Trial by Fire (Daniel 3)

Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:14-18)

Learn it:

            King Nebuchadnezzar was inspired by his dream to build a statue to have his people worship.  He gathered all of the people in his court to its unveiling and have them worship it.  In the crowd were Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  These three Jews refused to bow down and they were about to be made an example for their disobedience to the king.  How they responded to the king in verses 16-18 are some of the strongest statements of faith in the Bible.  They were not compelled to defend themselves on their obedience to the LORD God.  They knew exactly what the king was threatening to do to them if they refused his orders again. 

            Their faith was so strong in God that they believed He had the power to save them but if God chose not to save them, they still would not worship the image the king had made.  There would have been several ways for them to rationalize pretending to worship the idol to save themselves.  They decided to boldly trust in God and live with integrity.  In an amazing miracle God protected them in this blazing furnace.  Not only did he protect them, but he was there with them in the furnace.  When they came out their robes were not singed, and they did not even smell like a fire!  What a display of God’s power in protecting those who call on His name. 

Live it:

            In out lives there are many things wanting our allegiance or attention.  With popular opinion pulling us in one direction we need to stop and look around.  Is this something that is glorifying God or something else?  It would have been hard for these three young men to refuse to worship this idol.  The king was commanding everyone to do it and they worked for the king.  Everyone around them was doing it so their disobedience would have been very noticeable.  Most people do not like to stick out or go against the majority.  As Christians we are called to stand firm in Christ and his teachings.  We worship Him and Him alone.  It means we will face some tough times. 

             Even though people may disagree with us and try to harm us it doesn’t mean we get to fight back.  Jesus also called us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48).  The young Jews were not confrontational with the king.  The king was irate and irrational.  They were calm and willingly accepted what was coming.  We are called to love our enemies and pray for them.  Even when we are not being treated fairly, we need to remain calm and display the love of Christ to them.  No matter what the consequences may be.  God will be with us and give us the comfort we need. 


Read more...

The Eternal Kingdom of God (Daniel 2:31-49)

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, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

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.  (Daniel 2:44-49)

Learn it:

            Daniel reveals the dream to the King.  In his dream there is this huge statue made from different materials.  Then this stone, that was not cut by human hands, is flying through the air and destroys the statue.  When Daniel interprets the dream the different materials in the statue represent different coming earthly kingdoms.  The stone represents the coming Kingdom of God.  That is perfect and will destroy all the earthly kingdoms.  This is going to happen some day and God gave this vision to King Nebuchadnezzar. 

            After Daniel gives the interpretation the King falls on his face and thanked Daniel.  Then the King also acknowledged Daniel’s God.  That He is powerful and knows all things.  We see that Daniel has consistently gave glory to the one true God and King Nebuchadnezzar praises Him as well.  The King still does not fully recognize Him as the one true God but is just another god to him.  God continues to bless Daniel for his faithfulness, and he is put in a higher position in the kingdom. 

Live it:

            We learn from this passage that our God, the one true God, is all knowing and more powerful than any earthly kingdom.  God knew exactly the dream that the King had.  Then in the dream he prophesied about coming nations and what they would be like.  That is impossible for any human to know!  As if that is not enough, He then shows that there is a more powerful kingdom coming that will destroy all the earthly kingdoms!  In the New Testament we know that this new kingdom will coming at Christ’s second coming.  When He comes again that will establish the eternal Kingdom of Christ. 

            This passage gives us great encouragement and hope.  We worship a God who knows all things.  He knows what is going to happen in our lives and in the lives of nations around the world.  He then promises to come back and establish His own kingdom.  His kingdom will be perfect, and we will be able to dwell with Him forever!  Until that day we are called to glorify God and point all people to Him.  Just like Daniel did before Nebuchadnezzar.


Read more...

Prayer and Praising God (Daniel 2:17-30)

Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;

wisdom and power are his.

21   He changes times and seasons;

he sets up kings and deposes them.

He gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to the discerning.

22   He reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what lies in darkness,

and light dwells with him.

23   I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers:

You have given me wisdom and power,

you have made known to me what we asked of you,

you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

 

24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”

25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed are these:

29 “As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.

Learn it:

            Daniel is the midst of a life and death situation.  He has told the Kings men that he would be able to reveal and interpret what the King’s dream was.  His first reaction was to get us friends together and pray.  They probably prayed until Daniel received from God what he was looking for.  Once he did find out what it was the sang this beautiful psalm of thanksgiving.  They were recognizing God for his power, majesty and how good he is.  Oh, that we could pray that psalm to the Lord. 

            Once he finished praising God, he went to the King and was able to reveal to him what he wanted to know about his dream.  In the beginning of the conversation Daniel made sure to give the glory to God.  No man is able to know another man’s dreams without the help of God.  It would have been easy for Daniel to take the credit, but he was humble and wanted God to have the glory. 

Live it:

            Have you ever faced a task that seemed impossible?  What would be your first step in getting it accomplished?  Daniel had the impossible task of telling someone what the dreamt.  This led him to get people together and pray.  It’s a beautiful picture of believers coming together and seeking God in prayer in someone’s time of need.  When they felt that God has given them an answer the gave the praise back to him!  Before the situation was resolved they were praising God. 

            The next time you’re at work and you are given a project that seems over your head, pray and ask God for wisdom.  If you are at home raising kids, ask God for strength and patience to know how to raise them.  Whatever situation you are in find the time to pray and if you are able ask others to join you in prayer.  When He answers, give Him praise.  Even if it seems like He didn’t answer, praise Him anyway because He is with you! God will give you the strength for any situation and we should in turn give him the glory for it. 


Read more...

Loving Unreasonable People (Daniel 2:1-16)

 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, 3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” (Daniel 2:1-3)

 7 Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

8 Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: 9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”

10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.”

12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. 15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16 At this, Daniel went into the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.  (Daniel 2:7-16)

Learn it:

            In chapter two we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that was deeply troubling him.  He wanted his group of wise men to not only tell him what it means but he wants them to tell him what his dream even was!  Since his wise men were unable to do this, he gets furious and he sends out an order to have all of the wise men executed!  The King is being totally unreasonable, and we are getting a very different picture of him then we got in the first chapter.  Where he was very nice and commending to Daniel and his friends.        

            Daniel was not present when the King was talking to his wise men because he was young and not as experienced.  The King was so mad that his wise men were unable to help him.  So was going to kill them all including Daniel.  When Daniel hears about what is going on, he remains calms and asks for details about what is happening.  He does not lash out in anger or tries to defend himself.  He just wants to know what is going on.  After learning what’s going on, he offers to help the King.  Wow!  Daniel had incredible faith in God!  Daniel clearly knew the King was not in a good mood and the fact that he would be able to tell him his dream meant that he trusted that God would tell him what his dream was.  Just incredible. 

Live it:

            There will be instances in our lives where we have to work with people that are unreasonable.  Daniel was facing death and was still able to ask helpful questions and offer his help to the king.  This is a powerful example for Christians today.  We are called to love and serve all types of people, especially those that are our enemies.  We are able to do that because we have a God who is with us.  He will give us the strength, wisdom, and peace to do it.  It is only through Him that we can bring others into a relationship with God.  Who has God put in your life that you would be able to serve?  Pray that God would give you the boldness to talk to them and open a door to serve them.  That through your actions you would be able to share the Gospel to them. 


Read more...

Following God’s Way (Daniel 1:8-21)

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. (Daniel 1:8-14)

19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. (Daniel 1:19-20)

Learn it:

            Daniel is in a foreign land and he has been given a new name, a re-education, and he is being given food from the king’s table.  It is at this last change that Daniel protests and does not want to eat his food.  The reason he did this was because eating a meal with someone, or from their table, would imply that they are friends and they share similar beliefs.  Daniel wanted to keep himself separated, as much as he could, from embracing the kings points of view. 

            Daniel’s request shocks the official because refusing the kings food would be equal to treason and that would mean death!  We see God working behind the scenes and the official grants Daniel’s proposition.  After the trail period of ten days Daniel and his friends are in great health and surpassing everyone in wisdom as well!  We see God blessing their faithfulness to him and gives the good fortune and puts them in a place of influence and power. 

Live it:

            Living or working in a place that does not share your same beliefs is challenging.  It would have been very easy for Daniel and his friends to give in and eat food from the kings table.  They wanted to be faithful to God and they chose to resist doing what everyone else was doing.  This could have cost them greatly but because they wanted to be obedient to God and fear Him above man, God protected them. 

            This story challenges us as believers to look at our lives and see if there are any areas in our lives that we may be putting cultural norms ahead of God’s call to holiness.  How can you live a life that is sold out to God?  We should not be afraid of what others will say about us because we know God will be with us as long as we are doing it for His glory.  Just as God was with Daniel, God will be with us as well.


Read more...

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.      


Read more...

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.


Read more...

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.    


Read more...

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. 


Read more...

10 Signs of a Christian – 7.  Faith

 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.  (Hebrews 11:1-3)

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.  (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Learn it:

            Chapter 11 of Hebrews is a common chapter we turn to, to learn about faith.  The chapter starts off by helping us understand what faith is.  When I read the first verse it makes me want to ask, what are we hoping for?  What do we not see?  Whatever that is we immediately see that the “ancients” were commended for that type of faith.  The rest of Hebrews 11 goes through different stories of people of people from the Old Testament and how they displayed their faith. 

            Then in the middle of the chapter we get a little more clarification about the type of faith people in the Old Testament had.  God had made them promises of land, and of a coming Messiah.  They were hopeful that God was creating a country for them but not just an earthly one but a heavenly one.  That is what we are all hopeful for.  We are hopeful that God is preparing a place for us to go when we die.  We do not see it now, but we see evidence of God in creation.  While we await being reunited with God we have his work to do. 

Live it:

            Faith boils down to trusting God in his promises, even when we may not experience them in our lives today.  In the Old Testament very few of the people got to experience the promises of God.  That did not prevent them from doing very courageous things.  As a follower of Christ our citizenship is in heaven.  We should be sold out on his promise that if God calls us to do something that seems uncomfortable, we should be willing to do it.  We can do that because we know that what awaits us in heaven will be so much better than any pain we will experience now.  That is what faith is calling us to do. 


Read more...