Read: Daniel 4:1-37, 2 Peter 1:1-21, Psalm 119:97-112, Proverbs 28:17-18
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.
(2 Peter 1:3)
Read: Daniel 4:1-37, 2 Peter 1:1-21, Psalm 119:97-112, Proverbs 28:17-18
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.
(2 Peter 1:3)
During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. (Daniel 2:44)
Relate:Have you ever been to Italy? Have you ever been to Rome? I haven’t. I have a bucket list of cities I would love to see before I die. Right up near the top of that list is Rome. There is so much art, there are so many beautiful buildings, there is so much history, and beyond history, even today it the city still plays a major role in modern culture. Standing at the apex of all this architecture, history, and culture is St Peter’s Basilica. Culturally, it rivals the White House and the Dome on the Rock as the most significant building in our world today. Historically, no Parthenon or Kremlin can come close. Only the Temple in Jerusalem holds more world significance. Architecturally, it is the most significant thing in the skyline of a city holding the world’s greatest collection of beautiful buildings.
All this beauty was built on the backs of the poor. It was at a council in 517 that the idea first came into being that the church could sell the forgiveness of sins. For a thousand years this idea steadily grew and gained traction. More and more this concept grew and was abused while many of those beautiful buildings were built from the coin given by those duped. It was in collecting money for St Peter’s Basilica that this collection practice, using the name of God to build a kingdom on earth reached its all time low. In 1517, an obscure monk nailed a statement on the door to a church saying enough is enough. God’s Kingdom is not a kingdom of gold, silver, bronze, iron or stone. It is an eternal kingdom greater than these, that stands against, and victorious over the kingdoms of this world.
React: Martin Luther, and his namesake, Martin Luther King Jr, both stood over and against the predominant culture of their day. They both saw the injustice around them and railed against it. They both said with a loud voice to the systems of this world, “This is not my kingdom. ” Almost a century before that luxurious Basilica was completed, Martin Luther wrote “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”. King Jr sang out “We Shall Overcome” in defiance of a kingdom of power and oppression that turned neighbors into enemies and brutalized the oppressed and the weak. They both recognized a truth that I am so thankful for. There was a greater mountain to stand on.
Like Daniel and the Martins, we have a choice today. The kingdoms of gold, silver, bronze, iron and stone still seduce. The kingdoms of luxury (gold and silver), and power (iron and stone) are still around and still try to steal our loyalty. What am I standing on? In what am I placing my hope for change? For what am I investing my time and my efforts? Can I say to this world like these great men of the past, “This is not my kingdom”? Am I praying and believing for God’s Kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven? Or have I been seduced?
God, thank You for providing a better kingdom in which I can stand. Help me to live for this greater cause. I want to see Your will done in and through my life. Help me not to be seduced by the luxury and power of the kingdoms of this world. Help me not to put my hope or even my time and efforts into them. Help me to stand on the mountain rather than be crushed under it. Let Your Name be hallowed in my life. Let Your will be done in my life. Let Your kingdom come in my life, and on earth, as it is in heaven.
Read: Daniel 1:1-2:23, 1 Peter 3:8-4:6, Psalm 119:65-80, Proverbs 28:14
Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power… I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength.
(Daniel 2:20, 23)
Relate: In his message yesterday, Pastor Will talked about how he had been sick most of this past week. I know it, I saw him Friday night and he looked like death warmed over. I rode home from church with another guy who was fighting a cough. We stopped for lunch at Price Chopper where he was also planning to pick up some Sudafed for his wife. Before going there we dropped off at her apartment another young lady whose husband wasn’t at church today. He stayed home because he was too sick to crawl out of bed.
My brother was in the hospital up in Syracuse all of last week and much of the week before. I didn’t get to go up to visit him as much as I would have liked because I have been sick off and on myself and I didn’t want to pass anything on to him. He’s got enough trouble of his own. My mother was bouncing every day between visiting him and visiting her mother who is in another hospital recovering from a fall.
React: These past two weeks have been a very poignant reminder of how weak and fragile our bodies are. It would be very easy for me to be like, “I’ll be grateful for my health when I am a bit healthier.” It’s not so easy to say it when you’re on your knees, before the throne, puking into it, flush and repeat.
That’s why I love what jumped out at me as I was reading from Daniel. First off, all wisdom and power are God’s. He holds it all. Secondly, He has given it to us. Any wisdom I might have doesn’t come from my IQ. It has nothing to do with my intelligence and very little to do with how much I study. It is a gift from God. Any strength I have is not a result of my physical health. It doesn’t come from pumping iron, eating right, or not smoking. Those things are good, but my strength is found only when I am found in Him.
So am we as healthy as a horse? Let’s thank God because it is a gift from Him. Is that nose running and the cough acting up? Let’s thank God because He has designed in us an incredible immune system and it is actively on the case. Did the doctor give a prognosis that means the time we have left on earth is going to be measured in days and weeks, not months, years, or decades? Let us thank God for soon we will be shedding this mortal coil. Then, ever and always, we will be found in Him.
God, more than anything else, I am grateful that You allow me to be found in You. You have opened a way, You have provided access, and now I am Yours. This body will have it’s ups and downs. My mind might forget, or simply not be adequate to a task. But that is OK. I am so grateful that don’t have to rely on my own wisdom and strength. You have more than enough for me. Thank You for this gift.
Read: Ezekiel 44:1-45:12. 1 Peter 1:1-12, Psalm 119:17-32, Proverbs 28:8-10
You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)
Relate: “You’re right. You aren’t just some prize to be one. You should be free to make your own choice.” That is Aladdin’s response when Jasmine tells, “Just go jump off a balcony.” After responding with that he does, literally, jump off a balcony. That is when Jasmine first sees the potential for something miraculous. He doesn’t just jump off, the magic carpet catches him. After reappearing just above the balcony Aladdin offers her a ride. When she shows a bit of hesitation he holds out his hand and asks, “Do you trust me?”
At that moment Jasmine has a choice. She has seen what the magic carpet has done for Aladdin. She has been offered to be shown a different perspective. But it is much safer to keep her feet planted in this world. The offer is there. The hand is outstretched. The question has been asked, “Do you trust me?” It is up to her to respond or reject.
React: Jasmine cannot fly through the city on her own. She has nothing in her, that can give her this ability. She also has no merit of her own to step up on that carpet. It is Aladdin who extends the invitation. It is he, who holds the cards. All she can do is accept or reject the offer.
That is what salvation is for us. We don’t have the ability to raise ourselves from the dead. We don’t have any innate potential in ourselves to live forever. We can’t even earn or wheedle or trick God into letting us on board. It is He who flies above this earth. It is He who offers to us the ride of our lives. He holds all the cards.
But Aladdin was right. We aren’t just a prize to be one. We are free to make our own choice. There are those who will try and claim that eventually everyone will get to heaven. There is this ridiculous notion that all of us are glory bound. That heresy is demeaning. If it were true then, in reality, none of us have free will. Those who have chosen to reject God… too bad. Guess what? You’re getting Him anyways. Your choices don’t count. Oh, and God, speaking through Peter, must have been a liar. Because the reward for trusting Him must not really be the salvation of our souls if even those who chose not to do so end up getting the same ticket. If Jasmine said no but Aladdin snatched her up and said, “too bad, you’re riding anyways” he would be an evil man. If God said, “too bad” to those who have rejected Him, He would be guilty of the same. His hand is out, the question has been asked, “Do you trust Me?” It is not our choice how we respond.
God, I trust You. Though my doubts and my fears want to keep me grounded in this world, I know You have so much more for me. There is so much more You have for me then this mundane life I have been living. Nothing else can offer me anything close to what You have to offer. Let me take Your hand and step up. I chose You. I trust You.
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
Relate: The word “hidden” in Hebrew is tsaphan. It can mean to conceal, as in something too valuable for common use (Job 10:13), to treasure something of great worth (Proverbs 10:14), or to store up, to build up something over time like grain in a silo (Hosea 13:12). All three types of definition fit well here. The Bible is far too precious to be used as a beating stick. Using my knowledge of the Bible to belittle or degrade others is a sin. Bible bashing only drives others from the God I claim to serve. The Bible is also something of great worth. It is a love letter from my fiance’. It is my marching orders from the Supreme Commander. It is an instruction manual for how I can put my life back together. It is the promise of a better future. The Bible is also something whose constant use builds over time. It is my daily bread being stored away against times of hunger. It is a solid foundation I can build upon day by day, brick by brick.
React: The Bible is not a closet that I can throw something in and forget about it for the rest of time. I’ve got a book shelf next to me with a good 100 books on it or so. With the exception of a few reference and new purchase books, I’ve read all of them. Hipster Christianity was just recently, I could tell you all about it. Go The Distance I stole from my dad, its been over 15 years at least and I could only vaguely tell you what it is about. Back in my Sunday School days, and when I was at a Christian School, I had to regularly memorize scripture. Without reinforcement, I couldn’t quote them today. As a quizzer, I memorized books of the Bible, but that was over a decade ago. The question isn’t how much of the Bible I have read? The question is, what have I been reading from it recently. The question isn’t, what did I memorize as a child? The question is what have I been memorizing recently? A chapter read a year ago, a verse read at 8 years old will do me no good when faced with temptation today.
God, help me to conceal your word in my heart. Help me not to use it to abuse Your loved ones. Help me to use it as a weapon against Your enemies, not my antagonists. Help me also to treasure Your Word. Help it to be something I love and long to come back to again and again, not a chore that I have to tick off my daily checklist. Most of all help me to store up Your Word. Help me not to rest on past accomplishments but to daily, regularly, store it up inside of me. Give me this day, my daily bread.
Read: Ezekiel 40:28-41:26, James 4:1-17, Psalm 118:19-29, Proverbs 28:3-5
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Relate: Eli Sunday is a great preacher, but not a good pastor. He can stir up the crowd. He is very charismatic. He is good with people. But he also is proud. His primary concern is for his own aggrandizement and to have a bigger and better church. Humility is something that does not appear on his radar.
Daniel Plainview is a cutthroat businessman. He is an oilman whose desire is to get richer. He will step on whoever he needs to in his climb up the ladder of success. Daniel wants some of Eli’s land. Eli wants to sell it to help finance his growing church. The problem is that these two men, both alpha dogs, have been squaring off for as long as anyone can remember. The town isn’t big enough for both their egos. Eli finally approaches Daniel with an offer to sell. Daniel agrees on one condition. He want’s to hear nine words first. Temptation is staring Eli straight in the face.
React: When faced with temptation, Eli failed. The fact is, he never had a chance. Ultimately he was forced to submit, because he was not submitted to God. Ultimately he was brought to his knees, because he was not living on them. The worst part about it, it was all for nothing. He sacrificed what little integrity he had left for an empty promise. He sold his soul only to find out it had already been stolen from him.
When we are not submitted to God, we find ourselves in the same boat. We might think we have integrity, or holiness, but we have neither. Both are gifts from God and if we are not submitted, humbled before Him, then all we have are empty promises. Legalism. We may think we are resisting the devil but he ain’t runnin. The devil is stronger than us and will always win in a one-on-one fight. But we have a big brother who has been lifting the weights of the world. We have a daddy who owns this town (and then some). We have a Spirit that cannot be quenched. The devil sees them in us and guess what… he’s gonna run.
Dear God, keep me humble. Help me not to strive for myself but to always live for You. Help me to resist, but first help me to surrender.
So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. (James 2:24)
Relate: “That’s not who I am. You just don’t see the real me.” Ever hear that line? What about, “That’s not what I meant to do. I know I messed it up, but I had the right intentions.” Then there’s the ever popular, “You just don’t understand.” This can be followed up with an explanation of their past, their emotions, their circumstances… whatever.
Everybody has an excuse to rationalize their actions. Everybody tends to minimize the things they’ve done wrong. We explain it away. We give ourselves, and appeal to others for the benefit of doubt. Our justice system calls for us to convict only when we are beyond reasonable doubt. The problem is, we often seem to presume that any shred or sliver of doubt should be considered reasonable. That is, we presume that when applied to ourselves. When it comes to others, we are quite often more than willing to convict.
React: There are two myths that float around the church world of a similar vein: ”God is more concerned with who you are than what you do.” And, “God is more concerned with my heart than my actions.” I call them myths because there is a truth to them that is seen beyond reality. The problem is, we often try to apply them at face value. This is dangerous.
These two statements are a knee jerk reaction against legalism. It is true that God’s righteousness is something that works in us from the inside out. It is true that God can declare us righteous even when we are living far from that reality. It is true that works will never equal righteousness. But it is also true that who I am is determined (or demonstrated) by what I do. It doesn’t matter so much who “the real me” is. What really matters is who that “real me” belongs to.
God looks at my heart. Nobody else does. Nobody else has x-ray vision. Nobody else can know my thoughts. Nobody else understands my motivations. The only way God’s holiness can be seen through me is by what I do. The only way His love can be made manifest is by my actions. God knows whether or not I am righteous. He knows that He has made holy. The only way anyone else (including me) can know, is by how I live my life. So what am I doing to show His righteousness? Is my faith backed up by my actions?
God, I fall so short. I know how I am supposed to live but I never even seem to come close. Help me to be righteous. Help me to be holy. It can only come through Your grace, but let it come. I can never do right on my own. Help me to show this world that I am not on my own. Let the world see You, lived through me.