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The Lions Den, part 1

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred twenty satraps, stationed throughout the whole kingdom, and over them three presidents, including Daniel; to these the satraps gave account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Soon Daniel distinguished himself above all the other presidents and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king planned to appoint him over the whole kingdom. So the presidents and the satraps tried to find grounds for complaint against Daniel in connection with the kingdom. But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him. The men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” So the presidents and satraps conspired and came to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions. Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.”Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict. Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, “O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?” The king answered, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they responded to the king, “Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day.” (Daniel 6:1-13, NRSV)

Do you pray to God?

Daniel was a foreigner who found himself in a place of power in the kingdom he was in. And those whom he had power over didn’t like this. So they tried to make a way to get him removed from the power. They could find no legitimate reason for getting him removed so they attacked his religion, which was different from theirs. They knew that Daniel was devout and would not sway from his faith in God.

Is there anyone out there that knows this about you. This reminds me of the saying, “If you were put on trial for being a follower of Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

How can we help the world see the coming Savior and know that He is coming for them because He loves them?

 

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The Writing on the Wall, part 1

King Belshazzar made a great festival for a thousand of his lords, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the vessels of gold and silver that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand. The king was watching the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s face turned pale, and his thoughts terrified him. His limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the diviners; and the king said to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever can read this writing and tell me its interpretation shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around his neck, and rank third in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar became greatly terrified and his face turned pale, and his lords were perplexed. The queen, when she heard the discussion of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall. The queen said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts terrify you or your face grow pale. There is a man in your kingdom who is endowed with a spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father he was found to have enlightenment, understanding, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and diviners, because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.” (Daniel 5:1-12, NRSV)

What would you do if out of no where a human hand appeared and started writing on the wall? And of course, we really don’t know at this point why the king can’t read it. Was it because it was written in a way that was illegible? Was it because it was in a language the king could not understand? Or was it because the king was drunk that he couldn’t make it out?

The reading does inform us that the king was under the influence of wine and had the gold and silver vessels his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. What do you think would happen if you started to use something you had stolen from God?

Have you ever stolen from God?

How do we steal from God as we prepare for Christmas? How do we steal from God when we skip over Advent?

You see Advent is not just about waiting for the coming savior, it is about preparing the way for Him. It is about preparing our hearts for Him. It is about us making room for peace, joy, love, and hope.

Advent is a time for us to reflect on how we are Christ’s light to the world. And by not doing this are we stealing from God?

Do we steal from God?

 

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The Fiery Furnace, part 1

King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O King. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:1-12, NRSV)

King Nebuchadnezzar is just like almost every other king of history and sees himself as a god.

So he created an idol and ordered his kingdom to worship it. And everyone who doesn’t do this will be thrown into a furnace and killed.

All people need to worship their king. Yet as Jews and Christians we are called to worship God alone and not have idols.

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego should not worship the idol and they don’t and it gets them noticed.

When do we live our faith out loud?

How can we in this season of Advent live our faith in a way that helps people see the real meaning of Christmas and points the world to the love of the coming Savior?

 

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David’s Words

For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:25-28, NRSV)

David knew that his offspring would be the King and knew that they would save the world.

David was always pleased to be in God’s presence.

How do you love to be in the presence of God?

How can we have David’s understanding of Jesus?

 

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Resurrection

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18, NRSV)

Have you ever heard your name called out by Jesus?

You just lost everything. Your world has completely crumbled around you.

The man you have followed for three years, the man you thought was the Messiah was hung on a cross and killed like a common thief. You at least were able to put Him in a tomb. But now after the Sabbath, you come to mourn at Hid grave and the stone is rolled away and He is not there. Seriously! Isn’t it enough that you killed him but now you have to move His body!

And then you see who you think is the gardener in this garden and you ask Him where He has taken the body to. You don’t recognize your master and lord for fear and grief fave rocked your world. You ask through tear stained eyes that can’t really see anymore. And then the gardener says your name. He called you by name and I know that voice! That’s Jesus!

He’s alive! My lord and savior is alive and now I get it! Death has no victory for God has made away and He has called me by name!

Let Him call you by name!

 

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Birth of Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20, NRSV)

This story seems so second nature to us. We have heard of this census probably for however many years we have been alive. We have heard of the family that went from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and how a baby was born there that night in a manger because there was no room inside.

But do we get it?

This is a story about how God moved Heaven and Earth to set into motion the things that needed to happen for the prophecies to come true and for the Messiah to come into the world.

This isn’t simply a story of a young (unwed) women and her husband (well not really yet…) giving birth to their son. Who happens to be the son of God. This is the story of how God saved us all. Because the manger leads to Jesus in the temple at age 12 and on to His ministry here on Earth and to His death on the cross. You see if it wasn’t for the manger the cross would not have happened.

So Christmas while it is nice to celebrate His birth, we need to also remember His death. This is merely a step, a very well orchestrated step in the story of your salvation.

So thanks be to God the manger happened, so God could make a way for us all.

And remember it isn’t just about the manger, but it is also about the cross.

 

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lost

“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. (Matthew 18:10-14, NRSV)

The shepherd will come after you if you leave the flock and wander off.

He leaves the rest of the flock, on the side of the mountain, in the wilderness, to go searching for the 1 that was lost. Not because He cares more for the 1 than the 99, but He cares for all the sheep and all need to be with the flock.

So He goes searching and will risk His life to keep the sheep safe.

For one of the least of these, the savior will go to great lengths.

 

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