Studying the book of Daniel

I’ve been working a lot on the book of Daniel lately.  It began by compiling an extensive Bible study that my good friend and mentor had done and putting it online.  While I was doing this I began to think about what my next sermon series should be about and I came to the conclusion that Daniel would be a good book to study.

So after compiling the entire Bible study for the website I decided to turn around and study the book again to preach from it.  And then to promote the website I’ve been writing a series of short articles about each chapter on another blog.  If you’re interested you can follow the blog at

So I have Daniel on the mind a lot right now.  The Bible study site has an in depth commentary on the book with each chapter being discussed for about ten pages.  My sermons are about half of that length or less.  And my blog posts are around 500 words each.  I’ve really run the gamut on the topic.

No matter how many words that I’ve used to speak on the book of Daniel, I still come to the conclusion that it is an amazing book.  There is perhaps no greater book in all of the Bible in terms of the range of subjects.  There are children’s stories such as Daniel and the lion’s den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace.  And on the other end of the spectrum are incredible prophecies such as Daniel’s seventy sevens.  Throw in some miracles and the amazing conversion of Nebuchadnezzar and the book has it all in just 12 chapters.

Every chapter displays the power of God in a new and magnificient way.  This is something that has really come out in my sermons.  This makes Daniel an important book to study because the church needs a reminder of God’s power.

All in all I just can’t get enough of the the book of Daniel right now and I’d highly recommend the study of it to anyone who was looking for a book or series to study.

The end of the world?

I posted an article at so I won’t repost the whole thing here.  However I’m still bothered by Christian perspectives on disasters and other bad things.  Within five minutes of posting the article I got a response on facebook that basically said that the truth is the truth whether I wanted to accept it or not, the signs prove that Jesus is returning soon. 

Of course the entire point of the article is that we simply don’t know because all of the things that are being pointed to as signs have been around since Jesus left us.  Things might be worse now or they might just get more television coverage.  There is no way that we can know for certain.  Every generation has seen disasters in their lifetime and has had reason to believe that they were signs of Jesus’ return.

Of course I reread Matthew 24 over the weekend.  There are a few things that are absolutely clear.  One part has been fulfilled – the destruction of the temple in AD 70.  Another part is still definitely future – the abomination that causes desolation.  This leaves us looking for signs to mark the time of Jesus’ return.  The more I read, the more I believed that Jesus was purposely vague.  This wasn’t vague like Nostradamus or other so called prophets that can be twisted in a number of ways until they are proven right.  Instead it is vague as a warning.

Matthew 24 closes with Jesus saying that no one knows the time of His return, not even He.  This means that anyone who claims to have figured out the date is a liar because they claim to know more than Jesus.  The chapter closes with a warning to be watching for His return.  I believe that is the point. 

Every generation has seen signs of Jesus’ return because God wants us to be watching and waiting.  We should live our lives as though Jesus could return at any moment, because He can.  The things that are going on in the world today could be signs of Jesus’ imminent return, or they could be more of what we’ve always had.  We simply don’t know for certain.  Things could get much, much worse.

I have always believed that Jesus could return at any moment and have tried to live my life in light of this fact.  He could return today.  Or He could be another thousand years off.  We simply don’t know.  What some Christians are offering as proof is not a guarantee if for no other reason than God’s measure of time is not the same as ours.  The birth pains that act as a sign could be a hundred years long.  It is not our job to interpret the signs.  Instead, we need to live our life like He could return at any moment.

Looking for Love

I was at the gas station the other day when I saw a sign that said “Looking for love?”  I couldn’t see the bottom half of the sign so I don’t know what they were advertising.  I assume that it was something related to Valentine’s Day but for all I know it could have been cupcakes.

Of course this got me to thinking about how often we look for love in all of the wrong places.  At worst we replace love with lust.  We also fill the God shaped hole in each of us with all kinds of meaningless things such as television, camping, romance novels, etc.  We were created to love God but so often we get caught up in loving the created rather than the Creator.

God wants us to enjoy life and we should enjoy the many things that God gives us.  (Obviously this does not include the things that are forbidden as sinful.)  But we need to remember that God gave them to us and they should never take the place of God.

One of the most frustrating things as a pastor is looking out over the congregation each Sunday and noticing who isn’t there.  Obviously there are sicknesses to deal with and then there are vacations and other reasons for traveling.  But pretty much every week I notice that someone isn’t at church and I can’t help but think “What better thing did they have to do on Sunday than worship God?”  Rarely do I hear an explanation and when I do it’s even more frustrating.  For instance, if your life is so busy that Sunday morning is the only time you have to go grocery shopping, you need to cut something out of your life and whatever that thing is, it shouldn’t be God.

As our thoughts turn to love around this time of year, thank God for those that He gave you to love.  But also take time to remember your love for God as well and be sure to express it.

Walking by Faith

It’s been a while since I posted and for fairly good reason.  November and December are always crazy, especially in the church.  But this year has been particularly hectic with packing to move and not knowing where I’m going. 

Pastors talk about walking by faith a lot.  As Christians we are called to live by faith.  But mainly we treat this as some sort of abstract concept.  God is a safety net when all else fails.  Very rarely are we required to really depend on God for our daily needs.

When I resigned my position in October I did not have a job lined up.  I didn’t even have an interview set – I had just been in talks with a church about their position.  Nevertheless I believed that this was what God was asking me to do as it was what was best for the church and for myself as well.  This didn’t mean that it was easy or stress free.  For the next 3 1/2 weeks I tried to patiently wait as I anxiously checked my email for word about an interview.

After I finally had an interview set, I got an unexpected blessing a week before my interview.  I have been approved to teach university courses online.  This is something that I had applied for over four months ago and will go well along with pastoring a smaller church.

Finally after about seven weeks in limbo I have a new job to start in just a few weeks.  I thank God that my step out in faith has been rewarded and that He hasn’t let me down.  What I have learned through this experience is how difficult it is to truly live by faith.  I consider myself to have a strong faith and while I trusted God there were times when I had to wonder if I interpreted His instructions correctly.  After all, God is good but what if I acted foolishly and impulsively?

I would never advise someone to quit their job or make any other major decision without first considering the costs.  Jesus instructed us that we must consider the cost of being a disciple and this applies to our walk of faith as well.  One should also pray for wisdom and discernment and ask if this is something God is truly calling them to do. 

If God is calling you to do something and you understand the cost of doing so, do so with boldness.  Taking a huge leap of faith is difficult but I truly believe that God will reward those who listen to His calling to do so.

Moving on

After a lot of thought and prayer I made the decision to resign my position at church.  After a very difficult summer this decision was a very personal one for my wife and I as we decided it was best to search for a church closer to our families back home.  With the church beginning to make plans for 2011 I decided that it was in the church’s best interest if they knew to start making plans without me rather than throw those plans into disarray in a few months or whenever I find another job.

I have a couple of prospects but nothing definite at this point so it is really a leap of faith because right now I’m jobless and homeless at the end of the year.  I know that our families will take us in if need be but obviously that is the last resort that no one prefers.  So I would ask for everyone’s prayers in this regard and I’ll be certain to post an update when I know more about my future.

The reaction to my resignation was expected.  There was a lot of shock and sadness.  Unfortunately there is no good way or time to make such an announcement.  What I didn’t expect was some of the encouraging things that people said after the announcement.  Because my reasons for leaving are mainly personal I wasn’t leaving because of discouragement.  But some of that encouragement would have helped a lot over the past few months.

For those who didn’t know, October is Pastor Appreciation Month.  Every pastor gets discouraged about their job because there are always going to be weeks where attendance is down or they wonder if their sermon reached anyone.  Don’t wait until your pastor is beaten down and discouraged to offer support.  You may think that your pastor knows that he is appreciated but he really needs to hear it and from as many people as possible.  He needs to know that he is making an impact and not just wasting his time.

Missing out on Church

This past Sunday I preached on the purpose of the church.  You can read what I said here, I won’t repeat it all in this post.  This week I was talking to a close friend and she revealed that her and her husband have stopped attending the church they’ve gone to for twenty years.  When I asked if they found a new church, she responded that they aren’t going to church right now.  It’s not that they don’t want to go to church but they haven’t found a church that they feel comfortable in.

As a pastor I am of two minds on this.  Part of me is saddened that my friend is not attending church even though I know they are still good Christians.  (And this isn’t my only friend who is going through the same thing.)  But another part of me completely understands.  Many Christians are frustrated that the church is not what it is supposed to be.  There are petty squabbles over stupid issues and somebody offended someone else when they said something completely innocuous and unintentional.  Many Christians I know just want to attend church to worship, hear a good sermon, and go home.  The last thing they want is to return home feeling worse than when they left because of frustrating things going on at church that have nothing to do with the worship of our Lord.

I get frustrated by the things that go on in the church as much as anybody else.  Really, it’s probably more because I know about more of the petty problems going on than the average church member.  As a pastor it is part of my job to try to get the church to rise above all of the nonsense and make the church what it needs to be.  I don’t have the option of simply not attending church.  (Actually I suppose I do but that involves not getting paid and I’m rather against that.)

So I believe that the average Christian has one of two options when dealing with a church that isn’t to their liking.  They can work to change the culture of the church and make it into what God wants it to be.  Or they can look for another church that is already doing that.  I’m not a big fan of changing churches just because of not liking how things are going but there are times when it is appropriate.  When a church becomes more liberal than you believe the Bible says it should be, that is a big one.  Odds are that you won’t be able to change the direction of the church, especially if it’s a denomination wide policy that has been implemented.

What I don’t consider an option is to stop attending church.  People leave churches all of the time because they are mad at pastor or aren’t happy with something that is going on.  It doesn’t make me happy when it happens in my church but it is a fact of life that there are going to be people who leave because we can’t please everyone all of the time.  What I don’t accept is when people leave for these reasons but then don’t make an attempt to find a church where these things won’t be an issue.  What it comes across as is an excuse.  “I’m unhappy about problem x so I won’t be attending any longer.”  But when a person doesn’t look for a church where problem x isn’t happening, it really says that the problem is an internal one.

Finally, there is no perfect church.  As a pastor I will never find one and never be able to create one, even if I start my own church without the baggage and years of history that an established church has.  Someone once said, “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it because you’ll ruin it.”  No church is without its problems.  Sometimes those problems become so great that a Christian should part ways and find a church that will encourage their growth in Christ.  Most of the time though it is better to stick it out and work to make the church a better place for you and for others.

Bible Questions and Answers

After a couple of months off during a tumultuous summer I am back to doing web projects.  While I fear that I am never going to complete all of my projects I keep coming up with new ideas.  Fortunately I have a lot better follow through with my Christian related sites and ideas than I do with any other projects.

My newest project is up and running already.  Fortunately it is designed to be quickly expandable and relies on the questions of other Christians.  Bible Questions and Answers is designed to answer the questions of Christians about what it means to be a Christian, issues of theology, questions about passages in the Bible, and just about anything else that people come up with.

I got this idea from another pastor who did a sermon series based on questions from people in the church.  I’m doing the same thing in October at my church and I’m using the questions submitted as a starter for the site.  I figure if people from my church are asking these question, lots of of Christians must be asking the same questions.  So a new site was born.

I’m also working on another site which I hope to have up in a relatively short amount of time.  I could have things up this week if I have a good week or I might get distracted.  I have everything I need, I just need to do some time intensive work of copying from notes to the site.  After that it will be very low maintenance which is something I really like for websites.


Just about everyone that I’ve talked to has been under a great deal of stress this week.  I don’t know if it is the start of summer that has done it or if it is the end of school for most students or what it is.  It has been a very odd week.

I usually handle stress very well.  I am not wired like most pastors who have a very ordered type A personality.  I’m much more laid back and take things as they come.  But even I have been feeling a lot of stress for the last few weeks.  Ironically, I was even on vacation last week but couldn’t escape a lot of the problems that I was supposed to vacate.  This week I saw the effects of my built up stress when I went to the doctor – my blood pressure was much higher than normal.  Usually my blood pressure is the only good thing I have going for me.

When we’re feeling stressed – and I have to preach to myself right now as well – we need to remember that God is in control no matter what.  He has promised to provide for our needs.  Beyond that, we’ll survive and He will give us the strength to handle whatever comes our way.  We are promised to never have more than we can handle.  This is an easy promise to believe in because when God is with us, we can handle anything.

Spiritual but not religious

CNN has an interesting article  I’ve been mentioning this in my sermons for probably at least five years.  More and more people are defining themselves as spiritual but not religious.  They believe in god but it is a god of their own making and he is born out of a frustration with organized religion.

Organized religion has its faults whether Catholic or Protestant or any of non Christian faith.  There are plenty of hypocrits and corruption at every level of religion.  The truth is that Christians are sinful like everyone else and while Christianity offers a better way to live life and true Christians have the Holy Spirit to guide them, Christians are still far from perfect.

The biggest problem with the spiritual but not religious idea is that it is a new age idolatry.  The god you believe in is one of your own making.  Don’t like the idea of sinners going to hell?  Then you simply choose not to believe in it.  You accept the things about god that you like and dismiss what you don’t.  It has a new name but it has really been going on since the beginning of time.

If you take this idea a bit further than these spiritualists are willing to take it, then you’ll see the absurdity of the notion.  “I believe that when I die, god will turn me into my favorite animal and heaven will be spent frolicing in the woods/field/stream.”  Of course this sounds absurd because there is no basis for believing this.  But that is the problem with the spiritual but not religious concept.  There is no basis for the belief.  You can’t pick and choose ideas from Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism and decide that this is what you believe.  The religions are incompatible.  I really don’t know how to put it in any other way than that. 

The other problem with spiritual but not religious is that every person believe that they are going to their version of heaven.  It seems pretty obvious that a person is not going to choose to believe that they are hellbound if they decide what the standards for heaven are.  If there are no absolute rules, then a person will always set the bar below where they currently are.  They will point to people who are far worse than them – thieves, murderers, child molesters – and claim that those are the people who are hellbound.  But people like themselves who are relatively good and who try to live a good life will certainly go to heaven.  Without absolute standards for right and wrong, how does anyone know what is wrong?  It comes down to conscience which is a poor indicator because it can be ignored and twisted.

Organized religion is far from perfect because it doesn’t always operate the way that God intended for it.  But it is better than the alternative.  Spirituality that is chosen based on what feels right will only lead to trouble.  Without standards of right and wrong, we’ll choose the lowest common denominator and stop aspiring to be better people.


As a pastor I strongly advocate resting on the sabbath.  It’s more than just the idea that people need to stop doing what they are doing and get to church although there is definitely importance in being at church.  I don’t think that the sabbath should be something should be followed legalistically but I believe it should be followed religiously.  The Pharisees followed the sabbath legalistically, and made up extra rules about it, even concerning how far they could walk before it was considered work.  They then made up rules to get around the original rules, like a person could walk further than the allowed distance if they stopped and ate a mean before going further.

To follow the sabbath religiously is to recognize the value and importance of it and not just follow it because it’s a rule.  There is value in resting on the sabbath, not just showing up in church.  Some people have to work on Sundays.  We need hospital workers and policemen just as much on Sunday as any other day.  Then there are a ton of other places that don’t need to be open.  The world will keep on spinning if shoes aren’t purchased on Sunday and anyone who really needs a new pair has to go on Saturday or Monday.

But many people are in jobs that they can’t get off on Sundays.  This is unfortunate but also reality.  I would never tell someone to quit their job because Sunday work was required but I would strongly recommend that when looking for a job to find one that doesn’t require work on Sundays.  But what about the people who do have to work on Sundays?

For everyone who can’t take Sunday off, I recommend doing what I do.  As a pastor, my Sundays are far from relaxing.  They are usually my most stress filled day of the week.  While some people think that I only work one day a week, this isn’t nearly true.  Even when I’m not officially working, I’m on call 24/7.  My church is very respectful of my time but many pastors aren’t as lucky and have people call them or show up on their doorstep in the middle of the night.  Getting back to my point however, because my Sundays are not off, I must take another day off.

I honestly believe that the body will break down without rest.  I believe that the sabbath was meant to be more than just a time for worship (we’re meant to worship everyday).  I believe that the sabbath was to allow the body to recover from the wear and tear of the rest of the week.  So I try to take one day a week and do nothing.  No studying, no manual labor, nothing physically or mentally tiring.  I watch tv, read, or play a game. 

Lately I’ve tried to make Mondays my day off but it doesn’t always work.  This week I had a viewing to attend and a funeral to prepare for the following day.  Yesterday I was wore out from the funeral and planned on taking some extra time off when my wife woke me in the morning with bad sinus trouble so I had to take her to the doctor.  We got back home in time for lunch, my morning completely shot.  I was so tired I laid down for a nap.  Now we’re approaching the end of the week and I have a sermon to write, a lot of stuff going on tomorrow, and someone from church coming to see me Saturday, so it appears as though I won’t get a full day off this week. 

Even though I haven’t had an uninterrupted 24 hours this week, I have still made it a point to rest when I can.  I did as little as I could on Monday and took a few hours off yesterday.  It is important for all of us to rest.  God made it that way and so we have every reason to follow the command.