Though the Book of Daniel has only 12 chapters, the 50-question Bible Bowl competition included a lot of really hard questions! For example:
- What was the name of the captain who was ordered to destroy all of the wise men?
- What was the title for the 120 government officials that Darius placed over his kingdom?
- In Daniel’s vision, where were the eyes and mouth on the fourth beast located?
Parents and pastors would have been so proud to see how well these Middle School students performed! They were a great reflection of the four Israelite youths — Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — whose character, competence, and conviction shine so brightly throughout the Book of Daniel: “And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom” (Daniel 1:20).
Though the 8th-Grade team (all girls) scored 9/10 in the Championship round, it was the 6th-Grade team (all boys) that won Bible Bowl III with a perfect 10/10. Congratulations to Joey, Michael, Sammy, and Timmy!
What is your faith made of? When the pressure is on, will you stand strong…or will you crumble?
To get the answers to those questions, on Sunday we spent some time in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We also dropped down into the lion’s den with Daniel. In both cases, we were amazed to see the strength of their convictions.
Daniel’s three friends refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s 90-foot golden statue (Daniel 3). When the king heard of their impudence, he went into a furious rage. Bow down to the image, he demanded, or be thrown into a fiery furnace. “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hand?” Nebuchadnezzar was about to find out…
Though the furnace was heated seven times hotter than normal — enough to kill the executioners — it didn’t even singe the three friends. To his astonishment, the king saw all three of them walking around in the fire unscathed with a fourth man who looked like “a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar called the men out of the furnace and gave praise to God. In fact, he sent a decree throughout the Babylonian empire warning that if anyone ever spoke against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he would be torn limb from limb and have his house demolished! All because these men refused to bow their knee to an idol…
The same was true for Daniel. When political rivals coaxed King Darius into passing a law that prohibited prayer to anyone but the king for 30 days, Daniel wasted no time in getting down on his knees in front of an open window and praying to his God (Daniel 6). His enemies told the king, and Darius reluctantly consigned Daniel to the lion’s den. Early the next morning, after a sleepless night of worry, King Darius rushed to the mouth of the lion’s den. “O Daniel,” he cried, “servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
We know the answer. Our God is mighty to save! Daniel emerged from the lion’s den without a scratch, protected by an angel from God. His rivals were not so fortunate…when they were tossed into the den along with their wives and children, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones before they even hit the floor.
Because of Daniel’s courage and conviction, because of his unflinching devotion to God, the most powerful king in the world sent the following message throughout his empire: “I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.” (Daniel 6:26)
Daniel and his friends had one fear — a fear of the Lord. It kept them standing firm in the most severe tests of faith. May we be inspired and empowered by their example!
On Sunday we dug deeper into our study of the prophets and the Book of Daniel. Though most readers associate the prophets with predictions of future events, that was only a very small part of the biblical prophet’s task. God’s prophets served as his spokesmen, his messengers. Bible scholar Gordon Fee writes, “They were like ambassadors from the heavenly court, who relayed the divine sovereign’s will to the people.” Their primary message was to urge Israel to keep its covenant with God. They reminded Israel of the blessings of obeying the covenant and warned Israel of all the curses they would incur for violating the covenant. Sadly, their voices often went unheard.
Our class studied three passages from Daniel this week that highlighted God’s unchanging sovereignty despite the boasts and mockery of worldly kings.
First we considered Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation and restoration in Daniel 4. What a powerful hymn of praise this humbled king offers God after being restored to his right mind (Daniel 4:34-37)!
Next we observed Belshazzar’s blasphemies against the God of heaven in Daniel 5. After being called in to interpret the handwriting on the wall, Daniel made this indictment of the drunken king: “And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” (Daniel 5:23). That very night Belshazzar forfeited his kingdom and his life.
Finally we discussed Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 of the “Ancient of Days” and “one like a son of man” to whom was given “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Daniel 7:14). The clear message? Earthly kingdoms, no matter how mighty, will crumble and fall…but there is an unchanging King over all who reigns forever: “his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).
What a joy it is to teach these Middle School students about their glorious King!
For the third time this year, the 12:13 class is taking a month-long break from Pilgrim’s Progress to study a book of the Bible that typifies a certain type of biblical literature. In November we studied 1 Samuel as an example of Old Testament Narratives. In March we studied Acts as an example of New Testament Narratives. And this Sunday we began studying Daniel, a fascinating example of The Prophets.
Sixteen books of the Bible are categorized as prophetic books — four major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel) and twelve minor prophets ( Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). All were written between 760 BC and 460 BC during a period of cataclysmic military and political upheaval.
The Book of Daniel includes some of the most memorable and faith-building stories from the Bible. Its author, a young captive of war who served as a political leader and chief advisor to four kings in three different empires, is a man of courage, conviction, and humble dependence on the King over all. As Bible commentator E.J. Young writes, “God placed Daniel at the heathen court in order that he might declare to successive monarchs that the kingdoms of this world are temporal and fleeting but that the kingdom of God shall endure forever.”
Notes and visuals from this Sunday’s lesson are available by clicking on the links below.
As Christian and Faithful continued on their journey, they were delighted to meet up with their old friend Evangelist. He encouraged them for the victories they had achieved despite their weakness and he spurred them on to run for the prize. “Let the Kingdom always be before you,” he urged, “and believe resolutely in things that are invisible. Let nothing on this side of the Other World get inside of you, and above all, pay close attention to your own hearts….”
When they asked him what they would face ahead, he warned that they would soon enter the town of Vanity, where one or both of them would “seal with blood the testimony that you hold.” However, he comforted them with the promise that the one who died for his faith would be taken directly to the Celestial City and escape many future miseries.
In the town of Vanity was a year-round fair that had been established in ancient times by Beelzebub himself. It offered every possible pleasure known to distract pilgrims from the path to Celestial City. The Prince himself had passed through the fair during his earthly pilgrimage; Beelzebub had offered to make him lord of the fair in exchange for his worship (see Matthew 4:1-11). But the Prince “left the town without laying down so much as one penny for these worthless things.”
As soon as they entered the town, Christian and Faithful drew the attention of the self-indulgent mob. Their clothes were different, their speech was different, and they shunned every pleasure offered. When the offended mob began a riot, Christian and Faithful were taken into custody and interrogated. Despite their innocence, they were smeared with dirt, beaten mercilessly, paraded through the town in chains, and locked in a cage awaiting trial.
How did they respond to this abuse? With meekness and patience (provoking their accusers even more) — and each man secretly hoped that he would be the one chosen to die for his faith.
To the revelers in Vanity Fair, it must have seemed that these two pilgrims came from another planet. And as new creatures in Christ, we do! Scripture tells us, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
Our citizenship is now in heaven — a truth we must grip tightly as we live in the midst of this Vanity Fair. Parents, I pray that you will use the questions below to talk with your child about the truths in this week’s lesson. Let’s pray that God in his grace would expose the false promises of Vanity Fair and direct our hearts — both parents and students alike — to the abundant life found in Christ and his kingdom.
FOR DISCUSSION WITH PARENTS
- When John Bunyan wrote about “Vanity Fair” he was describing the world we live in. The world is constantly trying to tempt us to sell our souls in order to buy its pleasures. Which of its pleasures are most attractive to you?
- How can we set our minds “on things…above” instead of on “things that are on earth”?
After his harrowing journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Christian caught up with a fellow pilgrim named Faithful. Having traveled so far alone, Christian was delighted with the companionship and asked Faithful to recount his travels.
Though he had traveled the same road, Faithful’s experiences were very different than Christian’s. He had not fallen in the Swamp of Despondence, but had been tempted by a woman named Wanton. He did not even see the two lions that had terrified Christian or the monster Apollyon, but he had been harassed in the Valley of Humiliation by Shame. As we discussed in class, every Christian’s journey is different — we experience different temptations, different trials, different joys.
Faithful refused Wanton’s flattering words and false promises, but he was almost snared by a job offer from an old man (symbolizing our fallen nature that remains so vulnerable to worldly temptation). The old man promised him many delights and “all the fine things of the world.” Though Faithful eventually heeded the biblical command to “put off the old man with his deeds,” he felt the old man’s claws in his flesh. He was nearly hooked.
Continuing up the Hill of Difficulty, Faithful was pursued by a man who knocked him to the ground with a powerful blow. When he came to his senses and asked for an explanation, Faithful was told that he was being punished for his secret inclination to follow the old man (the “First Adam”). Faithful got up and was immediately knocked down again. “Have mercy!” he pleaded, but the man responded, “I don’t know how to show mercy!” A third time he was knocked to the ground and would surely have perished if he had not been rescued by a passing stranger…a man with holes in his hands and a hole in his side.
As Christian then explained, the assailant was Moses — “he doesn’t know how to show mercy to those who transgress his law.” This portion of the story provided a wonderful opportunity to remind the students of the gospel — of the Savior who does not treat us as our sins deserve, but paid the full penalty of the law so that we could be forgiven. Hallelujah!
Sunday’s lesson took us through the deepest, darkest part of Christian’s pilgrimage…the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Though it led past the very mouth of hell, Christian knew this was the only road to the Celestial City — a road he would have to travel.
Flanked by a deep pit on one side and a foul swamp on the other, frightened by sounds of hobgoblins and dragons, Christian followed the narrow path through the dark. The sword that had proven so effective against Apollyon was useless against the disembodied voices of hell’s fiends, so Christian resorted to another weapon: All-Prayer. The students took a few minutes to share their personal fears with a friend and then we lifted these fears to God in prayer.
During the night Christian was encouraged to hear the voice of another pilgrim ahead of him. With that voice came hope — hope that God was still with him (even though he couldn’t feel his presence) and hope that he might have fellowship with this fellow traveler in the future.
Finally the morning dawned. When Christian looked back, he was sobered to see what dangers he had escaped in the night. But the way forward was even more appalling. Realizing that he never could have survived the rest of that path in the darkness, Christian continued with deep gratitude for the light (a symbol of God’s Word).
Reminding the students that King David had traveled the Valley of the Shadow of Death on many occasions, we ended the class by meditating on Psalm 23 with the help of Keith Green’s powerful song.
For application, parents, talk with your student about these two weapons that enabled Christian to survive the Valley of the Shadow of Death: persevering prayer and the light of Scripture.
On Sunday we resumed “Pilgrim’s Progress” in the Valley of Humiliation, where Christian immediately encountered the demonic fiend Apollyon. When Apollyon learned that Christian was from the City of Destruction, he announced that he was prince of that city and demanded allegiance. Christian informed the monster that he had chosen to enter the service of another prince — the King of princes. Apollyon bribed, threatened, and accused Christian but could not shake the pilgrim’s resolve. “To speak the truth,” confessed Christian, “I like His Work, His Wages, His Servants, His Government, His Company, and His Country better than yours. Therefore, quit trying to persuade me; for I am His servant, and I will follow Him.”
At this, Apollyon roared in rage and shot flaming arrows “thick as hail.” The combat lasted half a day. Despite his brave defense, Christian suffered multiple wounds and increasing weakness. Seizing his opportunity, Apollyon threw Christian to the ground,knocking his sword from his hand. “I have you beaten now!” exulted the fiend as he prepared to deliver the death blow.
But Christian, though crushed, was not destroyed. With the promises of God’s Word on his lips, he grasped his sword and thrust it into the monster. Apollyon backed away, mortally wounded. Echoing the battle cry that has carried countless Christians through spiritual warfare, the pilgrim struck again, proclaiming, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!” With that, Apollyon took wing and flew away, never to trouble Christian again.
The young pilgrims in the class learned two main truths. First, God wisely allows us to experience trials “in the valley” in order to strengthen our love and faith. Second, the Word of God is our most reliable weapon when we engage in spiritual battle.
Parents, look for an opportunity to discuss these truths with your children. Help them respond to the closing questions posed in class:
- Where is the Enemy attacking me?
- What Scripture will force him to flee?
Finally, remind them of the glorious gospel, which declares that we are more than conquerors through the great Prince — the King of princes — who loved and died for us.
This Sunday the 12:13 Class held its second “Bible Bowl” tournament of the year.
Competing in teams of 3 or 4, the students tackled 50 questions from the Book of Acts.
It was great to see how many students had studied and how much they knew!
But only one team could take home the trophy…congratulations to Candace, Hannah, and Sydney!
Dramatically converted after a vision of the risen Jesus, Saul stopped persecuting followers of the Way and immediately began preaching Jesus as the Son of God. Saul (later known as Paul) narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Jews in Damascus and then Jerusalem, then returned to Tarsus before joining Barnabas at Antioch. After a year of fruitful ministry among the believers in that city, Paul and Barnabas were commissioned by the Holy Spirit to take the good news abroad…
During his three extensive missionary journeys, Paul was used mightily by the Spirit. On Sunday the 12:13 class learned about some of the highlights from these trips…
The crowds in Lystra sought to worship Paul and Barnabas after they healed a lame man. The apostles had to restrain them from offering sacrifices. But then hostile Jews showed up and turned the crowd against them. Paul was stoned by the angry mob and left for dead outside the gates. But Paul got up, walked back into town, and continued his missionary journey. The gospel is unstoppable!
The city rulers in Philippi beat Paul and Silas with rods for causing a disturbance and then threw them in jail. (Their crime? Casting a demon out of a slave girl.) At midnight they were giving thanks to God and singing hymns when an earthquake broke open the doors and burst their bonds. When the jailer saw that the prisoners were free, he was about to commit suicide — but Paul stopped him. Instead, the man received the gift of salvation and was baptized that night along with the rest of his household. The next morning the city rulers had to apologize for beating and imprisoning Roman citizens without a trial and then personally escorted Paul and Silas out of the city. The gospel is unstoppable!
In Ephesus Paul ministered so effectively for two years that the word of God spread throughout Asia. As people converted from pagan worship to Christianity, the craftsmen who sold images of Artemis and her world-famous temple began losing money. One of them, a silversmith named Demetrius, stirred up a riot. For two hours the Ephesians chanted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” It was a powerless boast. Artemis and her temple were the work of man’s hands, no match for the sovereign God. The gospel is unstoppable!
Paul made his last journey as a prisoner from Jerusalem to Rome. Murderous Jews failed to assassinate him. The Roman governor in Caesarea failed to manipulate him. A violent storm failed to drown him. A poison serpent on the island of Malta failed to harm him. And when he finally arrived in the capitol of the mighty Roman empire, Paul the prisoner was given great freedom to preach and teach about Jesus. There is only one way to explain these remarkable events…THE GOSPEL IS UNSTOPPABLE!
What an inspiration it has been to study this remarkable book of Scripture. I pray that our 4 weeks in the Book of Acts have provoked each student in the 12:13 class to play his or her role in the Mission:Unstoppable!