Do Not Be Silent

Acts 18 

May 6

Paul leaves Athens and arrives in Corinth at the start of Acts 18. Paul meets Priscilla and Aquila and works with them as tentmakers in Corinth. Paul visits the synagogue and tries to appeal to the Jews and Greeks. He was reviled in the synagogue and then shakes out his garments and declares that he will only speak to the Gentiles. Even with the ruler of the synagogue being converted he still faces danger in the city. 

Paul had been chased from the towns of Thessalonica, Derea, and Iconium. I am sure Paul must have been wondering if this was his time to get chased from this city as well. The anxiety of knowing that in every new city he came to there was a chance of being thrown out of it and physical harm coming to him would have been a lot to bear. 

God comes to Paul in a vision. God giving Paul this vision is an act of grace towards Paul. God is trying to comfort Paul and give him direction. God starts out with the simple statement of “Do not be afraid”. This feels a lot like Joshua 1.9. God gives Paul two more commands; Go on speaking and do not be silent. Paul has probably realized that most of his trouble befalls him when he speaks and he is not silent. The same thing is true of me except it normally isn’t because I’m preaching the gospel. God gives three commands and the unique thing about this vision is God also gives Paul three reasons why he should do those things. 

We have plenty of commands of God and God very often gives us the reasons why we should follow his command. Sometimes we aren’t willing to look hard enough for the reasons but there are almost always reasons. Sometimes we won’t find out the reasons until later or maybe we find out the reasons why in the kingdom. There is an element of faith in following Christ. 

God’s reasons for why Paul should obey his commands are that God is with him. God being with you may result in a kind of fearlessness. God’s next reason why is that no one will attack Paul to harm him. This statement must have relieved a lot of anxiety from Paul. God’s third reason why is that God has many in this city. 

God makes good on his promises to Paul. In verses 12-17 Paul is brought before the proconsul of Achaia, the ruler of that region, by the Jewish rulers and the new ruler of the synagogue. He is accused of persuading people to worship God contrary to the law. Just as Paul was about to speak the proconsul says that because it is a quarrel about words and there is no wrongdoing that he refuses to rule on this. The proconsul drives all of Paul’s accusers away. The mob that had formed ends up beating the new ruler of the synagogue, one of Paul’s enemies, in front of the proconsul. 

When we follow God’s lead and direction it will put us into positions where we get to see God work in situations. This situation for Paul worked out well for him. He didn’t even need to do anything to get out of the situation. He relied on God and God worked it out. The proconsul responded in his favor before Paul spoke. God was clearly at work in this situation because after that his enemy, the ruler of the synagogue, ended up being killed by the mob. His enemy was killed by the people who had originally intended to kill him. 

When we join God in what He is doing we will see this provision for us as well. There will be suffering and some pain but there will also be moments where we get to see God do God things and experience Him through those events. That’s part of what makes Christianity so exciting, fulfilling and awesome. 

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can you think of a time you didn’t speak up for God, perhaps because of fear or discomfort? What promises of God might you have missed out on with that failed opportunity?
  2. When have you had the pleasure of “see(ing) God do God things and experience(ing) Him through those events”
  3. What can we learn from Apollos and Priscilla and Aquila later in this chapter?

Unstoppable Courage

Acts 14

May 2

Paul and Barnabas continue on their first missionary trip in Acts 14. They continue on land through modern day Turkey making stops in various cities through the region. Paul’s first missionary journey goes through the island of Cyprus and then goes to Turkey. Paul returns the same way that he came except he bypasses a stop at Cyprus on his way home. 

In Iconium an attempt was made by some Gentiles and Jews to stone Paul and Barnabas, they fled for Lystra and this is where their lives start to get interesting. Paul and Barnabas are hailed as gods because they heal a crippled man. After Paul addresses them with a beautiful statement about the general revelation of God to the Gentiles in v.17, the people who had attempted to stone him in Iconium find him in Lystra.

The Jews from Iconium find Paul and drag him out of the city and stone him. We can’t really completely understand what it is like to be stoned while trying to preach the gospel. The experience of being hit with stones on your body and head from many people until they think there is no way you are alive is unfathomable for us. The purpose of a stoning was to kill a person. It is completely a miracle by the grace and love of God that Paul survived this attack.

Paul’s friends come to him. We must assume that this is hours after Paul is stoned and left for dead because if the Jews had seen his friends Paul’s friends probably would have been stoned. Paul endures this stoning more than likely by himself.

Paul’s legend grows here. After his friends gather around Paul he goes back into the city, where all the danger would have been. If you get beaten so badly that people think you are dead it would take a few days(probably weeks) to recover. The next day Paul goes to another city to preach the gospel. We see in this incident Paul living out Philippians 4.13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul demonstrates an enormous strength just continuing on the next day.

Paul’s example of strength and boldness didn’t stop here. Paul after preaching in Derbe returns to the city he was just stoned outside of to encourage those disciples. Then he goes to the city where the people who stoned him lived and strengthened the disciples there. Paul’s lack of regard for his own safety is by all measures of today reckless. Paul demonstrated that he found more value in strengthening his disciples than in his own safety. Paul believed that he could do and make it through whatever lies ahead because God’s spirit was strengthening him.

The first thing to take away from Paul in these incidents is Paul did not stop. I think too many people walk around setting artificial limits on themselves. We don’t face our problems thinking I have Christ in me and God’s spirit strengthening me. When problems arise my first thought is maybe I should take a break. There is power available in God’s spirit that lives within us (Acts 1.8).

The second take away from Paul in Acts 14 is courage. I think Paul’s courage came from his death to himself. Paul’s motto was to live is Christ and death is gain. When death is viewed as gain and you lack fear of it, being courageous is much simpler. For Paul’s own words on this subject read Philippians 1.18-26.

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What limiter are you putting on yourself that God didn’t put there?
  2. Are you depending upon God’s spirit working in you for strength in your life?
  3. In what areas of your life are you living for yourself and therefore lack courage?
  4. Do you believe Paul was made of the same dust of the ground that you are?

“If I Perish, I Perish”

Esther 4

March 28

God calls His people to be bold and courageous, willing to face the forces of this world and even death if it comes to it. Since the beginning of humanity, the enemy has been set on destroying the people of God. The story of Esther is no exception to either of these truths. Esther was the Queen of King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes), the king of the Persian Empire. Previously in the book of Esther, we are introduced to a few important figures in the story: King Ahsuerus, Esther the Queen, Haman, an official of the king who hated the Jews, and Mordecai, her cousin who took her as his own daughter. Long story short, Haman devised a plan that would bring the targeting and killing of all the Jews in the land. For obvious reason, Mordecai and all the Jews were mourning and in great distress over this decree from the King for their execution!

That is when we see an amazing conversation between Mordecai and Esther with the help of some messengers going in and out of the King’s palace. (Mordecai was in mourning garments and thus was not allowed to enter.) As you read this conversation between Esther and Mordecai, remember the situation Esther is in. She is the beloved Queen of Ahasuerus, living in luxury and high status to one of the most powerful people in the world at that time. She is also a Jew herself and her King unknowingly ordered the decree of her people’s destruction! She had a choice to make, stay quiet and continue her way of life that was pleasant and full of material wealth, or risk her life in an attempt to save her people. The fact that she is even discussing what to do with Mordecai shows her heart. As the conversation continues, Mordecai says something of brilliant wisdom and faith towards God, “If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Mordecai brings up a few excellent points. One, sometimes our worst course of action isn’t doing something evil, but not doing something good. Two, God loves his people and will bring them into salvation, no matter how messy or tragic things become. Three, recognize how your particular situation can be used by God to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. In response to this, Esther completely reveals what choice she is going to make, “I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish”. That is a claim of boldness for her God. That is a heart of love for Yahweh and her neighbor. That is what it looks like to live for the glory and worship of God!

What problems do you see around you? With whom do you have a strong relationship? What tools do you have at your disposal? What choices do you have to make? How will you rely on God to be bold and courageous while facing the struggles around you? I encourage you all today to look at the amazing example Esther set for us about what it means to be a child of God. Be willing to serve Him with such boldness that you are truly willing to say, “If I perish, I perish.” Be smart with the time, place, and resources God has put at your disposal. “Who knows whether you have not come…for such a time as this?” 

-Isaac Cain

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Give some examples of when the worst course of action isn’t doing something evil, but not doing something good. Are there any that come to mind from your own life? What did you do – or not do? Any good (and courageous) actions you wish you would have done?
  2. Do you have a Mordecai in your life – someone who helps break down the problem in front of you and helps you see your potential while challenging you and praying for you? To whom can you be a Mordecai?
  3. What were all of God’s people in Susa to be doing to support Esther? What were the results? Go ahead and read more from the book of Esther to see how God’s perfect timing and work in men’s hearts, along with Esther’s courageous actions saved the day. Have you ever tried calling out to God with fasting?
  4. How will you rely on God to be bold and courageous while facing the struggles around you?

And, that concludes our look into the Highlights of the Old Testament books of law and history (the first 17 books of the Old Testament). Tomorrow, we go back to the New Testament with a one-chapter-a-day look at the gospel of John which will lead us right into Resurrection Sunday. What will we learn about our Savior Jesus?

Don’t Miss an Opportunity

for Victory!

1 Samuel 17

March 7

I know the Kingdom of God which will be set up at the return of Jesus will be greater than anything I can imagine. I am really looking forward to a time when all tears will be wiped away and God will dwell with men (Revelation 21:1-4). At that time, I would really love to see God whip out his favorite home videos to show his resurrected and faithful family some of the highlights of how He worked through the ages. VeggieTales are great, but can you imagine watching these ancient recordings, with the Bible heroes at your side commenting on their exploits! Don’t tell me it can’t be done – I know my God can do anything. And if He wants it to be so – it will be. And, if He doesn’t, then He has a better plan than mine (that’s surely happened a time or two before!)

If you and I are there at His feet watching – I can only imagine that one of the favorite reels will be of the young shepherd David boldly and faithfully fighting the godless giant Goliath. Picture this: “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.” (1 Samuel 17:48 & 49). And the white robed crowd of overcomers watching the ancient playback erupts in cheers, patting David on the back and giving high-fives and fist bumps. Victory is a beautiful thing to watch!

But, sometimes the victory never happens because God’s people miss the opportunity. They are scared into silence and submission by the boisterous repeated taunts of the wicked who are defying God and shaming His people. They listen to the family member or friend (like David’s older brother Eliab) who is full of negativity and says you don’t belong and you aren’t useful and you should just go back home to do what you’ve always done. They give up when the leadership says you aren’t experienced enough yet, wait until you are older to be bold, speak up and step into a ministry. They get flustered when they try on the safe armor and find it isn’t a good fit, maybe they weren’t meant for this after all. They fail to prepare for the battle by packing their pouch with the surprising items needed for a successful fight against evil. And, perhaps most of all, they lack the faith that the great big awesome God of the universe can use them to do His work, to beat back evil and advance His Kingdom.

Imagine yourself again – in the Kingdom, watching God’s home videos – and whose face appears next on the screen – yours. There you are: standing up to a godless bully, running towards the battle, representing God when others were too scared to speak up or act, believing in a great big God who saves.

You are not too small, too young, too inexperienced, too insignificant to do mighty things for God. (And, you are also not too old – but that’s a different Bible story). Step out in faith. Be courageous with God. Don’t miss the opportunity to gain a victory for God.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. David was confident that the Lord who saved him previously would save him again, even against a larger foe. “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37) What has God already helped you to accomplish? How can this build your confidence? What larger project can you have faith that He will help you accomplish next?
  2. At first I am a little disappointed that David is concerned with what rewards will be given to the brave fighter who faces Goliath – it seems a bit selfish and I am tempted to question his motives. But, I too am excited about what rewards are awaiting God’s faithful – and they do make for great motivation to get in the battle. What rewards are you eagerly anticipating and what do they motivate you to do?
  3. Sometimes God’s people lose heart on account of evil and those defying (openly resisting) God. Where do you see this happening today? How can we do battle against them today? What tools/weapons would God have us use?

Be Strong and Courageous!

Joshua 1

2-22-22

After the death of Moses, Joshua had some large shoes to fill. Not only did he have to follow after Moses, he had the responsibility to lead the people into their promised land. 

Joshua had to be terrified. Maybe I am reading into how I would have responded with such a hard task but look how many times God assured him as they are getting started. Verses 3 and 4 – I will give you the land. Verse 5 – no one will stand against you – I will be with you and will never leave you. Verse 6-9 – multiple times He tells him be strong and courageous. 

God knew Joshua had a daunting task in front of him. He did not want Joshua to be overcome with fear. So He gives Joshua the best support and encouragement possible – I will be with you!

Notice how he doesn’t say it will be easy. This is something I think we all need to hear. Some get the idea if we follow God, go to church, get baptized…etc. that it will be easy. But still we all face difficulties, hardships and battle fear. We can be immobilized by fear or move on in strength and courage. 

I believe the promise given to Joshua is for us as well. No matter what stands in front of you: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

After embracing this promise we see Joshua step up and lead the people. He then had the opportunity to share that courage with the others who also saw the difficult task ahead. When they saw his strength and courage they vowed to follow him the same way they followed Moses. 

Others will see when you courageously face difficulties. It may give you an opportunity to share where your strength and courage comes from. Be ready to share that the presence of God can help us through anything. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In Joshua 1:6-9 we hear God tell Joshua three times, “Be strong and (very) courageous.” What else does God tell Joshua to do in these 4 verses? How is this related to building his strength and courage? Why is it still important today?
  2. Who do you admire for their Christian strength and courage? Ask them what their secret is.
  3. How has surviving through a past fearful situation helped to grow your strength and courage? What are you facing now or in the future that will be easier with an extra dose of strength and courage? How can you exercise those qualities today?

In Your Weakness

Exodus 4

February 10

God is the very epitome of a patient and loving father in the beginning of this scenario. Moses is feeling very insecure and inept for the task God has called him to do. I personally can really relate to Moses’ fear and apprehension when it comes to public speaking. God doesn’t respond with anger or derision in this moment with something along the lines of “Don’t be ridiculous Moses! You are speaking to the God of the universe here. I’ve got you covered.” Instead, He very patiently answers Moses’ questions and actually gives him a step-by-step game plan of how to carry out his mission. 

Even with this carefully thought out plan so carefully and lovingly delivered to him, Moses is still overcome by his own anxiety and insecurity.

10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Moses still doesn’t seem to get the point God is making. Even after He assures him that He will be with him to help him speak and will teach him what to say, Moses has the audacity to tell the God of the universe no!  13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” The audacity! But, wait?!? Have I been like Moses in my life more than I care to admit? Do we let our own fears and insecurities keep us from carrying out our God-given missions? Do they overshadow our confidence in God and His abilities? Are we ultimately saying that we don’t believe that God is up to the task?

Disobedience is dangerous! We read in verses 24-16:  24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)

Moses knew the requirements for circumcision and he also knew that the God of the universe was calling him to complete a task and he had been disobedient in both regards. Genesis 17:12: “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.”

I am not sure if this scene was in any way a reference to Jesus being a bridegroom of blood to us, but it certainly came to mind for me. What a gift that Jesus’ blood covers our sins and we are given a chance at new hope!

Getting back to Moses’ insecurity and lack of belief that he could carry out what God called him to do. While reading this chapter, I called to mind Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 concerning the thorn of his flesh,

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What a comforting reminder that we can actually boast in our weaknesses because Christ’s power is actually made perfect in our weakness. We don’t have to have it all together, God meets us right where we are and equips us as He sees fit in order for us to carry out his missions. Trust Him!

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever felt led to do something for God but shrinked back because you were afraid you were not good enough for the task? What would God tell you?
  2. What are some ways that we can use our weaknesses to glorify God and honor Christ? What strengths will be provided?
  3. How did Zipporah and Aaron each add to or compliment Moses’ ministry? How have you been a help to the spiritual life and work of another?
  4. What will you learn from Moses’ example that you can put into action this week to help ensure that you will participate fully in God’s plans for you? What excuses will you overcome? What does God want to teach you what to say? Who may God be calling to be on your team in ministry?

Tomorrow we will skip ahead to Exodus 12

Faithful with the Little Things

Exodus 1

February 7

In this first chapter of Exodus, we see that the Israelites are viewed as a formidable threat due to their increasing numbers. There was a great fear that the Israelites would continue to multiply and if war were to break out, they would choose to join with Egypt’s enemies and eventually leave the country. In verse 16, we read of the horrific remedy that the king of Egypt concocted and delivered to the midwives: “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”

We then read with great relief in verse 17 that the midwives “feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” 

Do we always have the courage to do what is right in the eyes of God—even at great risk and cost to ourselves? We might think that we would never be put in such a dire predicament, but I believe our faith is tested in both big and small ways. Our faithfulness in the “small things” can actually speak to the overall health of our faith. As stated in Luke 16:10, “The one who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much; and the one who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much.” Imagine you are eating dinner at a restaurant and you notice the server forgot to charge you for that delicious artichoke and spinach appetizer. Do you think, “Ha! It’s my lucky day!” or do you remember that the right thing to do in the eyes of our Heavenly Father is to pay for everything that you ordered?

I have a theory. I think that it might actually be easier to make the right choice in dire circumstances as opposed to authentically living out our faith on a daily basis amidst the small trials and challenges of life that constantly wash up against us. Have you ever been in the ocean or even in a tidal pool at a water park and found it hard to regain your footing after getting knocked down by a wave? Even the smallest of waves can wipe us out and deplete us of strength if we don’t feel like we can catch our breath between the waves. Psalm 42 gives us some comfort for these times:

6 “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you in the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8 By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”

May we be encouraged by this reminder that God’s song is with us and that He rewards our faithfulness. Verses 20-21 of Exodus 1 demonstrates how God rewarded the faithfulness of the Hebrew midwives: “So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”

May our goal always be to please our Heavenly Father in the big and “small” things and to lean into Him when the waves of challenge sweep over us.

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you find it difficult to live out your faith authentically when faced with the big and small challenges of life? 
  2. How can we better lean into God during times of challenge?
  3. Which heroes of the faith inspire you with how they leaned into God during times of trouble?

Tomorrow we continue with Exodus 2

Be the Right Person

At the Right Time in the Right Place

Daniel 11, 12

     Have you ever been the right person at the right time in the right place?  My wife and I were driving home one evening after dark.  We came upon a slow- moving vehicle that was being driven rather erratically.  It swerved from side to side.  It would speed up for a moment and then slow way down.  We even witnessed this vehicle cross the center line several times.  Oncoming vehicles sometimes were forced off the road to avoid this driver. We thought that we were about to see a terrible accident. Of course, this driver was impaired in some way.  I am sensitive toward the subject of drunk drivers.  I was badly injured and my best friend killed by one many years ago.  Of course, we called 911.  However, while my wife was talking to the 911 operator, we noticed that a police cruiser was sitting in a parking lot next to the road.  We pulled alongside and described the situation.  To their credit, the officers quickly sped off in pursuit and had the vehicle pulled over in less than a minute.  The driver, a middle aged woman, was clearly inebriated.  We hope that we helped to save some family from a devastating tragedy that evening.  Perhaps, our decision to get involved may have even saved that drunk driver from a life of guilt, prison, or from death itself.   However, we did nothing more than what many people would do.  If you found yourself in a similar situation, I know that you would act.  The right person is often given the right place and the right time to act, to get involved.

     The book of Daniel often describes events that are earth shattering and world changing.  People often get caught up in forces that are beyond their control and they feel helpless.  However, the book of Daniel also gives examples of those individuals who rise to the occasion by standing for their faith.  These individual acts of faith actually change the course of events: Daniel refused to eat the king’s food, Meschach, Shadrach and Abed-nego refused to bow to the image, and Daniel broke the law and risked the lion’s den to pray to the LORD. 

Daniel 11 and 12 describe the incredible times and events that will occur at the end of this age.  Forces will be at work that will be beyond our control.  Yet, it is still a moment for individuals to make a stand.  According to Daniel and the book of Revelation, the time of the end will be characterized by great deception.  Many people, even believers, will be fooled and tricked by the antichrist.   Daniel 11:32 reads, “By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant…..”  However, some make a stand.  Daniel 11:32 continues, “….but the people who know their God will display strength and take action…”  They will be the right people at the right time in the right place.

 Daniel 11:33 adds, “Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many….”  Yet there will be a price for this courage.  Daniel 11:33 continues, “…yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days.”  However, Daniel 12:3 makes this promise: “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” 

We live in a time of great confusion.  We have become strangers to God while we worship the idols that we have created.   Many people fear the future and wonder how it is all going to end.  For all our worldliness, our country is confused about sexuality and gender.  People have forgotten what is right and what is wrong, what is truth and what is false.  This world needs a voice of reason.  It needs truth.  It needs people of courage and faith.  The answers are “hidden in plain sight.”  They are right here in the Bible.  Insight will be found by those who are looking for it and by those who thirst for it.  Those who have insight will shine like the stars.  Be the right person so that you can act when the right time and the right place comes to you.

-Scott Deane

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Daniel 11 & 12 and 1 John 1

Courage to Be Different

Daniel 3-4

     Imagine living in a country where the wider culture is not sympathetic to your faith.  Perhaps, the world around you is even openly hostile to your Christian confession. At this very moment, there are countries around the world where it is dangerous to be a Christian.  You might face persecution.  You face social stigma and even penalties simply for being a believer.  The government may even scrutinize every thing that you say and teach.  Sermons would be submitted to government for their approval.  You might become the victim of mob violence.  These things where once isolated to countries on the other side of the globe.  Now, even in Western democracies, Christian beliefs are coming under increasing criticism.  Those who stand for truth are being libeled as “haters” and “bigots.”  It takes courage to stand alone for the faith, to stand for truth when the whole world opposes you.

     We are not the first to travel this road nor will we be the last.  Our story focuses upon the courage of Meshach, Shadrach and Abed-nego.  Along with Daniel, these three young men were taken from their home in Jerusalem to the city of Babylon.  They found themselves in a strange place with strange customs.  However, these young men wanted to honor the God of their fathers in this foreign land.  They refused to defile themselves with the “unclean” food provided to them and instead ate vegetables and drank water (Daniel chapter 1).  Because they made themselves an exception, they became exceptional young men.  Their abilities were obvious to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon and he appointed them to high positions within his empire.

   Nebuchadnezzar erected a large golden idol on a plain near the city of Babylon. It was rather large at 90 feet high and 9 feet wide.  It was covered in gold and glimmered in the sunlight.  Nebuchadnezzar’s own ego was wrapped up in this creation.  He arranged an elaborate event.  All of his middle managers, lesser and greater bureaucrats, and all his officials were commanded to come to this image.  It really became a test of loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar himself.  It was a mandated gathering.  It was not optional!  It was a day of much pomp and circumstance.  When the orchestra began to play, it was the signal for all to bow down and worship this massive idol.  If one failed to worship, they would be thrown into a furnace of fire.  When it was discovered that Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego failed to bow down, Nebuchadnezzar, though angry, offered these three a second chance.  Nebuchadnezzar threatened in Daniel 3:15, “…what god can deliver you out of my hand?”  However, though respectful to the king, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego made it clear that they would not be unfaithful to the true God by bowing down to this vile image.  In Daniel 3:17,18, they reply, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and he will deliver us out of your hand O King.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you set up.”  Whether they lived or died, they determined to be different than the rest.  They would honor God.  This is courage.  Of course, we know that these three were rescued from the fire by an angel.  Nebuchadnezzar did not have the final word.  He was not, as he had claimed, all powerful.  There is One who is greater than all.  We remember that the final judge is not the government, or the mob, or the culture in which we live.  God will always have the last word.  He rewards those who are faithful to Him.

-Scott Deane

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Daniel 3 & 4 and Psalm 139-141

Don’t Quit

Jeremiah 35 & 36

We sure could use a few more Jeremiahs today!  He was quick to follow God’s instructions, and he boldly spoke God’s truth even when it was quite unpopular.  And, he didn’t quit!

At the time of the events of Jeremiah chapter 36 the prophet had already been preaching to his Jewish brothers and sisters for over 20 years – warning them again and again of God’s displeasure and the coming wrath if they don’t repent and turn from their wicked ways.  Over and over again he has urged the people, the kings, the priests to stop sinning and return to God.  But as a nation, they don’t get it.  They revel in their freedom, follow after the gods of their neighbors and fall further and further from what God designed them to be – His chosen people who love Him and follow Him and are blessed by Him.

The 20 plus years of preaching hasn’t turned the hearts of Judah back to their Creator.  Maybe if it was ALL written down – would the people listen then?  God tells Jeremiah to write down all the sermons he has ever preached – every word that God has given him from the very start of his ministry.  God said, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3 NIV).  Even though God hates the sins of His people He still loves them and wants to give them another chance to come back to Him.  And so a great project begins.  Jeremiah dictates as his scribe Baruch writes it all down.  Perhaps the people will listen.  They spend over a year writing – God has said a lot.  How will the people respond to this book that lays it all out?

Since Jeremiah’s unpopular (but very Godly) message has already had him personally banned from the temple, Baruch is sent to read God’s words through Jeremiah to the people.  One who hears it, Micaiah, realizes the importance of what has been written and he arranges a reading of it with some of the royal officials.  “When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear” (Jeremiah 36:16) and they arrange for the king himself to hear the words on the scroll from Baruch, Jeremiah, and ultimately God.

Here’s the king’s chance.  He can hear God’s word and repent and lead the nation into a time of Godly reformation, thus saving them from God’s wrath at the hands of the Babylonians – just as his father Josiah had done years ago.  But King Jehoiakim thinks he knows better.  His arrogance and hardened heart don’t crack.  Instead, as the scroll is read to him in his chambers, he cuts it apart and burns God’s word, piece by piece.

Can you imagine the anger and defeat and perhaps fear Jeremiah and Baruch may have felt when they heard the fate of their scroll – God’s words?  To know the utter disrespect they (and their God) had received – and how their work was violated and destroyed.  And they didn’t even have a copy saved on their hard drive.  Totally lost.  Over a year’s work, gone.  But, God’s Word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).  So, when God tells Jeremiah to write it all down again – with an extra word for Jehoiakim – Jeremiah and Baruch get to work – and the second work is completed, more impressive than the first. And perhaps much of what we read today in the book of Jeremiah comes from this second labor of love and obedience and great persistence.

God’s Words are priceless.  Some will hear and respond and pass it on. Like Jeremiah they are motivated to live by, love and share God’s words in order to save themselves and their hearers  (1 Timothy 4:16).  But others will scoff, show no fear and even seek to destroy it.  It does not change the supreme importance and value of the words – or the God who spoke them.  Nations, kings, priests, people; past, present and future will be judged by how they respond to God and His Word.  The king who brazenly cut apart and burned the scroll paid with his life – and his children and country suffered mightily for it as well.  Jeremiah and Baruch had far from an easy life – but they didn’t give up.  They kept at it – writing, sharing, reading, speaking and living God’s Word.  They persistently worked striving to help save those in danger of experiencing God’s wrath.  Will you stand with them today and be a Jeremiah?

-Marcia Railton

Sorry we were late in sending today’s devotion out.

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 35 & 36 and Hebrews 9

%d bloggers like this: