Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Daniel 9: Part 3

Following are notes from a lesson I taught about Daniel 9:

Individual Sin -- Question: How do we feel about confessing our sin? 
Sin is not simple. On one hand, we sin because we are in rebellion – we are disobedient. We are stubborn.  But on the other hand, the Bible acknowledges that we live in a broken world – “creation itself influences us and pushes us in the direction of our sinfulness.” What is your reaction to that thought?
Question: What keep us from facing our sins honestly?
Question: What tactics do we use to avoid confession?
Question: What feelings do we experience from confession our sins, seeking forgiveness, and restoring a relationship? What role does God play in that?

Collective Guilt – In Daniels Prayer, the sin starts with kings, leaders and parents, but also includes all of Israel – verse  6 : We haven’t listened to your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our leaders, our parents, and to all the land’s people.  This prayer underscores one understanding of exile which is that God sent Israel and Judah into exile as punishment, and it refutes the idea that the people were exiled because God was weaker than the gods of Babylon.  Question: What is your response to that understanding of the action of God?  (the whole message of the Bible helps us to understand that not all bad situations or suffering result from punishment for sin.)
Even though Daniel presents the stories of four young men of integrity who show faithfulness to God, this prayer is a balance – even Daniel (who, in this prayer, uses both personal and collective words for God) recognizes that they need God’s forgiveness for their sins.  The relationship between God and the people depends on God’s faithfulness.

Question: What examples of collective sin can you think of? How do we ask for forgiveness for these sins?

Psychological Guilt – a sense of guilt.  We restore the relationship with God through repentance; we restore the relationship with each other through communication.  “The last dimension of guilt involves dealing with our own feelings and the way guilt affects us.”
How do we deal with the sense of guilt? Do we have difficulties receiving and/or accepting forgiveness? If we do, how does that affect our relationships with others and with God?

What is the connection between dealing appropriately with sin, repentance and guilt with spiritual and emotional growth?  If there is a link, then how does ignoring sin, refusing to repent, or holding on to guilt prevent our growth and our acceptance of sanctifying grace?

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Daniel 9: Part 2

The following is the second part of my notes from a Sunday school lesson I taught on the Daniel 9:

What do we know about the Book of Daniel?
  • 12 chapters – first 6 are stories of Daniel and his three friends. Each of them is structured similarly. Daniel and his friends are exiled to the Babylonian court. They have changed outwardly to reflect where they are, but not inwardly and not in their faith, and this creates conflict.
  • Second 6 chapters are Daniel’s visions – apocalyptic in nature.
  • Chapter 9, that we will look at today, is different than the rest in that it includes an interpretation of a Biblical prophecy from Jeremiah (we won’t look at that today) and also Daniels’s prayer for the forgiveness of his people’s sins.
  • Interestingly enough, the first chapter and the last 5 are written in Hebrew and chapters 2-7 are written in Aramaic.
  • Daniel is set in the time of Nebuchadnezzer and the beginning of Cyrus’s reign in Babylon, but it was probably written around 164 BCE, which was a time of religious persecution in Palestine and Syria by Antiochus IV Epiphanies – so the text is meant to be encouragement to those who are undergoing persecution.
  • One last trivia about the book of Daniel – in the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are 8 fragments of what will become the book of Daniel – and parts of all 12 chapters. This makes Daniel second among the prophets in the Dead Sea Scrolls – only after Isaiah – 21 copies.  The oldest manuscript of Daniel, dates to the late 2 century BCE, which is about 50 years after the book reached its final form. It is closer to the original edition of the biblical book than any other known biblical manuscript.  The text of these fragments, even though incomplete, is very close to the Hebrew text that forms the basis for modern editions of the OT, suggesting that the book of Daniel at Qumran was next to identical to the book as we know it.

What do we know about the sin of Israel and Judah?
Deuteronomy 29:25-26 à 25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them

Structure of a lament – What we are going to read uses a literary structure called a lament. A lament has a typical form (and not all of these elements are in every lament, but they all contain some of these):
  • Address to God
  • Complaint, sometimes with a protestation of innocence
  • Confession of trust
  • Petition
  • Words of assurance
  • Vow of praise

Read scripture - Daniel 9:4-8, 15-19
Just a few notes:

  • The prayer starts with Daniel using personal word for God – in it he switches to a more collective word for God – he is praying from his relationship with God, but he is praying for all of Israel.
  • The prayer uses four verbs to describe what the peole have done: sinned, done wrong, rebelled and turned away from God’s commandments.  Really wicked.
  • He mentions leaders and he mentions the people – neither group can escape from the fault of sin.
  • He reminds them of Egypt, and that their God had rescued them before.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Daniel 9: Part 1

The following few posts are from a Sunday school lesson I taught a few days ago, based on Daniel 9:

Does or did anyone ever watch NCIS? Do you remember Gibbs has rules? How many were there? Can you name any of them?
  • Rule #1: Never let suspects stay together
  • Always wear gloves at a crime scene
  • Never be unreachable
  • Best way to keep a secret – keep it to yourself.
  • Don’t waste good
  • #6 – Never say you are sorry
  • #9 – never go anywhere without a knife
  • When the job is done, walk away.
  • Never, ever involve lawyers.
  • Bend the line, don’t break it.
  • #15 – Always work as a team
  • #18 – it’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.
  • #35 – Always watch the watchers
  • #42 – Don’t ever accept an apology from someone who just sucker punched you.
  • #45 – Clean up the mess you make
  • #51 – Sometimes you’re wrong

Focus on rule #6 – Never say you are sorry because it is a sign of weakness.  If you lived by that rule, what do you think the impact would be on your life? The author of the curriculum says that “even if apologies project a stance of strength, relationship require the ability to offer and to accept apologies.” Think about Gibbs? How is he in the relationship department?

Why are apologies difficult? Other than they are sometimes an admission of fault?  (honest and vulnerable?) How do you feel after you apologize? (is there a relief to it? Does it sometimes feel as if you have opened a door to repair of the relationship?)

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Perspectives: Wha's inside

This is the inside of a piano, for all of those non-musical people out there like me.

When you listen to a piano, you might never imagine what is happening inside of it.  Even when I watch the inside working when Josh plays - I'm amazed.

Usually, we don't know what is happening inside of someone else.  We should probably remember that.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Not Easy

Yesterday, I quoted from the Introduction to Adam Hamilton's book, Half Truths. Part of that quote said, "Some of these half truth are used to avoid careful thinking about complex issues."

I've said it before - Christianity is not easy. It is not Faith 101. Following Christ means considering each situation - it means that there is rarely black and white. When there is grace, there is gray. There is complexity. And in that, there is joy.

When we sell that process short - when we fail to delve into the complex and fall back on the easy, we short change our faith, and we turn our backs on the sanctifying grace that will help us to grow. 

It's too easy to say, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." Rarely does that kind of half truth get you to the full truth of what God means. God isn't simple - God is more complicated than we can understand - and yet, boiling faith down to the simplest phrases doesn't move us to any kind of underatnding or growth.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hard to Imagine

I've just started Adam Hamilton's book, "Half Truths." It is a study of the simple phrases that sound Christian, and may capture some element of truth (or may not), but are not actually scriptural in that they miss the point.

In the Introduction, he says:

Here's why it's important to examine these particular half truths: I think they can sometimes hurt people.  i think they can lead people to conclusions about God that not only are untrue but that may push some people away from God. Some of these half truths are used to avoid careful thinking about complex issues. Some are used to justify our own biases or prejudices. Some, when spoken to others, can bring pain.

What do you think? I think that sometimes, when we say a phrase like, "Everything happens for a reason," or "God won't give you more than you can handle," we are trying (at the very least) to be comforting. Sometimes we are trying to find words to say in a situation where there are no words to say. 

Do we imagine that what we say could have the impact that Hamilton talks about. I think our words do have a mighty impact that we can't (or don't) consider - or expect. We don't intent to hurt people, and we never imagine that we are. And yet, and I do agree with Hamilton, we do.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What She Didn't Say

The other day, I was reading Facebook. A pastor I know posted that he had been in a Twitter debate over the following quote from someone I do not know who tweeted:

"Pastors: today you get to say to everyone in your presence, 'You are enough. You were enough in 2017, and you'll be more than enough in 2018. What an honor. Don't take it for granted.'"

What do you think of that tweet? The problem that the person I know had with it is that it "ignores much of the scripture.  Since Eden, we've not been 'more than enough' have we? If so, why Jesus?"

I see that - I get it. With God, we are more than enough.  I don't debate what he is saying, except that (you knew there would be an "except that..." didn't you?) I don't think the person saying it was trying to exclude God.

Is she?

I think she is trying to encourage pastors to be encouragers.  In a world when people feel downtrodden, where they are told that they are not enough for anyone, can't we be encouragers? Maybe there is a better way to say what she said, but I think to motivate pastors to lift people up is good, and don't want to assume that she is telling people to spread a gospel that doesn't include Christ.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Wandering Thoughts

So, let's try this again, now that the internet at my house is restored (a week is too long to go with internet).

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”  (Colossians 4:2 NIV)
Prayer is an effort of the will. After we have entered our secret place and have shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is to pray; we cannot get our minds into working order, and the first thing that conflicts is wandering thoughts… We must have a settled place for prayer, and when we get there, the plague of flies begins -- this must be done, that must be done. 
-- Oswald Chambers in “My Utmost for His Highest”

The two quotes above were in my email this morning. 

It's true, isn't it, that sometimes, when we commit the time to pray, we find that we are distracted by wandering thoughts and worries. It is important to center ourselves and to try to focus on giving undivided attention to God.


Sometimes, and we have to discern when, those wandering thoughts are God at work. Sometimes, those tasks that shoot through our mind are the work of God, moving us to what we need to do. 

Faith isn't easy - it just isn't. It requires attention and discernment. It's not black or white at all, and to say that all wandering thoughts in prayer are distractions is just one example. 


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Telling the Story

Hi, all:
I intentionally took a break at Christms. I didn't intend for it to last this long - and there are a variety of uninteresting reasons I took a longer break, but I'm back.


I was reading this morning in Generosity Rising by Scott McKenszie.  This sentence, from a millenial in an open letter explaining why he does not give to the church, struck me:  "Are you [the church] building the kingdom? Or are you building your kingdom?"

McKensie's premise is that the church IS building the kingdom, but it is not telling the story of HOW.

As the communication coordinator for my church, this started me thinking. How do we tell the story? I know, from the work I do, that the STORY is what convinces people to give. Do we tell the story?

Do we, as a church, tell the story of how the church is changing the world? Do we tell the story, as individuals, of how God is changing our lives?

Terry said on Sunday - we are the only evidence that some people will ever see that God exists.  Are we convincing?

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