November 24, 2016

Daniel 7-9 - 
In the first year of King Belshazzar, Daniel had a dream.  What he saw as he slept terrified him.  “In my dream, I saw the 4 winds of heaven whipping up a great storm.  4 great animals, each different from the others, ascended out of the sea:
The first animal looked like a lion, but it had the wings of an eagle...it’s wings were pull off, it then pulled erect so it was standing on two feet like a man.  Then a human heart was placed in it.
The second animal looked like a bear, lurching side to side, holding 3 ribs in its jaws.  It was told, “Attack! Devour!  Fill your belly!”
The next animal looked like a panther.  It had 4 birdlike wings on its back.  This animal had four heads and was made to rule.
After that, a fourth animal appeared.  This one was a grisly horror...It had huge iron teeth.  It was different from the other animals-this one was a real monster.  It had ten horns.  As Daniel was staring at the horns, and trying to figure out what they meant, another horn sprouted up, a little horn.  Three of the original horns were pulled out to make room for it.  There were human eyes in this little horn, and a big mouth speaking arrogantly...

Then, as I watched, the monster was killed and its body cremated in a roaring fire.  The other animals lived on for a limited time, but they really didn’t do anything...then I saw a human form,  a son of man, arriving in a whirl of clouds...he was given the power to rule...

But as for me, Daniel, I was disturbed.  All these dream-visions had me agitated, so I asked one of those in my dream “These four animals mean 4 kingdoms will appear on earth.  But eventually the holy people of the High God will be given the kingdom and have it forever--yes, forever and ever”  

But I wanted to know more.  I was curious about the fourth animal....the bystander continued telling me that the 4th animal is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth.  It will be different from the first three, a monster kingdom that will chew up everyone in sight and spit them out.  The ten horns are ten kings,,,but then another king will arrive.  He will be different from the earlier kings.  He will begin by trampling 3 kings.  Then he will blaspheme the High God, persecute his followers and get rid of sacred worship and moral practice.  But then the court comes to order, the horn will be stripped of its power...then the royal rule and authority ...will be handed over to the people of the High God....and there it ended.  

I Daniel, was in shock.  I was like a man who had seen a ghost.  But I kept it to myself.

In the third year of King Belshazzar, another vision came to me... In the vision, I saw myself in Susa, standing at the canal.  Looking around, I was surprised to see a ram also standing at the gate... I watched as the ram charged; first west then north, then south.  No beast could stand up to him.  He did just as he pleased, strutting as if he were king of the beasts.  

While I was watching this, wondering what it all meant, I was a billy goat with an immense horn in the middle of its forehead come out of the west and fly across the whole country...the billy goat approached the double- horned ram and, enraged, charged it viciously... the ram didn’t stand a chance....then the billy goat swelled to an enormous size.  At the height of its power, its immense horn broke off and four other big horns sprouted in its place, pointing to the four points of the compass.  Then from one of these big horns, another horn sprouted.  It started small, but then grew to an enormous size, facing south and east....It even dared to challenge the power of God...the horn cast God’s truth aside...
Then I overheard two holy angels talking about how long is it going to last...the other answered “over the course of 2300 sacrifices, evening and morning.  Then the Sanctuary will be set right.  

While I, Daniel, was trying to make sense of what I was seeing, suddenly there was a human-like figure standing before me...and a man’s voice calling out, “Gabriel, tell this man what is going on....He came up to me, but when he got close I became terrified and fell facedown on the ground...”Understand that this vision has to do with the end of time...the double-horned ram you saw stands for the two  kings of the Medes and Persians.  The billy goat stands for the kingdom of the Greeks.  The huge horn on its forehead is the first Greek king.  The four horns that sprouted after it was broken off are the four kings that come after him, but without his power....

I, Daniel, walked around in a daze, unwell for days.  Then I got a grip on myself and went back to work taking care of the king’s affairs.  But I continued to be upset by the vision.  I couldn’t make sense of it.  

Darius, born a Mede, became king over the land of Babylon.  In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel was meditating on the Scriptures that gave, according to the Word of God t the prophet Jeremiah, the number of years that Jerusalem had to lie in ruins, namely 70.  I turned to the Master, asking for an answer--praying earnestly, fasting from meals, wearing penitential burlap and kneeling in ashes.  I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God...”O God, you never waver in your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love you and do what you say.  Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable.  We have done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around your clearly marked paths.  We’ve turned a deaf ear to your servants, the prophets....you have dome everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us...

Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of you, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we’ve forfeited our rights... We defied your instructions and did what we pleased.  And now we’re paying for it...Master, you are our God, for you delivered your people from the land of  Egypt in a show of power...we confess that we have sinned...we know it’s our fault that this has happened, all because of our sins and our parents’s sins and now we’re an embarrassment to everyone around us....

So listen, God, to this determined prayer of your servant.  Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary.  Act out of who you are, not out of what we are. ...We know that we don’t deserve a hearing from you.  Our appeal is to your compassion.  This prayer is our last and only hope.  .....

While I was pouring out my heart,...the humanlike Gabriel, the one I had seen in an earlier vision, approached me, flying like a bird about the time of evening worship stating, “Daniel, I have come to make things plain to you....You are much loved.  So listen carefully to the answer, the plain meaning of what is revealed:  Seventy sevens are set for your people and for your holy city... Here is what you must understand:  From the time the word goes out to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Anointed Leader, there will be seventy sevens.  The rebuilding will take sixty-two sevens...those will be rough times.  after the 62 sevens, the Anointed leader will be killed--the end of him....   

1, 2, & 3 John - 
The two most difficult things to get straight in life are love and God.  More often than not, the mess people make of their lives can be traced to failure or stupidity or meanness in one or both of these areas.  

The basic, and biblical, Christian conviction is that the two subjects are intricately related.  If we want to deal with God the right way, we have to learn to love the right way.  If we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way.  God and love can’t be separated.  John’s three letters provide wonderfully explicit directions on how this works with Jesus, the Messiah, as the focus....In his letters, we see him reestablishing the original and organic unity of God and love that comes to focus and becomes available to us in Christ Jesus.

1 John 1 - 
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in...The Word of Life (Jesus) appeared right before our eyes;  we saw it happen!...

Our motive for writing is simply this;  We want you to enjoy this, too.  Your joy will double our joy!  This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you:  

God is light, pure light; there is not a trace of darkness in him. 

If was claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth - we’re not living what we claim.  

But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s son, purges all our sin.  

If we claim that we’re are free from sin, we’re only fooling ourselves...if we admit our sins..he’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.