December 1 “The party’s over: handwriting on the wall” + LINKUP

handwriting on the wallHandwriting on the wall: Can you imagine the scene at the company Christmas party if a disjointed man’s hand suddenly appeared and began to write on the wall? That was the scene at Belshazzar’s bash! God was letting him know “the party was over”!

Today’s Readings:
Daniel 5 & 6
Psalm 136.10-26
Proverbs 29.12-13
2 Peter 2.1-22

 

Daniel 5 & 6:

The handwriting on the wall: the party’s over!

Every chapter of Daniel is packed with excitement greater than any action movie. Can you imagine the scene at your company Christmas party if a disjointed man’s hand suddenly appeared and began to write on the wall? That was the scene at Belshazzar’s bash!

Belshazzar had thrown a huge party for his lords, wives, and concubines? (Ladies, how would you like it if your husband brought a few of his mistresses to his next party?)

Besides the drunkenness and immorality, he had the arrogance to bring out the temple instruments and drink from them. God used this party with all these people present to let Belshazzar know that the party was over!

He thought he was safe inside his castle and his city walls and was free to live any way he pleased. History tells us that very night his kingdom fell to the Medes and Persians and Belshazzar was killed.

Sadly, that is much like it will be when Jesus comes back. People will be eating and drinking and living life as they please.

And it is already happening on an individual level every day just like the parable Jesus told in Luke 12:

16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying. “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this. I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Riches can be a huge trap which keeps people from seeking God, and causes them to think they can handle anything. Like Belshazzar it can lead them to believe they are protected from the consequences of their actions. So can man-centered education that causes us to think we are smarter and more enlightened than others.

Today our society has taken it a step further. In our arrogance we have begun to demand protection from consequences for every kind of sinful behavior. We demand our right to live any way we choose as if making something legal or intimidating people into silence will somehow protect us from the judgment of a Holy God.

But just as it was in Belshazzar’s life, the hand writing is on the wall. Romans 6.23 says, “The wages of sin is death …” But for those who repent and turn to God, “… the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” Continue reading

November 30 “Is the Bible enough in a complex world?”

is the bible enoughIs the Bible enough to help us live life in our complex world? What does it mean when we say God’s Word is inerrant and sufficient?

Today’s Readings:
Daniel 3 & 4
Psalm 136.1-9
Proverbs 29.11
2 Peter 1.1-21

 

Daniel 3 & 4:

God in the fire

These two chapters contain two of the most incredible stories of God’s power and sovereignty! First we see the “three Hebrew children,” as they are sometimes called, thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to the golden image.

Doing so would have amounted to worshipping King Nebuchadnezzar. When they were not even scorched by the fire that had killed their executioners, Nebuchadnezzar was forced to acknowledge God’s intervention.

The kingdom departs

But even more awesome to me is the story in chapter 4. It is such a picture of God’s total and complete sovereign control of His universe and everything in it, including power and politics. God doesn’t just see into the future and reveal what He sees. God plans and purposes what He desires according to His will, His wisdom, and His good pleasure. He sometimes declares in advance what is to happen, but He is always working to bring about His desired result.

In chapter 4, God who knew Nebuchadnezzar’s heart warned him in a dream that all he had would soon be taken from him. A year later, forgetting that warning, he pridefully declared, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”

“… that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” Oh, really? (emphasis added)

Verse 31, “While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven. ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!’” Continue reading

November 29 “Are you struggling to trust God?”

worry anxiety questioning trusting GodIs there some area of life where you are struggling to trust God? Do you find yourself impatient because God has failed to answer your prayer or change your circumstances? What should your heart attitude be in this season?

 

Today’s Readings:
Daniel 1 & 2
Psalm 135.15-21
Proverbs 29.10
1 Peter 5.1-14

We’ve finished another O.T. book (Ezekiel) and will finish 1 Peter today. We’re closing in on the end of the year! What has God shown you as you’re read through the Word? I’d love to get your input.

 

Daniel 1 & 2:

God uses all things for good

Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel, so this book backs up to the beginning of the Babylonian conquest when Daniel was kidnapped and taken to Babylon along with other intelligent, handsome young men. They were to be brain-washed through education and exposure to rich-living so they would be useful to the leadership in Babylon, possibly to help with the other Jews who would later be brought to Babylon in larger numbers.

Because of his character, he would instead be used by God in a great way to influence two pagan kingdoms. What a great example of God using “all things,” even an unsaved king and unfair, undeserved circumstances, for good (Rom. 8.28).

In chapter 2 God revealed to him Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and gave him the interpretation. Just as He did with Joseph, God was setting the stage to use Daniel’s personal circumstances to alter the course of history. And in it all, Daniel gave glory to God (vv. 28-30).

But what about your life and your difficulties? Has someone sinned against you in grievous ways? If you are a believer, God’s promises are true for you, too! He has not allowed anything in your life that He cannot use for your good and His glory. Others may have meant it for evil, but God means it for good (Gen. 50.20).

Continue reading

November 28 “The fullness of Scripture … wade in!”

beach walking wadingThe river flowing out of the Millennial Temple represents the fullness of Scripture. Some is ankle deep, some is knee deep and some is deeper still.

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 47 & 48
Psalm 135.8-14
Proverbs 29.9
1 Peter 4.1-19

Ezekiel 47 & 48:

The fullness of Scripture

These two chapters close out the book of Ezekiel. Chapter 47 describes a river flowing out of the temple. Symbolically the Temple is Christ and the river is the Gospel. The Living Water flows from Him and blesses everything it touches.

In the deepness of the water we see fullness of Scripture. Some things are “ankle deep”—easy to understand. Others are knee deep and require more study. Others are deeper still and we may not be able to understand them fully.

2 Peter 3:

14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

Even so, though we won’t understand everything about God in this life, it’s all the more reason to worship Him as God!

Continue reading

November 27 “Responding to an unreasonable spouse”

arguing argumentHow are we to respond to mistreatment, harshness or a lack of loving behavior, especially from a spouse?

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 45 & 46
Psalm 135.1-7
Proverbs 29.8
1 Peter 3.1-22

 

Ezekiel 45 & 46:

The Millennial Temple

As we are nearing the end of this book, the prophet lays out the plans for the Millennial Temple. Be sure to read John MacArthur’s notes about the presence of sin during the Millennium.

 

Psalm 135.1-7:

All for our good & His glory

Verse 6, “Whatever the Lord pleases He does …”

Our God is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), everywhere-present (omnipresent), and in control of everything! Just to name a few of His characteristics!

He alone is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. And everything He has allowed in our lives He has allowed for our good and His glory! Nothing happens by accident. He will use difficult circumstances, trials, even the sins of others for good if we will keep our eyes on Him and respond in a God-honoring way. No person, thing, or circumstance can make you or me sin (1 Cor. 10.13). Instead, we can call on God to enable us to respond in a way that leads to peace and brings Him glory (Rom. 12.17-21). Continue reading

November 26 “What do you crave?”

What do you crave? Is it the pure milk of the Word?

What do you crave? Is it the pure milk of the Word?

If you were to honestly answer that question, what would you say? Is it Christ and His Word or … something else?

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 43 & 44
Psalm 134.1-3
Proverbs 29.7
1 Peter 2.1-25

 

Ezekiel 43 & 44:

Our sin & His mercy

Chapter 4.1-5, Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. 2 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. 3 It was like the appearance of the vision which I saw—like the vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city. The visions were like the vision which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face. 4 And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east. 5 The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

Matthew Henry had this to say about this chapter, “After Ezekiel had surveyed the temple of God, he had a vision of the glory of God and it caused him to fall on his face. When Christ crucified, and the things freely given to us by God, through Him, are shown to us by the Holy Ghost, they make us ashamed for our sins. This frame of mind prepares us for fuller discoveries of the mysteries of redeeming love …”

Genuine conversion causes us to see our sin for what it really is—an offense against a Holy God. Only then can we fully understand the love and grace and mercy of God. When we see ourselves in comparison to Him and His holiness and seek to please Him through His empowering grace, He will take us yet deeper into His truths. Continue reading

November 25 “Faithful with the basics of the Christian faith”

Cross pictureHave you been faithful to learn the basics of the Christian faith? And are you faithful to obey those truths? Growing involves both coming to know God and His Word better and obeying what we do know.

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 41 & 42
Psalm 133.1-3
Proverbs 29.6
1 Peter 1.1-25

 

Ezekiel 41 & 42:

Faithful with the basics

Matthew Henry in his Complete Commentary on the Bible, says about chapter 41, “After the prophet had observed the courts, he was brought to the temple. If we attend to instructions in the plainer parts of religion, and profit by them, we shall be led further into an acquaintance with the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

My paraphrase—if we are faithful to learn the basics of the Christian faith, God will take us deeper into the wonders of His Word.

Many of you read through the Bible for the second or third time (some of you many more times) this year. Did you find that you saw things you didn’t see before? Every time I read God’s Word I see new and exciting truths.

But notice that second sentence in Henry’s comment, “If we attend to instruction … and profit by them …” If we are not applying what we already know, it is unlikely we will grow and understand more!

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5.12-14).

 

I want that solid food and more of it, how about you?

Continue reading

November 24 “When sickness invades your life” + LINKUP

sick woman with tissue on whiteHow do you respond when physical sickness invades your life? Is your first thought to cry out to God or is your first thought fear, worry, anxiety, or concerns about worldly answers? Do you remember to trust God even in the midst of medical treatment?

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 39 & 40
Psalm 132.10-18
Proverbs 29.5
James 5.1-20

 

Ezekiel 39 & 40:

Our exact God

As I read chapter 40 with all the measurements, the numbers of steps, the beveled windows, etc., I couldn’t help but remember that our God is a God of precision and order. He is fulfilling every word He has spoken and keeping every promise and He is doing so exactly as He intends!

 

Psalm 132.10-18:

The real meaning of Thanksgiving

He will clothe His priests with salvation … and His saints will shout for joy! That’s us! What a great and awesome God we serve and what a great salvation He has provided. We should be thankful for all He has done. That is the real meaning of Thanksgiving. From the beginning it was always about Him. We tend to forget that in our secular society. Continue reading

November 23 “Dry bones & the devil’s bait”

Skeleton dry bonesOnly God can bring life where there were once dry bones. He not only restores our sinful lives when we repent and turn to Him, but when we belong to Him, He helps us recognize the enemy’s plan to lure us back into sin. Satan is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, but he has had a few thousand years to figure out what kind of bait we will bite! God’s Word helps us see it for what it is!

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 37 & 38
Psalm 132.1-9
Proverbs 29.4
James 4.1-17

 

Ezekiel 37 & 38:

Dry bones & God’s sovereign care

In chapter 37 Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. God tells him He is going to bring the dry bones back together, cover them with flesh, and breathe His Spirit into them.

The dry bones represent the Israelites who had been dispersed among other nations and whom He promised to restore to their land and give His Holy Spirit.

I can’t read this passage without humming the old song “Dry Bones” that many of us sang as children. As I was looking for a YouTube version, I came across this powerful video illustration of Ezekiel’s prophesy.

 

God also brings resurrection life to our sinful, dry lives. He redeems our pasts, restores where death and devastation has occurred, and breathes life into marriages and relationships that have fallen into disillusion or disinterest.

In chapter 38, God begins to speak to Gog and Magog, a powerful nation and its ruler, who would come against the Jews with great numbers of people after they had been restored to their land. According to Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible this probably took place sometime shortly after their return from captivity.

Even though God was assuring His people that they would be restored, He didn’t want them to believe they could expect complete rest from trials and tribulations in this life. Jesus told His disciples much the same thing:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Matt. 16.33).

While Ezekiel 38 had a near future fulfillment, it also speaks of a time that is still to come. Revelation 20:

7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

After the millennial reign of Christ, Satan will be loosed briefly once more, so that those people who were born during that time will have a chance to either accept or reject Christ. Afterwards when he attempts to come against God’s people, he and his followers will be destroyed and cast into the lake of fire.

We should take great comfort in this portion of Scripture in Ezekiel 38 about God’s sovereign care. Although, God may use our enemies to test and strengthen us, we can be sure He will give us the grace we need, either to deliver us from the danger or see us through it.

 

prayerPsalm 132.1-9:

Pray for our pastors

Verse 9 begins, “Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness.”

What a great prayer to pray for our pastors and Christian leaders, that God would protect them and give them His righteousness. Continue reading

November 22 “Your words: blessing or cursing?”

scoldingIf someone had to describe what comes out of your mouth in one word, would it be blessing or cursing?

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 35 & 36
Psalm 131.1-3
Proverbs 29.2-3
James 3.1-18

 

Ezekiel 35 & 36:

A picture of the New Covenant

Chapter 36.24-27 is a beautiful picture of the new covenant:

24 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

This will be fulfilled for the Nation of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom, but we already enjoy much of these same blessings with the new birth and its new covenant.

 

Psalm 131.1-3:

Grace for the humble

Verse 1, “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.”

Humility is one of the characteristics that should characterize a believer. God says He resists the proud (Jas. 4.6) and that a proud look is one of the things He hates (Prov. 6.16-17), but He gives grace to the humble (Jas. 4.6).

Let’s pray that we would recognize pride in our lives and learn to humble ourselves under His mighty hand. Continue reading