Monday, June 29, 2009

Daniel, chapter 5

The fifth chapter of Daniel jumps ahead on the story a bit. One of the most amazing things about chapter 4 was that King Nebuchadnezzar paid homage to the God of Israel in it. He recognized that that was the one true God and therefore turned away from the gods that Babylon worshipped. In chapter five we have moved on a few years past Nebuchadnezzar’s death. Babylon now has a new king, Belshazzar, who does not recognize God’s authority.

In this chapter, Belshazzar is arrogant. He defiles some of the treasures of the temple that were looted when the Babylonians took over Jerusalem. He almost openly mocks God to the point where God gives him the message via the writing on the wall. He does not understand the message, so he asks Daniel to come forward and translate like Nebuchadnezzar did.

22 "But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

25 "This is the inscription that was written:
Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin

26 "This is what these words mean:
Mene : God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

27 Tekel : You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

28 Peres : Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." – Daniel 5:22-28

Daniel cared very little for the gifts that Belshazzar promised him. Earlier in the chapter he even said they could be given to someone else. Despite the position that he was given, Daniel continued to serve the Lord and even worked to make other know that the Lord was the one true God. This was in the midst of a pagan culture that had numerous gods. Daniel’s life is a lesson on perseverance for us to always keep our focus on God even in the darkest of times when we are oppressed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Daniel, chapter 4

Chapter 4 of Daniel is a long narrative about King Nebuchadnezzar. In this chapter, Daniel is asked to interpret another dream the king had. The text of the chapter is pretty plain about what happened to the king, but I am wondering why it is there. The king essentially has a major confrontation with God Himself. In that confrontation, the king, who was probably the most powerful human alive at that time, was forced to recognize that life was not for his own aggrandizement.

To me, this chapter just shows the awesome power of God. Even the most powerful man alive was forced to recognize that God was the ultimate power in the universe. I’ve been trying to think of something else to say on this chapter for the last 15 minutes, but I can’t think of anything other than that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Daniel, Chapter 3

If your life were put on the line would you have what it takes to take a stand and not deny God? That is the question that faces us today in chapter three of the book of Daniel. In this book, King Nebuchadnezzar made it a decree that everyone in his kingdom had to worship an idol he had created. Most people in the kingdom did out of fear for their lives. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused, however, because they worshipped the one true God. Given a second chance to comply with the king’s decree they declined once again. As a result, they were given the punishment of being thrown into a furnace to be burned alive.

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"
They replied, "Certainly, O king."
25 He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." – Daniel 3:19-25

There is some speculation that this fourth person walking in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was none other than Jesus Himself. The Bible does not explicitly say if it was or not. The important part is that those three stood firm in their beliefs. They did not compromise simply for the sake of their lives because they knew their lives were not theirs to give. Ultimately, we are in God’s hands. He will use us as He sees fit to accomplish His goals. In that, we are protected from anything until those goals are met.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Daniel, chapter 2

It is not fun to be the bearer of bad news. If you are the subordinate to the person you must tell this news to, it can potentially be bad for you. In these days, a person might just lose their job in such a circumstance. Back in biblical times, however, a person was often executed for telling bad news. That is the situation we see here in Daniel 2. In this chapter, the king of Babylon has a dream he wants people to interpret truthfully. Those that could do so, however, were afraid to because they didn’t want to face the king’s wrath. They felt that by doing nothing they would be safe. Instead, the king ordered their death because no one would step forward.

Once Daniel found this out he stepped forward though. He knew that God gave him not only the power to interpret the dream, but God also had the power to protect him. This is an act of great faith on Daniel’s part. In human terms, his situation was hopeless, yet God could deliver him. God offered His protection to Daniel if he only stepped forward and did His work.

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 in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.

17 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 – Daniel 2:14-19

When Daniel first went to the king he did not know what the dream meant. As we see here, it was revealed to him after he had asked for time with the king. By merely stepping forward when no one else would, God revealed the meaning of the dream to Daniel. He was rewarded for his faith and because he later still had faith to tell the king, he was rewarded again with a position of power.

I don’t know where you are in your life. It may be a position where you think everything around you is hopeless. I know I feel that way this morning. There seems to be no way out of the life I have found myself in. Still, I am striving to keep my faith. I probably won’t be asked to interpret a dream, but it is my prayer each that I will have the strength to step forward, like Daniel, when my time is called to do whatever it is I am called to do. In the meantime it can be frustrating. I feel useless and like I am a spectator of life, but I must remain faithful.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Daniel, chapter 1

Over the next few weeks I wanted to step back into the Old Testament for a bit and write about the book of Daniel. Daniel is a book that has a lot of hope during a very dark time for the people of Israel. It takes place during the Babylonian exile, yet it centers on Daniel’s faithful service to God in a time where he was captive by a completely different culture. In this book, Daniel is tempted many times to abandon his faith, but he stays faithful to God through it all. At each turn, God rewards his faith with continued guidance.

8 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 [c] 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

This is an example of how our response to God in difficult situations can make all the difference. It would have been easy for Daniel to go along with the Babylonians and accept the gifts given to him, but he took a stand. He asked for a test and God gave him the strength to pass said test. Not only that, but God also gave him the ability to interpret dreams and visions. This resulted in Daniel having an even higher place in the king’s court during the Babylonian exile.

So how does this carry over to today? Sometimes, we don’t find ourselves in the best of situations. When there, the temptation to take the first way out is strong. Sometimes this isn’t always the best way. It can lead to an even worse situation because we took the easy way instead of the way God wants us to go. There are lessons to be learned even in suffering. Discipline can be one of them. We would do right to learn from Daniel’s discipline and devotion to God shown here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

3 John, chapter 1

This book is very brief, but it still carries an important message. This is another reminder from John that we must always walk in faith and reach out to those that are even strangers. I hope that is what I am accomplishing by writing here in this blog. I only know of a handful of people that read it, but it is my hope that anyone who does come across it will see God’s fingerprints on it.

5Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 3 John 1:5-7

This is the most important thing that I can take from this. We must always be moving forward and act kindly toward everyone we meet. As Christians, we are living examples of Christ’s love. We are the representation of his earthly ministry, and therefore we are always on the front lines advancing His kingdom. By living Godly lives and helping those around us we only further His ministry, which is our reason for being.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2 John

I have decided to finish this week by writing about 2 and 3 John, especially since I did 1 John much earlier. It seems like a fitting cap to the week since I have two days left to go over two very short books.

2 John is something I needed to read, as well. It can be easy to overlook some of these shorter books in the Bible. This is one that is so short it seems a little incongruous, but it is there for a reason. In this book, we are reminded to always be on the lookout for false teachers, but there is something more as well. There is a lesson in love that I sometimes forget. I am glad it was brought home again today.

5And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. – 2 John 1:5-6

I was recently asked to work in a call center for two weeks. To me, this type of job is a fate worse than death. I hate customer service work, yet I am consistently given jobs like this because it is the best I can do. This one was particularly frustrating because the training I was given was very poor. I could not provide assistance on at least half of the calls I received because I had no idea what I was doing. In frustration, I often ended up giving up on helping those calling in.

In my actions, however, I wasn’t walking in love. I was thinking only of myself and my own frustrations. This is a sin I am constantly guilty of. I admit that I need to work on it not just from a professional standpoint, but a personal one as well. After four and a half years of constant professional frustration my view is often so narrow that I cannot see those around me. I resolve to work on that and try to walk in love for others from now on. It can only benefit me, as well as others.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2 Peter, chapter 3

This is the final chapter in the very short book of 2 Peter, but it serves as another warning against complacency. In it, Peter challenges us to think. His opening verse even says he wrote this letter to stimulate our wholesome thinking. This world today does not want us to think. It wants us to blindly follow what we are told. I struggle with this, as it seems I run into many jobs and people that don’t think. To me, not thinking is the same as being dead. You’re just about as useful to society if you’re not thinking. I encourage you, as Peter does here, to always think.

14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. – 2 Peter 3:14-15

I think this is ultimately what we seek in this world. It is a dark and scary place. If we follow Christ, we know we are not of this world. Therefore, it can be very difficult to find peace. I think that is what we seek in this life more than anything. We seek peace because otherwise our lives are restless from fighting against a world to which we do not belong.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

2 Peter, chapter 2

It is hard to like this world. When I read the news every day I see how sin is not only condoned, but encouraged. Stupid rules are enforced, while age-old family values are swept under the rug with the guise of “being progressive”. For me, it is hard to understand why the world has gone this way and still maintain my faith. I admit that it has not been easy of late.

2 Peter 2 addresses with a scathing commentary against false teachers and their commentary. The world today is full of false teachers. There are obvious ones, such as the infamous Fred Phelps at the Westboro Baptist Church. His message is one of pure, unadulterated hatred instead of the true love that God wants us to show people. Other false teachers are more subtle, and those are the ones that lure us away from the path God has planned for us.

7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. – 2 Peter 2:7-9

I feel like Lot today. I feel like I am lost in a world where I don’t belong. Another great job opportunity fell through for me yesterday, so I am openly questioning what my place in this world is. Peter left a promise in this passage though. If we remain faithful, we will be delivered. There are days when I openly wonder if I will ever feels peace this side of heaven. I just pray daily that I can do my part to earn this reward.

Monday, June 15, 2009

2 Peter, chapter 1

I am back. It is no secret that I have been searching for a purpose for some time. Those feelings get stronger every day, mostly because I know I am upon a precipice where things are going to drastically change in my life. Soon we will need to get a bigger place to live, likely trade in cars, have a family member move in with us, and we would like to start a family. Right now, it looks impossible to do even one of those things. That leads to tension, as I know all must happen soon. How can I trust God in this when I feel I don’t have a purpose?

That is why I am glad I decided to return to Veritas today. In looking through the archives, I saw that I had written about 1 Peter, but I hadn’t continued on to 2 Peter. It took me mere seconds today to see that there is a calling laid out for us, and that one of the keys virtues in seeing that calling is patience. Patience is something that I have lacked my entire life, but it is what God tries to teach us in these moments.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. – 2 Peter 1:5-9

Peter then delivers advice for us to make our calling and election sure. It is fascinating to see this come from Peter. He was one that was once sure in his faith, yet denied Christ on the night of his arrest three times. To me, that is proof that we need all of the things listed here in order to make our calling sure. I even believe that we need all of these virtues to even see our calling. As Peter states, if we lack just one of these, we become nearsighted and blind.

So how do we seek these in our daily lives? It is easy to have perseverance without some of the others. I have persevered to write this even though I haven’t felt Godly. I have lacked self-control even in times of knowledge. Right now this feels like an overwhelming puzzle in front of me that I cannot figure out. We are promised, however, that we are given everything we need in order to fulfill the calling we have been made for. That is where patience comes in, so I will be patient.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Seeking Reader input

Sorry for the lack of updates everyone. I've been really busy lately, plus I have been suffering from a bit of writer's block in this area. in that, I would appreciate your help. For those of you that do read this blog, what book would you like to see me write about next? I have just finished covering the four gospels, and int he archives you can see that I have done most of the New Testament. So I open it up to you the reader. Where do I go next?

Friday, June 5, 2009

John, chapter 21

We come to the end of the book of John today. With that, we also come to the end of our study of the gospels. As always, Jesus sends us away with a message of great hope. In this chapter, we see Jesus give us a lesson in what we are supposed to do with our lives. He also re-establishes Peter as the head of His very young church. Over the span of a few days, the disciples go from despair to triumph because if the Resurrection.

4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"
"No," they answered.
6He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. –John 21:4-6

Even when the situation looks hopeless we still must look to see what good God can bring from the situation. In this case, the disciples had been fishing all night, yet they hadn’t caught anything. Here, Jesus advises just a slight change of tactics and it pays off. A negative situation becomes an overwhelming positive. It is also foreshadowing what the disciples will do for mankind. From this point forward, they would go out and spread the word of Christ around the globe. They would reap a great catch, and that is still going on today.

I am currently trying to relate this lesson to my own life. For the next two weeks, I am going to be in a place work-wise that I seriously do not want to be. The job is undesirable. The hours are even worse, yet I know that God has placed me here for a reason. The last three mornings (including this morning) as I have prepared to go to my three days of training for this job, I have had a very negative mindset. I admit that I must take a different look at things and see what good I can do in this capacity. Right now, I am dreading every hours and just wishing it is over. With a slight change of attitude, however, I know God can accomplish something wonderful even in a place where I don’t want to be.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

John, chapter 20

The empty tomb. As I mentioned yesterday, without it, our faith is nothing. Without it, we have no mediator between us and God. The empty tomb symbolizes our sole hope in this world that there is something more. It is the promise of eternal life if we believe in Christ. Even now, when I am racked with anxiety so badly that I cannot sit still, I think of the promise of the empty tomb and it gives me a measure of peace.

24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" – John 20:24-28

Don’t we all feel a bit like Thomas when times are tough? In this moment, Thomas was likely very upset because of Jesus’ death. As one of the Twelve, Thomas was one of Jesus’ most loyal followers. He had to be questioning why he had followed Christ and what he was going to do now. He may even been angry and a little bitter, thinking he had wasted the last few years of his life following Jesus.

I think this is how we all feel when life doesn’t work out the way we have it planned. Though Jesus has a great plan in store for us, sometimes we don’t see it. I know I can vouch for this. It has been four and a half years since I last had a permanent job, and many temporary positions I have taken seem like a waste of time. Sometimes I wonder if God is even listening, and I have my “until I see the marks in His hands” moments. This is where we need Jesus’ peace even more than normal. He has promised never to forsake us or turn away from us if we believe in Him. That promise is as good as the empty tomb.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

John, chapter 19 part 2

My apologies for being a bit distracted this morning. I am having a second straight morning where I am very foggy-headed. It makes for a distracting morning as I deal with some outside issues. Today we will deal with John’s account of the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus. I have called this the lowest point in human history before, and I stand by that statement now.

Crucifixion is a particularly brutal and painful way to die. In the Roman world, it would sometimes take a matter of days for a person to do this way. Often the cause of death was asphyxiation because the person couldn’t lift their body up any longer in order to breathe. It is also important to remember that Jesus went through this after receiving a severe beating, so physically, he already wasn’t in the best shape.

28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:28-30

This seems like such a final moment here. If it were not for the Resurrection a few days later, it would have been a final moment. We are cleansed because Jesus died for our sins as the ultimate sacrifice, but that sacrifice has no meaning without the Resurrection. Since Jesus did rise from the dead and still lives, he took the keys of death and can now act as mediator between us and God. Because of that, we can live forever if we believe in Him.

Monday, June 1, 2009

John, chapter 19 part 1

Pilate is an interesting character in Scripture. It is clear that he showed much regret in his role in Jesus’ crucifixion, yet he did not use his authority to stop the event from happening. It wasn’t like he was powerless, either. As a member of the Roman government in charge of Israel at the time, he could have ended the whole mess with a word. Instead, he served a role that was foretold in Scripture.

7The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God."

8When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9and he went back inside the palace. "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10"Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"

11Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

12From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar." – John 19:7-12

I have long been confused by Pilate’s fate after this. Someone had to give the order it crucify Jesus. Unlike Judas, Pilate was a person that, as I read this, looks more like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He comes off as a reluctant villain if there eve was one. He even tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews wouldn’t have it. Their thirst for blood was up, and they would have it.

So how should we look on Pilate? I even wonder how Jesus viewed Pilate after these events. I think Jesus had a more sympathetic view of him because He knew that He still had to face His death regardless of what the local authorities said. As Jesus says, Pilate did not have any real power over Him except from above. Since God had decided the sacrifice was necessary, Pilate had to play that role.