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The Secret of Such a Faith

Great light shone forth from Daniel and his companions. Glorious things were spoken of Zion, the city of the Lord. Thus the Lord designs that spiritual light shall shine from His faithful watch­men in these last days. If the saints in the Old Testament bore such a decided testimony of loyalty, how should God?s people today, having the accumulated light of centuries, shine forth, when the prophecies of the Old Testament shed their veiled glory into the future!?Letter 32, 1899.

From age to age the heroes of faith have been marked by their fidelity to God, and they have been brought conspicuously before the world that their light might shine to those in darkness. Daniel and his three companions are illustrious examples of Christian heroism. . . . From their experience in the court of Babylon we may learn what God will do for those who serve Him with full purpose of heart.?My Life Today, p. 68.

The season of distress before God?s people will call for a faith that will not falter. His children must make it manifest that He is the only object of their worship, and that no consideration, not even that of life itself, can induce them to make the least concession to false worship. To the loyal heart the commands of sinful, finite men will sink into insignificance beside the word of the eternal God. Truth will be obeyed though the result be imprisonment or exile or death.

As in the days of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, so in the closing period of earth?s history the Lord will work mightily in behalf of those who stand steadfastly for the right. He who walked with the Hebrew worthies in the fiery furnace will be with His fol­lowers wherever they are. His abiding presence will comfort and sustain.?Reflecting Christ, p. 370.


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Giving Glory to God

Notice this contrast: fearing God speaks of our attitudes; giving glory to God speaks of our actions. Fearing God has to do with what we think. Giving glory to God has to do with what we do. Fearing God deals with an inner commitment to make God the center of our life. Giving glory to God deals with how our inner convictions translate into a lifestyle that honors God in everything we do.

In his urgent appeal to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul explains what it means to give glory to God: ?Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God? (1 Corinthians 10:31). When God is the center of our life, our one desire is to give glory to Him in every aspect of our life, whether that has to do with our diet and the things we eat, our dress and the things we wear, our entertainment and the things we view, or our music and the things we listen to. We give glory to God as we reveal His character of love to the world through lives committed to doing His will. This is all the more important in the light of earth?s final end-time judgment.


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Partners With God

From Haiti, considered to be one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, comes the story of Edmund. Edmund?s church was having a Thanksgiving festival, and each member had been invited to bring a special love offering. Although Edmund did not attend the festival, he sent his love offering-thirteen dollars-in an envelope with his name written on it. In Haiti, thirteen dollars represents three months? income for a working man. Would you be willing to give three month?s pay as an offering? That?s what Edmund did for the Lord and his church.

Curious why Edmund hadn?t shown up for the festival, an American missionary decided to visit him. He was wondering about the ?large? gift Edmund had given. Where had the money come from? The missionary discovered that Edmund had sold his horse in order to give thirteen dollars to the Lord in that special offering. ?But why didn?t you come to the festival?? he asked.

Edmund hesitated; he didn?t want to answer. After a long period of silence, he finally said, ?I would have come but I had no shirt to wear.?

Edmund understood David?s words in Psalm 24:1, ?The earth is the Lord?s, and everything in it; the world, and all who live in it.? Since God is the owner of everything there is, He calls us to be faithful stewards of His environment, His people, His message, and His resources. A practical definition of stewardship is the total surrender of all we are and all we have to the King. In order to become faithful stewards of the owner and master of the universe, we need to learn the principle of giving. As stewards, we are called to surrender our energy, intellect, emotions, time, and money to God. That?s easy to say, but it is incredibly hard to accomplish in practice.


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Harassed and Helpless

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  ?Matthew 9:35, 36

When Jesus looks on a crowd, He sees each face, knows each name, and numbers every hair on each head. Even before they gathered on this plain, He saw them one by one. Earlier in Matthew 9, Jesus was healing diseases of the body, but Matthew specifies that He was moved to help people who needed something different. Jesus understood where they would be led when they were lost in the world. He understood that finding meaning in life can stir a fire in someone that money or comfort can?t compare to.

Picture how pack predators bring down their prey. It?s rarely a single strike with teeth or claws; it?s a barrage of terror. Basically, the strength of the pack tires the victim?it?s a waiting game. You?ve read the faces of people who, because of one small attack after another, fall down because the fight is unrelenting and their strength has deflated like a punctured tire. But it?s not just harassment by the calamities in this life. The verses also describe the crowd as helpless. This feeling is similar but adds another angle that means tossed up and thrown around, as a bull unceremoniously flings the strong and brave matador into the air like a rag doll?the power is unmistakable. Maybe you know someone who has felt powerfully struck down, someone who feels defenseless?

The crowds were described as being harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Compassion is an internal pain that requires a response. Every time Jesus feels compassion for someone, there is always a response?an action. When you witness someone being harassed, know that having seen it requires an act of compassion.


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Nimrod

Nimrod, a descendant of Noah?s son Ham, was the founder of Babylon. ?[Nimrod] became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. . .. The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar? (Genesis 10:8?10). His name came from the Hebrew verb marad (?to rebel?). The Septuagint interprets verse 9 as ?a mighty hunter against the Lord.? In other words, he?s the author of imperialism, forming the first confederacy of tribes. He also moved society from a patriarchal society to a monarchical system.

`           Nimrod was the first to carry on a war against his neighbors, conquering the regions from Assyria to Libya. Under his leadership, the Tower of Babel was attempted. ?Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth? (Genesis 11:4).

Here we start to see the two great sins of Babylon:

  1. Doubt of God?s word. God promised in Genesis 9:11 that He would not flood the earth again.
  2. Defiance of God?s will. God told Noah and his family in Genesis 9:1?4 to multiply and ?fill the earth.?

God says, ?Go!? Nimrod and his subjects say, ?We?re staying.? God says, ?I will not flood the earth.? Babylon says, ?Why trust what God says, when we are capable of securing our own future and making a name for ourselves.? Like kissing a mirror, Nimrod wanted to make his own name glorious, not the Lord?s. He echoed Lucifer?s words, ?I will be like the most High? (Isaiah 14:14, KJV). As we said previously, just because you don?t like God?s vision of the future doesn?t mean you get to create your own. To do so is Babylonian. It is to rebel. It is drinking the Kool-Aid.


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Comic Section

Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

In a world where crimes and disasters cover front-page news, it is not surprising that many people turn to the comic section first, leaving the gloom for later. Not only does the comic section have more lighthearted material, but it has much more succinct story lines with just a few words per strip. We can follow these mini-plots and jokes easily because we do not get lost in a collection of monotonous sentences. Comic strip writers have only a small space in which to get across their ideas. They must find the perfect words because they cannot afford to waste any.

            When we come to God, we should make promises carefully and thoughtfully. Acts chapter 5 tells the story of Ananias and Sapphira, a couple who rashly vowed to sell their land and give the entre proceeds to God. Afterward, however, they regretted their decision and secretly held back part of the profit. Of course, God sees everything, and the couple did not live to enjoy the extra money they had promised to give away. God is a holy, all-powerful God, and they had hastily spoken words they didn?t even mean.

            When we speak with God, we should think more like a comic strip writer and say only things we really mean. We cannot trick God or impress Him, so why not pray with honest words that convey our truest desires instead? God will honor an honest prayer. Let us speak openly and reverently with Him today.


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Interpretation of the Prophetic Message

Important to a proper interpretation of Daniel is the recognition that its prophetic message belongs to the so-called apocalyptic genre, a type of prophecy that stands in contrast to classical prophecy. Apocalyptic prophecies are of a revelatory nature, inasmuch as they disclose what has been hidden from human sight and knowledge. Classical prophecy designates the prophetic messages preserved in books like Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah. Apocalyptic prophecy also discloses God?s long-range and unconditional plans for history, with a focus on the end of human history, pointing to a time when God will bring the present world order to a close and establish His eternal reign. Classical prophecy, however, focuses mainly on God?s conditional plan for national Israel within the bounds of the covenant.6

Apocalyptic prophecy also displays other features. Revelation comes mainly in visions and dreams and often through the mediation of heavenly beings. It is also characterized by striking contrasts, such as good versus evil and present versus future. It may also use composite and vivid imagery such as winged lions and a horn with eyes and mouth. All in all, apocalyptic prophecy emerges in times of crisis to convey a message of hope?God stands in control of history.7


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The Prayer

Daniel came before the king, and pleaded for time to bring this matter before the supreme court of the universe, from whose decision there could be no appeal. When his request was granted, Daniel laid the whole matter before his companions, who were united with him in worshiping the true God. The matter was fully considered, and on their bended knees they pleaded that God would give them the power and wisdom that would alone avail them in their great necessity.

?Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.? . . . I would impress upon the youth that Daniel?s God is their God, and whatever difficulty may arise, let them do as did Daniel, ?desire mercies of the God of heaven.?

God will not fail His church in the hour of her greatest peril. He has promised deliverance.?Sons and Daughters of God, p. 216.


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Forgiven, Healed - It's all the same

There is no question that many people today stress themselves into sickness. The pressure of family and work, the need to suc­ceed, the drive to keep up with the neighbors?all these things lead to heart attacks, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and many other illnesses. Some doctors even consider stress one of the leading causes of cancer.

And nothing causes more stress than unresolved guilt. We?ve all stumbled into one or another of life?s messes? sometimes from one to another. We lie to our friends, we cheat on our taxes, or we steal from our employers. We eat or drink the wrong things and injure our health. We fill our minds with trivia or trash, and then have no time or energy for God.

We carry around the burden of having failed: as parents when our kids act out; as husbands or wives when we neglect the one we claim to love; as Christians, when we lash out angrily in traffic or in line at the grocery store.

We carry a burden of guilt because we are guilty. We?ve sinned and fallen short of what would bring God glory. And every day, we suffer because of it. We struggle with depression or anger. We seek help from mood-enhancers: chocolate, burritos, alcohol, television, and drugs both legal and illegal.

We?re sick, but what we need more than physical healing is the same thing the paralyzed man needed. We need a miracle. We need to hear those same words from Jesus: ?Your sins are forgiven.?


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Safeguarding Our Set-Apart Time

If you find your devotional time interrupted by thoughts of your long to-do list or other unrelated thoughts, instead of feeling guilty, just take a second and jot them down on a separate sheet of paper so that you can remember them after your devotional time is over.

Admittedly, for those with young children, finding quality time alone is always a struggle. If you can?t manage to wake up before your children do, or you don?t have help from a spouse in giving you some undistracted quiet time, just do the best you can with what time you have. It may not be ideal, but remember that God always honors our sincere efforts. Even if it?s just a few minutes here and there, He can multiply the blessing just as He multiplied the loaves and fishes.

On the other hand, if our lack of quality devotional time is due to laziness or mismanaged priorities, we shouldn?t expect God to make up the difference. He?s asking us to put Him first, not just in theory but literally. Once we start doing this, every-thing else in our day will fit together!


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His Sonship

It is such a blessing to have godly parents. My parents were a constant source of support for me, which they manifested in so many ways, lavishing me with unconditional and unwavering love. I still remember when I graduated with my first master?s degree. My dad had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and was about to have a major surgery. Still, he insisted on attending my graduation, in spite of his failing health, because he knew how much his presence meant to me. Now that they are no longer alive, I like to re­read the notes of encouragement that my parents used to send me, telling me of their love and support.

God made sure Jesus knew of His support and love. After Jesus? baptism, we find one of the most amazing scenes in the New Testament, one in which the Trinity is manifested. The Spirit comes upon Jesus, and a Voice from heaven speaks, asserting God?s view of Jesus in a heavenly revelation of His identity: ?This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well­pleased? (Matthew 3:17). . . .

When a person accepts Jesus as their Savior, they become beloved in the Beloved. In Him, we are the beloved children of God: ?See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God? (1 John 3:1). . . . When we are in Jesus, we know with certainty God?s view of us: we are His beloved children, and He delights in us!


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Facing the Future with Confidence

The Bible?s Message of Hope

  There are certain biblical truths that need to be repeated again and again and never pushed into the background for the sake of novelty. They are eternal revelations of God?s plan for this planet?s future. The predictions of the biblical prophets have rung true throughout the centuries. We can have confidence in their predictions regarding the future. Although Bible prophecy predicts a coming time of trouble, beyond this trying time God?s Word reveals that a bright new world will replace this sin- polluted planet.

  The Greeks spoke of ?time which wipes things out,? as if the mind were a slate and time an eraser. The passage of time often leads us to forget the eternal truths of a past generation. This is precisely why throughout Scripture the great truths are repeated again and again, lest we forget. We do not need something new as much as we need to be reminded of the ancient truths of Scripture that give meaning and purpose to all our lives.


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