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