The Shining 

Daniel 12:3
“Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.“

As the book of Daniel comes to a close, he receives details regarding the days leading up to the return of Christ and His future reign. Knowing the time is short, he speaks of those who will turn others to the Lord. As time ticks away and the return of Christ becomes closer, it is the duty, and should be the passion, of every believer to win others to Christ.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine was praying regarding the missions work his church was contemplating. As he prayed, and looked over a map of the region of the world they were considering, he sensed the Lord was telling him to do as much as he could, as fast as he could. That message became the driving force behind multiple missions trips, out reaches, church plants and humanitarian endeavors. I think each of us would do well to apply that same principle to our Christian lives. We should seek to do as much as we can, as fast as we can. Paul put it like this,

Romans 13:11 “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”

As we approach the Christmas season, we will more than likely have contact with people we do not get to encounter on a daily basis. For some that will include family members, as well as chance encounters with strangers in shopping malls and the like. Let’s pray we will be given the opportunity to invite them to church, or to be able to share with them the love of Christ.

Let’s be those who shine like the brightness of the firmament.

Pastor Jim

 

Times Like These 

Daniel 11:32
“Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”

Daniel describes a very difficult time in Israel. Constant battles between the Seleucid and Ptolemian empires have wreaked havoc on the people of God. They have been an occupied territory for several years, and now face the threat of annihilation, as the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, has set his attention on destroying Israel. He outlawed the Jewish religion, ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C., his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacred thousands of people, burned the Holy Scriptures, and desecrated the Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus, and sacrificing pigs on the altar. It is with this dark, and seemingly hopeless, backdrop that Daniel declares, “the people who know their God will be strong and carry out great exploits.” In other words, the darker the backdrop, the greater opportunity for the child of God to shine.

History records, during this time, a priest by the name of Mattathias, and his five sons, mounted a rebellion against Antiochus and his forces. They soon began to succeed in one battle after another, until they had taken back the city of Jerusalem, and restored worship within the Temple. It was at this time, the events that led to the celebration of Hanukkah took place. The story is told, when the temple was rededicated, they had only enough oil to light the lamp stand for one day, and it would take several days to prepare more oil. They lit the lamp and began preparing more oil. Eight days later, the oil was completed, and the lamp was miraculously still burning. Hanukkah, in many ways, is the celebration of the people of God doing great exploits.

We live in dark days, that seem to be getting darker. Personal freedoms are being lost in the name of tolerance, the rising threat of terrorism impacts almost every aspect of life, and immorality is on the rise, in what seems to be unprecedented levels. This is not the time for the child of God to cower in fear or lean on the arm of the flesh. These are times for “the people who know their God [to be] strong, and carry out great exploits.” These are times for us to live more committed to Christ, and to declare with an ever increasing boldness, the simple message of the Gospel. Times like these are the birthplace of heroes.

Pastor Jim

 

Fasting 

Daniel 10:2-3
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”

Daniel finds himself in a place where he desperately needs direction from the Lord. He has seen the spiritual condition of the nation and knows that the only hope for his people is a work of God. He determines to set himself to seeking the Lord. Along with daily prayer and digging into the Scriptures, Daniel chooses to set out upon a voluntary fast.

Fasting is a spiritual exercise that involves denying the body physical things in order to focus attention on spiritual things. Fasting is often associated with both prayer and personal repentance, and is designed to bring us into step with what God wants to do in and through our lives.

Technically, fasting is to restrict yourself from all food for a period of time, but actually,  a person can fast from just about anything. Here Daniel has chosen to restrict himself from “pleasant food.” Because of his age, it is likely he ate something each day, but limited it to absolute necessity. We can follow his example by setting aside something that tends to occupy a lot of our time, and give that to the Lord. Today, one of the most valuable fasts may be to give up social media for a week and use the time to pray and read the Bible.

Whatever we choose to fast from, we should understand that much of the value of fasting is to train the flesh to say no. The same drives that compel me to eat, also tempt me to do what is forbidden, or to react in an ungodly manner. If I can resist the flesh’s desire for a cupcake, I can learn to resist its desire to complain, lash out in anger, or to be right all the time.

Why not choose to fast this week? Perhaps you will set aside food for a few days, or maybe there is something else that you can lay down for a while and give that time to seeking the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

History And Prophecy 

Daniel 8:1
“In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me—to me, Daniel—after the one that appeared to me the first time.”

Daniel is one of the most interesting books in scripture, it is filled with both history and prophecy. It records the encounters of Daniel in the palace of the king, and gives a prophetic picture of things to come. Chapter 7 focuses on two kingdoms that will arise after the fall of Babylon. The first was Persia, which is illustrated by a ram that no one could stop. The second was Greece, portrayed by a male goat with a notable horn. This goat moved with uncanny speed across the surface of the earth, until its horn was broken and four horns grew in its place. Daniel then focuses his attention upon one of the four horns, and watches as it turns against the people of God and His sanctuary.

History records that the combined forces of the Medes and Persian overthrew the Babylonian Empire, and ruled for more than two hundred years. During that time they attempted to spread their empire into Europe by conquering Greece. Although they were unsuccessful, they killed many Greek soldiers which created a hatred in the Greeks for Persia. It was only a matter of time until someone would arise, organize the Greek forces, and come against the Persian Empire. That person was Alexander the Great, who with a small army overthrew the Persian Empire in only a few years. Alexander spread Greek culture and religion from Europe to India, and from Persia to North Africa. Daniel’s picture of a goat moving with tremendous speed is certainly fitting.

At the height of his power, Alexander grew ill and died. Instead of appointing a successor to his newly formed empire, he simply left it to the strongest. His four generals all considered themselves be the strongest, and the empire was divided into four parts. Two of these play an important role as it relates to Israel, for they would constantly vie with one another for power and territory. In the second century BC, the territory of Syria, controlled by one of the successors of Daniel’s generals, came against Israel in an attempt to destroy the people of God and their religion. This man, known historically as Antiochus Epiphanies, made it his aim to wipe out the Jewish people and their religion. It was through the exploits of Judas Maccabaeus, and the intervention of Rome, that he was stopped in his tracks.

If we overlay the book of Daniel atop the events of history, we must conclude, the book is nothing short of the Word of God because of the detailed accuracy in which it foretold the future. Much of Daniel, however, still remains unfulfilled. He describes a time when Christ will return to set up His kingdom, which will have no end. We can be sure this event will unfold with the same accuracy. Are you ready?

Pastor Jim

 

Are You Ready? 

Daniel 7:1
“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.”

In Chapters 7 & 8, Daniel sees two visions that reveal the future. The events recorded will explain the rise and fall of earthly kingdoms, and will take him all the way to the time when Christ returns to defeat the enemy, and set up His kingdom. Among other things, it strikes me that these events were recorded during the reign of king Belshazzar, who reigned when the nation was defeated. God not only wrote out the script for the future of mankind, but He also warned the king of what was ahead. Belshazzar could have been prepared for what was coming by simply reading the pages of Daniel 7 & 8.

Prophecy is designed not only to reveal the future, but also to prepare us for what is coming. The Bible declares that Jesus will one day return like a thief in the night, but we do not need to be caught unaware (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). We can be prepared for what the future brings by being familiar with the pages of Scripture.

This principle is true as it relates to prophecy, but also as it relates to life. When trials come upon us, we usually find ourselves completely incapable of facing them. While the Bible might not reveal what specific difficulty is on your horizon, it will prepare you to face whatever challenges may arise.

Spending time with Christ daily, in the pages of Scripture, will build you up spiritually and get you ready for whatever life might throw at you. Too often, we neglect the Word of God until we find ourselves face to face with difficulties too big to handle. Don’t end up like Belshazzar who ignored the Word of God until it was too late.

Pastor Jim

 

Exonerated 

Daniel 6:5
“Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.’”

Daniel is one of the greatest heroes in all of Scripture. His personal commitment and public ministry impacted the lives of his companions, co-workers, and even kings. We know he had opportunity to witness to the most powerful and influential men in the world, and it seems some of them were converted. One of the reasons for his success in ministry was his faithfulness. Daniel set himself apart to the Lord and sought to live a godly life. His commitment to the Lord affected every area of his life. Privately, we know he was a man of prayer and the Word. Publicly, we know he was a man of commitment, faithfulness and conviction. When his accusers sought to find some charge to bring against him, they realized that the only way they could find fault was if his religious convictions forbid him to obey an earthly law.

We should seek to follow the example Daniel set. The secret to being found above reproach, when examined by others, is to first carefully examine yourself in light of the Word of God. If we will daily let the light of the Word shine into the dark places of our lives, and make the appropriate changes, we will find ourselves absolved of all charges when examined by others.

Take a few moments to allow God to examine you. If you find you are practicing something He forbids, or holding on to something you need to let go of, then respond appropriately. Lay those things at the cross, where you can be forgiven and they can be removed.

Pastor Jim

Sky Writing

Daniel 5:27
“You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting”

Have you ever wished God would write a message specifically for you? Perhaps hoping His finger would suddenly appear writing upon the clouds. Belshazzar had that experience. On the night before his death, the silence of heaven was broken when a warning was written on the walls of his palace. Sadly, Belshazzar ignored the warnings, did nothing in response to the message, and died that night not prepared to face eternity.

While I do not expect God will write upon the walls of my home, I have found heaven is not as silent as we think. The Bible is filled with page after page of messages for mankind. Like Belshazzar, the question is not whether heaven speaks, but whether we are willing to listen.

If you want to measure up when weighed in eternity’s balance, then you must look into the Word of God and live accordingly. The first step is to have our sins forgiven. This happens when we receive Christ and the pardon He offers through the cross. Second, we must decide to follow Him by looking into the Bible and doing what it says.  Similarly, when a road map says turn and we turn, so when Scripture says change we change.

Let’s not find ourselves in Belshazzar’s shoes, face to face with eternity and unprepared to go.

Pastor Jim