Loving God Loving Others

Re:Verse passage – Daniel 4:1-37 (day five) 

“Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him.”

We have seen (in previous chapters) Daniel’s devotion to God bear the fruit of courage, trust, discipline, and perseverance. In chapter 4 we see another evidence of a vibrant relationship with God- love. It is Daniel’s love for Nebuchadnezzar that caused the emotions of being perplexed and terrified. I don’t think he was terrified of the king. I think he was terrified for the king. It was love for the king that motivated Daniel to tell him the truth about his dream- hoping the king would repent and avoid consequences. It was Daniel’s love for God that fostered a genuine love and concern for the  king (the king even recognizes it).

We would do well to have that same kind of love and regard for those who don’t have a relationship with God through Christ, even if they mistreat us or others.  This goes for our leaders (no matter how good or bad we think they are). We should pray for them. We should care about their souls and their circumstances.

Loving God empowers us to love others.

Prepared

Re:Verse passage – Daniel 3:1-30 (day five)  

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 

This bold and courageous declaration is a culmination of years of faithfulness and discipline by the three young Hebrews. God had been equipping and preparing them for this moment.  God had used Daniel as an influence and example. God had given them other experiences that demonstrated His power and faithfulness. So, when the crucial moment comes, they continue to serve and honor God just like they have been doing all along. A regular rhythm of loyalty to God and a regular conviction of glorifying Him above all others.  Think about David and Goliath.  Same pattern… God had been preparing David for that moment as far back as in the fields where he protected sheep with his sling. David remained faithful and humble.  The three young Jews remained faithful and humble. As we serve and follow Christ with faithfulness and humility, part of God’s work in our lives is preparing and equipping us for what lies ahead. Do you trust Him to do that?

We

Re:Verse passage – Daniel 2:31-49 (day five) 

“This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king.”

Daniel is very intentional about giving God credit and glory for the explanation and interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. By title and by character, Daniel describes the Living God to the king. Yet, it’s the plural pronoun that caught my eye this week- WE.  Daniel declares that a vibrant relationship with God and  joining Him in His work and activity is a partnership. We. Us. Ours.  There is activity and accountability for both man and God.

Applying a farming metaphor from Jerry Bridges to the life of Daniel (descriptive of this partnership), “The farmer (Daniel) cannot do what God must do, and God will not do what the farmer (Daniel) should do.  Daniel demonstrates trust, dependence, faithfulness, and humility.  And he says, “WE will interpret the dream”.  As you pray, ask God “What can/What will WE do together?”

Evidence of God’s Presence

Re:Verse passage – Daniel 2:1-30 (day five)  

“so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.”

Daniel continues to demonstrate the presence of God in his actions and reactions. The way he speaks to Arioch is remarkable- tact, faith, wisdom, and courage. All are indications that God is near and helping Daniel.

However, the thing that jumped off the page to me was Daniel also prayed for the Babylonian wise men. Facing execution with his close friends, they also prayed for the lost and pagan wise men. His heart and concern for them at this intense moment is astounding.  Made me wonder, “Do our prayers include the names and welfare of others?”  “Even rivals and enemies?”  I believe that God’s wisdom and peace gave Daniel the clarity of thought and purpose to pray for those other men too. May our walk with the Lord help us do the same.

Background

Re:Verse passage – Daniel 1:1-21 (day five)

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah”

There is an interesting background to where we pick up Daniel’s story (chapter 1). Daniel is around 16 (3rd year in reign of king Jehoiakim) when he is taken captive. Scholars use this information to place the birth of Daniel around 622 BC. This is important because around this same time, king Josiah begins to repair and restore the temple. Perhaps the most significant result was the discovery of the Word of God that was lost and probably forgotten. Josiah then instructs and encourages the reading and teaching of God’s Word. So, Daniel grows up in a community and context of regular exposure to God’s Word.  Worship, Study, Ceremony.
Is it any coincidence that later on in life (age 16) he has courage and conviction to honor and serve God above any other authority.

Wonder where the amazing wisdom and insight comes from? (God’s Word)  Wonder where peace in the midst of persecution and dysfunction comes from? (God’s Word)

Who wants and needs the kind of character and steadfast faith we see Daniel display in chapter 1?  Not just kids, but teens and adults also need regular encounters with God’s Word individually and in community.

So, Will you gather with a community of believers this Sunday to encounter and learn God’s Word?  The result could be life giving!

Freedom

Re:Verse passage – Matthew 20:29-34 (day five)  

“and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.”

For many years (as a Youth Pastor) I had the privilege of watching High School Seniors graduate and enter into a new chapter of their lives- filled with opportunities for learning and growth as well as freedom (socially, spiritually, and academically). It is always telling how these recent high school graduates react and respond to their newly found freedom. Much in their lives was recalibrated. Freedom is a “funny thing”- freedom is life changing.

Make no mistake, the blind men were asking for freedom. Freedom from their physical condition.  Freedom from their social condition. All kinds of implications. New opportunities would come their way upon being healed. Yet, it’s very telling how they immediately used their freedom. They followed Jesus.  Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. How will you use the freedom Christ gives?  Any recalibration needed?

A Word for Me

Re:Verse passage – Matthew 17:24-27 (day five). “However, so that we do not offend them…Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”

I love how God communicates to different kinds of people. As you read through the scriptures there will be truths and wisdom that may jump off the pages to you- because of your experiences, or profession, or interests, or personality.  Remember how God communicated the birth of His son to the Magi (astrologers)? He placed a star in the East to grab their attention and guide them to Jesus. The text we read this week (paying taxes) is only found in Matthew (former tax collector). Matthew remembers this experience and teaching decades later when He writes His gospel. Not a coincidence. God can and will use the scriptures to teach and guide each of us (because He knows us) to learn more about Jesus and love Him better. Isn’t that good news?

Quality not Quantity

Re:Verse passage – Matthew 17:14-21 (day five) 

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
The disciples were clearly perplexed.  Jesus had previously given  them authority to cast out demons (Matthew 10).  In fact, according to Mark’s gospel, they had actually already done just that (Mark 6:13).  At least they are asking the right question, “Why?”
Jesus’ answer was telling.  It’s not the quantity (even a mustard seed amount is enough), but rather the quality of your faith that is the problem.  They had at least a mustard seed’s worth or they would have even tried to cast out the demon.

Much like us, the disciples believed that if they did the right things and said the right things, that would equate to faith and power. Jesus is teaching them (us) that genuine faith is not a byproduct of a ritual or mechanical actions and words. Going to church, reading the scriptures, reciting prayers, teaching, preaching are not enough on their own. Faith is deeper. It is the byproduct of a continuing, dynamic relationship with Him. (Honest, constant, humble, engaging, and trusting)

Finding Grace

Re:Verse passage – Matthew 15:21-28 (day five)  

But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

What a humble and amazing response from this woman!  No arguing or rationalizing.  No convincing Him of her worthiness. Just honest confession. She knew who she was. She knew who Jesus was. And she knew only Jesus could meet her needs. That’s enough to find help and healing. That’s enough to experience the grace of God. That’s enough for Jesus to demonstrate His power, be glorified, and meet her needs. She found help. She found life.  It could have only come through the grace of Jesus. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”

Rhythms


Re:Verse passage – Matthew 14:22-33 (day five)  After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

Jesus must have been exhausted. News of John’s death, quickly followed by crowds of people pressing around Him- nonstop healing and interaction. Then, the miracle of the fish and loaves. Jesus meets their needs yet again. Finally, time to process and work through grief. Finally time to unwind from the intensity of the day. Jesus has to be physically and emotionally spent.  So He retreats by Himself. Not to just relax and unwind, but to engage and interact with His Father (pray). If we pay attention to the rhythms of Jesus’ life, we can learn what He believed- His priorities- His “non- negotiables”.  He believed that God’s Word was true.  He believed that gathered worship was important. He believed that prayer was invaluable for direction, encouragement, peace, and wisdom.

What do the rhythms of our lives reveal about our faith, priorities, and “non- negotiables”?