to the lost.  It’s easy to discredit a faith whose followers are fake or malicious.  In this chapter, Peter addresses this problem.  False teachers existed in Israel and they will exist in the church.  They will be judged harshly, especially when their actions are of a sexual or greedy nature and take advantage or harm others.

There is a frightening line towards the end of this chapter that essentially says that it’s better to have never believed at all than to have believed and lost faith.  This is an odd concept and seems counter-intuitive to us in many ways.  However, when I think about this in terms of relationship it makes sense.  On several occasions growing up I was shot down by girls who I was interested in.  It stung a little, but usually they didn’t know me very well and so it didn’t hurt for too long.  However, if Leah were to leave me today it would destroy me.  I would be a shattered man because the one who knows me and loves me the most abandoned me.  I think this is true of us in our relationship with God as well and it fits what is being said in 2 Peter 2.  And false teachers are even worse.  They pretend to be the perfect spouse, deeply in love, while sleeping around with others or simply pretending to be in love to get money.  The church must be wary of such individuals.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Pray for Bad Dreams – Keep Growing

Daniel 4:1-37 

Nebuchadnezzar by William Blake

For me, the book of Daniel has always been a great comparison to who we are as a nation. In many ways we are the Babylon of our day. As God’s people displaced here, we are reminded that we are part of a Kingdom and we are simply foreigners. Daniel is bold in telling Nebuchadnezzar that he is the tree that would be cut down unless he turned to the true God. His stump will be restored when he acknowledges that Heaven rules. Daniel then says, “Please accept my advice.” It might be that we stop praying for “Godly men” to take office but that whoever is in office will have some scary dreams that will point them to God. It’s a thought…

2 Peter 1:1-21 

Goodness – Knowledge – Self-Control – Perseverance – Godliness – Mutual Affection – Love

Possessing these qualities in increasing measure means you never fully arrive. Constantly be working on these things. Do not compare yourself to others because you can then become comfortable with where you are. This is where journaling becomes a really good idea. Focus on each of these at different points and document where you’ve been and where you’re going. What is the outcome in doing this? “They will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is too bold say that if someone is claiming to have a better knowledge of Christ but these qualities are not evident then their knowledge should be brought into question?

 

As long as we are still in this broken body we need to be reminded of the Truth that we first believed. Never become too comfortable with your knowledge but always been increasing in your knowledge of Christ. When you become comfortable you get stuck and fail to grow. Keep growing. Allow your roots to go deeper.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Dreamy Statue and Great Shepherds

I was going to try to blog while watching the Thunder game tonight.  Then it turned into one of the best games in franchise history.  But it’s over so now I can focus on the blog.

Daniel 2-3  

Daniel goes to the king and tells him what his dream was and then tells him that the statue in the dream represents four kingdoms.  We know from history that these four kingdoms are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.  However, in the end these kingdoms will all be destroyed and blown away by the wind while God will establish one eternal kingdom to take their place.  The message here to Nebuchadnezzar, and to us today, is that no earthly kingdom will ever last, but God’s kingdom will last forever.  I do think this has a significant message for us today.  I think too many Christians are more concerned about who the next President will be than they are about how we can help Jesus rule over our lives and our world.  Jesus is the rock who will outlast all governments, so put your faith in him and your citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.  It’s like that song for kids “The foolish man built his house upon the nation that will eventually pass away.  The wise man built is house upon the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.”  Or something like that…where is your primary citizenship?

The king has an immediate reaction to worship the one who interpreted his dream, but it is very clear that he remains very confused about who or what he is worshiping.  While saying that Yahweh is God, he is physically laying down worshiping Daniel, in spite of Daniel’s efforts to direct glory to God.  While Daniel is promoted above all others in the kingdom, God does not get elevated.  In fact, a huge golden statue is built to be worshiped instead.  When Daniel is promoted, he passes along this blessing by promoting his three buddies to be over the provinces, setting up tons of jealousy and the background to the next story.

So begins the first manipulation of the king by jealous, ambitious, Babylonian rulers.  Here’s the blueprint: Build an idol.  Get the king to make it illegal to refrain from worshiping it.  Point out that Jewish leaders refuse to worship it.  Punish them.  Find out you can’t punish them because their faith and their God are very real.  God is exalted.  The story is almost comedic.  The king seems foolish, but follows the advice of those trying to destroy Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to advance their own careers.  The fire is order to be so hot the only people killed are guards.  The Hebrew boys are tied securely as if they are trying to escape, which they never give any indication they would.  Once in the fire, they simply walk around with another being that “looks like a god.”  I think it was probably an angel, although it could have been God’s Spirit.  When the boys come out, they don’t even smell like smoke and they are cool to touch.  God’s power and victory are stunning.  God is glorified. The young men are promoted.  The king still looks ridiculous.  It’s impossible to appear wise or in control when you are promoting the people you just failed to kill.

I also can’t help but wonder what influence Daniel’s refusal to eat the king’s food in Daniel 1 had on these three in Daniel 3-4.  When they were faithful to God and did what was right by God when it came to eating, He rewarded them with health and influence.   When they were faithful to God by not worshiping an idol, they had experience with God rewarding their faith and perhaps it made it a little easier to walk towards the fire.  Often we ignore the little disciplines that God desires of us and hope we can always made the right decisions when big choices need to be made.  However, when we fail to develop wisdom and discipline in small things we won’t be ready for big ones.  If you haven’t already made up your mind to follow God, no matter how hard, when disaster strikes, it might already be too late.

1 Peter 4-5

The concept of being a good shepherd is in direct contrast to the bad shepherds that were ruling over Israel in Ezekiel.  They sought power, wealth and influence.  They did not take care of the weak or pursue the lost sheep of Israel.  They looked out for themselves only.  Jesus, the Great Shepherd, is such a better example of how elders should watch over their flock.  They protect the teachings of the church, show compassion on the weak and downtrodden, pray on all occasions, and seek the lost sheep.  They are good shepherds.  Because of this, the young men should respect the decisions and leadership of the elders.  It’s no surprise to me that the next passage after this advice is about how Satan divides and devours the church.  So many divisions in the church happen when shepherds aren’t doing their job or young people don’t give them the respect their position demands (or some combination of the two).

I thank God often for the men who shepherd me, my family, and my church.  They are some of the most godly, spiritual, prayerful men I have ever known.  I am extremely blessed to have opportunity to pray with them weekly and see their hearts for the sheep of our church.  They are my friends, my mentors, and great examples to me and I certainly respect them.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Bible in One Year