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Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Great Election Day

It was voting day in Jerusalem. An enormous crowd had gathered, and what excitement there was! There had never been a day like it before, and there has not been a day like it since. Pilate, the governor, was presiding over the gathering, and took the vote of the people as to whether they were for Barabbas--a murderer, or for Christ Jesus the Lord--the Saviour of lost sinners.
The governor asked, "Are you for Christ?"

"No," they cried out all at once. "Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas." Their choice was made. Their vote was recorded. They had rejected Christ, and instead chosen the murderer Barabbas.

"What then shall I do with Jesus?" asked Pilate.

"Away with Him: crucify Him," they all shouted. So Christ, the rejected Son of God, was taken out and nailed to a cross on Golgotha's hill. There He hung between heaven and earth as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world.

The same question that was posed that fateful day in Jerusalem some two thousand years ago must still be answered by everyone who is born into this world. "What then shall I do with Jesus?" What about you--have you cast your vote for Him or against Him? You cannot be neutral.

The vote of the world is still the same today as it was then. Satan, the god of this world, is blinding the eyes of people as to the real issues that they should be concerned about. The focus in the world's elections is placed upon matters that attempt to improve people from the outside, such as the role of government, education, the economy, and the environment. However, despite the very best efforts of men, the world without Christ is doomed to destruction because it has not dealt with the root of all of its problems--sin. There is no political candidate, no legislation, and no budget allowance that can change a person from the inside, that can take away sin and all of the associated effects.

But praise God that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15), therefore meeting the real need of mankind. By His death and through the shedding of His blood on the cross, He paid sin's penalty for all who will repent of their sins to God and trust in Christ alone as their personal Saviour. He is now risen from the dead, and desires for "all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4).

You must decide. Your "great election day" is today. You can either join with the world, represented by the crowd who said "away with Him," or you can put your trust in Jesus, and let Him take away your sin and guilt.

Jesus has promised that "I will come again" (John 14:3). When that time comes, it will be too late for you to decide. By not accepting Him now, you are rejecting Him. "He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). Refuse no longer His offered gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). Come to Him in faith, believing that He died for your sins. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

Today is the time to set Jesus Christ on the throne of your heart and life as Lord. He will give you now the joy and peace of sins forgiven, as well as eternal life with Him, sharing in His glorious kingdom, when all the hopes and desires of mankind will be fulfilled in Him, "the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:16).

Posted with permission of Moments with the Book

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What I'm Reading now

This is the book I am reading now.

"We Christians greatly enjoy talking about the provision of God, how Christ defeated sin on the cross and gave us His Holy Spirit to empower us to victory over sin. But we do not as readily talk about our own responsibility to walk in holiness. Two primary reasons can be given for this. First, we are simply relunctant to face up to our responsibility. We prefer to leave that to God. We pray for victory when we know we should be acting in obedience. The second reason is that we do not understand the proper distinction between God's provision and our own responsibility for holiness." (From the Preface)

If it's not been through your hands, it should be.

If it's on your shelf, maybe it's time to get it down again . . .

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Daniel 10:18-12:13

[If you've been following along the past few weeks, I've been studying Daniel and recording some reflections here. For the previous entries in the series, please consult the side-bar: Bible-OT-Daniel. The first post in the series will be the last on the page, the most current on top. I don't program 'em, I just post 'em.]

These final chapters of Daniel have been most challenging as we move toward a conclusion of our study in Daniel. As I've attempted to neatly sum up this final section in this post, I've begun to appreciate the spirit of 12:4, "But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase." First, remembering this work was not written with chapter and verse, this final section can be treated as a whole (in contrast to our previous studies, which have neatly fallen within chapters as are presently presented). Second, the task of going back and forth (study) is what increases knowledge related to this final section of Daniel's vision. Having said that, do not be looking for a commentary on the details of each verse in this final section; rather, consider along with me the whole in terms of biblical theology.

History is the record of what is known to be true concerning past events. Prophecy infers prehistory, the declaration of what is to come. From Daniel's perspective, he is hearing for the first time news related to things to come touching the world powers. From our present perspective, we can appreciate the historical confirmation we recieve looking back on the details of this news; however, there still remain some elements that have yet to be fulfilled. Personally, this is frustrating because too many suggestions have been made concerning the finality of these events yet to come, and world events keep happening that make those suggestions obsolete. Listening to or watching the daily news is overwhelming enough.

What can we make of this final section that will be meaningful to our current study?

First, we can be confident in the God of Daniel. From the very beginning we have seen that this God deserves deeper consideration. Remember, Daniel and his friends were captives in the land and, though prisoners of war, they would do nothing that could be considered sin against their God. Their minds were made up. Why is that? Because of His reality, which was affirmed repeatedly throughout Babylonian history, with Daniel and his friends serving in elevated positions above their captors.

Second, we are able to affirm the Sovereignty of God. The God of the Hebrew children is also the God of the nations. He brings up and casts down kings. Nebuchadnezzar learned, albeit not so quickly, that he was not as exalted and mighty as he thought. Nebuchadnezzar who once sought to receive worship was at the end of his life bowing the knee to the one who walks in the fire and makes kings to eat grass. Belshazzar had to have it spelled out before him, plainly on the wall the same night he died. Darius nearly repeated the mistake of Nebuchadnezzar but learned there was a living God who endures forever, whose kingdom willl not be destroyed and whose dominion will be forever (6:26).

This is the key to understanding what is taking place in this final section of Daniel. After chapter 6 Daniel is inspired to share the visions, visitations and messages he received from God. We should not be surprised to hear of these because Daniel's been receiving and telling dreams his entire life. God was preparing him for what was coming next--visions of an enduring King and Kingdom and what will happen to those who seek to depose Him.

Third, we learn that God is transcendent above, yet involved directly in the unfolding world events. We've already in a previous study affirmed the reality of the spiritual realm and the beings that dwell therein. We've also already established the fact that the spiritual does have direct influence on the physical. Above and beyond, yet strangely within all, we find God letting the nations know through Daniel's prehistory that nothing escapes His notice. Some wonder if God changes His mind as man tumbles pell-mell in a seemingly unpredicatable way, creating history as he goes. I believe it is in passages like these that God tells us plainly He can see the direction evil men are heading and the consequences that will result from their actions. Above all else, we can rest assured that everything will take place in His timing.

Closely related to these elements of prophecy, we find underscored the unwavering word of God. "But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth." (Daniel 10:21). What Daniel is inspired to write is backed up in the whole council of God. Nothing revealed in Daniel is apart from what God has already described in scripture. That means when we look at other eschatological passages, we should find nothing new from God's perspective. What He communicates to us through these visions, dreams and visitations is part of His progressive revelation; in other words, he reveals more based on what He already has before.

I've intentionally tried to stay within the context of Daniel in terms of handling these visions because, to begin with, much more studied people than me can provide more than adequate commentary on these very difficult passages. Also, sometimes we tend to lose the forest for the trees. If we stayed in Daniel's shoes, we might be better served to learn the lessons intended for him and the nations than waste time and energy on conjecture that might have to be changed after the next election, so to speak.

One other lesson we might find in these final chapters is found in 11:32-33, "By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days." The people who know God will be strong and take action in the age of incarnate evil. Let that sink in for a moment. Just as Daniel and his friends were able to withstand capture, captivity, and persecution by scrutiny, fire and lions, so the people of God will display strength AND take action! God's truth is unstoppable, no matter how they fall.

We find also in this passage the promise of resurrection and reward or punishment. For those who know their God, this will be a glorious resurrection and what is allotted will be received. For those who know not their God, this will be a horrible resurrection and what is allotted will be received. Daniel writes of the one speaking to him saying, "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame [and] everlasting contempt." (12:2) For Daniel, he will die but he will die with the promise of resurrection and inheritance. ""But you, go [your way] till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days." (12:13)

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Price and Promises of the Presidency

Candidates, political parties, and supporters spend millions of dollars in campaigning for the office of the presidency of the United States. For the one who wins the job, there is also a tremendous physical and emotional price, resulting from the vigorous schedule and incredible pressures and responsibilities.

Despite the financial and physical price the office exacts, there is no shortage of people willing to campaign for the job. Each new candidate brings a list of plans and promises, intending to bring about incredible progress. But when the president takes office, do these promises necessarily come to pass? Generally, a substantial percentage of them do not. Even the most honest candidate with the best intentions cannot keep all of his promises--the problems faced are simply too complex, and the resources available are simply not adequate to solve every problem.

This is why one person after another is voted into power with great expectations of progress and peace only to find that conditions don't improve at all, but instead wax worse and worse. The social and moral fabric of the country continues to melt down in sin and violence while wars, crime, and corruption pervade the world. This is because people are seeking to deal with the fruit of the world's problems, rather than recognizing and dealing with the root of them--sin.

There is One who knows this and has provided the solution. The price that He paid to do this could never be exceeded, and cannot even be calculated. The Lord Jesus Christ paid this price when He came into the world some 2000 years ago. He labored tirelessly in devoted ministry to all mankind--preaching the Word, healing the sick, and even raising the dead. He proved He was the Son of God who had all love and all power and all wisdom to solve man's problems, showing Himself qualified to meet man's deepest and most basic need--his enslavement to sin and Satan.
For this, the supreme price had to be paid, "We are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold ... But with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18,19). The Lord Jesus knew full well the price He must pay, for He had come "to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). He willingly died for sinners and paid the price their sins demanded by the sacrifice of Himself and the shedding of His blood on the Cross of Calvary.

God has shown His acceptance of that tremendous sacrifice by raising Him from among the dead and exalting Him to His throne in Heaven--crowning Him with glory and honor. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords!

He too has made promises, and will never fail in keeping every one of them. This is because His promises are made with all the intent that divine love could ever conceive, and with the accompanying power of Almighty God to fulfill every one of them. He has made these promises in His written Word, the Bible. They are set forth clearly for all men everywhere to believe. A few of them are as follows:

THE PROMISE OF LIFE: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

THE PROMISE OF PEACE: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).

THE PROMISE OF SECURITY: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand" (John 10:27,28).

The Lord Jesus Christ has paid the price for your redemption. Hear and believe His Word, and thus receive the promises He waits to give you when you by faith receive Him as your personal Saviour, Lord, and President of your life. Change your mind and heart about Him and acknowledge your desperate need of Him in the confession of your sin. You'll never be disappointed by your choice!

--Don Johnson

Posted with permission of Moments with the Book

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Ten Indictments" by Paul Washer

Ten Indictments (A Historical 21st Century Message) by Paul Washer

"Preached Wednesday, October 22nd at the Revival Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Paul Washer delivers a urgent appeal to the Christians and Churches in North America that many have been believing a false gospel and have false assurance of their salvation. He lists 10 indictments against the modern Church system in America. This is a historical urgent message, tell others and spread the message. We need a reformation and revival of a biblical standard!"

posted by Greg Gordon at Sermon Index
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"There is little need for the devil and evil men to oppose a man praying for revival unless he is also laboring for reformation. We have been given truth, and we cannot simply do what is right in our own eyes and then expect the Holy Spirit to come down and bless our labors." (Paul Washer, from the above message)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Why do Christians try to convert everyone?"

"Is it intolerant to say that Jesus is the only way?"

These are important questions asked in today's pluralistic and increasingly secular culture. These questions (and others) were answered recently by Columbia International University Professor David Cashin as he spoke to a college student ministry in Indiana.


Dr. Cashin teaches Intercultural Studies in CIU's Seminary & School of Missions. He was the guest speaker for Connexion, the college ministry of Evangelical Community Church in Bloomington, Ind., the home of Indiana University.


To hear Dr. Cashin's message click here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grace, our source of strength

"The source of strength lies in God's grace, not our will power, or in our spasms of earnestness. When we attempt to strengthen ourselves through self-effort, we are like the man who tried to make his stalled boat move by pushing against the mast. We exert ourselves a great deal, but actually get nowhere."

N.A. Woychuk, "Exposition of 2 Timothy."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Afraid of the pastor

"I am afraid of the pastor that is another man when he enters the pulpit from what he was before. Reverend, you should never think a thought or do a deed or be caught in any situation that you couldn’t carry into the pulpit with you without embarrassment. You should never have to be a different man or get a new voice and a new sense of solemnity when you enter the pulpit. You should be able to enter the pulpit with the same spirit and the same sense of reverence that you had just before when you were talking to someone about the common affairs of life."

A.W. Tozer, "Worship: The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Theological Underpinning of a New Denomination

by Gayle Erwin

1. The Old Testament was filled with feasts

A. They had at least one feast every month
B. Three of those feasts lasted at least a week
C. God set up the feast system
D. God commanded that the feasts be filled with joy

2. When Jesus Came He was accused of being a glutton

A. That surely meant that he had a weight problem, since no one that you know of who was skinny was ever accused of being a glutton.
B. Most of the gospel of John was written around a table.
C. The family of Jesus (in Mark chapter 3) thought he had gone crazy because he was not eating his lunch.

3. What did Jesus leave us to remember him by? Food! Bread and wine.

4. Jesus became angry only a few times. One time was when he was hungry and a fig tree, though well leaved, did not yield any fruit. It made him angry enough to kill the tree.

5. After the Resurrection, every time you see Jesus, what is he doing? Eating!

A. Right after he appeared to the scared Apostles hidden in a room and told them not to fear, he asked them if they had anything to eat. Luke 24:41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" Luke 24:42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, Luke 24:43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
B. The two men on the road to Emmaus did not even recognize Jesus until He sat down to eat. Then they said, "Now we know you."

6. The Early Church had only a few constant habits--items that would readily identify them. Eating together was one of them. Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

7. How is Heaven going to begin? A feast--the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

8. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me."

9. We have already had a church split. There is now a group calling itself "Church on the Weigh."

10. A heresy has also sprung up. Look out for it. It is called "Weight Watchers." We will call this new denomination "Calorie Chapel." CALORIE CHAPEL

Obedience

"Selected obedience is not obedience at all, it is merely convenience."

--Haddon Robinson

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Salvation from . . .

"The nature of Christ's salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day evangelist. He announces a Savior from hell rather than a Savior from sin. And that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of Fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness."

A.W. Pink (1886-1952)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Last place repentance?

"Let no man decieve you with vain words or vain hopes or false notions of a slight and sudden repentance. As if heaven were a hospital founded on purpose to receive all sick and maimed persons that, when they can live no longer to the lusts of the flesh and the sinful pleasures of this world, can but put up a cold and formal petition to be admitted there. No, no, as sure as God is true, they shall never see the Kingdom of God who, instead of seeking it in the first place, make it their last refuge and retreat."

John Tolliston (1630-1694)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Weight of Sin

A flippant youth once asked a preacher, "You say that people carry a weight of sin. I feel nothing. How heavy is sin? It is ten pounds? Eighty pounds?"

The preacher replied, "If you laid a four hundred pound weight on a corpse, would it feel the load?"

The youth replied, "It would feel nothing, because it is dead."

The preacher concluded, "That spirit, too, is indeed dead which feels no load of sin or is indifferent to its burden and flippant about its presence."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Offside

When one football player jumps offside, the whole team is penalized.

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Faith is rest, not toil

"Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that goodwill to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son."

Horatius Bonar, "Not Faith But Christ."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Two questions for the religions

"When I look at religion I have two questions. One, has anybody ever conquered death and two, if they have, did they make a way for me to conquer death? I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied, and I checked the tomb of Confucius and it was occupied, I checked the tomb of Mohammed and it was occupied, and I came to the tomb of Jesus and it was empty. And I said, there is one who conquered death. And I asked the second question, did He make a way for me to do it too? And I opened the Bible and discovered that He said, ‘Because I live you shall live also.’"

G.B. Hardy

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reaction to "More Ready Than You Realize: Evangelism as Dance in the Postmodern Matrix"

As I write these thoughts on Brian McLaren's book "More Ready Than You Realize: Evangelism as Dance in the Postmodern Matrix," the headlines report in national news: the death of a hot air ballonist; the death of a child who was refused to been seen by a doctor; the death of a teenager who partied too hard; the pedophile who smiled and clapped, celebrating his 126 year sentence in the face of his victim; waiters who beat their patron to death; two men fighting it out with a hammer and letter opener; and the on-going stories of missing children or bodies found in freezers . . .

Last week I was boldly approached by a man who made a point to tell me that he was going to get drunk and not even Jesus could stop him. I gave him my card, showed him my phone number, handed him a pen and told him to write on the card the day and time he was going to die--call me just before then.

McLaren's book is hard to take seriously with these things in mind. In his introduction, McLaren explains dance as a metaphor for evangelism; that is, evangelism is the flow of conversation. At the end of the introduction, however, he reminds us that dance is the response to music. He would have found a better metaphor in pursuing the imagery of the tune because immediately he shows that "dance" really means "to skirt the issue." McLaren admits he cannot dance. This book demonstrates there are other things he cannot do, either. If dance is the metaphor for that which he loves so much, then McLaren did much toe trampling--and not the postive kind, either.

Using a two-year long conversation with a "postmodern" as a platform, McLaren does a thourough job of reinterpretation. Though he provides snippets of an actual correspondence, he uses terms such as "in my opinion," "she means," "I think," and "I suppose" explain what the correspondent may not intend. Due to this rationalization, the book really fizzles out for the following reason:

Near the middle of the book, McLaren tells us what tune he is dancing to, which explains why he dances the way he does. He is not able to address the most central issue concerning evangelism. Someone asks him plainly, "Why did Jesus have to die?" How alarming that a pastor should take up to two weeks to formulate an answer!

McLaren says, "I realized that they way he was asking the question was way I had never before asked or had been asked it." Why is that such a shocking question, unless one has not met the reality of the cross to begin with? Then he says, "Second, I realized that none of my answers fit the way he was asking it. He was not asking for an answer within the framework of Christian theology, so talking about Christ's death as a substutionary or atoning sacrifice would not help him--that kind of explanation was exactly, I guessed, what did not make sense to him." First, it was only until he asked for clarification did he understand what the man was really asking--he could stop guessing. Second, how did he come to the conclusion that the man was asking for an answer outside theology? Is there another answer outside theology? He then allows this man, lost in his sin, to shape his thinking by telling him that Jesus Himself did not know why He had to die--McLaren wonders why Stott, Packer, Boice and others did not come to this conclusion.

Someone once said plainly that a God without wrath brings men without sin into a kingdom without righteousness through the work of Christ without a cross.

Chapter 14, "Event and Process" is, among other things, an invitation to disaster. "'I have always believed in and loved God.' I used to think that people who said this were being dishonest, until I thought about John the Baptist, who was described by Luke as being filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15). In other words, his infant capacity was filled with God, and his toddler capacity was similarly filled with God, and so on, until full adulthood, when he continued to live in the fulness of a relationship with God. Perhaps John was a rare or unique case, but his example opens up this possibility." The dangers here are many, namely, that there could indeed be people needing no atonement--morally perfect. The Bible teaches otherwise. Our directive is to tell people how to be saved, not to declare them saved.

McLaren ignores the music and dances to the beat of his own drum on the edge of a swimming pool filled with drowing people, hoping that someone will see he's not drowning and will join him in the dance.

Chapter 19 contains a golden nugget. McLaren excuses himself from teaching any methodology because he feels he does not need to. He is right when he says that evangelism today is contrived, but not for the reasons he gives. The timeframe of change he recounts is also correct, but he misses the reason for the change--he must miss it because I am not convinced he understands what that reason is. Evangelism has changed because the cross was removed and living biblically was replaced with man-centeredness, which amounts to idolatry.

He ends his book by saying he has nothing to teach. His only encouragement is "you are more ready than you realize." Take his advice: go read another book.

Faith is required

"Faith is required of thee, and a sincere life, not loftiness of intellect, nor deepness in the mysteries of God. If thou understandest not... the things which are beneath thee, how shalt thou comprehend those which are above thee? Submit thyself unto God, and humble thy sense to faith, and the light of knowledge shall be given thee, as shall be profitable and necessary unto thee."

Thomas A'Kempis (1418)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The author of faith

"Why should an man have power over any other man's faith, seeing Christ Himself is the author of it?"

George Fox (1624-1691)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Just War

Warfare: strife, confusion, variance, at odds, state of hostility. What is it good for? On the one hand, war produces defeat for the victims, cruelty, indignancy, atrocity, humiliation, disgrace, and destruction; on the other hand, war also produces victory for the victor, purging, peace, reconciliation, restoration, and comfort. War is not a process entertained half-heartedly, passively, as if there was “just a war;” rather, warfare is accomplished wholly, for justice is fully engaged—war is about justice. A dogfight is not the battle.

War is aggression against God on both the spiritual and human levels; in other words, a lifting of the hand in the physical realm is a sure sign that a battle in the spiritual realm has already been lost. Wickedness is the unapologetic enemy of righteousness. “But,” one may inquire, “if warfare is evil, wouldn’t the defender of righteousness also be evil, and subsequently be no longer righteous?” Hardly. Cooperation with the enemy is treason. The defender demonstrates aggressive goodness as it advances against its one-sided evil aggressor who lusts and cannot have; through its hatred, murders. There is no submission or humility in the sight of the Lord, but a hostile parade of the high-handed sin of pride. Since the objective is victory, the offensive is on the side of righteousness.

God is not indifferent to our state, but the enemy is. “Of course the war is entertaining. The immediate fear and suffering of the humans is a legitimate and pleasing refreshment for our myriads of toiling workers. But what permanent good does it do us unless we make use of it for bringing souls to Our Father Below? When I see the temporal suffering of humans who finally escape us, I feel as if I had been allowed to taste the first course of a rich banquet and then denied the rest. It is worse than not to have tasted it at all.”[1]

Daniel was very familiar with war, as a prisoner of war who was raised by his captors and in the tension of a court that saw many rulers, the last being a foreign invader. Daniel 1:21 tell us that Daniel continued serving God as a Babylonian official until the first year of Cyrus the king. Daniel 10 opens in the third year of Cyrus the Persian and he is troubled to the point he is in mourning, cannot eat nor does he use ointments. The text is silent as to how Daniel is serving the court (he may very well be a private citizen at this point) and his trouble may at first glance seem to be connected to possible uncertainty as he is no longer in the courts. More study may suggest further that by this time, the rebuilding of Jerusalem per the decree of Cyrus is well underway—people have returned to the land and the opposition felt there may also be felt by those who remained (Ezra 4:4-5).

Daniel’s trouble assuredly comes from the message of warfare he receives from a visionary visitor, whose message extends to the end of the book into Chapter 12. Focusing our view to Chapter 10 we discover some spiritual truths deserving our attention.

First, Daniel 10 continues in the reality of the existence of a spiritual realm. Today’s entertainment-driven mind has become fascinated with what happens “behind the scenes.” We see what’s happening up front, but more questions are answered when we get to see how things are accomplished; whether it’s the little man behind the curtain or the technologies that make our walking shoes. The beginning of Daniel’s account has already helped us understand that there exists much more than the physical realm. The fact that Daniel and his friends were taken captive was part of a transcendent plan that will extend to the culmination of time and space. Furthermore, Daniel and his friends became known as captives with a loyal obedience to a greater sovereign that reflected an attitude beyond mere animosity as captives.

Second, the physical realm and its inhabitants are juxtaposed with the spiritual realm and its inhabitants. The spiritual realm was constantly manifested in the physical. Knowledge that surpassed human indicated a spiritual source. The eyes of the pagans gave witness to events that otherwise could not be explained: preservation in the furnace and lion’s den; the madness and restoration of a boastful king; handwriting on the wall; sudden reversal in national policy.

Third, the spiritual realm is inhabited by spiritual beings. Again, the Babylonians, either individually or collectively, were witnesses of non-physical beings through dreams, visions, or actual sight. Though Gabriel has already been on the scene (Daniel 8:16 and 9:21) Daniels’ vision here identifies two spiritual beings: one who many believe to be Christ in a pre-incarnate form (almost identical to the description of Revelation 1:13-14); and, an angel named Michael.

Finally, the battle concerns the glory of God, ultimately. What does the enemy hope to gain in his warfare? What interest does our spiritual enemy have in any of God’s creation? The enemy is not after land, or space for that matter. Nor is he after souls, so to speak. “The chief end of humans is to glorify God and the chief end of Satan is to prevent God from being glorified.”[2] When God’s people pray, they are engaged in the glory of God. Daniel had been praying and the enemy was at work to against the fruition of that prayer.

Two intriguing statements made in this conversation between “the man” and Daniel. First, “the man” tells Daniel that He was delayed in bringing an answer to Daniel’s prayer. Let us not miss this: God answered Daniel’s prayer. It was answered whether Daniel knew the answer or not. Second, “the man” tells Daniel “I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth.” (10:21). God has already determined what will happen, and though a battle rages concerning the fulfillment of that word, we will see God still have His way. “The decree of God is a thing written, it is a scripture which remains and cannot be altered. What I have written I have written. As there are scriptures for the revealed will of God, the letters-patent, which are published to the world, so there are scriptures for the secret will of God, the close rolls, which are sealed among his treasures, the book of his decrees. Both are scriptures of truth; nothing shall be added to nor taken from either of them. The secret things belong not to us, only now and then some few paragraphs have been copied out from the book of God’s counsels, and delivered to the prophets for the use of the church, as here to Daniel; but they are the things revealed, even the words of this law, which belong to us and to our children; and we are concerned to study what is written in these scriptures of truth, for they are things which belong to our everlasting peace.”[3]

Ephesians 6:10-18 shows how God cares for our state, providing from His own armory all that we need which is found in Him to be strong, stand, wrestle and be watchful against the enemy, with all prayer and supplication for all the saints. Weak before the messenger, Daniel is strengthened, made to stand—all this for the results of his prayers. Praying for God’s glory is praying for the humiliation of God’s enemies and they will not go down without a fight. The saint is the battleground because the saint is the bride of Christ.

Considering the view of this one saint in the record of this passage (prayer, the spiritual realm and warfare), we catch a glimpse behind the scenes of what is happening behind all those godly men and women who are eager to see the glory of God manifested in so many ways throughout the world. We even catch a glimpse at the influences behind the nations, the governments of the world. Our prayer life should be deepened, for without prayer, we are without a prayer—not simply as a nation but as the people of God. We have seen Daniel as a man of intense devotion, constantly seeking the exaltation of God in all things. This should also challenge us to seek the Excellencies of our Lord Jesus Christ as His ministry carries forth to the same end. Have we not prayed for deliverance from the oppressive and unjust all around us, who seek to sweep us away in captivity? Do we not desire to be rescued from the fire or the lion’s mouth? Don’t we desire the wicked to see the handwriting on the wall and for God to reign in justice?

Perhaps part of keeping hungry after God is to mind the view that the physical realm is not all there is. We may need reminders that what we know and experience is part of a larger whole—we must learn to understand and interrelate with the spiritual realm. Furthermore, we must develop the discipline of discernment that pursues the glories of Christ and stands firm against the enemies of The Kingdom.

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[1] Lewis, C.S. “The Screwtape Letters.” New York: MacMillan, 1982.
[2] Wagner, C. Peter. “Territorial Spirits.” Wrestling with Dark Angels: Toward A Deeper Understanding of the Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare. Ventura: Regal, 1990.
[3] Henry, Matthew. Commentary on Daniel 10.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Final Week of Daniel and the Centerpiece of History

The last verse of Daniel 9 has been the subject of intense study and long, deep debates among those who seek to discern the matters concerning Daniel’s 70 weeks of prophecy. Why so much energy is expended discussing this final verse of this twenty-seven-verse chapter to the neglect of the previous twenty-six verses is partially driven by the fact that the first 69 weeks of Daniel have already been fulfilled. With great excitement, students of the Bible are eager to know if they will see the unfolding prophecy of this final week.

Daniel is good to give us the setting, a significant historical marker as to when he received the vision that includes this final week of intense interest: the first year of Darius the Mede. We were first introduced to Darius at the end of Daniel 5 as the one who received Babylon the same night that Belshazzar the Chaldean was slain—Darius was an invader. For the captive people of Israel held in Babylon, hopes of deliverance were at an all time high. Daniel tells us that during the first year of Darius’ reign, he was reading the writings of the prophet Jeremiah. Other than reading Jeremiah’s prophecies concerning Judah’s seventy-year exile (Jeremiah 25:11–12; 29:10),[1] perhaps he also read something this:

“‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’” (Jeremiah 29:7-14)

Daniel, a Hebrew and Babylonian governor recognized the true King and sought Him in prayer against the expectation of what God was about to do at the end of the seventy years. Remember, Daniel was already a man advanced in years when Darius appointed him as one of three commissioners over the land. Also, Daniel was disciplined in prayer three times each day—and he had enemies. Since they could find no grounds by which to accuse Daniel, they used his law of love for God against him—or they tried to anyway. Darius was the king who signed the decree that got Daniel tossed into the lion’s den because he would pray to none other but the true and living God. Perhaps Daniel 9 is the record of the very prayers Daniel was praying when his enemies found him!

First, we’ve already observed Daniel’s obedience to the Lord God, so we should not be surprised to see that when God speaks through His Word, Daniel took it as a direct order—“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare!” When God’s Word tells us to do something, how have we obeyed when we give God nothing more than an internal nod, or “personal note to self that I need to do that.” Nate Saint, one of the five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians decades ago, observed that obedience is not a momentary option, but a die-cast decision made beforehand. This was the character of Daniel, a man with a made-up mind. Selective obedience is not obedience at all. Through uncompromised prayer, God is glorified.

God’s Word said, “seek the welfare of the city where I sent you into exile.” If Daniel was guilty of prayer, he was guilty of praying for his enemies! He not only prayed for the city of his exile by confessing the sins of its rulers (9:8, 12), but also for the city called by God’s name, back home (9:16-18). Daniel recognized that God was at work glorifying His name through fulfilling His Word, and prayer was still required! One may ask concerning God’s will at a point in history, “what is God’s will for me right now?” If you are seeking God’s will, then you are expected to pray! Nothing is going to fall out of heaven in a golden box with your answer inside. Part of God’s answer to your question is “you, pray!” This is God’s will for every moment of history. Effective prayer is always consistent with God’s will!

God’s Word said, “Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them.” Daniel confesses they have not listened to the prophets of the Lord (9:6) and disobeyed God’s commands (9:10). Daniel understood the Holiness of God and this became evident as he recognized man’s sinfulness. Man would rather make it up as he goes because he is really out to live for himself—there is no love for God above all else. Daniel was not being weak confessing sin, but able to draw nearer because he knew where forgiveness and cleansing were to be found. The people of God need to be reconciled to the Lord as the Lord. Confessing sin guards for man the character of God. Confession puts man down on his knees, even on His face before the awesome perfection of Holy God.

Daniel also read, “When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.” I imagine Daniel sat up on his rug when he read that. Notice what he says in 9:2, “I, Daniel, observed the number of the years which was revealed.” Daniel recognized the future was on the doorstep and the hope promised by God of restoration was near. Daniel was holding God to His word and sought Him, and found Him! Daniel is praying from the edge of his seat because he is about to see history unfold in a singular way. God was about to fulfill a promise!

“Shall the Lord God Almighty fail in His promise? No, he will move heaven and earth, and shake the universe, rather than be behind hand with His Word. He seems to say, ‘It must be done. I have promised—promised, do you hear?’” (J. Wilbur Chapan)

The singular thread that runs throughout Daniel’s prayer concerns the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of man, seen by the breaking of God’s commands—disobedience. Daniel confesses on behalf of both Israel and Babylon their sin. While he was praying, Daniel had another angelic visitation, and this was unlike the visitation he had before, in dreams or visions. This angelic visitation came while he was reading God’s word, while in prayer. The visitation itself was part of the answer to his prayer. As angels are messengers of God, the highlight of the answer was the description of the Messiah, who will bring the end of sin, atonement for iniquity, everlasting righteousness, a sealing up (9:24) yet He will be cut off (9:25-26). The time of deliverance Israel waits for is at hand—and that deliverance will be national as well as spiritual! This is the application of faith to history, not applying history to faith; that is, we should not be so caught up in the events themselves to see how they line up with what we would believe; rather, the significance is on the sovereign control and we are invited to line up with Him.

With Jeremiah’s seventy-year exile proclamation ringing in the background, we find the following framework helpful as we consider the centrality of Messiah as the prophetic answer to prayer in this visitation. Daniel 9:24 is a summary statement describing what God will accomplish throughout the entire set of 70 weeks: “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.”[2]

Daniel 9:25-27 are the details following the summary statement where the 70 weeks are subdivided into three sets, a time span starting from the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah’s kingdom:

1) 7 weeks or 49 years, (from the Persian Artaxerxes’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem, ca. 445 b.c. (Neh. 2:1–8), possibly closing Nehemiah’s career in the rebuilding of the “street and wall,” as well as the end of the ministry of Malachi and the close of the OT;
2) 62 weeks or 434 more years for a total of 483 years to the first advent of Messiah. This was fulfilled at the triumphal entry on 9 Nisan, a.d. 30 (see notes on Matt. 21:1–11). The Messiah will be “cut off,” (a common reference to death);
3) The final 7 years or 70th week of the time of Antichrist (cf. v. 27). Roman people, from whom the Antichrist will come, will “destroy the city” of Jerusalem and its temple in a.d. 70.[3]

Let us not miss the central feature of this visitation: the Messiah. “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress”.[4] Matthew 21:1-11 records that Jesus entered Jerusalem as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ He entered under loud Hosanna’s (“save now”) and spontaneous confirmations that He, the Son of David, comes in the Name of the Lord. The King has returned and was received as Messiah.

As we approach the last verse of Daniel and the meaning of that one week yet to be fulfilled, let us remember that this prophecy is given as an answer to prayer. God said in Jeremiah, “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” The messenger of the answer is God-sent with the assurance that insight and understanding will be given to Daniel and that truth can be attained in the answer (9:21-23).

God covers the same subjects over which Daniel prayed. To name a couple:

Daniel prayed for the city. God will restore the holy city (9:24);
Daniel confessed sin. God will do away with sin through the Messiah (9:25);

“Verses 25-27 spell out the broad steps by which God will make v. 24 a reality. These extend from the rebuilding of Jerusalem (v. 25), to the cross of the Messiah (v. 26), and then to the end of desolations (v. 27). The last of these was still future from Jesus' vantage point at His first advent (Matt 23:37-39). God decrees the welfare described in Dan 9:24 as the final solution, not an intermediate one that leaves Israel still in difficulty. God's unalterable word is a pledge of ‘everlasting righteousness.’ . . . Daniel's prayer for Israel concerns matters of sin that have been roadblocks to blessing. He confesses the sin, but recognizes that Israel's blessing `a direct reversal of its desolation` will come from the God who is faithful to His covenant and His compassions. He depends on God's righteous acts, not the nonexistent ones of Israel. He pleads for restoration of the people, the city, and the sanctuary. God answers with reassurances that He will restore all three. The answer does not correct Daniel, but correlates with his prayer formulated in light of earlier OT Scripture. Submissive to God, he prays for the fulfillment of blessings God has promised. So he makes himself available to participate in what God wants to do. God has a plan from beginning to end (Isa 46:9-10) and affirms His good designs for Israel (Jer 29:12-14). He allows men the privilege of laboring together with Him by yearning and praying for the same wonderful ends (Jer 29:12).”[5]

Daniel’s seventieth week can be used to support any tribulation theory (pre-, mid- or post-) as well as the position that the events of the prophecy have already been fulfilled. While we could join the everlasting throng of trying to discover where we fit presently in relation to Daniel’s seventieth week, we would be best served to follow Rosscup’s conclusion and the principle of Daniel that we walk in prayerful obedience with the God of the nations who has glorified Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ by doing away with sin and ushering in everlasting righteousness. The subject of the contents of this verse will come up again at least two more times in Daniel, so we will wait until we have more insight to discern further meaning.

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[1]MacArthur, John. Daniel : God's Control Over Rulers and Nations. MacArthur Bible studies, Page 88. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2000.
[2]New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Da 9:24. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
[3]MacArthur, John Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed., Da 9:24. Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.
[4]New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Da 9:25. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
[5] Rosscup, James E. “Prayer Relating to Prophecy in Daniel 9.” The Master’s Seminary Journal, Vol. 3., No 1., Spring 1992. pp. 47-71

Monday, October 06, 2008

305 Today!

Today is Jonathan Edwards' 305th birthday! Have some cake!

"What does God want from me?"

"Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.” (Deut 10:12-22)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

What everyone hears

At a conference in Tokyo, Japan, a shinto expert from the government center of communication addressed more than 300 Christian representatives from all over the world. His closing comments were, "You Christians claim that you have a message that every man, woman and child should hear. When will you wake up and communicate it in a manner that they will hear and understand it? When and how do you expect to reach the masses of mankind?"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Five Points Friday

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.


And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, "What would this idle babbler wish to say?" Others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,"--because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
(Acts 17:16-18)

Gone Fishin'?

Were do you like to fish?

Where thousands of people are stepping all over each other, using the same bait in a lake known to have been heavily fished day after day for decades?

Perhaps you like to fish where the catch is already gorged with bait, swiming wearily away as you plop more bait-a-plenty near them?

Maybe you enjoy fishing for a place among fishermen, jockeying for the pole-position, stumbling over one another?

Or do you prefer to fish where the terrain may be difficult, where danger may lurk in the vicinity, where the lake is attainable only after sacrifice and hardship, but, oh, the hungry fish! Multitudes fight and starve for even one morsel of food, and many others have never so much as seen one time the bait you have to offer . . .

Is that you? Do you prefer the last fishing hole?

That is missions.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"A Single Priority or Two Commands to Be Obeyed?"

Is one command of Jesus more important than the other?

In this excellent article, Steve Strauss examines the question: “Which is more important, that I share the gospel or minister to this person’s human need?”

What do you give?

"I'd like make three points today," a minister began his sermon one Sunday. "First, there are millions of people around the world who are going to hell. Second, most of us sitting here today do not give a damn about it . . .

. . . my third point is that you are more concerned that I, your pastor, said the word 'damn' than you are about the millions of people going to hell."

Having undivided attention, he proceeded to preach a sermon on putting obedient faith into action.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Up there

A while back I was walking through the park, along the black metal fence that surrounds the lake. As I made the gradual curve, taking me back toward the cascades, I could not help but notice the string tied to the top of the handrail. The string went up, up, up into the sky. I followed the string with my eye to see the kite was on the other end.

Up, up, up, went the string, until it disappeared into the blue sky. I saw no kite.

It was almost as if someone tethered the sky to the handrail.

A cloud floated by. I stared into the sky.

I felt the string. Yup, definitely something there alright, I could feel the tug.

What do you think was up there?

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