Fast forward 20 or 30 years. The current king of Babylon is not a good one. There are drunken parties every night, even though there is trouble at the gates. But when will this king open his eyes? Perhaps when the writing is on the wall. Or perhaps his heart will always be hard.
The king wakes up in a cold sweat, another bad dream. A huge tree that touches the sky is cut down and is prevented from growing out of the ground again. What does it mean, and will the king listen? Or will the king keep up his behavior of glorying his own image and become no different than a beast in the field?
The king sets up a huge image, and when the music plays, you are to make yourself reverent towards that image and join in worship. Daniel's friends respectfully decline, which enrages the king so much that we see his value of the image of God: human life.
Daniel and his 3 friends are the best of the best. They are all royal Hebrews: handsome and filled with wisdom. But when they are taken captive by Babylon, they are put in a place meant to demean them. They are given new names glorifying false gods and are given food sacrificed to those gods. How would you handle this situation? It’s interesting to see what Daniel does.
Paul has been passed from local official to local official. No one knows what to do with him; they think he is innocent, but he wants to stand before Caesar. This sends Paul into the chaos of the sea, riding a ship from the outskirts of the empire to the center of Rome. But along the way there are problems. Huge storms and a shipwreck show us God’s love and guiding grace among difficult times.
Paul wants to go to Jerusalem to visit the church there; however, on his way, folks keep talking about Paul in chains down in Jerusalem. When he arrives, a riot immediately ensues, forcing the rioters and the government to act in the only powers they know. Paul is showing them and us a different way, where we don't have to worry about what the opposition will do to us. Paul is showing us the way of the kingdom.
Paul walks into Ephesus, and he sees multiple displays of power. First he sees the Spirit of God when some are baptized and they begin speaking in tongues. Then he sees the Spirit when some begin to use the power for their own gain and are quickly humbled. Finally, there’s power of the crowd when they feel Paul’s message of Jesus threatens their city and their God.
Paul goes into a new city; first he goes to the Jews then he ends up with the Greeks. However, when he goes up to Athens, he does not go to the Jewish center but instead to the center of Greekness, Mars Hill, where the learned came and discussed the wisdom of the world. But sometimes gaps show up in the manufactured idols, and statues get made to unknown gods. Paul gives this unknown god a name and tells his story.
Back in Jerusalem the church is hearing all these amazing stories about how the pagan Gentiles are confessing their sins and turning towards the one true God. They are rejoicing until someone in their midst asks if they are circumcised. After all, this one God they are worshiping called for all His followers to be circumcised. What does the church do? Actually maybe the correct question is how does the church handle the issue?
Paul stands up before the willing synagogue and retells the story of Israel to them. However, he upsets all those in power in how he tells the story. Those powerful Jews then attack Paul and kick him out in a zealous rage. Watch your Zealous Nature.