Christianity 201

February 19, 2022

Daniel Interprets the King’s Dream

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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This is our third time with Alisa whose blog is On the Housetops. Although she has not been as active online lately, there is a post from last summer I felt was worth sharing with our readers today. Click the header which follows to read this where we located it.

Daniel 2: Trust in the God Who Knows

Daniel arose to an urgent knock at his door. Opening it, he was shocked to see the king’s captain standing there with a dozen soldiers ready to arrest him. Some of them held torches; all were armed with swords. Looking past the entourage, Daniel noticed smoke rising in multiple places around the city. What was going on?

Captain Arioch informed Daniel that King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered for all the wise men of Babylon to be executed, and their homes burned to the ground. He said it matter-of-factly, but Daniel detected a hint of hesitation: Arioch was not in favor of the decision. But when you’re the king’s captain, your personal opinions don’t matter. You do what you’re told… or else.

For a few moments, did fear grip Daniel’s heart? If it did, we don’t know.

“Why is the decree from the king so urgent?” Daniel asked.

Arioch explained what had triggered the king’s rage: that night, Nebuchadnezzar’s sleep had been disturbed by a dream – and not just any dream, but one that seemed to hold significance and meaning. So he had called together his top magicians and astrologers to interpret the dream for him (which wasn’t highly unusual). What was highly unusual, though, was that Nebuchadnezzar had either forgotten the dream that was supposedly so significant, or else refused to tell them what the dream was. It was an unprecedented demand, but he wanted his wise men to prove their ability to interpret the dream by also recounting to him what the dream even was!

Of course, the wise men had declared this to be impossible. And so, in a rage, Nebuchadnezzar had ordered for all the wise men of Babylon to be destroyed. Immediately!

Let’s pause for a second here. It’s easy to put ourselves in the shoes of Daniel when we’re reading this story: to compare ourselves to the hero. But there are lessons to be learned from these other characters as well.

Look at Nebuchadnezzar. He wanted something so badly, he was willing to throw away all reason in his quest for it. He put unreasonable demands on those around him, and then lashed out when they couldn’t come through. Are there times when we lash out in anger simply because we can’t get what we want?

Or we can look at the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was turning to people to solve a problem only God can solve. Granted, he didn’t know the LORD and was only doing what he knew to do. But for those of us who are believers – how often do we forget who to turn to for answers? How often do we turn to people and books and blogs for help that we can only receive through God Himself?

Or what if we were in Arioch’s shoes? Would we have obeyed the king’s command and started killing the wise men of Babylon, even though we knew their deaths were unjust? Or would we have stood against it in some way? That’s a hard situation…

How would we have felt as the wise men themselves? Stuck in a lose-lose situation, with no way out? And no belief in God to give them hope? For all their magic and witchcraft and earthly (or demonic) wisdom, they had no way of answering the king or saving their own lives.

But circling back to Daniel – he had hope. The situation looked impossible, but Daniel didn’t say that. With courage and boldness, he went to Nebuchadnezzar and asked for time, so that he might give the king the interpretation. And apparently the king granted his request.

So Daniel gathered his friends together – the ones who shared his faith in God – and they prayed. And prayed. And prayed. Begging God to show them mercy, to reveal the secrets that only He knew, so that they might not perish alongside the other wise men.

And the LORD heard their prayers. Daniel awoke from a vision in the night and praised the God of wisdom and might, the God who knows all things – who had now granted Daniel wisdom and might and knowledge.

He brought the good news to Arioch, who quickly brought him to the king, much relieved that someone could appease the king, but probably nervous about whether Daniel actually would.

He probably became even more nervous when Daniel started off, “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king” (Dan. 2:27).

But Daniel continued, “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.” Without hesitation, he described the dream that the king had experienced, of a great multi-layered statue that was mysteriously destroyed by a stone, so that no trace of it was left, but the stone grew into a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Everyone in the throne room must have been deathly quiet, hanging on to his every word. Arioch watched the king’s face: Nebuchadnezzar was nodding – this was indeed what he had dreamed.

But now what was the interpretation?

The statue represented Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom (the Babylonian empire), which would be followed by three more empires (which we know today to be the Median-Persian empire, the Greek empire, and the Roman empire). But these earthly kingdoms would be followed by a different one, for “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Dan. 2:44).

At this, Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and declared, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the LORD of kings, and a revealer of secrets…” (Dan. 2:47).

Truly indeed.

God knows the timeline of history, even before it has happened yet. He knows what tomorrow holds. He knows the secrets of men’s hearts: even the secrets they themselves don’t know.

And He promises that someday, His kingdom will fill this entire earth and never be destroyed. What a wonderful promise that is!

So trust Him… trust the God who knows.

Bonus content:

God does bring wisdom when we ask, and light to various situations. Here is an NIV scripture medley from based on the Daily Light on the Daily Path book by Samuel Bagster.

Pr.2.6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Pr.3.5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;

Jas.1.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

l.Cor.1.25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength… 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong… 29 so that no one may boast before him. 

Ps.119.11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.

130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it gives understanding to the simple.

Lk.4.22a All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.

Jn.7.46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does…”

1Cor.1.30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

June 3, 2020

Pre-booking Your Choices

The excerpt from Thinking out Loud which follows is a principle I’ve always held in high regard, but was surprised this morning to find I’ve never shared it here at C201. (You’ll see why I looked in the second half of this devotional.)

Our kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson. I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

One author suggested that this is what the book of Proverbs is about. It’s a father saying to his son something like, “Look, this stuff is gonna happen; here’s how it’s gonna go down…” and then describing the benefits of wisdom and not be the proverbial (!) lamb to the slaughter of temptation.

Proverbs is a great book to teach your kids. 31 Chapters, one for each day of the month. Lots of easy-to-understand translations out there; and you need to spend money if you really don’t want to; just read it off the tablet at suppertime from ICB, NCV, NLT, The Voice, all recommended for the younger set, in that order. Start each new month with the same chapter in a different translation. (Yes, a few of the verses are explicit, but you can skip over those until the kids are older.)

What got me thinking about this was an excerpt at Devotions Daily from a recently published book by Kathi Lipp, Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Home for Any Crisis Big or Small (Zondervan, 2020). You can read the full devotional — which contained some very practical advice — at this link, or learn more about the book at this link.

…Predeciding is when you make a decision before you get into the thick of a situation. It can be as simple as making a menu plan for the rest of the week so you don’t get to five thirty each night and have to figure out what in the world you are going to make for dinner. Or it can be as hard as deciding that the next time I see Aunt June and she mentions how much weight I’ve gained—because she lives for that kind of thing—I’m going to say, “So good to see you,” and then give my husband the preagreed-upon signal to get me out of there.

Predeciding takes most of the emotion out of decisions because we are not in the midst of the situation. We can use logic and wisdom instead of adrenaline and anxiety. And that will make our decisions—for us and our family—so much better, healthier, and wiser.

One of the biggest benefits of predeciding is giving ourselves and our loved ones the confidence that if something scary happens, we have a plan.

Throughout the Bible we see God honoring those who made decisions before they were ever tested who remained faithful to their plans.

Here are some other examples:

  • RUTH 1: When Ruth decides to stay with Naomi, even though her husband has died and Naomi has nothing to offer Ruth.
  • DANIEL 3: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow down to the king’s image and were thrown into the fiery furnace but were preserved from harm.
  • ESTHER 4: When Queen Esther went before the king and made an appeal for the lives of the Jewish people, she declared, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (v. 16).
  • LUKE 10: Mary choosing to sit at Jesus’s feet even though she was receiving pressure from Martha to get up and help with the preparations.
  • PHILIPPIANS 4: Paul’s decision to focus on God, and not his circumstances, while in prison awaiting trial.

These are just a few of the circumstances where God empowered people to set a course and follow it, despite hardship and temptations to choose a different route.

Predeciding is an invaluable skill. Making a decision about how you will act before a crisis comes will save you pain and heartache in everything from parenting to budgeting to handling an emergency…

Taken from: Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Home for Any Crisis Big or Small by: Kathi Lipp Copyright © 2020 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan.


September 26, 2018

What it Means to be a Godly Man

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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After a break of a couple of years, we’re paying a return visit to the blog Brothers of the Book, written by Bill Hood. While the column is directed at men, I hope that 50% of our readers don’t simply tune out today’s devotional, but rather, see what God is showing you as you read. As you’ll see, they’re wrapping a series on the Book of Daniel.

The Godly Man Shines Like The Stars

The book of Daniel tells us that the godly man shines like the stars. Are you a godly man? Do you humble yourself before God seeking to understand? Do you share the Gospel?

[Suggested reading: Daniel 10-12]

Today we finish Daniel. I love what these final chapters have to say about those who belong to God. I have always intended this blog to look at how God defines a godly man. Take a look at this verse.

Daniel 10:12 ESV
“Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.”

A godly man humbles himself before God and sets his heart to understand. Our prayers are heard and answered when they are offered in the right spirit and are consistent with His will. Remember that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that the cup He was to drink be taken away. He also prayed that even though He did not want the cup, His desire was for God’s will to be done nonetheless. Did God take the cup away? No. It is good to bring your cares and desires before God; just don’t expect to get what you want. God may have other plans. If you are humble before Him, and seek to understand, your prayers will grow to be consistent with His will. In these verses, I see the need to grow in our prayer life and in our Bible study, for these are the tools needed to search for understanding.

Daniel 10:18-19 ESV
“Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me.  And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

Greatly loved by whom? Those who submit their life to the authority of Christ are greatly loved by God. What does this love mean? It means that we need not fear. It means that we have a peace surpassing understanding. It means we are strong and can have good courage for the touch of the Lord God in our life revives and strengthens us. How precious is His saving grace!

Daniel 11:32-35 ESV
“… but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.   And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder.  When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.”

Do you know your God? Will you stand firm and take action? Will you make many understand even though you suffer for it from time to time? This is what it means to be wise – to be a child of the King. Here we see that the trouble that comes in our life is intended to refine and purify us. This is what it means to be His! Godly men stand firm and take action as directed by Christ Himself.

Daniel 12:1-3 ESV
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.   And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Is your name found in the Book of Life? Will you awake to everlasting life or shame and everlasting contempt? We saw in Daniel 11:32-35 what it means to be wise. The result of faithfully taking action in the name of Christ in His work of building the Kingdom, is the great honor of shining like the brightness of the sky above. To turn others toward Christ is to become like the stars forever and ever! When was the last time you told someone about the love of Jesus Christ? If you love Christ, you should have a burning desire to tell others of His love.

All of these things are what it means to be a godly man.

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)