Daniel played many roles in his life including a great prophet of God. We continue to be blessed, inspired and perhaps warned by the writings of Daniel. Not only did he share God’s insights with the kings and people of his time, but today we also see God’s plan unfold in Daniel’s writings. We see the future for those who faithfully follow God. It states, “many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 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 read about deliverance for everyone whose name is found written in the book. King David had written of this book of life in Psalm 69:28 and many years later we see the book mentioned again in Revelation 3:5. It states, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
These amazing truths were passed down from one group to the next, sometimes one generation to the next. Daniel faithfully served the LORD at the time and in the place that the LORD set for him. We have that same privilege today. Don’t feel that you are unable or are unqualified to share. You have the message from the LORD through the scriptures and when you walk closely with Our LORD, that is all you need. Share the Good News with those around us. We want to share in the assurance that Daniel had. It states, “then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.”
When you think of the future do you usually think about tomorrow, 5 years down the road, 25 or 50 years from now, or eternity? What part of the future excites you? What part scares you?
How often do you consider the book of life? What are your thoughts and feelings when you do? How many familiar names do you expect will be found there?
How can you lead many to righteousness by sharing the good news? What has God given you to do so?
Before Adam, before the fall, there stood Christ. While his life wouldn’t begin for another 4000 years, God had already set salvation in motion. It is why the stars and the sand could speak to Abraham. It is how Isaiah could see visions of one crying out, “prepare the way”. It was the fabric that held two genealogies together to come crashing into miraculous birth in Bethlehem. It is the very dead Jesus being raised by His Father to be the firstfruits of the resurrection and giving him preeminence as a King in the life to come.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:15-17
Jesus Christ wasn’t Plan B because of a fall of man in the Garden of Eden. He wasn’t a contingency plan to be used in emergencies only. He is the culmination of God’s love for man and the inevitability of the selfish nature of freewill. In him, through him, and for him, ALL things were created. Things of heaven. Things of earth. Things we can see. Things we can’t. And it all makes sense because of his life. God, the Father of Jesus, is the author of providence and will. Jesus Christ has been given the place as the executor, the head, the mediator, our way back to God after wandering in the desert, ritualistic religion, or feeling foreign in our own body.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. – Colossians 1:21-23a
The fullness of the word of God is revealed. It isn’t a mystery. It is available to anyone, anytime. No matter the amount of struggle or hate we fortify and reinforce in our minds, our hearts are attuned to Jesus because he is stitched and woven into every creation, including each one of us. Oh, how God was mindful of us. He knew. His creation surrounds us and testifies of His glory, which in turn, is distilled in Jesus Christ. My prayer is we all recognize that the glory of God can exist in each one of us when we live as Jesus lived, placing the Firstborn of Creation into our hearts, and embracing the very context for existence.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? – Psalm 8:1-4
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How would you describe Jesus, The Creator’s Firstborn, to someone who has never heard of him before?
What does creation teach you about the Creator and His plans?
What does it mean to you to be reconciled to God through Christ?
Sweet adolescence. A time of a personal experiment, finding one’s self, and coming of age. It is a scary season filled with growing feet, growing hair, and new body odors. During these years we’ll try out more looks, hairstyles, and ideas than the rest of our lives combined. For many of us, there is some perceived physical flaw, (acne and weight were mine) we try to hide or minimize because we don’t want to stick out or become the source of ridicule (and maybe this is still true today of some of us who are older, too). Why did I have to be made like this? Why couldn’t my heavenly Father shape me to be more like them over there?
One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Romans 9:19-20
Romans 9 seems to indicate that God has foreseen our identity and placed us to “be” in our present circumstance. We’re all made out of the same clay, but we each have a different role. He knows our hearts, and He will use each of us to his advantage. We don’t even need to be “good.” God foreknew Esua’s flagrant disregard to his birthright and used it to continue his line through Jacob. God used the hardened heart of Pharaoh to bring about the freedom of the Hebrews for Egyptian captivity. He used King Cyrus to send the Jews home to rebuild their temple and wall. The lack of relationship to the Heavenly Father doesn’t remove you from being a character in his story. God made each of them like this and they fulfilled His purpose.
But let’s provide some contrast. God used Esther, Joseph, and Solomon in almost identical manners to those listed above. So, did God predestine the fate of the “good” and the “bad”? Give some ungodly inclinations so they could move in the direction of wrongdoing, and give others no opportunity to fail at following Him? Well, I’m not a theologian, but I feel the Bible is consistent about the free choice of man to choose and follow God at any point, including His son, Jesus Christ, who faces his own trials and temptations. We may have perceived traits, inclinations, chips, chunks, or some other appraisal of malformation in our clay, which again, beg the question, “Why did I have to be made like this?” Well, whether it is the normal stuff or the special stuff (v.21), God has made you to be used for times such as this, according to His plan..
In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offering. Roman 9:8
Because there is no longer a single line of inheritance, Jewish heritage, he is calling all the pottery of different shapes and sizes to follow Him. Our titled-question I cannot answer. That is the Heavenly Father prerogative and determination. What I can tell you is to spend less time questioning God about the chunky bits, the cracks, the struggles He has placed within you and before you. We have been formed exactly in a way to shine the fullness of God. To find Him, not ourselves. To look like Jesus, not everyone else. For us, His work and craftsmanship, to trust in the Potter’s identity alone.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
If you could ask Paul to further explain one of his points in Romans 9 what would you ask and why? What might he reply?
What do you love about God’s plan? What do you wonder about God’s plan?
I have a similar ailment to Naaman’s. No, not leprosy, but a pride that makes me want to be right, even sometimes to the point of thinking God (or the man of God) is doing it wrong if He/they aren’t following the step by step plans I designed. And, sometimes a pride like that leads to a bit of anger when our best laid plans are contradicted by an all-knowing and pretty creative God who also likes to witness our obedience.
So, here we have Naaman – the proud, leprous army commander of the country of Aram at the door of Elisha’s house. He had already humbled himself to listen to the captured Israelite servant girl who was sure Naaman could be healed of his dangerous skin disease if he got to the prophet of God in Samaria (capital city of Israel, Aram’s enemy). He had already secured from the king of Aram a very impressive payment (including 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold and 10 sets of clothing) for the one who could heal Naaman. He had already travelled by horse and chariot over 100 miles – first to the king of Israel (who was absolutely no help and was scared this was an enemy trap) – and now to the door of the prophet Elisha’s house.
Naaman has rehearsed in his mind how this is all going to go down. His life is about to be changed and the dreaded leprosy will be gone forever. So, he is completely caught off guard when Elisha instead of waving his magic wand (or hand) sends a servant out to him to tell him to go wash 7 times in the Jordan River which is another 30 miles down the road. 2 Kings 5:11 says, “But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. ‘” He went away angry because God’s plans didn’t match up with his. He had envisioned instant and easy healing – the wave of a holy man’s hand. He had faith it could be so – that was good. But he also had prideful arrogance that he should be the one to choose how God worked. And when his plans and God’s plans didn’t match up – then God must be wrong. God desired faith and simple obedience. Naaman had faith and a big helping of pride, arrogance and anger. Faith without obedience (deeds) is dead. He would rather live with his deadly leprosy than humble himself to obey and do it God’s way. And he walked away from the healing God had prepared for him.
Some stories tragically end this way. How devastating if Naaman’s story also ended with him angrily turning his back on the blessings God wanted to pour out on him in the dirty Jordan River. Luckily for Naaman, he had some bold and wise servants who calmly reasoned with him and convinced him to try it God’s way. And, when he had faith and obedience, he received the blessing and new life that he was searching for – because he humbled himself and did it God’s way.
God, please heal me of my pride. I don’t want my stubborn pride to get in the way of receiving your blessings. Help me to faithfully obey you, even if I had a different plan. I don’t have to be right – You are. Always.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Has there been a time your plans and expectations didn’t match up with God’s? How did you handle it?
Why do you think people tend to get mad at God when they don’t understand or abide by His plan? Have you seen some angrily walk away from God and the blessings He wanted to give? What wise and bold counsel would you offer?
How do you rate your own faith and obedience? How can you improve both your faith and your obedience?
Later in this chapter Gehazi gets into trouble because of his covetousness. Explain what happens to him and why? What other sins did he commit? Has wanting what others have ever gotten you into trouble? How do we avoid the great dangers of covetousness?
When the people didn’t know what was going to happen with Moses, they turned to Aaron to create new gods. God was very angry.
We have struggled with plenty of fear just in the past few years. Not knowing is a great fear of mine. I struggle with not knowing which college I should go to or what I should do with my life.
The people were dancing and worshiping a golden calf. It says in Exodus 32 that the people are prone to evil. They asked for gods that will go before them. Do we all struggle with evil or dirty desires? Most likely, but how we handle those desires is what matters the most.
Just because you can’t see what has gone over a mountain or you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push for greatness. The kingdom is our goal. It is our motivation. We must trust in what we can’t see or can’t understand at the moment. We must understand that just because God sent Moses over a hill and we couldn’t see him and his plan – we must know there is one.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
The people were quick to take (sinful) action when they felt like they had been abandoned by God and Moses. Have you ever felt (even for a moment or a day) like you were abandoned by God and/or those who have represented Him to you? What options did you have in how you reacted? What would have been the best course of action?
How can you build your trust in God so that even when He is harder to see, you know He and his plan can be trusted?
What false gods or unhealthy practices are you tempted to turn to when you battle fear? What consequences are there in these actions or attitudes?
Yesterday, we read about God’s words to a people who were on the breaking point. To be fair, Israel had seen a lot– civil disputes, mass religious wars, a kingdom divided. But here, Israel is facing its final days as an independent nation.
So we read Micah’s desperate attempts to warn his people– Israel and Judah both– that their only hope is to return to the LORD. Chapter 1 talked about the coming destruction. Chapter 2 talks about these “oppressors,” who are likely people of political or financial power that are abusing the people around them.
In chapter 3, Micah now addresses two groups of people: the political leaders and the prophethood. Micah tells the leaders that they “hate the good and love the evil,” (3:1). The prophets that Micah confronts were likely professional “prophets” that lived in the king’s court. They may or may not have been followers of the LORD and they were not like the prophets that God chose for Israel. Micah says they prophesy peace when it gets them something to eat (3:5) and teach the masses when it gets them paid (3:11).
On and on, Micah confronts everyone in the nation who has shown corruption, greed, selfishness and evil. He closes chapter 3 by saying these ways are going to leave Zion, God’s holy city– flattened to a plain.
And then Micah’s message does a complete 180-degree turn. In chapter 4, he starts giving some really good news. He says that the house of the LORD will be a meeting place where everyone turns to know God (4:2). He says that God is going to bring the weak, lowly, hurt, sick, and anyone who’s been abused, and He is going to personally make them strong (4:6-7).
And here we begin to see what we call “God’s redemptive-historical plan.” That’s a fancy way of saying that God’s plans span thousands of years. And although Israel rejected and resisted God, He would not give up so easily. God sent His Son Jesus into the world to be an atonement, a light, and a leader for all of humanity. And in this way, every good thing that God has promised to mankind will be made true in Jesus our King.
If this isn’t good news enough, wait until tomorrow, when Micah is going to have even better things to say!
Imagine, for a moment, your favorite movie or tv show. How much of it can you quote? How many references have you made to your friends who have seen it with you a thousand times? How many times have you watched, acted it out, or recited memorable lines?
Revelation 5 is one of the most theologically packed chapters of the Bible. Why is that? Because the Bible is a complete, unified story that spans thousands of years and dozens of authors, and they all point to a single narrative. The author of Revelation, John, knows his Bible like a movie that he’s watched hundreds of times. In Revelation 5, my Bible shows 49 cross references to other verses. John really knows his Bible!
What’s the purpose, then? When we read Revelation 5, we’re reading the fulfillment of lots of God’s promises. In just 5:1, for example, we’re reminded of the throne room of God in Ezekiel 1, and the sealed scrolls in Daniel 12:4 and Isaiah 29:11. (Tip: when a biblical author makes a clear reference to a different spot in the Bible, they usually want you to go back and read it to see what they mean!!)
What is this scroll, anyway? And why is it that no one in heaven or on earth is worthy to open it? We have to keep reading to find out. And here lies the secret behind all of Revelation 5: God’s written plan, which he held in his own hand, could only be carried out by one very, very, very worthy individual. And his name is Jesus.
The rest of Revelation 5 lists off the many qualifications that Jesus holds. He is the lion of Judah. (See Genesis 49:8-12, when God says that the ruler of Israel is like a lion, and he will be of the tribe of Judah). Jesus is the Root of David (see 2 Samuel 7:14, when God promises that one of David’s descendants would rule forever). Jesus is the lamb that was slain (read about the passover lamb in Exodus 12, and how Paul calls Jesus our Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7). We see how these immensely powerful creatures, who dwell constantly in the presence of God, sing about this important role of Jesus– that he can open the scrolls because he was slain, ransomed us for God, and made us a kingdom of priests to God, so we can reign on the earth.
I hope you’re starting to see the story of redemption that God had been planning since Genesis. Jesus is the fulfillment of that story. And the four living creatures, the myriads and myriads and thousands of thousands of angels of heaven, are all “in on” this great story and its many references and quotes from history. They know that Jesus is the climax of God’s great story.
So when we read Revelation 5, let us sing along with all of God’s angelic host in proclaiming that to God and the Lamb “be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Obadiah and Revelation 5
This past Saturday women (and some men) gathered in front of the US Capital in Washington, DC and in state capitals across the United States to protest for women’s rights to choose to abort their unwanted babies. One of the signs held up said “Rage, Rage Against the Denial of Your Rights”.
That’s a dangerous way to begin today’s devotions. Some of you are likely offended or possibly even angry at me for what I wrote. I referred to them as unwanted “babies” and not “fetuses” or “products of conception.” Words matter. If a person says “illegal aliens” referring to those who cross the border without proper documentation and not “undocumented aliens” we know that they have an opinion about the status of those who have entered the country. “Illegal” sounds like a bad thing, like someone has broken a law and might be punished, whereas “Undocumented” sounds like some innocent mistake or a government slip up. I forgot my hall pass on my way to the bathroom and so I’m undocumented. That’s different than bringing a gun to school or taking drugs at school. Those activities are illegal and should be punished somehow, but crossing over the border without proper authorization, that shouldn’t be illegal, right? (If your sarcasm detector is now going off then it’s working properly)
Words matter, whether you say “illegal” or “undocumented” or whether you say “unborn or pre-born baby” or “product of conception.” If I refer to a “product of conception” that a woman has a right to dispose of, that’s no big deal. But if I say that it’s a human baby that is alive and waiting to exit her mother’s womb, and that we are killing that baby, that sounds pretty awful. No one wants to think about killing babies. No one should have the right to kill babies, but every woman should have a right to dispose of an inconvenient or unwanted ‘product of conception”.
Words matter. Jeremiah 1 wasn’t written specifically to address the issue of human life, and yet Jeremiah’s inspired words, given to him by God, are worthy of reflection and application to our context today.
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”- Jeremiah 1:4-5
Here, God is calling Jeremiah to be his prophetic voice to the people of Israel. Jeremiah is an integral part of God’s plan to prophecy against His people Israel for their worship of other gods. Before Jeremiah was even born, God had a plan for his life. While Jeremiah was still in his mother’s womb, God set Jeremiah apart to be a prophet. This is such a rich passage and we could reflect on it a hundred different ways. It speaks about God and his omniscience (that’s a technical term that means God knows everything). God is able to peer into the future and see that this tiny little cluster of cells which carries in it the DNA for a male human person who probably has brown eyes, brown hair and olive skin, will grow up to be able to speak for God 20 or 30 years in the future and be a key part of God’s plan.
This little tiny cluster of cells in that young Jewish woman’s womb would one day be born, grow up and go in the name of God to confront an entire nation with its rebellion against God.
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”- Jeremiah 2:13
It was this tiny pre-born human, who God would use to condemn his people because: “On your clothes is found the lifeblood of the innocent poor.”- Jeremiah 2:34
God condemns Israel because her clothes are stained with the blood of the innocent and the helpless. Again, in the context Jeremiah is not referring specifically to pre-born babies who have been unjustly murdered (aborted). However, in our present context, those words have a clear application. Who are the most innocent and helpless human beings in the world today? It is the pre-born humans whose Mother’s don’t want to allow them to live. As thousands gather around the country to rage at the prospect of some states seeking to bring greater justice and defend the defenseless we must ask ourselves “How in the world did we get here?”
When God called Jeremiah it was to take a courageous stand against a wicked and corrupt nation. Is God calling His people today to take a courageous stand? I think so.
“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” -Jeremiahs 1:17-19
If you, like Jeremiah, accept the call to speak faithfully for God against the current culture of death, and in doing so invite the rage of those who don’t want their right to murder unwanted pre-born human babies, then put Psalm 91 in your back pocket and carry it with you wherever you go:
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
For God’s Children To Have a Relationship with Him
Isaiah 43-44 and 1 Timothy 3
When you read through Isaiah 43 and 44, what do you see?
I see a God who loves His people, whom He has chosen. I see a God who shows mercy and patience. I see a protective God. I see a jealous God. I see a God full of power and authority. I see a world full of broken and lost people. I also see a Father whose children have ignored Him. I see a Father who knows there are unrighteous people in the world trying to pull His children off the path of righteousness. I see a Father longing for a way to have relationships with His children. I see children who do not understand what they are missing.
All of the great qualities we observe in or read about our God can seem far away when looking at the Old Testament and reading that He set His chosen people aside for destruction and abuse, or when we see large groups of people destroyed, or when the barbaric sacrifices of animals somehow allow for the forgiveness of sins. I feel at times that the God of the New Testament seems to be much more loving and gracious than the God of the Old Testament. And yet, since creation, God has had a plan for redemption not just for His chosen people, but for all who called upon His name. The whole thing can be a bit confusing if I am being honest! I have to remind myself that God has never changed, He has simply created more opportunities for His children to have a relationship with Him.
The Christian faith is one of just that, faith. We can scientifically prove many of the events that have happened in the Bible did in fact happen. However, the idea that an omnipotent God who has created everything in existence chose to create a group of imperfect beings to be made in His image with the purpose of praise, but then those imperfect beings were given free will and ruined it so He had to send them away but He still made a way for them to come back to Him but it still didn’t make them perfect enough so He sent a perfect being as a sacrifice for all the imperfect beings but then the perfect being came back to life to offer hope to the imperfect but the imperfect ones kept making the creation less perfect so one day the perfect one has to come back and fix the imperfect forever so that the omniscient one can live with the imperfect ones who will now be made perfect……Let’s be honest, it doesn’t make sense. God’s grace requires faith to accept!
1 Timothy 3:15 – 16 says “…This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Without questions, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken into heaven in glory.”
Our God is a living God. He has been at work in the nations from day one, and He has had a plan for us to all live in relationship with Him from the start. Why? I have no clue. But faith allows me to know that this is true, and our hope through Jesus Christ allows me to live each day knowing that I have an incredible gift of grace that should be used to praise and glorify the One True God. Do you accept the completely confusing idea of God’s grace? How do you show that daily?
(In case you were wondering, I definitely plan on asking God why He gave us free will in the Kingdom…along with many other questions )
Our God is an awesome God, and He has no problem telling us that! Isaiah 41 is all about God telling the nations who is in charge. In certain places, it can seem a little harsh… calling the Israelites weak worms, putting them in their place knowing that their work is worthless compared to God, etc. HOWEVER, there are also multiple verses where God’s comforting love shows through as he reminds the Israelites not to fear, and that He is there to help and strengthen them (v. 10, 13, 17). While the passage can be blunt at times, it ultimately is God simply speaking truth to a group of individuals that He cares deeply about. He wants them to understand how great He is, and how much He cares for them!
In chapter 42 God provides a little more reasoning behind his passionate words towards the Israelites, He reminds them that they are a chosen people dedicated to being a light to the nations (v. 6). Isaiah has been tasked with sending this message to the Israelites despite the way they continue to reject God. I can almost feel his exasperation as he does his best to help them understand that they have a purpose, that God has a plan, and that they keep ignoring it! (v. 20) Do you ever feel like Isaiah trying to convince people that God has the best plan for their life? It can be difficult to speak truth into the lives of others who are not receptive, and it can be hard to see them ignore the need for God in their life. We must know that it is not our job to convince individuals they need God, He can do that all His own! Our job is to share the information, model how God can change a life, and continue to pray for their eyes, ears, and hearts to be opened to the truth.
In reality, I think we end up being most like the Israelites ourselves! We continue to disobey, ignore, or rebel against the purpose God has for us even though we may know exactly what God wants from us. We all have sin in our lives. It looks different in everyone! That is why it is so incredible that God still includes us in His chosen people, and that we all have the same opportunity for salvation and an eternal life with Him in the Kingdom.
Unlike Isaiah, we are fortunate to live in the time that we don’t have to just tell people salvation is yet to come; we get to share that a Savior has already come, already been put to death for our sins, and has already rose from the grave with a promise of eternal salvation! We are told in 1 Timothy 2 that God wants everyone to be saved, to come to the knowledge of the truth (v. 4) and that Jesus was a human who gave himself as a ransom for all (v.5-6). Who can you share some knowledge with today?