Daniel 1

This reading is Daniel 1.

The book begins in roughly 605 B.C. when the army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took over Jerusalem. God had warned Israel through his prophets that He would give them into the hands of their enemies if they did not repent, but they didn’t obey. When the Babylonians took over a country it was a common practice to take the best and brightest people back to Babylon. Daniel was roughly 16 at the time, and he was one of those chosen.

Daniel 1:6-7 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

Daniel’s character immediately shines through when in v. 8 he “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine . . .” He and his friends took a huge risk by doing this, but God provided for them and the King found them to be “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom.” God blessed their resolve throughout their time in Babylon. This reminds me of the story of Joseph in Genesis, where God helps take him from being a prisoner to eventually running the country of Egypt.

Daniel 1:17-18 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. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel and his friends weren’t belligerent with the officials. They acclimated to the culture where it didn’t violate God’s laws.

Thought for the day: The Bible teaches that Christians are aliens and strangers in this world. Do we stand out like Daniel and his friends, or do we completely blend into the foreign culture of this world?

The next reading is Daniel 2.

Before you give . . .

Giving can be fun and rewarding, but we need to use wisdom in making giving decisions.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Ministry Watch is an organization that collects lots of information about hundreds of charities. They also have “Donor alerts” to warn people of problematic ministries, such as Benny Hinn’s (shocking!). Here are some of the areas they cover:

  • Mission
  • History
  • Leadership
  • Efficiency ratings
  • Comments that supporters and critics make
  • Financial statements

They seem to be very careful, accurate and unbiased. This organization can help you be a good steward with all God has blessed you with.

Disproportionate response?

War is to be avoided, but not at all costs. As some have said, “Except for ending slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism and for providing religious and political freedom, war has never solved anything.”

Some have labeled the Israeli response to Hizbollah attacks as a “disproportionate response.” But consider the following:

  1. Muslims leaders around the world have called for the eradication of Israel and all Jews. They have done this in writing and speeches. The leader of Iran said it publicly. They are quite serious about it. There does not appear to be any reasoning with them.
  2. Muslims outnumber Jews 100 to 1 in that region. These leaders would gladly sacrifice an equivalent number of their own to eliminate all Jews.

If you were personally outnumbered 100 to 1 by a group working to wipe you off the planet, I think a disproportionate response would be in order.

Why pray if God already knows everything?

prayer2.jpg Yes, God is omniscient, so He knows everything. Everything. Some people use that as an reason not to pray. Yet it can also be an excellent reason to pray all the more. If He already knows everything you’ve done, said and thought yet has still forgiven you (assuming you are a Christian), then only good can come from sharing your deepest feelings with Him.

When we confess our sins, we aren’t telling God anything He didn’t already know. But we are saying that we now view our sins from his point of view and that we are turning from them.

Daniel overview

This reading is Daniel.

Just scan the headings in the Book of Daniel and read any bits that stick out to you.

Daniel was written by . . . Daniel. There are twelve chapters. The first six cover Daniel’s life and the last six cover visions he was given and the prophecies (predictions) they contained. The last half is apocalyptic literature, which means an unveiling or a revelation. Some other books with apocalyptic literature include Revelation, Zechariah, and parts of Ezekiel.

Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians when King Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem’s wisest men and most beautiful women back to Babylon. He was probably 16 or so at the time. Even though he was in a strange land with constant challenges to his faith, he remained steadfast in his loyalty to God.

Daniel contains some stories you may have heard many times (Daniel in the Lion’s den and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace). Chapter five contains the origin of the saying “the handwriting is on the wall.” It also contains many things you have never heard of if reading it for the first time.

The most amazing thing about Daniel is the accuracy of the prophecies. Even most liberal scholars agree that Daniel accurately describes the reigns and activities of several empires covering several hundred years – they just think Daniel was written after the fact and is pretending to be prophecy. I think the evidence is on the side of the early writing and that all the critics issues have been well addressed. You can read more about the dating of Daniel here (Warning: it is a little dry).

Jesus obviously viewed Daniel as the real author, as shown in Matthew 24:15-16 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel . . .” That is a pretty good trump card regarding the dating debate, assuming you are talking to a Christian. It is encouraging that God shows us through his Word that He knows everything that will happen. Psychics can’t predict what will happen next week, yet God predicted the specific course of many countries covering hundreds of years with 100% accuracy. This is one of the proofs showing the reliability of the Bible. No other Holy Book contains confirmed prophecies like this. There are also some very specific prophecies about Jesus.

Hope you enjoy the study!

The next reading is Daniel 1.

More on parental notification

From the Houston Chronicle:

The Senate reopened the abortion debate Friday in advance of the midterm elections, this time over a bill that would make it a federal crime to take a teenager across state lines to end a pregnancy without a parent’s knowledge.

Supporters of the bill say such incidents often occur when a girl, or the man involved, wants to evade state parental consent laws. Opponents say the bill would make criminals of well-meaning confidants, such as relatives and clergy members, who might help a pregnant teen whose parents are abusive.

If the parents are abusive, report it to the authorities. But don’t take the girl across state lines to kill her unborn child. And any clergy who aids a minor in getting an abortion should be fired.

Democrats are expected to offer amendments to add exceptions for such confidants as grandparents and clergy. Another exception would involve cases of rape or incest.

If it was a case of rape, then go to the police! Why on earth wouldn’t the parents be notified if their child was raped? If the incest was by a father or step-father, then go to the police! In those cases incest is just a different way of saying rape.

Click here to access a form to contact your Senator regarding this issue.

More on parental notification laws for teen abortions here.

Psalm 3

This reading is Psalm 3. The words in bold are introductory comments from my Bible. This references a story from 2 Samuel 15 and forward.

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom. O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. Selah

The word “Selah” is interesting. My footnotes say it is a word of uncertain meaning occuring frequently in the Psalms, and is perhaps a musical term. I like to think of it as an exclamation, as in, “Yeah! Selah!”

Many people have heard of David’s battle with Goliath and his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. But the Bible records many other dramatic incidents about David, including being on the run from King Saul (his predecessor) for many years. Later, David’s son Absalom tries to take over the throne in Israel and David is forced to flee.

David was confident that God would answer him in this emergency. It is amazing that he could sleep under these circumstances, but David’s confidence was in God. A great way to end the day is to pray and think about how God is in control of the universe so we can sleep in peace.

This is an example of a Psalm where the writers bear their deepest feelings about what they want God to do.

The next reading is Daniel 1. I’ll take a day to introduce Daniel then proceed chapter by chapter.

Getting into Heaven

A common evangelism question to ask is, “If you died tonight and God asked you why He should let you into his Heaven, how would you reply?” This is designed to get the person to think of the very real fact that we will all die, and each day we are one step closer. (Now I remember why I read this blog . . . this guy is so upbeat!)

Of course, the Bible doesn’t teach that there is a Q&A session where you try to negotiate your way in. God is the supremely perfect judge and we will all realize that his decisions made based on his infinite grace, mercy, love and judgment are 100.00000% perfect.

But just for the sake of discussion, I can think of four bad answers and one good one. I have heard variations of each of these multiple times.

Four bad answers

  1. I’m not sure.” You get honesty points for this one, but that won’t get you in. We are all sinners. God made his existence clear to us (Romans 1) and He wrote his law on our consciences (Romans 2). Ignorance of the law is untrue and wouldn’t be an excuse even if it were true.
  2. Uh oh.” Some people realize they are sinners, but they haven’t hear the good news of God’s mercy and grace. I love telling them about that! But of course, at that point it is too late for them.
  3. Because I was a “good person.” The self-righteous answer is a common one. But we are dealing with a perfect God who absolutely hates sin. He just can’t be around it. So good luck if you are planning on going with this answer. Some people think that if they are 51% good that they’ll get in. But there is no Biblical basis for that. And think about all the flaws with that reasoning. How do you know what your score is? Are you keeping track on a spreadsheet? What if you missed some sins? Does each sin count equally, or is it a weighted average? If you had a high score, could you sin on purpose for a while? If you have a low score, should you sin like crazy just because you won’t be able to get in anyway?
  4. Because everybody gets in.” I’m not sure where people came up with that one. Sadly, some “Christians” claim this is true, but a plain reading of the Bible shows that it is hopelessly wrong.

One good answer: Look to Jesus and say, “I’m with Him.” If you confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Keep in mind that if you really believe He is Lord then your life should show it.

Are apologetics important?

First, what are apologetics? Apologetics are a justification or a defense of something. In this case, it is a reasoned defense of the accuracy of the Christian faith.

Apologetics are dismissed by some who say you can’t argue someone to Christ. Yet there are many good reasons to be able to give some basic reasoning for Christianity and to know where to get answers to tough questions

Apologetics were used in the Bible to share the Gospel – check out the Book of Acts and the growth of the early church. They often point to the fact of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. .

It does change the minds of some people. Anthony Flew is a famous atheist who now believes there is a God. He was convinced of the merits of the Intelligent Design – namely, that the complexity of the universe points to the fact that there must be a God who created it. There are many, many examples of people who challenged the evidence of Christianity then became believers.

If non-Christians continually encounter Christians who aren’t thinking carefully about their faith and don’t even know where to go find answers it doesn’t make a compelling case for someone to put their faith in Christ.

But when people see Christians who can share truth and logic in a winsome way, they realize that the stereotype that all Christians don’t have critical thinking skills is false. If nothing else, we can give people something to think about. The God of the Bible is real, and those who deny it live on borrowed time. There will always be a natural tension in their world because of this denial.

Understanding the fact and logic behind your faith strengthens you and gives you the confidence to go out into the world! You don’t have to have every last answer, but 1 Peter 3:15 commands us to be ready to share the reason for the hope that we have, and to do so with gentleness and respect.

Christianity has been knocking down objections for 2,000 years, so you can be confident that answers are available to any question that arises.

Also see “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

Psalm 2

This reading is Psalm 2.

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King in Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

There are different categories of Psalms. This is considered a Messianic Psalm, meaning that it points to Jesus, the Messiah. It isn’t the “nice, friendly, safe” Jesus that is often proclaimed in churches, but the real Jesus who is King of the universe and who rules with power and might while at the same time being full of love and grace. The phrase, “Kiss the Son” means to surrender and submit to him.

Doesn’t the part about the “kings of the earth” sum up the state of our world rather nicely? Countless people mock God at every turn. We make ourselves gods by inventing rationalizations for breaking God’s laws. But He is in control at every moment. This reminds me of Romans 9:20-21 – “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”

I thought this was an interesting phrase: “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.” I usually don’t associate fear / rejoicing / trembling in that way. But fear is the foundation of our relationship with God; this is a common Old Testament theme. One question we all must answer is whether we fear God more than we fear man.

The next reading is Psalm 3.

Planned Parenthood: Your tax dollars at work

There are so many reasons to dislike Planned Parenthood.

Despite their claims, Planned Parenthood wants to reduce abortions as much as McDonald’s wants to sell less hamburgers. One person commented that PP offers birth control and that reduces abortions. But some of the birth control they give out has been defective (see below) and their main educational focus is to tell kids to have sex 1) whenever they want, 2) with whomever they want and 3) with a condom (also see below). Guess which steps kids will be inclined to follow and which one they are likely to ignore?

They get large amounts of government funding even though they made a profit of $63,000,000 last year as the nation’s largest abortion provider.

They ignore statutory rape. Click here for the actual audio recordings. It is chilling to hear the “advice” they give to a 13 year old claiming to have been impregnated by her 22 year old boyfriend.

Consumer Reports rated two of Planned Parenthood’s condoms as poor, and they were the lowest rated overall. Note that these are often given away for free. I’m not sure why that didn’t get attention in the mainstream media (ha!). That fiasco could have happened for one of two reasons (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was #1):

  1. Gross incompetence by the family planning “experts.”
  2. The most diabolical business model I’ve ever heard of (give away free defective condoms but make up for it when they come back for abortions).

Then there is the matter of their youth website, Teenwire. They discourage parents from viewing it, of course. You can find lots of valuable advice [sarcasm intended], like the tidbit from a 14 year old girl who said that kids shouldn’t have sex until they are mature enough to know how to use a condom (assuming it isn’t a defective Planned Parenthood condom) and their official advice that, “Hooking up is only one way to get close to someone.” It follows the same philosophy they use in the classroom, which is to steer kids away from parental authority and to make decisions about sexuality on their own. They don’t offer any limits to children, other than telling them that the kids should decide when they are “ready.” They encourage them to experiement with sex and their sexual orientation. More here and here.

It is hard to believe, but PP Canada’s teen site is even worse! Most of the offenses are too perverse to list on this blog, but here is a sample of how they encourage kids to ignore their parents and their religion:

“Maybe your religion or parents are influencing your decision. Take control. Remind yourself that what you do is always a choice. You choose whether to follow the values if your religion. You choose whether to be honest with your parents. They may not be easy choices, and others may not agree with the choices you make. But they are still YOUR choices and they should be based on what’s important to you.”

It is not surprising that Planned Parenthood dislikes Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs). They repeatedly lie about PRCs, and they are at it again. They think it is manipulative when PRCs give free ultrasounds to women, even though that is just showing the women what is really inside them. I thought the pro-abortion movement was about recognizing that women could handle all the facts and make decisions for themselves.

They trot out “clergy” who are pro-abortion and even claim that Jesus would be pro-choice, as if the author of life (Acts 3:15) would recommend crushing and dismembering the unborn. Worse yet, their clergy board “oppose laws requiring either notification of or consent by the parents of teens who seek to end a pregnancy.” (See related post here.)

Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, had a “unique” philosophy that PP tries to downplay.

Here’s a video where Planned Parenthood fantasized about blowing up “anti-choicers,” among other things. Ask yourself why you never heard about this in the mainstream media. Imagine if the roles were reversed and a pro-life group had made a video attacking pro-abortionists. The media would still be playing it up.

Planned Parenthood lists organizations such as Focus on the Family as Terrorists and Extremists Organizations. I realize they have ideological enemies, but that seems a little over the top.

You can read here about Planned Parenthood’s use of taxpayer funds to open a for-profit clinic for the well-to-do.

The Dawn Patrol reports that Planned Parenthood is now branching out to distributing drug paraphernalia.

Fortunately there are many organizations like STOPP and Houston Coalition for Life that are working to stop Planned Parenthood.

More pro-life information here.

Psalm 1

This reading is Psalm 1. It is so short that I’ll also post it here in full:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

There is great wisdom here. Think of all the evils and problems we cause ourselves when we give into peer pressure and the alleged wisdom of the world (“the counsel of the wicked”).

Note how in v. 1 that the expressions go from “walk” to “stand” to “sit.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary said it showed the transition from the casual influence of ungodly people to collusion with them, then finally to scorning the righteous along with them.

The righteous are those who delight in his Word and meditate on it.

The notion of prospering doesn’t mean it happens immediately, just as everything that grows has its season. It reminds me of Galatians 6:7-8:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

The next reading is Psalm 2.

The Gospel of John movie

gospelofjohn.jpgThis word-for-word adaptation of the Gospel of John is the best Bible-based movie I have seen. It came out a few months before the Passion of the Christ and got great reviews, but it didn’t have the same publicity. I thought they should have re-marketed it after the Passion came out and said, “You saw the Passion, now see the rest of the story.” My only quibble is that they used the Good News paraphrase of the Bible instead of a more common translation.

There are always challenges when reading the Bible out loud, because we don’t know where the original emphases were. Sadly, that leads many of us to read in a monotone.

It must be even harder to act it out. And how do you play Jesus? Yet this cast and crew did a great job with the acting, casting and sets.

I have used the movie to teach a Bible study at work and for our adult Sunday School class. There is something different about seeing it acted out. Many long-time Bible readers noted that they picked up new things when watching it. I encouraged everyone to read it as well, and many read along as they watched the movie. We would watch two chapters per week (roughly 25 minutes), then I would ask some basic Bible study questions such as, “What portion stands out to you? Is there an example to follow? Is there a promise to claim?” The discussion flowed from there.