Daily Archives: August 4, 2013

Characters in the Bible: What should we learn from the life of Daniel?

The life of Daniel can be read in his own writings in the book of Daniel and in Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3, Matthew 24; 25 and Mark 13:14. There are some striking similarities between the life of Daniel and that of Jacob’s son, Joseph. Both of them prospered in foreign lands after interpreting dreams for their rulers, and both were elevated to high office as a result of their faithfulness to God.

After Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem, he chose of Israel’s royal household noble men who were handsome and showed an aptitude for learning, to be trained in the ways of the Babylonians. After their three years training they would be put into the king’s service (Daniel 1:1–6). Daniel, whose name means “God is my judge” and his three countrymen from Judea were chosen and given new names. Daniel became “Belteshazzar”, while Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah became Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This was the Babylonians’ strategy, believing that by giving them new names that were completely disassociated with their Hebrew roots, they would become subservient to their new rulers and the culture they now lived in.

Daniel and his compatriots proved to be the wisest of all the trainees and at the end of their training, they entered the service of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel’s first sign of faithfulness to God began when he and his countrymen rejected the rich food and wine from the king’s table, because they deemed it a defilement, and became vegetarians. As their health improved they were permitted to continue with their chosen diet. In their education, the four men from Judah became knowledgeable in all Babylonian matters, and Daniel was given by God the ability to understand dreams and visions of all kinds (Daniel 1:17).

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar was troubled with a dream that he could neither remember nor interpret. His magicians and astrologers were unable to interpret a dream or even to know what the dream was. The king decreed that all the wise men, including Daniel and his companions, must be put to death. However, after seeking God in prayer, the mystery of the king’s dream was revealed to Daniel and he was taken to the king to interpret it. Daniel immediately attributed his ability to interpret dreams to his one true God (Daniel 2:28). The key feature of the dream, as Daniel told it to the king, was that one day there will be a kingdom set up by God that will last forever, and that it will destroy all previous kingdoms known to man (Daniel 2:44–45). With this, Daniel was honoured by King Nebuchadnezzar and placed in authority over all the wise men of Babylon. At Daniel’s request, his three countrymen are also placed in positions of authority as administrators of Babylon.

In time, King Nebuchadnezzar, built a huge golden statue and decreed that all his people bow down and worship it at the given signal. His decree went on to say that whoever refused to bow down to it would be thrown into a blazing furnace (Daniel 3:6). Word reached the king that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not worshipping his gods or the statue, and so they were summoned to Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Faced with being thrown into a blazing furnace, the three faithfully announced that their God could rescue them from the fire, but even if He did not, they would not bow down to the image (vss. 16–18). The furnace was so hot, seven times its normal heat, that the king’s soldiers were killed while putting the three into it. Then Nebuchadnezzar saw that there were four men in the furnace, completely unbound and walking about and that the fourth figure looked like he was a son of a god (vs. 25). When the king called them out of the furnace, he and his governors were amazed to find that not a single hair of their heads had been scorched, nor was there even the merest smell of fire about them.

King Nebuchadnezzar had a second dream and not for the first time, he acknowledged that Daniel had the spirit of his holy God within him and was able to interpret his dream (Daniel 4:9). Daniel’s interpretation of the dream was fulfilled, and after a period of insanity Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his kingdom and he praised and honoured Daniel’s God as the most High (Daniel 4:34–37).

Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, became the new king and during a banquet he ordered the gold and silver goblets that had been stolen from the holy temple in Jerusalem to be brought out for use. In response to the defilement of such holy items, Belshazzar sees a hand writing on the wall. Once again his astrologers are unable to assist him in its translation and so Daniel is called upon to interpret the meaning of the writing (Daniel 5:13–16). As a reward for interpreting the writing Daniel is promoted by King Belshazzar to the third highest position in the Babylonian kingdom (vs. 29). That night, as Daniel had prophesied, the king was slain in battle and his kingdom was taken over by Cyrus the great and Darius the Mede was made king.

Under the new ruler, Daniel excelled in his duties as one of the administrators to such a degree that King Darius was contemplating making him head over all the kingdom (Daniel 6:1–3). This infuriated the other administrators so much that they looked for a way to bring Daniel down. They encouraged Darius to issue a decree forbidding his subjects from praying to any of their gods for the next thirty days. The penalty for disobeying was to be thrown into a den of lions. Daniel, however, continued to pray so openly to God that he could be seen at his bedroom window doing so. With much regret the king gave the order for Daniel to be thrown into the lions’ den, but not without a prayer that Daniel’s God would rescue him (Daniel 6:16). The next day when Daniel was found alive and well, he told the king that God had sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths and so he remained unharmed. This resulted in King Darius sending out a decree that all his subjects were to worship the God of Daniel. And Daniel continued to prosper throughout King Darius’ reign.

The lesson from the life of Daniel is that he exercised great integrity and, in doing so, received the respect and affection of the powerful rulers he served. However, his honesty and loyalty to his masters never led him to compromise his faith in the one true God. Rather than it being an obstacle to his success, Daniel’s continual devotion to God brought him the admiration of the unbelievers in his circle. When delivering his interpretations, he was quick to give God the credit for his ability to do so (Daniel 2:28).

Daniel’s integrity as a man of God gained him favour with the secular world and yet he refused to compromise his faith in God. Even under the intimidation of kings and rulers, Daniel remained steadfast in his commitment to God. Daniel also teaches us that no matter who we are dealing with, no matter what their status is, we are to treat them with compassion. See how concerned he is when delivering the interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream (Daniel 4:19). As Christians, we are called to obey the rulers and authorities that God has put in place, treating them with respect and compassion; however, as we see from Daniel’s example, obeying God’s law must always take precedence over obeying men.

As a result of Daniel’s devotion he not only found favour with those around him, but above all he found favour with God and is held in high esteem by Him (Daniel 9:20–23). Notice also in those verses what the angel Gabriel told Daniel about how swiftly the answer to his prayer was dispatched. This shows us how ready the Lord is to hear the prayers of His people. Daniel’s strength lay in his devotion to prayer and is a lesson for us all. It is not just in the bad times but on a daily basis that we must come to God in prayer.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Christian Life: Can Christians live their best life now?

Joel Osteen’s book Your Best Life Now has caused many people to seek their “best life now.” Among the claims Mr. Osteen makes are “God wants to increase you financially” (page 5). He goes on to explain that this quest for financial and material increase is actually pleasing to God. No doubt, Osteen is sincere in what he says and believes that wealth and success really are the way to happiness. But is that what the Bible says? Does God want all His children to be wealthy, and does He tell us that is the way to find happiness? More importantly, is our best life now or is our best life in the world to come?

To say that life on this earth is the best you can have is absolutely true—if you’re not a Christian. The non-Christian lives his best life in the here and now because his next life is one of no hope, no joy, no meaning, no satisfaction and no relief from eternal suffering. Those who have rejected Jesus Christ will spend an eternity in “outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This phrase is used five times (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30; Luke 13:28) to describe the miserable existence of those who are thrust into it at the moment of their deaths. So, seeking to “live it up” while they can makes perfect sense for them because they really are living their best life now. The next life will be truly dreadful.

For the Christian, however, life here, no matter how good it is, is nothing compared to the life that awaits us in heaven. The glories of heaven—eternal life, righteousness, joy, peace, perfection, God’s presence, Christ’s glorious companionship, rewards, and all else God has planned—is the Christian’s heavenly inheritance (1 Peter 1:3–5), and it will cause even the best life on earth to pale in comparison. Even the richest, most successful person on earth will eventually age, sicken, and die, and his wealth cannot prevent it, nor can his wealth follow him into the next life. So, why would we be encouraged to live our best lives now? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).

This verse brings us to the next difficulty with the “best life now” philosophy. Our hearts reside wherever our treasure resides. What we value in life permeates our hearts, our minds, our very existence, and it inevitably comes out in our speech and actions. If you’ve ever met someone whose life is bound up in pursuing wealth and pleasure, it is obvious immediately because it’s all he talks about. His heart is filled with the things of this life, and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). He has no time for the things of the Lord—His Word, His people, His work and the eternal life He offers—because he is so busy pursuing his best life now.

But the Bible tells us that the “kingdom of heaven,” not worldly wealth, is like a treasure hidden in a field—so valuable that we should sell everything we have to attain it (Matthew 13:44). There are no scriptural admonitions to pursue and store up wealth. In fact, we are encouraged to do just the opposite. Jesus urged the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and follow Him so that he would have treasure in heaven, but the young man went away sad because his wealth was his heart’s true treasure (Mark 10:17–23). No doubt the young man experienced his best life on earth, only to lose the hope of real life in the future. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

But doesn’t God want us to live in comfort and financial security? We have only to look at the Lord Jesus and the apostles to know that the “best life now” philosophy is devoid of truth. Jesus certainly had no wealth, nor did those who followed Him. He didn’t even have a place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). The apostle Paul’s life would certainly not qualify as blessed by Osteen’s standards, either. Paul says, “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:24–27). Does that sound like Paul was living his best life?! Of course not. He was waiting for his best life in the future, his blessed hope, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” for him and all who are in Christ. That is our best life, not this “vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

How can we expect a world infected by sin to provide our best life now? How can we ignore scriptures like “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7) and “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12) and “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2), and tell people their best life is here and now? How can we count as meaningless the suffering of the early Christian martyrs who were hanged, burned at the stake, beheaded, and boiled in oil for their faith and their faithfulness to Christ, gladly suffering for the Savior they adored? Did they die these excruciating deaths because no one ever told them they could have experienced their best lives if only they pursued wealth and a healthy self-image, as Joel Osteen claims? The Lord never promised health, wealth, or success in this life. We can’t expect the promises He makes for heaven to be fulfilled now, and the Church dare not promise people the impossible illusion of their best life now. If we do, we encourage them to decide for themselves what will constitute their best lives and then reject Jesus when He doesn’t deliver.

The “your best life now” philosophy is nothing more than the old “power of positive thinking” lie repackaged to scratch the itching ears of the current generation. If we know Jesus Christ as our Savior, our best lives await us in heaven where we will spend eternity in joy and bliss, enjoying a life which is inconceivable to us now.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Sin: How does my personal, private sin affect others?

If you lived isolated on an island in the middle of the sea, then perhaps your private sin would not affect anyone but yourself. However, since the maxim is “no man is an island,” there is a good chance that you have a family or at the least friends and acquaintances that you come into contact with on a continual basis. All of them will be affected in some way by sin because sin has consequences (Romans 6:23). That is a principle that follows the pattern laid down at the creation. Everything created has a seed from which it propagates itself after its “kind” (Genesis 1:11, 21, 25). In other words, you do not plant corn and expect to harvest beets. You cannot “plant” sin—even in private—and not expect to reap a harvest of consequences. And consequences have a way of spilling out over everyone and anyone that comes into contact with us because of another principle called “association.” This means that those around you can be blessed or hurt by association with you and the choices and actions you make, both privately and publicly.

One needs only to look at the recent scandals involving famous evangelical leaders to see the effects on others of “private” sins. Once they are discovered—and the Bible tells us to “be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23)—families, friends, congregations, and the Christian community at large will be harmed. Worse still, the cause of Christ will be damaged as unbelievers scoff and sneer at us and blaspheme His name. It may seem that people sin without visible consequences, but what is secret will one day be made manifest. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17). Can you honestly say that there is no one that would then be affected by your secret sins if they should become known?

Sin that is kept secret produces guilt, and guilt has a way of changing us. Others see those changes and are affected by them. Perhaps a spouse, for instance, is unaware of her husband’s addiction to pornography, but his addiction leads to a guilty secretiveness and change in attitude toward her as his sexual partner. She perceives that change and speculates on the possible cause—he finds her unattractive, he doesn’t love her any more, or he’s having an affair. While none of these things are true, the consequences of his “private” sin are potentially devastating to her, their marriage, and their family, even if his secret is never discovered.

Here is another principle to consider. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.… So that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6, 18). When we reason from Scripture, we are able to see a principle here that can be applied both positively and negatively. What we do in secret, God will reward openly. If we pray and fast as unto the LORD, we are rewarded. So, it stands to reason that if we sin in secret, we shall also be “rewarded” openly for that action. In any case, God sees and knows about sin, whether private or public, and He does not let sin go unpunished.

The greatest consequence of private, personal sin is to our own mortal soul. Ezekiel 18:4 says that the soul that sins shall die, and Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. This speaks of a person who is a natural, habitual sinner without the benefit of newness of life. For the born-again child of God—one who has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior—there is a standard of conduct, both in private and in public: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). A born-again child of God has a desire to live to glorify God, and even though there are times when we can and do fail, God has made provision for us to be in fellowship with Him. He has promised that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Music Video: Jesus Saves – Jeremy Camp

Hope is here, shout the news to everyone
It’s a new day, peace has come, Jesus saves
Mercy triumphs at the cross
Love is come to rescue us, Jesus saves

Hope is here what a joyful noise we’ll make
As we join with heaven’s song
To let all the world know that Jesus saves
Raise a shout to let all the world know that Jesus saves

Free at last, every debt has been repaid
Broken hearts can be remade, Jesus saves
Sing above the storms of life, sing through the darkest night
Jesus saves

Free at last, what a joyful noise we’ll make
As we join with heaven’s song
To let all the world know that Jesus saves
Raise a shout to let all the world know that Jesus saves

We’ll sing it out to let all the world know
That Jesus saves
Raise a shout to let all the world know
That Jesus saves

You save, you heal, restore, reveal
Your Father’s heart to us
You rose to raise us from the grave

Your spirit lives in us

Sing it out to let all the world know
That Jesus saves
Raise a shout to let all the world know that
Jesus saves

Shout it out to let all the world know
That Jesus saves
Raise a shout to let all the world know that
Jesus saves

Sing it out to let all the world know
That Jesus saves
Raise a shout to let all the world know
That Jesus saves

Oh, sing it out and shout ’til the whole world knows his name
(Jesus saves)
Sing it out and shout for we will know your name
(Jesus saves)

Jesus
Jesus

Music Video: I Refuse – Josh Wilson

Sometimes I
I just want to close my eyes
And act like everyone’s alright
When I know they’re not

This world needs God
But it’s easier to stand and watch
I could say a prayer and just move on
Like nothing’s wrong

But I refuse
‘Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care
I don’t want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse

To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse

I can hear the least of these
Crying out so desperately
And I know we are the hands and feet
Of You, oh God

So, if You say move
It’s time for me to follow through
And do what I was made to do
Show them who You are

‘Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care
I don’t want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse

To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse

To stand and watch the weary and lost
Cry out for help
I refuse to turn my back
And try and act like all is well

I refuse to stay unchanged
To wait another day, to die to myself
I refuse to make one more excuse

‘Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care
I don’t want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse

To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse

I refuse
I refuse

Music Video: Stronger – Mandisa

Hey, heard you were up all night
Thinking about how your world ain’t right
And you wonder if things will ever get better
And you’re asking why is it always raining on you
When all you want is just a little good news
Instead of standing there stuck out in the weather

Oh, don’t hang your head
It’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even if it’s hard to see Him
I promise you that He still cares

When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
And things can only get better
Believe me
This is gonna make you stronger
Gonna make you stronger, stronger, stronger
Believe me, this is gonna make you …

Try and do the best you can
Hold on and let Him hold your hand
And go on and fall into the arms of Jesus
Oh, lift your head it’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even when you just can’t feel Him
I promise you that He still cares

‘Cause if He started this work in your life
He will be faithful to complete it
If only you believe it
He knows how much it hurts
And I’m sure that He’s gonna help you get through this

When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
In time it’s gonna get better
Believe me
This is gonna make you stronger

The Mark of a Genuine Christian Disciple

Possessing the Treasure

By Mike Ratliff

17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:17-21 NASB)

Arrogance, boasting, retaliation, and self-protection are just a few of the fruits of Human pride. The natural mind exalts pride while demeaning humility. Timidity is often confused with humility. Timidity is actually a fruit of pride and is a form of fear. It is the method pride uses for self-protection. On the other hand, boldness is often confused with pride…

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