The Writing on the Wall

Today’s reading is Daniel 5. There is a new king on the throne – Belshazzar. 66 years have passed since Daniel chapter 1 when Nebuchadnezzar was king. Thankfully, he was able to humble himself before God as an example to those that would follow him. Unfortunately, Belshazzar forgot about the one true God. In Daniel 5 he had a party for 1000 of his nobles and they were eating and drinking together. Belshazzar ordered that the gold and silver cups taken by Nebuchadnezzar from the holy temple in Jerusalem be brought out for them to use. These were sacred cups that did not belong to them. They used the cups filled with wine to “toast” their idols made of gold, iron, silver, bronze, wood, and stone. Had they forgotten after so many years what happened to Nebuchadnezzar when he denied God? How he became like an animal until he humbled himself? God got everyone’s attention at the party by literally  writing a message on the wall where everyone could see. Can you imagine, in the midst of your party and all the enjoyment a hand appears and writes a cryptic message on the wall. I think he may have lost a few party guests after this episode. Belshazzar had no idea what the message meant and he was very afraid. He summoned anyone to help and offered a reward of purple robes, gold chains, and the third highest rank in the kingdom to anyone who could interpret the message. Daniel was summoned to help as his reputation for wisdom and solving “riddles”made him the best candidate for the job.

Daniel had to share the very difficult news that the writing on the wall was not in Belshazzar’s favor. It predicted his death and the destruction of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians.

Belshazzar dressed Daniel in robes of purple and gold necklaces and made him third highest in the kingdom. In spite of the bad news.

Daniel 5:30 “That very night Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was killed. And Darius the Mede became king.”

Daniel was not afraid to tell the truth.  Even when the truth was difficult to tell. We know Daniel spent time with God. The truth is easier to see and to tell when we spend time with the creator of all truth.

Where am I not telling the truth for fear the truth might be too difficult to tell? Am I spending time with God so I’m able to recognize the truth and speak it in love? Am I known for my truth telling?

What am I taking from God that is sacred and using for my own pleasure? (Like the gold and silver cups taken from the temple).  The Sabbath? Church? My gifts and talents?

Daniel 5:23 “For you have defied the Lord of heaven and have had these cups from his temple brought before you.  You and your nobles and your wives and concubines have been drinking wine from them while praising gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone – gods that neither see nor hear nor know anything at all.  But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny!”

May we ‘honor the God who gives us the breath of life and controls our destiny!’

Shelly

 

Asaph

Today’s reading is Psalm 73-77 .

Do you ever sit down to pray but lack words? Has there been a time when you wanted to praise God for all He has done but somehow fall short in forming the right thing to say? The book of Psalms is 150 chapters of poetry for the expression of praise, worship and confession to God. It is full of honest struggle, sin, and confusion that turns into beautiful praise and the reminder of who God is and all He has done for us. Today’s reading is focused on chapters 73-77. Asaph, a leader of one of David’s Levitical choirs, has been accredited with writing Psalms 73-89. This third section of Psalms parallels the third book of the Pentateuch – Leviticus.

In these chapters we get to know Asaph and his struggles. In chapter 73 he is struggling with the feeling that the wicked are prospering all around him while he is being so “good” and not having the same kind of outward success. Sound familiar? In the first 16 verses he is complaining to God, asking how this could happen. He struggling to find the answers on his own. Finally in verse 17 he took some action and gained new perspective.

Then one day I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I thought about the destiny of the wicked.”

He stopped complaining and questioning and went to God. In his “sanctuary” he was reminded of God’s promises. As he worked through his questions he realized that their reward is temporary and his reward will be eternal. The reward is not on this Earth. He goes on to praise God for not turning away from him in the midst of his questioning and still belonging to him. When we recognize this in our own lives our perspective changes drastically in how we work, spend our money, spend our time. Do we have an eternal perspective or is it only success in the here and now? Are we mad and envious of other people’s success in comparison to our own? Thankfully, God allows us the opportunity to question and even complain a little. He is waiting to provide the answer but we may have to take a step towards his “sanctuary” and out of our heads to get it.

Psalm 73:21-28 “Then I realized how bitter I had become, how pained I had been by all I had seen. I was so foolish and ignorant. I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Who have I in heaven but you? I desire you. More than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. But those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”

Then in Psalm 77 we hear Asaph again in turmoil. He is in deep distress and holds nothing back in telling God all about it in verses 1-10. He is crying out to God. He feels rejected, overwhelmed, and lost. And then his thoughts turn around again in verses 11-20 and he starts acknowledging all God has done in the past and all the ways He has proven himself faithful. Reminding ourselves of Gods provision in the past is a great way of dissolving our current state of discontent.  He changed his focus from his present situation to worshipping God for all he has done and it changed him.

Even though I did not write the words in these Psalms I am amazed and how they resonate with me. I feel like I could have written them for my present situations. And I am thankful they are here to remind me that it is ok to question and struggle but also to teach me to worship in the midst of my struggle and to remember all that God has done.

Jehoshaphat

Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 17-20

These 4 chapters are quite the read!  Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, became king of Judah. He was a great leader who followed God, but he still made mistakes that cost him greatly. He seemed to be very strong in his convictions, but when it came to choosing alliances he did not make wise choices. He chose to join forces with King Ahab (who did not follow the Lord) by allowing their children to marry. This brought Jehoshaphat into an alliance that almost cost him his life in the midst of battle.  King Ahab “enticed” Jehoshaphat in joining him in an attack against Ramoth-Gilead.  Jehoshaphat eagerly agreed, but then took a step back and said, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says”(18:4). King Ahab appeased him and brought in 400 of his prophets who agreed 100% with the attack and assured them there would be victory. Jehoshaphat was not convinced so he requested that a prophet of the Lord come forward. Instead of 400, there was only one. The prophet of the Lord, Michaiah, prophesied that King Ahab would NOT be victorious like the other 400 prophets had said.  So what did they do? They attacked Ramoth-Gilead anyway! What happened? King Ahab died and Jehoshaphat was spared after his urgent prayer to God to save him. 2 Chronicles 18:31 “But Jehoshaphat cried out to the Lord to save him, and God helped him by turning the attack away from him”.

I am struck by the decision to follow the advice of 400 prophets that belonged to a king who did not follow God. These were most likely false prophets who told the king what he wanted to hear instead of the truth. 400 voices are definitely louder than 1, and easier to listen to when they are telling us to do the very thing we want to do anyway. Jehoshaphat was right in asking for a prophet of the Lord, but for some reason he couldn’t stand up and follow his advice when it disagreed with everyone else. Was it because he didn’t want to let his buddy King Ahab down? Was he caught up in the moment of excitement for battle? Was it too hard to turn back and say no? There are a lot of voices in our world today. Like Jehoshaphat, I’m guilty of following the crowd in spite of my convictions. There have been times I have caved and done things that I knew were not in God’s plan for my life. The good news is that God heard Jehoshaphat’s cry for help in the midst of his sin. He made a poor choice and found himself on the brink of disaster, but he “cried out to the Lord to save him” and he did.

What voices are you listening to in the midst of all the decisions of life? The agreeable 400, or the challenging 1? Have you followed the 400 into a disaster? It’s never to late to cry out for help.

Shelly

 

 

Abigail

 

Today’s reading is from 1 Samuel 25.

If someone was describing you to someone else what words would they use? I hope that most of the descriptors would be positive but there is alway the risk that there would be some negative comments too. In this chapter of 1 Samuel we hear some good descriptions of Nabal and Abigail.  We get to know their character quickly in just a few words.

1 Samuel 25:3 This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife,  Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. But Nabal, a descendant of Caleb, was mean and dishonest in all this dealings. 

We do not know the details of Nabal and Abigails relationship but we do know that he was very wealthy and was called a fool. Whether their marriage was one of choice or politics we do not know but we can surmise that they were probably not cuddling by the fire at night whispering sweet nothings into each others ears. Abigail probably learned very early on how to deal with him in order to keep the peace. For this, her servants trusted her.

In this Chapter David is traveling and he comes upon Nabal, his men, and his sheep. In an effort to provide for his own men he requests provisions from Nabal after reminding him how he protected his sheep and all his men in the past. Instead of acknowledging Davids kindness, Nabal “hurls insults at him” and refuses to give him anything. This sends David into full testosterone mode and he starts strapping on swords to destroy Nabal and all his men. Thankfully, before a full attack takes place, one of Nabal’s servants goes to Abigail for help. She springs into action and takes provision to David on the trail and falls at his feet in order to protect her household and her husband. She is loyal in spite of her husbands poor behavior. She doesn’t make excuses for him, but she takes responsibility and asks that David not take vengeance on her household. She even acknowledges the Lord and his plans for David.  She uses this to convince him not to proceed with fighting. She has brought peace and wisdom to the table and David accepts it. No one else was offering this. He is thankful that she talked him off the ledge and he blesses her for it.  Without her intervention, David would have brutally attacked Nabal and had needless blood shed on his hands.  She was courageous and bold in her decision to step in the gap. Once she returns home she wisely chooses to allow her husband to sober up before filling him in on the details of the previous day. Upon learning all that had happened God struck Nabal with a stroke like illness and he died 10 days later.

And David and Abigail got married and lived happily ever after….

Nabal was mean and dishonest in all his dealings which lead to stress and untimely death. Abigail was sensible and peacemaking and God took care of her.

If someone was describing you to someone else what words would they use?

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Shelly

 

CALEB

Today’s reading is Joshua 14:6-15:19

My youngest is starting a new school this year. 5th grade. We have been praying about this for years and it finally happened. God said yes. The door has been opened to a new opportunity. School starts on Friday. Our supplies are purchased, registration fees paid, spirit wear ordered. Its a done deal, no turning back now. As I was preparing for this post my boy sat down next to me on the couch and quietly said, “I wish I was going to my old school”. I set my Bible aside and said, “I know, I’ve had the same feelings”. We sat in silence for a few minutes letting those honest words settle and I silently prayed for the right words. What do I say to my worried 10 year old about change and hard things and fear?  Especially when I’m thinking the same thing.

I got to tell him the story of Caleb.  He was a man who “whole heartedly followed the Lord”. Back in the day of Moses, Caleb and Joshua along with 10 other spies were sent to check out the land of Canaan (The promised land). Caleb and Joshua were the only 2 out of 12 that came back giving a good report on the land and trusted that God would allow them to conquer it. (Kind of like having a good attitude about going to a new school).  Everyone else became afraid and confused and wanted to go back to Egypt (or their old school) because they stopped trusting God would take care of them.  Because Caleb “whole heartedly followed the Lord”, God promised him the land of Canaan (or his new school) as his special possession for himself and his descendants. He was promised this land in Numbers 14. Then, 45 years later, the promise is fulfilled in Joshua 14:10-12. 45 years!!! He waited patiently for God to fulfill his promise of allowing him to see the promised land and he claimed the promise. I’m sure the 45 years of waiting weren’t easy but he continued to “whole heartedly follow the Lord” and trust the promise God gave him.  At 85 years old, God fulfilled his promise to Caleb and gave him the strength to conquer the giants of the land. God gives strength to those who whole heartedly follow him and he helps us do hard things……..like changing schools, and sending our kids to new places.

Caleb was brave, convicted, and trusted in God’s promises. I started thinking about the promises of God. The ultimate promise is eternal life to those who believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, but what are the promises for daily living that my 10 year old (and I) can trust as we face our giants?

We decided that we are thankful for the promise that God goes before us – just like he did with Caleb.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“The Lord your God is going before you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 1:30

“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” Psalm 139:5

“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron”. Isaiah 45:2

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand “. Isaiah 41:10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ” Jeremiah 29:11-13

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Praying we trust these promises of God in the hard spots of life. He will show up and I can’t wait to see what He does. Claim your promise!

Shelly

 

Saved by FAITH

Today’s reading is Genesis 15,17,22; Romans 4:1-5, 9-25

The Lord spoke to Abram and told him he would be the “father of many nations” even though he had no children and was quite old.  “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his FAITH” (Genesis 15:16). God then made a covenant with Abram and told him that he would make him into a mighty nation. This covenant was not merely one sided, there was a part Abram (now changed to Abraham) had to obey. In Genesis 17:10 God saidThis is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. It was a tall order but definitely a mark that set them apart and Abraham faithfully obeyed. Then in Genesis 22 Abraham’s faith is tested again when God asks him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Again, Abraham obeyed and got as far as lifting the knife to complete the sacrifice when an angel of the Lord stopped him in Genesis 22:12,  “Lay down the knife”, the angel said. “Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld even your beloved son from me.”  And the Lord provided an alternative sacrifice in response to his faith and he promised to bless him and multiply his descendants just as he said he would do in the beginning. .

Fast forward to the New Testament and Paul is sharing the story of Abraham with the Christians in Rome in Romans 4. His theme is FAITH. God used Abraham because he first “believed”.  Romans 4:13 It is clear then that God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was not based on obedience to God’s law, but on the new relationship with God that comes by FAITH. And through our faith, God blesses us beyond what we could even imagine. Did Abraham grasp the depth of God’s promise to him?  Did he have any idea that he would be the beginning of the line to Jesus, the savior of the world? God did not use Abraham because he was perfect. It was his FAITH that made him righteous, not his good works. Because of his faith he was able to act in obedience when God told him to circumcise the males and then go on to sacrifice his son.  God will also ask us to do things in response to our faith but those things do not save us, it is our faith that saves us. Rest today in the fact that Gods promise of salvation is a free gift that only requires our belief, not our perfect performance.

Romans 4:23-25 Now this wonderful truth- that God declared him to be righteous-wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was for us, too, assuring us that God will also declare us to be righteous if we believe in God, who brought Jesus our Lord back from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.

Shelly

 

 

 

Getting to know you…

Today’s reading is 2 Peter 2:1

As I prepare to write my posts I typically take a few days to read through the assigned chapter and let it soak. I read several translations and even listen to the audible version for a little different flavor. After reading, listening and still not finding my groove, I  went to You tube and searched for a sermon on 2 Peter 1. I should have known when I chose Francis Chan, The Most Important Lesson I Could Ever Teach (November 29, 2009), that I would be convicted. Basically, I heard him say, get to know God through the Bible and stop looking to other people to do the work.  Which was exactly what I was doing! Sermons are great ways to learn and bring about conviction, but nothing can replace time spent alone with God and the Bible.  This whole chapter is about getting to know God better to avoid the trappings of this world.

2 Peter 1:3 As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.

2 Peter 1:5 A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better.

2 Peter 1:6-9 Knowing God leads to self -control. Self- control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally  you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more you will be productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop these virtues are blind or, at least, very short sighted. They have already forgotten that God has cleansed them from their old life of sin.

This relationship with God is a process, just like any other relationship. It takes time, dedication, and discipline. I love the progression of virtues in the above verse. Knowing God -> self control -> patient endurance -> godliness ->  love for other Christians -> and finally love for everyone. We can only truly love everyone when we truly know the love of God.

2 Peter 1:2 May God bless you with his special favor and wonderful peace as you come to know Jesus, our God and Lord, better and better.

Enjoy your time with God today!

Shelly

https://youtu.be/4ckV6-xHRLk

Letters from Prison

Todays reading is Ephesians 2

Paul is in a Roman jail because of his love for Jesus and he is writing a letter of encouragement to the church in Ephesus. He is encouraging them to keep believing in Jesus and do His good work in the midst of harsh persecution.  Tychichus visited Paul in jail and took the letter home to share with the church. It is a letter full of encouragement and reminders of all that God has done.

I personally thrive when I am encouraged. If I get a pat on the back or  some kind of attention for a job well done I will hang on to that moment for days.  Put me with other people who are encouraging and excited and I quickly catch the fever. I picture the big company “rah rah” seminars that get everybody pumped up to sell this or that and get excited to move up to the next level or be the best seller for the month. Everyone is excited to perform and get better and get moving. All because they hold a common belief or common goal. This letter is the “rah rah” seminar for Jesus! It reminds us of who we are and why we do what we do.

  • 2:4-5 But God is so rich in his mercy , and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Jesus from the dead.
  • 2:6 For He raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms.
  • 2:8 God saved you by his special favor when you believed; it is a GIFT from God.
  • 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

All this from a man in prison to encourage others who were free to spread the Good News of Jesus. He goes on to remind them that we are all one in Christ. This is our common core value.

  • 2: 18 Now all of us, both Jews and Gentiles may come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
  • 2:20 We are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.

The best news is that it is all a GIFT. There is nothing we can do to earn it, we just accept it and believe.

Be encouraged today! You are God’s masterpiece!

Shelly

 

 

Eternal Perspective

What if the first text you receive today says:

“Jesus will return today at 8:43pm”.

What would your next step be? Would you still get up and get ready for the day? Would you go to work? Throw that load of laundry in? Take the kids to swim lessons? Watch the news? Who would you call? Are you panicked or relieved? Would you drop everything and stare at the sky waiting? Is Jesus a friend you can’t wait to see or is there fear at his coming?

Or worse yet, what if the text read:

“Jesus came back yesterday. Why are you still here?”

In 2 Thessalonians 2 the people were confused about the second coming of Jesus. Some thought that due to the harsh persecution of Christ followers, Jesus second coming was imminent. Others thought the second coming had already occurred. They were fearful. Paul needed to clarify the things that would happen prior to Jesus return to get the people back on track. He encouraged them not to be fooled by what others were saying but to remember what he had told them. He was honest and reminded them that there will be great evil in the world but God would prevail. God’s plan is not to strike fear in His people about His return but to bring hope.

This brings a little perspective into my daily living. Suddenly the things that vie for my attention are no longer that important in light of Christs return. Do I really believe that Jesus is coming back? How does my life reflect that I believe this? Currently my life is busy with work, kids, baseball, basketball, laundry, and lots of time in the car. My prayers are typically requests to help me get through a busy day, energy for the evening after a day at work, or just a good night sleep. Not much “eternal perspective”. I think a great evil in my world is busyness to the degree that I don’t consider my eternity or Jesus return very often. This chapter has been a good reminder that this is worthy of my time and thought. Especially to share with my kids.  God has given me these moments with kids, baseball, basketball, and laundry to find the eternal. In each of these “things” there is heart and a moment – a divine appointment by God.

We do not have to fear the second coming of Jesus when we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. We look forward to it with great anticipation. Especially when we practice having an eternal perspective. And we have the Bible – the written Word of God to redirect us when we get confused and start listening to the world.

Romans 10:9-10 “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing  in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the scripture tells us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed”.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words. ”

This could happen tomorrow or it could be in 1000 years. Matthew 24:36 says, “However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the father knows.”

May you have an eternal perspective today and share it with someone else. Jesus is coming back!!

Shelly

 

 

 

A Rumor of Life

Today’s reading is Matthew 28

This is the account after Jesus death on the cross. He had been placed in a sealed tomb with guards for 3 days. The guards were there as requested by the Pharisees. They remembered Jesus saying he would rise on the third day.  If the guards were in place the disciples wouldn’t be able to steal him away to falsely fulfill Jesus words. The Pharisees were afraid Jesus may actually be who he said he was. (Matthew 27:62-65).

In Matthew 28, Mary Madgdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb. They probably hadn’t slept and were feeling heavy hearted and dismayed. They went expecting to care for Jesus dead body but instead they were met with an earthquake and an angel telling them that Jesus was not in the tomb!! The guards passed out in fear. The angel said “don’t be afraid” and instructed the women to go tell the disciples. They were the first to learn and share the good news of Jesus Resurrection. Jesus meeting them on the way sealed the deal for them. He reminded them” Don’t be afraid!”

In Matthew 28:8 it says they were “frightened but also filled with great joy!”. I love this description – just like any great adventure in our lives should feel. We may be frightened but also filled with great joy as we share the good news of Jesus resurrection that brings us eternal life.  The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) all account for this event with different perspectives and details but the bottom line is the same in each account….Jesus was not in the tomb!  Matthew 28: 6 says “He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen”.

Unfortunately some guards at the tomb went to the leading priests to tell them what happened. The priests bribed them to keep that news to themselves and instead say the disciples came in the night and stole Jesus body. The guards were paid off and everyone agreed on the story. This sad theory still circulates today.

Jesus goes on to meet with the disciples in Galilee and he gives the Great Commission. Matthew 28: 18 –  Jesus came and told his disciples,” I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This is the ultimate fork in road. Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after being crucified? Do you believe the tomb was empty? Are you frightened but also filled with great joy at the thought of Jesus dying on the cross for your sins and then rising from the dead on the third day to give eternal life?

“Don’t be afraid”. Go and tell the good news.

Shelly