The Debilitating Display (Daniel 10)

What’s going on with the world? Have you asked yourself that question recently?

Often, it seems like the world is out of control! What will happen next? Who can guess?!

Sometimes it seems like the world is being controlled by powerful people. They get what they want. The rules don’t apply to them. But they get to say what the rules should be for everyone else.

Or we might get the feeling that the world is being controlled by evil forces. It can seem like there is something bigger at work behind the individuals and organisations trying to achieve their agenda. Is there something connecting and empowering the bad influences in our world?

Our understanding of our world is very limited. True, we know much more information about our world than any other time in history! But what we know is limited to what we see and what we experience, and what we can learn from other people. In a way, we can’t see the whole forest because all we can see are the individual trees.

But there is a different perspective on our world. In the Bible, God speaks the truth to us about ourselves and the universe that we live in. His perception is not limited like ours is. And His understanding is complete and perfect. Not only because He is the Truth, but because He is the Creator of everything, seen and unseen.

Daniel learned that, over 70 years, through a series of visions:

  • In chapter 2, God gave him the interpretation of the king’s dream: a statue representing successive powerful empires was destroyed by a rock representing God’s kingdom.
  • In chapter 7, God showed Daniel the very same kingdoms, this time looking like mighty beasts. But they were all held to account by the Ancient of Days.
  • In chapter 8, God showed Daniel the last two of those kingdoms as a Ram and a Goat, fighting it out for power.
  • In chapter 9, God spoke again. Daniel was praying because of these dreams and because of God’s promises to restore His people from exile in Babylon. And God promised an even greater deliverance: Jesus, God’s Anointed One, would be put to death to put an end to sin and its consequences.

Each of those visions zooms in on the previous one. Each one gets more detailed, and more realistic. And the same is true here in chapters 10-12. Here, in one epic vision, God focuses in even more on the third kingdom. And instead of images of unimaginable beasts, God shows Daniel explicitly that the future actions of human kings are under His control.

But even before we get there, there’s a bigger question to answer: Is God in control at all? And if He is, what does it mean for us?

What God will show us here is that we cannot understand our world without understanding God and how He rules our world. As God tells us here in Daniel 10, it is impossible to understand our world by looking exclusively at the human influences at play. What happens here is intimately connected to what happens in the spiritual world.

That understanding could leave us trembling. It might seem that our world is controlled, or at least influenced by evil forces we cannot see. But what God shows us here is that He is in control of the spiritual world too, and so He is the one we should turn to for help.

And if we are Christians, we have the privilege of speaking directly to God, wherever we are. So, why would we pray?

The Path of Life (Psalm 16 & Acts 2)

It’s hard to be happy.

It’s hard when your world is turned upside-down. It’s hard to be happy when we’re busy. It’s hard when we feel in danger.

Being happy is hard. But we still want to be happy! So, when do we expect happiness?

You might think that the time to be happy is right now! This is our best chance to be happy, because the future is uncertain. You think, ‘Who knows what comes next anyway?’

Maybe you don’t think much about living in the new heavens and new earth. Or maybe that just doesn’t sound like much to be happy about.

Or maybe you think that happiness is something to look forward to. That’s how it’ll be in heaven. But we’re not so sure that it’s possible, or at least not that important, here and now.

True, there are many struggles, griefs, and trials in this life. Jesus Himself experienced felt hunger, homelessness, and just being so tired you have to stop and rest. God is honest with us about that.

But He also tells us about the path of life: not just a way to get to real joyful life, but a way through this life that is true and joyful living! In Philippians 3:8-9 Paul writes, ‘What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.’

So, when we are ‘in Christ’, when God has connected us to Jesus, He gives us something now, something of unmeasurable value, something that makes everything else seem worthless. What is it? What can give us such happiness now? ‘Knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… gain[ing] Christ and be[ing] found in him… through faith.’ That is how believers have always found life and happiness: By knowing Christ Jesus as their Lord. And that’s how we can experience real life and true happiness now, and in the life to come.

God shows us how in Psalm 16. There David writes, ‘You make known to me the path of life’ (v11). And we’ll see how this way of true and joyful living comes through Jesus.

Two Ways, Two Destinies (Psalm 1)

A day out with the family is always a treat. I remember as a kid, we’d bundle into the car and head off somewhere. Sometimes we knew where, but other times we’d have to ask. Mum would say, ‘It’s a mystery tour.’ And sometimes it seemed to be as much a mystery to them as it was to us.

Life can feel a lot like that, can’t it? We’re going somewhere, but where? A lot of the time, we’re thinking about the journey itself. ‘Is my life going well? It is just a bit too hard?’

But when we know where we’re heading, it makes even a hard journey worth it.

Would we really want a life that’s easy if it’s leading to a dreadful destiny?

But Jesus says that’s what most people choose. In the Sermon on the Mount, He says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and board is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the read that leads to life, and only a few find it,’ (Mtt 7:13-14).

Jesus says that having an easy life (without opposition from Satan or his followers) means you’re headed the wrong way: to destruction. But if your destiny is eternal life, that’ll be a hard, narrow road.

And it’s important to notice that there is no third way. Nowhere does the Bible suggest that there’s another option. It’s not that the really good people are on the narrow road, and the bad ones are on the broad road, and most of us will find out at the end where we were going. Either we are on the narrow road to heaven or we are on the broad road to hell.

What a disaster it would be for our lives to be easy and fun, but to end in that ongoing spiritual destruction Jesus warns us about!

Is it possible to enjoy life here (despite its griefs and hardships) and to enter in to the life Jesus promises?

The fact that Jesus promises it proves that we can: We can have that satisfying eternal life that can only be found in Jesus. The Bible calls that being ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’. Isn’t that what you want? It’s hard to imagine someone who doesn’t want happiness. But as we look at what God tells us about being happy or blessed, we’ll realise that it’s so much deeper than the happiness we go looking for on our own.

God tells us how to have a satisfying, happy and eternal life. So, how can we know if that’s the life we’re living? Which way are you going?

Freed from the Fear of Death (Hebrews 2:14-18)

Sunday 18/07/2021

Hebrews 2:14-18 (NIV 2011)

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Freed from the Fear of Death

  1. Why Jesus Came (v14-15)
  2. How Jesus Gives Freedom (v16-18)

The Desolating Decree – Part 2 (Daniel 9:20-27)

There’s plenty of bad news around. But what good news are you hoping for?

We don’t expect to wake up one morning to find that this world has been transformed into some kind of paradise because of the actions of mankind. But we still have hopes for our broken world this side of the new heavens and new earth. What are you hoping for?

It might be something out there in the world: Like an end to COVID, being able to travel and see your family without the uncertainty of the last few years.

Or you might be hoping for good news closer to home. There’s illness you’d love to be gone. Or ongoing conflict you want to be over.

What good news are you waiting for?

At the start of Daniel 9, God tells us what good news Daniel was waiting for. His prayer (v4-19) is a plea that the great and awesome, promise-keeping God would forgive sins and remove shame, not because anyone deserves that but because of His great mercy. The good news Daniel was waiting for was the end of sin and its consequences.

At the end of Daniel 9, God gives Daniel the good news he had been waiting for: Jesus, God’s Anointed One, will be put to death to put an end to sin and its consequences.

There’s so much that we can hope for. But no matter what our hopes are, what God promises to Daniel is just what we need: the end to sin that Jesus brings.

So, why do we need this good news?