Thursday
Jul242014

Tell it like it is 

Explore the Bible
August 10, 2014 

Janice Ramsey
member
Second Baptist
Arkadelphia

Daniel 5:1-6, 16-17, 23c-28

The events of Daniel 5 really happened! Historians and archaeologists have given us an accurate portrait of the Babylon of the Bible.

Belshazzar served as a co-regent with his father, Nabonidus. Belshazzar hosted a party while the city was under siege. Babylon fell at night while a great feast was in progress. The Persians were successful by diverting the waters of the Euphrates River and by persuading someone to open the gates.

Excavations have also uncovered a great room, which could easily accommodate a large crowd and which was decorated with white plaster walls, on which writing could have been seen by all (Dan. 5:1, 5).

Truth: History repeats. We must learn from mistakes of previous generations.

At this point in the Book of Daniel, a new king is on the throne and everyone seems to have forgotten Daniel, consultant to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel, as a true prophet, spoke the truth. He spoke not merely words the king wanted to hear, but words that came to pass that night. (Don’t overlook the wisdom, experience, faith and example of senior adults in our churches.)

Truth: God confronts sin. God is Light. Light exposes the darkness of sin (1 John 1:5, Eph. 5:8-11, 13).

Remember Ezekiel 18:4 and 26. 

“The one who sins is the one who will die” (Ezek. 18:4). 

All are held accountable. There is one Judge (James 4:12). Interestingly, the name “Daniel” means “God judges”!

Truth: Nations, as well as individuals, have been warned. Judgment is coming. Spiritual leaders are calling all to pray for our nation.

The message: Your days are numbered. You have been weighed in the balance of the Lord and found lacking. There will be a time when warnings cease; it will be too late. No more time to repent.

The “handwriting is on the wall,” America: Refuse to honor and obey God, then the party is over!

Thursday
Jul242014

Joyful faith

Bible Studies for Life
August 10, 2014 

Sherrill Moffett
member 
First Baptist  
Pocahontas

1 Peter 4:12-19

There isn’t much in life that comes with a 100 percent guarantee. Coupons usually don’t last forever, sales only go on for a “limited time only” and the milk in the fridge always has an expiration date. 

One thing we can be sure of, though, is that God will never leave us or forsake us. 

True, as long as there is sin in the world, there will always be some sort of suffering, but God has already won the victory against Satan so we have cause to be joyful. This is why Peter instructs believers on how to face trials that are inevitable. 

All throughout the Book of 1 Peter, Christians are being encouraged to maintain lives of holiness that are pleasing to God. Peter is quick to inform believers that there’s definitely a cost that comes with living like Jesus. Then, in the same breath, he confidently promotes the idea of being hopeful, excited and joyful about the impending suffering. 

Have you ever had to tell a small child, “It’s going to be OK,” when you knew something painful was about to happen. 

It breaks my heart every time I have to take my daughter to the doctor to get shots. But I always tell her that same phrase, and she knows I’m not going to leave her. 

I think Peter shares a similar sentiment with believers when he ends 1 Peter 4:19, saying, “Keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”

Peter had been through so much persecution in his ministry that he was giving these exhortations out of his own experience. 

To the average person, it may have sounded a bit ludicrous to have a joyful faith in such hard times. 

Peter’s message, however, was about being freed from shame. It was about the joy of knowing that God is always with us and having a confident hope in being called a child of God (1 Peter 4:16). 

That is what our faith must be rooted in.

Thursday
Jul242014

Risk everything for God

Explore the Bible
August 3, 2014 

Janice Ramsey
member
Second Baptist
Arkadelphia

Daniel 3:1, 8-12, 15b-18, 24-25, 28

Though these Bible stories from Daniel are well-known, let’s take a cue from the recent vacation Bible school (VBS) emphasis and examine the evidence.

Discover: This is the story of God’s sovereignty. He has been challenged by kings and man-made gods before; yet, God reigns from the banks of the Nile to Mount Carmel  to the plain of Dura. Did these three young men pay attention in Jerusalem VBS? Would the recitations of Exodus 20:3-6 and Deuteronomy 6:4-6 be hidden in their hearts?

Decide: Babylonians utilized every effort to assimilate and indoctrinate in removing the Hebrew way from their lives. Did they feel abandoned and forgotten by the God of their heritage?

Also, every effort of King Nebuchadnezzar was intended to impress, promote and demand loyalty, from the assembly of officials to the wording of the proclamation to the threatening presence of a furnace. Did anyone dare to defy his authority?

Defend: Let’s evaluate each response. The other officials in the crowd became “tattletales.” Nebuchadnezzar followed through with the sentence of death in a furious rage. He reacted in alarm when seeing the fourth person present in the fire, and he took note that they had “risked their lives” (Dan. 3:28). He examined the evidence: no damage to their bodies, hair or clothing, not even the smell of smoke. And he declared “for there is no other god who is able to deliver like this” (Dan. 3:29). Was he impressed?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose on that day whom they would serve (Josh. 24:14-15). They responded in humble faith. They conformed no longer “to the pattern of this world” (Rom. 12:2, NIV). What was their reward?

What do we learn about God? He is able (Dan. 3:28)! He is faithfully in control. Real faith is based on who God is. When confronted with God, how should we respond?

Thursday
Jul242014

Ready faith

Bible Studies for Life
August 3, 2014 

Sherrill Moffett
member
First Baptist  
Pocahontas

1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2

“Ready. Set. Go!” 

These words bring back memories of my childhood. It didn’t matter if they were used for playground games or summer swimming races – those words always brought excitement. My 2-year-old daughter has been using these words lately when she gets excited about things, and it makes everyone smile. When we talk about having a “ready faith” in times of suffering, I think Peter might have approved of “Ready. Set. Go!” as a sort of call-to-arms in the face of adversity.

The main subject of 1 Peter is Christian suffering. Peter was writing to fellow believers to encourage them to stay strong in their faith during trials and suffering under persecution. In our passage in chapter 3, Peter specifically identifies what believers should do when facing persecution for their faith. He encourages them to not worry or be afraid, even if they suffer for doing what is right. This is definitely something we can relate to in today’s society. 

While we may not face direct persecution in America as much as believers in another country, I think we can relate to the fear of doing something in the name of the Lord when it draws attention from nonbelievers. All too often, our actions speak louder than our words, and when fear is our motivator, we can find that the results aren’t always the best. Peter has the answer in 1 Peter 3:15, though. He insists that we must worship Christ as Lord of our lives. If we do this, we will truly be living like we belong to Christ, being ready to defend our faith. 

We would be remiss to ignore what Peter says in verse 16 about explaining or defending our faith. He adds on, “Do this in a gentle and respectful way.” When our eagerness overpowers us, our message can get lost in translation. However, if we arm ourselves with the attitude of Christ, we will be ready for anything that comes our way.

Thursday
Jul102014

Draw the line

Explore the Bible
July 27, 2014 

Laura Macfarlan
women’s ministry director
First Baptist
Siloam Springs

Daniel 1:3-6, 8-9, 11-21

Daniel and his three friends became part of the spoils when the kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians in Daniel 1. Survival for a prisoner of war might mean blending in, not making waves and certainly not asking for special favors.

But Daniel and his companions displayed a radical faith when they boldly asked for permission to receive vegetables and water in lieu of the royal food and wine provided. Their request was prompted by a desire to keep God’s commands – even at the risk of personal danger. They knew God’s precepts. They carried His Law in their hearts when they were carted off into captivity. God’s Law prompted a radical faith that propelled an unlikely request. 

Their request may seem unremarkable to us because we know the end of the story. But when they chose to obey God, they had no idea whether their request would bring accommodation, a beating or worse.

As the story unfolds, their radical faith is rewarded as they reap the blessings that come with obedience. 

Daniel 1:17 reveals, “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” 

Verse 20 reveals the wisdom of Daniel was 10 times greater than that of the king’s other advisors.

Daniel and his companions not only remembered God’s commands, but resolved to respond to those commands in obedience. The result is a timeless truth: Obedience brings blessing. The blessings may be eternal and spiritual in nature, but the true man or woman of God will recognize the prosperity of God’s economy and embrace it. We must know God’s Word and then follow in radical faith to live it out loud. 

Daniel’s example of faith offers timeless principles for us today in our journey of faith. His life brings three R’s that should be written on the heart of believers: (1) Remember God’s commands, (2) respond in obedience and (3) reap the blessings.