Peace in Our Time

 IMG_0034

Daniel 10-12

I am no expert on Biblical Prophecy, or on anything for that matter. So I’m not going to try to explain the prophecies in Daniel 10-12. Instead I want to share three things we can learn about God from Biblical Prophecy and three implications of those things for our own lives.

(1) Biblical Prophecy illustrates that God is not in time. This means that God is not bound by the same time constraints as we are. You and I can only deal with the present. We may have memories of the past and fantasies of the future, but we can see what is really happening only while it is actually taking place. God is not like this. He can see all of history at a glance; this is how He could reveal to people like Daniel the goings-on of the future.

(2) Because God is not in time He is the greatest of planners. The people we think of as planners (people like my wife) tend to have a focus on the future. This is why they plan—to be prepared for what is coming in the future. Since God can see the future He is able to plan things out in such a way as to generate best possible result. And because God loves us, those plans promote our welfare.

(3) Not only does God make plans, but those plans happen just as He promises. There are hundreds of prophecies throughout the Bible, some of which have already been fulfilled. Many of the prophecies in the Old Testament predicted that a Messiah would come. They foretold of the place of his birth, the characteristics that would define him, and the ultimate sacrifice he would have to make. When Jesus came, he was the embodiment of these promises—although many didn’t recognize this. When God makes a promise, you can bet your bottom dollar that He will come through.

(4) Because of God’s track record in promises department, we can trust that the prophecies in the Bible that haven’t yet happened will eventually happen. While it is very easy to lose trust in the empty promises of politicians, we can rest assured that God won’t let us down.

(5) Our trust in the promises of God should give us hope for the future. While the Bible does prophesy that in “the end” difficult and trying times will come, after that there will be no more pain, no more tears, and we will be with our God in His perfect Kingdom.

(6) What all this really means is that right now, in the time we are constrained to, we can live at peace. Despite the craziness of the world around us, however terrible and unbearable it may become, our hope can anchor us so that we can stand firm and live in serenity. So look at the promises God has made, see that He keeps them and that they are good, and live in peace, with hopeful expectation for the culmination of all the prophecies in the Bible.

– Joel Fletcher

How Daniel Sustained His Devotion (And How You Can Too)

Daniel 7-9

The same word has beep popping up each day in our last few devotions: devotion.  The reason for this is simple. Daniel was a man devoted to God. Each story we’ve read this week has clearly demonstrated this. 

In yesterday’s devotion I said that our devotion to God must remain constant despite the ever-changing world in which we live—just as Daniel’s did. Today I want to tell you how Daniel was able to sustain his devotion and how you can, too.

The word pray (and its derivatives) is found twelve times in the first nine chapters of Daniel. He prayed three times everyday. He was arrested and thrown into a lion’s den because he continued praying even though it was declared illegal. One of the most powerful prayers in all of scripture is recorded in Daniel Chapter 9—Daniel is its author. It is obvious that prayer was central in the life of this godly man. This is what enabled him to stay devoted to his God in midst of constant trials and changes. And a prayerful life is the key for us to maintain a devoted life today.

There are several reasons why prayer helps sustain devotion. The first reason is that it keeps us connected to God. The more you talk to someone (especially if you like them), the better the connection. On the other hand, if you don’t communicate, there will be little to no connection. This is case with God as well. Prayer—heartfelt prayer—creates connection, which leads to greater devotion.

A second reason is that prayer helps us understand the will of God. Prayer allows us (as much as possible) to get our minds aligned with God’s. The more we pray, the better we understand what God wants. His will is good, pleasing, and perfect. So when we understand God’s will (in all its goodness) it generates more devotion in us. In other words, we get a greater sense of how great God truly is and He becomes more alluring to us.

The last reason I’ll mention for why prayer helps us stay devoted is that it keeps us focused on what really matters. Our minds are truly amazing things, but they tend to get overcrowded—especially in the Information Age. We all carry smart phones, have personal computers, and own TVs. We are constantly taking in information—sometimes good and sometimes bad. I believe there has never been a harder time for individuals to stay focused than today. It is difficult to remain devoted when there are so many distractions. This is where prayer can help. When we put away our computers and smart phones and take time to talk to God, it clears the fog in our minds that prevents us from focusing on the one to whom we should be devoted.

Being devoted is not an easy thing. That is what makes Daniel so impressive. Only because of his prayer life was he able sustain such devotion to God. If we want to resemble Daniel in his devotion, we must strive to have a life filled with prayer. So go ahead, say a prayer.

– Joel Fletcher

IMG_0032

Thrown to the Lions

IMG_0031-1

Daniel 5-6                                            

In Chapter 6 of Daniel something very devious and disturbing occurs. After being selected as one of three administrators over Babylon by its new king, Daniel found himself in the crosshairs of the other overseers of the kingdom. They were jealous of the favor Daniel was finding in the eyes of Darius and that the king wanted to set Daniel over the whole kingdom.  This jealousy led to a conspiracy to get rid of Daniel. But how could they entrap such an upright guy? 

The satraps and administrators devised a plan to use Daniel’s devotion to God against him. They convinced the king to enact a law that would prohibit prayer of any kind to any person or god, other than Darius for thirty days. The punishment would be certain death, in the form of being thrown into a pit with hungry lions.

Daniel, in response to the ridiculous edict, went home and did the same thing he did everyday: prayed. He prayed three times everyday, not to Darius, but to the God of the universe, Yahweh.  In the middle of his prayers, a group of satraps and administrators went to Daniel’s house and caught him in the unlawful act. They turned him in. Despite trying everything he could, the king had no choice but to order to have Daniel thrown into the Lion’s den. 

The next morning Darius rushed to the den to see if Daniel was still alive. Not only was he alive, he didn’t have a scratch on him. God had spared him. He sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. The king was overjoyed and had Daniel pulled out. And, in a clear case of poetic justice, the men who tried to entrap Daniel are thrown to the lions to meet the same fate they had planned for Daniel.

The big point I want to draw from this particular story, and in this book as a whole, is Daniel’s consistency despite the changes in the world around him. Daniel lived his whole life in a place that was not his home, lived under the reign of several different kings, and he had people who were jealous of him and wanted him dead. Despite these things that were out of his control, Daniel was steadfast in his devotion to God and unwavering in his commitment to living right. 

The world we live in is constantly changing. Every four to eight years, we have a new president. What is popular today will be forgotten tomorrow (silly bands anyone?). What was socially acceptable a decade ago, is now taboo. What was once taboo is now celebrated. Society is in flux. Our devotion to God must not be. We may never live in a time when it is illegal to pray, but we do live in one where it is unpopular and becoming more so ever year. Our foundation must not be the shifting sands of the culture, but the Rock that never changes. It may get you thrown to the lions, but you’ll be in the favor of the one who made those lions. 

– Joel Fletcher

Even If You Don’t

IMG_0030

Daniel 2-3 

There’s a new song from Mercy Me that’s been playing on the radio lately called Even If. 

The chorus goes:

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

In Chapter two of Daniel king Nebuchadnezzar makes a tall statue of gold and calls for everyone to fall down and worship when the assigned music plays. If anyone refuses they are to be thrown into a furnace to meet a very unpleasant death.  For Daniel’s friends from Judah, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, this is unacceptable. They are Jews, and worshiping anyone or anything except Yahweh is contrary to their devotion to God. But if they refuse, they will surely suffer a horrible death.

They have a tough decision to make. 

Or do they.

When the music played, the three of them didn’t bow. Their devotion to God was so strong that the threat of death didn’t faze them. In fact, when confronted about their not worshiping the false idol, this is the response they give: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18) Their faith in God is admirable. And it infuriated the king. He ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than normal.

If the story ended with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah perishing in the flames of the furnace, their faith and devotion would still be a great example for us. They were willing to die rather than bow to something other than Yahweh. They knew He could save them, but even if He didn’t they said they would not serve false gods or worship a golden idol. But God did save them. He rescued them from the fiery furnace and this amazed Nebuchadnezzar. He praised God and promoted the three of them in Babylon.

You and I may never be faced with a situation where choosing to follow God’s way could result in our deaths, but our devotion to God may lead to others mocking us, having to make sacrifices, or, God forbid, putting us in an uncomfortable situation. God doesn’t promise to rescue us from these things. Our trust in God shouldn’t be affected by whether things go the way we want them to or not. Even if they don’t, our hope should be in the God who CAN rescue us. He is a good God, a great God, and the only God who can save us from the flames.

– Joel Fletcher

The Resolution that Stuck

IMG_0027

Daniel 1-2 

The book of Daniel is probably my favorite of the books we call the Prophets. It is filled with exciting stories (like the fiery furnace and lion’s den), captivating prophecies, and one of the best biblical examples of a godly man.

In the first two chapters of Daniel we begin to learn a lot about his character. The first story in Daniel begins in 1:8, which says “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” Daniel was a part of a group chosen by king Nebuchadnezzar to be groomed to serve in his palace. Daniel, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were chosen from the tribe of Judah. The group was assigned to eat food that apparently was against the food laws outlined in law given to Moses. Instead of doing the easy and safe thing, Daniel made a resolution not to defile himself with the decadent, tasty food. After some reluctance, the official in charge of Daniel agreed to let him and his friends eat his own diet. 

At the beginning of every year, people make resolutions to start doing something good (like work out more or read Bible more) or give up something bad for them (like fried foods or too much TV). What seemly happens every year though, is that after a few weeks or, if you’ve done well, a few months, you give up on your resolution and start back on what you were doing before. Keeping resolutions is hard, but Daniel kept his. Not only that, but he and his friends looked better after ten days of vegetables and water than the other guys on the diet of choice foods and wine.

Daniel’s resolution stuck and for this he was rewarded. God gave he and his three friends knowledge and understanding and Daniel the ability to interpret visions and dreams. They found favor with the king and entered his service. This led to the second story in this great book, the interpretation of the king’s dream.

What will be a constant theme through the first half of this book is Daniel’s devotion to God. This is what led him to resolve himself not to eat the defiled food and, even when faced with opposition, to keep that resolution. This devotion will keep him praying even when it’s illegal.

Daniel was devoted to God above all us. We should be, too. It won’t be easy. We may face opposition. We may be thrown to the lions. But in end, it will be well worth the struggles. As the great songwriter Bob Dylan said, “you gotta serve somebody.” Why not let it be the God who will set up a kingdom that will never end? (Daniel 2:44) Resolve yourself to be devoted to the God who won’t let you down.

– Joel Fletcher