Saturday, October 31, 2009

He Doesn't Forget

Obadiah 1:8-11
(8) Will I not on that day, declares the LORD, destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of Mount Esau?
(9) And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman, so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.
(10) Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.
(11) On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.

As a parent, I know how easy it is to forget a planned judgment. We charge Lily 25 cents for each lie she tells. When we first started this we tended to forget to collect the fee. Of course, sometimes the threat is even more important than carrying out the action. She knows that we're serious.

We don't tend to give God quite as much respect. There may be a woe pronounced way back in the Pentateuch and we forget about it. Then we find something in the prophetic literature where it comes to pass. He never forgets.

This should show us that He is serious about the whole wrath thing. We may have read Romans at some point and given mental assent to the truth of the Gospel. However, if we just tuck that away and go about our business we show that we have failed to grasp the fundamental truth of the Gospel. God is serious about punishing those who are under His wrath. That means everyone who has not been washed clean by the blood of Christ.

Where are you with Christ? Do you know Him?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preach Truth

Amos 9:10
(10) All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, 'Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.'

I realize that I beat this drum fairly often, but it shows up enough in the prophets that it is inescapable. It is clear that sometimes God's just wrath will come upon disobedient people. It certainly happened for Israel. Yet many chose to instead preach what people wanted to hear.

Our age of "tolerance" is certainly no different. We like to have our ears tickled by hearing how great we are. But are we really? We all still need to hear a message of repentance.

I'm being trained to preach truth. It seems pretty easy to be bold while sitting in a homiletics class. I've had times talking to people where I know that I turned them off by telling them what I believe to be truth. It was certainly not easy. Will I be able to do this in front of a congregation? Time will tell. I do know that the more I think about preaching the more I respect the faithful men who do preach truth. It's much easier to be liked.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Watch What you Wish For

Amos 5:18-20
(18) Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light,
(19) as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him.
(20) Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

I love this little passage for a couple of reasons. One is that it really exalts God's holiness and justice. The other is that I like somewhat sarcastic imagery Amos uses to describe how the day of the Lord will be for his readers. They had an idea that it would be a good day for them. Amos informs them otherwise.

I think we all have a sense of personal justice in that we think that we are going to be vindicated for how we think and live. We believe that perfect justice will see us in the right and others in the wrong. This passage tells us differently. Much later on in Scripture we get a pretty vivid description of this day from Peter:

2 Peter 3:9-12
(9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
(10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
(11) Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
(12) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

The Lord is waiting until all of His elect are in the fold before He comes back in justice. My hope is in the fact that the day will come. I have assurance that I will be safe from the upcoming judgment because I am in Christ. It won't be pretty for a lot of people though. If you don't know Jesus I advise you to give this consideration. The world had a start and it is going to have an end. Are you going to be ready?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Worship the Creator

Amos 5:8-9
(8) He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name;
(9) who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress.

There is a similar passage earlier in Amos 4 that mentions how He made the mountains as well. According to my ESV Study Bible notes, this stands in contrast to the beliefs of some people that there were gods in the mountains or that the constellations were gods. While the passages both certainly stand on their own in describing God's great power and majesty, I think the background information adds a little texture.

The point is that we are faced with the same choice every day. Do we worship the Creator or His created? It's a lot easier to worship the created and we seem to do it very naturally. We worship sex, money, power, fame, comfort, etc. After all, these things are right in front of us and they do demand our attention. We decide whether they will get it or not.

Worshiping the Creator is a bit more difficult. He reveals Himself to us through His creation, but we cannot ever fully grasp who He really is. All we have are analogies. We can compare His greatness to finite things that we can understand, but none of them fully capture just who He is.

There are many folks who say that studying theology is a waste of time. Why do I need to worry about details when I just want to worship? The answer is because we cannot trust ourselves. We need to get focused on the object of worship if we are to worship correctly. That's why studying theology is important. That's also why I update this blog regularly with my findings in Scripture about who God is. I need to work this out and make the connections as much as anyone.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pressed Down

Amos 2:13-16
(13) "Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down.
(14) Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save his life;
(15) he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he who rides the horse save his life;
(16) and he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day," declares the LORD.

We went to a local pumpkin patch and corn maze yesterday, so this passage kind of jumped out at me. There is a big difference between the way an empty cart rides and when the hayride is full of parents and kids. The ground certainly shows the difference too.

That's the image used here to describe how the Lord will press down His rebellious people. It's not a pretty sight, is it? This view of God is a little different than the one typically peddled here in the United States. We want our God to make things better for us. We interpret grace to mean that it doesn't matter if we transgress His laws because He is like some kind of cosmic grandfather who winks at sin.

We see a different view here. This is not to say that God delights in pressing down the disobedient. However, He will do so if that is what they need to repent. A subsequent passage makes it clear that a remnant would survive, but it won't be pretty:

Amos 3:11-12
(11) Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered."
(12) Thus says the LORD: "As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.

I am not saying that God will beat us down if we are disobedient, though that might happen. My point is simply to show God's character. The gospel is necessary because apart from the atoning work of Christ we are destined for His just wrath. It may not be popular to discuss God's wrath these days, but I think that meditating upon that aspect of His nature makes grace seem that much more amazing.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Joel 3:10-12
(10) Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, "I am a warrior."
(11) Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD.
(12) Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.

This is at the end of the book of Joel as the Lord pronounces judgment on the nations. Basically, this tells them that they will be in serious trouble. And, for what it's worth, judging in the Valley of Jehoshaphat is kind of a play on words because the name "Jehoshaphat" comes from the word that means "to judge."

Verse 10 is what got me when I read this today. Frankly, until I read the note in my ESV Study Bible I read it backwards because I am used to seeing that imagery in terms of the final peace that will come when Christ returns in glory. While God's people will be able to turn their swords into plowshares, those who are not His will need to do the reverse. Of course, it won't help them, but they're going to want to put up as much of a fight as they can. The long and short of it is that you want to be on the winning team at the end.

This verse also makes me think of a basic hermeneutical issue. My school teaches a Dispensational hermeneutic. That means that they take every passage literally unless there is a very good reason to see it otherwise. But what to do with these plowshares and swords? Two hundred years ago it would have seemed perfectly reasonable to take this literally. Now we might see it as a general metaphor that we will not need weapons of war anymore. I think that is a perfectly valid interpretation, but isn't it conditioned by the culture? If we could have taken this literally 200 years ago and now realize that we don't need to do that, then weren't folks reading it wrong 200 years ago?

I'll have to bounce this off some friends.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mercy in Action

Joel 2:18-19
(18) Then the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.
(19) The LORD answered and said to his people, "Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.

This is a transition from all the calamity that had come upon the people. The land was in bad shape after the plague of locusts and the drought. And yet God relented toward His people.

What I notice in this account is that the people could not do anything to save themselves. Yes, there was a call to repent. However, it looks like God made the first move. He had pity on His people and then decided to send them "grain, wine and oil" so that they may be satisfied.

That is what He has done for any of us who know Christ. He has saved us. He is the one who does the action. Yes, we must repent and believe. However, He makes the first move. I don't know why He saved me, but I'm sure glad that He did!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Calling in Dryness

Joel 1:19-20
(19) To you, O LORD, I call. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field.
(20) Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

This passage comes at the end of a chapter that describes a terrible blight on the land. Locusts have devoured all the plants. There is a terrible drought. The priests don't have anything to offer at the temple. Basically, the nation is in trouble.

We all have calamity from time to time. How will we respond? We could shake our fists at the heavens and tell God that He doesn't know how to run our world very well. We could be like the new atheists who are sure of two things:

  1. God doesn't exist
  2. They hate Him
Or we could respond in humble submission to His authority. We could trust that maybe He knows how to run the universe better than we do. There are plenty of times when it seems that He is not good because of our circumstances. I think that as we go through Joel we'll see that He is more loving and good than we can imagine.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Know His Word

Hosea 14:9
(9) Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.

It's incredible to see just how many exhortations there are in Scripture about the value of knowing God's Word. This whole book has been about the unfaithfulness of Israel to the covenant they had with God. Chapter 14 speaks to God's amazing grace in still keeping His side of the covenant and the offer of restoration if they would repent and return to Him.

This is the last verse of the book. Life is very simple really. We just need to know what God's Word says and then obey it. Of course, that is much easier said than done. We can know what to do and fail to do it. But if we are in Christ we have a Helper in the Holy Spirit. He will help us to walk in God's ways. After all, He wrote the book.

This all presupposes a knowledge of God's Word. What are you doing to learn more about what it says?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Prepare the Field

Hosea 10:12
(12) Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

I think it is sometimes difficult for me to really grasp all the agrarian imagery of the Bible. I grew up in a suburb and the closest I've come to farming is when I would visit my grandparents' house in SW Ohio. My dad grew up on 65 acres and they farmed the land, though that was not their sole source of income. I have some agrarian roots, if you will, but I don't have much experience with it.

What I do know is that this verse reminds me of the parable of the four soils. I have put in a couple of new lawns in my day and I have been amazed at how grass seed will grow even on the cracks in the sidewalk. It will even grow briefly on the sidewalk if there is just a tiny bit of soil there. However, it does not last.

I think of how hard my own heart is. I certainly spend regular time scattering seed in it. I read Scripture daily. I review my memorization work. I attend church. I listen to good podcasts of sermons and other Christian discussions. With all of that I feel like my life should produce a lot more fruit. I feel like there should be much less sin in it. Yet I still see a dearth of fruit and more sin than I feel like there should be.

I need to have my fallow ground broken up. This is a hard lesson for me! I've been through brokenness and I don't want to go through it again. Yet the commands of Scripture are inescapable.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Staying Pure

Hosea 7:8-10
(8) Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
(9) Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not.
(10) The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him, for all this.

I've baked a few cakes in my day and I can tell you that it is not pretty when one is half-baked. That's how Ephraim is described here. It comes from being mixed in with the other peoples. I can tell you that a cake will not come out right if you start mixing foreign things into the recipe. That's what happened to Israel.

This makes me think of our mandate to be salt and light to the culture. How far does relevance go? On one hand, we need to be able to "exegete the culture," as Haddon Robinson would say, but we also need to make sure that we don't get the culture mixed in with us lest we become like Ephraim here.

I know that personally I do better with the less I mix in from the culture. I don't miss TV or movies. Even when we go to see a movie that is OK we get bombarded with all kinds of junk in the previews. You can't watch a football game without seeing the cheerleaders. And so on.

The good news is that, fundamentally, the gospel is always relevant. Yet I know that we need to present it in a way that people can understand. I'm all for that. Let's just make sure that we do not get anything wrong in our batter.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Repent and Believe

Hosea 5:11-15
(11) Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after filth.
(12) But I am like a moth to Ephraim, and like dry rot to the house of Judah.
(13) When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound.
(14) For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue.
(15) I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.

Here God is speaking to the nations of Israel and Judah. When you read "Ephraim" here you should think "Israel," or the Northern Kingdom. Clearly things are not good for either kingdom based on how God says He will act toward them.

What is the solution? They had to repent and believe. They needed to acknowledge their guilt and then earnestly seek God's face. I don't think that is just for those people at that time. It is the same thing that God calls us to. We need to repent and believe.

We are destined for God's wrath apart from the saving work of Christ. We must repent and believe if we are to be saved from the judgment that is to come. This does not mean giving mere intellectual assent to the truth of the gospel, nor does it mean just feeling badly about our sin. It means that we are to earnestly pursue God with everything we've got. He cannot just be one part of our lives. He demands it all and He deserves it all.

Where are you? Are you ready to repent and believe? Have you believed in the past but need a fresh spirit of repentance? I know that I often do. Jerry Bridges says that we are to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. It's a great reminder for me and one of the reasons why I maintain this blog. I need the reminder to zealously pursue the Lord.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Cost of Unfaithfulness

Hosea 4:14
(14) I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.

The book of Hosea is filled with this metaphor about being whores. Hosea marries a woman named Gomer who ends up being unfaithful to him and even ends up in bondservice. However, Hosea redeems her from her slavery and commits her to a life of faithfulness. This metaphor gets extended to the people in this passage.

If you are in Christ then God has done the same for you. We were playing the whore with our lives. Yet Christ redeemed us from our slavery. We are no longer slaves to sin, but to Christ. In other words, if we are in Christ then the price for unfaithfulness has already been paid.

What pains me is how often I forget this and turn back to some form of whoredom. Maybe I seek out images for my eyes that I really don't need to see. Maybe I look for satisfaction in some toy or other material thing. Maybe I think some experience is going to satisfy me. My heart is a factory for idols. My prayer is for devotion that is befitting a redeemed slave.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Conversation

John 8:58-59
(58) Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
(59) So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

We had a knock on the door just after lunch yesterday. Lily and Grandma were out shopping. Amanda and Noah were on the couch reading. I had just got my ice cream freezer bowl out and was ready to make a batch of ice cream. Amanda asked me to answer it.

I found a well-groomed man in a shirt and tie carrying a small binder, a paperback copy of the New World Translation, and a copy of Awake! magazine. I went out on the porch and let him start his talk. He presented the Bible as having lots of answers for the pressures that come with raising a family. I told him that I completely agreed and that we tried to make the Bible the basis for our household. I also tipped my hand that I'm going to seminary.

We had a nice chat for about 15 minutes. We talked a little bit about how the Bible is translated into English and I proposed that many translation decisions are based on theology, such as their translation of John 1:1. I also brought up John 8:58. He had never considered that Jesus saying "I am" was a reference to Exodus 3:14 and we had a good chat about that too.

I don't think that anyone can argue a Jehovah's Witness out of his belief system. They are all too well-grounded in their apologetic. However, I did want to challenge his presuppositions. He is going under the assumption that The Watchtower organization is worthy of his trust. I am trusting what the church has considered orthodox over the centuries. We also talked a little bit about Arius with regards to that. Overall, I think that we all need to know what we believe and why. We also need to be honest about where there are some thin areas in our theologies.

I am praying for that nice man and I am sure that he is praying for me as well. We both think that the other has a wrong view of God and it is impossible for us both to be right. Let's see what God does in our respective hearts.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Knowing God

Daniel 11:32
(32) He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.

This comes in a long passage describing various battles and changes of power. I believe that there is some consensus that this has to do with the Maccabean Revolt, which is where the holiday of Hannukah comes from. The Maccabeans knew their God and were ready to fight back.

Do you know your God? If so, how do you know Him? Do you know Him through your own sense of how a God should be? Is He merely a God of love? Is He a God of wrath? How do you know Him if at all?

He reveals Himself to us through Scripture. Yes, general revelation in the form of nature helps too. I don't understand how biologists can be atheists, but I know that many manage it. We know Him personally through His special revelation to His people. That is the God that demands our worship. It would be one thing if He merely demanded it, but He also deserves it. Let's worship the God who IS rather than the God that we create in our imaginations.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Seventy Weeks

Daniel 9:24-27
(24) "Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.
(25) Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.
(26) And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.
(27) And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator."

What does this mean? I can't say that I rightly know. I'm not even going to venture an opinion because I feel like this is a topic deep enough that it merits some serious study before chiming in.

However, I do appreciate something that my ESV Study Bible says at the end of the very long footnote regarding this passage. No matter how you see this all playing out the point is that God is sovereign over kings and kingdoms. Therefore, we can be sure that this passage means that God has a plan and He is going to carry it out. It would be nice if we could have more clarity about it, but ultimately it still gives us a place to bolster our faith.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Continued Work

Daniel 8:27
(27) And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king's business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

This is another summary of Daniel's reaction to an incredible vision he had of the future. He saw how kingdoms would rise and fall and then he even had Gabriel speak to him. Again, this is something incomprehensible to us and this verse gives us just a little taste of the effect it had on Daniel.

What strikes me is that after a time of recovery he went about the king's business. Maybe my problem is that I try to do work in the time I should be recovering, but were it me I would have a very hard time going about my business after having a vision like that. I think back to last Friday when I was consumed by something so trivial as the shipment of my iPod Touch. I was hoping to see it arrive in the area on Friday so I could pick it up, but I had to wait until Saturday afternoon. I didn't lose sleep over this, but my company definitely lost work over this.

I think Daniel was a better worker than I am. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it. It's common to use Daniel 1 as an example of how we need to be bold about our faith and priorities in the workplace. I think that is all well and good. However, we also need to recognize that Daniel stayed focused on what he had to do when he was supposed to be working. Here in 21st century America we all tend to think of ourselves as pretty dedicated and hard-working, but I suspect that if we wrote down what we were doing every 10 minutes we might discover otherwise. I know I would.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Two Sons

1 Kings 3:21-22
(21) When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne."
(22) But the other woman said, "No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours." The first said, "No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine." Thus they spoke before the king.

I'm translating 1 Kings 3:16-28 for Hebrew class. Translation is tedious work, particularly when you don't know very many words in the language. I know maybe 450 words in Hebrew which really is not very many. I spend a lot of time flipping through the lexicon.

I also spend a lot of time repeating phrases that I've translated to make sure I hang on to the overall thread of the passage. I've read this story plenty of times. However, I don't think I've ever gone through it with a fine-toothed comb while I can hear my son making little noises on the baby monitor.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Great Alarm

Daniel 7:28
(28) "Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart."

This verse is at the end of Daniel's first vision where he sees four terrifying creatures. Each creature represents a different kingdom. There is of course debate among scholars as to what each creature represents. I don't want to get into that here.

What interests me today is Daniel's reaction to this vision. I once made a comment to a Christian brother about how foolish it was for Joseph to brag to his brothers and father about his vision. He made a good point in responding, "You have a vision from God and see how well you keep from telling anyone." Personally, I've never had a vision from God. I'm not sure that I'd recognize it if I did have one. If I had a dream where I saw the creatures Daniel described as well as the Ancient of Days sitting on the throne it would probably not be very ambiguous. I would be pretty sure about what I had seen.

This verse describes Daniel's physical reaction. At this point he has been around the block a little bit. He has seen God's faithfulness when he and his friends decided not to eat the king's food. He saw God's faithfulness when his friends were rescued from the furnace. He has an idea of what God is capable of doing and has a sense of God's character.

Yet he really had a physical reaction to this vision. I'm pretty sure that I would be greatly alarmed and that I would become even more pale than usual too. This verse reminds me that these are stories about real people. They aren't superheroes. They are men and women who had emotions just like we do. It's easy to look down our noses in hindsight sometimes. I know I have. I want to instead react with joy that God would use real people like Daniel to accomplish His will. It also encourages me that my humanity is not a hindrance to God accomplishing His will through me. It is not something that I need to destroy in some sort of gnostic way, but it is who I am. And, thanks to Christ, that is not a problem anymore.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Whole Story

Daniel 6:24
(24) And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions--they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

I like Veggie Tales in principle. I think it is good that kids are getting exposed to Old Testament stories. They present them in ways that are fun and relevant without really compromising the story. I thought that the Jonah movie was excellent, particularly the gospel choir while Jonah was inside the fish. I've seen some of the others like "Dave and the Giant Pickle" and enjoyed them too. However, there are a couple of problems with kids learning their Bible just from Veggie Tales.

One is that they tend not to show how the stories interconnect. Jesus is the theme of Scripture. This starts explicitly in Genesis 12 with God's promises of Land, Seed, and Blessing to Abraham and implicitly in Genesis 3 with God's promise to Eve. The story of David and Goliath is great and it can certainly inspire us to have a stronger faith. However, the traditional telling neglects the fact that this fits into God's overall plan to have one of David's children sit on the throne forever. I realize that may be a bit "heady" for kids, but the Bible is fundamentally about redemption in Christ. Otherwise it is no better than Aesop's Fables.

The other problem is that they tend not to tell the whole story. The verse I quoted is what happened after Daniel was pulled from the lions' den. One would presume that they were quite hungry after God shut their mouths all night. I do like how Lily's bibles tend to show Daniel sleeping up against a huge lion. I don't think it stretches the text too far to see the lions as becoming like little kitty-cats for a night.

However, this verse shows that they are still lions. It also shows God's justice in action. The Persians didn't fool around when it came to justice. Do kids need to hear about moms and kids being torn to pieces before hitting the floor of the den? Probably not when they're little. I have a friend whose 10 year-old son thought that this was really cool. My point is simply that we need to know our Bibles well enough to fill in some of these details when the time is right. I'm all for church telling Old Testament stories. I just want to make sure that I fill in the gaps that the stories leave.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Learn from the Past

Daniel 5:22-23
(22) And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this,
(23) but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

This is the famous "writing on the wall" passage. King Belshazzar is rightly afraid after a hand appears out of nowhere and writes a mysterious message on the wall while he holds a feast for his people to celebrate his own perceived greatness. This whole event makes him literally weak-kneed. He just doesn't know what to do, so he calls Daniel. Of course, Daniel once again shows God's power and sovereignty over kings and kingdoms by interpreting the message. The message comes true that very night as Belshazzar is murdered.

I think that we tend to approach God the way Belshazzar does. We have a "break glass in case of fire" mentality. A crisis may bring us to Him initially, but once we see His power at work how can we turn away from Him? Yet that is what we do time and time again.

I urge you to turn to Him in the good as well as the bad times. The good part is that staying close to Him in the good times makes the bad times less difficult. It doesn't prevent the bad times, but we can deal with them a lot more easily if we are close to the Lord.

Stay close to Him! You won't be sorry.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Accepting Providence

Daniel 3:16-18
(16) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
(17) If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
(18) But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

This is one of those stories that even folks who couldn't find Psalms in their Bible have probably heard of. These faithful Jews refused to bow to the idol that Nebuchadnezzar set up and were sentenced to death in the fiery furnace. Here they show their unwavering faith in God. I am always impressed by verse 18 when I read this. They accept the possibility of "but if not."

This is a vital lesson for us here in America. This is the land of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer. It is the land where God is supposed to give us what we want if we are faithful. I can't help but wonder what a Word of Faith person would do with this verse. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had a faith that went beyond what God would do for them. They were ready to face an excruciating death for their faith. They knew that God could deliver them, but they were under no assurance that God would deliver them. Yet they remained faithful.

This is great comfort to me in times of trial. The goal cannot simply be the resolution of the trial in the manner I think best. The goal must be resolution in a way that glorifies God. That's the focus that these young men had. Is that the focus you have or do you expect God to serve you?