Manna for Today

 

Culture and Identity (Daniel 1:1-7)

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.  (Daniel 1:1-7)

Learn it:

            In book of Daniel opens up with a reminder of what has happened in Israel’s recent history.  Israel’s capitol, Jerusalem, has been overtaken by Babylon and some of the treasures in the temple have been removed.  Not only have material things been taken but people have been removed from the city as well.  Some of the people taken from Israel belong to an elite class and probably had connections to the royal family.  This was probably done to make sure those in power stay in line and obey the Babylonian King. 

            We are then introduced to some of those people that were taken.  We first learn of their characteristics and how they were handsome and intelligent. The cream of the crop!  They were being taught all about Babylon and being groomed to serve the king.  This passage ends with them being given new names.  All of their Jewish names had a meaning referring to the God of Israel.  Their new Babylonian names removed those references and related to their pagan gods.  Renaming them was a way to really break down their identity and tell them your old self does not exist anymore.  You are no longer a Jews but a Babylonian.    

Live it:

            This time in Israel’s history is referred to as “the exile”.  Israel is no longer able to worship God in the Temple and their relationship with God is going to be challenged as they are going to be living among people who do not recognize the God of Israel.  We can learn a lot from the book of Daniel because we live in a culture where there are many different beliefs when it comes to faith.  There will be moments where culture is going to want us to conform to their ways, but we must stand strong in our identities as children of Christ.  We must not be persuaded into their false teachings but stand strong on the Word of God.      


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10 Signs of a Christian – 10.  Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  (1 Corinthians 13)

Learn it:

            This passage in 1 Corinthians is packed with a lot of theology on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and if they have continued till today or they have stopped.  The middle section is also used at weddings to describe what love is.  We are going to focus more on the second thing and not address the more debated topics in this passage.  The main point of the passage is how love is better than any of the other spiritual gifts!  In verses 1-3 Paul write about how if we use the gifts of speaking in tongues, the gift of prophecy, or give generously but do not do them with love, it is worthless!  Love must be our motivation for using the gifts God has given us. 

            Paul then goes on to describe and define what he means by love in verses 4-7.  What a definition of love!  When we talk about living a life of love it means doing all of those things.  Being patient, kind, not envy, not boastful, not proud, and the list goes on and on!  Paul goes on in verses 8-13 to describe how a Christian matures and how love is the greatest thing we can achieve. 

Live it:

            While Jesus Christ was on earth, he modeled to us how we live a life full of love.  It was gracious, bold, and broke cultural norms.  He talked to those the world labeled unlovable.  People did not treat him well yet he prayed for them and did not hold it against them.  How can you display this kind of love in your life?  What are things you need to let go of so that you can truly love someone?  Think of someone who your relationship is currently going through a tough time.  How can you love them?  How can you serve them or meet a need they have?  That is Christ like love.  It calls us to die to ourselves and let HIS love shine through us.


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10 Signs of a Christian – 9.  Hope

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:1-6)

Learn it:

            When Jesus is talking with his disciples before he was arrested, he talked about God’s plan of salvation.  They were having a hard time understanding what was going to happen with Jesus’ life.  In the passage above Jesus was trying to encourage them and give them hope!  He wanted his disciples to trust him that God is preparing a place for them.  He then goes on to explain that he, Jesus, is going to be going away but that he will come back for them.  Jesus then affirms that the disciples should know where he is going and what he is talking about. 

            Thomas is the one disciple who speaks up and shares that he is confused and does not know where Jesus is going.  Jesus then responds by saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  He is the way to eternal life.  Everything he has been teaching them and showing them should help them know the way.  He is the hope in their lives. 

Live it:

            Jesus the Christ is the hope of the whole world.  When we read through that passage above, we can relate with Thomas because Jesus’ teachings can be confusing.  Yet the gospel is a very simple message.  God sent his Son to pay the price that we deserve for our sins.  If we confess that Jesus is our Savior and surrender our lives to him, then we will have eternal life.  This is where we put our hope.  We should not be discouraged by what we see in the world but have hope in what God is doing and will do in the future.    


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10 Signs of a Christian – 8.  Discipline

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  (1 Cor. 9:24-27)

Learn it:

            In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he tells them they need to surrender their lives to God and do his will.  He then uses the illustration of an athlete to describe how we are called to live our lives with discipline.  In a race there is only one person that wins the race and we are called to live our lives with that same dedication!  Why?  Because we are not going to win some temporary trophy but eternal life!  I’m no runner but the type of training it would take to compete for first place is a lot of work! 

            Paul talks about his own life and how he has diligently trained his body so that he can be a good example for others.  He does not want to get prideful that his ability to spread the gospel will get him into heaven.  He wants to always be striving to live a holy life so the people he witnesses to we will be encouraged to do the same thing.  Paul is a human as all of us and he too has to work hard to glorify God in all that he does.

Live it:

            Being a follower of Christ is going to take work.  It is more than just going to Church on Sundays.  If a runner only practiced running only once a week for an hour, then there is no chance they will win.  A runner has to be training every day to keep their body in shape for the race.  Their training is more than just running every day.  It means they have to be aware of what they eat, working out other parts of their body and making sure they take time to rest.  They can’t overwork themselves. 

            Christians we must be disciplined in our faith as well.  We have to have discipline in many areas of our lives as well.  We should have discipline in prayer, reading our Bible, in our work lives, and how we spend time with our families.  We also need to find time to rest.  This is going to take work and will not happen by accident.  Sit down and schedule out a typical week.  Make sure you schedule time for God and other ways for you to do his work. 


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Pastor’s Corner