Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Earnest Prayer of a Holy Man

Daniel was a Vice President of the biggest empire on earth.
But he was also an earnest man of God.
Here we see him meditating on the Scriptures he had.
And praying and repenting for the sins of his people.

Daniel 9
God's Covenant Commitment
1 -4 "Darius, son of Ahasuerus, born a Mede, became king over the land of Babylon. In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, was meditating on the Scriptures that gave, according to the Word of God to the prophet Jeremiah, the number of years that Jerusalem had to lie in ruins, namely, seventy. I turned to the Master God, asking for an answer—praying earnestly, fasting from meals, wearing rough penitential burlap, and kneeling in the ashes. I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God:
4 -8 "'O Master, great and august God. You never waver in your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love you and do what you say. Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable. We've done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around your clearly marked paths. We've turned a deaf ear to your servants the prophets, who preached your Word to our kings and leaders, our parents, and all the people in the land. You have done everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us—people of Judah, citizens of Jerusalem, Israel at home and Israel in exile in all the places we've been banished to because of our betrayal of you. Oh yes, God, we've been exposed in our shame, all of us—our kings, leaders, parents—before the whole world. And deservedly so, because of our sin.
9 -12 "'Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of you, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we've forfeited our rights. We paid no attention to you when you told us how to live, the clear teaching that came through your servants the prophets. All of us in Israel ignored what you said. We defied your instructions and did what we pleased. And now we're paying for it: The solemn curse written out plainly in the revelation to God's servant Moses is now doing its work among us, the wages of our sin against you. You did to us and our rulers what you said you would do: You brought this catastrophic disaster on us, the worst disaster on record—and in Jerusalem!
13 -14 "'Just as written in God's revelation to Moses, the catastrophe was total. Nothing was held back. We kept at our sinning, never giving you a second thought, oblivious to your clear warning, and so you had no choice but to let the disaster loose on us in full force. You, our God, had a perfect right to do this since we persistently and defiantly ignored you.
15 -17 "'Master, you are our God, for you delivered your people from the land of Egypt in a show of power—people are still talking about it! We confess that we have sinned, that we have lived bad lives. Following the lines of what you have always done in setting things right, setting people right, please stop being so angry with Jerusalem, your very own city, your holy mountain. We know it's our fault that this has happened, all because of our sins and our parents' sins, and now we're an embarrassment to everyone around us. We're a blot on the neighborhood. So listen, God, to this determined prayer of your servant. Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary. Act out of who you are, not out of what we are.
18 "'Turn your ears our way, God, and listen. Open your eyes and take a long look at our ruined city, this city named after you. We know that we don't deserve a hearing from you. Our appeal is to your compassion. This prayer is our last and only hope: 19 "'Master, listen to us! Master, forgive us! Master, look at us and do something! Master, don't put us off! Your city and your people are named after you: You have a stake in us!'
Seventy Sevens

20 -21 "While I was pouring out my heart, baring my sins and the sins of my people Israel, praying my life out before my God, interceding for the holy mountain of my God—while I was absorbed in this praying, the humanlike Gabriel, the one I had seen in an earlier vision, approached me, flying in like a bird about the time of evening worship.
22 -23 "He stood before me and said, 'Daniel, I have come to make things plain to you. You had no sooner started your prayer when the answer was given. And now I'm here to deliver the answer to you. You are much loved! So listen carefully to the answer, the plain meaning of what is revealed:
24 "'Seventy sevens are set for your people and for your holy city to throttle rebellion, stop sin, wipe out crime, set things right forever, confirm what the prophet saw, and anoint The Holy of Holies.

Daniel prays. And God answers.

The Throne

Now it is Daniel who can't sleep.

This is a book of insomniacs...

1 In the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream. What he saw as he slept in his bed terrified him—a real nightmare. Then he wrote out his dream:
2 -3 "In my dream that night I saw the four winds of heaven whipping up a great storm on the sea. Four huge animals, each different from the others, ascended out of the sea.

He describes what the animals did and what they became. What caught my attention was this:

9 -10 "As I was watching all this,
"Thrones were set in place
and The Old One sat down. His robes were white as snow,
his hair was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire,
its wheels blazing. A river of fire
poured out of the throne. Thousands upon thousands served him,
tens of thousands attended him. The courtroom was called to order,
and the books were opened. "

God Almighty. The All Powerful. The Holy One...

My dream continued.
13 -14"I saw a human form, a son of man,
arriving in a whirl of clouds. He came to The Old One
and was presented to him. He was given power to rule—all the glory of royalty.
Everyone—race, color, and creed—had to serve him.
His rule would be forever, never ending.
His kingly rule would never be replaced.

Jesus Christ. The Messiah. The Lamb of God. Whose kingdom will never end.

26 -27 "'But when the court comes to order, the horn will be stripped of its power and totally destroyed. Then the royal rule and the authority and the glory of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the people of the High God. Their royal rule will last forever. All other rulers will serve and obey them.'

The cry of the saints throughout the ages has been,
Come Lord Jesus, come...

Political Subterfuge!

This is the perfect story.
There is the hero.
There are the villans.
The mighty ruler of the land is, ironically, a bit player.
And after a battle to the death, the protagonist comes through unscathed.
The antagonists are destroyed.
And God is praised throughout the land!
This is the perfect story.

1 -3 Darius reorganized his kingdom. He appointed one hundred twenty governors to administer all the parts of his realm. Over them were three vice-regents, one of whom was Daniel. The governors reported to the vice-regents, who made sure that everything was in order for the king.

New government. New organization. That has been going on for millenia.

But Daniel, brimming with spirit and intelligence, so completely outclassed the other vice-regents and governors that the king decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom.

Wow! Our boy, Daniel is the hero. Classy. Smart. Spiritual. Integrous. And he is accelerated to the head of the pack.

But wait! This is politics. Do politics ever get dirty?

4 -5 The vice-regents and governors got together to find some old scandal or skeleton in Daniel's life that they could use against him, but they couldn't dig up anything. He was totally exemplary and trustworthy. They could find no evidence of negligence or misconduct. So they finally gave up and said, "We're never going to find anything against this Daniel unless we can cook up something religious."

They couldn't find dirt. But they could find religion. That should do...

6 -7 The vice-regents and governors conspired together and then went to the king and said, "King Darius, live forever! We've convened your vice-regents, governors, and all your leading officials, and have agreed that the king should issue the following decree:
For the next thirty days no one is to pray to any god or mortal except you, O king. Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions' den.
8 "Issue this decree, O king, and make it unconditional, as if written in stone like all the laws of the Medes and the Persians."
9 King Darius signed the decree.

Aha! The trap is set. Would he fall into it, or would he put off his religion. Just for a month...

10 When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.

Whoa! This is too easy. He is in flagrant violation of the laws of the land. He MUST be punished...

11 -12 The conspirators came and found him praying, asking God for help. They went straight to the king and reminded him of the royal decree that he had signed. "Did you not," they said, "sign a decree forbidding anyone to pray to any god or man except you for the next thirty days? And anyone caught doing it would be thrown into the lions' den?"
"Absolutely," said the king. "Written in stone, like all the laws of the Medes and Persians."
13 Then they said, "Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, ignores you, O king, and defies your decree. Three times a day he prays."

Gotcha! The favorite political game of all time.

14 At this, the king was very upset and tried his best to get Daniel out of the fix he'd put him in. He worked at it the whole day long.
15 But then the conspirators were back: "Remember, O king, it's the law of the Medes and Persians that the king's decree can never be changed."
16 The king caved in and ordered Daniel brought and thrown into the lions' den. But he said to Daniel, "Your God, to whom you are so loyal, is going to get you out of this."

Daniel is dead. Now the conspirators can go to the next step - who would replace Daniel, now that he is dead?

17 A stone slab was placed over the opening of the den. The king sealed the cover with his signet ring and the signet rings of all his nobles, fixing Daniel's fate.

The king was caught in the trap too. He was stuck. He had killed off his vice president, whom he had come to appreciate, and, maybe, even love...

18 The king then went back to his palace. He refused supper. He couldn't sleep. He spent the night fasting.
19 -20 At daybreak the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. As he approached the den, he called out anxiously, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve so loyally, saved you from the lions?"

A crisis of faith. Not Daniel's faith. The king's faith. He knew ABOUT God. But he didn't KNOW God. It is hard to walk with God when you don't know Him.

21 -22 "O king, live forever!" said Daniel. "My God sent his angel, who closed the mouths of the lions so that they would not hurt me. I've been found innocent before God and also before you, O king. I've done nothing to harm you."

God, God almighty, had come through.

23 When the king heard these words, he was happy. He ordered Daniel taken up out of the den. When he was hauled up, there wasn't a scratch on him. He had trusted his God.

What happened to the antagonists? The villians? The bad guys?

24 Then the king commanded that the conspirators who had informed on Daniel be thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. Before they hit the floor, the lions had them in their jaws, tearing them to pieces.

Wow! That was satisfying. The same lions. The same pit. Different result. They ripped the folks to pieces before they even hit the floor! Gruesome! Violent! R Rated...

Conclusion? Wonderful. God is in heaven. His servant is safe. And the king issues a decree...

25 -27 King Darius published this proclamation to every race, color, and creed on earth: Peace to you! Abundant peace!
I decree that Daniel's God shall be worshiped and feared
in all parts of my kingdom.
He is the living God,
world without end.
His kingdom never falls.
His rule continues eternally.
He is a savior and rescuer.
He performs astonishing miracles in heaven and on earth.
He saved Daniel from the power of the lions.

And Daniel lived happily ever after...

28 From then on, Daniel was treated well during the reign of Darius, and also in the following reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Oh I wish all stories ended this well...

Iran takes over Iraq!

Short-range missile (Zelzal) is test-launched during war games in Qom, 74 miles south of Tehran, on Sept. 27, 2009. (SHAIGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

On the day of writing this, Iran has fired another 10 test missiles, is well on its way to building a nuclear weapon, and is completely defiant to Obama and the United Nations.

A few years ago, there was an 8 year war between Iran and Iraq in which one million young men were killed. That was before the two Bush presidents defeated, then deposed the Iraqi emperor, Sudam Husseim.

Well, this story is many years before that.
30 -31 That same night the Babylonian king Belshazzar was murdered. Darius the Mede was sixty-two years old when he succeeded him as king.
The Medes and Persians had the most advanced weaponry of the day, and were fierce and cruel fighters. The battle to depose the Babylonian kindom was done quickly and definatively.
Darius, the new emperor, steps in and makes changes quickly...

1 -3 Darius reorganized his kingdom. He appointed one hundred twenty governors to administer all the parts of his realm. Over them were three vice-regents, one of whom was Daniel. The governors reported to the vice-regents, who made sure that everything was in order for the king.
So Daniel, the refugee, the kid without a home, has served in the government for several decades now. He is a senior statesman. Apolitical, but politically astute.
He is God's man, carrying out his duties with integrity and honor. Always longing for his homeland, he is never allowed to go back.
With this latest political upheaval, he is moved up another notch. Now the 4th most powerful man in the kingdom, his troubles are over. He is established. Has had a brilliant career. He is older now. Probably has married and raised a family, although nothing is ever mentioned.
Smooth sailing ahead?
Well, not exactly...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daniel moves up. Neb's kid? Down and out...

Neb moves off stage.

His kid, Belshazzar, is now ruler of the roost. We first get a glimpse of him putting on a lavish banquet for a thousand of his most senior government workers.

1 -4 King Belshazzar held a great feast for his one thousand nobles. The wine flowed freely.

All good, right? Most powerful kingdom on earth. Most powerful and richest man on earth. Why not celebrate?

Bels made a mistake that he may not have even known he made. He had the holy golden chalices brought in to flaunt his wealth and impress his guests. These had been taken by force from God's temple in Jerusalem. But EVERYTHING had been taken by force. All the wealth was acquired through plunder and domination! So what was wrong with flaunting the golden chalices?

Well, God had declared them holy. Separated. For use in worshipping Himself and no other. Now they were used for drunks to give praise to no-god gods of wood and stone. It didn't sit well with God Almighty.

Belshazzar, heady with the wine, ordered that the gold and silver chalices his father Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from God's Temple of Jerusalem be brought in so that he and his nobles, his wives and concubines, could drink from them. When the gold and silver chalices were brought in, the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines, drank wine from them. They drank the wine and drunkenly praised their gods made of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.

God stepped in to Belshazzar's world, just as He had stepped in to his father Nebucudnezzar's world.

5 -7 At that very moment, the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the lamp-illumined, whitewashed wall of the palace. When the king saw the disembodied hand writing away, he went white as a ghost, scared out of his wits. His legs went limp and his knees knocked. He yelled out for the enchanters, the fortunetellers, and the diviners to come. He told these Babylonian magi, "Anyone who can read this writing on the wall and tell me what it means will be famous and rich—purple robe, the great gold chain—and be third-in-command in the kingdom."
8 -9 One after the other they tried, but could make no sense of it. They could neither read what was written nor interpret it to the king. So now the king was really frightened. All the blood drained from his face. The nobles were in a panic.

The queen remembered Daniel, who was still faithfully serving in the government. Notice Daniel was not there. Not on the "in" list? Turned down the invite? Who knows, but he was not there...

10 -12 The queen heard of the hysteria among the king and his nobles and came to the banquet hall. She said, "Long live the king! Don't be upset. Don't sit around looking like ghosts. There is a man in your kingdom who is full of the divine Holy Spirit. During your father's time he was well known for his intellectual brilliance and spiritual wisdom. He was so good that your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him the head of all the magicians, enchanters, fortunetellers, and diviners. There was no one quite like him. He could do anything—interpret dreams, solve mysteries, explain puzzles. His name is Daniel, but he was renamed Belteshazzar by the king. Have Daniel called in. He'll tell you what is going on here."

They go get Daniel.

13 -16 So Daniel was called in. The king asked him, "Are you the Daniel who was one of the Jewish exiles my father brought here from Judah? I've heard about you—that you're full of the Holy Spirit, that you've got a brilliant mind, that you are incredibly wise. The wise men and enchanters were brought in here to read this writing on the wall and interpret it for me. They couldn't figure it out—not a word, not a syllable. But I've heard that you interpret dreams and solve mysteries. So—if you can read the writing and interpret it for me, you'll be rich and famous—a purple robe, the great gold chain around your neck—and third-in-command in the kingdom."
17 Daniel answered the king, "You can keep your gifts, or give them to someone else. But I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.

Daniel pauses in the middle of the revelry gone cold and delivers a mini sermon...

18 -21 "Listen, O king! The High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar a great kingdom and a glorious reputation. Because God made him so famous, people from everywhere, whatever their race, color, and creed, were totally intimidated by him. He killed or spared people on whim. He promoted or humiliated people capriciously. He developed a big head and a hard spirit. Then God knocked him off his high horse and stripped him of his fame. He was thrown out of human company, lost his mind, and lived like a wild animal. He ate grass like an ox and was soaked by heaven's dew until he learned his lesson: that the High God rules human kingdoms and puts anyone he wants in charge.
22 -23 "You are his son and have known all this, yet you're as arrogant as he ever was. Look at you, setting yourself up in competition against the Master of heaven! You had the sacred chalices from his Temple brought into your drunken party so that you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines, could drink from them. You used the sacred chalices to toast your gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone—blind, deaf, and imbecile gods. But you treat with contempt the living God who holds your entire life from birth to death in his hand.

Then he interprets the writing. Was it in Hebrew? Or did God give him supernatural ability?

24 -26 "God sent the hand that wrote on the wall, and this is what is written: mene, teqel, and peres. This is what the words mean:
"Mene: God has numbered the days of your rule and they don't add up.
27 "Teqel: You have been weighed on the scales and you don't weigh much.
28 "Peres: Your kingdom has been divided up and handed over to the Medes and Persians."

The young drunk sobered up on the spot! He honored Daniel...

29 Belshazzar did what he had promised. He robed Daniel in purple, draped the great gold chain around his neck, and promoted him to third-in-charge in the kingdom.

But it was all short lived. That very night the kindom was overrun and Bels, Neb's kid, is down and out...

30 -31 That same night the Babylonian king Belshazzar was murdered. Darius the Mede was sixty-two years old when he succeeded him as king.


This is a very curious story. You couldn't make this up.

It starts with a dream.

4 -7 "I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home taking it easy in my palace, without a care in the world. But as I was stretched out on my bed I had a dream that scared me—a nightmare that shook me. I sent for all the wise men of Babylon so that they could interpret the dream for me. When they were all assembled—magicians, enchanters, fortunetellers, witches—I told them the dream. None could tell me what it meant.

Daniel interprets the dream.

"My master," said Belteshazzar, "I wish this dream were about your enemies and its interpretation for your foes.
20 -22 "The tree you saw that grew so large and sturdy with its top touching the sky, visible from the four corners of the world; the tree with the luxuriant foliage and abundant fruit, enough for everyone; the tree under which animals took cover and in which birds built nests—you, O king, are that tree.
"You have grown great and strong. Your royal majesty reaches sky-high, and your sovereign rule stretches to the four corners of the world.
23 -25 "But the part about the holy angel descending from heaven and proclaiming, 'Chop down the tree, destroy it, but leave stump and roots in the ground belted with a strap of iron and bronze in the grassy meadow; let him be soaked with heaven's dew and take his meals with the grazing animals for seven seasons'—this, O king, also refers to you. It means that the High God has sentenced my master the king: You will be driven away from human company and live with the wild animals. You will graze on grass like an ox. You will be soaked in heaven's dew. This will go on for seven seasons, and you will learn that the High God rules over human kingdoms and that he arranges all kingdom affairs.
26 "The part about the tree stump and roots being left means that your kingdom will still be there for you after you learn that it is heaven that runs things.
27 "So, king, take my advice: Make a clean break with your sins and start living for others. Quit your wicked life and look after the needs of the down-and-out. Then you will continue to have a good life."

The king is impressed, but not transformed.

28 -30 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Just twelve months later, he was walking on the balcony of the royal palace in Babylon and boasted, "Look at this, Babylon the great! And I built it all by myself, a royal palace adequate to display my honor and glory!"

31 -32 The words were no sooner out of his mouth than a voice out of heaven spoke, "This is the verdict on you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your kingdom is taken from you. You will be driven out of human company and live with the wild animals. You will eat grass like an ox. The sentence is for seven seasons, enough time to learn that the High God rules human kingdoms and puts whomever he wishes in charge."
33 It happened at once. Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of human company, ate grass like an ox, and was soaked in heaven's dew. His hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a hawk.

From king to animal! God is demonstrating His power yet once again! This goes on for seven years!

34 -35 "At the end of the seven years, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked to heaven. I was given my mind back and I blessed the High God, thanking and glorifying God, who lives forever:

Clash of Cultures

Daniel and his friends' fortune didn't last forever.

At some point later the king decided it was time for a celebration with a little hero worship thrown it.

1 -3 King Nebuchadnezzar built a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet thick. He set it up on the Dura plain in the province of Babylon. He then ordered all the important leaders in the province, everybody who was anybody, to the dedication ceremony of the statue. They all came for the dedication, all the important people, and took their places before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
4 -6 A herald then proclaimed in a loud voice: "Attention, everyone! Every race, color, and creed, listen! When you hear the band strike up—all the trumpets and trombones, the tubas and baritones, the drums and cymbals—fall to your knees and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Anyone who does not kneel and worship shall be thrown immediately into a roaring furnace."

Daniel's friends were stuck! There was no warning. They had not done anything wrong. They didn't really have time to plan or prepare for what to do. There they were, part of the great throng.

7 The band started to play, a huge band equipped with all the musical instruments of Babylon, and everyone—every race, color, and creed—fell to their knees and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

But the three God followers did not bow down. How easy it would have been. They could ask forgiveness later. God is a loving and forgiving God. But no - they stood. Resolute among the huge throng.

8 -12 Just then, some Babylonian fortunetellers stepped up and accused the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "Long live the king! You gave strict orders, O king, that when the big band started playing, everyone had to fall to their knees and worship the gold statue, and whoever did not go to their knees and worship it had to be pitched into a roaring furnace. Well, there are some Jews here—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have placed in high positions in the province of Babylon. These men are ignoring you, O king. They don't respect your gods and they won't worship the gold statue you set up."

The king takes the bait. This is no trivial matter. His honor is at stake. His "godhood" is at stake. He is the most powerful man in the then known world. How dare they? It's an outrage!
To his credit, he decides to check out the story himself, and give them another chance.

13 -15 Furious, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought in. When the men were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar asked, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don't respect my gods and refuse to worship the gold statue that I have set up? I'm giving you a second chance—but from now on, when the big band strikes up you must go to your knees and worship the statue I have made. If you don't worship it, you will be pitched into a roaring furnace, no questions asked. Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?"

To his horror, not only is the message he was given true - but even worse! They defied him to his very face!!

16 -18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, "Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."

Oh Well! They asked for it!

19 -23 Nebuchadnezzar, his face purple with anger, cut off Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace fired up seven times hotter than usual. He ordered some strong men from the army to tie them up, hands and feet, and throw them into the roaring furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, bound hand and foot, fully dressed from head to toe, were pitched into the roaring fire. Because the king was in such a hurry and the furnace was so hot, flames from the furnace killed the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it, while the fire raged around Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
24 Suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, "Didn't we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?"
"That's right, O king," they said.
25 "But look!" he said. "I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!"
26 Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire.

OK. This was newsworthy. The entire world press was there, satellite dishes in tow...

27 All the important people, the government leaders and king's counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn't so much as touched the three men—not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them!
28 Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him! They ignored the king's orders and laid their bodies on the line rather than serve or worship any god but their own.

So, in a power encounter, God wins. But His servants had to be willing to die before they knew what God would do. Hmmm. Old Neb knows when he has met superior power...

29 "Therefore I issue this decree: Anyone anywhere, of any race, color, or creed, who says anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and their houses torn down. There has never been a god who can pull off a rescue like this."
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Have you been thrust into a power encounter? A clash of values? A clash of cultures?

Are you willing to stand up for God, risking reputation, job, prestige, even your life? The opportunity often comes suddenly. Without warning.

Friday, September 25, 2009

From Death Row to Governor

Things happen fast, sometimes.

Daniel and his friends are condemned to die, along with all the wise men and all the government workers.

Daniel and his friends pray.

God comes through.

26 The king asked Daniel (renamed in Babylonian, Belteshazzar), "Are you sure you can do this—tell me the dream I had and interpret it for me?"
27 -28 Daniel answered the king, "No mere human can solve the king's mystery, I don't care who it is—no wise man, enchanter, magician, diviner. But there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries, and he has solved this one. He is letting King Nebuchadnezzar in on what is going to happen in the days ahead. This is the dream you had when you were lying on your bed, the vision that filled your mind:

Daniel tells the king the dream, the meaning and how it applies to the king. The king's reaction is dramatic, and immediate.

46 -47 When Daniel finished, King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face in awe before Daniel. He ordered the offering of sacrifices and burning of incense in Daniel's honor. He said to Daniel, "Your God is beyond question the God of all gods, the Master of all kings. And he solves all mysteries, I know, because you've solved this mystery."

The results for Daniel, and through him his buddies, were equally dramatic.

48 -49 Then the king promoted Daniel to a high position in the kingdom, lavished him with gifts, and made him governor over the entire province of Babylon and the chief in charge of all the Babylonian wise men. At Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to administrative posts throughout Babylon, while Daniel governed from the royal headquarters.

Now Daniel is the governor. Remember, he is still a very young man. But he seems to adapt to his new position with grace and wisdom.

And already in his story we see God getting glory nationally and internationally as a result of this young man, following God with integrity and diligence.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

God comes through

Daniel got the interpretation of the dream sometime during the night.

As soon as it was daylight, Daniel goes to his executioner.

24 So Daniel went back to Arioch, who had been put in charge of the execution. He said, "Call off the execution! Take me to the king and I'll interpret his dream."

There was a lot riding on this statement. If it is true, everybody lives. If Daniel is making stuff up, everybody dies. But then, everyone was under sentence of death anyway.

Even the executioner is excited.

25 Arioch didn't lose a minute. He ran to the king, bringing Daniel with him, and said, "I've found a man from the exiles of Judah who can interpret the king's dream!"

A VERY unlikely source! All the kings wise men, all his wizards, all his trusted associates - had not come through. Now some kid from a far away land? This might prove interesting...

26 The king asked Daniel (renamed in Babylonian, Belteshazzar), "Are you sure you can do this—tell me the dream I had and interpret it for me?"

Daniel is straight. This is not a time for political correctness. He lays it out, just like it is...

27 -28 Daniel answered the king, "No mere human can solve the king's mystery, I don't care who it is—no wise man, enchanter, magician, diviner. But there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries, and he has solved this one. He is letting King Nebuchadnezzar in on what is going to happen in the days ahead. This is the dream you had when you were lying on your bed, the vision that filled your mind:
29 -30 "While you were stretched out on your bed, O king, thoughts came to you regarding what is coming in the days ahead. The Revealer of Mysteries showed you what will happen. But the interpretation is given through me, not because I'm any smarter than anyone else in the country, but so that you will know what it means, so that you will understand what you dreamed.
31 -36 "What you saw, O king, was a huge statue standing before you, striking in appearance. And terrifying. The head of the statue was pure gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and hips were bronze, the legs were iron, and the feet were an iron-ceramic mixture. While you were looking at this statue, a stone cut out of a mountain by an invisible hand hit the statue, smashing its iron-ceramic feet. Then the whole thing fell to pieces—iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold, smashed to bits. It was like scraps of old newspapers in a vacant lot in a hot dry summer, blown every which way by the wind, scattered to oblivion. But the stone that hit the statue became a huge mountain, dominating the horizon. This was your dream.

God came through!

Daniel was faithful to give praise and glory to God privately, and acknowledge God publically.

Every day this week I have met believers. The shoeshine man called to go into the military as a chaplain. The man sitting next to me who prays for a pastor we had in Bakersfield 44 years ago, who now has cancer. The believer born in Moldavia who is carrying out his profession with compassion and integrity. The man I met at the grand BBQ last night who told me his story of reading the Bible through 3 times in 3 years and how it changed his life.

God's people. Everywhere. Giving praise and glory to God privately, and acknowledging God publically.

Under Sentence of DEATH!

Daniel was young.

And he was sentenced to die!

Talk about dramatic!

He gathers up courage and goes to see the king.

"Could you commute the sentence for a few days?" he asks. The king grants his wish.

He goes back to the dorm and huddles his buddies in prayer.

The good book doesn't say, but I have a feeling that prayer meeting was more Pentecostal than Presbyterian!

19 -23 That night the answer to the mystery was given to Daniel in a vision.
Daniel blessed the God of heaven....

Well, YEAH!

Yesterday the king was tossing and turning in his sleep.

Tonight young Daniel is tossing and turning in his sleep.

Tommorow he is to be executed.

But God came through!

and Daniel's exhuberance was heartfelt...

"Blessed be the name of God,
forever and ever.
He knows all, does all:
He changes the seasons and guides history,
He raises up kings and also brings them down,
he provides both intelligence and discernment,
He opens up the depths, tells secrets,
sees in the dark—light spills out of him!
God of all my ancestors, all thanks! all praise!
You made me wise and strong.
And now you've shown us what we asked for.
You've solved the king's mystery."

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Senate paige goes in to the Prez...

Daniel is a peon.

A rising star, to be sure, but a nobody. A kid yanked from his homeland, with some promise to be trained into a good, useful government worker someday.

He is going about his business, trying to keep his integrity together in a very pagan kingdom.

What he doesn't know, is that over in the Palace, the king is tossing in his sleep. Not one night, but night after night. And we all know, when the king doesn't sleep, he gets grumpy.
1 -3 In the second year of his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar started having dreams that disturbed him deeply. He couldn't sleep.
He called in all the Babylonian magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and fortunetellers to interpret his dreams for him. When they came and lined up before the king, he said to them, "I had a dream that I can't get out of my mind. I can't sleep until I know what it means."
4 The fortunetellers, speaking in the Aramaic language, said, "Long live the king! Tell us the dream and we will interpret it."
5 -6 The king answered the fortunetellers, "This is my decree: If you can't tell me both the dream itself and its interpretation, I'll have you ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and your homes torn down.
(Did I tell you the sleepless king was getting VERY GRUMPY?)
But if you tell me both the dream and its interpretation, I'll lavish you with gifts and honors. So go to it: Tell me the dream and its interpretation."
7 They answered, "If it please your majesty, tell us the dream. We'll give the interpretation."
8 -9 But the king said, "I know what you're up to—you're just playing for time. You know you're up a tree. You know that if you can't tell me my dream, you're doomed. I see right through you—you're going to cook up some fancy stories and confuse the issue until I change my mind. Nothing doing! First tell me the dream, then I'll know that you're on the up and up with the interpretation and not just blowing smoke in my eyes."
10 -11 The fortunetellers said, "Nobody anywhere can do what you ask. And no king, great or small, has ever demanded anything like this from any magician, enchanter, or fortuneteller. What you're asking is impossible unless some god or goddess should reveal it—and they don't hang around with people like us."
12 -13 That set the king off. He lost his temper and ordered the whole company of Babylonian wise men killed. When the death warrant was issued, Daniel and his companions were included. They also were marked for execution.
OK. REALLY grumpy.
He decided that all his cabinet, all his advisors, everybody even preparing to have a place in his government, should be killed. There were lots of people in the kindom. He would just start over.
So Daniel was jerked from his family, exiled from his country, and now he is going to die.
The book of Daniel is going to be a very short book!
14 -15 When Arioch, chief of the royal guards, was making arrangements for the execution, Daniel wisely took him aside and quietly asked what was going on: "Why this all of a sudden?"
15 -16 After Arioch filled in the background, Daniel went to the king and asked for a little time so that he could interpret the dream.
17 -18 Daniel then went home and told his companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what was going on. He asked them to pray to the God of heaven for mercy in solving this mystery so that the four of them wouldn't be killed along with the whole company of Babylonian wise men.
Daniel goes to the king, then he goes to the KING OF KINGS!
What a privilege we have to go to the King above all kings, and lay out our concerns and requests before Him!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Heroes Rise UP

These were sharp young guys. No doubt about it.

17 -19 God gave these four young men knowledge and skill in both books and life. In addition, Daniel was gifted in understanding all sorts of visions and dreams. At the end of the time set by the king for their training, the head of the royal staff brought them in to Nebuchadnezzar. When the king interviewed them, he found them far superior to all the other young men. None were a match for Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

Natural gifts. Talent. Plus God's favor. What a great combination. They were about to become the elite government servants.

19 -20 And so they took their place in the king's service. Whenever the king consulted them on anything, on books or on life, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom put together.

Daniel became a career statesman. Serving in the government for the rest of his life.

21 Daniel continued in the king's service until the first year in the reign of King Cyrus.

Out from despair - The Heroes Rise UP!!

Sounds like the name of a new video game!

Call it
"Dan the Man"
- "Bab smasher!"

6 -7 Four young men from Judah—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—were among those selected. The head of the palace staff gave them Babylonian names: Daniel was named Belteshazzar, Hananiah was named Shadrach, Mishael was named Meshach, Azariah was named Abednego.

So - their country has been taken from them. Their families had been taken from them. Now their very identity was taken from them. They were renamed with Babylonian names. They had no choice about this. They were powerless pawns in the grip of the greatest military machine and empire of the world.

(Or WERE they?)

8 -10 But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king's food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet. The head of the palace staff, by God's grace, liked Daniel, but he warned him, "I'm afraid of what my master the king will do. He is the one who assigned this diet and if he sees that you are not as healthy as the rest, he'll have my head!"

These guys were like the elite pilots of the Stealth B2 bomber. The government says to them, "You may be smart, and elite, and the best of the best, and all that," "but we OWN you!" We are pouring millions of dollars into training you to fly a machine worth one and a half BILLION dollars. So you have to go to bed when we say. You have to eat what we say. You have to train in the regimen we set out for you. And if you don't like it? Well, there are thousands of other guys who would LOVE to take your place!"

11 -13 But Daniel appealed to a steward who had been assigned by the head of the palace staff to be in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: "Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see."
14 -16 The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu. So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables. "
Yeah! Real food beats processed food any time!
And the heroes rise up!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Four young men. Friends. Handsome, intelligent, buff. Their lives ahead of them.

Suddenly - tragedy!

Their homeland is invaded.

Their country is trounced, and decimated.

They are taken as captives to a different land. Different customs, different language, different food, different religion.

Although Daniel is one of my favorite books, it begins with decimation, pain, suffering and loss.

1 -2 It was the third year of King Jehoiakim's reign in Judah when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon declared war on Jerusalem and besieged the city. The Master handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him, along with some of the furnishings from the Temple of God. Nebuchadnezzar took king and furnishings to the country of Babylon, the ancient Shinar. He put the furnishings in the sacred treasury.

Their God, Jehovah, is the God above all gods. The creator. Omnipotent. Yet His temple is ransacked. The holy articles are carried off like so much loot, and installed in a pagan temple.

3 -5 The king told Ashpenaz, head of the palace staff, to get some Israelites from the royal family and nobility—young men who were healthy and handsome, intelligent and well-educated, good prospects for leadership positions in the government, perfect specimens!—and indoctrinate them in the Babylonian language and the lore of magic and fortunetelling. The king then ordered that they be served from the same menu as the royal table—the best food, the finest wine. After three years of training they would be given positions in the king's court.

The four friends were selected for wholesale indoctrination into the pagan ways of the Babylonians.

God has been trampled underfoot.

Not only has he not rescued them and their families, but now they are being forced to learn and embrace blasphemy!

How can anything good come out of this?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Global Meltdown!

Joel 1
Get in Touch with Reality—and Weep!
1 -3 God's Message to Joel son of Pethuel:
Attention, elder statesmen! Listen closely, everyone, whoever and wherever you are! Have you ever heard of anything like this? Has anything like this ever happened before—ever? Make sure you tell your children, and your children tell their children, And their children their children. Don't let this message die out.
4What the chewing locust left, the gobbling locust ate; What the gobbling locust left, the munching locust ate; What the munching locust left, the chomping locust ate.

1 - 09 - 2003
Jubilee Research at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the team that spearheaded global awareness of a third world debt crisis released provocative new research in September 2003 which argues that the “first world” is approaching a major debt crisis.
The report predicts that a giant credit bubble, created by central bankers and finance ministers (the engineers of decades of “easy money”) has now reached a “tipping point”. This point – at which the “bubble” of financial assets exceeds GDP by nine times – has triggered financial crisis elsewhere.
On a global level, there is $100 trillion of debt outstanding, but only $33 trillion of income with which to repay those debts. Even the drastic recent stock market falls have barely dented the credit superstructure. When this credit bubble bursts in the United States and Britain, it will be middle-class consumers that will first bear the brunt of the financial crash.

5 -7Sober up, you drunks! Get in touch with reality—and weep! Your supply of booze is cut off. You're on the wagon, like it or not. My country's being invaded by an army invincible, past numbering, Teeth like those of a lion, fangs like those of a tiger. It has ruined my vineyards, stripped my orchards, And clear-cut the country. The landscape's a moonscape.
8 -10Weep like a young virgin dressed in black, mourning the loss of her fiancé. Without grain and grapes, worship has been brought to a standstill in the Sanctuary of God. The priests are at a loss. God's ministers don't know what to do. The fields are sterile. The very ground grieves. The wheat fields are lifeless, vineyards dried up, olive oil gone.
11 -12Dirt farmers, despair! Grape growers, wring your hands! Lament the loss of wheat and barley. All crops have failed. Vineyards dried up, fig trees withered, Pomegranates, date palms, and apple trees— deadwood everywhere! And joy is dried up and withered in the hearts of the people.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Water of life... Water of healing...

Oh the water!
We love water. All over the world. Towns are built by rivers. Have been for thousands of years.
I am in real estate. The value of waterfront is easily 4 times as much as property just a few hundred feet back from the water. One of my fantasies is to own a cabin on a lake. To see the water, play in the water, sit by the water.
Today God talks to Ezekiel about water.
Ezekiel 47
Trees on Both Sides of the River
1 -2 Now he brought me back to the entrance to the Temple. I saw water pouring out from under the Temple porch to the east (the Temple faced east). The water poured from the south side of the Temple, south of the altar. He then took me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the gate complex on the east. The water was gushing from under the south front of the Temple.
In this case, the water came from God. (Come to think of it, it ALWAYS comes from God) It was coming from under the Temple, signifying that God is the source.

3 -5 He walked to the east with a measuring tape and measured off fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water waist-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet. By now it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possibly walk through.
The water. First a gush, then a stream, then a wide flowing river.

6 -7 He said, "Son of man, have you had a good look?"
Then he took me back to the riverbank. While sitting on the bank, I noticed a lot of trees on both sides of the river.
Trees are beautiful to look at, and good for shade, and provide fruit and food. I think they represent God's pleasure, and abundance, and provision. The beauty and benefit of our relationship with God.

8 -10 He told me, "This water flows east, descends to the Arabah and then into the sea, the sea of stagnant waters. When it empties into those waters, the sea will become fresh. Wherever the river flows, life will flourish—great schools of fish—because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water. Where the river flows, life abounds. Fishermen will stand shoulder to shoulder along the shore from En-gedi all the way north to En-eglaim, casting their nets. The sea will teem with fish of all kinds, like the fish of the Great Mediterranean.
11 "The swamps and marshes won't become fresh. They'll stay salty.
12 "But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds. Their leaves won't wither, the fruit won't fail. Every month they'll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them.
Out of a dry and thirsty land, God provides. He cares. His blessings flow. Not ankle deep, but abundant. Overwhelming. Over our heads. Love. Life. Relationship. Meaning. Provision.
Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."
Thankyou, Lord. Thankyou.
Thankyou Lord. Thankyou...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dramatic Encounter with a Living God!

I want to know God is real. God is powerful. God is present.

I long for a dramatic encounter with a Living God.

Now old Ezekiel wasn't out looking for an "experience." He wasn't at a conference, or seeking anything special. He was simply obediently doing what God told Him to do. And at the time it was somewhat boring. He was following this guy who was measuring everything.

They came to the eastern gate.

"Oh! The bright Glory of the God of Israel rivered out of the east sounding like the roar of floodwaters, and the earth itself glowed with the bright Glory. It looked just like what I had seen when he came to destroy the city, exactly like what I had seen earlier at the Kebar River. And again I fell, face to the ground. "

God showed up!! Ezekiel fell to the ground in worship. Not on his knees. Not with hands stretched to heaven. No - face to the ground. "God you are awesome. I worship YOU. You are worthy, allpowerful, glorious."

4 -5 The bright Glory of God poured into the Temple through the east gate. The Spirit put me on my feet and led me to the inside courtyard and—oh! the bright Glory of God filled the Temple!
6 -9 I heard someone speaking to me from inside the Temple while the man stood beside me. He said, "Son of man, this is the place for my throne, the place I'll plant my feet. This is the place where I'll live with the Israelites forever. Neither the people of Israel nor their kings will ever again drag my holy name through the mud with their whoring and the no-god idols their kings set up at all the wayside shrines. When they set up their worship shrines right alongside mine with only a thin wall between them, they dragged my holy name through the mud with their obscene and vile worship. Is it any wonder that I destroyed them in anger? So let them get rid of their whoring ways and the stinking no-god idols introduced by their kings and I'll move in and live with them forever.
10 -11 "Son of man, tell the people of Israel all about the Temple so they'll be dismayed by their wayward lives. Get them to go over the layout. That will bring them up short. Show them the whole plan of the Temple, its ins and outs, the proportions, the regulations, and the laws. Draw a picture so they can see the design and meaning and live by its design and intent.
12 "This is the law of the Temple: As it radiates from the top of the mountain, everything around it becomes holy ground. Yes, this is law, the meaning, of the Temple. "
Ezekiel 43 ends with this:
27 "'After these seven days of dedication, from the eighth day on, the priests will present your burnt offerings and your peace offerings. And I'll accept you with pleasure, with delight! Decree of God, the Master.'"
So to recap. Ezekiel fully obeys God. God shows up in glory and with power. He has very specific demands which need to be carried out. And He says He will accept Ezekiel and the people with pleasure, with delight!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beam me up Scotty!

Ok, I Know! That is the old version of Star Trek. But we have long been intrigued by the idea of teletransporting.

Thing is, its not new. Listen to Ezekiels experience.

1 -3 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year on the tenth of the month—it was the fourteenth year after the city fell—God touched me and brought me here. He brought me in divine vision to the land of Israel and set me down on a high mountain. To the south there were buildings that looked like a city. He took me there and I met a man deeply tanned, like bronze. He stood at the entrance holding a linen cord and a measuring stick."
"God touched me and brought me here. He brought me in divine vision to the land of Israel and set me down on a high mountain." He says it so casually. Like it happened all the time. Was he physically transported? Taken in a vision? Like a dream? Pretty heady stuff.
Alright, the rest of the passage.
"He stood at the entrance holding a linen cord and a measuring stick.
4 The man said to me, "Son of man, look and listen carefully. Pay close attention to everything I'm going to show you. That's why you've been brought here. And then tell Israel everything you see."
5 First I saw a wall around the outside of the Temple complex. The measuring stick in the man's hand was about ten feet long. He measured the thickness of the wall: about ten feet. The height was also about ten feet. "
They went around and measured everything. The gates, the walls, the temple, the columns. Lots of measuring. I guess this was the earliest appraisal service!
15 -16 "After he had finished measuring what was inside the Temple area, he took me out the east gate and measured it from the outside. Using his measuring stick, he measured the east side: eight hundred seventy-five feet.
17 He measured the north side: eight hundred seventy-five feet.
18 He measured the south side: eight hundred seventy-five feet.
19 Last of all he went to the west side and measured it: eight hundred seventy-five feet.
20 He measured the wall on all four sides. Each wall was eight hundred seventy-five feet. The walls separated the holy from the ordinary. "
So this reading is somewhat hum drum. It turns out it IS a vision, because all of this is future. At the time, the temple, the walls the city of Jerusalem was in ruins.
But tomorrow's reading has some sizzle!
Stay tuned...
(Wait a minute. This is not a radio show. What is the internet equivalent of "stay tuned"?)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Judgement. Compassion. Holiness. Relationship.

Reading the Bible is a quest to know God.

Can God be known? No - never. Never fully.

Does He reveal Himself? Yes - He does.

Does He want us to know Him? Most definately.

I'll admit it. Reading Ezekiel has been hard.

My life is not pleasant right now, and reading day after day of God's judgement, and destruction is hard.

Yet through it all, God is revealing Himself.

He is not adverse to having His people suffer.

His goal is to purge their lives of unfaithfulness and wickedness.

His sense of timing is WAY different than ours.

So here are four aspects of God's character on display (from Ezekiel 39).

21 -24 "I'll put my glory on display among the nations and they'll all see the judgment I execute, see me at work handing out judgment. From that day on, Israel will realize that I am their God. And the nations will get the message that it was because of their sins that Israel went into exile. They were disloyal to me and I turned away from them. I turned them over to their enemies and they were all killed. I treated them as their polluted and sin-sated lives deserved. I turned away from them, refused to look at them.

25 -29 "But now I will return Jacob back from exile, I'll be compassionate with all the people of Israel, and I'll be zealous for my holy name. Eventually the memory will fade, the memory of their shame over their betrayals of me when they lived securely in their own land, safe and unafraid.

Once I've brought them back from foreign parts, gathered them in from enemy territories, I'll use them to demonstrate my holiness with all the nations watching. Then they'll realize for sure that I am their God, for even though I sent them off into exile, I will gather them back to their own land, leaving not one soul behind.

After I've poured my Spirit on Israel, filled them with my life, I'll no longer turn away. I'll look them full in the face. Decree of God, the Master."

Miracle of the dry bones

Can a pile of bones come to life? - NO!

Can dry bones obtain marrow, and sinew, and blood, and life force? - NO!

Can disconnected bones come together and stand up and walk, and talk, and think, and feel? - NO!

It would take a miracle to make a pile of dry bones come to life.

God wanted to prophesy to and through Ezekiel, so He took him and plopped him down in a field of dry bones...

Ezekiel 37
Breath of Life
1 -2 God grabbed me. God's Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.
3 He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"
I said, "Master God, only you know that."
4 He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones: 'Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!'"
5 -6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, "Watch this: I'm bringing the breath of life to you and you'll come to life. I'll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You'll come alive and you'll realize that I am God!"
7 -8 I prophesied just as I'd been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.
9 He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, 'God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!'"
10 So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.
11 Then God said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they're saying: 'Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there's nothing left of us.'
12 -14 "Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, 'God, the Master, says: I'll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I'll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you'll realize that I am God. I'll breathe my life into you and you'll live. Then I'll lead you straight back to your land and you'll realize that I am God. I've said it and I'll do it. God's Decree.'"

God was going to bring His people - as broken and scattered as a field of dead, dry bones - back to life, back to health, back to a vibrant relationship with Himself, back to their land.

But it would be a miracle. A complete and total miracle.

So cool I think I would put it to music!

It would go something like this...

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Don’t you hear the word of the Lord?

Toe bone connected foot bone
Foot bone connected leg bone
Leg bone connected knee bone
Don’t you hear the word of the Lord?

Leg bone connected knee bone
Knee bone connected thighbone
Thighbone connected hipbone
Don’t you hear the word of the Lord?

Hipbone connected backbone
Backbone connected shoulder bone
Shoulder bone connected neck bone
Don’t you hear the word of the Lord?

Monday, September 7, 2009

God berates pastors, blesses sheep

I will start with the end. In this Oh-so-harsh book of Ezekiel, listen to what God says about YOU - His beloved sheep...

"You are my dear flock,
the flock of my pasture,
my human flock,
And I am your God.
Decree of God, the Master."

But before He gets to that, He has some things to say -

Ezekiel 34
When the Sheep Get Scattered
1 -6 God's Message came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherd-leaders of Israel. Yes, prophesy! Tell those shepherds, 'God, the Master, says: Doom to you shepherds of Israel, feeding your own mouths! Aren't shepherds supposed to feed sheep? You drink the milk, you make clothes from the wool, you roast the lambs, but you don't feed the sheep. You don't build up the weak ones, don't heal the sick, don't doctor the injured, don't go after the strays, don't look for the lost. You bully and badger them. And now they're scattered every which way because there was no shepherd—scattered and easy pickings for wolves and coyotes. Scattered—my sheep!—exposed and vulnerable across mountains and hills. My sheep scattered all over the world, and no one out looking for them!
7 -9 "'Therefore, shepherds, listen to the Message of God: As sure as I am the living God—Decree of God, the Master—because my sheep have been turned into mere prey, into easy meals for wolves because you shepherds ignored them and only fed yourselves, listen to what God has to say:
10 "'Watch out! I'm coming down on the shepherds and taking my sheep back. They're fired as shepherds of my sheep. No more shepherds who just feed themselves! I'll rescue my sheep from their greed. They're not going to feed off my sheep any longer!
11 -16 "'God, the Master, says: From now on, I myself am the shepherd. I'm going looking for them. As shepherds go after their flocks when they get scattered, I'm going after my sheep. I'll rescue them from all the places they've been scattered to in the storms. I'll bring them back from foreign peoples, gather them from foreign countries, and bring them back to their home country. I'll feed them on the mountains of Israel, along the streams, among their own people. I'll lead them into lush pasture so they can roam the mountain pastures of Israel, graze at leisure, feed in the rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I'll go after the lost, I'll collect the strays, I'll doctor the injured, I'll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they're not exploited.
17 -19 "'And as for you, my dear flock, I'm stepping in and judging between one sheep and another, between rams and goats. Aren't you satisfied to feed in good pasture without taking over the whole place? Can't you be satisfied to drink from the clear stream without muddying the water with your feet? Why do the rest of my sheep have to make do with grass that's trampled down and water that's been muddied?
20 -22 "'Therefore, God, the Master, says: I myself am stepping in and making things right between the plump sheep and the skinny sheep. Because you forced your way with shoulder and rump and butted at all the weaker animals with your horns till you scattered them all over the hills, I'll come in and save my dear flock, no longer let them be pushed around. I'll step in and set things right between one sheep and another.
23 -24 "'I'll appoint one shepherd over them all: my servant David. He'll feed them. He'll be their shepherd. And I, God, will be their God. My servant David will be their prince. I, God, have spoken.
25 -27 "'I'll make a covenant of peace with them. I'll banish fierce animals from the country so the sheep can live safely in the wilderness and sleep in the forest. I'll make them and everything around my hill a blessing. I'll send down plenty of rain in season—showers of blessing! The trees in the orchards will bear fruit, the ground will produce, they'll feel content and safe on their land, and they'll realize that I am God when I break them out of their slavery and rescue them from their slave masters.
28 -29 "'No longer will they be exploited by outsiders and ravaged by fierce beasts. They'll live safe and sound, fearless and free. I'll give them rich gardens, lavish in vegetables—no more living half-starved, no longer taunted by outsiders.
30 -31 "'They'll know, beyond doubting, that I, God, am their God, that I'm with them and that they, the people Israel, are my people. Decree of God, the Master: You are my dear flock, the flock of my pasture, my human flock, And I am your God. Decree of God, the Master.'"

Tough to be a preacher

Everyone wants to know the future.

Everyone wants to be "lucky", or "blessed" or have divine intervention working in your favor.

Every general would love to know the outcome of the battle beforehand.

Every business person would love to know if the plan, the strategy, the endeavor will be wildly successful, or a dismal failure.

Every one would love to hear from God.

Sort of...

Preachers and prophets have been mocked, excoriated, dismissed and denounced. Many killed. Many banished.

Occassionally a preacher or a prophet is held up. It usually does not last long.

Listen to what God told Ezekiel...

30 -32 "As for you, son of man, you've become quite the talk of the town. Your people meet on street corners and in front of their houses and say, 'Let's go hear the latest news from God.' They show up, as people tend to do, and sit in your company. They listen to you speak, but don't do a thing you say. They flatter you with compliments, but all they care about is making money and getting ahead. To them you're merely entertainment—a country singer of sad love songs, playing a guitar.

They love to hear you talk, but nothing comes of it.

33 "But when all this happens—and it is going to happen!—they'll realize that a prophet was among them."

The Watchman

George Washington Bridge guards lose jobs after being caught napping on duty

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two George Washington Bridge security guards photographed sleeping on the job have been fired, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In one set of photographs by commuter Joey Lepore, taken during a Wednesday rush hour at 7:15 a.m., a guard tilts his head downward and dozes. The other snoozer's on-the-clock siesta is more brazen: he uses his arm as a pillow as he dozes at 10:15 a.m. last Monday.

Before releasing the photos, Lepore hesitated, knowing it would likely cost the guards their jobs. But ultimately he decided the security of thousands outweighed the job security of two.

"If there's two people on this bridge who don't care about my safety and the safety of anybody who comes over this bridge, then I really don't have an obligation to withhold what I have," he said.

Being a watchman is a boring job. No surprise that someone would fall asleep on the job. Problem is, you are paid to be there for the off chance that something happens that is not at all boring.

God compares Ezekiel to a watchman. By extension, each Christian is a watchman.

Ezekiel 33
You Are the Watchman
1 -5 God's Message came to me: "Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them, 'If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman, and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people, then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it's his own fault. He heard the alarm, he ignored it—it's his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.
6 "'But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn't blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I'll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.'
7 -9 "You, son of man, are the watchman. I've made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them. If I say to the wicked, 'Wicked man, wicked woman, you're on the fast track to death!' and you don't speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I'll hold you responsible for their bloodshed. But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don't do it, they'll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A dragon in the ocean

There is a visual!

"You are more like a dragon in the ocean, snorting and thrashing about!

This was a lament over Egypt - at the time one of the most powerful nations on earth. It's interesting. Now we would say, "Egypt? Really? It was once a powerful nation?"

Here is God's message...

1 -2 "In the twelfth year, on the first day of the twelfth month, God's Message came to me:
"Son of man, sing a funeral lament over Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Tell him:
"'You think you're a young lion
prowling through the nations.
You're more like a dragon in the ocean,
snorting and thrashing about.
3 -10 "'God, the Master, says:
"'I'm going to throw my net over you
—many nations will get in on this operation—
and haul you out with my dragnet.
I'll dump you on the ground
out in an open field
And bring in all the crows and vultures
for a sumptuous carrion lunch.
I'll invite wild animals from all over the world
to gorge on your guts.
I'll scatter hunks of your meat in the mountains
and strew your bones in the valleys.
The country, right up to the mountains,
will be drenched with your blood,
your blood filling every ditch and channel.
When I blot you out,
I'll pull the curtain on the skies
and shut out the stars.
I'll throw a cloud across the sun
and turn off the moonlight.
I'll turn out every light in the sky above you
and put your land in the dark.
Decree of God, the Master.
I'll shake up everyone worldwide
when I take you off captive to strange and far-off countries.
I'll shock people with you.
Kings will take one look and shudder.
I'll shake my sword
and they'll shake in their boots.
On the day you crash, they'll tremble,
"That could be me!"

China to take over the US?

China buys $14.9b of US treasury bonds

By Xu Shenglan ( 2008-09-19 11:36
According to statistics released by US Treasury on September 17, China held $518.7 billion worth of US treasury bonds in July, $14.9 billion more than in June.
The growth in US bonds held by China was the second peak since this January, with China placed as the second largest holder of US treasuries.
The US subprime mortgage crisis has made dollar-denominated investment products less attractive to foreign investors. Net purchases of long-term US securities totaled $53.4 billion in June, far less than the revised value of $83.2 billion in the previous month.
China's increasing US holdings had a connection to the growing foreign exchange reserves in July, said professor Ding Zhijie from the University of International Business and Economics
Not long ago the USA was "king of the heap".

Present policies are ensuring the end of the US superpower status.
Don't be alarmed! Every superpower in history has come to an end. The end of US reign will absolutely happen. The only thing that is unsure is when.

Listen to God talking to Ezekiel about a long ago superpower and their demise.

Ezekiel 28
The Money Has Gone to Your Head
1 -5 "God's Message came to me, "Son of man, tell the prince of Tyre, 'This is what God, the Master, says:
"'Your heart is proud,
going around saying, "I'm a god. I sit on God's divine throne,
ruling the sea"— You, a mere mortal,
not even close to being a god, A mere mortal
trying to be a god. Look, you think you're smarter than Daniel.

No enigmas can stump you. Your sharp intelligence
made you world-wealthy. You piled up gold and silver
in your banks. You used your head well,
worked good deals, made a lot of money. But the money has gone to your head,
swelled your head—what a big head!

-11"'Therefore, God, the Master, says:
"'Because you're acting like a god,
pretending to be a god, I'm giving fair warning: I'm bringing strangers down on you,
the most vicious of all nations. They'll pull their swords and make hash
of your reputation for knowing it all. They'll puncture the balloon
of your god-pretensions. They'll bring you down from your self-made pedestal
and bury you in the deep blue sea. Will you protest to your assassins,
"You can't do that! I'm a god"? To them you're a mere mortal.
They're killing a man, not a god. You'll die like a stray dog,
killed by strangers— Because I said so.

Decree of God, the Master.'"
11 -19God's Message came to me: "Son of man, raise a funeral song over the king of Tyre.
Tell him, A Message from God, the Master:
"You had everything going for you.
You were in Eden, God's garden. You were dressed in splendor,
your robe studded with jewels: Carnelian, peridot, and moonstone,
beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald,
all in settings of engraved gold. A robe was prepared for you
the same day you were created. You were the anointed cherub.
I placed you on the mountain of God. You strolled in magnificence
among the stones of fire. From the day of your creation
you were sheer perfection...
and then imperfection—evil!—was detected in you.
In much buying and selling
you turned violent, you sinned! I threw you, disgraced, off the mountain of God.
I threw you out—you, the anointed angel-cherub.
No more strolling among the gems of fire for you! Your beauty went to your head.
You corrupted wisdom by using it to get worldly fame. I threw you to the ground,
you sprawling before an audience of kings
and let them gloat over your demise. By sin after sin after sin,
by your corrupt ways of doing business,
you defiled your holy places of worship. So I set a fire around and within you.

It burned you up. I reduced you to ashes. All anyone sees now
when they look for you is ashes,
a pitiful mound of ashes. All who once knew you
now throw up their hands: 'This can't have happened!
This has happened!'"

Let's do a partial rundown of world superpowers.

This is Phil's imperfect world history in a nutshell.

Egypt - 3000 years
Incas - 1500 years?
Greece - 540 years?
Mongolia - 400 years?
Rome - 450 years
Spain - 400 years
England - 150 years
Germany - 3 years
Japan - 15 years
USSR - 70 years
USA - 200 years

Antichrist - 3.5 years

Jesus Christ - forever

Friday, September 4, 2009

Keep Your Turban Fastened

We say, "Hang on to your hat!"

It means, the storm is about to hit and you need to hang on. Here is an example

Hang On to Your Hats
Nouriel Roubini in The Financial Times:
"...In the next few months, the flow of macroeconomic and earnings news will be much worse than expected. The credit crunch will get worse, with de leveraging continuing as hedge funds and other leveraged players are forced to sell assets into illiquid and distressed markets, leading to further cascading falls in prices, other insolvent financial institutions going bust and a few emerging market economies entering a full-blown financial crisis.
The worst is not behind us: 2009 will be a painful year of a global recession, deflation and bankruptcies. Only very aggressive and co-ordinated policy actions will ensure the global economy recovers in 2010 rather than facing protracted stagnation and deflation."

God said to Ezekiel, "Keep your turban fastened" Read with me...

13 " 'Now your impurity is lewdness. Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided.
14 " 'I the LORD have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares the Sovereign LORD.' "
Ezekiel's Wife Dies
15 The word of the LORD came to me: 16 "Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. 17 Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners ."
18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.
19 Then the people asked me, "Won't you tell us what these things have to do with us?"
20 So I said to them, "The word of the LORD came to me: 21 Say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary—the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. 22 And you will do as I have done. You will not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners . 23 You will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet. You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of [a] your sins and groan among yourselves. 24 Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.'
25 "And you, son of man, on the day I take away their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes, their heart's desire, and their sons and daughters as well- 26 on that day a fugitive will come to tell you the news. 27 At that time your mouth will be opened; you will speak with him and will no longer be silent. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD."
Hang on to your hats!

Sadistic Brutal Violence

Patti and I have had a Friday night date night for around 30 years. We have done different things. Lately we often go out to dinner and a movie. I am in charge of picking out the movie. With the new internet tools available, I have gotten pretty good at picking out good movies and avoiding the shameful or disgusting ones.
If the professional reviewers gush over a movie, it is probably pretty gross. If the fan meter is really heavy on green with virtually no red, it is probably a good movie. The very best movies (read, "Christian" or strong Christian values) are predictably dissed by the professional reviewers.
Here is one that we DID NOT go to see. It was running in theatres just a few months ago.
The Last House on the Left
Opened March 13, 2009 Runtime:1 hr. 49 min. R
sadistic brutal violence including a rape and disturbing images, language, nudity and some drug use
We often ask ourselves, Why would some twisted mind write such a screen play? Even more, why would a sad sadistic company create and promote such a movie? Then most tellingly, why would ANYONE in the whole wide world ever pay money and GO to a disgusting perverted movie such as that?
Today I found some answers. This is not a new problem...
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, will you judge her? Will you judge this city of bloodshed? Then confront her with all her detestable practices 3 and say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols, 4 you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made. You have brought your days to a close, and the end of your years has come. Therefore I will make you an object of scorn to the nations and a laughingstock to all the countries. 5 Those who are near and those who are far away will mock you, O infamous city, full of turmoil.

6 " 'See how each of the princes of Israel who are in you uses his power to shed blood. 7 In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and the widow. 8 You have despised my holy things and desecrated my Sabbaths. 9 In you are slanderous men bent on shedding blood; in you are those who eat at the mountain shrines and commit lewd acts. 10 In you are those who dishonor their fathers' bed; in you are those who violate women during their period, when they are ceremonially unclean. 11 In you one man commits a detestable offense with his neighbor's wife, another shamefully defiles his daughter-in-law, and another violates his sister, his own father's daughter. 12 In you men accept bribes to shed blood; you take usury and excessive interest [a] and make unjust gain from your neighbors by extortion. And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign LORD."
God brought judgement on the people of Israel then.

And He hasn't changed a bit!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tips on how NOT to impress the Almighty

Ezekiel is living his life, minding his own business.

The leaders of Israel come to him. They wanted an appointment with the Almighty. A Word from God.

Ezekiel got an earful, all right. But not exactly what the leaders were hoping for...

" 1 In the seventh year, the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, some of the leaders of Israel came to ask for guidance from God. They sat down before me.
2 -3 Then God's Message came to me: "Son of man, talk with the leaders of Israel. Tell them, 'God, the Master, says, "Have you come to ask me questions? As sure as I am the living God, I'll not put up with questions from you. Decree of God, the Master."'
4 -5 "Son of man, why don't you do it? Yes, go ahead. Hold them accountable. Confront them with the outrageous obscenities of their parents. Tell them that God, the Master, says:
5 -6 "'On the day I chose Israel, I revealed myself to them in the country of Egypt, raising my hand in a solemn oath to the people of Jacob, in which I said, "I am God, your personal God." On the same day that I raised my hand in the solemn oath, I promised them that I would take them out of the country of Egypt and bring them into a country that I had searched out just for them, a country flowing with milk and honey, a jewel of a country.
7 "'At that time I told them, "Get rid of all the vile things that you've become addicted to. Don't make yourselves filthy with the Egyptian no-god idols. I alone am God, your God."
8 -10 "'But they rebelled against me, wouldn't listen to a word I said. None got rid of the vile things they were addicted to. They held on to the no-gods of Egypt as if for dear life. I seriously considered inflicting my anger on them in force right there in Egypt. Then I thought better of it. I acted out of who I was, not by how I felt. And I acted in a way that would evoke honor, not blasphemy, from the nations around them, nations who had seen me reveal myself by promising to lead my people out of Egypt. And then I did it: I led them out of Egypt into the desert.
11 -12 "'I gave them laws for living, showed them how to live well and obediently before me. I also gave them my weekly holy rest days, my "Sabbaths," a kind of signpost erected between me and them to show them that I, God, am in the business of making them holy.
13 -17 "'But Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They didn't follow my statutes. They despised my laws for living well and obediently in the ways I had set out. And they totally desecrated my holy Sabbaths. I seriously considered unleashing my anger on them right there in the desert. But I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt, so that I might be honored and not blasphemed by the nations who had seen me bring them out. But I did lift my hand in a solemn oath there in the desert and promise them that I would not bring them into the country flowing with milk and honey that I had chosen for them, that jewel among all lands. I canceled my promise because they despised my laws for living obediently, wouldn't follow my statutes, and went ahead and desecrated my holy Sabbaths. They preferred living by their no-god idols. But I didn't go all the way: I didn't wipe them out, didn't finish them off in the desert.
18 -20 "'Then I addressed myself to their children in the desert: "Don't do what your parents did. Don't take up their practices. Don't make yourselves filthy with their no-god idols. I myself am God, your God: Keep my statutes and live by my laws. Keep my Sabbaths as holy rest days, signposts between me and you, signaling that I am God, your God."
21 -22 "'But the children also rebelled against me. They neither followed my statutes nor kept my laws for living upright and well. And they desecrated my Sabbaths. I seriously considered dumping my anger on them, right there in the desert. But I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt, so that I might be honored and not blasphemed by the nations who had seen me bring them out. "