Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chapter 12 "Darkness Before Deliverance" - based on Daniel 11:36 - 12:13

"As for you, go your way until the end.  You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you."  Daniel 12:13

Congratulations!!!  We've made it to the end of the book of Daniel.  How are you feeling?  I have mixed feelings about the book and about this final chapter.  I'm not sure I got all I could out of this study and hope to be able to study it again.  Perhaps a different study guide, definitely during a different time in my life, would help me better consider and absorb all the amazing parts of Daniel's life.

For now, let's look at these final passages, Daniel 11:36 - 12:13.  Once again, a terrifying depiction of the future, with Daniel confused and asking questions.  Personally, I love that Daniel is always at a loss when he has these visions or receives these messages.  Before reading the book for myself, I always had the impression that Daniel was very comfortable with his visions; I thought he fully understood the visions and messages he received.  But, over and over again, Daniel admits to not understanding, he asks questions, he wants clarification, just like the rest of us.   While God gave him the ability to interpret the dreams of the current king, Daniel's personal visions were perplexing to him.  He had many virtuous qualities, was far more faithful than I can ever hope to be, yet at the same time, his story shows that he was authentic, a real person, holding onto his faith, humbling himself before the Lord, and doing what God asked of him.

I would love to know your feelings as we come to the end of Daniel.  Hop over to the blog (if you're reading this in your e-mail) and leave your comments, click here.

I have a feeling this is one of those things that I don't quite "get" the first time through, but it will stick with me, roll around in my head, come back to me at odd times, and come around again for me to study and ponder.

Thank you for taking this strange & mystical journey through the book of Daniel with me.

This will be the last post for a while, as I move into a busy spring and summer.  I hope you have a wonderful few months!  And I look forward to resuming our conversation in September.  In the meantime, feel free to comment on a post at any time; I'll see it and will do my best to respond.

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chapter 11 - A World Out of Control Daniel 10:1 - 11:35

"'Don't be afraid,' he said, 'for you are deeply loved by God.  Be at peace; take heart and be strong!'" Daniel 10:19

AMEN!  This is my favorite verse from our reading this week.  Could there be any better message for us to hear?  Especially when our current world so closely resembles Daniel's, a world out of control; a world of turmoil, conflict, warring nations, invading armies, and clashing religions.  That can make any mortal fearful, apparently even Daniel.  If it can send Daniel into mourning, what hope do we have?

Chapter 10 through chapter 11, verse 35 is quite the history lesson, at least for us.  For Daniel it was a glimpse into the future, and not a very nice future at that.  It's all about invading kings & conquering armies.    But in the midst of this powerful vision of a scary future, the messenger tells Daniel, "Don't be afraid for you are deeply loved by God.  Be at peace; take heart and be strong." 

As we read the prediction of the future (Daniel's time) and we know that those things happened, what does that mean for us?  Can we really process it?  Can we understand it fully?  Even if we can't, how can we live our lives to reflect that we believe that God has a plan for the nations of the Earth?

Even though the vision is a little difficult to follow, with all the 'king of the North and king of the South' back and forth, I actually liked it.  But, I like history and when it lines up with Bible stories that's twice as nice.  I pictured this as a story told with shadow puppets.  Perhaps it was the wording in my NLT translation or the mystery of telling the future, but I pictured the story in silhouette as I read.  How did it appear to you?

For all the angel sightings, future telling, and kingdom invading that happens in this chapter, I still go back to Daniel 10:19.  That is my take away, from this chapter and perhaps from this book.  So many amazing & wondrous things occur in this book about a servant & prophet of God, but I think this is what I'll hold on to: "Don't be afraid for you are deeply loved by God.  Be at peace; take heart and be strong!" 

Pop over to the blog (www.reonlineblog.blogspot.com) and share your "take away" from this chapter.

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Chapter 10 "Kneeling on God's Promises" - Daniel 9

"I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: "O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and keep your commands." Daniel 9:4

Welcome back to the study of Daniel!  We are reminded at Easter (this past weekend) that we live in a post resurrection world; a different view than Daniel had.  Yet, Daniel's faithfulness, devotion, and prayer life reflects his acceptance of God's grace and mercy, the very same message Jesus brought to the world.  Studying Daniel (the book) and Daniel (the person & prophet) has added a layer of insight to my faith; I hope you have been enriched as well.

Chapter 9 takes us in a slightly different direction.  We get a glimpse into Daniel's prayer life.  Like chapters 7 & 8, it is a flashback, this time to the first year of Darius the Mede's reign.  Darius was the ruler that conquered Belshazzar on the same night that Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall; the 3rd ruler since Daniel's captivity.

As we read through the first part of chapter 9, pay close attention to what Daniel says and how he says it.  Why does he pray this way?  It reminds me of when I was little and the pastor would say these long-winded, over my head, on-and-on prayers.  I often thought to myself, "just get to the point already".  In my defense, I was little and probably didn't understand most of what the pastor was saying, but generally my prayers still follow the formula of short & to the point.   It is only in recent years that I've modified my prayers to include praise, adoration, confession, along with asking for what is needed or wanted.  And that's not 100% of the time; it's usually for especially difficult circumstances.  Am I alone in this?  How do your prayers usually go?  I'd love to know.

Compare Daniel's prayer to your prayers.  Have you ever prayed like Daniel did?  Why? Do you recall how you felt before, during, and after the prayer?  This isn't part of the study guide, but a little reflection on prayer that might be helpful in connecting Daniel, chapter 9 to our own lives.

The second half of this chapter takes us back to the realm of the supernatural.  As Daniel is praying, Gabriel shows up again.  This time, instead of interpreting a crazy dream, he gives insight and understanding as to what happened as a result of Daniel's prayer and what will happen.  It's like Gabriel is shedding light on God's decision process: 'as soon as I heard you, I put some things in motion. Just wanted to let you know that something is in the works and here's how it's going to work out.'  At least, that's how I read it.  I'm less concerned about the timing; looking more towards the fact that God has it all in hand and it was Daniel's prayer that set the ball rolling.  Wouldn't it be great if we received insight into how our prayers will be answered?

Another thing to note is that Daniel is praying for his nation.  He's not praying for specific people or even for himself, but for his nation.  I will admit, I don't usually think of my prayers as having the ability to have an impact on my nation.  It's so big & complicated and I'm so small, not even a cog in the political wheel.  I have, on occasion, prayed for the nation and the world, but it's not on my regular prayer list.  Daniel has inspired me to pray regularly for our nation, it's people and it's leaders.  The timing of this study & this chapter are like God's timing: perfect.  This chapter offers hope for the future as we pray for God's mercy and grace for our nation.  This is especially important in our current political atmosphere and in every election, as each one has an effect on the next.

At the end of this week's lesson, the Now and Later asks us to write a prayer of "national confession".  If you are willing to share this, I would love to read it.  Perhaps we could write one together as a group.  Even if you don't have a complete prayer, share your thoughts in the comments and/or bring them to our gathering on Friday.  We will compose a prayer together for our nation based on Daniel's prayer.

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Holy Week

"You will always have the poor among you, but I will not be here with you much longer.  She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial.  I assure you, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman's deed will be talked about in her memory."  Matthew 26:11-13

We are putting aside our reading of Daniel this week, to celebrate Holy Week.  While non-Christians may see Christmas as the most important Christian holiday, the birth of Jesus means little without His death and resurrection at Easter.

I often hear myself say, "what a difference a year makes" usually in reference to my children's growth (physically, mentally, emotionally).  Sometimes the time frame is shorter or the circumstances are more abrupt.  The latest one is, "what a difference a coach can make".  Leadership is so influential in a group and can make a huge difference in both the group and the individuals within that group.
In Jesus' case, I'd say "what a difference a week makes".  He went from being welcomed with a parade of people showering him with adoration to a mob of people screaming for his blood.  Has there ever been a 180 degree political turn around inside of a week in all of history?  While the plot for his destruction had been brewing for some time, it was confined to the leading priests & religious leaders (Matthew 26:14-15; 59-68).  The town who praised him with waving palm branches on Sunday was demanding his death by Friday.  What a difference a week makes.  What a difference leadership can make.

But that's not what I want to focus on in this post.  What I find interesting, in light of being in the midst of reading Daniel, is that Jesus knew all of this was coming.  He knew his future.  I feel like we could do a few weeks on each of the times Jesus tells the disciples of his impending death.  We could talk about how he continued down the road that he knew would end on the cross.  We would definitely talk about his prayer in the garden on the night he was betrayed, "He went on  a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, 'My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.' " Matthew 26:39

As we have discussed the dreams both Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar had of the future, there was an overwhelming majority of our group who said they would not want to know the future.  Whether it was their own personal future or the future of our nation and the world.  And when we do want to know the future, it is more that we want to see that everything has a good ending, even if it means traveling through difficult times.  We seem to agree that we can endure suffering if we know there is a positive outcome for us or at least for our children.  

I often wonder what the disciples thought about Jesus' predictions of his death.  He so often spoke in parables and metaphors, did they truly understand what He was saying?  Were they too close to the action to see the bigger picture?  Did they feel secure in His popularity, ignoring the constant threat of the Jewish leaders?  Did they never guess that one of their own would betray Jesus, even after He told them, "The truth is, one of you will betray me.  One of you who is eating with me now will betray me."  Matthew 26: 21 & 23.

There is something I struggle with when it comes to "knowing the future".  If I knew the future, would I try to change it?  Is the future that is predicted set in stone or can it be changed?  We had this discussion in Daniel 4, when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about his exile.  Once Daniel explains the dream, he then urges the King the changes his ways, in the hopes that this fate could be avoided.  If I knew there was something unsettling or traumatic in my future, would I try to avoid it?  Could it be avoided?

With Holy Week upon us, we are reminded what our future holds as children of God, followers of Jesus the Messiah: "Yes, it is as you say.  And in the future you will see me, the Son of Man, sitting at God's right hand in the place of power and coming back on the clouds of heaven." Matthew 26:64
"I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  Matthew 28:18

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Chapter 9 "Superpowers in Conflict" based on Daniel 8

"Then I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for several days.  Afterward I got up and performed my duties for the king, but I was greatly troubled by the vision and could not understand it."  Daniel 8:27

Thanks for coming back!  Daniel chapter 8 is another vision that predicts the future and the end times.  If a groan escaped your lips at the thought of reading another disturbing vision, you are in good company.  Daniel himself was so disturbed by it, he was sick in bed for several days!  Who wouldn't be after experiencing that?!

Having trouble understanding the vision and what it means for us?  Well, Daniel is right there with us!  He had the vision, had it explained to him by Gabriel himself and yet, at the end of the chapter Daniel admits the he "could not understand it."

Then what the heck are we suppose to do with it?!

Our study guide attempts to guide us through that very question.  It asks about representations, characteristics and symbolism.  Go with it!  Do your best to not get caught up in details that don't seem to make sense.  This is a vision - it's mostly symbolism with a few concrete details thrown in.  The saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" holds true and symbolism is a perfect example!  If God would have told Daniel this dream in words, I imagine it would have been a very long lecture-type conversation.  And probably wouldn't have had as much of an impact.  Think about the difference between sitting through a lecture or reading a text book on a subject and watching a movie, TV series, or reading a novel based on that same subject.  Which has a more dramatic impact?  Which stays with you longer? Which can convey more meaning in a shorter period of time?

Let this play like a movie as you read it.  Hover above the action, take a walk among the characters. See what you can see, hear what you can hear and then step back and take a look at the big picture.  Make it flat like a large time-line painting across the wall.  In one sense we have it easier than Daniel.  We know that the events & rulers predicted in his vision actually happened.  Scholars have matched the ram & it's horns and the goat & it's horns to empires and rulers of our past.  But for Daniel, this was a look 200 years into the future!  200 years!!!  That would be like someone in 1816 having visions of humans walking on the moon (in their moon suits), people seeming to talk to themselves out in public (but they are really talking on their earpiece), crowds of people gathered together but not talking with each other only looking down at some small device in their hands, horseless vehicles driving at incredible speeds across the land & giant metal birds in the air.  That person in 1816 would do the best they could to describe what they have seen, but it would make very little sense to them.  Some of their vision wouldn't be far down the historical road (cars & planes) but other parts were far into the future.   It is impossible for us to completely comprehend the future - even if we are shown it.

Instead, try to walk in Daniel's shoes with the knowledge that his vision of the future will come to be  our history.  In that sense, we are able to see parts of Daniel's vision from Gabriel's point of view.  Of course, the end times are still to come.  But, knowing what you know about this vision, how does it help you cope with the vision of 'the end'?

Work through the study guide as best as you can.  Many of the questions address the concrete facts and symbolism and may help you process it all.  Personally, I find the most interesting questions are the Group Discussion, the Personal Reflection and the Now or Later.

I look forward to hearing how you worked through this chapter and what your 'take away' is.  Questions 8 & 9 are particularly interesting, if not difficult, but get right to the heart of how this crazy vision impacts our daily lives.

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Monday, March 7, 2016

Chapter 8 "A Prophetic Panorama"; Daniel Chapter 7

"In my vision that night, I, Daniel, saw a great storm churning the surface of a great sea, with strong winds blowing from every direction.  The four huge beasts came up out of the water, each different from the others."  Daniel 7:2-3

Wait? What? Go back!  Daniel had visions, too?

Yes, apparently Daniel had several visions during his life and they are contained in chapters 7-12. Many scholars explain the book of Daniel as being in two parts: the first being a chronological order of his life and the second being a collection of his visions over his lifetime.  Chapter 7 is the start of the 'second half of Daniel'.

In chapters 2 & 4 King Nebuchadnezzar had dreams that terrified him.  Daniel conveyed God's message of what these dreams meant, to the King.  But as we'll learn in the next few chapters, Daniel was also having disturbing dreams and visions.  In chapter 7 Daniel was troubled by what he had seen, but was unable to interpret his own vision.  This fact does not come up in our discussion questions, but I do find it interesting and wonder what it means, if anything.

As you read the description of Daniel's dream/vision try to picture it in your mind.  With today's technology, we could certainly recreate these scenes & beasts with movie-magic.  Even when things don't make logical sense, we can picture them in our imaginations.  Keep these images in your mind's eye while you read through the questions in the study guide.  Try not to get bogged down in details or what's not there.  Dreams can be elusive and confusing and explaining them can often seem disjointed or incomplete.  Keep the big picture in mind when answering the questions.  Especially the questions that make the leap from what we're reading to what it means to us personally or socially.

This chapter can be difficult to get through, since it seems so 'other worldly'.  But, hang in there.  It is a part of our faith, that mystical, sometimes scary part that doesn't quite fit into our world.  We don't know how to make sense of it, so we often skip over it.  Instead, let it wash over you. Like sitting in surf at the beach on a hot day.  Let the waves of this strange vision wash over you - you need not understand it all; just take it in and let it refresh & excite you, even though it can be powerful and a little bit frightening.

I can't wait to discuss this chapter with you!  Go to the blog to leave your comment on this strange, yet interesting chapter!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Monday, February 29, 2016

Chapter 7 - Daniel 6

"Very early the next morning, the king hurried out to the lions' den.  When he got there, he called out in anguish, "Daniel, servant of the living God!  Was your God, whom you worship continually, able to rescue you from the lions?  Daniel answered, "Long live the king!  My God sent his angel to shut the lions' mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty."  Daniel 6:19-22

Finally, we get to the most famous story of Daniel and one of the most famous in the Bible: the story of Daniel being save from the lions' den.  The verses above are the whole chapter in a nutshell.  It conveys the emotions and alludes to the actions of the 2 main characters in this chapter.  Take a moment to read it again.  What can you conclude about the entire chapter, Daniel, and King Darius just from these 4 verses?

In chapter 6 of the book of Daniel, Darius the Mede is now ruler and Daniel has risen to a very high place in his cabinet.  In fact, "Because of his (Daniel's) great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire." Daniel 6:3b.  That got a few people worried and they conspired to do    whatever they could to get rid of Daniel.  If you know the Veggie Tales version, there's a funny song about this, but in real life it was no laughing matter.  The story is well known, though the ending may surprise you!  Ancient punishments were so extreme!

This chapter (and the whole book) certainly has all the makings of an action packed movie (or at least a TV mini-series event).  For me, that makes it difficult to see what it is I'm suppose to learn from it.  It's too far removed from my real life; the circumstances are beyond anything I could even imagine.  If you're thinking the same thing, don't fret.  Turn to the study guide and take time to answer the group discussion, personal reflection, and the Now or Later.  I found these to be of great help in moving from the miraculous to the practical.  The 10 questions are helpful in both better understanding the chapter and moving from ancient to modern times.

I hope you'll share something you discovered in Daniel 6.  It could be a reaction to the chapter, a personal "ah-ha" moment, or a burning question.  If you're reading this in your e-mail, click here to go to the blog to post your comment.

For a few minutes entertainment, pop over to YouTube and listen to the Veggie Tales version of the conspiring administrators & princes, lyrics included.  Click here and feel free to sing along!

May we all be inspired to faithfulness in our daily lives though the story of Daniel's long life of serving the One True God!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Monday, February 22, 2016

Chapter 6 - Daniel 5

"This man Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, has a sharp mind and is filled with divine knowledge and understanding.  He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means."  Daniel 5:12

"The writing on the wall" is such a common phrase you may have forgotten where it came from.  As we read our next chapter, we find out exactly where it came from, who put it there and what it means.

It surprised me to find out that several years passed between chapter 4 and chapter 5.  And now it makes sense why Daniel is eventually thrown into the lion's den!  But, I'm getting ahead of where we are.  It's just that now a question that I had from Daniel chapter 4 has been answered.  Question 8 from last week's lesson asked if we thought Kind Nebuchadnezzar was forced into humility by God or if there was a genuine change of attitude.  My question was whether or not the change was permanent or temporary.  Having never read the book of Daniel before, I didn't know that Daniel outlived Nebuchadnezzar!  So, as it turns out, whether the King's conversion was forced or voluntary, it was definitely permanent.  That makes me smile!

Now, if you don't have a study Bible or some kind of timeline, please allow me to fill you in on a little historical context.  Sixty-six years have elapsed between chapter 1 and chapter 5.  Nebuchadnezzar reigned for 43 years.  His son, Evil-merodach, ruled from 562-560 B.C. (2 years); his brother-in-law Neriglissar reigned from 560-556 B.C. (4 years).  After a 2-month reign by Labashi-marduk in 556 B.C. the Babylonian Empire continued under the command of Nabonidus.  Belshazzar was his son.  Nabonidus' reign began in 556 B.C. and he and his son co-reigned starting in 553 B.C. until 539 B.C. (the year chapter 5 takes place).

In Daniel 5:7 Belshazzar says, "Whoever can read this writing and tell me what it means will be dressed in purple robes of royal honor and will wear a gold chain around his neck. He will become the third highest ruler in the kingdom!"  This was huge!  This was like being named 1st Vice President of a Global Fortune 500 Company.  There was great honor & wealth & power up for grabs. But what does our hero do?  Does he rush to the banquet to declare that he knows what it means?  Does he revel in the spotlight and power he holds?  Does he accept the reward?

I don't know about you, but personally I can't recall the last time a ruler asked me to come interpret a miraculous sign in exchange for great riches & power; so the question for us is: what does this mean in 21st century suburban America?  What is it we're suppose to take away from this story?  How can Daniel serve as an example for a me, the second in command of a very small kingdom (my home & family) or you and your current life situation?  Does this story have any bearing on our modern life?

Of course, the answer is that Daniel does serve as an example for us.  His steadfast faith during difficult trials, over many years, and regardless of his circumstances is one lesson we can take away from this chapter.  As you read and study the questions in chapter 6 of the study guide, dive into the text and your own life to find connections.   Spend time with the group discussion and personal reflection questions on page 25 of the guide.  These are great starters for a journal entry!

I hope you will share your thoughts and questions in the Comments!  I look forward to hearing from you!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chapter 5 - Daniel 4

"Peace and prosperity to you!  I want you all to know about the miraculous sign and wonders the Most High God has performed for me.  How great are his sign, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations."  Daniel 4:1b - 2

If you haven't read Daniel 4 yet, you might be surprised to know that the above verse was sent out to the whole world by none other than King Nebuchadnezzar!  Take a minute if you need it - it is quite a piece of shocking news.

That irrational, weak, demanding, frantic, fearful, egotistical king who kidnapped & enslaved the best & brightest of Judah's royal family doesn't just say it in court, he sends out a message to the whole world!  The royal who ordered the death of his advisers, yet declared to Daniel, "Truly, your God is the God of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries..." Daniel 2:47.  He throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow to his statue.  And when they didn't die, the King declares, "Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!  He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him....  There is no other god who can rescue like this!" Daniel 3: 28-29.  Yep!  That's the man who makes the statement above.  In today's world he would  have put it out on Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook, and every social media outlet and news station possible.

What is the difference between the king's declarations in chapters 2 & 3 and his message in chapter 4?  What or who could have brought about such change?  Daniel 4 has all those answers and more!  Once again, the future is revealed to the king through a dream and Daniel is able to explain it.  It's so exciting and fascinating!   Some scholars believe an aspect of God is revealed in this chapter (question 4).  Do you agree or disagree?  How does it make you feel?

Warning: there are some big theological questions in this week's study guide.  Do the "easy" ones first and give some thought to the tough ones.  Write down your ideas and come back to them throughout the week.  I can't wait to hear what you think about them!  If you can make it Friday morning, I'll see you there.  If you're following along via the blog, voice your opinions in the Comment section.

Have a wonderful week!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Chapter 4 - Daniel 3

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up." Daniel 3:17-18

I don't even know where to start!  Honestly, I have typed & deleted the beginning of this post several times now.  I guess I just can't wrap my head around the actions taken and the words spoken by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They remain faithful to God in the face of being burned alive!  Even when they are surrounded by people willing to bend to Kind Nebuchadnezzar's will; even when the King appeared merciful by giving them a second chance, they declared their unwavering service to God.  The kicker is the phrase, "But even if he doesn't..."  It's at this point I have to offer thanksgiving to God for never having to face that situation personally.

While we are not faced with life or death religious choices in 21st Century America, we are bombarded with choices of allegiance regularly.  Our daily decisions of how we spend our time, our energy, and our money are a reflection of who or what we serve.  What we teach our children, what we allow them to learn (yes, there is a distinction), how we encourage them and in what direction we lead.  How we live in our communities, how we conduct our business, how we handle our relationships, and who & what we value all reflect our character.  Some of these choices are obvious and easy, others are insidious, sneaking into our lives without us even realizing the time suck or money drain away from our faith they have created.  While still others are big questions that we tackle as they come up in our lives: I have teens so for me over the past decade it's things like drinking, drugs, sex, and responsible living.  These are areas where it seems "ok" by secular standards, after all, everyone is doing it and only a few have bad things happen to them.  Staying true to God's word can be difficult when surrounded by friends, pressuring you to conform.  And while they may not face being thrown into a furnace, they do face criticism and even being ostracised.

Adults aren't immune to secular pressure either!  The bigger house, the better job, the cool toys, the best vacations, the fashionable clothing (and the body to go with it), the immaculate home, the perfect pension, sending the kids to all the right camps, tutors, lessons, & private coaching.  How hard is it to decline the boss' invitation to "go out" after a meeting knowing that those who do get the raise or the promotion, even though you do all the work but refuse to participate in the extra-curricular activities?  Is it easy to stay quiet when a juicy bit of gossip comes your way?  Do you 'volunteer' with strings attached - expecting favors or recognition?  Are you over committed to work or volunteering in hopes of impressing people?

I think, in a way, all of these situations are like the king's gold statue.  They are beautiful, formidable, and everyone else seems to be okay with "It" (whatever it happens to be at the moment).  But when we take a good hard look at our relationship to them, if they are in conflict with or become a barrier to what God wants for us, then we have to make a choice.  We have to be willing to stand with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refusing the shiny, sparkling traps of what the world says is okay.  We have to have faith that when we choose to serve God, people around us will see how He rescues us and declare, "Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!    29. He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him.  There is no other god who can rescue like this!" (Daniel 3:28, 29b)  Replace the 3 names with your name and read it again :) 

You are encouraged to spend time with this chapter and the questions in the study guide.  I'd love to know how you have resisted the pressure to follow the crowd at the risk of being "different" or losing out on something.  If you are reading this in your e-mail, click here to go to the blog and leave your comment.

May you draw strength from the story of the men who were rescued from the fiery furnace!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Chapter 3 Daniel 2:31-49

"During the reign of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed; no one will ever conquer it.  It will shatter all these kingdoms into nothingness, but it will stand forever."  Daniel 2:44

"What's for dinner?  What are we doing Sunday?  Are we going to Disney this summer?"  These are just some of the questions my youngest daughter throws at me on any given day.  At breakfast she wants to know what's for dinner.  Yesterday on the way to dance class she wanted to know if we were going to Disney this summer.  Often when I do tell her the basic plans, she has follow up questions, like "well, how exactly is that going to go?  how are we going to get there? who's going? what will we wear?"  Honestly, sometimes it drives me nuts!  But, I also understand her desire to know what the future holds.

Take a moment to make a prediction about your own future, as directed in the "Group Discussion" on page 16 of our study guide.  (And I'm not talking about things you've already made plans for, like a vacation or a big celebration).  Write it down & tuck it away to look at next year at this time.  Have you ever done this before?  How did you do at predicting your future?  How do you think you will do now?  Knowing the future, for certain, is out of our control.  And that is scary!!  I think that's what's behind my daughter's questions and my planning.  I figure, if I can plan enough of my life, I will know what to expect and then the future won't seem so frightening.  But is that really true?  Obviously not!

Can you imagine if you knew the future?  In Daniel 2:31-49 God reveals to Daniel that the King's dream IS the future.  It's a bit of a puzzle, but once it is pieced together by God's words through Daniel, it is clear: God has shown King Nebuchadnezzar the future kingdoms and their fate.  Unfortunately for the king, I don't think it was very comforting.  Isn't that part of the point, though?  We are not in control of the future: the world's future or our own.  Knowing the future doesn't guarantee that it will be pleasant or easy going.  Perhaps knowing the future could be even more frightening than not knowing it!

As you work through the study guide questions, remain focused on this passage and your reaction to what's going on in them.  Since Daniel's 'future' is our 'past' it's easy to follow tangents and lose sight of the the impact of these verses.  Questions 10 & 11 bring this mystical occurrence back into the realm of reality.  The "Now or Later" section asks a very interesting question.  After you've read & answered all the questions, I'd love to know what you think in response to that final thought.

I look forward to reading your thoughts and reactions to Daniel 2:31-49 and Chapter 3.  Remember, if you are reading this in your e-mail, you need to follow this link to make a comment on the blog.

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Daniel 2

"Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he alone has all wisdom and power."  Daniel 2:20

Are you bracing for the winter storm that's all over the news?  I usually enjoy a good snow storm, but this week it doesn't hold the excitement it normally does. Not because of the severity, but because I had other plans for this weekend.  Big plans!  There's lots going on: SAT for my son, softball practices for the girls, a fundraising dinner on Friday night, 6 overnight guests on Saturday who will attend a hockey game that night and then we're all going into NYC for a birthday celebration for my youngest on Sunday!  Some of the preparations have been going on for months, I made reservations weeks ago and I've prepared for company all week!  And that's besides 'back-to-school' shopping for my oldest who returns to college on Monday.  Yep, it's been another busy week and now the carefully planned weekend could be a bust!

Are you nodding your head in the "been in your shoes" kind of way?  I don't think anyone hasn't had their best laid plans mucked up by unforeseen circumstances.  I'm sure you can relate.  As I read chapter 2 of Daniel, I couldn't help but think his best laid plans have gone terribly, horribly wrong!

In chapter 1, Daniel and his friends are confident, strong, and have earned great favor with King Nebuchadnezzar.  But then... the king has a dream and demands a most impossible thing from his wise men.  When they can't deliver his reaction is extreme!

What was your response when you read the king's demand of his wise men (Daniel 2:2-3)?  I tried to imagine mine if I had been in Daniel's shoes.  It went something like this: "Seriously!?  After all this, Lord, we're going to be swept up in a mass killing because this crazy king is making an impossible request?!"  But that's not what Daniel did!  He was, once again, diplomatic and filled with faith.  You can find Daniel's response in verses 14-18.  Daniel gives us a real-life, tangible example to follow when things in our lives seem impossible.  Here's what my study Bible says about this situation, "When you find yourself in a tight spot, share your needs with trusted friends who also believe in God's power.  Prayer is more effective than panic.  Panic confirms your hopelessness; prayer confirms your hope in God." (Life Application Study Bible, pg 2166 footnote).

I love that wording: Prayer is more effective than panic.  Panic = hopelessness; Prayer = hope in God.

From my personal experience I find that panic usually doesn't help the situation and can even make it worse.  Prayer has the opposite effect.  What's your experience with "panic vs. prayer"?  I'd love to know!

Through Daniel's hope in God he saves himself, his friends, and all the wise men of Babylon (verse 18)!  But he doesn't stop there.  After God revealed the King's dream & it's meaning, Daniel praised God!  Read verses 20-23, often called "Daniel's psalm", for a beautiful example of how we should thank God for all he does in our lives!  Furthermore, before Daniel revealed the dream & it's meaning to the king, he makes sure to give God all the credit for what occurred (verses27-28).

This chapter is filled with the mysterious and the practical.  I love the mysterious side of our faith: all the amazing, unexplainable things that God does.  I didn't even touch on that in this post, yet I think it's an important and awesome part of this story.  However, I crave the practical instruction to get through tough times; and just plain ordinary everyday difficulties, like whether or not my plans for the weekend will be ruined by the weather.  Daniel sets the example and Paul reminds us, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." (Philippians 4:6).  And as we see Daniel living this, Paul tells us, "For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need." (Philippines 4:13).

What has been revealed to you through chapter 2 of Daniel?  How will Daniel's actions influence your life?  I urge you to spend time with the study questions, the easy ones and the tough ones.  What best laid plans have gone astray, what personal crisis have you faced and how did you handle it?  Panic or prayer?  If you are usually a 'panic' kind of person (ME!) I hope Daniel, chapter 2 helps you move towards being a 'prayer' response kind of person.

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Monday, January 18, 2016

Daniel 1 reflection

"The Lord gave him (Nebuchadnezzar) victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects form the Temple of God. 
Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel.
God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams."  Daniel 1: 2, 9, 17

The first day back after a long break is filled with talk and catching up with each other.  I see this as a wonderful and vital part of Bible study.  We study the Bible to grow closer to God and an important part of that is living in a community of believers; sharing our lives, offering support, and celebrating.  
I think our group does that pretty well.  What a wonderful feeling it was for me to be back meeting with all of you.

I tried to give a brief summary of our thoughts on Daniel, chapter 1 in the Comment section of the previous post - and I hope to do that going forward.  However, it wouldn't post.  I don't know if it's the blog or my computer.  I hope you have not had the same difficulty, but if you have please let me know.  Since I couldn't write in the comment section, I decided to post it here.

Our discussion of Daniel (chapter 1) revealed Daniel's character.  He was ripped from his home as a captive and indoctrinated (I called it brain washing) into the enemy society.  He and his friends were chosen because they already displayed traits that set them above the average boy, but still at an age when their minds were impressionable (early teens).  Do you remember your early teen years?  What were you basing your decisions on? Daniel was given faith, strength, self confidence, and determination by God to not only survive this ordeal, but thrive and do so while remaining faithful to God.  Overall, I think we were all impressed by Daniels' ability to listen and make Godly decisions.  He was diplomatic, rather than defensive, in his negotiations to keep his diet of vegetables and water rather than accept the King's rich food and wine.  

There is no denying God's hand in everything that happened in Chapter 1, as demonstrated in the verses quoted at the beginning of the post.  And even if Daniel was a little better than the average 12-14 year old of his time, he became (and will continue to be) extraordinary in the hands and service of God.

Our study question asks "what aspect of Daniel's character or conduct in this chapter impresses you the most?"  And concludes with: "How can you cultivate that same quality in your own life?"  As a parent, I am equally impressed with Daniel's upbringing leading up to his captivity and ask "how can we, as parents and adults, cultivate or instill this kind of faith in our youth?"  

If you are able, please leave a comment as to your impressions on chapter 1 of Daniel.

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Daniel - Chapter 1

"God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for learning the literature and science of the time.  And God gave Daniel special ability in understanding the meanings of visions and dreams."  Daniel 1:17

Welcome to the study of Daniel!  This is a well-known book, yet I have never studied it.  That's just one reason I am excited to get started and so happy you are here!  I can't wait to read, explore, discuss, and discover the intriguing story of Daniel, a prophet of and a spokesperson for God.

Grab your favorite Bible and a copy of Daniel: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Douglas Connelly from InterVarsity Press and dive in to chapter 1!  A little historical framework will add some depth to your study and understanding, so start your reading on page 4 of the book.

This is your study, so proceed in whatever manner works for you.  Choose one day or work on it throughout the week, whatever time allows.  Some people like to read the entire book in the Bible before getting into the study.  Some like to do it chapter by chapter.  Read the Bible first, then the study guide?  Sure.  Read the study guide questions, then the Bible chapter, then answer the questions?  Why not.  Get up early Friday morning and cram it all in before Bible study meets?  Well, we've all done that once or twice - LOL!  Can't make it to the study in person?  That's okay, too!  Follow along here on the blog and start or join a conversation through the Comment section.  Working at your own pace and on your own time is the beauty of this media.

The first chapter of Daniel introduces us to Daniel, his 3 friends and the situation they find themselves in during their early adolescence.  I know the teen years can be difficult, but can you imagine being taken captive, moved far away from home, forced into training for a specific job, and had your values tested?   While we may not be able to relate to being taken from our family & homes, we do face challenges to our values more often than we may realize.  The study questions help us examine this.

The study guide questions are a mix of 'from the text' answers and more personal exploring.  Even if these make you a little uncomfortable, spend time with them.  Be honest and record your thoughts in the book or your journal.  The purpose of Bible study isn't just to read a good story (though there are some fantastic stories here) or to find out how corrupt the world is (we already know that!).  We're here because we fall short of the glory of God and need to be reminded how much he loves us; we need to discover, over and over again, His promise of unconditional love; and we need to hear that even in the darkest hours of our lives, we are not alone.   Chapter 1 of Daniel serves as a reminder of all of this and as an example of how we can remain steadfast in our faith despite the difficulties and influences surrounding us.

Daniel and his friends must have known that great challenges lie ahead as they walked the 500 miles from Jerusalem to Babylon.  The trek alone must have been grueling.  But then the indoctrination began; three years of trying to change who they were into who King Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to be.  What can we learn from Daniel to help us remain true to our beliefs as we face everyday challenges of living in a secular world?

Click here to go to the blog and comment on chapter 1 of Daniel: Spiritual Living in a Secular World.  I cannot wait to read what you have to say!

Your Partner in Ministry,

Post Script: While this is not the focus of our study, it is an opportunity to remember that there are still young people being ripped from their family & homes and forced into service in various, usually illegal, trades around the world & even in the United States.  Still others willingly leave their families, whether they are following their dreams or are searching for a better life, and find themselves in unhappy and challenging situations.  Please keep these young people in your prayers.  The taken, the runaways, the dream chasers, and the troubled.

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24