Friday, January 24, 2020

January 18-24
Daniel 23: From Furnace to Palace

Yes, I'd like to stand with you . . . 

But it's complicated.

I mean, I've got a lot of people who depend on me: people who need me; people who look to me for guidance, people who would be in all kinds of trouble if I wasn't there for them.

In fact, it would be downright selfish of me to leave them in the lurch -- to leave them in the lurch just because of my private beliefs about religion.

And yes, the people who really know me all know what I really believe.

What's more, God knows my heart -- yes, God understands why I'm bowing down to that statue . . .  

And if God understands, then why don't you?

For more on this lesson, go to:

Friday, January 17, 2020

January 11-17
Daniel 2: From Mystery to Revelation

Just for once, it was nice to be in charge.

To you, after all, I am "Nebuchadnezzar -- destroy of nations, King of Babylon, and ruler of the whole stinking universe." 

But when the magi show up, they act like I'm just another shlubby -- just another peasant who's ticked-off the gods.

That's why it was so nice to see them sweat -- to see them realize that I was in charge after all.

Yes, it was nice while it lasted . . . 

Right up until four of them spoke up.

The good news: they told me what I'd dreamt.

The bad news: they told me what it meant . . .

And it turns out that I'm not in charge, after all.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

January 4-10
Daniel: from Jerusalem to Babylon

It's not often you get a "win-win" deal like this.

I mean, we're always getting kids with funny ideas — I remember one, for instance, who refused to wear the color blue . . . 

So when a new shipment shows up, I’m not surprised when four of them tell me they’ve got problems with our food; it happens all the time, right?

And like always, I tell them that making my life more difficult is not a good idea . . . 

But these four — they surprise me. Yeah, they offer me a deal: they say they’ll gladly eat the cheap stuff. The rabbit-food. The junk we use to “dress up” the main-dish . . . 

And me? I get to decide if they’re going to keep eating the cheap stuff.

So I’ll bet you’re wondering what’s happened to all the really expensive stuff — all the really expensive food they’re not getting anymore?

Well . . . like I said, it’s a “win-win” deal!

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

December 28 - January 3
From Reading to Understanding

The Book of Daniel is for losers.

It's the stories, remember, of people taken hostage — taken hostage, and forced to serve an empire where nothing is safe:
  • Not the king of your country.
  • Not the Temple of your God.
  • And no, not even your name — not if the empire wants it changed.
In short, it's a book about people who seem to have lost all control of their lives . . . 

And you know what we call those kind of people.

If you really want to understand the Book of Daniel, in other words, then you can’t read it in a place where you feel safe and secure — in your favorite chair, perhaps, or the sanctuary of a church.

No, you need to read it while you’re waiting trial . . . 

Or hear it late at night, when most of the guards are asleep . . . 

Or remember it when they offer you a way “to make all this a little easier.”

You see, it’s times like these that you learn just what Daniel was facing.

And it’s times like these that you need the message of Daniel — the message that losers can outlast an empire.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

December 21-27
Ezra & Nehemiah: Leaders in Israel

Let's be honest: Ezra is not very nice.

Neither is Nehemiah.

And yes, they're both godly people . . . 

But easy to get along with?

No -- not if you disagree with them. Not if you don't go along with them. Not if you have a different view of what God wants from us, here in Jerusalem.

With these two, in other words, it's always "my way, or the highway" -- and that's true, no matter how rich and powerful you are.

In short, they may be the leaders we need.

But why can't God give us leaders we like?

For more on this topic, go to this week's Adult Bible Study Guide.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

December 14-20
Nehemiah 13: Dealing with Bad Decisions

Don't think of it as a "marriage."

Think of it as a "strategic alliance."

As part of "The One-Percent," after all, we don't marry for love. No, we marry for contacts. We marry for influence. We marry to seal deals and cement alliances.

And if this means marrying an "outsider," then let's be honest: it's better to marry a rich one of them than it is to marry a poor one of us.

I mean, that's just good business -- right?

And no, Nehemiah doesn't understand this . . . 

But what can he do about it?

For more on this topic, go to this week's lesson:


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

December 7-13
Nehemiah 13: Backslidden People

I agree -- in a perfect world, this wouldn't happen.

But let's be realistic: Tobias is powerful. Tobias is connected. And Tobias is more than willing to make our lives difficult.

More to the point: Tobias is here, while Nehemiah is not.

So . . . if Tobias wants to use a few rooms in the Temple for his own personal reasons, then why not "accommodate" him?

And no, I'm not saying this is ideal . . . 

But isn't it the best we can do for now?

For more on this topic, go to this week's lesson.