Friday, November 30, 2012

My projects or His purposes?

"St. John the Baptist Sees Jesus From Afar" 
- by James Tissot
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 1:29-42

TO CHEW ON: "'I did not know Him but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.'" John the Baptist in John 1:31

John's career choice as a baptizer was not some random job that came out of a brainstorming session with his high school counselor. It was a God-inspired career the main purpose of which was to introduce Messiah. It was the curtain rising, the drum roll on Jesus, the Lamb of God.

John tells us plainly how it worked:
"I did not know Him but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water....I did not know Him but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit' and I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God!" John 1:31, 33-34.

John, the writer of this gospel, doesn't describe that baptism but Matthew does. In fact, it seems John the Baptist had no clue who the person would be. For when Jesus asked John to baptize Him John "...tried to prevent Him saying, 'I need to be baptized by You and are You coming to me?'"

However, Jesus insisted and immediately after, "... the heavens were opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him" Matthew 3:14-17

How exciting it must have been for John to see what God had told him secretly happening before his eyes and everyone watching. How fulfilling to know that he was God's instrument and his life was furthering God's eternal purposes.

Isn't that what we as Christians all want — to know that our actions, words, and lives have accomplished something significant and lasting because they were God-centered and aligned with what God was doing?

In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby says:
"To live a God-centered life you must focus your life on God's purposes, not your own plans. You must seek to view situations from God's perspective rather than your own distorted human outlook.

[...] God never asks people to dream up something to do for Him. We do not sit down and dream what we want to do for God and then call God in to help us accomplish it. The pattern in Scripture is that we submit ourselves to God. Then we wait until God shows us what He is about to do, or we watch to see what God is already doing around us and join Him" - Experiencing God Workbook
, p. 33-34)
How do I rate here? How do you? Are we dreaming up projects and asking God to bless them? Or are we waiting for God's explicit instructions or joining Him in His work already in progress?

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to be God-centered with my life focused on fitting in with Your purposes and exalting Jesus.

MORE: The Feast of St. Andrew

In today's reading we read that a man named Andrew was in the crowd. He was so impressed with what he saw, and with Jesus, that he ran to find his brother Peter, greeting him with the words: "We have found the Messiah." Then he brought Peter to Jesus and so began some eternal relationships.

The liturgy for the Feast of St. Andrew begins with this collect:

"Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your Holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Prayer clinic

"Answer to Daniel's Prayers" - Artist Unknown 
 (Northrop's Treasures of the Bible, 1894)

Answer to Daniel's Prayers - Artist Unknown (Northrop's 'Treasures of the Bible' 1894)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 9:1-27

TO CHEW ON: "In the first year of his (Darius) reign, I Daniel understood by the books the number of years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet .... Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." Daniel 9:23

What a wonderful little prayer clinic Daniel puts on for us here. I believe we, as pray-ers, can learn about effective prayer from his example. Here are some things that pinged with me today:

1. His prayers flowed from his study of "the books" (Daniel 9:1-3). Daniel studied Jeremiah and gained insight into God's plan and purpose for His people. Then he set himself to pray into those plans and purposes.

Similarly we can study the Bible to see what it says about God's purposes in general and then pore and pray over passages that seem especially relevant to our time.

2. He stood in for his people
(Daniel 9:4-19) It seems odd to hear devout, praying-three-times-a-day Daniel confessing: "...We have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments..." Surely he hadn't done those things. Yet he completely identified with his sinful countrymen and the sins of his people. Of course his prayer continuing on tells us that no matter how white his life looked, he too was sinful and knew it: "Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people..." Daniel 9:20.

Leslyn Musch in her commentary at the end of Daniel helps us apply this to our praying:
"Intercede before God, identifying with the sins of a church or a nation. Confess those sins before God asking for the Lord's mercy, forgiveness and restoration for His glory" - Leslyn Musch, "Truth-In-Action Through Daniel," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1140.

3. His prayers made a difference (Daniel 9:20-27). The angel Gabriel assured Daniel "At the beginning of your supplications the command went out."

Wow! That tells us that prayers can be like a trigger. They spark changes in the heavenliness. They move the hand and command of God: "The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]" - James 5:16b Amplified

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for these lessons on prayer. Help me to apply them to my life so I will be an effective prayer warrior in Your kingdom. Amen.

MORE: Effective intercessory prayer
"I'm convinced that when we stand before God with the record of spiritual successes and failures, we will learn that intercessory prayer had more to with with bringing about positive changes in our world than any other single spiritual activity" - Dick Eastman, Love On Its Knees, p. 17 (from Dick Eastman On Prayer - Three Bestsellers in One).

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The vision made him sick

"Gabriel Speaks" - woodcut, unknown artist
"Gabriel Speaks" - Woodcut, Unknown artist
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 8:1-27

TO CHEW ON: "And I Daniel, fainted and was sick for days..." Daniel 8:27a

We would call Daniel a mystic and describe the experience he tells of in Daniel 8 as mystical.

[Mystical: of the nature of a direct or subjective perception beyond the ordinary range of human experience. Having a spiritual character or reality beyond the comprehension of human reason - Funk & Wagnall's College Dictionary.]

Some don't believe it is possible for people to be able to foretell events like Daniel apparently did here. Secular historians who look at the Bible, and this incident specifically, debate the date of when Daniel was written because of how his dream came true:

"The precise fulfillment of Daniel's prophecies concerning the defeat of the Medo-Persians (the ram vs. 4) by the Greeks (a male goat vs. 5) and the events that led up to Antiochus Epiphanes has caused secular historians to declare that the Book of Daniel could not have been written earlier than 200 B.C. for they deny the supernatural source of the Scriptures"  Coleman Cox Phillips, Commentary on Daniel, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1133.
Contrast this with the commonly accepted date of when Daniel was written: before 530 B.C.

Daniel, for his part, was an unquestioning believer. He gave himself to the vision and to discovering what it meant, even though the experience drained and sickened him physically. The result, for us, is the foretelling of an event that strengthens our faith in God and His sovereignty over history. Our commenter calls it "... a confirming testimony to the remarkable prophetic anointing that rested on Daniel for the detailed foretelling of forthcoming events" p. 1133.

I can't help but look with awe on the prophets who heard God's voice and gave themselves soul, spirit, and body to communicating God's messages to the people of their time, whatever the cost to them.

What is God asking us to give soul, spirit, and body to for the advancement of His kingdom? Are we willing to abandon ourselves to Him as Daniel and other Old Testament prophets did?

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to give myself to You for whatever purposes You want to achieve through my mind, emotions, spirit, and body. Amen.  

MORE: Abandon

"Never consider whether you are of use; but ever consider that you are not your own but His" - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, March 4 reading.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jesus King of History

Vision of the Four Beasts by Gustave Dore - Daniel 7:1-8
"The Vision of the Four Beasts" Gustave Dore (Dan. 7:1-8)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 7:1-28

TO CHEW ON: "I saw in the night visions and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented to him." Daniel 7:13

"One like a son of man'..." That sounds like Jesus, doesn't it?

This is just one of a myriad of places where the Bible echoes the familiar Jesus-strain. For Jesus-talk repeats throughout the Bible like the recurring theme of a symphony. Someone has put together a list of Jesus sightings as He appears in each Bible book:

In Genesis, He is the seed of the woman. 

In Exodus, He is the passover lamb.
In Leviticus, He is our high priest. 

In Numbers, He is the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. 

In Deuteronomy, He is the prophet like unto Moses.
In Joshua, He is the captain of our salvation. 

In Judges, He is our judge and lawgiver.
In Ruth, He is our kinsman redeemer. 

In 1 and 2 Samuel, He is our trusted prophet. 

In Kings and Chronicles, He is our reigning king.
In Ezra and Nehemiah, He is the rebuilder of the broken down walls of human life.
In Esther  and Job, He is our ever-living redeemer.
In Psalms, He is our shepherd. 

In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, He is our wisdom. 

In Song of Solomon, He is our lover and bridegroom.
In Isaiah, He is the prince of peace.
In Jeremiah, He is the righteous branch. 

In Lamentations, He is our weeping prophet. 

In Ezekiel, He is our wonderful four faced man. 

In Daniel, He is the fourth man in life's fiery furnace.
In Hosea, He is the faithful husband.
In Joel, He is the baptizer with the Holy Ghost and fire.
In Amos, He is our burden-bearer.
In Obadiah, He is the mighty to save.
In Jonah, He is our great missionary. 

In Micah, He is the messenger of beautiful feet.
In Nahum, He is the avenger of God's elect. 

In Habakkuk, He is God's evangelist. 

In Zephaniah, He is our Saviour.
In Haggai, He is the restorer of God's lost heritage.
In Zechariah, He is the fountain opened in the house of David. 

In Malachi, He is the sun of righteousness, rising with healing in His wings.

In Matthew, He is the Messiah.
In Mark, He is the wonder worker. 

In Luke, He is the son of man.
In John, He is the Son of God. 

In Acts, He is the Holy Ghost. 

In Romans, He is our justifier. 

In 1 and 2 Corinthians, He is our sanctifier.
In Galatians, He is our redeemer.
In Ephesians, He is the Christ of unsearchable riches.
In Philippians, He is the God who supplies all our needs.
In Colossians, He is the fullness of God, bodily.
In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, He is our coming king.
In 1 and 2 Timothy, He is our mediator between God and man. 

In Titus, He is our faithful pastor.
In Philemon, He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. 

In Hebrews, He is the blood of the everlasting covenant.
In James, He is our great physician. 

In 1 and 2 Peter, He is our chief shepherd. 

In 1, 2 and 3 John, He is love.
In Jude, He is the Lord coming with ten thousands of His saints. 


- Author unknown - as found on the site Tentmaker org.

Jesus is also depicted as a king in our reading in Daniel: "...there came one like a son of man....and to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion,which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed" - Daniel 7:13-14.
He is my king. Is He yours?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming as a man to make a way for me to be reconciled with God. Be enthroned as King in my life today.

MORE: "That's My King" by S. M. Lockridge

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

You get to choose your king

Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd
Ecce Homo (c. 1849-52) - by Honore Daumier

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 18:28-40

TO CHEW ON: "'But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?'
Then they all cried again, saying, 'Not this Man but Barabbas.'" John 18:39-40

Look at Jesus. He appears anything but kingly, standing alone in the front of Pilate in the Praetorium, even as the religious leaders, who finally have His death in their hands, wait outside inciting the crowd as they gloat.

"Are you the king of the Jews?" Pilate asks.

"You say rightly I am a king..." Jesus answers.

We reflect back over Jesus' life as told to us in the gospels. We have seen him socializing with sinners, touching lepers, scorning the status given by possessions and property, living instead the life of a vagabond.

Now He stands before Pilate forsaken by even His friends, tired, disheveled, looking altogether pathetic. So this is how a heavenly king handles Himself? He's so unlikely. It's true what Isaiah says of Him: "He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2). He is surely not a king by the company He keeps, His wealth, or His physical appearance. On what basis, then, is He a king?

Listen in as He continues explaining His kingship to Pilate: "For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

Jesus' claim, that He spoke truth, lived truth, represented (and represents) the Kingdom of Truth is as controversial today as ever. The meaning of His claim, "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6), is debated more hotly today than ever, even in some Christian circles.

Today, as in each generation, we are presented with the choice Pilate gave the Jerusalem crowd. Whose claims do we believe? Who will we choose to follow, obey, and give allegiance to? Who will be our king?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I choose You. Please help me to live my everyday life now, as a subject in Your Kingdom of Truth. Amen.

MORE: "Give Me Jesus" by Fernando Ortega

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Your time is up!

Daniel Interpreting the Writing on the Wall by Gustave Dore
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 5:13-31

TO CHEW ON: "'But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.'" Daniel 5:22

What was Daniel reminding Belshazzar that he knew? It was the whole story of his forefather Nebuchadnezzar and how he had gone from being a king no one dared defy (Daniel 5:19) to an insane creature who lived outdoors like an animal. It was only when Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God was supreme over even him that his kingdom was restored to him.

Belshazzar had not learned a thing from Nebuchadnezzar's life. Instead, Belshazzar's reign was worse in that he not only ignored God but blasphemed Him, using the sacred temple vessels captured from Jerusalem in drunken orgies of praise to the Babylonian gods.

The message on the wall (Daniel 5:25-28) was God's sudden and unchangeable verdict.

The way God is portrayed here reminds me of the way C.S. Lewis describes Aslan, the lion (symbolic of Jesus) in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: "He's not safe, but he's good."

In both Old and New Testaments, God shows Himself good in His long-suffering - Numbers 14:18; Psalm 78:38; Romans 9:22; 2 Peter 3:9.

But His judgment, when it comes was for Belshazzar and will be for us:
  • swift - Matthew 24:27
  • unexpected - Matthew 24:36-42
  • inevitable - Matthew 24:35,44.

Leslyn Musch sums it up well in her "Truth-In-Action Through Daniel" article:
"Understand that a day of accounting will come for your actions and choices. Receive Jesus' righteousness on your behalf (Romans 3:10-28). Embrace humility and holiness. Seek by the power of the Holy Spirit to live a life that honours and glorifies the Lord" - Leslyn Musch, New Spirit-Filled Bible, p. 1141.

Dear God, please help me not to take Your patience as indifference but to believe Your every word about a day of reckoning ahead. Amen.

MORE: "That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain" - Daniel 5:30
"The account which Xenophon ('Cyrop.' vii. s.) gives of the taking of Babylon. and of the death of the king - though without mentioning his name, agrees so well with the statement here, that it may be regarded as a strong confirmation of its correctness. After describing the preparation made to take the city by draining off the waters of the Euphrates, so as to leave the channel dry beneath the walls for the amy of Cyrus, and after recording the charge which Cyrus gave to his generals Gadatas and Gobryas, he adds, 'And indeed those who were with Gobryas said that it would not be wonderful if the gates of the palace should be found open,' as the whole city that night seemed to be given up to revelry" - Barnes Notes on the Bible - Read entire.


Newly released from Word Alive Press: Destiny's Hands.

Order yours today!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The finger of God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 5:1-10

"In the same hour the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote." Daniel 5:5

The scene of reckless partying with guests toasting their gods and getting drunk from wine served in the consecrated gold temple vessels is a sharp contrast to what happens next. When the disembodied fingers of a man's hand begin writing on the wall, King Belshazzar becomes instantly terrified. His body shakes and his knees give out under him. He cries for an interpreter to read and explain what the fingers have written.

The phrase "finger of God" occurs in several places in the Bible. The Thompson Chain Bible explains: "Finger of God - Symbolism for God's detailed interaction with His creation" -Thompson Chain Bible NKJV, p. 1765.

In most places it is symbolic.

  • Pharaoh's magicians attribute the third plague to the "finger of God" when they can't duplicate the sign - Exodus 8:19. The sense is of something unexplainable and supernatural.
  • Moses describes the two tablets of the Testimony (the Ten Commandments) as "tablets of stone, written with the finger of God" - Exodus 31:18, see also Exodus 32:16, Deuteronomy 9:10. The sense is that these were no ordinary instructions but a divine imperative (and perhaps Moses did witness God's actual writing of them).
  • The psalmist calls nature "the work of your fingers," implying that the work of creation is effortless to God—something for which He doesn't need to raise more than a finger - Psalm 8:3.
  • Jesus, talking with the multitudes, speaks of casting out demons "with the finger of God." Again we get a sense of something God finds easy to do - Luke 11:20.

However, in Belshazzar's case the finger of God is not symbolic but real and visible. It is a terrifyingly "detailed interaction" for sure, driving him to beg for someone to tell him what the message means.

Have you ever experience the "finger of God"—an interaction with Him so targeted and personal that you were filled with worship, awe, or fear?

When that happens to you or me, we need to recognize it, acknowledge it, and learn from it.

Holy God, the way Your presence, in the form of fingers electrified this blasphemous king convinces me of Your power and otherness. Please forgive me when I have been casual in my treatment of holy things. Amen.

MORE: Temple vessels

The Temple Institute website has photos of reproductions of the temple vessels, the like of which may have been desecrated by Belshazzar.

Silver vessel for wine libation

Silver cup for water libation

Silver libation vessels

(Note: this link to the Temple Institute site is for information only and does not imply support for the principles or mission of The Temple Institute).


Newly released from Word Alive Press: Destiny's Hands.

Order yours today!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I - Me - My

Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's Dream -   UNKNOWN; Illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop's 'Treasures of the Bible', 1894
Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 4:19-37

TO CHEW ON: "The king spoke saying, 'Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty?'" Daniel 4:30

The dream that King Nebuchadnezzar told Daniel in yesterday's reading he interprets in today's. It is not good news for the king. He will be removed from his throne, driven away by his own subjects because of what appears to be insanity.

But, Daniel says at the end of his interpretation, maybe you can change this fate by changing your ways (Daniel 4:27).

The king changes nothing. Perhaps it was for him like it is for us. We get a scare and for a few days resolve to make things right. But life goes on. The memory of the traumatizing moment becomes blurry and unreal. Eventually we forget all about it.

A year later we find Nebuchadnezzar walking about his palace congratulating himself on his achievements: "Is not this great Babylon that I have built..." And the judgement falls just as the dream and Daniel predicted.

What a good thing it is that we don't get judged in the same way every time we congratulate ourselves on our efforts and sing our own praises as if we were the engineers of our successes.

There are at least three reasons to avoid such prideful thoughts and talk:

1. It is ugly
  • "To seek one's own glory is not glory" - Proverbs 25:27.
  • "Let another man praise you and not your own mouth; A stranger and not your own lips" - Proverbs 27:2

2. It is unrealistic
  • "It is God alone who judges; he decides who will rise and who will fall" - Psalm 75:7 (NLT).
  • "Though you ascend as high as the eagle, And though you set your next among the stars, From there I will bring you down,' says the Lord" - Obadiah 1:4

3. It is demonic

  • Such prideful thoughts brought down Lucifer - Isaiah 14:12-15.

Dear God, please help me to identify pride in my own heart and to deal with it. Amen.

MORE: Pride and social media

In these days of publicity and promotion by social media the pride/self-promotion pitfalls are many. Keiki Hendrix, author and book blogger, writes in her newsletter:

"Many authors feel they must promote themselves and their books in order to be recognized. This is why you see so many Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts with the words 'Me' or 'My Book' or something similar.

"I read the posts and I sigh to myself. Reading an author talk all about themselves, their book, their speaking engagements, etc. is a big turn off. I wrote about this ill advised marketing strategy for writers  in the article The What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) Factor recently. Here’s an excerpt:

Many times we don’t realize that what  we are silently conveying to our listeners or readers when we speak only of ourselves, our books, our own interests. In many aspects we disrespect the reader because the focus is on getting the book sold and not getting the message heard. 
If the majority of our social media status updates are links all about us, all about our books, or all about what we want to sell, what we are silently conveying to the reader is not adding value.  Instead we are participating in what marketing consultant, Mac MacIntosh, calls “we-we-weeing all over ourselves.”
Keiki Hendrix - The Kindred Connection Newsletter

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Angel watchers

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 4:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "'I saw in visions of my head while on my bed, that there was a watcher, a holy one coming down from heaven. He cried aloud and said thus, "... This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will and sets it over the lowest of men.'" Daniel 4:13, 14a, 17.

Who or what are these "watchers" that our reading refers to?

My Bible's study notes identify them as "Angels on special assignment of the Lord" Cox Phillips Coleman, notes on Daniel, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1126. It seems that here an angel—"watcher"—communicates to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream a decision made in heaven by many angels ("the watchers").

When we read on in Daniel, we discover that the decision has to do with a lesson Nebuchadnezzar needs to learn. The dream is a foretelling of events that will take place to teach him that lesson. For he will soon be like that tree, cut down and humiliated as he descends for a time into madness. Though his words exalt God (Daniel 4:2-3), "His own heart is still filled with pride. He has not submitted the rulership over his own kingdom  to the kingdom of God" - Coleman.

Back to those watchers. Their role here reflects what Wayne Grudem says about angels in his Systematic Theology:*
  • They are powerful: "Angels are seemingly greater in might and power than rebellious human beings (2 Peter 2:11, cf. Matthew 28:2)" Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 400.
  • They carry out some of God's plans.
  • They glorify God. Most of the time we see them glorifying God directly. But here they work in the background to bring a king to the place where he will glorify God.

What does this intervention of angels in Daniel have to say to us? Grudem again:

"We should be aware of angels in our daily lives" - Grudem, p. 405

1. We can realize that when we worship we are joined by not only the company of believers that have died but also a great throng of angels (Hebrews 12:22-23).

2. We should be aware that angels are watching our daily obedience or disobedience throughout the day:
"We should be sobered by the thought that perhaps even hundreds of angels witness our disobedience and are grieved. On the other hand, when we are discouraged and think that our faithful obedience to God is witnessed by no one and is an encouragement to no one, we can be comforted by the realization that perhaps hundreds of angels witness our lonely struggle daily 'longing to look' at the way Christ's great salvation finds expression in our lives" - Grudem p.  406.

3. We may minister to angels without knowing it when they take on human form (Hebrews 13:2).

4. When we are suddenly and unexpectedly saved from disaster, we may be right in our suspicion that God has sent an angel to help us—and be thankful.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this glimpse into the realm of angels and Your plans which include them. Help me to be aware of these watchers cheering me on and guarding my way as they play their part in Your plans. Amen.

MORE: The Watcher

Canadian author Sara Davison, in her novel The Watcher tells a contemporary story through one such angel watcher. It is an intriguing and worthwhile read! My review of The Watcher is HERE.

* Information about angels is from the entire chapter on Angels  (pages  397-411) in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

We will not bow

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 3:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "But let it be known to you, O King, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up." Daniel 3:18

This incredible story of God coming to the rescue of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego has always been one of my favourites. I find it interesting that in it, their friend and former spokesman, Daniel, wasn't with them. It was he who got them into this pickle, in a way. Because when he was promoted to governor in Babylon, it was at his request that his friends got the jobs and profile that they had (Daniel 2:49).

However, these three young men were stalwarts in their own right. They never for an instant considered bowing to that image. Their answer made it clear that they had counted the cost: "The God whom we serve is able to deliver us.... But if not, let it be known....we do not serve your gods nor will we worship the gold image" - Daniel 3:17-18.

Their chutzpah outraged the king who then commanded the penal fire, already prepared for anyone who dared defy his order, be heated seven times hotter.

He lost three "mighty men of valour" in the fire toss and then witnessed a miracle of selective burn. For though SM&A had been thrown in "bound in their coats, their trousers etc." now they were "loose, walking in the midst of the fire..." And a holy creature was with them so startlingly different in His appearance, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged Him as the "Son of God."

As I read this story and look for parallels in our own lives, I can't help but think how, in many ways, that golden image is for us, the church of the 21st century, a good public opinion.

For years Christianity has been the worldview of the majority of  Canadians and we in the church were in sync with our culture. That's no longer the case. Our culture has changed to the degree of accepting, indeed promoting, many things that, if we insist on living by the Bible, we must reject. For example:
- The world "created" without God (through evolution).
- All religions leading to God.
- Homosexuality as normal, right, and good.
- Abortion.

Society has a fiery furnace too. Its threats if we don't bow to their current norms include fines and jail time, taking away the church's tax-free and charitable donation status, and maligning us in the media.

What is our response?
  • Have we thought it through beforehand like SM&A had so that when society's minions insist on compliance we can reply "Your threat means nothing to us" (Msg).?
  • Are we as faith-filled as these three young men were when they said: "Our God.... is able to deliver us"
  • Could we see ourselves adding something like, "Whether God delivers us or not, let it be known to you, O society (of Canada, the US, Europe, China, India, Africa...) we do not serve your gods nor will we capitulate to the standards you have set up"?

PRAYER: Dear God, I read this story and feel convicted. Help me to have the resolve to worship only You that these men had. May I exhibit their reckless abandonment to Your care as I seek to uphold Your standards and live in ways that please You. Amen.

MORE: A church that bows

The United Church of Canada has been in the vanguard of Canadian churches that have synchronized their beliefs and practices to fit with the changing mores of society. A recent article in the National Post profiles their denomination (not glossing over their current dwindling and confused state). Read "The Split in the United Church."


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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Daniel's crushing stone

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 2:24-49

TO CHEW ON: "'You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces .... And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.'"  Daniel 2:34,44

The mighty stone in Daniel's vision that crushes earth's kingdoms and becomes an everlasting kingdom of its own (Daniel 2:35) reminds us of other places the Bible refers to this everlasting kingdom—and with stone imagery too.

  • Daniel himself talks about this kingdom again, describing its king in words that signal He is Jesus (Daniel 7:13,14).
  • In several places Bible prophets refer to a coming cornerstone: Psalm 118:22, Zechariah 10:4; Isaiah 28:16.
  • Jesus in explaining the parable of the Landowner (in which we recognize Him as the owner's son, whom the wicked servants put to death - Matthew 21:33-41) connects this cornerstone prophecy to Himself and  the Kingdom of God (Matthew 21:42, 43).
  • Peter talks about Jesus being the cornerstone in his sermon to the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:11) and again in his epistle (1 Peter 2:6) as does Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:20).

What about us? Will we build our lives on Jesus the cornerstone (1 Corinthians 3:11), who saves us (Acts 4:11,12) and let ourselves be fit together with other "living stones" in a magnificent "holy temple" (Ephesians 2:20-22)? Or will we reject Him and find Him a stone that stumbles, offends and crushes us (1 Peter 2:7,8)?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for being the stone that fulfills Daniel's prophecy. We look forward to the day Your kingdom will "become a great mountain and fill the whole earth." Amen.

MORE: "Living Stones" by Michael Card (link goes to Grooveshark Radio)

Living Stones by Michael Card on Grooveshark

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Giving credit where it's due

"Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream"
 by William Brassey Hole

Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream by William Brassey Hole
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 2:1-23

TO CHEW ON: "Daniel answered and said: 'Blessed be the name of God forever and ever. For wisdom and might are His.'" Daniel 2:20

Though we read previously that Daniel had a talent for interpreting dreams and visions (Daniel 1:17), when he found himself in the crunch of 'tell the dream and its interpretation or die,' he did not depend on his talent but went straight to its source.

Gathering his friends Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego he asked them to "seek the mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret."

That night "the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision" - Daniel 2:18,19.

I love his combination of humility and faith. They are evident in many places in this book where Daniel attributes to God the favor he has with the chief eunuch (Daniel 1:9) and the knowledge and skill he and his friends possessed in literature, wisdom and dream interpretation (Daniel 1:17). Here he again gives all credit to God: "So Daniel blessed the God of heaven" and then goes on to pray an eloquent prayer of praise and thanksgiving (Daniel 2:20-23).

What a great model for us as we face the hurdles of life and the challenges of family and work. I ask myself:

- Is my first thought to pray about a difficulty or challenge or do I cast about for a way to handle it on my own?

- When help arrives do I recognize it? Do I acknowledge it was from Him and give Him the credit?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to follow Daniel's example of faith and humility, acknowledging Your help and giving You credit instead of taking it for myself. Amen.

MORE: Recklessly abandon

"Let actual circumstances be what they may, keep recognizing Jesus, maintain complete reliance on Him.

If you debate for a second when God has spoken, it is all up. Never begin to say--'Well, I wonder if He did speak?' Be reckless immediately, fling it all out on Him. You do not know when His voice will come, but whenever the realization of God comes in the faintest way imaginable, recklessly abandon. It is only by abandon that you recognize Him. You will only realize His voice more clearly by recklessness" - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest,  June 18th reading.



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Monday, November 12, 2012

Dare to be a Daniel

Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Five by Lillie A. Faris Daniel Refuses the King's Wine
Daniel refuses the king's wine
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 1:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself." Daniel 1:8

I see three parts to Daniel's action plan:
1. He purposed in his heart (Daniel 1:8a).
2. He acted on his purpose: "therefore he requested..." (Daniel 1:8b).
3. He prepared for objections and opposition. When the steward demurred, he was ready with his 10-day veggie diet test proposal (Daniel 1:10-14).

What is God moving you and me to purpose in our hearts?

Are we doing anything about it? Are we making changes accordingly in the areas of re-arranging our schedules, our menus, our shopping and spending habits, our leisure time, our time of rising and going to bed?

Resistance is sure to come. Are we prepared with creative alternatives so we can see our purpose through?

And then, do we have grace for ourselves to start again if we stumble in our purpose plan?

I love how Leslyn Musch sums up the lessons in Daniel 1:8-16 in her Truth-In-Action Through Daniel commentary:

"Stand firm in your faith and honour God in every decision. Look to Him when faced with temptation to deny Him or to turn from His ways. Believe that He will either provide a way of escape or the grace to endure. Ask God to give you favour, wisdom, and creative alternatives so that you can remain obedient and bring glory to Him" -Leslyn Musch,  New Spirit-Filled Bible, p. 1140.

PRAYER: Dear God, I would love for people to say, she purposed in her heart... with the resultant Daniel-style success. Help me to grasp Your purposes in the things I am involved in and to see them through. Amen.

MORE: "Dare to be a Daniel"

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Egocentric idols

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 2:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "Their land is also full of idols;
They worship the work of their own hands,
That which their own fingers have made." Isaiah 2:8

John Piper takes a little swipe at a common interpretation of Jesus' command, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39):

"The popular misconception is that this command teaches us to learn to esteem ourselves so we can love others. This is not what the command means. Jesus does not command us to love ourselves. He assumes that we do." — John Piper, Desiring God, p. 209.

It seems to me there is only a short distance between healthy self-love and idolatrous self-love. I wonder if, in our rich, possession-obsessed society, we don't indulge in such idolatry more than we realize. We regularly look to the things we own to give us a sense of worth. We dote on their excellence and how their quality will reflect well on us. When we get down, we shop for more things to help us feel better.

Making an idol out of a car or house or pair of shoes is an easy kind of idolatry to identify. However, there are other ego-centric idols that are just as widespread, but may be harder to put their fingers on. Dale Hanson Bourke in a chapter on idols in her book Embracing Your Second Calling speaks of a Bible-study worksheet (written by Tim Keller) that probed her heart in this regard:

"...the worksheet contained a list of the types of idolatry many modern-day men and women embrace. In part, it included statements like:

Approval idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am loved and respected by...'

Control idolatry: Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of...'

Helping idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if people are dependent on me.'

Work idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am highly productive and get a lot done.'

Achievement idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am being recognized for my accomplishments / excelling in my career.'

...One suggestion from the study is to think about what you fear the most or what you worry about most often. If you follow that trail, you almost always arrive at the foot of an idol." -- Dale Hanson Bourke, Embracing Your Second Calling, pp. 90-91

These thoughts convict me. I need to sweep a spotlight into and through the tucked-away rooms of my heart to see what self-idols are hidden there. What about you?

PRAYER: Dear God, please show me where I am worshiping something/someone other than You. Amen.

MORE: More from Tim Keller:

Pastor and teacher Dr. Tim Keller develops the concepts of modern idolatry further in his book Counterfeit Gods. A talk he gave at The Gospel Coalition in 2005 is summarized  in "The Grand Demythologizers: The Gospel and Idolatry." Follow this link to hear/watch the entire talk.


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Friday, November 09, 2012

Work that lasts

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 127:1-5

TO CHEW ON: "Unless the Lord builds the house
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep." Psalm 127:1,2

These verses tell me that the things I want to accomplish—in whatever field they are—will wear me out if I try to get them done by myself. And unless I am cooperating with God there will be no lasting fruit from my efforts in any case.

Eugene Peterson comments on this psalm in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. He points out how people tend to distort work, making it all self-effort (e.g. Humanism), or opting out of activity into a state of pure being (e.g. Buddhism). Christian parallels are the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) or the retirement of the Thessalonians who gave up work to wait for Jesus' return (2 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

But, Peterson reminds us, God worked and works:
"The work of God is defined and described in the pages of Scripture. We have models of creation, acts of redemption, examples of help and compassion, paradigms of comfort and salvation. One of the reasons that Christians read Scripture repeatedly and carefully is to find out just how God works in Jesus Christ so that we can work in the name of Jesus Christ" - Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 108, 109.

So what does a proper work ethic look like for the Christian? Peterson again:
"Christian discipleship, by orienting us in God's work and setting us in the mainstream of what God is already doing, frees us from the compulsiveness of work" - Peterson, p. 109 (emphasis added).

The psalmist's example of fruitful, easy work—the begetting of children (Psalm 127:3-5)—also has a Christian life parallel:
"The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships. Children are God's best gift! We invest our energy in people .... We learn a name; we start a friendship; we follow up on a smile .... Out of numerous handshakes and greetings, some germinate and grow into a friendship in Christ" - Peterson, pp. 110, 111 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be sensitive to what You are doing, and to work with You, especially in building relationships. Amen.

MORE: Work, discipleship, and obedience
"It is the nature of sin to take good things and twist them, ever so slightly, so that they miss the target to which they were aimed, the target of God. One requirement of discipleship is to learn the ways sin skews our nature and submit what we learn to the continuing will of God, so that we are shaped through the days of our obedience" - Peterson, Op. Cit. p. 105 (emphasis added). 


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