Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sanctifying Christ as Lord in the example of Daniel

READ Daniel 5-6

In 1 Peter 3:14-17 we have instructions from the Lord about how we are to live in a culture that is in opposition to our faith in Christ. “But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God' s will, than for doing evil.”

As you know, the NT tells us that the OT was written for our instruction and for an example to us in our Christian lives (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11). Well, in Daniel 6 we have a great example from the life of Daniel of being willing to suffer for our faith and also seeing those who oppose us “put to shame.” Daniel remains faithful to God despite the efforts of his opponents and for this he is thrown into the lions’ den, even though the king very much does not want him to be killed. Even this pagan king, Darius, knows that Daniel worships God and he hopes that God will save him from the lions. You know the end of the story. Daniel is saved and those who have schemed to have him killed are killed themselves in the den of lions.

For you and me this story stands as a challenge to live for Christ completely. We must “honor the Lord as holy” in our hearts and live in such a way that others will see the a true hope in us, just as Darius saw hope in Daniel and his God. People around us are watching, wanting to see if what we say with our mouths is shown in what we do with our lives.

Prayer: Father, we need your grace always to live in such a way that others will know we worship you. Help us to humbly recognize that we are always on display as trophies of your grace and how we live casts a reflection on you. Give us the strength and the courage to be faithful, just like Daniel.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What's For Dinner? Blood & Quail Meat

READ Ezekiel 35-36

Sometimes it is a sign of judgment (or possibly discipline) when God gives us what we want. In his prophecy against Mount Seir God says, “Because you cherished perpetual enmity and gave over the people of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, at the time of their final punishment, therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; because you did not hate bloodshed, therefore blood shall pursue you.” (35:5-6) They wanted bloodshed so bloodshed would be there fate.

Remember the Israelites in the wilderness. They were not satisfied with God’s provision of manna and craved meat. So God gave them quail meat till it was coming out of their nostrils (Numbers 11:20). Listen to the Psalmist’s commentary on this experience: “But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.” (Psalm 106:13-15)

The lesson is to be satisfied with what God has for us and not to crave other things instead. Romans 1 has a similar idea when three times Paul says, “God gave them up” (24, 26, 28). In essence, God was giving them up to what they were craving instead of worshipping him as the giver of every good and perfect gift.

So be careful what you set your heart on and desire. Let it be God and what he has for you. Stay away from anything that gets in the way. Quail meat was not a bad thing in and of itself. But it was not God’s best for the Israelites.

Prayer: Father, let me be satisfied in you. Empty me of the hunger for other things that will shield me from you. Let my joy and delight and fulfillment come from you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Good Reminder for 9-11

After writing this devotional this morning I looked at the date and was reminded what day it is. Hence the title.

READ Ezekiel 25-26

As we read Ezekiel’s prophecies against the nations surrounding Israel (Ammon, Moab, Seir, Edom, Philistia, Tyre), we can’t help realizing the awfulness of the judgment of God. And that is as it should be. We should recoil at the idea of being judged by a holy God and found wanting. That is one of the reasons that we are a gospel people. We don’t want to see people fall under God’s eternal judgment.

But there is a more positive side to what we see in these two chapters also. This particular aspect is one of the greatest most reassuring truths of all of Scripture. We see it from the very first verses of the Bible to the very last verses. Over and over again it resounds aloud like a whistle from an oncoming train alerting us to its presence. What is that truth? God is sovereign over all things. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. In him all things hold together. Without him nothing would exist.

And within his sovereignty is his divine purpose that is carried out by him at all times in perfect measure. Here we see it in the fact that God is not only Lord over Israel but also of all the nations around Israel. He controls their fates. He raises them up or tears them down according to his will and purpose.

So today as you see the nations in turmoil do not be dismayed and hopeless. God is still in charge. Oh, we may not be able to see what he is doing from our infinitely limited perspective. But we have the testimony of Scripture that lets us know his work throughout all of history. We can be sure that he is carrying out his plan. And ultimately in the outworking of his plan, as he says over and over in these two chapters, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

Prayer: Father, today I am so thankful for your sovereignty. I don’t see the end from the beginning as you do. My view is so limited. So I thank you for your Word that gives me the long view both backward and forward. I can rest in your holy sovereignty and trust that you will bring about your purpose and will in all things — even my one little life.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

God, make me stop...really?

READ Ezekiel 15-16

Be careful what you pray for. Have you, like me, ever prayed about a particular struggle with sin in your life and asked God to do whatever it takes to make you stop? Seems like a transparent and vulnerable prayer of deep honesty, doesn’t it. But I wonder if we really want to pray that way.

In our passage today Chapter 16 is one of the longest and most explicit chapters of the prophecy as it details God’s dealing with Judah like a faithless bride who has committed spiritual adultery through her sins. His kind husband like love turns to horrendous judgment. And in the midst of it God says, “And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more.” (16:41) God’s way of making them stop their sin was a devastating consequence in their life.

Now I’m not necessarily suggesting that’s the way God deals with us all the time. But I wonder, if we thought it was, would we still pray that same prayer? Wouldn’t it be better for us to simply be obedient to the Lord and by his grace and power stop the sin ourselves. We can do it, you know. We can do all things through the One who strengthens us.

Prayer: Father, help us to walk in obedience before you. Help us to hear your Word and do what it says. Help us not to need your rod of correction. Thank you that your Spirit is present in us to enable us to live obediently before you. Help us to do it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Before It's Too Late

READ Ezekiel 7-8

I am reminded of the potentially sad implications of one of the most uplifting passages in all of Scripture. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) In these verses we know that every knee will bow and every tongue confess in the last day. Even those who have not believed in Christ as Lord and Savior. For those who have believed it will be a confession of eternal salvation. For those who have not believed it will be a confession leading to eternal damnation.

In Ezekiel 7-8 God pronounces the utter evils of the disobedient Jews and the horrors of their desecration of the Temple with idols and sun worship and other cults. God emphatically states that he will send his wrath: “Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.” (8:18) But notice, he will do this even if the people suddenly “cry…with a loud voice” to him. He “will not hear them.” In other words, it will be too late.

That’s what reminds me of Philippians 2:9-11. For those, in the last day, who have refused to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, even though they cry out with confession of the lordship of Christ, it will be too late. God will not hear them. Their doom will be sealed.

This is another of many reasons that should spur us into action to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. We should have pity on them and long to see them come to know the same love and forgiveness that we have experienced. The great missionary C. T. Studd said: “Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.” Will we join him?

Prayer: Father, there are so many, many people who do not know you. Forgive us for our complacency and lack of action. Help us to be witnesses of your grace and glory. Give us the courage and the will to go and tell.