Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Hosea 1–4
Old Testament Only: Proverbs 3–4
New Testament Only: 2 Corinthians1
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Weighed In The Balances

Daniel 4-6

BalanceWe had several well-known stories in yesterday’s passage and we have a couple more today – “Handwriting on the Wall” & “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”. At the end of yesterday’s passage King Nebuchadnezzar had witnessed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking around unhurt in the fire into which he had cast them. When they came out he realized that the God they worshipped was unlike any other. Chapter 4 of today’s reading continues in that vein of Nebuchadnezzar’s acknowledgment of the One True God.

Daniel 4:1-3 ESV

“[1] King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! [2] It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. [3] How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.”

That sounds like a great convert doesn’t it? The very next passage of Scripture is delivered in first person prose from Nebuchadnezzar himself, and we see that his rich and lavish lifestyle quickly led him back to where he was, worshipping a multitude of gods. In fact he had a second dream, and when others were unable to interpret the dream, he called for Daniel in whom he said “is the spirit of the holy gods”. In the verse above we see that he referred to God as the “Most High God”. Evidently he still believed there were many gods that had some kind of power, but that Daniel’s was more powerful than the rest. He confused the spirit within Daniel as being that of several gods rather than the One True God.

This is an important distinction. Nebuchadnezzar had heard and seen the truth, but he did not fully grasp it, and, as today’s reading shows, there were negative consequences for him because of this. God humbled him in a dramatic and lengthy fashion, at the end of which Nebuchadnezzar once again acknowledged the One True God. Unfortunately his son did not learn the lesson of humility from his father’s experience and so his life was commanded of him. This came in the form of fingers mysteriously writing something on the wall in the king’s palace.

Have you ever heard someone say “I can read the handwriting on the wall”? This saying is used to suggest that the speaker sees their time as being up, that there is some kind of separating of the ways about to take place. This saying comes from one of the biblical stories in today’s passage. That is because of what the fingers wrote. They foretold of the imminent death of the brash king who died that very night. One of the words written on the wall, Tekel, actually stood for a phrase that has also become a standard saying still used to this day – “you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting”.

Now a person who truly has submitted their life to Christ does not have to worry about losing their salvation. Because they are now a child of the Living God, however, they do have to worry about God’s discipline which is intended to help His children mature. I’m not too worried about the child of the Living God; He will get this person where He intends them to be. No, I worry about the person who went through the motions of submitting their life to Christ, but never truly gave up authority over their life to Him; they never really had the change of heart required to be saved; they did not truly become a new creature in Him.

You see this person is in the most dangerous place of all, thinking he is saved and therefore not open to receiving salvation. This person can tend to be rather proud and arrogant since what he really thinks he’s done is made a deal with God that requires nothing of him and yet gives him everything. In his mind God owes him blessings and he owes God nothing. It is this person who should worry about seeing the handwriting on the wall, of being weighed in the balances and being found wanting. We can deceive ourselves but we cannot deceive God.

Still, knowing I am saved doesn’t prevent me from wondering about the idea of being weighed in the balances. As a new creature in Christ, I have been re-born for a purpose. Am I living up to that purpose? If I were to be weighed in the balances of God given purpose would I be found wanting? The word growing implies a process. If we are growing in Christ we are in the midst of a process; we will not be tomorrow what we are today. The balance doesn’t compare you against who you will be one day, but who you are supposed to be today. So the question is this, today will you be found wanting?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Daniel 8–12
Old Testament Only: Proverbs 1–2
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 16
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Daniel, An Object Lesson For Us All

Daniel 1-3

Daniel in the lions denThe book of Daniel is truly an amazing work of God. I guess that can be said of every book of the Bible. While this book is full of fascinating stories and prophecies, it also is an object lesson for all of us living in the world today. Daniel was a godly man living in a godless world. Even in the face of trouble and persecution he remained faithful to his God and his faith. We Christian men also attempt to live as godly men in a godless world – at least I hope we do. Perhaps reading of how Daniel stood tall and faithful will encourage us as we face our own challenges.

I found the preface to Dr. James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on Daniel to be instructive in this vein and so I am sharing an expert below.

“One spring a number of years ago when the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology was meeting in five separate cities, I assigned the subject “God and History” to five different speakers to see what they would do with this theme. Each approached the theme well and in his own way. But I was particularly impressed with one speaker who addressed the subject by a study of the Book of Daniel. His point was that Daniel gives the meaning of history more clearly than any other portion of the Bible and, what is more, it tells us how to live for God in ungodly times—like our own.

Do many people regard Daniel as a clear revelation of the meaning of history—or of anything else for that matter? I doubt it! Yet that is what it is.

Some approach this book as if it were a puzzle given to stretch our minds and put us through our paces as students called to “compare Scripture with Scripture” to figure things out. There is an evangelical version of this that focuses on prophetic portions of the book. It tries to explain the time frame in which Messiah was to come, be cut off, and then come again in glory. There is also a liberal version in which the traditional authorship of Daniel is denied and the chief emphasis is placed on answering questions like: Who wrote Daniel actually? When was it written actually? And why did the writer pretend to be foretelling future events when he was actually only recording history?

No one can doubt that there are puzzling elements to this prophecy. At one point Daniel himself was puzzled, and there are parts of his book that have never (in my opinion) been conclusively explained. But to think of Daniel chiefly as a puzzle is to miss its extraordinary relevance, which is why my friend who spoke at the Philadelphia Conference of Reformed Theology was so eager to examine this book for its illuminating insights into history. Consider these facts:

  1. Daniel was a godly man sent to live in ungodly Babylon at a time when God’s blessing upon the Jewish nation seemed to have been withdrawn or postponed. This means that his position was much like that of believers trying to live in secular society today.

  2. The Babylon of Daniel’s day was a type of all kingdoms that do not acknowledge God or think they can dispense with him. This is an apt description of most of the world in our time, including so-called “Christian” America.

  3. Daniel (and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) was under tremendous pressure to conform. That is, his religion was tolerated, even respected, as long as he did not allow it to intrude into public life or “rock the ship” of state. That is our situation also. We can practice our religion so long as it is not in the schools, at work, or in any public place. We have to keep it “on the reservation.”

  4. The world seemed to be winning. Nebuchadnezzar (and after him Belshazzar) reigned. Nebuchadnezzar believed himself to be above having to answer to anybody.

  5. Nevertheless, in spite of these things, God told Daniel that it is he, God, who is in control of history and that his purposes are being accomplished, even in the overthrow and captivity of his people. Moreover, in the end God will establish a kingdom that will endure forever. The destiny of the people of God is wrapped up in that eternal kingdom.

I do not know of any message that is so timely and valuable for Christians living in our own secular and materialistic times as that message is. Indeed, in Daniel we have a stirring and helpful example of one who not only lived through such times and survived them but who actually triumphed in them and excelled in public life to the glory of God. Daniel did not compromise. He did not bow to this world’s idols. He was hated and plotted against. But he triumphed because he knew God and trusted him to do with his life whatever was best. One of my favorite quotations in all the Bible is from this book, and it makes precisely that point. It is from the scene in which Daniel’s friends have been summoned before King Nebuchadnezzar for their refusal to bow before the golden statue and explain why they will not bow down.

Daniel 3:16–18

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

We need people like that today—people who are aware of the dangers of trying to serve God in this world but who trust God in spite of the danger and who will not compromise. They are the only ones who really triumph, regardless of appearances, and in the last analysis, they are the ones who make a difference.”

Boice, J. M. (2003). Daniel: an expositional commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

So brothers, let’s enjoy our time together in this book and let us further take inspiration in Daniel’s example. Let us endeavor to grow as the men God re-created us to be.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Daniel 5–7
Old Testament Only: Psalms 145–150
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 15:35–58
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Let Us Get Prepared

Ezekiel 45-48

Ready_RegIn today’s passage we read of a “prince”. Some may think that this is a prophecy about Jesus Christ. The general scholastic consensus is that this prophecy is not about Jesus. This prince worships God and offers sacrifice to Him. Jesus wouldn’t worship Himself or sacrifice to Himself. Sacrifice is the act of spilling animal blood to cover ones sins. Jesus is sinless and therefore would not require a sin sacrifice. He is also God, the one to whom a sacrifice and worship is owed.

A few weeks ago I was flipping channels and came across a PBS show about four Muslims from around the world who were going on the Hajj to Mecca. One of the people going was an American woman who had formerly been a Christian – or at least she claims that she had been a Christian. She was an educated woman. She said that she had been listening to a talk radio show when someone called in and said “if Jesus was God why did He pray to Himself?” To her this was such a brilliant, unanswerable question that she evidently came to the conclusion that Jesus could not be God because He prayed to God and therefore she looked for another faith system that she found more credible. Her “search” brought her to Islam.

Now her profession is such that there could be no question that this is an educated woman, but the idea that such a foolish question could seem profound to her, and cause her to walk away from Christianity, makes me wonder. But then again, many allegedly intelligent people pose all kinds of questions that they feel undermine the Gospel. In every instance just a moment of quiet contemplation would show that these in fact are not brilliant questions but rather foolish questions.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry he prayed to the “Father”. This may be seen as praying to Himself but one must think about why God had come down to Earth in human form to begin with. He came to model how we are to live. Since the entire purpose for our existence is right relationship with God, it seems rather obvious that one of the things He would model for us is prayer. He showed by how He lived how important prayer is and how to pray properly. Part of people’s confusion on this issue revolves around their confusion of how a being could separate themselves into three unified and yet separate entities. Still the issue of Jesus “praying to Himself” is not hard to understand or explain. How an intelligent person could so easily and thoughtlessly be swayed by such an obviously silly question is beyond me.

Then again, I remember a few years ago when I was discussing issues of faith with an atheist co-worker. She too was an intelligent, educated woman. In her world view you couldn’t be intelligent and believe there was a God. She must not think Albert Einstein was all that smart. Anyway, she kept trying to show me how foolish I was by posing what she viewed as brilliant questions that would show me that my faith was illogical. One such question was this: “If the Bible is how God communicates with His creation, then why has nothing been added to the Bible in 2,000 years?”

Well, I must admit that the question had never occurred to me and I was suddenly stumped. I was nonplussed for a moment and mumbled in my moment of confusion “that’s a good question”. She grinned at me in triumph, turned and left me sitting by myself. Five minutes later I slapped my forehead and realized I truly was an idiot. I was an idiot because I had said that was a good question. I was an idiot because it took me five whole minutes to realize that in fact her question was foolish. Why didn’t Tom Clancy add more to his breakout novel “The Hunt For Red October”? He didn’t add to it because the story was told; there was nothing more to add. That is why God hasn’t added any more to His Holy Word, it is complete, there is nothing more to say.

My point here is that the Lost believe they have brilliant questions that tear the heart out of the Gospel message. Even immature Christians can be stumped and mislead by these questions. For the sake of the Lost as well as our own sake we need to continually increase our knowledge of the Bible and our faith. When we are uneducated about our faith we hurt the cause of Christ. Look at what the Apostle Peter had to say about being prepared to share our faith.

1 Peter 3:14-15 ESV

“[14] But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, [15] but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”

It does us no good to get angry when others are disrespectful and even hateful toward us as Christians. For the sake of the Gospel, however, we must be prepared to make a defense of our faith, and we must offer that defense with gentleness and respect. Are you prepared to make a defense of your faith? A place to start might be to write down the kind of questions the Lost or ill-informed might ask and then search out answers. When that woman changed from Christianity to Islam there clearly was no one available to her who could give her an answer that showed her the truth. When that woman challenged me about the Bible I was not prepared to give a simple answer. For the sake of the Gospel brother, let us get prepared!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Daniel 3–4
Old Testament Only: Psalms 140–144
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians15:12–34
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Differing Views

Ezekiel 41-44

Yelling fatherBeginning with Ezekiel 40, which we read yesterday, and continuing through chapter 42 in today’s reading, we read of a vision Ezekiel had concerning the temple in Jerusalem. There is a lot of debate about this temple. Some believe this refers to a rebuilding of Solomon’s temple after the Babylonian Captivity. Others believe Ezekiel was prophesying about the Church in a figurative sense. A third view is that this is a reference to a “Millennial Temple”. Each view is argued vigorously for and against by its supporters and detractors. Some of these arguments are persuasive and some are not.

This Scripture, however, reminds me of many debates we have had on this blog about this very issue. One thing I want to point out is that whatever this temple is, it will not be in operation when we live in eternity with Jesus Christ. I take as my authority for that statement the following verse from the Apostle John as written in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 21:22 ESV

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”

John is describing the “New Jerusalem” which is found on a “New Earth”. If you believe there will be a millennial reign of Jesus Christ on the “Old Earth” this verse does not necessarily mean that there will be no temple or temple sacrifice during those 1,000 years. What I found interesting in that verse though is the statement that God and Jesus (the Lamb) would be the temple of the New Jerusalem. The problem that I have with the idea that there will be temple sacrifice during a millennial reign of Jesus on Earth is that the sacrificial system was instituted to cleans away the sins of those who did not have access to the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus’ blood on the cross. If we don’t need animal sacrifice when He is absent, why do we need it when He is here?

Now some have suggested in response to some of my previous posts that the sacrificial system will be reconstituted as a memorial for Christ’s sacrifice, but my question still stands. If we don’t need a memorial now, why would we need one when He is present? We won’t need to remember Him, He will be with us. Someday my earthly father will pass away. While he is still with me I don’t “memorialize” him but once he passes on I will memorialize him; I will remember him. You don’t need to remember someone when they are with you.

Some may say that I am missing the point, that we aren’t remembering Him but what He did. Again, if this is important why aren’t we doing that now? We remember what He did now and we don’t have animal sacrifice. Why would there be a greater need to remember what He did when He is with us? I can’t think of any greater reminder of what He did than that He is present with us.

I can almost sense those that disagree with me shaking their heads. Some are uncomfortable accepting the idea that we just won’t know for sure until Christ returns. I, on the other hand, am comfortable accepting that. When I get to live in the presence of my Lord and Savior, I just won’t care what I got right and what I got wrong. He is my Sovereign and however He wants to do things is perfectly fine with me. So I guess the real point of my post here today is that we shouldn’t let our differing views about such things cause a division in the Body of Christ. We are family. We may disagree but let us not allow our disagreements to cause anger or enmity. Let us be respectful and peaceful even as we disagree.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

No Reading Today

by | September 14, 2014 | In Daily Reading No Comments

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Daniel 1–2
Old Testament Only: Psalms 136–139
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 15:1–11
(Current Plan is Chronological)

No Reading Today

Sleeping ManOur current chronological reading plan has no reading for Sundays. Take this day to reflect on what God has said to you through His Holy Word this past week.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Ezekiel 46–48
Old Testament Only: Psalms 131–135
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 14
(Current Plan is Chronological)

New Life

Ezekiel 37-40

Skelatal remains 2I love the story of The Valley of Dry Bones. It is a vision, given to Ezekiel while in the “Spirit of the Lord”, of new life. As we read of these dry bones being raised up, and the breath of life being restored, we find that God has promised to revive His people. While God did bring the Jewish people out of exile in Babylon and restored them to the Promised Land, His prophecy was actually aimed at what would happen when Christ came and then returned.

Ezekiel 37:21-25 ESV

[21] then say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. [22] And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. [23] They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. [24] “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. [25] They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever.

Up until verse 24 you could say that the prophecy was only for the Jewish people and that it had already come to be. When we come to the idea that His Servant David would rule over them forever, however, we realize that this prophecy is actually about the time when Christ gathers all who belong to Him together under His reign. He is the prince who will reign forever. This story about the dry bones is not only about a restoration of the Jewish people to their Promised Land but about restoration of all who will come to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Today we are all scattered over time and space but God will bring us all back together to live with Him in right relationship for eternity.

I love the analogy of the dry bones for that is truly what we are without Christ; dried up and dead. The description of these bones rising is a description of what happened to us when we submitted our lives to Christ.

Ezekiel 37:5-6 ESV

“[5] Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. [6] And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

Not only do our dusty, dried up bones stand up, but we are renewed, we are built up. Sinews and flesh and skin are layered on. The breath put into us is the breath of new life in Christ. We truly do become not only a new person but a built up person. What do the dusty old bones have to do with the new person? Nothing my friend, nothing at all. You are a new creature in Christ. Stop lying around like you are old dried up bones. God has given you new life! Don’t continue to live in the old.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!