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