I John 3:2 reads in part, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and It has not appeared as yet what we will be….” It has not appeared as yet what we will be. I am now in my 50’s. If you are my age or older, you have had the pleasure to watch the kids around you grow up. When they were little, it was hard to imagine what they would become as adults. Some of those little kids that I knew many years ago have grown into wonderful adults. Even some of those irresponsible teenagers have done well for themselves. Some have become doctors, nurses, professionals, experts in their field, responsible caring parents, teachers and business owners. All I can say is “Wow.” This was hard to imagine when they were very young. “It has not appeared as yet what we will be…” We can’t yet imagine what we will become.
Of course, the 1 John 3:2 also adds, “…we know that when He appears , we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” This describes the transformation that we will experience at the return of Christ. One day we will find ourselves in the very image of Christ.
However, in the meantime, what will you become? How will you change and grow? John’s words here are hopeful and optimistic. It has not appeared as yet what we will be… The possibilities are great. God, in Christ, has put you on a road to growth and transformation and new discoveries. You will face joys and sorrows. You will suffer. You will be challenged. You will be tempted. You will have victories and defeats. Yet, the Lord is leading you to Him. It has not appeared as yet what we will be. So, go out and discover and find that very thing. Become the person that God has created you to be. Grow into the image of Jesus Christ.
-Pastor Scott Deane
You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Hosea 3-4 and 1 John 3
Have you ever had a broken heart? Perhaps, your first experience with a broken heart was as a child. That first crush was a “crushing” experience. You gave your true love a note: “Do you like me? Check yes or no.” The answer was “no” and you were devastated. Your heart was broken. However, broken hearts are not just for kids or teens. (How many of you parents had to console your teenager who was just dumped?) Broken hearts are for big girls and big boys too. I remember hearing the story of a woman. Her husband came home from work one day and simply announced, “I want a divorce!” There was no warning or reason given. His mind could not be changed. She was devastated. I also had a friend who arrived home to an apartment that appeared ransacked. He discovered that his wife had taken all her stuff and anything else that was valuable and left without a word. A few days later he learned that she had actually moved to another state. The divorce papers arrived in the mail. It is no wonder that there are so many country songs about heartbreak. In heartbreak, it is not only the pain of separation. It is also the message that you are not loved, that you are not good enough, and that you are not valuable to the one that you love. It is a personal injury and It hurts… bad! Did you know that God feels heartbreak?
Hosea was a prophet. Hosea had a message for the wayward people of Israel. However, his message did not merely take the form of words. Hosea’s message was found in his tragic life of heartbreak. God commanded Hosea to marry a wife of harlotry. In other words, Hosea was to marry a prostitute! He married Gomer, however, it was not marital bliss. Gomer was not a woman who was in the habit of being faithful. She pursued other lovers. In fact, Hosea had reason to doubt if the children born into marriage were even his. Eventually, Gomer ran away and became enslaved. The names of their children not only reflect the tumultuous relationship between Hosea and Gomer, but they also represent the strained relationship between God and Israel. The children are named “Jezreel” (a place of a massacre and symbol of the violence in Israel), Lo-ruhamah (No compassion) and Lo-ammi (not my people). The relationship between Hosea and Gomer was a parallel to God’s relationship with Israel at the time. For Israel had been an unfaithful wife to the LORD. The nation of Israel had forgotten their one true God and went off in pursuit of idols. They had broken God’s covenant by indulging in all sorts of immoral acts and by embracing violence and by allowing injustice. God was heartbroken. Hosea, in his sorrow, could see the heartbreak of God.
Now, if Hosea and Gomer were your next-door neighbors, what advice would you give to Hosea? You would probably sympathize with Hosea. You would say, “Forget that woman. Move on with your life!” However, the surprise in the book of Hosea is that God commanded Hosea to seek Gomer out and rescue her from her enslavement. In a strange twist of fate, Hosea “redeemed” or bought his own wife out of slavery and brought her back home. In the same way, God has not given up on us sinners. He seeks us out. He has sent His son to die on the cross for our sins that we might be redeemed. Also, we begin to appreciate the hurt and sorrow that God feels over the human race. For we have broken His heart. Yet, God still loves you.
Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Hosea 1-2 and 1 John 2
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.
It is more than just numbers. However, the numbers help tell the story. Daniel chapter 9 is also known as the “70 Weeks Prophecy.” It was a message given to the prophet Daniel. Daniel had sought to know the purpose and plan of God. He called upon God to save him and his people. For his piety, God revealed to Daniel His mighty works. In particular, God revealed to Daniel the events that would happen at the end of this age. Even though this is called the “70 Weeks Prophecy,” the spotlight falls to the 70th week or the last week. Each week is really “week of years.” Since each regular week has seven days, each week of years has seven years. The 70th week, then, is really the last seven years of this age. It is the seven years prior to the return of Jesus Christ in glory.
As the prophecy unfolds for us in Daniel 9:26-27, a person who is called “the prince who is to come” makes a covenant or a treaty with Israel at the beginning of the seven years. Perhaps, unknown to most people, this “prince who is to come” is the same as the “little horn” of Daniel chapter 7. He is the same as the “small horn” of Daniel chapter 8 and as the ‘king of the North” and the “despicable person” in Daniel chapter 11. He is also the same as the “beast” in Revelation chapter 13 and the ‘lawless one” in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2.” He is known widely as the antichrist.
In the middle of the week or after 3 ½ years, the “prince who is to come” dramatically breaks the covenant with a horrible abomination. This is the very prophetic sign that Jesus warns us about in Matthew 24:15: “…when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place….” What is this abomination of desolation? In Thessalonian 2:2, Paul says of the “lawless one, “…he takes his seat in the temple of God displaying himself as being God….”
More importantly, this horrible and unmistakable event initiates the “Great Tribulation” according to Matthew 24:21. The antichrist will make war upon the saints during that time. Again the numbers help to tell the story. The tribulation begins in the middle of the week. Of course, this is the 3 ½ year point. So, the Great Tribulation endures for 3 ½ years. This length of time turns up in other places too. In Daniel 7:25 he reports that the length of the little horn’s rampage is “time, times, and half a time.” Time being one. Times being two and a half being a half for a total of 3 ½. The period of time, times and half a time is repeated in Daniel 12:7 and even in Revelation 12:14. Revelation 12:6 mentions a period of 1260 days (A 360 day calendar was used in Bible times. When 360 days is multiplied by 3 ½, it equals 1260 days!). Revelation 13:5 notes that the beast’s authority lasts for 42 months. 42 months, of course, is 3 ½ years. However, as dramatic as the beast appears so his end will be at the return of Christ. Daniel 9:27 reads, “…even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
Some words can get you in trouble. Some words can get you beat up. Others, in the right situation, can even get you killed! You might be surprised to know that merely quoting some words from Daniel chapter 7 once got someone killed. How? When? It was only a few hours before Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus was being examined before the high priest. They were attempting to find some guilt in Jesus. They wanted a reason to condemn Him. Finally, in Matthew 26:63, the high priest demanded of Jesus, “…tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God…” Jesus answered, “…you have said it yourself; nevertheless, I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven….” Essentially, Jesus confirmed that He was the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of Man described in the book of Daniel chapter 7. As a result of this confession, the high priest concluded in Matthew 26:66, “He deserves death!” So, as I said, the words of Daniel 7 can get you in trouble. For the words of Daniel 7 are still revolutionary and they still challenge the current world order. They are dangerous and threatening words for those who would defy the will of God.
Jesus, as He appeared before the high priest, quoted in part from Daniel 7:13: “….and behold with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming…..” Daniel 7:14 continues to describe the Son of Man, “…and to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” The early Christians thought this was an important verse. It was directly quoted or referenced several times in the New Testament (Revelation 1:7, Matthew 24:30). Even before the birth of Jesus, Daniel 7 was thought to be a prophecy of the coming Messiah. Jesus even used the term “Son of Man” to speak about Himself throughout the Gospels. Daniel chapter 7 describes a series of empires that will rise and fall. Some of what Daniel described is now history for us. However, there is yet to arise another terrifying empire in the time of the end. This is the empire which the Son of Man will vanquish at His second coming in glory. Even the mightiest of empires will fail, but the kingdom of God and of His Messiah will stand forever.
As we enter this Advent season, we see Daniel 7 as evidence that God keeps His promises. Jesus was born. He lived. He taught us the good word of God. He died for our sins. He was raised to immortality. He sits at God’s right hand. He is coming again to reward those who believe in Him and to punish the wicked.
The kingdom of God is political. It is political because it begs the question, “Who or what will rule over you.” Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God Himself is moving history to an inevitable conclusion. A day is coming when the kingdoms of this world will be overwhelmed by the sudden arrival of the kingdom of God. Remember, God has ultimate control. In the meantime, however, God gives the authority to govern to various kings, presidents, and prime ministers. However, all politicians beware. You will be judged by the God of the universe. You will be measured according to the LORD’s standard. God has given you authority and He also can take it away.
Consider the case of the foolish King Belshazzar. Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, but he was nothing like his grandfather. The Babylonian Empire had declined because Belshazzar lacked wisdom and the talent to rule effectively. Above all, Belshazzar did not fear the God of Israel. Belshazzar threw a huge blow-out party for all his nobles. It was a night of drinking and frivolity. It is believed these events took place in 539 B.C. At the time, a huge Persian army surrounded the city of Babylon. Belshazzar was not worried for he believed himself to be safe behind the imposing walls of the city. Ignoring the threat outside, Belshazzar threw this huge party. In fact, it is believed that whole city was in the midst of a huge festival.
When Belshazzar was feeling his wine, he ordered that the vessels that had been taken from the LORD’s temple in Jerusalem be brought to this feast. They used these sacred cups to drink toasts to the idols of Babylon. Those in the banquet hall were shocked to see a hand writing a message on the wall. Belshazzar’s knees knocked together with fright. Daniel was summoned to interpret the message for it was somewhat mysterious. Daniel informed Belshazzar of a very simple truth in Daniel 5:21: “…the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes….” Also, Daniel openly chastised Belshazzar. Belshazzar had toasted the dumb idols, but “….the God in whose hand are your life breath and all your ways, you have not glorified….”(Daniel 5:23). King Belshazzar, in his arrogance, had insulted the King of the universe. The rulers of this earth cannot ignore God without serious consequences.
What about the message on the wall? It was a short message from the LORD Himself to Belshazzar: “MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN.” The words themselves are common words that might be heard in the marketplaces of Babylon. MENE means count. TEKEL means weigh. UPHARSIN or its other verb form PERES mean divide (make change). The message to Belshazzar is that God has judged him. God has counted his every deed. God has weighed him in the balance and Belshazzar has come up short. God has taken the kingdom from him and given it to the Persians. History tells us that the Persian army, on that very night, had diverted the Euphrates River which flowed through the city of Babylon. The Persians entered the city undetected. Belshazzar was killed that night. Even the rulers of this world are subject to the God of the universe. Those who rule in defiance of the ways of righteousness will eventually face the consequences while God will bless those who honor Him.
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.