Friday, November 27, 2015


We take a break from our Daniel series for the sake of Thanksgiving. 

Congratulations, everyone! For the past day, you got to be out of work, and spend some time with family, eating Turkey. And you probably spent some time giving thanks for some things in your life. Now you might be off spending all your time buying Christmas presents for those close to you, for whom you are most thankful.

I must admit that the whole Black Friday meme jokes are getting a little on my nerves this year. As much as I would never actually participate in Black Friday because I hate lines and crowds, I think there isn't a problem with spending money buying things for OTHERS after being thankful for what you already have. I mean, yeah.

Anyway, I want to challenge you to do something different today. You've taken some time to thank God for His blessings; now I want you to spend even more time realizing what those blessings are. Today, I want to challenge you with something that has twice gotten me through times in my life where I have irrationally made myself stressed about stupid things. It gives a rather nice perspective.

This little challenge is based on a sermon given by my pastor a little over a month ago, while I was home for Fall Break. It was a simple message, designed around people giving testimonies pertaining to the message after each of his three points. I decided to make a catalogue of how those points pertained to my life.

Writing that catalogue and looking back at it was a wonderful perspective change. Thus, today, I ask that you also take a look back at your life, and do the same through these three areas.

1. Places

There are certainly some places in your life that seem particularly meaningful, where the Lord has done wonderful things. The place where you got saved, the place where you met a special friend (I don't necessarily mean a significant other, but you can read it that way if you want), the place where you decided what you wanted to do the rest of your life, the place where you came to rededicate your life to the Lord, etc. There are so many different possibilities, and it's refreshing to think about it. 

2. People

This is the one who consistently gets me. This is where you record the people who have had a positive impact on your life. And for me, it fills a full two pages. I think you probably know what kinds of people have had an impact on your lives. People who trained you, people who led you to Jesus, people who encouraged you through suffering, your parents, people who listened to you when you needed someone etc. 

I think you might be surprised how many people you can come up who have had tremendous impact on your life. 

3. Problems

At this stage in my life, this particular category is fairly empty. But the idea is the problems that the Lord placed in your life that have ultimately ended up for your good. 

For me, the primary one is of course when I was unable to attend Grove City College as I intended. That was devastating to me, and I hated it so much, but it is now the best thing that ever happened to me. Now as I pursue the role of a pastor, I could never be happier about where my life is headed. I love it so much, and could never see myself doing anything else. 

So how about you? What places, people, or problems have had tremendous impact on your lives? I challenge you to make a catalogue of it. You might very well be surprised. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Another Look at Paris

Last week, I spoke about Paris, and I mentioned that in a tragedy like this, we as Christians become burdened for a little while and then a few days later, go on with their lives. Maybe we make a temporary Facebook profile picture, maybe we put up flags, but eventually the emotion of the moment dies down, and we ignore the still real ramifications of what's going on in the world.

And I must admit that I am as guilty about this as anyone else. I have had times where my burden for the situation in Paris, which was first so strong because of the number of people affected, and the superb opportunity for the church to shine a spotlight in this tragedy, has started to slowly dwindle. I pray about it every other day, but not as a consistent daily occurrence.

And it's only been a week since the events happened! How is this so? How is that the emotions that are felt throughout the world are so transient that we even now start to feel unaffected by the tragedy and more concerned with the implications of a text message we sent?

A far cry are we from the works of Nehemiah who kept his burden for 4-5 months. A far cry are we from the old men of the faith who would pray constantly and long-term for those affected by poverty.

Admittedly, we will not all be burdened like Nehemiah about every situation. That would be insane and a scary world. But I think we should be able to still desire prayer for these people.

And then of course, there are the people critiquing the fact that we are up in arms about this and not about the killings that happen in Africa. Ok, let's pray about those too. Further, I don't think it's ok for them to condemn anyone for the burdens that we have in society.

At any rate, I feel strongly about Paris, and wish that I could specifically do something to help. Since I'm not in that position, I'm praying the Lord would burden and guide those that are. And you can probably expect to hear about Paris for several Mondays to come. If you would, at least take that time, to pray about the situation.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Vision of the Nations (Daniel 2 and 7)

We have reached that point in the book of Daniel, where the exposition becomes more difficult. It is also the part where the sovereignty of God is seen more in hindsight than would have been present to the readers of the day. Thus, one might question what the Lord was trying to do by sharing these visions with this audience.

Chapters 2 and 7 parallel each other in the prophecies that they share. This is crucial. It is also interesting to remember that these two chapters from the beginning and the end of the section written in Aramaic. The section that is most likely written to the entire world at the time of Daniel.

It is also interesting to note that Chapter 7 stands out of chronological order. After going through chapter 6 of a story of the Persian ruler Darius after the Persians had taken the kingdom from Babylonian king Belshazzar, we return to see Daniel's dream during the reign of king Belshazzar.

So what do we see in each chapter? Let us begin by looking at the bare bones of what is seen in the visions.

In Chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream of a statue. We have looked at the events surrounding this dream before, but we deferred discussion until this time today. The dream is recounted in Daniel 2: 31-35,
"Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth."

This is later seen to refer to four kingdoms on the earth that will follow one right after the other.

In Daniel 7, it is Daniel who has a dream. His dream is not about a statue, but rather about four different beasts. The angel of the Lord reveals to Daniel that each of these four beasts also represent the same four kingdoms. Thus, these dreams are prophesying the same thing. Let's look at Daniel's dream in 7:2-14,
"2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. 5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. 12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. 13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."

Alright, now that we're all clear on what everything here means, why don't we just get on with application! Oh, wait, you have no idea what is being prophesied here. Yeah, I guess that it's still somewhat vague in nature. I guess it's time to look at a history lesson. Because you know, I love history.

The first kingdom discussed (the golden head and the lion with Eagle's wings) represents Babylon. Good ole Babylon which indeed had an idol that was a Lion's body with wings and a human face, making this connection kinda surreal.

But Babylon wouldn't control the world forever, indeed, there would be a second kingdom (the silver breast and arms and the bear with three ribs in his mouth) is Persia who conquered Babylon and reigned through the latter years of Daniel's life. Indeed, it would be Persia who would allow the Israelites to return to rebuild the Temple.

Yet even great and mighty Persia would eventually be usurped as a world power when the Greeks and Macedonians reigned supreme under the legions of Philip and later his son Alexander the Great. This is represented in our dreams by the belly and thighs in bronze and by the winged four-headed leopard.

Relevant to these visions is the fact that Alexander the Great relied heavily on bronze armor, making that choice of material in the statue that much more interesting. Further though, after Alexander's death, his kingdom was divided among his four generals, lending added significance to the four heads of the leopard.

The fourth kingdom is that of Rome which took over the world from the Greeks right before the time of Christ. The iron legions of Rome are represented by the iron legs of the statue and the beast distinct from all the others, with iron teeth.

Here we have gone through the major world powers leading up to the time of Christ and how powerful they all are, but that's not all that is shared here. The Lord has one more thing to say, and that is to prophesy that although these kingdoms do not last, and even seem to fracture into the multipolar world we see today (the ten toes of the statue and the ten horns of the fourth beast), there is a kingdom that will last forever.

In the statue, this future kingdom is manifested primarily by a stone made without hands that shatters all the other kingdoms. The idea that it is made without hands is an implication of divine origin. This stone after shattering all of the kingdoms becomes a great mountain and fills all the earth.

In the dream of the beasts, this future kingdom is seen a little bit more directly. One like the Son of Man comes in and and is given a kingdom by the Ancient of Days so that all of the nations can serve and worship Him forever.

Note that in both instances, there is this idea that the kingdom is universal. It's not just for the Jews, but God's eternal reign will extend to all nations, all people everywhere. I think it's rather unfortunate that we've started to treat the grafting in of the Gentiles as something that the Lord decided to do after the Jews rejected the gospel. It's not. It was His plan all along.

These visions detail how God would ultimately have power over the strong nations of the world by detailing some of the strongest in history. But to the reader, this wouldn't have had that same impact. They would have understood that there were powerful nations being predicted, but they wouldn't have known what they were. Thus, God's sovereignty wouldn't be able to be shown by His exacting and precise prophecies of the kingdoms of the world.

This means there must have been some other reason that the Lord wanted the whole world to hear this story. And it seems that that reason would almost certainly have to be because of the eternal prophecies located therein. It seems that the Lord is trying to not just show His sovereignty to the people of the Lord for His own glory.

Rather, He is showing His glory to them, so that they can come to know Him better and have an opportunity for eternal life. And that's how He decides to both begin and end his narrative in Aramaic. That I believe tells us much of God's heart.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Tragedy in Paris

Good afternoon, fellow blog readers, I apologize for the failures in blog writing on Friday and the subsequent delayed post today. But I think that there is a bigger tragedy that should be on all of our minds.

The type of thing that happened in France just doesn't happen on a normal basis. I haven't seen something like this in my lifetime. 9/11 is a similar event, but there's something different about someone having the audacity and the calm demeanor to cause this kind of panic and to watch the faces of people that they shoot and kill one by one.

That doesn't make the losses of lives any more tragic but it does raise questions about the nature of the evil we are now seeing. I can imagine, though thankfully, it's only something I can imagine that it is easier to take a life if you do not see the results. Victim images are hard to deal with on any level, and I can't imagine how I would feel causing them. But I'm getting sidetracked a bit.

Today, I want to simply urge you to pray for the people affected by this tragedy, and more than that, I want to ask that you remain burdened by prayer for the next several months about this tragedy. I think it is very easy for us as Christians to feel burdened about a tragedy like this for a few days, pray about it much through those times and then move on with life, as if nothing had ever happened.

When was the last time you prayed about the still ongoing ISIS crisis? Our minds are geared toward hearing the stories of disasters, but we're not always great about seeing people recover from those suffering.

Join with me in praying that the church in France and the surrounding countries (and maybe even a few well-established churches in America) would be burdened by the Lord with a clear insight in how they should respond. Join with me in praying that the church, both in America and around the world, is forever changed and burdened by this event. Join in me praying that our lives themselves will change in focus.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Friday, November 6, 2015

Daniel and the Den (Daniel 6)

As we continue to go through our series on the book of Daniel, we run across another one of our familiar stories – that of Daniel and the Lion’s Den. As was true with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago, this story details God’s sovereignty with regards to protecting His people.

The story starts by just explaining that Darius has elected to divide his land into 120 provinces, and set Daniel as the first President underneath him. Essentially, Daniel is seen as a highly elevated position because he is regarded as trustworthy.

This of course sparks jealousy from the other princes who desire to have Daniel’s position. So they want to find a reason that they could manage to get Daniel in trouble. After close examination of his life, this is what they found in verse 5,

“Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”

So these different leaders chose the only route that would make sense, they tricked the king to make a decree that no one in the land could pray to any god or man for thirty days except the king, or else be thrown into a den of lions. You know, no big deal whatsoever.

Now, of course, Daniel responded to this by doing exactly as he had before, praying three times a day, opening his windows. Most people focus on the fact that he did this exactly like he did aforetime, but that’s because it’s important, so I’m going to as well.

He apparently always opened his windows in his chamber before praying. He had made no effort to conceal it. I find this important because he didn’t purposefully open his windows to make a point of rebellion.

But I also think it is important because it would have been so easy to justify closing the windows. There is after all, no obligation to open your windows when you are praying to God, and if it could be possible to conceal your actions, then why not? But that’s not what Daniel did.

And so to further the progress along, he gets thrown into the den of lions and the king is upset. He doesn’t want to see Daniel be killed, and in that thought, we see the set-up for the declaration of the sovereignty of God. In verse 16, we read,
“Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.”

Now at this point, we see that a stone is brought in front of the mouth of the den, so that there is no possibility that Daniel can escape, leaving no possibility of a human rescue.

And the king goes to his palace and fasts all night. No way to tell whether he is praying to any god, so let’s be careful not to read into this that he was pursuing the God of heaven at this time.

Early in the morning, the king leaves his palace, and comes to see the den of lions. In verses 20-23, we see the declaration of God’s sovereignty in this passage,
“And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.”

At this point, Daniel’s accusers are thrown into the den of lions, and their children, and their wives. I imagine this is quite a large group of people. And the lions had killed all of these people before they ever reached the bottom. I guess these weren’t just a bunch of tame lions for some reason…

And then we once again end with a foreign king (in this case the king of Persia), declaring the power and sovereignty of God.

“26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. 27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

Order, Guilt, and Persuasion

Before I get into the content of my blog today, I would just love to acknowledge that my Bengals are 7-0 for like the first time in franchise history!!! That is pretty phenomenal to me. So anyway, onto other things.

As a side note, today's blog post is more theoretical in nature; do not expect to come away with three points of application to your life of communication. I mean, there are things to apply, but I'm not doing that work for you today.

Communication theorist Kenneth Burke claims that symbols are a fundamental aspect of our persuasion. How we use symbols (of which words are a crucial part) influence a large amount of the way that we view the world.

Because of this Burke is obsessed with his idea of dramatism, or a look at how humans use symbols. Burke would object to the maxim that "Actions speak louder than words," on the basis that there is no distinction between the two - our language is a process of acting. To discuss this object of dramatism, we are going to look at first, humans' use of symbols, the process of accruing guilt, and then the process of redeeming guilt from a situation.

Symbol Use

So what does Burke mean when he says that humans are symbol-using animals? We all know from a very core age that communication and our language is all built around symbols. But what Burke refers to goes beyond that.

He believes that our language is a clear indicator of our attitude, so that we cannot help but reveal what we think by what we say. Our attitudes are forerunners of our actions. Anything we do is going to be the result of how we perceive the world. Thus, our language is a predictor of our actions.

It also seems possible that the language we use or are consistently around could influence our behavior. If we become desensitized to a certain way of viewing the world, it becomes easier to marginalize different people or do things that we would normally consider terrible. Our rhetoric will become our behavior.

Creation of Guilt

But Burke also wants to stress that language has additional power and that power has the ability to create guilt. Guilt is a "psychological feeling of discomfort that arises when order is violated." This feeling comes about as a result of a violation of order.

The most important thing to understand about this definition is where that order comes from. Burke lists three specific areas of language that contribute to the area of order, and thus the area of guilt.

First of all, the negative. By its very nature, when we label something with a word, we exclude it from being something else. When I call this device that I am typing on a computer, it can no longer be a phone or tablet.

Burke argues that this negative space is a human-created existence. By his rationale, there is nothing about this computer that prevents it from being a tablet, except that I say that it isn't. He's actually wrong here. Although we as humans could have labeled this device as a tablet instead of a computer at one point, we haven't and our labeling of it doesn't change what it is.

More to Burke's point, simply saying that something is good or bad doesn't change the fact that it was already good or bad in the first place. That issue of morals is actually what is relevant to Burke's idea of guilt in the first place. Burke argues that we experience guilt because our language gives us a sense of right and wrong, and a sense of order when it comes to morality. When we then break that order, we experience discomfort.

The second way language creates order is a system of hierarchy. Here Burke argues that ultimately when we use language to differentiate between people, we create structures where some people are inferior to others.

We create a structure of different statuses within a culture. Borchers provides the example of our class system here at a university, where the labels, freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior all seem to indicate a different status. The goal then of any freshman is to become a sophomore, and the sophomore is to become a junior, and a junior wants to become a senior.

This illustrates that not only does this labeling create a hierarchy, but it also shows that in our pursuit for order, we will try to move ourselves up the hierarchy to a higher social status, meaning that when we fail to do so, we experience significant discomfort and guilt.

Finally, Burke highlights the idea of perfection, which he takes to mean our desire to take ideas to the extreme. It is the idea that good is the enemy of great. We will not be content with that which is good if there is a chance that we can get the best.

Our desire in all things is to ensure that we get the best possible option of all that is available to us. This means that when we are forced to give less than 100%, or just get less than 100%, we feel anxious, and experience what Burke would call guilt.

Redeeming Guilt

So how do we rid ourselves of this guilt? There are two models for the stages in which order, guilt, and redemption come into play.

The first is called tragic purification, or the terms of order. In this view, you work through four stages. Stage 1 is order. You are not in distress or specifically feeling any guilt. Then in stage 2, guilt enters in, and you find yourself a little out of order.

Stage 3 is purification, meaning the stage in which you work to rid yourself of the guilt. This can be done either by accepting the responsibility for yourself (mortification) or blaming the incident on somebody else (victimage). Once order is restored, you have reached stage 4: redemption.

The second method is called the comic purification. This starts similarly to the tragic purification in that stage 1 is order. But it names the stage where order is disrupted as incongruity.

In a theory that is dedicated to the importance to how different symbols are used, it cannot go unnoticed that these two different models vary in their labeling of this stage.

Guilt provides a very strong negative connotation, which makes it seem that very drastic measures need to be taken to reestablish order. In contrast, incongruity is weaker in force and doesn't seem to need as strong of a response, which explains why this model doesn't provide one.

Instead of the guilty being punished or removed (as in tragic purification), the comic purification only requires a little laughter or encouragement to change their ways. Stage 3 of this process is belittling, which will take the form of humor, maybe even sarcasm.

Stage 4 then ends with enlightenment (a far nicer word than redemption as well), where the "guilty" party learns about what he did wrong and just reaches a higher understanding of the world.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Writing's on the Wall (Daniel 5)

As we continue in our study of the book of Daniel, we start to see a completely different story with a different cast of characters. Nebuchadnezzar has passed on and his son Belshazzar reigns on his throne.

Remember that we are still within the Aramaic section of the book of Daniel. God is still directing this section to the entire world, to declare His sovereignty to all the nations of the Lord. In this chapter, he responds once more to the arrogance of a king.

And it starts with King Belshazzar doing what kings do - feasting, drinking, and partying. Because running a country is probably difficult, I guess you just have to let off some steam somehow (kidding, I did not endorse this royal behavior).

As he is enjoying his little celebration, he asks for the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar stole from the house of God. Indeed, the book of Daniel makes it clear that these aren't just any vessels, but these are the vessels which were in Jerusalem. Get ready for the our God is bigger than your God moment. It's coming...

But first, let's make sure that we understand the significance of using the vessels designed for the worship of the Lord. The Lord makes it clear that there is a contrast between the sacred use of His vessels versus the use here. He contrasts their worship of gods, made of gold, and silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone, with Himself.

But even further, there is good reason to believe that Belshazzar's actions were a reflection upon his belief that he (and his gods) were greater than God so that he didn't have to worry about how he used or misused the sacred artifacts. Indeed, he could use them for mere sport.

But the Lord said, no. That's not going to work here. And so the weirdest thing that probably could ever happen occurred. Fingers wrote on a wall.

Alright, so we've all heard this account before, so we're hardly surprised by that. But let's take a second here. FINGERS ARE WRITING ON A WALL!!!!!!!!

I for one, have never seen a finger write on a wall, or a finger move when it is disconnected from a body. But here that is exactly what Belshazzar is seeing. I think he might be a bit justified to be just a little bit on edge about what is going on here.

And of course, the fingers writing on the wall is our first indication that God is greater than the gods that Belshazzar serves. The gods of the Babylonians had never tried to communicate in this way. Never, but God just does it as if it is nothing.

As we have seen so much before in this book, the king calls all of the religious people that serve his own gods - the Chaldeans, astrologers, soothsayers, and all. And as per the usual, they are unable to understand the works of God because God has chosen not to reveal it unto them.

And as per the usual, that's when Daniel gets called in. Here it is as the result of the Queen's suggestion, reminding Belshazzar that Daniel has managed to best these magicians, Chaldeans, soothsayers, and wise men in the past. Just in case you forgot this is not the first time that God has shown his power in this book.

Daniel works to give the interpretation of the writing. And it comes with a rather long section of understanding. Take a look at verses 17-28,
"Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians."

So that is a lot of verses to throw at you all at once, so I took the liberty of highlighting where Daniel makes it clear that God is more powerful than the king's gods. I find it interesting that Daniel starts by examining the Lord's dealing with Nebuchadnezzar, just trying to make sure that at its core, we don't forget that God has already shown himself faithful.

 After justifying that God has authority to do as he pleases, he proceeds to explain what God is planning on doing. He explains that the writing means that Bleshazzar's kingdom will be taken from him, and that he will die.

And then just to solidify the point that God is more powerful than the nations, that happens that very night. Which means that the Lord has already orchestrated it before He revealed His plans to anyone.

I think the Lord might just have authority over all authorities of this world, which I personally find to be pretty great.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Priority Evaluation from the Book of Jonah

I talk a lot about priorities it seems. Usually I focus on how we spend our time, specifically at times when I am rushing to write this blog post because I haven't prioritized it. Today, I am kinda rushing, but we are not going to write about how we use our time in relationship to priorities.

In the book of Jonah, God goes through quite a lot to show an object lesson of someone who does not have proper priorities. And then he ends with a question in Jonah 4:12-13,
"Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?"

There isn't any rest of the book, Jonah never gives an answer. We see instead that we ourselves are supposed to provide an answer. So how would we as people evaluate our priorities to see if they line up with God? Well, perhaps, a good way of doing that is to see the things that Jonah did that highlight that his priorities were in the wrong place. There are three of them.

1. Disobedience.

When Jonah first hears that he is to go to Nineveh because saving Nineveh is the Lord's priority, he runs precisely the other way. He showed that his interests were more important than God's and that he cannot move on.

2. Prejudice placed above compassion

He decides that he is not going to have any chance that the people of Nineveh might not actually get destroyed.  He goes so far as to in chapter 4 complain that the Lord is showing mercy to the people of Nineveh and explains that this is why he didn't come in the first place! He knew the grace of God (never mind that he knows it because he has received it) and he didn't want his enemies to receive that grace.

3. Convenience placed above the spiritual need of others.

And then of course, he was more thankful for the gourd than anything. He twice in chapter 4 explains that he is ready to die. One when the people of Nineveh live, and the second when the gourd (his personal heat shield) dies. I feel like you see the issue here, don't you?

So maybe at the heart of all three of these issues is a heart for the conditions of others, whether we like them or not, and seeing people as souls that the Lord wants to save.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Beast-King (Daniel 4)

In the Aramaic section of the book of Daniel, we have seen the sovereignty revealed by an event showing his magnificent power and then King Nebuchadnezzar making a proclamation about how the God of Israel is the Most High God, who is the only one worthy of praise.

Chapter 4 is a little bit different. In this instance, the order of the illustrating event and Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation are reversed. Indeed, very early on in verses 1-3, Nebuchadnezzar writes a decree to the entire nation, saying,
"Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation."

With that declaration in mind, we turn to the events of the story. Nebuchadnezzar goes on in his decree to discuss then reason why he feels that God is the most High in the first place. It starts just as it did in Chapter 2, with a dream.

This dream Nebuchadnezzar remembers, but he doesn't understand it. And neither do any of his wise men. Nebuchadnezzar is afraid because of the contents of the dream.

So since you're probably curious, the dream went something like this. There was a great tree which was beautiful and was providing food and shelter for many. And then an angel comes down and asks that it be hewed down, but the stump can remain. In the most relevant portion, the angel declares,
"Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him."

Nebuchadnezzar in his terror, remembers that there was this guy, in whom was the spirit of the holy god(s). (Whether you have gods or God will depend upon your translation. In the Aramaic, the plural form was often used for emphasis, making this statement a little bit arbitrary.)

Nebuchadnezzar calls in Daniel, and Daniel is said to be troubled for an hour, and was in one of my favorite KJV words, "astonied." And Nebuchadnezzar has apparently softened at some point because he tells Daniel not to worry about the dream or the interpretation.

At which point, Daniel explains the dream. In verses 24-27,
"This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity."

The dream stands as a warning against Nebuchadnezzar's pride. It is asking him to consistently acknowledge that it is God who creates his own kingdoms. This is what the Most High decrees. And obviously what the most High decrees, will inevitably come to pass.

In verses 28-33, it does,
"All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws."

And so we see that the Lord's prophecies come true because He's God and is sovereign at all times. And Nebuchadnezzar actually states this fact again, and praised the Lord God of Heaven, the chapter ends in verses 34-37,
"And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase."