Thursday, November 30, 2017

November 30: Daniel 7; Psalm 119:153-176; Proverbs 28:23-24; 1 John 1



Overview

            Daniel: In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream. In the dream, he saw four beasts come out of the sea. The first was like an lion with eagle wings that turned into a man. The second was like a bear that was told to each much flesh. The third was like a leopard with wings and four heads. It had dominion. The fourth was terrifying and strong. It had iron teeth, ten horns until another little horn came up. Three horns were uprooted before it. The little horn had eyes like a man and spoke great things.
            Then Daniel saw thrones arrayed for judgment with the Ancient of day seated. His clothing was white, his hair like wool. His throne was fire with wheels of fire, and fire flowed out from there. Innumerable being served and stood before him. Books were opened.
            The horn kept on boasting until the beast was destroyed in the fire. The other beasts lost their dominion but were not killed at this time.
            The Son of Man came before the Ancient of Days. He was given dominion, glory and an everlasting kingdom so that all people everywhere would serve him.
            Daniel was freaked out by this vision and he asked one who was standing there for an explanation. He was told that the four beasts were kingdoms that came from the earth but the saints of the Most High would receive the kingdom forever without end.
            Daniel pressed for more information about the last beast and the horn that spoke and was greater than the others. This horn won battles against the saints until the Ancient of Days rendered judgment against him and gave the kingdom to the saints.
            This beast will destroy the whole earth and rule. It will be ruled by ten kings, but another will rise up and conquer three of the kings. He will be anti-God and try to change God’s plans. He will rule for 3 ½ years until the court convenes, takes away his kingdom, and destroys him.
            The kingdom will be given to the saints of God and be an everlasting kingdom.
            Daniel was alarmed grew faint but kept the matter to himself.
            Psalm: The Psalmist asks for redemption and salvation as he looks to God’s promises and laws. He knows God’s mercy but also sees his foes with their faithlessness while he is looking to God’s rules. Because he loves God’s word he asks for life.
            His persecutions come from princes without cause, but he explains how he rejoices in God’s word, abhors falsehood, praises God seven times a day, has peace, and hope because of God’s word. He keeps and loves it from his soul.
            He asks for his cry to be heard by the Lord as he praises God. He asks to understand God’s word and to be taught by it. He looks for God’s help and salvation as he seeks to live and praise God. He confesses his waywardness and looks for God’s help to find him as he doesn’t forget God’s commandments.
            Proverbs: You will have more respect from a person you rebuke than one you flatter. A person who steals from his parents and thinks it is OK is just as bad as a murderer.
            1 John: Jesus was from the beginning and John (and the apostles) heard, saw, and touched him. He is the word of life. John proclaims he is the way of eternal life whom the Father made know to them. He is telling us this so we can have fellowship with them and the Father and Jesus. He is writing so we can have completed joy.
            The message is that God is light and there isn’t anything dark in him. If we are in darkness and say we are in fellowship with God, we are liars. If we live in the light like God is, then we have fellowship with each other as Jesus’ blood cleanses us from all sin. We deceive ourselves and call God a liar if we think we don’t sin and his word isn’t in us. But when we confess our sins God is faithful to forgives us and remove our unrighteousness.

What Stood Out

            Daniel: “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:14).
            Psalm: “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (Ps 119:165).
            Proverbs: “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue” (Prov 28:23).
            1 John: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Insight

            Daniel: Daniel gets a very symbolic view of the future in his vision. Some of it is plain and simple and others are very symbolic. Some of the symbolic features are explained to Daniel and others are not even mentioned. Some people spend a lot of time with the first three beasts trying to explain how they fit into our history and how the fourth beast fits into our future.
            However, if we take a clue from Daniel, the first three are not important. The fourth is important only because the different horn comes out from it. The salient features are this: 1) the nation will rule the world with great oppression; 2) it will be a confederacy of ten rulers; 3) a coup will take place eliminating three of the rulers; 4) the coup leader will take control of all for 3 ½ years; 5) this leader will persecute the saints; 6) he will attempt to usurp God’s plans.
            While this antichrist seems to be the focus of this passage, we must evaluate it by considering the vision of the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. Otherwise, we can be distracted by evil and miss what God is doing. The outstanding features of this part of the vision is just as clear: 1) the Ancient of Days is God; 2) he will judge the little horn; 3) the Messiah will take over the kingdom; 3) the saints will inherit the kingdom; 4) the kingdom is everlasting.
            God’s sovereignty is affirmed even when this antichrist tries to change the outcome of history. Even though the saints will be persecuted and lose battles, the final victory is that of the Most High and the Messiah takes over forever. We can trust the Lord to do what is right and do it in his timing.
            Psalm: Through 176 verses, the Psalmist has proclaimed how great God’s word is. It is reflected in rules, promises, statutes, commandments, precepts, testimonies, and law. He has asked for salvation from enemies yet expressed how afflictions were good for him. At some points, it seems that he almost brags about how much he loves God’s word and holds fast to it. However, in this last verse he confesses that he has gone astray (Ps 119:176). The only remedy for going astray is for God to seek him.
            It is by grace we are saved and we must remember that. When God finds us and we know him, we are responding to his grace. His salvation will be evident in that we will have peace, love his law, and we will be secure in him (Ps 119:165).
            Proverbs: I knew a man who seemed to be wise. He was older and experienced. I would occasionally ask him about decisions and his answers always seemed to be good. Then one day, I discovered that he was only affirming what I had decided to do rather than giving any wise advice. He was essentially flattering my ego instead of helping me determine if something was ill advised or even good. We don’t want to be people that do that. It is only flattery and will lead a person to follow his heart. And we know that our hearts are deceitfully wicked (Jer 17:9). We need people who will rebuke us when we are wrong, not give us directions for the wrong way.
            1 John: John emphasizes the fact that he and the other apostles had heard, seen, and touched Jesus because of the cults that had risen which denied Jesus came in the flesh. They said he only appeared to the apostles in some sort of spirit body. They had a problem with God being in Jesus as a human being and then dying. Today we see some cults have the same problem, but they degrade Jesus to the status of an angel or a created being separate from God. They deny the trinity. John even addresses that in saying Jesus was from the beginning.
            In view of this, we have to look at our lives knowing that Jesus’ real, physical, blood cleanses us from all sin. When we practice sin, we are ignoring this and can’t have fellowship with God. However, we run into this paradox that we still have a sinful nature that we allow to rear up and we sin though we’re cleansed by his blood. We can’t deny our sinfulness or we call God a liar. The problem is how to have fellowship with the Lord knowing we sin and that sin breaks our fellowship with him. That’s where confessing our sins is needed. Because of God’s faithfulness, he will always forgive us and make us righteous.
            This needs to be a daily practice, if not hourly, and even immediately after recognizing a sin. It is good to go back over our day and identify sins and confess them. We even need to confess that we aren’t particularly good at doing that. Still, we have the assurance that we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

Application

             I want to give good counsel to people when they need it. I don’t want to flatter them but give good advice, including rebuke when they are wrong. I want to also be ready to receive it as well and confess my sins.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November 29: Daniel 6; Psalm 119:129-152; Proverbs 28:21-22; 2 Peter 3



Overview

            Daniel: Darius had 120 satraps running the nation. They reported to three officials, one of whom was Daniel. Because of Daniels excellent spirit, Darius was going to put him over the whole kingdom. The other two officials and the satraps conspired to bring charges against Daniel but couldn’t find any faults. They came to Darius and convinced him to make a law that anyone who prayed to any god other than Darius should be killed in a den of lions. Darius agreed, and it became a law for 30 days. Laws of the Medes and Persians cannot be revoked.
            When Daniel heard of it, he continued to pray to God three times a day in his house. The officials went to the king and reminded him of the law and that it couldn’t be changed. They then told him that Daniel was ignoring the decree and praying to his God. The king tried for a day to find a way to rescue Daniel, but the officials came again and reminded him that the law could not be changed.
            Darius told Daniel that he wanted God, whom Daniel served, to rescue him from the lions but he put Daniel in the lion’s den and sealed it with a stone and the king’s and his officials’ signet rings. Darius went home and fasted and didn’t sleep all night.
            In the morning, Darius went to the den and asked Daniel if God had rescued him. Daniel answered that God’s angel closed the lions’ mouths and he wasn’t harmed because he trusted God. Darius threw all the men and their families who conspired against Daniel into the lions’ den.
            Darius then made a proclamation to all people on earth. He commanded them to tremble before Daniel’s God because he is the living God who lives forever. His kingdom is forever. He rescues and does signs and wonder on earth and in the heavens. He saved Daniel from the lions.
            Daniel prospered during Darius’ reign and that of Cyrus the Persian.
            Psalm: God’s word is wonderful, it imparts understanding, keeps our steps steady. Therefore, we long for it; it keeps us from iniquity. We need to have it taught to us because some do not keep it.
            God is righteous and it shows in his rules and his faithfulness. The Psalmist is zealous for God’s word especially when his foes forget it. Even if we are small, despised, and have troubles, we don’t forget God’s word but delight in it.
            The Psalmist cries to God with all he has, to be saved. He cries early in the morning and even at night. In his affliction, he keeps God’s word and meditates on it. Though his persecutors come close, they are far from God’s law and he is close to the Lord and has known God’s law for a long time.
            Proverbs: Don’t be biased against or for others; remember a hungry person may cause someone to sin. Not being generous and desiring wealth will end up in poverty.
            2 Peter: Peter again reminds his readers that he is stirring up their minds with his letter. He reminds them of what the prophets and the Apostles said concerning Jesus’ commandments. They should remember that in the last days there will be people who ridicule predictions of Jesus’ return. They do this by claiming everything is the same as it always was and therefore isn’t going to happen. On purpose, they ignore God’s account of the creation and the flood as God has said. They ignore the prediction that the universe will be ended at the judgment and the ungodly will be destroyed.
            We should not overlook that time is different for God. Long ages or a short moment are both the same to him. He isn’t forgetting his promises, but he is waiting because he wants people to repent and not to perish. When he decides it is time, it will happen swiftly when the Lord comes. Everything will disappear in heat and everything we have done will be exposed.
            Since everything will happen this way, we need to be living godly lives. We should even do what we can to have it happen sooner. We should be looking for a new heaven and earth where there is perfect righteousness after all the old universe is removed.
            While we wait, we should be perfectly holy and at peace. This waiting is giving time for more salvations according to what Paul wrote by the wisdom God gave him. His letters speak about these things and some are hard to understand. Unstable people twist his letters along with other Scripture, but it is to their own destruction. Since we know this, we need to keep away from their errors and not become unstable like them. Rather, we should be growing in grace and our knowledge of Jesus. To him belongs all glory now and when eternity starts.

What Stood Out

            Daniel: “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Dan 6:10).
            Psalm: “I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts” (Ps 119:141).
            Proverbs: “To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong” (Prov 28:21).
            2 Peter: “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:5-6).

Insight

            Daniel: We again see God’s sovereignty over all situations. He didn’t stop the officials from conspiring against Daniel. He didn’t give wisdom to Darius to see through the ridiculous law and the consequences of signing it. He didn’t punish Darius for his obvious pride in wanting people to pray to him. That alone was blasphemous enough to have warranted his immediate destruction (see Acts 12:22-23 so see what happened to Herod when he accepted the acclimation that he was a god). If we were praying for Daniel, we would have surely asked God to do one or all of these things. However, he did stop hungry lions from killing Daniel. The results were glory to God acclaimed in writing to perhaps millions of people. That wouldn't have happened if any one of our prayers were answered and Daniel was spared from entering the lions’ den.
            We don’t know what Daniel prayed but it is noteworthy that he continued to pray as was his custom. When disaster threatened, he didn’t panic. He didn’t have to make any special times of pray because he always prayed. We can learn from him that a godly people are always in communion with God so that threats don’t cause anxious prayers. We can learn that our godly way of life doesn’t have to change because of some government regulations. We can learn that when a government or society makes rules against our worship of the Lord Jesus, we don’t have to stop or put others in place of Jesus. We must obey God rather than man as Peter said (Acts 5:29).
            Daniel’s example doesn’t mean that we must openly defy the government though. Continuing to have underground churches when necessary and being careful when and where to worship or evangelize is not lacking faith. It is being shrewd (Matt 10:16). It does mean we should establish our regular prayer life and trust in the Lord so that when we are thrown to the lions, we will still trust him knowing the outcome will bring him glory.
            Psalm: Today’s reading has a lot of anguish in it as the Psalmist asks to be saved from his afflictions. But he does remember that in the midst of his personal battles and problems, God’s word is his delight. We may not face the same kinds of things. Ours may be small problems or they may be great and life-threatening. We may be a nobody or we may be someone like Daniel. The solution to living a victorious life is not focusing on the problems but on God and his word. He has the power to rescue and change our circumstances as demonstrated by Daniel’s rescue. But we don’t see the whole picture, how he will gain glory from it all. If we focus on ourselves, our trial will be miserable. If we focus on what God wants, we can have joy in our circumstances (James 1:2-4).
            Proverbs: We often are biased against poor people. We don’t want to be around them because of one thing or another. We may think that they are dangerous, thieves, or some other vile criminals. Certainly, some are, but so are some wealthy people and everyone in between, but we don’t automatically think they are wicked. We need to remember that some of the poorest people are not there because they are worse than other. Some of them do steal because they are hungry. We should be careful in judging them because we’ve never been in their shoes.
            2 Peter: Peter told us that the teaching of evolution would be at the heart of those who deny Jesus. No, he didn’t say it in those words, but his opening of chapter 3 describes in a few short verses what has happened of the past 100 years or so as people ridicule the biblical view of creation using evolution. I firmly believe in a literal six-day creation, a young earth, and a global flood. These are the things Peter says scoffers will deliberately overlook (2 Peter 3:5).
            I hear this ridicule when people proclaim that the biblical view of creation isn’t scientific. The reality is that there are many scientists with PhDs who have clearly described why evolution is not scientific and there is more evidence for a literal six-day creation, a young earth, and a global flood than there is for evolution. I would refer you to https://creation.com/ and their book and DVD written by some of these PhDs, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. Remember, people who scoff at this have a reason and it isn’t scientific. Many know their theory is bogus, but they try to put down the biblical view because they don’t want to be accountable to God. The want to ignore and pretend that the day of judgement won’t happen.
            Another very important passage is 2 Peter 3:15-16. Some false teachers claim that Paul led the Church astray with his teaching. Peter affirms that Paul’s letters are God’s word when he associates his letters with the “other Scriptures.” While he admits that Paul’s letters are sometimes hard to understand, they are still God’s word.

Application

             I want to be able to have a consistent walk with the Lord so that my prayers will be in accordance with his will and to bring him glory. That means trusting him because he is sovereign and he is good. It means living a godly life that will demonstrate to outsiders that Jesus is real and he is returning. It means believing the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation and not picking the things I think are correct and without error.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

November 28: Daniel 5; Psalm 119:113-128; Proverbs 28:19-20; 2 Peter 2



Overview

            Daniel: King Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, held a great banquet and used the vessels from the temple in Jerusalem to drink wine and praise his gods. When he did that, a hand appeared and wrote on the wall. The king was exceedingly frightened and called for his magicians to interpret the writing. He promised them honor and position as 3rd ruler in the kingdom to whoever could do that. The wise men failed.
            The queen came in and told the king that in the times of his father, Daniel was the chief magician and had wisdom to interpret such things because the spirit of the holy gods was in him. Daniel was brought to the king who offered Daniel the same gifts if he could interpret the writing.
            Daniel told him to keep his gifts, but he would still interpret the writing. He reminded the king that Nebuchadnezzar had been granted great wisdom, power, authority, and a great kingdom by the Most High God. When he was proud, God made him like an animal. Even though the king knew this, he didn’t humble himself but exalted himself against the Lord of heaven by using the vessels from the temple of God to praise his idols. He did not honor the God who controls the king’s life.
            Daniel told him that this God is the one that sent the hand to write Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. Mene means God has ended his kingdom. Tekel means the king has personally been found lacking. Peres means the kingdom is split and the Medes and Persians will take over.
            The king did for Daniel as he promised. However, that night the king was killed and Darius the Mede took over when he was 62 years old.
            Psalm: The Psalmist continues to provide reasons for his delight in God’s law. He hates the double minded and doesn’t want evildoers around to distract him. He asks God to uphold him. God doesn’t have anything to do with those who ignore his statutes.
            He has done right so he wants to be saved and not oppressed by insolent people. He wants God to act against those who have broken his law. He loves God’s commandments more than gold.
            Proverbs: Working hard will provide for your needs but following get-rich-quick schemes will bring poverty. Being faithful in this will bring blessings but one wanting quick riches will be punished.
            2 Peter: False prophets and teachers will come just like they did in the past. They bring heresies and even deny Jesus. They will be destroyed. People follow them because of their sensuality causing Christianity to get a bad name. They lie out of greed and we are assured they will be condemned.
            God didn’t spare angels who sinned. The were cast into hell or chained in dungeons to wait for the judgment. God didn’t spare the wicked when he saved Noah during the flood. He didn’t spare Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of what happens to the ungodly. He rescued Lot from them; he was righteous and destressed by their sins. Since God did all this, he can also rescue godly people from trials and make sure the unrighteous will be punished in the judgment. He will especially punish those who engage in lustful passions and rebellion.
            Some of these teachers are so bold as to slander celestial beings. Angels don’t even do that though they are more powerful. These teachers are irrational and destined for destruction as they teach error about theology. They will suffer for their wicked ways. They actually live and eat with us while dishing out their deception. They are so bad that they work at being greedy along with all sorts of other sins. They are like Balaam who liked money so much that a donkey had to rebuke him.
            These teachers are unreliable like dried up streams or mists driven by the wind. They will go to hell because they parade the lure of sensual passions before people who have barely escaped from these sins. They say they are free but are enslaved by their sin. If they really had escaped these sins of the world through the knowledge of Jesus Christ and then turned back, then it would be even worse for them than if they hadn’t come to know Christ. They are like the proverbial dog that eats its own vomit or the pig that returns to the muck after being washed.

What Stood Out

            Daniel: “And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven” (Dan 5:22-23).
            Psalm: “You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain” (Ps 119:118).
            Proverbs: “A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished” (Prov 28:20).
            2 Peter: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Peter 2:20).

Insight

            Daniel: The short story of Belshazzar is another demonstration of God’s sovereignty. The Lord says he stirred up the Medes to destroy Babylon (Jer 51:11). This was established long before Belshazzar took over after Nebuchadnezzar. When the sovereign Lord says something will happen, it is only a matter of time before it comes true. When the Lord says Jesus is coming back, it will happen and we need to be prepared for that.
            Belshazzar should have been prepared. Daniel rebuked him for ignoring what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar. The king didn’t have any excuse for doing what he did. He knew that God could set up kings and depose them. He knew that a proud man will be humbled by the Lord. Yet, he went ahead and did what he wanted.
            His example leaves us with no excuses either. We know God is sovereign and we know his righteous decrees. We have even more information about God, Jesus, our sinfulness, and our need to turn to Jesus for salvation than Belshazzar. We can’t ignore what the Bible says, do what we want, and expect that we will get away with it. We probably won’t get a hand writing on the wall just before our death, but God’s hand has already written the Bible. If we don’t know Jesus, and continue to do what we want, there will be no warning the day before our death. If we do know Jesus, then we certainly should not continue in our sins and do whatever we want. We’ve been warned.
            Psalm: Belshazzar had his chance in life to do what was right, but he didn’t. The Psalmist says that the Lord rejects people like him (Ps 119:118). They think they are wiser than God when they do their own thing, but the Lord knows better. They are selfish and looking out only for themselves. Since we have God’s word, we don’t have any excuse for our sins. We think we can find loopholes with our cunning to let us get away with our sins. That won’t buy us any lenience with God. He will refine us if we are Christians. If we aren’t Christians and don’t turn to Jesus, he will discard us like the waste after a refining process (Ps 119:119). We should tremble at the thought of his judgment (Ps 119:120). We need to throw ourselves on God’s mercy so that we can have his righteousness (Ps 119:123) when we trust in Jesus.
            Proverbs: The Bible doesn’t condemn a person for being wealthy. It does make it clear that wealthy people have a harder time letting go of their wealth to follow the Lord (Mark 10:24-25). But these Proverbs do condemn a person trying to get rich without working for it. The schemes that people fall for by con artists are often ways to make a huge gain on an investment in short amount of time. Gambling fits that description also. The Lord doesn’t honor those. It isn’t just trying to get rich quick either. It is our attitude about riches. If riches are our goal in life, then Paul warned us that the desire for riches lead us into temptations that end in ruin, destruction, and wandering from our faith (1 Tim 6:9-10).
            2 Peter: Peter spends a lot of time warning us about false teachers. There isn’t one good word that he has to say about them. He doesn’t have one shred of hope for them either. He says they are reserved for punishment on the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9). He also says they will be destroyed (2 Peter 2:12). Their future is gloom and darkness (2 Peter 2:17). Let it be known that we don’t want to be in the same boat as these.
            They aren’t just teaching false doctrine, but they are enticing people to participate in their sensual activities. We see some of them in the news on occasion when some “Christian” cult is exposed with reports of sexually abusing women and children. You see it every day when they pronounce homosexuality and gay marriage as gifts of God. When they use the name of Jesus or Yahweh as the source of their revelation that these things are good and decent, they blaspheme the name of God. The Bible is clear that these things are an abomination to him. I won’t go into detail because I’ve already written about that (https://ray-ruppert.blogspot.com/2015/10/gay-marriage-churchs-response-to.html).
            However, some of what Peter says could lead us to believe that a person could lose their salvation. In the last verses of the chapter it sounds like he is talking about a person who once was saved but turned back to his old ways of life and then taught others that this was OK. Peter says his later state will be worse than if he had never come to Christ. You can look at these verses in three ways.
            The first is that the “if” in verse 20 applies to whether or not they really escaped in the first place. I think that most people who fall back into sin this deeply were never truly saved in the first place. They had a knowledge of Jesus but never really had a saving faith. However, the plain understanding of this verse doesn’t support this. Other verses on eternal security of the believer would support this supposition. 1 John 2:19 would support the idea that they never were saved because they left for their sinful lifestyle.
            The other way to look at this is to see that the statement of being worse off is not a matter of eternal judgment but a matter of what happens to them in this life. They usually are found out and suffer the consequences.
            The third way to look at it is to believe they were saved and then lost their eternal salvation. They are doomed to destruction (2 Peter 2:17). They were saved (2 Peter 2:20) and now they have ignored and turned back from obedience to Christ (2 Peter 2:21).
            Whichever you believe, the warning is there for all of us. Don’t become a false teacher. Don’t go back to your sinful lifestyle you had before becoming a Christian. The end will be the same regardless of your theology. You will be destroyed one way or another.

Application

             I recognize God is sovereign, but I also know that as one of his adopted children, he will never leave me or forsake me. I am secure in my salvation. However, that doesn’t mean I am free to do whatever I want as false teachers do. Rather I should do what I can to expose them so they won’t be a blemish or blight in our church (2 Peter 2:13).