Monday, August 27, 2018


August 27, 2018
Daniel 1:20  "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."

The book of Daniel opens with a very brief background story. The background story basically states that a bad king came and carried off people and religious artifacts. The end. The Bible does not waste any time with too many details sometimes, because apparently those details were, and are, not important. The Bible does get in, rather quickly, to some details about Daniel's interactions with the bad king. Since the book of Daniel is about Daniel, focus for a few minutes on the person of Daniel. He was an exceptional human being. The exact age of Daniel is unknown, but he wasn't carried off by the bad king when he was in his mid-40s. No, Daniel was likely carried off into Babylon when he was a late teen, early 20s at most. By today's standards, maybe he was college age.

At any rate, Daniel was put into the kings service. He was basically a slave, and required to serve the bad king. This bad king, Nebuchadnezzar, gave instructions on a three-year indoctrination process. They were going to assimilate Daniel and the others, brainwash them, teach them the language, and integrate them as part of the empire. They wanted Daniel for his demonstrated intellect and that is exactly what they got, sort of. Several years into program, Daniel was doing exceptionally well. He was learning the language, putting his shoulder to the study, learning the culture, and figuring it out rather well. What is really impressive with Daniel is that he, despite the intense indoctrination, was able to maintain his dedication to the Lord and kept his Jewish beliefs, heritage, and traditions. Despite the strong foreign influences, Daniel remained true to his God; He was a Jew straight through to his core. He was able to learn the new culture, beliefs, language, and even religion, without it affecting his own.

Before Daniel was through his three-year program installed by the bad king, Daniel was called upon in service to interpret the kings dream. While the dream is critical to the whole of the Bible, to Daniel, it was part of what the Lord asked of him. Daniel interpreted the dream, as instructed by the Lord, in exceptional service to the bad king. It is a wonder what motivated Daniel internally to excel in this forced foreign program of integration. It is amazing to see this young man work so hard and diligently for his earthly master. He didn't try to overthrow the government; He didn't try to escape. He didn't even lay down and give a half-hearted effort. Daniel served the bad king, as a slave, exceptionally well. 

And though he was not complete with his three-year program, still a college aged man, he was called upon in an exceptional feat before the king in not just interpreting the dream, but telling of the dream when the king kept it a secret. The king was so impressed with Daniel, so impressed with the Lord inside of Daniel, that Nebuchadnezzar placed him in charge of all the wise councilmen of the entire nation. This man, Daniel, barely at the age of graduating college, was the lead wise counsel in all the land. What made Daniel so exceptional?  Was he truly just blessed with intelligence and wisdom? Could you attribute 100 percent of it to the Lord just giving all the insight to Daniel? You can attribute the Lord's blessing of intellect, in that he had the aptitude to learn. But Daniel had to put in the exceptional work, with exceptional dedication not only to study but to prayer and dedication to the Lord. Exceptional intelligence is more common than most will admit. Exceptionally hard work and prayer and dedication to the Lord is what made Daniel exceptional. Even more exceptional is Daniel's ability to be within a culture and not let it affect his dedication to the Lord.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Daniel 1&2

Monday, August 20, 2018

More Afraid

More Afraid
August 20, 2018
Ezra 3:3  "Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both morning and evening sacrifices."

The Israelites were disobedient and the Lord allowed them to be plundered and punished by the hand of their enemies. Their enemies scattered them and smashed all that was sacred to the Israelites at one time. After a humbling time of living in fear and shame, some of them started to come back from hiding and began to rebuild a small semblance of their lives. It took courage to come out of hiding as a Jew. They were specifically targeted for their race and their land and their wealth. But they began to come out of hiding and moved back to their old stomping grounds, after a time of repairing their relationship with the Lord. They once again feared the Lord, the kind of fear that instills reverence and respect, and wanted to honor Him with their lifestyle.

When they moved back home, and found their sacred places smashed to pieces, they began to rebuild. The Bible says when they rebuilt, they did so with the understanding that the enemy might come back and attempt to destroy them again. The Israelites understood that their presence back home, their presence rebuilding their land, was a direct stance against their enemies, a bold statement of their commitment. Their bold stance could have easily been interpreted as an act of defiance, an act of hostility, inviting further war. The Israelites were knowingly inviting a potential battle, that could cost them their lives. But they revered their relationship with the Lord more than they feared what their enemies could do to them. They were honest about their enemies' capabilities, knowing they'd likely lose, but they took their stance out in the open, regardless. They rebuilt the alter to the Lord in order to offer their sacrifices to Him, knowing that this public declaration was going to be noticed by their enemies. If they were going to be attacked, it was going to be at the place they were building, the center of their service and worship to the Lord.

Christian, your enemy is aware of your lifestyle and what you are doing. He notices who you are serving and how you are living for the Lord. The more bold of a statement you make in serving the Lord with your life and your lifestyle, the more you are likely a target for attack from your enemy. Your enemy does not want you to succeed or build or live or thrive or serve or care or love or forgive. Your enemy wants to see you fail, and fail in front of the Lord. The Israelites, however, were aware of this and they did it anyway. They put their shoulder to the work, knowing they were inviting a potential beating from the enemy, knowing the enemy could kill them during their efforts. 

But like the Israelites, we have to fear the Lord, out of reverence, and honor, and respect, more than we fear being attacked or killed by the enemy. The enemy can take your body but not your soul and the Israelites were willing to accept this in their stance to serve the Lord and rebuild their lives of worship unto Him. Your life should be a life of continual worship to the Lord, publicly. If you are ashamed of the Lord, scripture says He will be ashamed of you. If you fear the enemy and what the enemy can do to you, more than you fear the Lord, then you are not likely to stand for the Lord. Stand for the Lord, in front of the world, risking what the world can take from you, knowing it is better to fear the Lord than fear the world. Be more afraid of the Lord than you are the enemy's attack. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ezra 3:1-6, Matt 10:32-29, Mark 8:38, Rom 1:16

Monday, August 13, 2018

Lose Heart

Lose Heart
August 13, 2018
Galatians 6:9  "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary."

Paul writes to the Galatians and encourages them in their Christianity. He said, "don't lose heart." What does it mean to lose heart? It means to grow discouraged and give up. Surely the Galatians didn't need encouraged, right? You and I never need encouraged, do we? Only high-maintenance, insecure Christians need encouraging, right? We all know the right thing and just submit to that; doing the right thing is easy all the time, right? If that were true there would be no fallen Christians. Paul knew what most leaders need to readily grasp, that the saints need encouragement in doing the right thing at all times. It isn't easy, staying the course, doing the right thing, especially if you can't see the results of the hard work. Paul was telling them to to do the right thing, even if they don't see the results of their hard work, simply trusting in the good they are doing.

We all know the right thing to do, but it is easy to think no one is paying attention and the work doesn't really matter, that we can quit and it wouldn't change anything. After all, we aren't really having an impact on this world; no one's life is being changed for the better? This work, it does not matter. The small ripple in the pond has no effect on anything; it quickly dissipates without any true impact. When you can see the results of your work it is easy to keep going, doing good after immediate feedback. But what if there is no feedback loop? What if you know the right thing but there is no reward, no visible sign of the impact, no knowledge or understanding of the harvest? Can you keep going? How long can you keep doing goodness blindly? Can you do the right thing, day in and day out, without see a harvest, and still keep going? My guess is you're tempted to give up and quite sooner rather than later. I'd like to give up many times, as well. I think of quitting often, not my Christianity, but just the simple goodness from day to day sometimes, to take a vacation for an extended period of time, maybe not even getting back from vacation. My good work, it really doesn't matter to anyone, no one will miss it. Some days I can't even define what my good work is, or what it is supposed to look like. If I can't see it, then no one else can see it right? Paul says that argument would be wrong. He should know. He endured so much for doing good and barely saw the immediate feedback. Thousands of years later, his good work is still impacting the kingdom. He says not to lose heart.

People are watching you more than you'll ever realize. Your life is on display, so is the good work you are doing. People notice it, and are benefit ting from your good work, only they aren't telling you. You don't see the harvest, but the impact is real and people's lives are being blessed. Paul says to keep going, even if you cannot see the reward or the results. The point is not the results, the point is the work. We are trained to desire a feedback mechanism them, a reward system. If there is no reward then why do it? Paul said to fight against the lack of reward system, to not look at that but focus on the good work. If you look for the reward you'll likely quite too soon. Paul says to focus on the good, on doing the right thing. He promises the reward in due time, but the due time frame is up to the Lord. Don't lose heart.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Deut 6:18, Is 1:17, John 14:21 Gal 6:7-16, 1 Cor 10:13