Archive for May, 2016

Daniel 2:24-45

Daniel Interprets the Dream

Have you ever had that feeling that you are reliving a situation or when you walk into a place that you have been there before even though the situation is completely new or you know you have never been to that place before? It is often called a feeling of déjà vu. You walk into a room that you have never been in and you feel as though you have been there. You have a conversation with someone and you feel like you have had the conversation before. It is a weird feeling that you cannot explain. Your conscious mind tells you that you have never been in this situation before but it feels like a repeat of a previously viewed episode of a television show. You know you are living the present and have never encountered this situation/place before but it feels inside your mind and heart like you have been here before. Many of us have experienced such a phenomenon. Some of us have even experienced it on multiple occasions.

 

According to the Christian apologetics website, www.gotquestions.com,

 

The term déjà vu is a French term coined by a French psychic researcher named Émile Boirac. Déjà vu means “already seen,” and is also called “paramnesia.” It describes the feeling of having already experienced a situation. When experiencing déjà vu, one is struck with feelings of familiarity and strangeness, which can make one feel that the situation has truly happened before. Approximately two thirds of adults claim to have had a déjà vu experience. Déjà vu experiences have been connected with medical conditions, such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, and anxiety. No one really knows what causes these episodes, although psychologists have also come up with theories such as stress and internal hidden conflicts. Some believe déjà vu is the memory of previously forgotten dreams. Still others associate it with psychic abilities, prophecy, or past-life experiences.

 

A déjà vu experience could be the result of God revealing certain things to a person before the event occurred, but the experience could also simply be the result of something occurring that is very similar to an event in the past. The event triggers the memory, causing an “eerie” sense of familiarity. Rather than being a spiritual issue, déjà vu is likely a simple and harmless physical one.

 

However, there are many things that we cannot explain about God and how He can defy what we understand presently as being possible given our knowledge and understanding of the world at this moment. Previously, we, in our human minds and collective human development thought that the world was flat all the while it was round. But we came to learn that it was round eventually. Thus, to discount such experiences as hokum or as merely a physical reaction and not allow for God’s granting us visions that we are not wise enough to fully understand is not something I am willing to do at this point. Like I said, yesterday, God reveals the secrets of the universe to us when He thinks we are ready to handle the knowledge. In hindsight, I can see his guiding hand in my life so maybe one day, when, maybe just maybe, I am as spiritually mature as Daniel I can have a déjà vu experience and understand what God was trying to tell me and not just see it as some eery feeling of having visited a situation or place already.

 

When I read through the dream interpretation of Daniel, it gave me a feeling that I had heard this story before. Of course, yes, I have literally read this passage of Daniel before, but the historical prophecy of it was like, yep, that happened! Read about it! It happened the way Daniel said it was going to happen. Let’s read about Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2:24-45:

 

24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”

 

25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”

 

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

 

27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:

 

29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.

 

31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

 

36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

 

39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

 

44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

 

“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

 

 

The head of the gold statue represented Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the Babylonian Empire. The silver chest and two arms represented the Persian Empire that conquered the Babylonians in 539 BC just some 40 years about Babylon had captured Judah and brought Daniel to Babylon. The belly and thighs represented the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great which conquered the region in 330 BC. The legs of iron represented the Roman Empire which conquered the Greeks in 63 BC. The feet represented the break up of the Roman empire into its eastern and western branches and much later into the much weaker individual kingdoms and nations that we know today as the European, Middle Eastern and North African nations. The type of metal represented the overall strength and power of the empires that succeeded the Babylonian empire. Note that each successive kingdom after the Babylonians was stronger. The Romans were the strongest of all and their empire lasted the longest of any of them, but it imploded from within and divided into two separate empires and then into the weak individual nations (by comparison to the vast military and political coverage of the Romans) that we know of today (the iron and clay of the feet and toes in the dream). The weak replacements for the Roman Empire all thought they were individually strong but were weak and could never sustain power over the other weaker kingdoms like Rome did and this is still true today. We believe ourselves a mighty nation but yet we are weak compared to what Rome was. We must have help from our ever-changing circle of friend-nations to accomplish our goals. And all world powers before all the way back to Rome as simply short-lived powers that can never compare to the empires previous – Roman, Greek, Persian, Babylonian. All future empires will similarly small comparisons of the previous great world empires. All will pale in comparison. They may have qualities of these great kingdoms but never the depth, width, and power of these previous major empires. The great and the weak empires have their moment in the sun but all fade and die away.

 

The rock cut out of the mountain, though, represents God’s Kingdom which would be ruled eternally by the Messiah, the King of kings. His is the one and only kingdom that endures and that will endure. The dream reveals that Daniel’s God, our God, the God, as the power behind all earthly kingdoms. All kingdoms, all empires only are allowed to have their moment in the sun as a result of God’s providence, not because of our great skill. We use our free will as nations to work out God’s plan for the ages. It is all working toward the day when God will send His Son back to us in might and power and bring an end to the world we know and establish His once and final kingdom and judge the nations.

 

When you read the Bible from Old Testament to New, you see the plan being worked out. It is deju vu-ed, repeated throughout the testimony of each book of the Bible. The Old Testament prophecies the New Testament. Daniel is predicting the same thing that John predicted in Revelation. There will come a day when every knee will bow to the one true king as He established one true kingdom that will endure forever. All of our pride and arrogance in ourselves and the kingdoms that we build will be laid low to the Enduring Kingdom of God. Let us make sure that we stay in tune with Jesus, the One True King. Let us have such a relationship with God, like Daniel, that we can see things that are to happen and make sure that we align ourselves with Jesus Christ, the one true king. Let us never be sucked in by that which is temporary and built on pride. Let us be aligned with the kingdom that we last – the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 2:1-23 (Part 2)

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Many times in life, we pray to God to get us out of a jam. We bargain with God that if He does x, we will be forever grateful. We also promise better behavior if God will get us out of a jam. God, if you do x, I will quit doing y. Have you ever had one of these times in your life? Before my salvation, I recognized God’s existence. I believed that He existed. After all I had grown up in a preacher’s home. However, I did not have a relationship with Him until I accepted Christ at age 39. Prior to that, God was someone I negotiated with as a last resort. When situations seemed impossible, I would cry out to Him and negotiate with Him. However, when the crisis was averted, I left God behind and went on about my business. It is kind of like when you do something for your kids that really helps them out but there is no thank you. You just have to take solace in the fact that you did something good for your child and that one day they will appreciate it even if they cannot see it now. You know that feeling as a parent. You fix their bike. They hope on and ride away to catch up with their friends and not even a thank you. You rescue them from a bad situation, and not even a thank you. It’s also like when you free an animal from a trap, you would think the animal would look up at you for a second in gratitude but most of the time they just run away and you just have to be satisfied that you did a good thing. It is like my cat, Flash. I love the little booger to death. We have been through a lot together over the past 11 years. But, cats are not the most appreciative animals in the world. With Flash, it is like I am his servant-human and he simply loves me to get what he wants and then he withdraws into his aloof cat personality. The only way that I really know that he loves me is that whenever I am outside working in the yard, he follows me from place to place at a distance. He has to be where I am at, but he won’t sit in my lap and just be a lap cat. He hates that. Today, when reading this passage again, these opposite reactions to a parent’s love, these opposite reactions to God’s reactions to our cries, and the opposite actions of my cat are what came to mind as I read of Daniel’s prayer of thanksgiving. Let’s re-read this passage that we started yesterday and focus on vv. 19-23:

 

2 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers[a] to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, 3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.[b]”

 

4 Then the astrologers answered the king,[c] “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

 

5 The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. 6 But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”

 

7 Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

 

8 Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: 9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”

 

10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

 

12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

 

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. 15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.

 

17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

 

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;

    wisdom and power are his.

21

He changes times and seasons;

    he deposes kings and raises up others.

He gives wisdom to the wise

    and knowledge to the discerning.

22

He reveals deep and hidden things;

    he knows what lies in darkness,

    and light dwells with him.

23

I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:

    You have given me wisdom and power,

you have made known to me what we asked of you,

    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

 

 

After Daniel asked God to reveal Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to him, he saw a vision of the emperor’s dream. Daniel’s prayer was answered. Before rushing to Arioch with the news, Daniel took time to thank God and give Him credit for all wisdom and power. He thanked God for answering his request. These words are beautiful. He gives God praise for being God. He gives praise for the fact that God is the source of all wisdom and power. He praised God for being the Creator of all things down to the details of making the seasons change. He sees God as the ultimate authority of who reigns as kings of the earth and those who are dethroned. He sees God as the source of our intelligence and wisdom. He sees as the revealer of all things that are hidden from us (just think of this one – the reason that we know so much more about the origins of the universe now at this point in time is that God has been revealing it to us as we can handle it not because we are uncovering these things ourselves and that this is true in other areas of human endeavor as well). Then, after praising God on a broad scale, at the universal level, he then thanks this mighty God of ours on a personal level. He thanks Him for the favor that God has shown him by revealing the emperor’s dream to him. The God who is the source of the universe, who controls all things, is personable enough to grant one of his many children, Daniel, the answer to a petition in prayer. Daniel is thankful that the God who created the universe grants him his request, this one tiny man in comparison to His mighty God. Daniel is overwhelmed by the favor shown Him by God. He pours out his soul his thanksgiving to God before He does anything else. He could have just run off like a rabbit out of a trap or Flash after I have fed him. But, no, Daniel before He goes off to accomplish a great thing, he thanks God.

 

How do you and I react when God answers our prayers? Are we excited? Are we surprised? Are we relieved? When we seek God in prayer and He answers our petitions, we often dash off in our excitement and forget to give God credit for the answer. We so often do this. God answers our prayers and then we never thank Him. Let Daniel be an example to us. Let us offer praises of thanksgiving to our Lord. He is a personable and loving God who does truly care about you and me. Even though He is great and mighty and does not have to grant us our prayers and petitions. Even though He is the Creator of all things and we are miniscule in comparison to him, He is not some remote god whom we cannot know personally. He is mighty and all knowing but He hears us and He loves us each individually and cares about what we cry out to Him about. Let us offer praises of thanksgiving to a mighty God when He answers our prayers. Let us match how fervently and persistently we pray for an answer with praise and thanksgiving when the answer to the prayers come. Let us give honor and glory to the Maker of all Things. Let us give honor and glory to Granter of all Wisdom and Knowledge. Let us give honor and Glory to installer and deposer of kings. Let us give honor and glory to the Creator. Let us give honor and glory to God! Glory to God! Glory to God in the highest mountains and the lowest valleys! Glory to God forever! Glory to God! Thank you for hearing our prayers. Thank you for your answers. Thank you for though you are mighty you love me, little ol’ me and you hear my cries. Thank you, Lord. Thank you!

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 2:1-23 (Part 1)

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

It is common today to hear all kinds of twisted beliefs about God in today’s world. It is as if we have fashioned our own gods. People today have fashioned only a god who is all loving and all forgiving. The god that we have created for ourselves today is one who is tolerant of all behavior. He is a god who accepts all things as good. There is not judgment is this god. It is a god that ignores anything that he has said about judgement in the past. He accepts the things that he has called sin in the past and considers it OK now. He wants us to be happy and self-actualized. He does not want us to have sadness or suffering of any kind. He wants us to pursue what we think is best for ourselves. This god wants us to pursue what makes us happy and that our happiness trumps any statements about sin he may have said in the past. If you are not happy, it trumps marriage. If you are not happy, it trumps integrity. If you are not happy, it trumps moral absolutes. If you are not happy, it trumps your gender. If you are not happy, it trumps all that this god may have said before. He just wants us to be happy. In the process, we become our own gods and we determine what is right and wrong and we call it god. Today’s conception of a wishy washy and wimpy god who allows his kids to do whatever they want and call it good is not too unlike the sometimes opposite world in which we have lived through the centuries where man has used the name of God to do many dastardly deeds of oppression, slavery, mass murder, and so on. Today’s tolerance of all behaviors in the name of an all-tolerant god is no better than using the name of God to gain power over people to meet our own political desires. In the end, though, we will find that we have believed in a false religion. It will be exposed by God, the real God. The one who is righteous, pure, and perfect. False religions of our own making will be exposed in comparison to one true God, the Creator, the Maker of All Things, and the Judge of all Things.

 

When you think of the age of tolerance in which we live and the values of anything goes that is prevalent today, it has taken on the level of a man-made religion. There are tenets of this religion that you cannot violate. You cannot speak up about anything that is favored by the age of tolerance. If you stand against anything goes, do what you feel, you are vilified and crucified in the court of public opinion. Those who stand against the opinion that our feelings of who are from a gender standpoint are more important than the biological facts are castigated publicly. Those who stand against any of tenets of the age of tolerance religion are homophobes, are backwards, are religious bigots, and are simply out of touch with this new age and the religion of tolerance. It is amazing how intolerant the age of tolerance can be. That is what has made it a religion. The age of tolerance is a religion that does not tolerate those who do not believe that anything goes and that there is a God who defines sin and that His Word is ageless and timeless and never changes.

 

The idea of today’s age of tolerance where we have become our own gods and where we define that which is right and which is wrong and not God is what came to mind when you think of the false religion of the Babylonian wise men and magicians and how the falseness of their religion was exposed through Nebuchadnezzar’s impossible demand. Let’s read what happens here:

 

2 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers[a] to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, 3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.[b]”

 

4 Then the astrologers answered the king,[c] “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

 

5 The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. 6 But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”

 

7 Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

 

8 Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: 9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”

 

10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

 

12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

 

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. 15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.

 

17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

 

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;

    wisdom and power are his.

21

He changes times and seasons;

    he deposes kings and raises up others.

He gives wisdom to the wise

    and knowledge to the discerning.

22

He reveals deep and hidden things;

    he knows what lies in darkness,

    and light dwells with him.

23

I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:

    You have given me wisdom and power,

you have made known to me what we asked of you,

    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

 

 

By answering that “the gods do not live here among the people”, they admitted that could not tell Nebuchadnezzar what he had dreamed. They admitted the limitations of their so-called “powers”. It was not unusual for these type of courtiers in any king’s palace to use the respect given them as holy men to gain political power and to use their position to influence the king to their advantage. By answering the way they did, they admitted that theirs was a false religion. Theirs was a hollow, self-serving religion. It was a religion of convenience. They believed in their gods, but that belief resulted in no difference in how they lived. They simply used their god system to further the way that they wanted to live and to gain the power that they desired.

 

Isn’t that not the world in which we find ourselves today? Many people profess to believe in some conception of God, but it is a hollow belief. In essence, they are practical atheists because they do not listen to Him or do what His word says. We fashion God into what we want Him to be. We leave out the parts of the Bible that are not in agreement with our lifestyle, but we still believe in God. We believe that God will tolerate our behaviors because He wants us to be happy above all else. He no longer holds us to the moral absolutes that He set forth in His Word. He looks the other way while we continue to unrepentantly practice our pet sins. God, you used to be against this but now in the 21st century, you are OK with it, right? Cause this makes me happy! Is that the God you and I believe in? If that is the God that you believe in, then, you have eliminated the need for Jesus Christ to die for our sins. No wonder Jesus is seen as just another philosopher now and that now all roads lead to heaven. It is because we have made God into this vacillating, anything goes as long as I am happy god. If there is never anything wrong, if there is nothing that is truly sinful on a permanent basis, if there is no judgment, then there is no need for Jesus Christ to be our Savior. He is just another guy. We don’t need Him for anything other than philosophical advice whenever we need it.

 

This belief system will be exposed at our judgment day. We will learn that that we believe in a false brand of God. We believed in a god of our own making and not the one true God who gave us guidelines for living in His Word. We will find that it is not about doing more good than bad and that we were permanently tainted by our first sin and we were further condemned by the lifetime of sins that we commit. We will find out that there are moral absolutes. We will find out that we needed intervention from the perfect and sinless Jesus Christ. All that we had to do was be humble enough to believe that we are sinful and that Jesus died in our place so that we might have eternal life. We will learn that it when we are saved that we find that His Word and our obedience to it comes not from being a robot but rather out of the outpouring of thanksgiving for our salvation.

 

Our judgment day is coming when all our sins are exposed, all our false beliefs are exposed, where will you stand? Do not follow the blind religions of man but have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Alternative – believe in your false gods of tolerance and make me happy religions and spend eternity separated from the pure, holy and perfect God. Amen and Amen.

Daniel 1:3-21 (Part 2)

Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar’s Court

There is an old saying that “if life gives you lemons; make lemonade.” That seems appropriate to today’s take on the passage that we revisit this morning. For me there are many examples in my life where I have had to make lemonade, but today, I want to focus on one. Back in 2007 when I was living in the Charlotte area, the company that I was working for was bought out and our corporate office in Charlotte was shutdown. All 15 of us corporate office employees lost our jobs. As you may remember, late 2007 was right at the beginning of what is now called “The Great Recession”, the worst economic downturn our nation has seen since the 1930s. Finding a job in those days was difficult as few companies were hiring. However, I was able to land a job with Vaco Resources in Charlotte as one of their consultants. That consulting firm would hire out their consultants to companies for various finance projects. We would come in and do projects for companies that they did not have the expertise or the manpower to complete. Being a consultant with a consulting firm is kind of a feast or famine proposition. You can work on a project for six months but you can also be without and project and not getting paid for weeks and months. It is not what one would consider a permanent solution when you have a kid in college, child support to pay, and a myriad of bills to pay. However, in that economic climate, it was what was available. Immediately upon signing on with Vaco, I was assigned to a long-term project at America Fujikura, Ltd. (AFL) here in Duncan, SC where I now live (and have been living since August 2010). AFL is a Japanese-owned company and in 2006 Japan was rocked by major financial scandals similar to the Enron/Worldcom financial scandals that came to light here in the US back in 2000.

 

In 2001, the United States passed the Sarbanes-Oxley laws (named after the two congressman who wrote the legislation) in Congress (called the SOX laws). This required companies to take a close look at their internal controls each year and document how they were doing at keeping such scandals from happening. It was sometimes called the “auditors employment security act” because it created a need for more internal auditors, external auditors, audit consultants, etc. Well, when the same thing happened in Japan, they fashioned a law that was very similar to the SOX laws in the US. The laws were so similar the Japanese version became known as JSOX (Japanese SOX). It was AFL’s JSOX implementation project that gave me work to do while I was looking for a permanent job. It was intense work. We have a lot of documentation of internal controls to do. We had a lot of testing to do once we had documented all the internal controls. It was a six-month long project that begin in late October 2007 just four weeks after my employment at that Charlotte corporate headquarters job had ended. It was a blessing and ironic at the same time. The Charlotte job is what drew me away from the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC area where I had lived for 28 years. The move was difficult but I moved to the Charlotte area and now here I was again working in Duncan, right smack dab in the middle of the Greenville-Spartanburg area again. I didn’t care about the irony though. It was a job. It actually paid very well and I was doing something worthwhile. However, as the project was winding down, I was wondering what if anything Vaco was going to sign me up for next. What project was going to be on the horizon, if any. I was worried because during the early days of that recession, nobody and I mean nobody was hiring for other than entry level positions. AFL, though presented me with a tough decision though. As we had seen throughout the project, one of their subsidiaries out on the west coast, Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI), was a complete disaster from an accounting and internal control standpoint. The offered me the opportunity to go out to Santa Clara, CA to help clean up the finance function and get it JSOX compliant. Continued employment but on the West Coast. Stay here and having no income as the project in Duncan was winding down. What to do? Well, it was a tough decision. It was tougher than making the decision to leave Greenville for Charlotte. It was to be a six month additional project. With a lack of job opportunities elsewhere, the decision ultimately was one I had to make. You go where you get paid.

In May 2008, I struck out for California, leaving my girlfriend, Elena (who later became my wife), and my almost grown (23 and 18) daughters behind. It was only six months I told them. Time will fly by and I will be back before you know it. The project was to end by Thanksgiving 2008. It’s not that long! During that time I was out there, I really proved myself to the local management there at FAI. I solved problems that had previously gone uncorrected by the controller there. I got things pretty well in shape as much as I could not being the controller myself. Wouldn’t you know it? In October 2008, the controller who was there (a bungling fool of an accountant if there ever was one) got an opportunity elsewhere and left. The president at FAI was so impressed with me that he immediately offered me the job. I already knew the issues, the problems, what needed to be done so it was a perfect fit.

 

Again, it was a tough decision. Stay in California permanently? Completely across a continent from everything that I had ever known. As I remind you again, this was 2008, the beginning of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Come home to South Carolina with no work on the horizon or take a permanent job in California? Yes, that was a tough choice. It came down to the saying, “You go where you get paid.” I decided to take the job and the rest, my friends, is history. In late 2010, the FAI finance function was moved here to South Carolina and consolidated with the finance function of the rest of the AFL family of companies here in Duncan. While I was out in California, Elena moved out there with me and we got married. While out in California, I was able to make FAI’s finance team a top notch team that produced trustworthy financial statement. I was able to implement all kinds of improvements to the finance function there. What was once the worst accounting team in all of AFL was now one of the best. While out in California, Elena and I made great new friends at an amazing new church – the God given talent that was in that one little church plant! Wow! While out in California, Elena got saved. While out in California, I quit being a baby Christian and began to grow and mature. While out in California, we became passionate about serving the Lord. While out in California, life gave us lemons, but we made lemonade. Here I am 8 years later, still working with this very same company. FAI has been so good to me and my family. I would not dream of working for any other company.

 

When I think back to God’s providential care over my life, that decision to go off into the unknown of California was one of the most important decisions of my life. When you consider all that happened in Elena’s and my life while in California, it was the single most important decision of my life. Life turns on a dime sometimes. I sometimes sit back and wonder what life would have been like if I had not gone to California. I don’t think it would have turned out as well as it has. Sometimes, in life, when something seems like you are being forced down a road that you don’t really want to go down, you just have to do what’s in front of you and you do it with gusto and trust the Lord with the rest.

 

When I think of Daniel going into exile, my own life story comes to mind. He could have let it defeat him but he kept pushing on and doing what was in front of him. Let’s read what it says:

 

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[a] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

 

6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

 

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[b] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

 

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

 

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

 

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

 

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

 

21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

 

As you can see here, Daniel could have curled up in a corner and given up. He could have said, everything that I hold dear has been ripped away so I give up. That was not the Daniel way. He continued to live. He did the best he could in the situation presented to him. He must have figured that God had placed Him in Babylon for a reason. So, while there, He served the Lord with integrity and with excellence. So much so, that he rose to the heights of being a trusted right hand man of the emperor of the great Babylonian Empire. He simply chose to make the best of the situation he was in. You do what is placed in front of you. Daniel trusted that the Lord had a reason for him being there. So, did he quit and give up because His life did not go according to his own plan? No. He did what was in front of him. He trusted God.

 

The paths we are on may not be where we wanted to be according to our plans but there is nothing wasted and nothing coincidental in God’s plan for our lives. We must trust the Lord to work out the details of our lives and place those details in His hands. Meanwhile, we do what’s in front of us. We do it to honor God. We do what is in front of us with excellence and integrity. We do what’s in front of us with gusto and joy. We do what’s in front of us because we trust that God has us here at this time, at this moment, at this place, with these people to do the work that he has appointed for us at this time, at this moment, at this place, with these people. There is no coincidence. There is no randomness. It is all part of God’s plan for my life and your life. Do what’s in front of you until your destiny is revealed to you by God. He does have a plan. I can tell you that from my own life experience. Trust in the Lord. Do what’s in front of you now with excellence and integrity. Do what’s in front of you because God has you here for a reason at this point in your development. He is preparing you for what He has prepared for you. Live it. Love it. Make lemonade!

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 1:3-21 (Part 1)

Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar’s Court

If you have read my blogs over the past few years, you may have read before that my brother and I had a tumultuous relationship growing up. My brother and I were both smart kids but my brother was and is, I think, a few steps ahead of me on the intellectual scale. What came naturally to him, I had the aptitude and understanding of the same concepts but I just had to work harder than him at to make the same grades. In school, where I was a 5 A’s and 1 B kind of student, he was a straight A student. However, my brother was, at best, socially awkward. He was one of those smart kids that had to let you know how smart he was. On the other hand, I was more of a chameleon. I was socially skilled such that I could adapt to the crowd I was in. As part of a Methodist preacher’s family that moved every couple of years, it was a skill that served me well. Being the new kid in town in the small communities that we seemed to end up in with each move was a difficult task. Kids at school are rough on the new kid especially in small towns. I was socially able to figure out the kid politics of the grade I was in at school and adapt and excel socially. My brother was not as fortunate to have those social skills. Though he has matured greatly over the years, as a boy and as a teenager, he was very abrasive and even arrogant with his intellectual skills. Though not bad as the Sheldon Cooper character on Big Bang Theory, he had that superiority complex and it did not endear him to the locals. He was not the easiest brother to have growing up. He was capable of being just as abrasive and arrogant to me as he was to others outside our home. He did not endear himself to me either. In fact, we really did not like each other very much. It was not until after we both left home for college and our adult lives that we began to repair our relationship. Though we are not as close as most siblings often seem to be, we are light years better together now than we were as kids. He was abrasive to me. I would make fun of him. I would throw him under the bus when I was with my friends. It was the joining in with the crowd to make fun of my brother that would get me in trouble with my dad – a loving but tough, tough man as a father. To my dad, family was everything. He used those famous lines, “when you have nothing else, you have family.”

 

Because of the animosity between my brother and myself, like I said, I would join in with the other kids to make fun of my geeky, eidetic memory, smarter than everyone else brother. He was mean and hostile toward me at home and would often belittle my intelligence so I was always more than willing to throw him under the bus socially. Like I said, I was a chameleon and gave the crowd what they wanted so that I could win their approval. Approval of the crowd gave me my value and my brother was an easy target for derision because of his caustic personality when he was younger. Every time, though, that I would belittle or betray my brother publicly, regardless of how mean he was to me at home, my dad would come down hard on me for publicly trouncing my brother. He would remind me that when we had nothing else we had family. He would remind me that these kids I was so eager to please would be gone out of our lives in a year, two, or some short time further when we moved to the next town but that you will always have your brother. He would remind me that blood matters (i.e., family matters) more than popularity. And, yes, all these years later, my brother is still my brother and, those people I was friends with in school in those early years, I struggle to remember their names at this point. Standing up for family was big to my dad and he was right. No matter what you may think of your siblings and no matter what happens within your home, outside the home, you defend family no matter what. Family stays with you. Friends come and go.

 

It is that concept of assimilation vs. standing on principle that I see in today’s passage in Daniel 1:3-21. Let’s read what it says:

 

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[a] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

 

6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

 

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[b] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

 

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

 

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

 

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

 

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

 

21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

 

Daniel and his friends were determined to be devoted to principles and to be committed to a course of action. When Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself and compromise his principles and give into the pressures around him. It would have been easier just to assimilate into Babylonian culture and go along. It would have been easier to forget his biblical principles and embrace the culture around him. It would have been easier to through his principles under the bus and join in the courtier lifestyle. However, he held true to God’s Word and his obedience toward it. But, yet, he was not rebellious about it. He would to find a solution that allowed him to maintain his principles but yet allow him to function within the culture in which he found himself. Man, could we as Christians today learn something from Daniel?

 

We have today it seems two ways of dealing with the culture around us – forgetting our principles or confrontation. We need to learn the Daniel way.

 

One way we may choose to deal with the world around us is to assimilate into so that the world cannot tell the difference between us and them. We compromise our principles just to fit in. We too are often assaulted by the pressures to conform to today’s anything goes world in which we live. We may often talk about doing God’s will but we through our convictions under the bus when confronted with the culture in which we live. We would rather participate in the flow rather than fight against it. We don’t want to be singled out. We would rather not object to things that are against God’s nature than to point it out to those we hang with or to the culture in general. The fact that we have weak backbones, generally, as Christians is part of the problem with the ever-degrading moral landscape in which we find ourselves in the 21st century. Things that have become acceptable in the 21st century are due in part to the fact that we Christians are afraid of standing out in the crowd. As long as our paycheck clears the bank, we are happy. Principles don’t really matter when I have got to pay for my 2,000 sq. ft. house, my brand new SUV, and my pool in the backyard. We go along just so we can preserve the easy life that we have. We, as Christians, are often like me when I was a kid joining in with the crowd to make fun of my brother. I knew it was wrong but it was easier just to join in that stand up for my brother. It was easier to join in because standing up for my brother was hard.

 

Another way we react today as Christians is that we go “all Westboro Baptist” on people. What I mean by that is that we condemn the world for what it has become. Just look on Facebook and you will see Christians bashing the world around us. We have great disdain for the world around us as we sit in our ivory Facebook towers and condemn the world below. We sit behind fences and talk about how the world used to be and how the world out there is gone to hell. We withdraw into our shell of church friends and insulate ourselves from contact with that world out there. We condemn. We create an air of superiority about ourselves and write off the world around us.

 

Daniel takes a different approach. He does not join in that which is defiling to a child of God, but yet, he worked within the culture for a solution in a way that benefited all. That is the charge to us as Christians today. We must begin to stand against the tide of moral degradation that we see in our world today. We need to be vocal and participatory in the political arena with the same unity and steadfastness of those that have turned their back on God. We can no longer afford our “as long as it doesn’t affect my paycheck” Christianity. We must be Christians who have biblical values and express those values in everyday life, in every area, including the willingness to run for elected office. We must be willing to stand up for what we believe. However, as Daniel teaches us, we must do so in constructive ways. We must do so in ways that engage the culture. We must educate the culture. We must be a voice that people listen to. Condemnation does not draw a crowd. We must work to find solutions that engage people with the gospel not beat them over the head with it. Bullying never brought anyone to the cross. Engaging someone where they are at and teaching them about the love of God and how we honor him through our obedience is how we win people to the cross.

 

May we begin to learn the Daniel way today, you and I. Amen and Amen.

Daniel 1:1-2

Nebuchadnezzar Besieges Jerusalem

In the South, we live and die by the exploits of our favorite college football teams. Up North, people are crazy about professional football teams, but down here, college football is king. In each state, there are usually, two major college football program that are huge rivals. In each state in the South, you have to be either for one or the other school. In Virginia, it’s Virginia or Virginia Tech. In North Carolina, it’s North Carolina or N.C. State. In Georgia, it’s Georgia or Georgia Tech. In Florida, it’s Florida or Florida State. In Alabama, it’s Alabama or Auburn. In Mississippi, it’s Mississippi or Mississippi State. In Tennessee, it’s Tennessee or Vanderbilt. Here, in my home state of South Carolina, you must choose at birth whether you are going to be a University of South Carolina (USC) Gamecock or a Clemson University Tiger. It is a passionate rivalry in a small state. In other Southern states, they are big enough where fans can be regionally disbursed and not necessarily have a lot of contact with one another. However, here in South Carolina, fans of each school are often neighbors. Rivals can even be in the same household. This close proximity breeds contempt for sure. The passion of this rivalry, to me, is unparalleled in the college football landscape. Passions for each school run deep.

 

Generally, in the series, Clemson has been the most successful of the two schools in the rivalry. Clemson currently holds a 67-42-4 record in the rivalry and has won the last two consecutive games in the series. However, there was something unprecedented that happened in the series between the 2009 season and the 2013 season. In 2009, USC won five straight games in the series. That was a dark time as a Tiger fan. In 2009-2011, we were just beat badly. In 2012, we were competitive but Carolina was just superior defensively. In 2013, we actually outplayed the Gamecocks, but 3 fumbles and 3 interceptions doomed us. We outgained the Gamecocks offensively and generally held their offense in check when they were forced to drive the length of the field, but three of the Tiger turnovers were inside our own territory and two of them were inside our own 30-yard line. Carolina scored on each of these inside-the-30 turnovers and that was the difference in the game. Those were dark days. As a Tiger fan, the worst feeling was after that 5th consecutive loss in 2013. The pain and the agony of defeat was heavy. Watching your favorite team go down once again to your hated rival. It was depressing. But bad times did come to an end, and the 2014 victory was oh so sweet! Not only did we win but we spanked them. We suffered through the dark days which made the mountain top experience so good. We won in 2015 (in more hotly contested game than anticipated) but that victory did not have the same level of joy as the 2014 victory. Redemption and release was the 2014 victory. Five years of pent up frustration released to the heavens in great joy. Clemson was not a bad football program in those years but South Carolina simply had better athletes in for four of those five years and Clemson just beat themselves the fifth year. It was a great time of suffering for Tiger fans though we were doing well otherwise. The evil empire of the Gamecocks had our number and we were suffering. Bad things happening to a good program.

 

Although sports are trivial in the grand scheme of things, that feeling of frustration at the long siege of the Gamecocks over the Tigers for five years is what immediately came to mind when I read through this first passage in Daniel, Daniel 1:1-2. Daniel is lamenting of the siege and defeat of Jerusalem at the hands of the mighty Babylonian Empire. Let’s read the passage together:

 

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.

Certainly, if you are student of the Bible, you understand what was happening here at the beginning of Daniel. The kingdom that was once great under David and Solomon was now split into two weaker kingdoms. Each then, immediately became prey to the surrounding political powers in the region. Add to that, Israel had simply turned its back on God as a nation in general. That’s not to say that they were not still good and righteous people in Israel but in general the nation was not too dissimilar to the nation of the United States that we know now. There are definitely Christ followers here now that are passionate about their God and love Him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, but, in general, we are a nation that has turned its back on God. We now live in society that glorifies behaviors that are against Scripture and that is where Israel finds itself in the opening of Daniel. Here, we come to find that Daniel is a devout Jew who worships the Lord with a passion. However, though he is devout, he sees the Temple looted and the best and brightest of his nation taken away to Babylon. Israel is effectively destroyed. The Israel that he had known is no more. I would imagine that this was disconcerting and frustrating to him. He was a good man but yet he is being hauled off into captivity. Although this was God’s judgment against the evil that had become Israel in general, there were good people that were swept away with those that were being judged.

 

That is the thing that we have to deal with sometimes in life is that even though we may be Christian, it does not exempt us from suffering and pain. Sometimes we cause our own suffering (like the Tigers in the 2013 game against the Gamecocks – six turnovers), but sometimes our suffering is caused by others. Daniel’s suffering was caused by the moral depravity of Israel in general. In America, we as Christ followers live in an age that is eerily similar to Daniel’s Israel. We will be judged by God. He will allow our once divinely protected nation that gave Him glory to be overrun both from within and from without at some point and there will be devoutly Christian people that will be swept away in the judgment as part of that process. It may take centuries for that to happen but as we continue as a nation in general to not just turn our back on God but run away from Him. It will happen. It is already beginning to happen. We find ourselves as Christians being considered old-fashioned and out of touch. We find ourselves marginalized to the edges of society while mainstream society pats itself on the back for its enlightenment in the things that are clearly against Scripture. Christians are beginning to suffer here and it will get worse over the next centuries.

 

What we see in Daniel though is a man who simply served His Lord no matter the situation. He saw each situation as being where God wanted him to be. To outsiders, they may have complained about being in captivity and that it was wrong and unjust for good people to suffer in this way. However, we do not choose what situations we are going to be put in. Daniel proves to us that no matter how bad the situation is that we simply live and work with what is in front of us. We give God the glory no matter the situation. We do God honoring work and live God honoring lives no matter what is going on around us. Just as Clemson had really good seasons while losing five straight to the Gamecocks, we must continue to do work hard and honor God no matter what is in front of us. We may have suffering caused by others, or by finances, or by circumstances, or by death of a loved one, but we must continue to honor God for He has us in a place where He wants us. We can complain about being defeated or we can just do what is in front of us because we trust God has a reason for what’s in front of us. We trust Him. We honor Him no matter what’s in front of us. Just as real Clemson fans kept being Clemson fans during the streak, we are to continue holding on to God even if we think there is no end in sight to our suffering. God does have a plan for what’s ahead. It may not be what we want it to be, but we must trust Him. Daniel’s trek through the suffering of exile gave him opportunities to speak loudly for God in a godless society. There is a plan to what you are going through too. It will be your testimony to the power of God at some point.

 

Hold on. Hang on. Live a God honoring life in the midst of the struggle. Amen and Amen.

THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Today, we move on from our 9-month trek through the Gospel of Matthew. After spending the better part of two years or so in the New Testament meditating on three of the four gospels and on 1 Corinthians, it has been on my heart to start a review of the book of Daniel. The Holy Spirit has led me hear because being a guy who love symmetry to things, it made more sense to me to finish the gospels since I had already gone through Matthew, Luke, and John recently. However, there is something that draws me here and we shall go back to the book of Mark and review it when we are done here but there is some reason that I am drawn here. Let us find out together. Before we begin our passage by passage devotionals tomorrow, I wanted to take today to give both you and me some background on the book of Daniel. There is a wealth of information available that summarizes this book (some of which spend an inordinate amount of time discussing whether Daniel was really the author of the book and whether it was really written during the Babylonian exile). It is enough for me that the author self-identifies himself as the author and that Jesus made reference to him as the author of this book.

 

The following is the best short summary of the background of the Book of Daniel and can be found at http://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Daniel.html (accessed May 18, 2016 6:40am). Let’s see what one of my favorite apologetics websites has to say:

 

Author:

The Book of Daniel identifies the Prophet Daniel as its author (Daniel 9:2; 10:2). Jesus mentions Daniel as the author as well (Matthew 24:15).

 

Date of Writing:

The Book of Daniel was likely written between 540 and 530 B.C.

 

Purpose of Writing:

In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon had conquered Judah and deported many of its inhabitants to Babylon – Daniel included. Daniel served in the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar and several rulers who followed Nebuchadnezzar. The Book of Daniel records the actions, prophecies, and visions of the Prophet Daniel.

 

Key Verses:

Daniel 1:19-20, “The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.”

 

Daniel 2:31, “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue – an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance.”

 

Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

 

Daniel 4:34-35, “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”

 

Daniel 9:25-27, “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

 

Brief Summary:

Chapter 1 describes the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Along with many others, Daniel and his three friends were deported to Babylon and because of their courage and the obvious blessings of God upon them, they were “promoted” in the king’s service (Daniel 1:17-20).

 

Chapters 2-4 record Nebuchadnezzar having a dream that only Daniel could correctly interpret. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great statue represented the kingdoms that would arise in the future. Nebuchadnezzar made a great statue of himself and forced everyone to worship it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused and were miraculously spared by God despite being thrown into a fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar is judged by God for his pride, but later restored once he recognized and admitted God’s sovereignty.

 

Daniel chapter 5 records Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar misusing the items taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and receiving a message from God, written into the wall, in response. Only Daniel could interpret the writing, a message of coming judgment from God. Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den for refusing to pray to the emperor, but was miraculously spared. In chapter 7, God gave Daniel a vision of four beasts. The four beasts represented the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

 

Chapters 8-12 contain a vision involving a ram, a goat, and several horns – also referring to future kingdoms and their rulers. Daniel chapter 9 records Daniel’s “seventy weeks” prophecy. God gave Daniel the precise timeline of when the Messiah would come and be cut off. The prophecy also mentions a future ruler who will make a seven-year covenant with Israel and break it after three and a half years, followed shortly thereafter by the great judgment and consummation of all things. Daniel is visited and strengthened by an angel after this great vision, and the angel explains the vision to Daniel in great detail.

 

Foreshadowings:

We see in the stories of the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions’ den a foreshadowing of the salvation provided by Christ. The three men declare that God is a saving God who can provide a way of escape from the fire (Daniel 3:17). In the same way, by sending Jesus to die for our sins, God has provided an escape from the fires of hell (1 Peter 3:18). In Daniel’s case, God provided an angel to shut the lions’ mouths and saved Daniel from death. Jesus Christ is our provision from the dangers of the sin that threatens to consume us.

 

Daniel’s vision of the end times depicts Israel’s Messiah by whom many will be made pure and holy (Daniel 12:10). He is our righteousness (1 Peter 5:21) by whom our sins, though blood-red, will be washed away and we will be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

 

Practical Application:

Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we should always stand for what we know is right. God is greater than any punishment that could come upon us. Whether God chooses to deliver us or not, He is always worthy of our trust. God knows what is best, and He honors those who trust and obey Him.

 

God has a plan, and His plan is down to the intricate detail. God knows and is in control of the future. Everything that God has predicted has come true exactly as He predicted. Therefore, we should believe and trust that the things He has predicted for the future will one day occur exactly as God has declared.

 

MY TAKE ON WHY WE ARE DRAWN HERE:

I think that our God, though great and mighty and has this master plan for the entire universe, has a plan for each of our lives that is part of this greater Master Plan. I think that this may be the reason that I am drawn here and am taking you along with me is that I know that I struggle with God’s purpose for my life at times. Some times more so than others. At present, I am in one of those periods of my life. It is a time of waiting that I find myself in at the moment.

 

Although I am serving the Lord in a capacity that utilizes my talents from my past at my church here in the present, I cannot help but feel that there is something more to come that will stretch me beyond my comfort zone. Accounting and Finance are certainly my comfort zone. I have educational background there (a bachelors degree in business administration and accounting and a masters degree in management) and thirty years of real world business experience both in internal audit and in financial management. So, the fact that I pursued my masters degree in Christian ministry was the beginning of the stretch beyond the comfort zone. I have always felt that there was I was called to ministry over the past 15 years since my salvation but have always stayed in my comfort zone. So, the pursuit of my pastoral degree was the first step in the stretching beyond the comfort zone. So, therein lies the internal struggle with the Lord. There is no doubt that God has used my talents from my past to improve the financial reporting systems of my church. I have no doubt that this work has been of great use to the kingdom as it expressed through my local church. As my senior pastor often says, “God is preparing us for what He has prepared for us.” So, the waiting is the hardest part. I know that I am in preparation time for what is next and I know that I am being used for the might of the kingdom right now, but what’s next, where I get stretched beyond what I know, stretched beyond what I can do on my own, stretched to the point of complete and total dependence on God. Those are the times to come. And I know that when those hard future times to come are before me, I will wonder why I wished for them and should have enjoyed my comfort zone time and the training that occurred here while in my comfort zone.

 

Maybe, that is why we are here at the Book of Daniel. To learn trust in the Lord. To learn trust in His plan. To learn that His plan will be revealed on His time table not mine. To learn that we must trust that there is a plan for my life from God Almighty Himself that is far greater than I could ever imagine. I just have to learn trust. Trust in His plan not mine. Trust that the doors will open to His final plan for my life for these remaining 15-20 years when He is ready to reveal it. Trust that I will be ready to be stretched beyond what I ever imagined that I could do previously so that I will give the glory only to Him because it was so far beyond what I could ever have imagined doing under my own power.

 

The Book of Daniel is about God’s providential plan even in the smallest of details. God has a plan for everything down to the nth degree and that includes His specific plans for our lives, our individual lives, you and me. Let’s see what we learn about trusting that plan as we move forward with the Book of Daniel beginning tomorrow.