Monthly Archives: November 2021

Daniel 4-6; John 18

Daniel and the lions’ den—a familiar Bible story that most of us have probably heard thousands of times.  I admit that when I hear this story, I typically think of Daniel as the young adult who wouldn’t eat the royal food and stood unharmed in the fiery furnace with his friends.  And this is not untrue.  At the beginning of the book, Daniel is probably in his late teens/early 20s, but what we don’t always realize is that by the time we get to Daniel 6, he is 80 or 90 years old.  A lifetime has passed, and Daniel has always been obedient and faithful.  He practiced, as Eugene Peterson would say, A long obedience in the same direction.

As the beginning verses of Daniel 6 illustrate, integrity and obedience were standard practices for Daniel.  He didn’t wake up one day and decide to defy the king and continue worshipping the one, true God.  The decree of an unbelieving king wasn’t going to stop him from doing what he knew was right and had been doing for nearly 80 years.

Daniel distinguished himself above the administrators and satraps because he had an extraordinary spirit, so the king planned to set him over the whole realm. The administrators and satraps, therefore, kept trying to find a charge against Daniel regarding the kingdom. But they could find no charge or corruption, for he was trustworthy, and no negligence or corruption was found in him. Then these men said, “We will never find any charge against this Daniel unless we find something against him concerning the law of his God.”

When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into his house. The windows in its upstairs room opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (Daniel 6:3-5, 10, CSB)

In reality though, the familiar stories we read in the first six chapters of Daniel—refusing to eat the royal food, interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the fiery furnace, the handwriting on the wall, the lions’ den—are just a few exciting highlights in the life story of a man who loved and served God most often in the ordinary and mundane.  Most of Daniel’s days, the ones we don’t read about in Scripture, were spent as an employee, a friend, a believer who valued his God and his faith above all else. 

Ultimately, Daniel’s “long obedience in the same direction” was rewarded. We don’t often hear much about the end of Daniel 6, but it says that King Darius, after witnessing Daniel’s trust in God and God’s power in saving him from the lions, issued a new decree, which directed everyone to worship God rather than himself.  God used Daniel’s lifelong example of obedience and trust to change King Darius’ heart.

Currently, Jeff (my husband) and I are teaching a beginning theology class at our church.  Some weeks are great—all the attendees are tracking and learning and actually enjoying it!  Other weeks are pretty discouraging—people don’t come, everyone seems thoroughly confused, and enthusiasm is lackluster, at best. I’m constantly reminding myself that God, not Jeff and Jen, is responsible for the outcome.  He sees the long hours of preparation and prayer and our deep desire for these precious people to know Him and His word more deeply. He also sees our discouragement and feelings of inadequacy.  He will do the heart work; we simply need to be obedient. Be encouraged! Your faithfulness makes a difference. You may not see it as quickly or as clearly as Daniel did, but God is always working to draw people to Himself and glorify His name.

For he is the living God, and he endures forever;
his kingdom will never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end.
He rescues and delivers; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth….(Daniel 6:26b-27a)

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Daniel 1-3; Psalm 88; John 17

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

Do you ever wonder how Jesus picked those He would heal? There were more people left unhealed…than were healed. I can only imagine how Jesus’ heart must have broken over the death of someone He knew He could bring back to life…the blind man who never saw…the lame woman who never walked.

When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were about to walk into the Furnace of fire they spoke to the King with such confidence of Gods power to save that they seemed to have no fear. How could they be so certain?

“But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Maybe the three men didn’t know God would save them. Maybe they were afraid. Maybe they spoke with confidence because their lives had been so hard and this was one more hard thing. Even in the hard…their God was still present with them.

Is Gods presence enough for me?

“Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come you; turn your ear to my cry.”

Psalms‬ ‭88:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The psalmist also knew the hard things in life. He cried out to God for mercy and salvation while also claiming God to be a God that has the power to rescue. He also knew that sometimes, God didn’t rescue. How do the Psalmist and the 3 men in Daniel have such confidence in God?

Can I have the same confidence in my God?

Some days I feel strong and firm in my faith in a God who can heal and protect. Other days, however, I feel like I’ll never be ok; I’ll always struggle and hurt. Then I remember those in scripture who hurt and struggled and believed. They believed, not because of the situations in their lives changed but because their God was present and real.

Look for God…look for how He has rescued you…comforted you…empowered you…guided you…was with you. In other words…look for all of God, not just how you want Him to show up.

Dear God, we look so hard for you to rescue that we can sometimes miss the ways you comfort and guide. You are always present. There isn’t a day that goes by that you aren’t comforting, guiding and being present with your children…with me. Thank you! Open my eyes to see more of you. Amen.

Mandy

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Ezekiel 46-48; John 16

We see in these chapters that God is restoring Israel to its intended beauty. Its feasts, offerings, and rightful inheritance is beginning to unfold again. The most beautiful words in Chapter 46:10 (MEV) say:

The prince shall be in their midst.  When they enter; he shall enter; and when they go out, he shall go out.

It will be for Israel then, as it is for us now.  The Holy Spirit goes with us where ever we go.  He brings us comfort, encouragement, and help in times of trouble.  He gives us understanding and guides us in the way we should go.  The Holy Spirit gives rest to the weary, and strength to the weak.  He makes the timid bold and courageous. 

It is my understanding that these chapters are explaining how Israel will be in the millennium and the prince will be Jesus in His thousand-year reign.  So, to go to the temple where the presence of Jesus fills them wherever they go, whether in or out, must be so encouraging. He will be in their midst, and in my opinion, this will give them a glow on the inside, and the strength and courage to carry on outside of the temple.

In chapter 47, In verses 8b-9 (MEV) it says:

When it flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.  Every living creature that swarms, wherever the rivers go, will live.  And there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come there and the others become fresh. Thus, everything shall live wherever the river comes.

Verse 12 continues on saying:  By the river upon its bank, on this side and on that side, shall grow all kinds of trees for food, whose leaf shall not fade nor shall its fruit fail.  They shall bring forth fruit according to their months, because their water issues out of the sanctuary.  And their fruit shall be for food and their leaves for medicine.

Jesus is the living water.  If I believe in Him, He brings forth new life and makes me new.  He provides for my needs and heals my body. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever!

And the great and final words of Ezekiel in Chapter 48:35b (MEV) say:

And the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord Is There.

Hallelujah!! And there is no place I would rather be than where the Lord is….

As we shift over to the New Testament, Jesus is talking to his disciples about events about to take place.  Jesus tells them these things so they will know the truth and not fall away once things start to unfold.

John 16:7 (MEV): Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away.  For if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send Him to you.

John 16: 13-16 (MEV): But when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.  For He will not speak on His own authority.  But He will speak whatever He hears, and He will tell you things that are to come.  He will glorify Me, for He will receive from Me, and will declare it to you.  All that the Father has is Mine.  Therefore, I said that He will take what is Mine and will declare it to you. In a little while you will not see Me. And then after a little while you will see Me, because I am going to the Father.

John 16: 20 (MEV): Truly, truly I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.  You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 

John 16: 22-24(MEV): Therefore, you now have sorrow.  But I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.  On that day you will ask Me nothing.  Truly, truly I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you.  Until now you have asked nothing in My name.  Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.

God the Father, part of the Trinity, loves whoever loves Jesus, and believes that He came from God. GOD LOVES ME! I think that is utterly marvelous and mysterious at the same time.  Jesus goes to the Father, so that the Holy Spirit can come to me.  God the Father is with Jesus.  He was never alone, and we that believe are never alone as well!  It is a truly, truly amazing story, if that was all that it was, but it is not just a story.  It is real, and alive and breathing all over the globe.

John 16: 33 (MEV): “ I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have tribulation.  But be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world”

Father God, thank you that you love me! All that You do for me is way more than I deserve, yet I receive it in Jesus’ name.  Thank you for your truth.  You did not mince words when it was written that I would have tribulation in this world.  Help me to choose cheer when these things come, because you have overcome all that could ever cross my path, down here on earth.  With love and adoration, I say there is no one like you God! I pray for cheer and peace to invade my body each and every day, and I pray that circumstances will never steal my joy.  And I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Carol (carolvorwe)

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Ezekiel 43-45; Psalm 135; John 15

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

Recently, I have found myself doing a lot of things without abiding in God. I have gotten used to my routine at school and going through my daily to-do lists without seeking God in each of my tasks. This verse states that we can do nothing without God. Let the weight of that sink in. There are many times that I get to the end of the day and realize that I forgot to pray, I forgot to abide, and I forgot that I can do nothing without God. I go through days relying on my own strength and striving to be enough as a student, friend, and Christian. I fall into the pattern of trying to please God rather than abiding in Him and asking Him to transform me.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” 

John 15:8-10

While this chapter frees us from striving, it still calls us to obedience with the goal of glorifying God. Our love for God and our discipleship is reflected in our obedience in fruit-bearing but again apart from God, we can do nothing. I often separate abiding and obedience in my mind because they feel like contradicting terms; however, it is through abiding that I am able to obey and it is through obedience that I abide in God’s love.

Dear God,

Sorry for the days I forget my need for you. I am sorry that I forget your grace and strive to earn your love and to deserve righteousness. I am sorry for the times that I get caught up in the anxiety of all I have to do and forget to rest in your love. Thank you for being the source of my strength, righteousness, and worth. Thank you that I can run to you in the busyness and abide in your love. Thank you that your love is not based on my achievements but on Jesus’ death on the cross. Please help me to abide in you and to rely on you daily. Please help me not to forget the call to obey.

~ Faith

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Ezekiel 40-42; John 14

I admit that I am one of those who are quite definitive that the Great Commission is about going out and making disciples. I also believe that others are endowed with the gift of evangelism. Reading Ezekiel today reminds me of the importance that all of us have a part to play in sharing the good news and that in a sense, we are all called to evangelize. I still have a problem with the manner of teaching and manipulation that attends this topic, however, the one thing I can identify in myself is that I love people who do not know Jesus and the love of Jesus causes me to reach out to them. I cannot say that I do not have love for them and I anxiously walk alongside when I can. I constantly see that a relationship goes well when the love of their soul is there.

John talks about the temple in the same way.

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places;[b] if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. – John 14:2 HCSB

Love prepares a welcome. With love, I prepare a room for my baby. With love, I prepare for my guests. Jesus is preparing a place for those who have decided to follow Him because He loves them and is confidently awaiting their arrival.

The whole secret in both Old and New Testament readings is the desire for God to have us united with Jesus.

 I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.

“In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live too. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you. The one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it You’re going to reveal Yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. The one who doesn’t love Me will not keep My words. The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me.

“I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. – John 14:18-25 HCSB

The Holy Spirit enables me to experience a deep, inner unity with God and with Jesus, His Son. Jesus deeply desires me to share in this unity with Him, for this is the very reason He gave His life on the cross for my redemption. When I experience unity with Jesus, I find my true self and am made complete in Him.

Thank you God for being so passionately in love with me.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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