Friday, August 26, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Two prayers are mentioned in Daniel 2:17-23. The first is mentioned but the words are not recorded. The second is recorded word-for-word and is a response to God's answer to the first prayer. The second prayer was praise and thanksgiving. The first prayer was earnest petition. Both kinds of prayer are necessary. I wonder what I would find if I monitored my prayers. Would I find a balance between the praise/thanksgiving prayers and the petition prayers. I'm afraid I'd find that I pray more about my needs, wants, and petitions than I praise and thank him. Maybe you are like me. Why don't we be more intentional about praise and thanksgiving so we can balance out our prayers?
The first prayer is a corporate prayer - Daniel called his friends together to pray for an answer to Nebuchadnezzar's request. Corporate prayer is important because it shows our belief that God is in control of all things, our commitment to the church as community, and our obedience to scripture (James 5:14, for example, is not a suggestion!). But some people avoid or neglect corporate prayer. Why is that?
One reason Christians have for not making their requests known to the church is pride. Have you ever heard someone say, "I just couldn't let others know I am dealing this or that problem" or "What would people think if they knew this was going on"? Pride is too often the deterrent to making your requests and needs known to the church.
Another reason for avoiding corporate prayer is that people think too highly of themselves. "I can handle this problem myself. I don't need to bother the church with this." What a misunderstanding of prayer, self, and community! We were not created to face our problems alone. We do not live in a vacuum. And we certainly cannot handle it ourselves. Arrogance keeps people from availing the power of corporate prayer.
A third reason that came out of our Bible study last night is that some people neglect corporate prayer because of a low view of prayer. By this, I mean that they don't really believe prayer works. They may say they do but their actions speak so loudly we can't hear their words! "There's no use praying, this situation is too far gone." I wonder what the Prodigal's father would say to that? "There's no use praying, his health is declining so fast." I wonder what Mary and Martha would say about that? "There's no use praying, it never works anyway." I wonder what the persistent widow would say about that? Sometimes a person doesn't share a prayer concern with the church because they really don't believe prayer works.
Corporate prayer is one way the Holy Spirit builds unity in the church. Neglecting corporate prayer is one way we hinder unity - "I don't need you."
Corporate prayer is one way we show our love for one another. Neglecting corporate prayer shows little concern for one another - "I don't love you."
Corporate prayer indicates our trust and dependence upon God. Neglecting corporate prayer shows a selfish, self-sufficient attitude - "I don't need God."
Christianity begins with a decision to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It continues as expressed in the corporate setting of a community of believers - the church. We are to pray for one another, on behalf of one another, and with one another.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
The king not only wanted the interpretation, but to ensure that the interpreters were really sharing the message from the gods, he demanded that they also tell him the dream. King Neb wouldn't tell them the dream! They needed details so they could go to their charts and formulas and come up with a sterile, clinical, irrelevant interpretation. The king had probably already experienced such shenanigans and wanted something with substance.
Three words come to my mind when I think about the life of a person who worships a false god. Hopeless. Unsure. Impossible. But when you worship the one true living God you have hope and assurance because all things are possible with God.
Which way describes your life? Most people would say that they worship the one true living God. But what would your way of life say if asked on a Thursday afternoon? Do you live a hopeless, unsure, impossible life? Or do you live with hope and assurance because all things are possible with God?
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Brendan Ryan hustled to beat out an infield ball to short. Then he advanced to second when nobody covered the bag. Then when the opposing team dropped their guard (again), Ryan sprinted to third. He was safe with no throw.
Infielders probably drop their guard fairly often and base runners rarely take advantage of it. Satisfied with a single when much more is available.
Christians are a lot like that: satisfied with just a little effort but missing opportunities and the blessings that come along with them. Brendan Ryan gives us an example of what can happen when we look for opportunities and take advantage of them.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
When Daniel realized that the King had ordered them to eat food that would likely be unclean according to God's standards and that probably had been used in a worship sacrifice to a pagan god, he and his friends knew what they had to do. So he approached Ashpenaz, the man the King had put in charge of them, and asked to be served a different diet. He risked making the King mad. He risked losing opportunities for advancement. But doing the right thing was worth the risk.
Has there been a time when you knew what you ought to do but you just didn't want to take the risk to stand up for what the Bible says? Today in America the debates go on about homosexual marriage and abortion. The Bible has a clear message about these issues and Christians are supposed to stand for what the Bible stands for, right? Have you taken a stand? Or has the risk of doing so kept you quietly in your seat? Other debates need an infusion of Christian thinking, too. Our relationships at home, school, and work often include disagreement.
We can learn from Daniel and his friends something about how to voice our disagreement by looking at three words. One is RESOLVE. They were determined to adhere to God's word. We must know God's word, seek his will, and commit to following him in any and every situation. That decision must come now, before we are actually faced head-on with the debate or opportunity. If we have no resolve we will most likely make the wrong decision when pressed.
Another word is BOLD. Our deep commitment to God's word must motivate us to act. We must make a stand and speak the truth. Boldness will not be as difficult as you might think. Remember, the truth in God's word is THE truth and it is right. If you believe that - really believe it - then you won't be able to shy away from action.
The last word is RESPECT. Daniel approached Ashpenaz in a way that showed respect for the one in authority. He made no loud demands. He didn't write a rude article on his blog. He was respectful as he expressed his disagreement. Respect is missing in much of the debate going on in America. Respect is missing in many homes and workplaces. Respect won't always get you what you want but it is always the right attitude to have toward others. Think of the change in American culture if respect characterized the disagreements.
Sweeping change takes place one person at a time. I will be one who will remember and apply this lesson. Will you?
RESOLVE - Cling with determination to your commitments of faith.
BOLD - Act boldly upon your commitments of faith.
RESPECT - Treat others with respect even in disagreement.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
We decided that since God created everything he must have created the weather processes that result in storms, although we shouldn't say that God send a tornado or hurricane or bolt of lightning to destroy something. Sometimes, but not always. Sometimes the storms are just simply the result of the process he created. When Adam and Eve sinned, all of creation was cursed. The result is a stormy life in many ways. This mornings stormy skies are the result of the Fall. Eden had no skies like those prior to sin.
We also decided that above the clouds the sun is always shining. Riley laughed and joked, "Do you think the sun is even there?" That is a picture of the reality in our lives - God is always there even when life's circumstances cloud our perception. Sometimes we rise above the clouds and experience the warmth of his presence much like we burst through the clouds while climbing to cruising altitude in an airplane. You may know what it's like to look through the small window next to seat 14A as the pilot takes the plane upward. You can only see the clouds as they block the view of the tips of the wings. You have no idea where you are or where you are headed or what awaits you. Then after a few seconds the clouds are beneath you and the sky above is perfectly clear. And the sun is shining.
We also decided that the Bible is correct when it says that all creation will one day be redeemed. Redemption for the sinner is being made right with God as he restores our relationship to what it is intended to be. The redeeming of creation will clear the storm clouds out of the skies. A new heaven and a new earth await us!
Monday, August 08, 2011
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Some of the most well-known Bible stories come from this book of the Bible. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego survive in the fiery furnace. Daniel spends the night safely in the lions' den. Belshazzar sees the hand writing on the wall. We'll look at these stories and learn about God's sovereignty and his love and care for those who follow him. That will be encouraging to all of us who attend the study sessions.
Even the opening verses illustrate a couple of key points. The four Hebrew teenagers taken into exile to Babylon were given Babylonian names - replacing their Hebrew names. Hebrew mothers and fathers gave names to their children that express the hope of a godly characteristic being displayed in the children's lives. In Nebuchadnezzar's efforts to "Babylonize" the boys, he gave them names that spoke of a pagan god. In spite of their new names they continued to display character of Yahweh.
Our names may not carry the same kind of meaning as Hebrew names did, but Christians should live in ways that display the character of God. Do you try to be righteous? Do you love everyone without placing conditions upon them? Do you forgive when someone wrongs you? Do you face difficulties with peace and confidence in God? Do you turn to the Lord for help in all situations?
The other key point illustrates the sovereignty of God. While we often think that the powerful Babylonian army under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar came into Jerusalem and did as they pleased, the truth is that God delivered the Hebrew people to them. Read the second verse of the book. Judah, the southern kingdom, had disregarded God's desire for the treatment of humanity. They exploited people. They abused them. They cheated them. The Hebrew nation was also guilty of a disregard of worship. God was a genie in a bottle. Worship was a joke. Holiness wasn't even on the radar. So God gave the leaders over to Nebuchadnezzar. They would now be treated as they had treated others. And God gave the articles used in temple worship to the Babylonians so that even if they wanted to the Hebrews could no longer worship.
God is in control. Even when it seems like life is spiraling dangerously. Even when it seems like you have it all together yourself. God is in control. How do you sense the presence and power of God in your life? Don't dismiss him. Don't struggle against him. Why? You won't win. You may have temporary success - like the leaders in Jerusalem had. In the end God will intervene and do as he wishes. He loves you and wants the best for you so you can (and should) trust him to do as he wishes. It's always better to let him have his way along the way rather than fighting it off as long as you can.
I'm excited to get deeper into this study. Dive in yourself or join us at CRBC on Wednesdays at 7:00.