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How Daniel’s Character Changed the World

What do you think it takes to change the world? War? A brilliant leader? A ruthless conquerer? Would it shock you to know that Daniel changed the world with only his character—and that he did it more than once?

I’ve spent the past year studying Daniel. I believe there’s a lot of valuable life-lessons to glean from his life. When he was young—around 17—he was exiled to Babylon. Being a smart kid, he was taught the language and customs of the Babylonians so that he could teach it to others. This brought him before some of the most important people in human history.

The Benefits of Setting Your Love on God

Psalm 91 shows us that when we set our love upon God, He will bless us with eight spiritual and natural promises. These promises affect our hearts, minds, bodies, and emotions. God will give us these promises as a response and a gift for our love.

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; 
I will set him on high, because he has known My name, 
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 
With long life I will satisfy him, 
and show him My salvation.” Psalm 91:14–16

What is our part? Setting love upon Him and knowing His name

What is God’s part? Eight actions backed up by eight “I will” promises:

  • I will deliver him (x2)
    • Deliver from danger, set in safety
    • 2nd time used: “to remove, draw out, draw off, take off, withdraw, equip (for war), arm for war, rescue, be rescued”
  • I will set him on high
    • “to be (too) high (for capture), to be exalted (of God), Exalted”
  • I will be with him in trouble
    • Trouble: “trouble, distress, affliction, adversity, anguish, tribulation, adversary”
  • I will honor him
  • I will satisfy him with long life
  • I will show him my salvation

God doesn’t just promise to deliver us by setting us in safety, but He promises to take us out of danger and equip us to fight. He rescues us and gives us the power and strength to stand.

Jesus Wept: The Human Emotions of Jesus

This post is a bit of an expository teaching on the humanity of Jesus in His emotions that is displayed in the account of the death and resurrection of Lazarus.

I think one of the most powerful verses in the Bible is the succinct, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Its brevity doesn’t limit its impact or meaning. Jesus understood — even prophesied — that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, so why would He ‘groan in the spirit and [be] troubled,’ even weep when He heard about Lazarus’ death?

Lazarus has just died and his family and friends are devastated. We find Jesus responding differently to the grieving of Lazarus’ two sisters, Martha and Mary. 

We know Martha and Mary from another popular scripture in John 10 where Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’ feet and anoint Him while Martha is busy preparing food. I think it’s a common misconception to perceive Mary as ‘good’ and Martha as ‘bad.’ But in John it says that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. I think this was a special friendship.

Martha’s Response

Martha and Jesus were friends. So it may seem odd that when Martha ran to Jesus and said about Lazarus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died,” Jesus simply stated that Lazarus would rise again. He also took the moment to tell Martha more about who He is as ’the resurrection and the life.’ 

Could it be that Jesus was showing Martha something she didn’t know about Him? He asked her “Do you believe this?” Was that to grow faith in Martha that He can raise Lazarus from the dead, or was it simply to tell her who He is?

Mary’s Response

Next, Mary ran to Jesus with the exact same words as Martha, but Jesus reacts completely different to Mary. It says that Mary fell as Jesus’ feet, weeping. When Jesus saw Mary and the Jews that came with her weeping, He was saddened, troubled, and even moved to weeping. 

Jesus’ Humanity

In this account, we get a vastly intimate look into the humanity and emotions of Jesus. His love for these siblings, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, clearly demonstrates His closeness with our humanity, and quells the thoughts that He is stoic or detached from us. 

There are numerous times in the Gospels where it says that Jesus was moved with compassion. Love and compassion welled up inside of Him for humanity because we are “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). 

Here are some verses to think about today that highlight the humanity and closeness of Jesus:

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14–15)

"Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matt. 9:35–36)

Check out desiringgod.org’s great article with more verses on Jesus’ humanity »

Why Is Israel Important?

Israel is a small nation about the size of New Jersey, yet it’s global importance is nearly unequaled. It’s bizarre how much Israel is talked about in the news. The natural mind has to wonder “Why is Israel important?”

Israel is important because God has made Biblical promises to her that drastically affects every people group on Earth. Historically, Israel came about when God made a promise to Abraham, which eventually led to Jacob being born in the Promised Land and developed into a nation over many years.

Biblical prophecy was fullfilled in 1948 when Israel was rebirthed as a nation. 

“In that day, the Lord will reach out His hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of His people… and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” Is. 11:11-12 (emphasis mine)

God has tied the salvation of every nation to Israel. He promised that out of Israel the Messiah would come. When Jesus the Messiah did come, the people of Israel rejected Him. As a consequence, salvation came to the Gentiles while Israel was put on a side-track.

“…through their trespass [rejection of Jesus as Messiah] salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world [salvation]… how much more will their full inclusion mean! [acceptance of Jesus as Messiah]” Rom. 11:11-12 (my notes added)

"For if their rejection [of Jesus] means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? [Jesus’ return]” Rom. 11:15 (my notes added)

God has given Israel so much favor that even their failures are turned into blessings for the earth. I speak of their "rejection” and the Gentiles’ salvation. Jesus goes one step further and bases His return (Second Coming) on the condition that Israel accepts Him as their Messiah. 

“For I tell you, you will not see Me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matt. 23:39)

Jesus loves Israel so much that His return on the Day of the Lord to restore all things is conditional on Israel’s acceptance of Him. That’s the real crux of why Israel is important. Can you see now why Israel is among the most despised nations? The Devil’s schemes throughout history has been to annihilate Israel so that Jesus cannot return. That understanding puts a whole new perspective on the holocaust during WWII and Iran’s hatred of Israel. 

We partner in prayer with Israel because 1) God’s Word commands us to partner through prayer with His sovereign decision to call them His people, 2) The Day of the Lord and the earth’s restoration is dependent on Israel’s acceptance of Jesus as Messiah.

Israel is important because:

  • God made a sovereign decision to call them His People
  • God’s salvation plan began with Israel by sending His Son to be a descendent of Abraham
  • The Second Coming of Christ and subsequent restoration of all things is dependent on Israel’s acceptance of Him as Messiah

As believers, we are commanded in the Word to pray for Israel. It’s a deception to think Israel is not pertinent to our lives, or that it’s a peripheral prayer topic. Israel is arguably the most important issue to commit to in prayer. 

I challenge you to pray for Israel at least 20 minutes a day. Or join our prayer room in prayer on Tuesdays from noon – 1pm.

How to Maximize Your Time With God

Our time we spend with God is paramount. Reading the Word and praying are essential. It’s how we know God.  Given the importance of this time period, it should be a high priority to get the most out of our time with God.

The funny thing is, whenever I want to spend time with God, I am generally the most distracted. And tired. How does that never fail to happen? Sit on the bed, open the Bible…and conk. It’s most definitely spiritual narcolepsy.

But really, if the time we spend with God is the primary way to know God, why wouldn’t the devil do all he can to distract, confuse, or disrupt this time of meeting? And how can we practically fight to keep this time? 

Here is a short list of what has helped me:

  1. Schedule your time with God, daily. Some people desire to spend more time with God but fail to plan it into their schedule. Check out this post if you need help making a schedule.
  2. Turn off cellphones, computers, DISTRACTIONS! Seriously, it’s not that important for you to answer that text right away.
  3. Turn on worship and pray in the Spirit. Worship and prayer are the same to God, so turning on worship is both enjoyable and effective.
  4. Get a Bible reading action plan. It’s common to desire to read and study a lot of books and topics but to rarely follow through.  Desires must transcend into action, and a systematic plan is a great way to help achieve goals.
  5. Pray-read the Word. Don’t just read the Word to increase your head-knowledge, but pray what you are reading. “..knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” 1 Cor. 8:1

Take ahold of your time with God and get serious about meeting with Him to know Him and love Him. Don’t just give up when you read a chapter and feel bored. God’s not boring; it’s we who are boring. Take time to let God change your heart to love His Word.

How You Can Encounter God in His Word

Everyone does it; we all think it: I gotta get to the next chapter so I can be caught up on my Bible reading plan. It’s as common as my own bad analogies (which are as common as pie in an oven). What causes us to be so preoccupied with getting our 10 chapters in the New Testament finished, or reading our 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb a day? Jesus warned the Jews in His day, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (Jn. 5:39) The Word is what displays God’s character and nature so that we are driven to talking with, and encountering God.

Whenever I sit down in my quiet time with God I struggle to not think, “Where did I leave off and how many chapters do I have to read to catch up?” It’s as if God is more pleased with me cause I read 20 chapters today. 

Imagine if we had that kind of relationship with our spouse. Imagine if we read our spouse’s journal and then never really talked with them. Would you call that a relationship? In the same way we develop a relationship with our spouse – talking with, asking questions, growing in relational knowledge – that is the same way we grow in relationship with God.

3 practical ways to encounter God in His word:

  1. Position your heart to meet with God. When we approach the word in our times of prayer we should position our hearts to meet with God. The purpose of reading the word is to get to know Whom the word points to. Before you read, invite the Holy Spirit there to give you understanding of who God is. We should approach our times with the Word as if we’re meeting a living Person.

  2. Ask God for revelation about what You’re reading. The Bible is full of scriptures that show God’s character, but there are also some that require a bit of searching out to understand the meaning. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Pro. 25:2). If you feel God giving you revelation of Himself through a passage, pause and verbally thank Him for showing Himself to you, then ask for more understanding. Thankfulness to God tenderizes our hearts.

  3. Dialogue with Jesus: Ask specific questions. I remember the first time I read Matthew with the intention of talking with Jesus to know Him better. I remember reading Matt. 4:13, “And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea,” and asking Jesus “Why did you choose that city to start Your ministry in? Did you like that city? Do you like that it’s by the sea? Do you like the sea?” All of the sudden, my understanding of Jesus became much more real – He likes things. Does Jesus enjoy looking out to the sea? Did He like the architecture in Capernaum? Was He nervous at all starting His ministry?  

It’s important that we come to the Bible expecting to learn and grow in our relationship with God. In the same way we grow stronger in our relationship with our spouse or friends after a meaningful conversation, so it can be with God. Our study of the Bible must develop into an active dialogue with the Person of God. Scripture gives us the “conversational material” but it’s up to us to open up our mouths and have that conversation.

Recommended Resources: 

Why You Should Focus on Enjoying God

The question what are we created for has stuck with man-kind since the beginning of time. Our obvious meaning for existence is to glorify God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states it best: “What is the chief end of man?” And, in response, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” They understood that glorifying God and enjoying Him were one in the same. What if enjoying God was the greatest way to glorify Him? 

Why You Should Focus On Enjoying God

In my own experience, I had previously viewed enjoying God as an added bonus to the true duty of a believer: rigorous obedience to Christian duties (eg. praying, evangelizing, serving), even if those duties are emotionless, loveless. But what does Jesus say? “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word" (Jn. 14:23). Love (delight) and obedience are directly related. Delight is not just a spin-off of obedience to God, but it is part of it.  The strongest type of obedience is affection-based obedience.

The concept of seeking to find our delight in God as a primary goal of a believer is not a new idea.

It goes back to Moses who said, “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart…therefore you shall serve your enemies” (Deut. 28:47-48). And to king David, who prayed, “Satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may…be glad all our days” (Ps. 90:14); and who promised that complete and lasting pleasure is found in God alone: “In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Ps. 16:11).

Even Jesus understood that delight is an essential part of a believer’s duty. Jesus said, “I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (Jn. 15:11); Jesus even endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:2).

3 areas impacted by delighting in God:
 

    1. Worship – Worship without delighting in God is nothing more than a religious duty that causes coldness in our hearts. When worship is reduced to a duty, it ceases to exist. Suppose a husband asks his wife if he must kiss her good night. Her answer is, “You must, but not that kind of a must.” What she means is this: “Unless a spontaneous affection for my person motivates you, your overtures are stripped of all moral value.”

      When our aim is to find our pleasure in God, worship becomes a motivated response of love upon seeing the beauty of God. It is a feast to our spirits and a delight to our souls.
    1. Money – America spends a lot of money on our own pursuit of pleasure. 10.5 billion dollars was spent last year on movies alone. Apple Inc’s annual revenue in 2009 was 42.9 billion (a majority of that is mobile devices). It’s clear that we seek our own pleasure as a primary goal in life. But when our primary pleasure is found and satisfied in God, our seeking of other pleasures lessons. We spend our money on entertainment because we are attempting to fill a desire for God. When God is our source of delight, we don’t need to attempt to fill that desire with entertainment.
  1. Relationships – God designed our relationships to be a partnership of support and encouragement in life. Not the source of life. The problem with seeking pleasure outside of God – in regards to relationships – is that we think the other person can fulfill us, and they’re thinking the same thing. Broken hearts, shattered dreams and disillusioned hopes are sure to follow.

    Seeking our delight in God as a primary focus in life causes our relationships to take their proper place: as a mutual partnership of helpers. 

To be clear: I do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. I mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should not make a god out of our seeking of delight. But in reality, we make a god out of what we take most pleasure in. That ‘god’ should be God.

C.S. Lewis puts it like this:

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

What do you think: Is God most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him?

Recommended Reading:

Recommended Books:

Knowing the generation but not the hour

I’m not generally one to take advantage of current trending topics around the globe, but this seems like a good opportunity to get our minds thinking about the end times and the rapture. By now I’m sure you’ve heard: today is the end of the world. This group believes today is the day of the rapture and the beginning of a 5-month destruction of the earth. What does the Bible really say—can we know the day or the hour?

Knowing the trends and events related to the generation that the Lord returns

In Matt. 24 Jesus lays out an overview of the global scene in the generation proceeding His return. Jesus rebuked those who did not heed the prophetic signs that pointed to His coming (Mt. 16:1-4; Lk. 19:41-44). Prophetic signs serve the Church in the same way a weather station signals coming trouble so that people can prepare and save lives.

1 "The Pharisees…came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven…2 Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign…"  (Mt. 16:1-4)

1 “Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you…4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness [ignorance] so that this Day should overtake [come on you unexpectantly] you as a thief…6 Therefore…let us watch.” (1 Thes. 5:1-6)

How can we know when Jesus is coming if He says in Matthew 24:36 that “no one knows the day or the hour”?

Jesus did not say we could not know the season or the conditions surrounding His coming. Neither did Jesus say that the Church would not know the day and hour in the generation the Lord returns. We have to humbly seek the Father’s word as to when this begins because only the Father knows. God did not want to make the day and hour known in the early Church, but Daniel and the Apostle John made it clear the Messiah would come exactly 1,260 days after the abomination of desolation (Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5). 

When does the rapture occur in relation to the tribulation? Getting a biblical mindset

A brief overview of the origins of the pre-tribulation rapture theory. 

In the early 1800’s the pre-tribulation theory was popularized by theologian John Darby. The basic theory states that Christ ‘secretly’ returns to rapture up believers before the 7-year tribulation, after which He openly comes with His saints to judge the earth (this is essentially 2 comings).

I believe the main reason for the error found in the pre-tribulation rapture theory is due to incorrect interpretation of passages. It’s important to read the Bible with a mindset that the Word says what it means and means what it says. When we view the Bible as primarily symbolic we get a confused and jumbled mess. For example, in Revelation, when it says ‘Behold, a sign,’ then what follows is symbolic; everything else is to be read as literal. Keeping that in mind, the scriptures that supported pre-tribulation rapture no longer support it.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51)

Then the seventh angel [with the last trumpet] sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”" (Rev. 11:15) (This last trumpet occurs at the end of 7-year tribulation).

Some common lies against knowing the generation

Lie #1: We can’t know the day or hour so we shouldn’t try to know the generation the Lord returns. Jesus and Paul emphasized the know-ability of the signs of the end times (Mt. 24:32-34; Lk. 21:25-29; 1 Thes. 5:1-6; 2 Thes. 2:1-11). 

Lie #2:  Understanding the end times causes us to minimize our work in the kingdom. This is a criticism toward the escapist and defeatist mentality of some who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture. They conclude that they should not work hard to transform the culture since the Antichrist will take over everything anyway and since they may be raptured at any moment.

Lie #3: It will all pan out in the end. The question is, will it pan out well with you and your loved ones? It will only go well for those who are prepared. 

It’s important to never accept anything anyone says as doctrine. You have to search the scriptures yourself with a prayerful mind, seeking for the spirit of wisdom and revelation. People and traditions can lead astray so we must be rooted in the Word.

Recommended Reading: 100 FAQs about the end times

Free Resource: Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper

Check out this free .PDF version of John Piper’s book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. I would highly recommend this devotional-styled book as a tool for meditating on the character and worth of Christ.

Excerpt:
“What makes Christ glorious, as Jonathan Edwards observed over 250 years ago, is “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.” For example, we admire Christ for his transcendence, but even more because the transcendence of his greatness is mixed with submission to God. We marvel at him because his uncompromising justice is tempered with mercy. His majesty is sweetened by meekness. In his equality with God he has a deep reverence for God. Though he is worthy of all good, he was patient to suffer evil. His sovereign dominion over the world was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission. He baffled the proud scribes with his wisdom, but was simple enough to be loved by children.”“

Download this book (PDF)

Additional Resources
Supplemental Bible Reading Plan (PDF)


By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Righteousness By Faith

Sometimes we can get so caught up in keeping ourselves from sinning that when we do sin we fall into some serious shame and condemnation. We act like the most important part in Christianity is not sinning instead of loving God.

So we inevitably we sin (may it be a teeny tiny one or a big monstrosity), allow ourselves to enter into shame and condemnation, and we then wallow in our own guilt. We feel that our sin is too great for God to forgive. Understand that condemnation is not from God at all. Condemnation keeps us FROM God and in essence says to Jesus ‘Your blood isn’t good enough to cleanse me of this sin.’

So if condemnation is not from God, how do we stay clear of it?

Repent.

2 Cor. 7:10 ‘For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.’

Really repent. True repentance is a turning away from sin and to God. It is not simply saying ‘Lord, I repent’ and then still wanting to sin and seeking it out. If you find that your desires are fleshly and sinful pray ‘Lord, create in me clean and pure desires. Take out these sinful desires in my heart!’ Be honest with yourself. You won’t get past sinful desires if you never admit that they are there.

Aggressively fight thoughts.

2 Cor. 10:5 ‘…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”

We must be on the offensive with our thoughts. Learn how to distinguish when your mindsets are from the flesh and fight them with all you have. If you find your mindset is wrong, but don’t know how to fix it: Stop. Pray: ‘Lord, I know this mindset is wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it. Give me understanding. Lead me, Holy Spirit.”

Focus on enjoying God.

John 14:15 ‘If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.’

I don’t believe Jesus was making an ultimatum. ‘If you really love Me you’d do what I stinkin say!! Gosh..’ Instead I believe it is a reverse statement of ‘you will keep My commandments because you love Me.’ Focus your energy on daily renewing your mind by the washing of the water of the Word, and enjoy God by realizing He enjoys you.

Realize righteousness comes by faith.

Phil. 3:9 ‘not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;’

1 John 3:7 ‘He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.’

Righteousness comes by faith. When Jesus died for us we are made pure and righteous by His blood. Righteousness could never come from our own doing, but it is only by God’s grace and Jesus’ blood that we are called righteous. Realize that if you ask forgiveness, and turn and repent then you are made righteous and pure.

Don’t get me wrong, sin is sin. I’m not trying to lessen what sin is, but simply help those out who are stuck in condemnation.

Hit delete on yesterday, and press in today to knowing God.

Copyright © 2017 Evan and Sarah Olsen. Site by Evan Olsen.