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."

Monday, October 19, 2015

We Really Don't Know

So... The Bengals are 6-0! And that doesn't have anything to do with politics, but I'm figuring out what I am writing about right now, so I just wanted to let you know that excitement. 

So... The world is complex and complicated as usual, and we all pretend to know what's going on, because that's what people DO! 

Because let's just be honest, how much do we truly understand about the insider positions of the politics, or about the inner positions of Syria, or how Germany will respond to the immigrants when they come through. 

So what I would love to see happen is that news providers are willing to admit that there are lots of things that we just don't understand about the world. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3)

So, Fall Break is a thing. And, as per my usual irresponsibility I forgot today was Friday because it feels like a Saturday. I apologize to all of you faithful few, and would like to take the time to look at some things here today in reading this.

So today, we are obviously going to look at background because you know, it went from background to exposition to background to exposition. So obviously, the next in the pattern is obviously background.

But as you can tell from the title, that pattern thankfully is broken. We get to continue to look at the Aramaic portion of the book of Daniel and what the Lord chose to reveal to all people at the time of the captivity to show that He let the Israelites get captured as a punishment and is not weaker than the gods of the Babylonians.

So Daniel 3 enters in. We all know the story, and we all know of the admirable faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago. And indeed, we should all emulate it. But what can we learn about God through this chapter?

The chapter starts out rather simply in the first 2 verses, 
"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up."

Obviously, Nebuchadnezzar's changed heart at the end of the last chapter has changed, and he has moved onward to challenge the worship of God. Setting up an idol and commanding essentially that all political officials come and worship this idol.

So what happens? Well, you all know the story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago refuse to bow down to the idol and there is a tattle-tale, so the king brings them in for questioning.

And we immediately have the set-up of the scene of God's greatness to be seen. In verse 15, we read,
"Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"

Who indeed? Certainly there isn't a god who is actually stronger than Nebuchadnezzar and his gods and the fiery furnace. Oh yeah, there is a God in heaven. He actually isn't he? Well, I guess we'll find out.

As an even further set-up, Shadrach Meshach, and Abednago express the truth statement and theme of the chapter. Verses 17-18 explains,
"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

Oh, yeah, Hebrew God can do things. And of course, Nebuchadnezzar is like, eh no, and he commands the furnace to be set to 7 times the heat it is normally supposed to be set. Just so that there is no chance that they could possibly survive.

To further show that there is no chance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago surviving without the assistance of some supernatural force, the men commanded to throw them into the furnace explode into flame and perish. They are so much goners.

Except...they aren't. They manage to live, without a hint of burning damage within them. And Nebuchadnezzar tends to notice that. You know, it seems that there are people alive. And for some reason four of them. He says simply,
"Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."

So the fourth looks a little majestic. And of course, there is speculation about whether this is an example of the pre-incarnate Christ  appearing to people. There is no proof of this, but it is certainly possible, but probably more relevant is this: there was clearly a supernatural being and force that delivered the faithful Israelites from the fiery furnace that was certain to kill them. And it doth seem based on the prelude into this big test that that supernatural force is a personal being that the Israelites worship as God.

And Nebuchadnezzar, a source that the Babylonians themselves would accept, acknowledges this to be true. In the climax of the event (just as in chapter 2), Nebuchadnezzar declares,
"Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort." 

There is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Indeed. Feel like I heard this at some other point in the book of Daniel that God was the only one who could do things. Hmm....

Monday, October 12, 2015

Time And Priorities

 If it's important to you, you will probably make time to do it. This is something that seems rather relevant in my life as at a time when I thought I was overwhelmed, and could add nothing more to my schedule, I actually did add something more to my schedule, and have still managed to stay on top of things (except this blog of course). 

So if I can add in a huge and amazing time spender because I really really want it, and still manage to keep up my grades, it is probably possible at any given time for us to add in time to spend time with God in both Bible study and prayer, as well as ministry and service to God. 

What then does it mean if we choose not to do so because we're too busy? Really, it only means that we value one thing we could spend our time on, over spending time with God. Or if we choose not to spend time helping the poor, we are saying that whatever we currently spend our time on is more important than the poor. 

When we fail to post blog posts in time, or to spend the accurate amount of time deciding what to write about and putting thoughts into the words, it means that I value my schoolwork and other social activities above my blog post. #sorrynotsorry

So, there is more time in the day than you give credit for, which means the way we use our time is probably an indicator of our priorities more than anything else. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Interpretation of Dreams (Daniel 2)

Announcement: Because it would fit better into my life and has just basically been a thing anyway, I will be changing the time of these blog posts from morning to noon. So you can expect this blog to update in the future at noon on Mondays and Fridays. Thank you!

With our wonderful background knowledge, we are ready to get into a nice run-down of the different sections of the book. (I promise we won't have another background post next week.) Remember that the focus of this book (and the Aramaic chapters in particular) is to show God's sovereignty at a time when it looks like the Babylonian gods are stronger than He is.

But how does our familiar story about Nebuchadnezzar's dream of a statue made of all sorts of material actually show God's sovereignty? It does in more ways than you might think. Let's dig in. 

(I have been much cheaper with my writing style, since I started this exposition on Daniel; I'm sorry, but it takes a lot of time to write exposition, so something had to go.)

We're going to start after Nebuchadnezzar has his dream, and the language of the book shifts to Aramaic. It is here that we see Nebuchadnezzar's magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans (hereafter just Chaldeans because that's what the book does) come and ask for the dream, so they can interpret it.

This group of people is important. This group of people is essentially a collection of religious people who would reign the power of the Babylonian gods to answer a given question. Nebuchadnezzar hopes that they will be able to interpret his dream.

But apparently, he has forgotten his dream entirely. This shouldn't be a problem clearly as the gods of Babylon will be sure to reveal to the Chaldeans what he dreamed too. And if they shan't, then the Chaldeans will be exposed as frauds and be cut into pieces and their houses will be made into... yeah. That's totally Nebuchadnezzar. Totally.

But shocker! The gods of Babylonian do not reveal to the Chaldeans the dream! It's almost as if the Babylonian gods don't exist or something. Sarcasm aside, the beginning parts of this chapter clearly show that the Chaldeans do not have the power that they claim to have, and it does place suspicion on the power of their gods.

Indeed, the words of the Chaldeans in verse 10-11 are rather telling,
"The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh."

Oh, only the gods can reveal it. That seems problematic, since they don't dwell among us. How are we supposed to respond to this?

Well, Nebuchadnezzar is rash, so he decrees that all the wise men get killed. And so they obviously go after Daniel and his fellows because they fall into this category. You may think it bad storytelling that I introduce that Daniel and his fellows are wise men here, but take it up with the Bible. It seems that God was trying to stress that the story is not actually about Daniel, but rather His own power.

Daniel asks the king for time to know the dream and the interpretation thereof. The king grants it for some reason, probably the hand of God. And so Daniel went back and told his companions, and they prayed to the God of Heaven. Indeed, these verses are ones that specifically highlight the process by which God and not man revealed the truth of the dream. In verses 17-23, we read,
"Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter."

The secret was revealed to Daniel, and he recognizes that it was God who revealed this to him and spends the time to praise Him, revealing to the world, that God is able to resolve issues of dreams that according to the Chaldeans, no man can reveal.

It is interesting to note that the Chaldeans would have been religious people that the selected audience of this text would have respected and listened to, meaning that this whole interpretation of the dream thing has great significance to them because the Chaldeans essentially said it was impossible.

And so Daniel reveals the dream and its interpretation to the king. But when he does so, he tends to want to highlight the fact that you know, the Chaldeans couldn't do it, but God can. The emphasis in these verses (as in the rest of the chapter) is on the superiority of God over the Chaldeans. Look in verses 27-30,
"Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart."

So the dream itself is also kinda important in showing God's sovereignty over the nations. We will examine this in more detail with the future visions of the book of Daniel, starting in chapter 7.

But for now, let's examine that Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue, where the head was of gold, breast and arms of silver, his belly and thighs of brass, his legs of iron, and his feet of iron and clay.

And they all fell to pieces because a stone "made without hands." That expression indicates a divine intervention, where God comes in and destroys this statue.

Daniel interprets this dream as portraying the nations of the world that would come after Babylon, which was the strongest of them and the golden head. In hindsight, we can see how this proved true as the Babylonian empire was conquered by the Medo-Persians, who were conquered by the Greeks, who were conquered by the Romans, and so on. This is a very relevant showing of God's sovereignty over the nations and His ability to fulfill His prophecies.

But it actually wouldn't have meant all that much to the Babylonians or the Jews at the time, as they couldn't look back to hindsight to see that this was true. Instead, they would look to authorities that they trusted to make sense of the strange turn of events, which is probably why this account ends with Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation in verse 47,
"Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret." 

Indeed He is.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Umpqua Community College

It was a small town in Oregon that where a mass shooting occurred. It wasn't a place that was expected to be dangerous. Everyone felt very safe. And then the disaster came. And as the disaster came, now no one anyone feels safe. Even though they are just as safe now as they were before, public perception of danger has increased substantially. 

Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families of these victims, and for all those who are wounded. Undergoing this much trauma is not going to be easy. The road to normalcy is long, and tracked with the knowledge that things will not return to as normal as one would hope. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Introduction to the Arimaic Section (Daniel 2-7)

I do thus verily apologize for the complete lack of post on Monday. I have an excuse, but I assume that you won't want to hear it, so if that assumption is true, you can skip to the next paragraph. So, I had a debate tournament this weekend, and got behind in schoolwork for the first time in my college career. So I didn't post on my blog. Probably justifiable. But I have caught up by now and can reenter my responsibilities.

So today, we enter into Daniel 2, Let's begin with reading the first three verses,
"And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream."

Then in verse 4, we read the Scripture state that, "Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack."

Syriack is the King James way of saying Aramaic. And at this point until the end of chapter 7, the book of Daniel is written in Aramaic. At first, it is easy to write this off as simply useless trivia, but wait one moment. We believe that the Bible is written more purposefully than this.

If you are writing, you don't usually change the language in which you are writing. Even if you happen to know multiple languages, you are not likely to suddenly change from one language into another. Indeed, you are not likely to change even from one piece of jargon to another at any given time within the same writing.

So why does this particular book switch into Aramaic when that is generally considered bad literary form? It is not enough to write this off as unimportant because the author of the book clearly made this decision for a reason. We need to understand what that reason is.

So let's remember from two weeks ago, the background of the time. Those throughout the world are convinced because of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem that the Babylonians god at their weakest are strongest than God is at His strongest.

We then remember that this book is all about proving that the God of Israel really is stronger than all other gods, and indeed that there are no other gods. In Hebrew, this book communicates to the Israelites, but basically that only communicates to the Israelites.

Historical background (once more from Dr. Miller's Old Testament class): at this time, the primary language of almost all the world is Aramaic. So communicating in Aramaic is to communicate to the rest of the world. Chapters 2-7 are a section of the book of Daniel, which are written so as to communicate to the whole world.

So what does the Lord want to say to the entire wor? Well, let's look a moment at the structure of this Aramaic section.

Chapter 2: Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, interpreted by Daniel and Daniel alone sharing God's power over the nations.
Chapter 3: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago travel into a fiery furnace, but God shows his power in delivering them.
Chapters 4-5:  God shows His power over individual rulers by tearing Nebuchadnezzar down to the level of a beast, and then putting the writing on the wall to end Belshazzar's reigns
Chapter 6: God shows His power in delivering His servant Daniel.
Chapter 7: God shows his power over that nations by Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue.

You might notice a few similarities here. Indeed, this structure is very chiastic.

And in a chiasm, the most important part if put in the middle of the structure. So the Lord seems to be stressing that He is more powerful than the most powerful of rulers in the world. All else doesn't stand; the Lord is God and He is sovereign over all.

The Aramaic section is a powerful section of the book and honestly the reason why I decided to do this expositional analysis on the book of Daniel. I look forward to looking at you next week.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Eating Vegetables to Get Fat (Daniel 1)

Last week, I announced that I was going to start a series with the book of Daniel. This is the least-thought through decision I have had in a while, but it seems pretty exciting to me right now, so let's go for this.

After detailing clearly that the book of Daniel seems to be about the question of God's sovereignty at a time when His sovereignty can be specifically challenged and questioned because it appears that the gods of Babylonian have bested Him. The book looks at how that God has given Israel into the hand of Israel. No need to fret about Babylonian control - God knows what He's doing.

So how does this work from the very beginning of the book? The very first chapter details one of the more popular events of this time period in the Bible. The fact that a few teenagers refused to eat drink and wine from the king, and instead opted for vegetables. What in the world does this have to do with the power of God exactly?

Well, let's take the text from the beginning. So in verses 3-4, the king is bringing up a whole bunch of skillful Israelites to serve as advisers for the king. This is a common practice at the time, where conquering nations will just take advantage of the young crop of skills that they just conquered.

Verse 5 though mentions a very specific regimen of food that has been specifically designed to prepare them to come before the king. This is the very regimen that "Daniel and his fellows" would not agree to eat because they had purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves with the portion of the king's meat (verse 8).

The reason why this would be defiling is unclear. It seems unlikely that it was because it went against Levitical laws as there was never a prohibition against wine. Sacrificing to idols is possible because in some instances wine was actually sacrificed to idols. It could have been as simple as allegiance to the king. Really, our answers are all kinda speculative, which means that our answer is not actually important. If this detail mattered the Lord would have made it clear what He wanted us to see.

But when Daniel and his fellows reject the food, there is a very specific response. The eunuch seems a bit afraid. Daniel 1:10 explains,
"And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king."

Hey, apparently, Daniel's suggestions about eating pulse and water is not a very favorable position. It is supposed to leave them to be thin and sickly after this time. That seems to be an indication that maybe this isn't a health plan, guys! It's not a recommendation for our diets!

But what is more important about this, is that when Daniel and his fellows are actually healthier, or more specifically, "fairer and fatter in all flesh" after ten days, then there must be something supernatural about this particular occasion. Maybe the Lord just blessed His servants for their obedience to Him. Hmmmm... Strange.

And then we get a brief overview of the success that Daniel and his fellows have in Babylon. Because God is not done blessing His people. And you know, He has the power to do that.

Maybe we shouldn't be concerned that we're under Babylonian control. Or put in your own life, God is in control, regardless of whatever situation you are in. You have no need to fret, God will continue to bless you, though not always in circumstance. Just trust the Lord.

Apparently I forgot to schedule this to get posted. Which stinks. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Importance of Prayer

I have a crazy proposition. The number one important thing in the life of any Christian is not how kind he is, how much he spreads the gospel, or how involved he is with church. No, I believe that the most important part of a Christian's life is prayer.

(Now I know that's not that radical. But let me pretend it is.) Here's my argument. Jesus made it clear in the gospels what the greatest commandment is. And there were lots of good ones to choose from. But he chose this one,
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."

 So, it's a strange thing to me to say, but one of the best express love or to generate love is to communicate! And we communicate of course through prayer. My love for God only stands strong when I am praying constantly and readily for the sake.

I could also make the argument (because it's true) that we can do none of the service that we are required to do, absent God. And we get that help via prayer.

So prayer is important and you should probably do it every day. More than just once. Here's some thoughts on how to make that happened (ironed out with help from two amazing friends of mine):
1. Plan an extra long time to pray in the morning, or whenever you do your devotions. Make sure you don't have to rush through your prayer.
2. In that time, pray with purpose. Consider creating a prayer journal. Document your requests, and God's answers, in an organized way. My prayer journal is set up like this:
Date          Request                          Date          Answer
9/20/15     Blog Post Idea                9/20/15      Prayer
3. Ask people if they have anything you could pray about. This gives you further things to bring to God and helps make your prayer less self-oriented. It also helps you fulfill the second greatest commandment - love one another.
4. If you have time alone, don't just talk to yourself. Talk to God. It will fill your time nicely.
5. Put up something that will remind you to pray in a place that you frequent often. Whether that be an office or your bedroom, or a car. Whether the reminder be worship music, verses on a whiteboard, or a prayer wall. Put up a reminder. We're carnal creatures. We're going to forget. So let's make it harder for ourselves to do so.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Background on the Book of Daniel

There's an interesting book of the Bible out there. It's called Daniel, and I think we should begin at the beginning of this book and see what some it might mean. What could the theme of this book be?

Well, let's first look at the context. When was this book written? It seems pretty clear that the book was written around the time of the deportation into Babylon. The first chapter covers indeed the historical background of that very time, as "Daniel and his fellows" are taken into the king's court.

Dr. Miller in my OT class last year explained this context decently well. In Old Testament times, it was commonly accepted that there was a supernatural force in the world. Indeed there are many gods in the world. And these gods are incredibly nationalist and tied to military strength.

The gods are further most powerful closest to their own temple, according to the theology of the day. So the Babylonian god is going to have its weakest sphere of influence near Jerusalem, while the actual God would have been thought to be at His strongest when the Babylonians took the Temple.

This means that public perception in Babylon is that their gods at their weakest are stronger than the God of Israel at His strongest.

We of course know this not to be true, and that God let the Babylonians take the Israelites into his hand because the Israelites needed to be punished. But that sentiment is not exactly easy to get across to the Israelites or the Babylonian people. And that is where the book of Daniel comes in.

This is not just a reading based on history either. It is pretty clear from the text of Daniel that the theme of the book is simply the sovereignty of God. And that is obvious from the very first few verses, which read simply,
"In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god."

Before we even begin to get into the narrative text, the book of Daniel confirms that the Lord "gave" Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. It was not that he was outgunned by a stronger force. The rest of the book, with the visions, the miraculous deliveries, and the miraculous desire of teenagers to eat vegetables, all point to that same theme.

And as I decide to embark on an exposition journey with you - a pseudo-series on the book of Daniel, we will see how all of these accounts point to the fact that God alone is sovereign over world affairs.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Immigration Crisis: What You Need to Know

Refugees from Syria are walking on foot to get to Germany because Germany is the one European state that seems excited for more immigrants. This is perhaps because their population is currently declining while the population of many other European nations is rising.

England offered up asylum for 20,000 people. Germany laughed and said they were ready for 500,000 every year for several years. Well done, UK. Your number looks kinda small. Apparently Germany doesn't need any help.

Hungary has offered police escort for the migrants on their border to help them get to Germany and Austria.

Perhaps what you really need to know is that these migrants have been travelling for a while, even though the media has just reported it. (Thank you photojournalists for making this a news story in the first place.) They are running from Syria and the unrest there for their very lives.

What they desire is peace, protection, and security. Maybe even a chance to start a new life outside of a civil war. And that's what you need to know.

In other news, I said the words "Civil War," so now I'm thinking of Captain America 3.

Also, how about them Bengals? Then again, it was the Raiders. Time will tell.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Interviewing the Bible

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. I am still a very responsible person, I swear.

So what is the focus today? I guess I could talk about what the Lord showed me about how He intends to speak with me.

I must admit to having a very interesting time in my devotions for the past few months. Reading and never getting much to write down in my journal at all. Feeling like it was simply part of a routine and nothing more. All through this time, I was thinking I should probably go deeper than just reading the words, but I never acted on this.

So, I was reading the first chapter of Acts to prepare for a Bible Study Discussion in my hall here, and I realized something I did differently when I read for the Bible Study as opposed to my devotion. I interrogated the text. I asked why the author felt the need to include that information at that given time.

And I had things to write down and things to apply to my life. The text meant something, and it was all because of a few questions here and there to be more than just reading the Bible. Astonishing! Truly astonishing!

Ok, maybe it's not astonishing, but it is pretty cool, so you know what I realized at that time. That if I really wanted the Lord to show me something through my daily devotions, I probably ought to prepare myself to see it by actively searching for it. So I have. And that has been stellar. Why I ever stopped doing this is beyond me in the first place.

Needless to say, you'll probably get more true biblical exposition in the near future on this blog.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Cake, Pseudoevents, and Songs

What is the meaning of birthdays? When I turn 20, am I suddenly more mature than when I was 19? After all, at the end of the day, I am no longer a teenager. So that must mean something.

I guess birthdays are what communication theorists (and probably some other discipline too, since communication is so interdisciplinary) call pseudoevents. Events that don't actually change a person, but that changes the status of a person.

A wedding does not change a person, but two people start single and leave a married couple. On Saturday, I was a teenager and now I am not. I have a change of status, but I myself have not changed overly much over the last few days.

Of course, I guess I am just really enjoying the fact that my birthday brings me certain attention and things, and also getting embarrassed at it as well. My Sunday School class sang to me. I don't remember the last time my Sunday School class sang to someone... That's weird.

But that's ok. I got some cake and generally simulated the economy. My sister finished her series of birthday/Christmas gifts with The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Special Extended Edition. 

And I'm a year older. I love the opportunity to celebrate and everything, but can we just acknowledge again how weird it is to celebrate the day of one's birth? Hey, this is the day that you were emancipated from the womb. Have some cake! Yeah...

But I like cake, so it's all good. Also, people set off fireworks today, just for my birthday. (and that random holiday that today actually is). Hey, happy labor day, everyone!

Friday, September 4, 2015

What am I to do with My Life?

Sometimes, you just get overwhelmed with schoolwork, obligations that keep you from sitting to work on it, and a nice little illness that makes you feel so incredibly weak. At that moment, what exactly would you do?

Well, let's see. I seem to be pushing on here in the honors lounge trying to finish up schoolwork that is needed to be done before tomorrow because it still needs to be done. Also struggling to find a reason to stay awake. And enjoying my new Chromebook that I bought because I couldn't wait for my laptop anymore. Of course, that time without my laptop would be another reason why I am overwhelmed with working.

I'm kinda having a bad night, and this from someone that is usually so far ahead on schoolwork that he never has any problems. But I guess the Lord is making me helpless and weak at this point so I can learn to rely on him. So what am I going to do? Right now, I am going to pray. And then pray some more.

And then I will get to work and do things and make sure that I survive. And then go to bed.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Hodge-Podge of Randomness

As I opened this new post, I noticed my serve told me I have written 221 posts, and I was like, "Yay, I like that number." Now hopefully, my audience is geeky enough to realize why that is a big deal.

But this is not a day to talk about the virtues of the world's favorite highly functioning sociopath because he actually isn't very virtuous. Oh, and it has nothing to do with politics and culture in America today.

In other news, actually relevant to American culture, the sport of legalized violence is starting up in two weeks. AND I AM SUPER EXCITED! Because I like football despite the fact that it really kind of is that whole legalized violence thing. Yeah, whatever. Also, concussions are kinda bad. Really bad. But I refuse to play it for that reason.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm free from concussions. I have seen a member of my debate team last year who got a concussion while on a debate tournament. Of course, that was because she was recovering from a concussion, and we had an fender-bender. The whiplash did not do her well.

Now if that doesn't float your boat, TV series news seasons should begin pretty shortly, and I think that's pretty swell. It's time for another season of Castle, Doctor Who, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Doctor Who. Oh, I already said that one didn't I? If anyone has any idea on how I could get my hands on the first three episodes of Agent Carter, I would greatly appreciate it.

In a completely different section of the world, the presidential campaign continues to bore its way on. I know, I'm not supposed to have this attitude as the beacon of stay informed at all costs, but it's far too early to know anything that's going on in the race. And I really want to get more involved when I have to worry about fewer candidates.

But there are some interesting tidbits. First, South Carolina is requiring those on the primary ballot to rule out running as a third party. A very good political move for the Republicans; this ensures that Trump must agree to support the GOP nomination if when he doesn't win the candidacy. Of course, one can and maybe should question the legitimacy of keeping someone off the ballot as a form of political manipulation.

Also, why is no one covering the Democratic race yet? It seems that even as Hillary Clinton's credibility with the media consistently gets worse, no one wants to cover any of the better options (admittedly many of those aren't better options, but there are definitely a few) that the Democrats actually have. In a world where liberal media reigns supreme, this is actually quite shocking as it seems disadvantageous to the party's chances next November.

And finally, can we just take time to acknowledge that football season is about to start?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Why Don't You Just Ask?

It's truly the strange things in life that lead you to wonderful realizations of God's grace and lessons in your life. It's always great when you want to be shown as weak, so you can see God's strength, and God immediately provides a way, that also doesn't tear you down.

I love when I can see my own powerlessness without even a hint of suffering because simply a question I would love to have answered is left just out of my power to answer. A situation that I don't understand cannot be explained and I am the kind of person who hates that. Yet I am powerless to do anything about it. At all.

And that is just absolutely great! Because in a moment where I pray that I would like to see my weakness and the next day, I have no idea what's going on, just really shows me that I am not in control...ever. And that God is always in control.

And that is relieving and amazing and just an awesome "God moment." Of course, you want more details about what is going on, but I'm afraid I can't tell you. Not just because it would be wrong for me to divulge, but also because I don't have the information to divulge. And I love it.

So here's a crazy thought. If you want to grow in your relationship with the Lord, and you know the obstacle that is in your way. Why don't you just ask the Lord to work through it? It seems simplistic, but I at least was surprised to see that as an option in my life to begin with. Maybe today, I speak to someone else who is like me in a similar situation.

Monday, August 24, 2015

How not to Study with the Original Languages

Hey, here we are. I remembered the day of the week and properly prepared for a blog post idea. Because of my failure as of late, I would like to share with you a cool video.

Yeah, so that's what happens when you put a song through Google Translate a bunch of times. Funny. I guess Google Translate isn't very good, or words in different languages don't have a one-to-one correlation, or both. Probably both.

But anyway, onto our content today, I want to start with a story. Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a good friend of mine. The wedding was beautiful. But I am sad to say the officiate of the wedding did little to impress me.

He starts talking about this arboretum that was apparently important to the couple, and that was just dandy, but then he goes on to explain that this arboretum if we went to the Greek would be translated as Paradeisou, which happens to just be the same word that is translated for the Garden of Eden in the Septuagint, which is obviously a picture of heaven, so now let's talk about heaven.

Wait, what? I don't understand how you can go from English to Greek to English and expect something to be ok. I mean, yeah an arboretum and a garden are similar things and you could make that case from the English text, but in that case, why complicate the matter and go to Greek in the first place?

By now, you have already seen that my fun video isn't quite as random as I tried to make it seem. It actually fits in with the topic today. Greek (or Hebrew) do not possess a one-to-one correlation with English, nor with each other, nor with any other language. This means that it is not good for us to take words in and out of one language and into another because that can drastically alter the meaning of the text.

Maybe sometimes, it's better not to go into the original tongues at all if you're going to keep going back and forth. Maybe one should be careful about talking about how we get our word martyr from the term martyrio that means witness. Because let's just be honest. English is a language that was developed long after Greek and its meaning of words had no effect on the Greek itself.

Or maybe more importantly, we shouldn't see the original languages as a catch-all for every interpretational question. It's not a perfect thing. It still will leave some questions, and many times, the word of God has been faithfully preserved so that the translation is actually the way it should be.

But Greek and Hebrew is very much different in nuance at times and in understanding and should still be studied as often as possible, but not to the extent that you believe them to be catch-alls or that you use them as tools to manipulate everything into your gain.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Purpose of Man: Love God

Yeah, so this is better than Monday, but hopefully, I don't have another moment in chapel, where I think, "Oh, this would make a good blog post idea. OH, I didn't publish one today!" They really aren't fun.

You've heard me say before that the purpose of man is to love God and enjoy Him forever, and through that, we glorify Him. This is the essence of something I am desperately seeking to know. How does one die to self and live for Him? If He is all that it takes to serve Him, then what effort must we do? What is our part? How does dying to self actually look in our life on a day-to-day basis?

And with today's chapel message, I begin to be more and more convinced that the main thing we need to do is just get to know and appreciate God more and more. As we study more and more about Him, and spend more and more time with Him, serving Him and living appropriately just starts to flow.

Not that it becomes easy or that our nature suddenly stops wanting to sin, but we start to more successfully abide in Him. We surrender to what He wants, and we're already all ready to accept His grace immediately when we sin and move on to serve Him greater.

So how do we do die to self? By fully knowing and understanding God, and asking Him to grant us a love and desire for Him. At least, that's part of it. I'll let you know what else the Lord teaches me on this subject as time goes on.

Monday, August 17, 2015

I'm Sorry... I'm So So Sorry

So it's Monday. I remembered that, and truly figured out that I don't know why I didn't realize that thing about dates last night or this morning, but yeah.

Here's the thing about our presidency that you should actually know before you consider the qualifications that a candidate has for the job.

His job is not to manage the country. His job is not to fix the economy. His job is not domestic at all. His job is to be a figurehead and diplomat in foreign policy. That is his job. We cannot let that go and say that a candidate can hire good people in foreign policy because then what are we actually making a decision based upon?

That is the number one concern for me because that is the president's job. That's why I am uncomfortable with even someone as genius as Dr. Ben Carson because his foreign policy experience is lacking.

And don't get me started on Donald Trump. His abrasive attitude would not be good as the figurehead who contacts and works with foreign nations.

But that's where we should look. Because guess what? Foreign policy... is the President's...wait for it... job.

(Another important consideration is morality as well, but that's just because moral leaders is good for a nation, and not the job of a presidency to begin with.)

Friday, August 14, 2015

What is the Lord Doing in your Life?

On the last day of my internship, the staff at my church did something great. It was a bonding time for all pastoral staff members, interns, and that one random IT guy who's super cool. Actually, we all left for it on Tuesday immediately after work, and then stayed until Wednesday at 2.

It was a campout and it actually cancelled my last day of the internship, but all was well. The break and fellowship was worth it, and was encouraging.

One thing we did was sit around a campfire and talked about all the little unexpected things that brought us all right where we were ministering (even if just for a summer) at First Baptist Church of Milford.

Something was in common surrounding all of these accounts - the Lord used small things in our life over which we had no control to put us right where He wanted. A place we loved more than anything we could ask for, but that we would never have expected.

Whether it was getting offered a four-year internship in the same office that had told you that you couldn't stay in the school any longer just two years prior, to getting interviewed for a position as a 1-year internship (which unbeknownst to you will end with you as the youth pastor) while getting ready to propose to a member of the church, or maybe even being a rep for a college coming to a church and exclaiming that you would love to serve in a ministry like this, just to find that 8 months later, you would be doing just that.

Yes, there were lots of interesting stories, and they were all encouraging of what the Lord had done and is doing in all of our lives. And I trust that the same is true in the lives of most of my readers.

You know what else? It is indicative that oftentimes, you just don't know what the Lord has in store for you, and you should never be so confident that you have it all figured out. Ever.

And since you're probably curious, this was my testimony (with slightly different wording choices and detail inclusion).

What brought me to this church? Well, I was saved in this church. It is the only church that I have ever been a member of.

What brought me to intern at this church? It wasn't my idea. This summer, I found my schedule very busy, and I just wanted a part-time job to give some money; nothing too much of a time commitment. But the first Sunday night after I got back from school there was this crazy ordination service at my church, where four members of the pastoral staff were ordained all at once.

I now know all four of those men well, but at the time there were two that I particularly knew and who had been my Sunday School teacher and had an impact on my life. I wanted to be sure to congratulate them on this and wish them well.

So I did, but when I talked with the Associate Pastor, things were a little different than expected. For some reason, I kept having to speak about my life and not his. He asked me about college, and about my summer plans.

I expressed them as they currently stood, and then he asked me if I was going to get a job. Well, yes, Mr Wright, I would love to, but I don't know how that would look since I will be out of town for two weeks of the summer.

"We have a summer internship program available if you're interested. We'd be able to accommodate your weeks off as long as you gave us advance notice. Just call me if you're interested."

Well, I prayed about it for a day or two, but it was obvious from the start that God wanted me to have this internship. This internship which quite figuratively fell into my lap (grammar nazis that word not sound as good in that context...).

So I took the internship, and it has been a fun ride. From the very start, it was clear this internship would be a great experience, and I know I have learned a lot. Being with the other two summer interns (their names, in case you're interested are Ryan and Ryan) was great. I loved getting to know them better as we all got to know the program together. Starting next summer would have been a different dynamic because they (if they come back) would already have had the experience and we wouldn't learn it altogether.

I am glad the Lord orchestrated it so that I could have this opportunity this summer. Even if it does mean, I'm suddenly excited about returning to Cedarville, so I can sleep in two extra hours each day. I even think there is enough for me to learn from this church to do a summer internship next year. I've already started praying about it.