Friday, December 31, 2010

church, for better or for worse



The Word for today:
Revelation 2: 18-29

I'm not as keen on all the "Left Behind" elements of Revelation as others seem to be.  Because, you see, I will not be here past Revelation chapter three.

Either I am going to die, and therefore embark on my personal exodus to be with Jesus; or else I am going to be raptured along with the believing church, in mass exodus to meet Jesus.  Either way, I'm not going to have to worry about beasts and 666 and the four horsemen and all of those things which are featured in the Revelation movies.

Therefore, the most interesting things in Revelation for me--by far--are the character of Jesus Christ and the character of the church ("the Bride) which he saved. 

Chapters 2 and 3 consist of letters from Jesus to seven churches.  Taken together, these churches show us the good, the bad, and the ugly of the church at large.  So we must pay great attention to these letters, because they are addressed directly to us!

The Seven churches of Revelation




Furthermore, many commentators see, in the arrangement of the letters, a chronological history of the church through its 2000+ years:

Ephesus—the apostolic church; this had been the church at its best, but now shows the need for revival (Pentecost to A.D. 100).

Smyrna—represents persecution and martyrdom in the church. Told to stand firm in persecution (100 to A.D. 314).

Pergamos—the church becomes worldly. Shows us the seduction of idolatry (314 to 590 A.D).

Thyatira—represents Romanism; the Dark Ages. Shows us the results of the lack of self-discipline (590 to 1000 A.D.)

Sardis—represents the Protestant Reformation. Shows us the lure of materialism (1517 to 1800).

Protestantism recovered justification by faith, the depravity of man, and the authority of the Word of God. But all of the truth was not recovered by the Reformation. The doctrine of eschatology (prophecy) is just now being recovered.

Philadelphia—the revived church, which turned back to the Word of God, from both Protestant and Catholic denominations, showing faithful love and service (1800 A.D. to the Rapture).

(Note: Only Smyrna and Philadelphia have no condemnation from Christ.)

Laodiceans—The apostate church which professes to be Christian, but has long since departed from the Word of God and from the person of Christ: neither cold nor hot, lukewarm and self-satisfied.


We are now living in the time of the Philadelphian and Laodicean churches, side by side:
· That church (represented by the Laodicean church) which is moving farther and farther into apostasy. The church of Laodicea makes God puke. (3:16)

· That church (represented by the Philadelphian church) which is staying by the Word of God. This is the church which will be raptured.


***
You won't see much of chapters 2 and 3 at the next Revelation-inspired movie.  But these letters have our names on them, so it makes sense to pay them particular attention.  As Jesus repeatedly says,

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Balderdash!



The Word for today:
Revelation 2:8-17

Typically, Stand in the Rain will plunge into the pool headfirst before looking back to measure how high the diving board.

We knew that before long we'd have to regroup for a little bit of a chalk-talk, but we thought we'd get immersed in the Spirit of Revelation before taking this brief academic time-out.

Over the next couple days, we will provide you with some materials which will impart a sense of structure to the book of Revelation as a whole. Then, we promise, we'll dive right back into the Spirit of things.

***

The Bible is meant to be clearly understood. And so is the book of Revelation.  But many have said that Revelation is inscrutable, obscure, incomprehensible.

To which Stand in the Rain politely replies, "Balderdash!"-- because the Word of God itself says that the meaning of Revelation is not sealed:
And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book…" (Revelation 22:10)

Whereas the full meaning of the book of Daniel is sealed until the time of the end (1), the meaning of Revelation is not closed to us.

As for Revelation's figurative language, the whole-Bible student will "figure out" Revelation's figurative language if he'll read the first 65 books of the Bible before peeking at the end! In the words of the late, great Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee:
Revelation is like a great union station where the great trunk lines of prophecy come in from other portions of scripture. Revelation does not originate but consummates. It is imperative to a right understanding of the book to be able to trace each great subject of prophecy from the first reference to the terminal.

Revelation is very neatly and systematically laid out. The verse which serves as an outline for the entire book is 1:19:

· Write the things which you have seen—chapter 1
(referring to the vision John had just seen and recorded in 1:10-16)

· and the things which are—chapters 2 and 3
(referring to the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3)

· and the things which shall be hereafter—chapters 4 to 22
(referring to the prophecies of future events unfolded in chapters 4 to 22)

The basics of Revelation, charted:


* It begins with the cross of Christ and His ascension. In chapter 1, we see the glorified Christ.
* In chapters 2-3 we see the church.
* In chapters 4-5 we see that the church is in heaven.
* Then on earth the Great Tribulation takes place, chapters 6-18.
* In chapter 19, Christ returns to earth and establishes His kingdom.
* Chapter 20 gives us the thousand-year reign of Christ.
* Then the Great White Throne is set up (the place where the lost are judged).
* In chapters 21-22 eternity begins.

The basics of Revelation, outlined:
I. A vision of Christ’s glory, wisdom, and power (chapter 1).
II. Christ’s authority over the entire church (Chapters 2, 3).
III. Christ the Lamb Who was slain and declared worthy to open the book of judgment (ch.5).
IV. Christ’s righteous wrath is poured out upon the whole earth (chapters 6-18).
V. Christ returns in power to judge his enemies and to reign as the Lord over all (ch. 19, 20).
VI. Christ rules forever over the heavenly city in the presence of all who know Him (ch. 21, 22).
***

We hope that these materials will leave you with a sense that Revelation is written to make perfect sense. Now let's go see what sense it makes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Daniel 12:9

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

love in improper perspective



The Word for today:
Revelation 2:1-7

American poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote,

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"
I can't hear rhyme without rhyming back, so...
Please pardon me, for I don't agree.
Sadder yet are the words, "What used to be..."

I don't miss things that might have been.
I never saw their day.
What I miss most are things that were,
but then they went away...
Over the course of the next week, we're going to be reading Jesus' letters to the churches.  The letters have spiritual significance, and even historical significance.  But more than anything, they have personal significance.  So we're going to take them personally

In the first of the letters, written to the church at Ephesus, Jesus laments a love, once strong, that went wrong:
You are patient, you have suffered for my sake, and you have not given up.
But this is what I have against you: you do not love me now as you did at first.  (Revelation 2:3-4)

***

Take these words to your heart.  If they apply to you, then turn them around:
Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and do the things you did at first. (Revelation 2:5)

If they don't apply right now, then be warned that love left untended can deteriorate to this.  So don't you let it.  Guard and cherish the love you first had.  Be diligently, vigilantly, even militantly faithful to God.  

And by all means strive to get a little stupid over love.  God doesn't cherish our towering intellects, our elegant refinement, or our prudent discretion.  What he loves are hearts too eager to please, emotions too vulnerable, and raw infatuation worn on the sleeve.

So wear his favorite color.  Sing his favorite songs. Rhyme with all the things he says.  Laugh at all of his jokes.  Carve his initials on a tree.  Buy him a gift.  Make him a gift.  Write sweet, silly notes, underlining every word.  Spend too much of your money on him.  Spend too much of your time with him.  Look for opportunities to be alone.   Let things get way out of hand,

just like it used to be.

And should Mom caution you to keep things in proper perspective, you'll know your first love has awakened.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the un-familiar Jesus



The Word for today:
Revelation 1:9-20

mark this: Revelation 1:17-18
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.


I get criticized for what I'm about to write, but criticism just sort of eggs me on. So here goes.

When a friend enters the room, are you in the habit of falling down as if struck dead?

I hear all this talk about Jesus being our friend. And yet when John, who is singled out  by scripture as the disciple whom Jesus loved (1), first sees the glorified Jesus Christ, he falls down as if dead!

Quite the friendship.

The Bible says that we are Jesus' friends when we obey him:
You are my friends if you do what I command you.  (John 15:14)

Are you Jesus' friend by his own definition?  Are you obeying him right now? And not just the easy kind of negative obedience--not cussin', not brawlin', not stealin', not runnin' around on your wife.  "Not doing things" probably constitutes (by my calculations!) about 1% of what it means to obey God.

But are you obeying him in the positive sense of what it means to obey? Are you doing, today, the things he has told you to do with your life?

If you are, then call him "Friend."  But if you aren't, then I'd drop the easy familiarity because it's not rightfully yours. And it's not rightfully mine.

As we read the book of Revelation, let the full character and personality of the complete Jesus emerge before your eyes. For the next month, while we read and study this book, let the Bible speak for itself, and let it reveal Jesus Christ on its own terms. Forget, if you will, for one month what your preacher says about Jesus, what Chris Tomlin says about Jesus, what Beth Moore says about Jesus, what (my hero) J. Vernon McGee says about Jesus, what your friends--believers and unbelievers--say bout Jesus, what Hollywood says about Jesus, what the Stand in the Rain bloggers say about Jesus, what your mother says about Jesus--and just let Jesus emerge from the book written by God the Holy Spirit (who knows Jesus best!)

Maybe, just maybe, when you meet up with Jesus as the Spirit describes him, you will start to become a little less casual about some of the of the things he has commanded. Maybe, just maybe, when we consider the complete, biblical Jesus, we might start to take him a lot less for granted.

Maybe, just maybe, we will experience a little bit of what the Bible calls the fear of the LORD.

And then, perhaps, we will find ourselves obeying this un-familiar Jesus whom we have encountered in scripture.

And then, wonder of wonders, we will become his friends--on his terms.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) John 13:23 (and four other instances)

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Revelation of Jesus Christ



The Word for today:
Revelation 1:1-8

As a Bible teacher, slogging my way through blogs and promotions and class preparations while battling the forces of evil on one hand and the misplaced priorities of the Christian church on the other, I've often wondered if there were a way--a magic formula, a strategy, a scheme--to dramatically increase Bible literacy. I mean something that would bring enhanced Bible understanding to millions upon millions overnight.

Because if I could find that button, I'd push it. If I could locate that lever, I'd pull it.

If such a formula, scheme, or stratagem exists, it would probably be found right here in Revelation 1:1, the first verse of the last book in the Bible:
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.

Can you find the magic Bible-teaching formula embedded within that verse? If you can't, let me show you:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

There it is. There's the button and the lever.

If I could do one little thing to bring--voila!--exponentially increased biblical understanding to billions by this time tomorrow, I would gather all the Bibles--all of the old ones, new ones, loved ones, and neglected ones--and I would change the title to this:


Because I've decided, after years out there in the Bible teaching fields, that the most effective way to get them to understand what's inside is to re-label the outside. Our retailers would call it a matter of re-packaging.

And why not? Some of you, I am sure--out of deference to tradition--were uneasy, maybe incensed, with the graphic above. To think of the temerity, the shameless audacity of some yahoo blogger defacing the holiest of books…

Well, get over it. There's been many a Bible already packaged without the familiar "Bible" or "Holy Bible" appearing anywhere on the outside or the inside. The first Bible I ever happened to read was called "Good News for Modern Man." Bibles have been packaged as "The Way" and as "The Source." A currently popular edition is called "The Message."

All are legitimate re-packagings, because the Holy Spirit never really designated a title. The name we've given it is the most generic of words--'Bible' means "book"--so generic, in fact, that it renders the title virtually meaningless. (I can see that it's a book, for heaven's sake!)

But a book about what? About, precisely, this:
~~The Revelation of Jesus Christ~~

The Bible has one purpose--to reveal Jesus Christ. So why not say so, right there on the cover.   Because if the title on the outside  means nothing, then one might more easily argue that what's on the inside could mean just about anything.

I don't know where you live, so my elves probably won't break into your house tonight to affect an extreme makeover of your Bible. So you'll have to do it yourself. I recommend "White-Out," both for crossing out "Holy Bible" and for writing the new, improved title. White Out (or nail polish, if White-Out isn't handy) are forever.

While you're at it, you can go to the inside and cross out some other man-made titles that the Holy Spirit never gave us. Go to the beginning of your book and cross out "Old Testament." (For this purpose, a black Sharpie works best.) Then go to the page after the book of Malachi and cross out "New Testament." These man-made designations have caused more biblical misunderstanding than any other single inanity we have foisted upon scripture.

There, now you've got the book as its author wrote it. But--believe me--when your Mother finds out what you just did, she's going to be mighty angry.

But that's o.k. Because--believe me even more--when Satan finds out what you did, he's going to be mighty angry as well. He wants confusion about "The Bible." Calling it "The Revelation of Jesus Christ' cuts through all the misdirection and pettifoggery that he's managed to enshroud the Book in, over his long and successful un-teaching career.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hallelujah!--part 2



The Word for today:
Psalms 148-150

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah.

We thought it would be particularly appropriate, since we are now reading the section of scripture (Psalms 146-150) known as the "Hallelujah Psalms."  These Psalms each begin and end with the same Hebrew phrase--Hallelujah--which your Bibles will translate as "Praise the LORD."

The Hallelujah Chorus, though associated with Christmas, is actually inspired by the book of Revelation--which, it so happens, we will turn to tomorrow.

So, in the spirit of yesterday's Christmas, today's Hallelujah Psalms, and tomorrow's Revelation, we reprise a recent flash mob performance of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Praise ye the LORD!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hallelujah!--part 1



The Word for today:
Psalm 147

Stand in the Rain is going to rejoice today and then tomorrow all over again, because there is so much rejoicing to do and so little time to do it!

We find it fitting that our reading schedule for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the Feast of Stephen (December 26th, the day "Good King Wenceslaus looked out") consists of the "Hallelujah Psalms."

These Psalms (146 through 150) each begin and end with the same word:  Hallelujah.

Hallelujah is a Hebrew phrase.  Your Bibles will translate it as "Praise the LORD."

So that's what we're going to do.  To show you how with it we are, we're going to link you to a recent flash mob performance of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah.

Merry Christmas, and Praise the LORD!


Friday, December 24, 2010

the best room in the inn



The Word for today:
Psalm 146

Most of us pay way too much attention to other people:
We don't "dance like David did" because of what people might think.

We catch ourselves looking for man's commendation before seeking commendation from God. We can even find ourselves tailoring the truth to fall softly, inoffensively on our hearer's ears.

Today's Psalm talks about looking to man for the things of God. I often do, until I catch myself at it and remember that there is no salvation in the hand of man:

I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them--
the LORD, who remains faithful forever. (Psalms 146:2-6)
This is probably the last thing I should be writing as we are wrapping presents and opening cards. But let's remember that Christmas is precisely about this: God had to come down into the pit with us because we could not lift ourselves, or others, up or out:
The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down. (Psalms 146:7-8)
As we look with resolve to the new year, may we be wary of misplaced priorities--not just self-centered priorities, but even "other-centered" priorities, when we sense that others are being given the place that the heart must reserve for God.

"Joy to the world," we sing. A long time ago, I heard what joy was made of. So did you:
J-O-Y, J-O-Y,
This is what it means:
Jesus first,
Yourself last,
And others in between.

On the first Christmas, there was no room for him in the inn. This Christmas, let every heart prepare him the best room a heart can afford.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Heaven: a sneak preview



The Word for today:
Psalm 145

My friend Marcia and I go 'round and 'round about heaven.  We try to imagine what it's going to be like.  

Yesterday I told her that I think it will be possible to make mistakes in heaven. She was typing something, so I seized on that as an example:

F.-- "I think there will be typographical errors in heaven."

M.-- "No, Franklyn, heaven is going to be perfect."

F.--"But 'perfect' leaves no room for improvement. I think God will allow us to look forward to painting a better picture, writing a better poem, or running a faster race tomorrow. There will be things we can improve upon."

M.--"Maybe. But the way I see it, we will make the perfect more perfect. No typos. No falling down in the race and skinning our knees."

F.--"To 'make the perfect more perfect' makes no logical sense."

M.--"Oh, don't bring logic into this. Heaven will be bigger than logic."

***

Most of our discussions are just guesses--conjecture--about heaven, because there isn't really that much in the Bible about the subject.

But when I want more than conjecture, I go to Psalm 145. Because when we're in Psalm 145, we're in heaven:
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.

Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.

One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.

They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.

They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.

All you have made will praise you, O LORD;
your saints will extol you.

They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made.

The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.

You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.

The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalms 145:1-18)
~~~~~~~~

M.-- Well, you said Psalm 145 is like heaven, and I don't see any typos there.

F.-- But notice that "The LORD upholds all those who fall."  It looks like there's going to be some skinned knees in heaven.

M.-- Will not!

F.-- Will so!

M.-- Will not!

(To be continued, probably until Kingdom come...)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What does he see in me?



The Word for today:
Psalm 144

The very first sentence in the book of Psalms tells us to meditate--day and night-- on God's Word:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  (Psalm 1:1-2)

So, let's chew on this for a while:
O LORD, what is man that you care for him,
the son of man that you think of him?   (Psalms 144:3)

In the book of Ruth, we hear Ruth ask essentially the same question:
Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me?  (Ruth 2:10)

Scripture teaches that the answer to this question is found not within us, but within God:
The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you...  (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

This is a revolutionary concept, so in order for it to sink in, let's turn it over in our minds:

**The Bible does not say that I am lovely. The Bible does not say that I am lovable. The Bible says that I am loved.

**God so loved the world because God is love.

**God didn't die for us because we were worthy. We are worthy because God died for us.


What are the ramifications of these truths? Let's say you had a bad day--a really bad, awful day. Or even a bad, awful, terrible year. Does that make you worthless?

No way! You are--and always will be--of infinite worth, because God set his love upon you.

***
We have just meditated ourselves all the way to the most delightful and liberating truth in the universe:

God loves you because God loves you.  And that's never going to change. (1)

*************
(1) see 1 John 4:16 and Hebrews 13:8



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

pour it out


The Word for Today: Psalms 142 & 143

Have you ever considered just how limited most of our prayers are?
We can ask God for help us in our circumstances.
We can intercede on another's behalf.
We can praise God for who He is or thank Him for what He has done.

But because we are not God. Because our knowledge and wisdom is limited, our prayers are likewise limited. We very seldom know what help we actually need. We very seldom know how best to pray for someone else. We see just a glimpse of the character and wonders of God.

And so our prayers can quickly turn into trying to inform God about a given situation, trying to convince God that we know how He ought to run His universe, or muttering words about that which we have no clue about. If that is the whole story, then praying becomes so futile. But the Psalms are a great remedy in this area. Today's reading is of particular help.

We sense the desperation and raw emotion of David very clearly. He is surrounded, alone, faltering, troubled, entrapped, faint, dismayed, crushed. But this place of anguish is exactly where David reaches out to God. There is no hint of formula, flattery or any kind of religious sounding words- this is honest to goodness prayer.

Here is an idea I want you to consider:
Prayer = Pouring

What I mean is that the best and most honest prayers are when we simply pour out the contents of of our heart before God. No covering up our blemishes. No use of fancy language. No attempts to bargain or bribe. No mimicry. Not offering directions or instructions or advice to God. No, just offering ourselves. Sharing with God what He already knows, but what He wants to hear from us: our hearts. This simple shift in thought can revolutionize our prayer life.
Here, David pours out his complaint. There are many other examples of this kind of pouring prayer in the Bible:
Job poured out tears before GOD (1)
Jacob poured oil on the LORD’s altar (2)
Hannah poured out her soul to the Lord (3)
Jeremiah poured out his heart to GOD (4)
Mary poured out the entire bottle of costly perfume to anoint Jesus (5)

Each of the above situations share both a sense of desperation and a sense of baring the entire soul before God. They each were on to something.
The entire point of prayer is the relationship- the chance to know and be known by God. Every other "benefit" is bonus. That is the only thing that keeps our relationship from becoming formulaic and mercenary. That is what stops the whole "I will follow you/obey you/serve you/ praise you IF you give me A & B & C & D." That is what prevents us from turning a living faith into a dead religion.

So we shouldn't stop asking for specific requests, or interceding for others, or worshipping God despite our limited understanding. But what it does mean is that all these come only after we are being real and honest and uncensored before God.

So talk to Him. Pour out your heart. Tell Him how your day went, how you are really feeling, about something that really is bothering you. Tell Him about a person who you need to forgive or something you feel guilty of or anything that is heavy on your mind. When you have done so, you have joined in a long line of men & women who learned just what it means to pour out their hearts.

**********
(1) Job 16:10
(2) Genesis 35:14
(3) 1 Samuel 1:15
(4) Lamentations 2:11
(5) Luke 7:38

Monday, December 20, 2010

more super than natural



The Word for today:
Psalm 140, 141


Prayer doesn't come naturally to me.

Probably because prayer isn't really "natural" at all.  It's an act of faith which enters the supernatural realm. So I am always trying to pray less 'natural' and more 'super.'

The disciples asked for help with prayer, too. So Jesus told them to pray in this manner:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.  (Matthew 6:9-13)


One way that I have found to pray less natural and more super is to pray with supernatural words. Now where do you suppose we could find some of those?

There's only one place I know. And that's in God's Word, the Bible. So I'm going to reprint the "Our Father," but this time I'm going to include some scripture in parentheses, to help us pray supernaturally.
(For example, you'll notice that the parentheses after "deliver us from evil" contain Psalms 140 & 141--the Psalms on our reading schedule today.)

***

I'm pretty sure that when Jesus told us to pray in this manner, he meant that the "Our Father" was to be used as an outline for prayer.

So let's follow the outline! As you do, make sure to throw some of the particulars of your own life in there. (The verses from the Bible will prompt you to remember them.)  And as you continue to read your Bible, choose other verses to make the "Our Father" your very own!

Then just send your expanded, supernatural, customized "Our Father" out to God. (And remember to mention Jesus--early and often--in your prayers, or else they're going nowhere!)


A supernatural, customized, personalized, expanded, & enhanced
~~~"Our Father"~~~

Our Father in heaven, (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6)
Hallowed be Your name. (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 9:6)
Your kingdom come. (Daniel 2:44-45; Matthew 4:17)
Your will be done (Luke 1:38; Psalm 143:10; John 5:30)
On earth as it is in heaven. (Psalm 103:19-22)
Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:25-34)
And forgive us our debts, (Psalm 103:8-13)
As we forgive our debtors. (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13)
And do not lead us into temptation, (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 2:18)
But deliver us from the evil one. (Psalms 34:4; 140; 141; 2 Corinthians 1:10)
For Yours is the kingdom (Acts 17:24-25)
and the power (1 Chronicles 29:12; Psalm 33:6)
and the glory (Psalm 8:1; Psalm 19:1)
forever. (Daniel 7:14; Psalm 23:6; Matthew 24:35)
Amen. (2 Corinthians 1:20; Revelation 3:14)
****************

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Where can I go from your Spirit?



The Word for today:
Psalm 139

Hi. How are you today?

I fully intended today to write a bit of a treatise on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Then I read this verse and I asked myself just who it is that I think I'm kidding:
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
(Psalms 139:5-6)

Treatises and commentaries and explications and interpretations all seem silly in the presence of this Psalm, which is all about the presence of God:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
(Psalms 139:7-10)

Yeah, I meant to tell you all about how the Holy Spirit moves in to stay when we place our faith and hope and trust in Jesus. I was going to try to explain how you can no more get away from God than you can get away from yourself.

But I see your with Someone. I'll call back tomorrow.

*****************

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Turn out the lights; the party's over.



The Word for today:
Daniel 11:21-12:13

Mark this: Daniel 12:7-8
Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished. Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, "My lord, what shall be the end of these things?" And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end."


Daniel sure has a lot to say about time.

Yesterday, we noted that time is expressed in its relationship to Jesus, who at his First Coming caused the calendar to split into two parts--B.C. and A.D.

Today, we will look through scripture for some hints about time--time itself--in the future.

First, we'll go way back to Exodus. There, in the 12th chapter, we see a picture and prophecy of Jesus to come:
At Passover, a lamb was slain to atone for the sins of the people. This ritual sacrifice pointed straight to Jesus, as John the Baptist pronounced when Jesus began his public ministry:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

We know that since Jesus, time is defined in terms of B.C. and A.D.  But you might be surprised to find out that Passover, which is but a picture of Christ to come, also caused time to be re-calibrated:
Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, "This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. (Exodus 12:1-3)

***

Could there be another recalibration of time in the future? The book of Daniel doesn't say whether he will succeed, but it does tell us that Antichrist will attempt to change the calendar:
He shall speak pompous words against the Most High,
Shall persecute the saints of the Most High,
And shall intend to change times and law.
Then the saints shall be given into his hand
For a time and times and half a time. (Daniel 7:25)

My guess is that the reconfiguration of time will be part of an attempt to eradicate references to the name of Jesus Christ.

In this regard, the future is now, because an ever-increasing number of countries, including Israel, number their years as C.E. ("Common Era") instead of A.D;
and refer to B.C. as B.C.E. ("Before Common Era.")

But any way they seek to label it, time is in God's hand (1). God has numbered the days of the kingdoms of the world, just as surely as he numbered the days of King Belshazzar in Daniel chapter 5.

It's difficult to precisely translate the message--MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN--that a disembodied hand wrote on the wall at Belshazzar's banquet, but American popular culture has a close equivalent:
"Turn out the lights; the party's over."
They can label time any way they will. They can slice it or dice it however they want. But the bottom line is that the hand of God is on the switch.

*******************
(1)  see Job 14:5; Psalm 31:15; Psalm 139:16

Friday, December 17, 2010

turn, turn, turn


The Word for today:
Daniel 11:2-20


Chapter 11 of the book of Daniel is a prophetic description of the time between the Old and New Testaments.

There's not a lot here for a blogger to sink his teeth into. Except for this: We--you and I-- happen to be 'tweeners, too.

Historically speaking, we are situated between the first and second advents of Jesus Christ. That's how our age will come to be known in the histories yet to be written, because time is expressed in its relationship to Jesus, who at his First Coming caused the calendar to split into two parts--B.C. and A.D.

It can be unsettling to think about, but in the great scheme of things we might be hardly worth mentioning. Our entire century might be worth a scant paragraph or two--like the paragraphs from Daniel that we've read today--leaving future bloggers little to work with.

***

Right around now, in the latter part of December, when we first begin to see and write the number of the new year, I linger for awhile and consider the sheer irony of the situation.

Loving irony just a little too much, this soon-to-be-forgotten 'tweener gets a little too glad when biblical perspective gets me thinking about all the big wheels and big deals of the present hour, who strive to leave their mark on history, but are soon and forever forgotten.

How ironic that even the dates on their weathering tombstones will testify to a suffering servant, born to die, who left his mark on everything:

who left time itself to be defined by its relative proximity to him;
who shines so brightly that he erases every star from the sky.

*********************

Thursday, December 16, 2010

a cure for Horatio Syndrome



The Word for today:
Daniel 10

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
--Shakespeare. Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5

Are you prone to Horatio Syndrome?  If you are, the Bible can help.

Whenever we start to lose our sense of wonder; whenever we start to think that we've seen it all; that we've been there, and done that--then it's time to turn to Daniel chapter 10.

First, we have a close encounter with the post-incarnate Jesus Christ.

{We have already seen the pre-incarnate Christ any number of times in the Old Testament.  For confirmation of these sightings, we need look no further than the famous "Bethlehem" prophecy of Micah 5:2. While pinpointing the place of Jesus' birth, the prophecy reminds us that the second Person of the Trinity had been out and about already:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,

Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.
}

But here, in Daniel 10, we are treated to a sighting of the post-incarnate, resurrected Jesus:
I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. (Daniel 10:5-6)

Bible scholars believe this is the risen Christ because of his similarity to the risen Christ in Revelation:
Among the lampstands was one like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (Revelation 1:12-15)

***

In another remarkable scene from Daniel 10, we see--as if a veil is lifted momentarily--the conflict between good and evil; between satanic forces and heavenly forces:
"Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come."   (Daniel 10:12-14)

The angel is saying that Daniel’s prayer was heard immediately and he was sent as a messenger with an answer. But on the way the angel's pathway was blocked by the prince of the kingdom of Persia; so for 21 days he could not get through to Daniel. The angel could not break through until Michael, the archangel, came to open the way for him.

This amazing scene is a vivid reminder of what Paul said to the Ephesians and to the Corinthians--and to us:
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11-12)
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

***
Daniel chapter 10 reminds us that, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The stage we are on is bigger than we can begin to know, and the battle ranges far and wide--farther than imagination can take us.

So whenever I get a bad case of Horatio Syndrome, I scoot right over to Daniel 10 for the cure.

*********************************

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

T minus 483 years and counting...



The Word for today:
Daniel 9:20-27

Q. Can you add 7+62+1?
A. Got it. That's 70.

Q.  All right. If you can keep 7+62+1 in mind, you will be able to understand one of the Bible's most important prophecies.
The prophecy is known as Daniel's Seventy "Weeks" (or Daniel's Seventy "Sevens.")

First, let's read the text of the prophecy:

Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.  (Daniel 9:25)

After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.  (Daniel 9:26)

He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.  (Daniel 9:27)

Q. The figures in the prophecy are years. So seven 'sevens' equals…?

A. 49 years!

Q. And sixty-two 'sevens' equals…?

A. Piece o' cake. 62 times 7 equals 434 years!

Q. All right, then tell us what this means:
From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.'

A. That means that from the year of a certain decree, it will be 49 years + 434 years until the Christ.  The "Anointed One" is the New Testament "Christ."

Q. Right! There will be 483 years from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until Jesus.  So, when was the decree to rebuild Jerusalem issued?

A. I don't know. You're the Bible teacher.

Q. The decree was issued during the time of Nehemiah, the famous re-builder. The decree was announced during the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes (see Nehemiah 2:1-8), in 445 BC. That is the starting point of the Seventy "Weeks."
So starting at 445 BC, if we add 483 years, we arrive at the cross--when the Anointed One will be cut off.

A. But 445 + 483 brings us to 38 A.D. I thought Jesus died in 33 A.D.

Q. There might be a little discrepancy because the Jewish year was 360 days instead of 365. And Jesus may have been born a couple years earlier than "0" AD.
But, however you slice it, Daniel's Seventy Weeks Prophecy pinpoints the central moment in history--almost 500 years before it arrived.

Q. We multiplied 69 x 7--up to the point where the Christ is killed. What happened to the 70th week?

A. At the end of the 70th week, Jesus returns!  But the the arithmetic gets a little more complicated. And I don't want the first prediction--the year of the cross--to get lost in the mix. So I'll write an addendum below, with a short explanation of the 70th "Week" for those, like you, who are curious.

Q. Has the 70th "Week" started yet?

A. To the addendum!

Q. In 9:26, are the "ruler who will come" and the "Anointed One" the same person?

A. To the addendum!

***********************

~~~Addendum: the 70th "Week"~~~

God gives specific time only as it relates to Israel. Israel is God's alarm clock.  After the Christ (the Anointed One) is killed, the time of the church ensues. Scripture never gives us specific dates concerning the church.

When the church is removed at the time of the Rapture, then church time is over and Israel comes back into view.  At that point, the very specific timing of God's prophecy starts again.

Think of it in terms of a rocket launch. Time is very specifically counted down, but there are gaps where the countdown is suspended, or put on hold. In God's countdown, the church age is a gap.

We now stand at "T minus seven years and holding." At the rapture, the count will be "T minus seven years and counting."

***

It is important to note that the "ruler who will come" and the "Anointed One" in 9:26 are not the same person!

The "Anointed One" is the Prince of Peace. The "ruler who will come" in this verse is Antichrist (the little horn of Daniel 7, the beast of Revelation 13) who is in league with the prince of darkness.

Thus the 70th "Seven" (or "Week") is a prophecy of what Jesus referred to as the Great Tribulation Period, when--literally--all hell breaks loose on earth.

At the end of this seven year period, Jesus will return.  He will first appear at the Mount of Olives.  At that time, the world--like it or not--will witness some biblical prophecy.  The Old Testament phrase "Prince of Peace" and the angelic prophecy at his first advent--"Peace on earth, good will to men"--will take on real meaning then.  (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:14/KJV)

Because Jesus is going to step into the man-made hell of the Tribulation and when he does, there will be peace on earth.  There will be peace on earth because the Prince of Peace is going to enforce the peace.

I will not be here when Jesus returns, because before then I will have died or else been taken out of the world with the rest of the believing church at the Rapture.  (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)

But if you're still here, don't look for the Hollywood Jesus, or the baby in the manger or the Suffering Servant.  The Jesus the world encounters the second time around will be like none of the above.  I daresay that, for a while, it won't seem like Christmas.

******************

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What if God was one of us?



The Word for today:
Daniel 9:1-19






Tomorrow, we will look at the most specific prophecy in the Bible.  It's called "The Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks."  It's a minutely detailed prophecy which pinpoints the very year of Jesus' death.  Some even think that this astonishing prophecy calculates the time of the cross to the very day--some 500 years after Daniel!

So bring your calculators, because you'll need them.

Everybody talks about the Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks because it is so mind-boggling.  But for me it's not the greatest prophecy in the book of Daniel.

The greatest prophecy in Daniel doesn't really register in the mind, and it can't be calculated by a computer.  It only makes sense to the heart.

This greatest of prophecies actually consists of two prophecies--each great on their own--which are joined together.  The first prophecy is a vision of the Son of God:
He answered and said, "But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods."   (Daniel 3:25)
We met him just days ago.  When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace, he was there to deliver them.  It was as if he absorbed their punishment.

Sewn to the first to make a seamless, perfect whole is a vision of the Son of Man:
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.(Daniel 7:13-14)

I know enough theology to tell you that there's a technical phrase--hypostatic union--for how Jesus was all-God-all-the-time and all-man-all-the-time, all at once!  (It seems that when we can't explain something, we invent important-sounding words to mask minds that are utterly inadequate for the subject.)

I don't know the technical ins and outs of this most wonderful combination.  All I know is that in order to mend broken lives, God had to sew together the Son of God and the Son of Man.

In order to bind up the brokenhearted (1), Son of Man/Son of God had to be sewn together so perfectly that even God couldn't tell where one left off and the other began.

*****************
(1) Isaiah 61:1, cited in Luke 4:18-19


Monday, December 13, 2010

8 inch frying pan

The Word for today: Daniel 8

Historical dates and time lines are not the usual content of this blog, and for good reason.
The mind tends to fog over (or at least my mind does) if one goes on and on with specifics of days and months and even years. Phrases such as "in the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes" (Nehemiah 2:1) do not tend to thrill us or inspire us to live for God's glory any more than our alarm clock or calendar.

But the specifics are there for a reason, and often they are essential to understand what is going on in a particular context. I am grateful for them, as they force us to understand the Bible as historical work, rather than just a book of fables. Daniel is a book full of dates and specific prophecies. And because of the stunning accuracy of these prophecies, Daniel becomes a sort of litmus test that demonstrates what we already believe.

The book of Daniel begins when he was deported as a youth around 605 BC, "the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (1)" It continues for many decades, into around 537 BC, "the third year of Cyrus king of Persia (2)" when Daniel is now an old man. There are not much skepticism as to these dates. Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon, Persia, the Fall of Jerusalem are all undisputed in history.

But then Daniel continues on and things get dicey. The dispute involves who wrote Daniel and when. The problem exists because Daniel so accurately describes events that take place centuries after he lived. Not only does Daniel describe kings and kingdoms he would be familiar with (i.e. Babylon & Nebuchadnezzar, Persia & Cyrus), but he gives exact details about future empires and future kings.

Here in chapter 8 we've got not only the vision with the various animals, we've also got interpretation. It says "The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power." This is surely Alexander the Great, and the and his four successors after his sudden death in 323 BC. It goes on to then talk about "a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue" who arises (3). That is Antiochus Epiphanes, a type of anti-Christ who ruled over Jerusalem around 168 BC. He's infamous for sacrificing a pig to Zeus on the altar of the Temple of the LORD.
*******
How in the world could Daniel have known centuries beforehand?

Much of the academic world operates from the worldview of naturalism, which is best summed up by the late physicist Carl Sagan's quote: "The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be (4)." So the naturalist assumes that there is no god, no miracles, no heaven or hell, no soul; nothing that is not matter.

The naturalist comes to Daniel from that vantage point, and says that Daniel must have been written around 165 BC, because there is no way that anyone could have predicted world events that took place in this book with such accuracy. That's all the proof they need. It simply couldn't have been revealed back then. To them, there's no point at looking at other conclusion. We cannot know the future, there is no god who reveals prophecy, the events of this book have come true; therefore the book must have been written after the events occurred. It's a matter of following assumptions rather than the evidence.

There is a well known story of a man observing a fisherman. As he watched, the spectator became puzzled by the actions of the fisherman. The fisherman would catch a fish, measure it by a ruler, and throw certain fishes back. But the odd thing was, the man was tossing back not the small ones, but rather the larger ones. When asked why he said that all he had in his cooking gear was an eight inch frying pan, and that any fish bigger than that was too hard to cook.

May I be so bold to think that many people are like this fisherman. They have certain baseline beliefs and assumptions, and not all the evidence in the world would convince them to change their minds. They already have their frying pan, and anything that doesn't fit is automatically disqualified; they'd rather not consider the implications. (They do the same thing with any other miracle or fulfilled prophecy in the Bible, especially the Resurrection of the Lord.)

How in the world could Daniel have known centuries beforehand?
The answer is he could not have.
"But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries (5)."
The book of Daniel is just one of many books in the Bible that has fulfilled prophecy.
Its just another evidence of God showing us the power of His Word by accurately describing events centuries before they came to pass- something that only God could do.

Fulfilled prophecy is a nightmare for anyone who does not want to believe in God, and so skeptics will go to all sorts of lengths to find an alternative explanation. The problem is not that there isn't enough evidence, the problem is the evidence doesn't fit in their frying pans.

It all comes down to the age old question, is Genesis 1:1 true or not?
Is God real or not? Did He created the Heavens and the Earth or not?
Is He still around and active or not?

There are all sorts of belief systems and philosophies out there, but all of them look insignificant compared to the towering figure of Jesus Christ. There are not better alternatives.
So I don't know about you- I'm sticking with Jesus.

********
(1) Daniel 1:1
(2) Daniel 10:1

(3) Daniel 8:22-21,
(4) Carl Sagan, Cosmos, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1985), p.1

(5) Daniel 2:28

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's not Mom who cannot see.



The Word for today:
Daniel 7


A few days ago, we wrote that, like the book of Revelation, the book of Daniel is an apocalypse.

An apocalypse, we explained, means an unveiling.

All of which begs the question:
"An unveiling of what?"

To which our instant answer would probably be:
"An unveiling of the future."

Is that right? Is the future being unveiled in these prophetic books?

I don't want to keep you in suspense any longer. And I don't want you to think I'm teasing you with biblical concepts, so here's the answer:

The veil isn't being lifted off the future. It's being lifted off our eyes.

This principal is dramatized in the very first verses of our Bible. When God says, "Let there be light," we must not assume that God invented light at that point. To think that God had spent eternity in darkness is ludicrous.

So let's read this all-too-familiar verse anew:
"Let there be light. And there was light."

Light, you see, already was. It wasn't created, or invented.  Like the Word, it was always there:
"In the beginning was the Word..."  (John 1:1)

Sometimes, especially in these philosophically benighted times, we have the notion that perception = reality. This is a very serious error. Whether or not we see it, or assent to it, or subscribe to it, reality is.

When something is "covered," that something is, more often than not, our willingness to see. For example, there are many who "cannot" (read "will not") see the Light of the World:
Even to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, a veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses' writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, then the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:14-16)


Little kids will hide their eyes and tell their Moms, "You can't find me."  But it's not Mom who cannot see.

******************

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Our Lion is bigger than their lion!



The Word for today:
Daniel 6


I love "Daniel in the Lions' Den." Some might say it's just a story for kids. To them I say, You're darn right!

And since I'm just a kid in the kingdom of God, that makes "Daniel in the Lions' Den" a story for me!

I heard some learned professor expound on this story once. He made the meaning sound all spiritual and theological and he missed the point of the story by about a mile. Because any kid in God's kingdom will tell you that the story isn't theological at all. And it's not spiritual and all that.

What it means is this:
My Lion is bigger, better, 'badder,' smarter, and just all around super-ior to the second-rate pussycat that the bad guys call their "lion."

***

What happens in the story is that the bad guys get the king to sign a law saying that if anyone prays to God he will be thrown to the lions. They made this law specifically because they knew Daniel was faithful to God and always said his prayers no matter what. They were jealous of Daniel because he was the king's favorite. They wanted Daniel out of the way so they could be the king's favorites instead.

Sure enough, Daniel is caught praying. So it's off to the lions' den for him.

Now right here a lot of people say that the lions grew tame. That's where they get it wrong, because those lions weren't tamed at all. They were still mean and hungry. But God shut their mouths so that they couldn't hurt Daniel. They couldn't hurt Daniel because he believed in God:
So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God. (6:23)

Then the tables are turned. The king rounds up the men who tried to get Daniel killed and he has them thrown into the lions' den. And the lions ate them all up!

Which goes to show that Jesus, who is the Lion of Judah, is able to stop the devil, our adversary, who walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  (Revelation 5:5; 1 Peter 5:8)

If you don't believe in Jesus--like those bad guys in the story--then you're fair game for Satan. But if you do believe in Jesus, like Daniel and me, then our Lion of Judah is stronger than the devil any day.

Notice, in the Bible verse just above, that the devil is like a lion. That means he's not a real lion, but just a wannabe lion. He wants to be like God:
How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."

But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.  (Isaiah 14:12-14)

He's jealous of God in the same way that the bad guys in the story were jealous of Daniel. And, just like them, he ends up in the pit himself!  He wants to take God's place. But that isn't going to happen! Any kid can tell you that.

Sometimes we kids know way more about Bible stories than those highfalutin professors will ever know!

***********************

Friday, December 10, 2010

the world is not enough


The Word for today: Daniel 5
Mark this: 5:17

The book of Daniel is a blue print.
It is a blue print of world history (much of which has already occurred- e.g. Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome)
It is a blue print of eschatology (end times).
And for those reasons it is certainly worth a deep and careful study.

But on a much simpler, and often overlooked level, Daniel is perhaps the best example of how a child of God should live in a fallen world. Consider the following:
- At a young age (likely around 10 or 12) Daniel's world was turned upside down.
- Daniel was ripped from his family, his home, his country and all that he knew.
- Daniel became a captive not only to an entirely different people, but to the very nation that destroyed his own people and the very Temple of God.
- Daniel was repeatedly indoctrinated into Babylonian religion and culture.
- For over six decades, he lived as a ethnic minority in a cruel empire. (1)
From almost any perspective, there was no hope for this young man- another "statistic", ruined by his "disadvantaged" environment. And yet in spite of all Babylon's best attempts to corrupt Daniel, Daniel couldn't be corrupted. He was an assimilation nightmare! Whether by comfort or education, whether by riches or status, or even by physical threats and punishments, nothing could sway this servant of God.

The world was not enough for him. Why not?
In a world where everyone supposedly has their price, how did he not once sell out?
What gives?

To start, he had the proper perspective on what really mattered, and he had already settled the question of compromise. Most Americans are raised to be shaky at best in these categories. We try to "use" God as a means to our own selfish ends. We try to see just how much we can play with the fire of sin and not be scorched. But Daniel was the exact opposite.

From day one, he refrained from all the enticements that were available, whether big or small. Daniel understood that in God’s kingdom, the robe & chain offered were the equivalent of rags and plastic. He had already resisted when he was much younger under a heavyweight like Nebuchadnezzar, so the promises of a featherweight like Belshazzar were less than dust to him. Daniel learned to use the word “NO,” an absolute essential for anyone who wants to follow Christ.
Dan is really the man! He ought to be the model for every believer as we attempt to live in modern day Babylon. We too need to learn to say no to all the junk the that ruins us. We too need to understand that Babylon is not, and will never be, our true home. Easier said than done.

And so Daniel points us to the real OVERCOMER--Jesus Christ:
He too was tempted by the Devil to sell out.
He was promised “all the splendor of all the kingdoms of the world”
He said NO!
Instead, He was faced with something much more daunting than any of us could even imagine: The Cross.

He refused the ways and rewards of this world--and we hung Him on a cross for it.
But remember the end of the story- He rose from the dead.

Remember his words to all of us:
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (2)


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(1) See Daniel 1
(2) John 16:33

Thursday, December 9, 2010

days of future passed



The Word for today:
Daniel 4

The Bible is full of prophecy.  Everyone knows that.

But sometimes prophecy can blend into the background, and we don't even know it's there.

Daniel chapter 3--the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego--is an example.  As we read of their heroic faith we may be unaware of the prophetic treasure buried just beneath the surface of the story.

So the next time you encounter the tale of our young heroes in the fiery furnace, stop to consider that the plot and characters of the story form a prophetic outline of a time, yet in the future, called the Great Tribulation:

Nebuchadnezzar = Antichrist, who decrees enforcement of universal idolatry.  The attempt to bring the peoples of the world under a "world religion" (as was the tower of Babel) will reappear the end of the age when the dragon, the beast, and the image of the beast will be worshiped under compulsion. (Revelation 13:4-15; 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:4; compare 2 Thessalonians 2:4.)

 Fiery furnace = suffering.

Image = abomination of desolation.  (See Daniel 11:31; 12:11; Matthew 24:15.)

3 Hebrew youths = the Jewish remnant miraculously preserved.

Daniel = the redeemed, the church, which is removed (at the Rapture) from the Great Tribulation. Daniel did not go through the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; he was probably away on state business.


The characters and events of the Bible often reflect, with crystal clarity, into the future.  Indeed, prophecy is so certain, and so timeless, that events of the past can seem to have reflected "backward," from the future!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

the Fourth in the Fire




The Word for today:
Daniel 3


I love Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!

I wish I could go to Wal-Mart and buy a big poster of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are like the Three Musketeers of faith!

But it's o.k. if I don't have a big poster of my heroes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Because most of all (as you've gathered!) I just like saying "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego."

Certainly there is musicality in their names. And certainly their unwavering faith in God makes our own spirits sing. But the best part of the story is "The Fourth in the Fire." Let's let the story tell itself:

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, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. 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."

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 3:22-25)
Well, I've got some news for Nebuchadnezzar. The fourth in the fire "looks like a son of the gods" because he is the Son of God!

May our faith be strong enough to see him there with us in the midst of our trials and trying circumstances.

But even when our faith wavers, he's still there. The hell he endured on the cross made Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace seem like just a warm breeze.

Look right through your troubles and you'll begin to make out his form. Troubles, in fact, help us see him more clearly.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

a Stone cut out, but not by human hands



The Word for today:
Daniel 2:31-49


The book of Daniel takes place in Babylon. When Babylonian soldiers destroyed Jerusalem and burnt the Temple to the ground, most of the Jews were taken captive and lived out their lives in this foreign land.  A few of the exiles, like Daniel, rose through sheer talent to prominent positions there.


Daniel chapter two presents a far-reaching prophecy of human history.  Much of what was prophecy then is history now...

It happened that Nebuchadnezzar, the powerful King of Babylon, had experienced a disturbing dream.  Babylonians widely believed that the fate of individuals and nations was revealed through such dreams.  In this case, Nebuchadnezzar asked what seemed to be impossible:  He asked his astrologers, sorcerers, and wise men to tell him the dream and then interpret it!

They, of course, could not. So Nebuchadnezzar decreed the execution of every wise man in the land.

Among the wise men to be executed was Daniel. But he did not despair, because he knew that God was able to reveal deep and hidden things. (Daniel 2:22)

After receiving a revelation from God in a dream, Daniel described to Nebuchadnezzar the full content of his dream. Picture a large and dazzling statue, with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay.

The statue was a pictorial summary of what Jesus would later refer to as the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24).  We are in the last phase of those times right now:
Images from a dream come true:
Head of gold = Nebuchadnezzar/Babylon (Daniel 2:38)
Chest and arms of Silver = Medea/Persia (Daniel 5:28; 8:20)
Middle and thighs of Brass = Greece (Daniel 8:21)
Legs of Iron / Feet part of iron and part of clay = Rome.

Rome first divided into two (the legs), fulfilled in the eastern and western Roman Empires. From then on we find an ever-dividing kingdom and a government ever weakened in its power, represented by toes of iron and clay that cannot hold together.
These were the kingdoms fashioned by men. But the dream was not complete, for there remained a Kingdom to come, which will not be forged by the hand of man:
While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:34-35)

This kingdom will last forever:
In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands--a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. (Daniel 2:44-45)

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Suddenly, In the time of the Gentiles, a stone not cut with human hands comes down and strikes the feet. The entire image is pulverized.

The stone is God's Anointed, the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

But to the Jews He is a stone of stumbling (2). To the Gentiles, He’s a stone of crushing:
"Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes'? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." (Matthew 21:42-44, quoting Psalm 118:22-23)

We are either broken before Him (in repentance), or we will be broken by Him (in judgment). We will either come to that Stone, or that Stone is coming to us.

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(1) See Psalm 95:1; Isaiah 28:16; 1 Corinthians 10:4; (2) see 1 Peter 2:8; 1 Corinthians 1:23