Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thursday, April 30th: Numbers 7-8, Revelation 17 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Numbers 7-8; Revelation 17

Obviously, the key to Chapter 7 is repetition.  The same exact gifts are described for every tribe, twelve times.  Why?  Why not just summarize?  Summarizing would not give the same weight as repetition does.  So, what is the emphasis?

Rayburnhere the weight falls on the gifts given and the fact that they were given by every tribe. In fact, put yourself in the place of an Israelite listening to this passage being read in worship. You happen to belong to the tribe of Naphtali or Zebulon. You would listen intently for the name of your tribe and so would the members of every tribe. And you would listen carefully to be sure that your tribe contributed everything the other tribes did.

In this particular case the gifts given were given in support of what nowadays we would call the mission of the church. All the gifts were given to the Levites to enable them to perform their responsibility – the ox-carts, the animals for sacrifice, and the utensils filled with meal and oil – gifts for grain and incense offerings – all fall into the category of gifts for the work of the church...

I have been asked many times through the years and often, frankly, with somewhat of an aggrieved tone of voice why a person needs to go to church.... Communion with God, cleansing from sin, peace with God, commitment to God, hearing God’s voice, enjoying fellowship with him: all of that can certainly be experienced by individuals. The Bible leaves us in no doubt about that. But these blessings are chiefly communicated to individuals when the church is together in worship....The individual is present here in chapter 7 only as part of his tribe and only as part of the people of God at worship together....

If there is a subtitle that would apply to Numbers 7 both in its historical context in Numbers and with respect to the timeless principle that is enunciated here it should read: “We are all in this together and need to be.” The gifts that were given in this way for the use of the sanctuary were precisely not gifts that were used by an individual for his own worship of God. They were used in the sanctuary for the worship of the entire people. These were gifts, in other words, that were given both to God and to others. They were not first an investment in one’s own spiritual welfare.

It is important to note that we give because we have been given so much, because we have been loved so much.

Chapter 8 deals with the purification and offering of the Levites which has to do with atonement.  And in order to atonement to take place, there must be sacrifice.  Everything that Jesus Christ would accomplish for us is anticipated in the sacrificial system of the OT.  We are only saved because Jesus took our place and died for us.  He took our punishment while we took His righteousness.   That is love! And it is so undeserving, which is what makes it mercy.

In Revelation we see that sin always results in self-destruction.  There is a great spiritual warfare going on.  Babylon represents any system that is hostile to God (IOW - our own American and Canadian cultures), that uses immoral means to gain its own pleasure and power.   As Christians, we are to live in stark contrast to the rest of society around us.  Yes, we are Canadians (and Americans) and there are many good things about our countries, and in many ways we are proud to identify ourselves with our nation.  But deep down, we are not Canadian or American or any other nationality - we are Christians and our ultimate loyalty is to Christ.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Numbers 9-11; Revelation 18

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wednesday, April 29th: Numbers 5-6, Revelation 16 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Numbers 5-6; Revelation 16

We see from our  Numbers passage that mankind is unavoidably dirty and impure - simply from living in this fallen world.  We are both ceremonially unclean from the ordinary actions of human life (like childbirth, sex, death, etc) and from sinful actions.  This demonstrates the truth that we sin because we are sinful creatures.

This sinfulness alienates us from our holy God, and that gap can only be bridged by the atonement of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Rayburn had some thought-provoking points in his sermon about the Nazirite vow....
 the passion for godliness that is expressed in the practice of the Nazirite vow will always offend a moderating, accommodating, compromising, worldly church.

So here is the challenge of this text for us in our self-regarding, comfortable, indulgent world. You say, because you are a Christian, that Christ is more important to you than your pleasures: wine or food or entertainment or anything. Really? Prove it. And if you are not willing to prove it in some demonstrable way – for your sake, for the sake of others, and for the Lord’s sake supremely – why not? Is the Lord not worth it? Is salvation not worth it? Do you want only such a Christian life such as can be lived with little or no effort?

Are you really willing to be separated from the realm of sin and death, to give your life-force to God without reservation? Are you really? Prove it. If you are a Christian surely you have from time to time felt the desire to prove it. Well, prove it. Undertake the same sort of self-denial the Nazirite did and do so for the same reason. Are you willing to offer to the Lord your life in some way that others in our world – others perhaps among your Christian friends, even your family – will certainly find over-zealous, fanatical, akin to refusing to attend the funeral of your mother or father. Are you really willing? Prove it. And if you aren’t really willing to take such steps – such steps as the godly have taken before you through the ages of Christian devotion – why not?..

There are things in our lives that need to be rooted out. There are things in our lives that need to be put in and we are to let nothing stand in the way. We love God because he first loved us. We boast in nothing but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. But, we will, come what may, put on holiness in the fear of the Lord; we will not be deterred from growing up as high in godliness as we can by God’s grace and our own concentrated effort. And one principal way in which this is done, in which this has always been done, is to take steps to put that godliness into practice in ways that matter, to embody it in specific commitments before the Lord.

A vow is a promise you do not have to make; but once you have made it you must keep it. Serious Christians know that; you must keep your vows. And yet serious Christians make those vows and those commitments anyway because they know that this is a biblically approved, a divinely ordered way of taking great steps forward and upward in everything that is pleasing to God.

In our Revelation passage we see that when people become entrenched in their sin, the obvious judgment of God does not turn them to repentance like we think it would/should, but rather causes them to shake their fists in rebellion against Him.

RayburnIt is this fact, by the way, that explains in some significant measure the reality of hell. It is important for us to know this and to include this as part of our explanation for what is, of course, one of the principle objections that people have to the Christian faith. Hell would be hard to explain if it were inhabited by those now sorry for their sins, entirely aware of the foolishness of their unbelief, and wishing to repent. How could God continue to punish such people? But that is not what people will be like in hell. We see that here. God’s judgment does not bring them to repentance and the knowledge of the truth. It does not sweeten their spirits or soften their wills. They become still more defiantly unwilling to submit to God. This is the fearful thing about human sin. It creates a blindness and a hardness of heart so profound that nothing can penetrate, least of all the truth. Every tongue may finally confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but many tongues will make that confession bitterly and unrepentantly....

For the non-Christian this text is a solemn warning to seek the Lord while he may be found and to call upon him while he is near....

And for the believer it is another reminder to take every sin, especially the sins that so easily beset us, seriously. To refuse to give in to them. To allow them no entrance and no peace in your soul, lest they sink their hook and be impossible to get out and then over time take full control.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Numbers 7-8; Revelation 17

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday, April 28th: Numbers 3-4, Revelation 15 ~ Nathan

In Numbers 3-4 we read about how God gave specific instructions for the Israelites, specifically the Levite's, on how to serve in the Meeting tent. These instructions were to be followed exactly. Aaron had lost two sons,  who didn't pay close enough attention to what they were supposed to do.
After reading this portion of scripture,  I noted that God mentions three times (3:10, 3:38 and 4:15) that anyone else who comes near the Holy Things will die. This is a severe punishment for making the mistake of not paying attention. But it also needs to be severe,  so that the Israelites take seriously what God says. When it came to anything Holy,  they better show full respect and be alert at all times. 

This is a great reminder for me to place God above all other things and remember that He is Holy. We treat hockey players or movie stars like they're the most important people on earth with all the attention we give them,  and yet God is so far above that even. I feel like I don't come close to showing God how special He is.

In Revelation 15 we read about all those who won victory over the beast, standing by the sea,  and singing praise to God. What a beautiful sight that will be when the battles are over and we as Christians gain victory,  standing in peace,  praising God!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday, April 27: Numbers 1-2, Revelation 14-by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Numbers 1-2; Revelation 14

Today we begin the book of Numbers. I found this summary: (emphasis on key notables in bold)


Who wrote the book?

As it does for the rest of the Pentateuch, universal Jewish and Christian tradition attributes the authorship of the book of Numbers to Moses. Moses is the central figure within the book, and in at least two instances Numbers mentions him recording events by the Lord’s commands (Numbers 33:236:13).
The name “Numbers” is a translation of Arithmoi, from the Septuagint, titled thus because the book contains many statistics, population counts, tribal and priestly figures, and other numerical data. The Hebrew name comes from the first sentence of the book and means “in the desert of ”; it is perhaps an even more accurate description of the book’s content, which follows the Israelites through almost forty years of wandering in the desert.1

Where are we?

The events of the book began in the second year after the Israelites departed Egypt, as they camped at Mount Sinai around 1444 BC (Numbers 1:1). The narrative ends thirty-eight years later “in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho” (36:13) in 1406 BC. Numbers records the people’s long wandering in the desert of Sinai, their time at the oasis of Kadesh-barnea, and their eventual arrival at the banks of the Jordan River across from the Promised Land.
The Lord directed the message of Numbers toward the younger generation, children of the former slaves who escaped through the Red Sea. Except for Joshua, Caleb, and Moses, the older generation—everyone twenty years old or older at the time of the first census—died before the completion of Numbers, due to their disobedience and disbelief (Numbers 14:22–30). Moses completed the book before his death (Deuteronomy 31:24).

Why is Numbers so important?

Numbers takes the reader on a long and winding path through a desert of excruciating detail. The book records census results for all twelve tribes not once, but twice; it documents priestly instructions for handling the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle; and it even spells out the placement of the tribes when they camped. But through it all, we cannot doubt God’s unfailing direction over the nation.
As a history of the nation not yet established in the land promised them long ago, this book unveils significant events sometimes referenced later in Scripture. Joshua and Caleb alone among the twelve spies encouraged Israel to take possession of the land (Numbers 13–14Joshua 14:7); Moses struck a rock and water spouted forth (Numbers 20:11Psalm 106:32); Moses lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole so that believing Israelites might be healed of their snake bites (Numbers 21:6–9John 3:14); and Balaam was rebuked by his donkey (Numbers 22:21–34Revelation 2:14).

What's the big idea?

In this book, the people of Israel tested God’s patience, and He in turn tested their endurance and faithfulness. Though the people failed many times, God showed His own faithfulness by His constant presence leading the way: through a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
More than just a history lesson, the book of Numbers reveals how God reminded Israel that He does not tolerate rebellion, complaining, and disbelief without invoking consequences. He taught His people how to walk with Him—not just with their feet through the wilderness but with their mouths in worship, hands in service, and lives as witnesses to the surrounding nations. He was their God, they were His people, and He expected them to act like it.

How do I apply this?

Modern readers can take away from Numbers not only a thorough history of Israel’s early days but also a renewed sense of God’s delight in obedience. He is our God, too, and He wants us to live righteously, worshipping Him through our words and works.
The journey of the Israelites through the wilderness earned the apostle Paul’s notice when he penned his first letter to the Corinthian church. “These things happened,” he wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:6, “as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.”
Do you see any resemblance between the grumbling, rebellious Israelites and yourself? How can you avoid following their example? With humility and sincerity, pray for a soft heart, open to God’s guiding hand.

Numbers begins with God asking Moses to count people. Now I've read this chapter before but today I thought about this in a new way. We have been reminded over these last readings that God is the same always has, always will be, the same. He knows all, sees all, hears all. Nothing is hidden from Him. And yet...he asks Moses to count the people. Think about that....

God already knows the numbers. He already knows how many people there are in each tribe...he knows the hairs on each of those people's heads! However, he asks Moses to do it anyway. He wanted Moses to do the work and see for himself.

It makes me think of something our Pastor said in a message yesterday. He likened God to a firefighter from the fires of sin that we cause. If he "swoops" in to save us right away we may not fully appreciate the saving because we haven't seen the magnitude of destruction the fire can cause when it rages out of control. It is only when our sin "rages out of control" that we can fully understand what it means to be saved.

Likewise, I believe God called Moses to do the work. God could have just told him how many people there were. It would have been easier. It would have been more accurate...believe me, I do a head count of my Grade 1 friends on field trips and it's not an easy task...and there are only 24 of them! But it would not have been as valuable to Moses than the process of counting it out. Moses would know exactly how many people were wandering in the desert. It was important for Moses to know this...not just being told, but to know. Just like it is important for us to know just how bad our sin is and how much we need a Saviour.

And our sin is THAT bad. Revelation 14:9-11 says:

“If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

Yikes. There will be punishment. There will be consequences for fire of sin that rages without a Saviour to rescue us. God knows this...and he wants us to know it too.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Numbers 3-4; Revelation 15

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday, April 26th: Ecclesiastes 10-12, Revelation 13 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ecclesiastes 10-12; Revelation 13

In the beginning of Ecclesiastes 11 Solomon reminds us that even though life is uncertain, we should not do nothing, nor should we wait for conditions to be perfect before we act.  If we do, it might never happen - whether it's getting married, having children, reading the Bible, joining a church.  We need to continually take steps to grow in spiritual maturity.

I don't recall reading this verse before (though I know I have several times since I've read through the Bible several years now), but it really jumped out at me today....

5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
What a beautiful verse when it comes to the value of the unborn and the mystery of life.  We serve an amazing Creator!

Regarding our Revelation passage, my Life Application Bible says....
Chapter 13 introduces Satan's (the dragon's)  two evil accomplices: (1) the beast out of the sea and (2) the beast out of the earth. Together, the three evil beings form an unholy trinity in direct opposition to the holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

They unity to try to overthrow the power of God, but of course, they will fail.  There is and will continue to be great spiritual warfare going on.  And though we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ will prevail as the victor, many Christians will suffer greatly before the final triumph, and a great many humans are on the wrong side of this spiritual battle and their end will be eternal punishment.  Such hard truths!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Numbers 1-2; Revelation 14

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday, April 25th: Ecclesiastes 7-9, Revelation 12 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ecclesiastes 7-9; Revelation 12

The beginning of our Ecclesiastes passage reminded me a lot of Proverbs!

This one stood out to me....

7:9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

I've always had a bit of a temper.  Anger itself is not necessarily wrong - it depends on what we're angry about and how we handle that anger.  Righteous anger is a good thing (Jesus driving out the money changers and clearing out the temple).  But all too often, we err on the unrighteous side of anger.  We get upset for the wrong reasons, or act improperly after getting angry for the right reasons.  Sin should anger us because we are passionate for the glory and holiness of God.   We cannot allow that anger to turn into bitterness or vengeance.  We also need to be careful not to cloak our unrighteous anger in righteousness in an attempt to justify it.

What stood out to me in Revelation is this....
The devil is real.  We would be foolish to dismiss this and to underestimate his power.

However, we also should not overestimate his power either.  He is limited by God's power and can only do what God allows him to do.  Satan is not in control, God is.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Ecclesiastes 10-12; Revelation 13

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday 24 April 2015 Ecclesiastes 4-6; Revelation 11 - Elizabeth

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ecclesiastes 4-6 and Revelation 11

Hold sacred the gifts of marriage, children, family, and the authorities put in place among us. Do not regard the accolades and accoutrements of the world as more important than the Lord and His gracious gifts. Though we continually search for contentment in this “under the sun” existence, Christ is our eternal Lord and King of kings. The wicked and foolish sin against God in acts of religious complacency, empty devotion, and unfulfilled vows. Despite superficial religion and meaningless vows, God is faithful and just. Upon our confession, He will absolve us of our sins for the sake of Christ. In the latter part of chapter 5, Solomon shows how to make a comfortable use of God’s gifts. In chapter 6, he shows the evil uses of wealth and asks, “Will the amassing of wealth bring happiness?” What person is better for his or her wealth, pleasure, and honor when standing before god at the final judgment? Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life. He is the author and perfecter of our faith, so that we do not grow weary and lose heart.

In Revelation, using the figure of twin witnesses, John describes the response of a hostile world to the preaching of God’s Word. Though ample opportunity is given for people to receive the blessings of repentance and the Gospel, most choose to reject the Church and persecute it. However, the apparent triumph of the Gospel’s enemies is never the last word. Jesus’ promise stands true: those remaining faithful unto death will be given the crown of life. John describes the transition from Satan’s temporary rule of the world to the consummation of God’s reign. For now, people can refuse to obey God. But such resistance will someday be met with an irresistible outpouring of wrath and judgment. Christ’s people need not fear that day. Instead, they may long for the day when God will be all in all, and perfect harmony will again prevail.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Ecclesiastes 7-9; Revelation 12

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thursday, April 23rd: Ecclesiastes 1-3, Revelation 10 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is  Ecclesiastes 1-3; Revelation 10

Sorry for the delay in posting today!

King Solomon searched for happiness in every earthly way imaginable - his wealth and power put him in a position to literally do just that.  He had wealth, power, prestige, food, women, houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, fruit trees, herds, flocks, slaves, silver, gold, treasures - literally everything you could possibly think of to ensure your earthly happiness.  According to our society's view today, he should have been a very happy man.  But what did he discover?  It was all vanity, all meaningless.  It didn't work.  It may have brought a fleeting happiness, but it did not bring everlasting joy.

Why not?

Because he was looking at earthly treasure, and he was looking at himself.

We were created to worship, but we were not created to worship ourselves or any other earthly god.  We were created to worship the Creator, the One true God.  Any focus outside of that cannot bring us true joy.  But when we are focused on Him, when we are focused on glorifying Him, that is when we experience true joy, no matter our circumstances or possession.  So counter-cultural!

Are we living in light of this truth?  Or are we chasing after a lie in our pursuit of happiness?

In Revelation we see a mighty angel coming to announce the final judgments on the earth, straddling the land and the sea to indicate that his words dealt with all creation. This angel represents the amazing power of God - and we are on His side!  We don't need to know all the details of the end times in order to live for him now.

As believers we ought to pray for God's justice to be carried out and His plan to be fulfilled because of the triumph of His kingdom.  These words are sweet to believers because it brings encouragement to us, but it sours our stomach because it also makes certain the coming judgment against unbelievers.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Ecclesiastes 4-6; Revelation 11

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday, April 22nd: Daniel 11-12, Revelation 9 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Daniel 11-12; Revelation 9

Last year we studied the book of Daniel more in depth, and the details of the fulfillment of the prophecies in Daniel 11 that have already taken place is absolutely incredible.  If you want to read about them, you can click on this post - it's amazing!

The bottom line is that history is His story.  He is writing it, and it is unfolding exactly as He has planned.  What's amazing is that He is writing us into His story - even though He doesn't need us.  What a privilege!  Who are you going to be in the story?

It's also clear that God will purge and redeem His people, and that the world will end in a holocaust but Jesus will triumph over that and we will live victoriously with Him forever.

3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
I want to shine, radiating the glory of the Saviour to those around me!

Rayburn has a couple really great quotes about our Revelation passage.....
It is a reminder that while the Lord in his justice will and must punish the unbelieving and the wicked, his love, mercy and desire to save lie still closer to the center of his heart....

This world rings with judgment, with punishment, with vengeance from heaven for one reason only: that we might never forget what life in this world is all about and the one thing and one thing only that matters. Do we have the seal that protects us from harm in this world and the next, the seal that is given through faith in Jesus Christ, or do we not? Compared to this question, there are no other questions!

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Ecclesiastes 1-3; Revelation 10

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday, April 21st: Daniel 8-10, Revelation 8 ~ Nathan

In our OT reading we read about a vision that Daniel has, about a ram and a goat.  The ram was strong and defeated all,  until a goat appeared from the west who was more powerful than the ram. The angel Gabriel came to Daniel,  who was fearful of him,  and explained this vision to Daniel. He explained it by saying this vision is about the end times,  and the goat represents a powerful king.  This king is explained best in chapter 8:25, "This king will be very smart and tricky. He will use his wisdom and lies to be successful. He will think that he is very important. He will destroy many people, when they least expect it. He will try to fight even the Prince of Princes.  But that cruel king's power will be destroyed,  and it will not be a human hand that destroys him. "

Daniel goes on to pray for his people and ask for forgiveness, for they have gone away from living for God. He begs God for mercy.

In Revelation 8 we also read about destruction at the end times. We read about the first of the seven trumpet blasts from the seven angels.  We read about hail,  fire,  blood,  and death. In verse 13 we read how an eagle says in a loud voice "how terrible for those who live on earth" .

The end times truly sound scary. As a child growing up,  and even as an adult,  I've been frightened by how terrible it sounds. Growing up in a safe environment and a safe country,  this all sounds so foreign and seems far removed from what we know. We see,  when looking around, how far our society has fallen away and continues to move away from God and what the Bible says.

But as Christians,  we need to have faith and take comfort that we are saved!  We may  have to go through hard or terrible things,  but we need to focus on the end,  which will be victory in Jesus for those who trust and obey. I pray that I,  and you,  stay faithful.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday, April 20th: Daniel 5-7, Revelation 7 ~ Conrad

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Daniel 5-7, Revelation 7


Scripture - "He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth.  He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions."  Daniel 6:27

Observation - In the spiritual warfare between good and evil, this verse assures us that the victory belongs to God and His obedient people.  Not only did Daniel gain popularity for his knowledge, but he remained unharmed while inside the lions den.

Application - I have mentioned this before, but if I could, I would have a big cat as my pet.  A tiger would be my first choice but a lion would be just as awesome.  The pet cat that we have has tendencies of "freaking" out and randomly attacking me without any prior notice (ok maybe I deserve it).  But I have a huge amount of respect for a tiger or lion simply for its ferociousness.  To know that God can protect His children as He did for Daniel by taming a lion that would typically devour whatever it pleases, provides me with courage in knowing that He will protect me in any situation that I find myself in.  For our God alone has the power to save!  The kingdoms of this world will one day give way to the victorious kingdom of God.  Life will continue to have its battles, but the final victory belongs to our Lord!    

Prayer - I pray that I would be able to put my faith and trust in you alone Lord.  Not just when things are going well, but when they are not going so good.  I have read once again how you protect your children from harm.  You perform miracles that no one else can do.  You had a plan for Daniel's life as you do for mine.  You are all powerful and all knowing.  You created all things and know how all things work.  You are the ultimate Saviour in whom I will put my trust!  Amen.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Daniel 8-10; Revelation 8

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday, April 19th: Daniel 3-4, Revelation 6 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Daniel 3-4; Revelation 6

A couple things stood out to me in our Daniel passage today.

First, I wonder if Daniel's three friends had the courage to take their stand against the King because of seeing Daniel stand up to the King earlier by refusing the food sacrificed to idols, and giving all glory to God for revealing the dream and its interpretation?  I'm sure it helped!  Daniel's courage didn't affect only himself, but it inspired and emboldened his friends to do the same.

How we live matters.  It affects those around us - directly and indirectly.   Are we living in a manner that will inspire others to be godly and courageous?

Quite possibly my favourite verses in all the Bible are these.....
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so,our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
They had no doubt in God's power and ability to save.  But they did not know what the will of God was in this manner.  It is clear from the Bible that God always chooses to act in the way that will most glorify His name.  But we don't always know which choice will do that - only He does.  They knew He could, they just didn't know if He would.  THAT is faith.  THAT is courage!

Nebuchadnezzar seems to have a temporary respect for God - but it is clear that it is simply an emotional response to the miracle he witnessed and not something that he actually took to heart, as we see from chapter 4.  Even after God warns him through yet another dream and interpretation, he merely brushes it off.   Until God humbles him in a spectacular fashion.  Pride is so destructive!

RayburnOur pride renders us dull to the Lord’s goodness, kindness and forbearance. Let us respond more quickly. Our pride places excessive value on ourselves and our achievements. Let us repent. Our pride stymies us from giving all credit and praise to Him. Let us return thanks – remembering…..

The Lord is not out to humiliate us as He did Nebuchadnezzar. He is not out to hurt our pride. He is out to destroy it before it destroys us. For surely it will. It has a voracious appetite; nothing about us is more ambitious. It is not only His enemy it is our own menacing, undaunted enemy and the chief cause of many of our miseries. Eternity is at stake.

I appreciated Rayburn's sermon on Revelation 6.  I find Revelation to be overwhelming and, at times, confusing and, quite frankly, scary.

Some of his thoughts: mere human beings will never be able to explain the ways of God in anything other than the most general way. We know far too little of what God is doing and why to explain the course of events in the world or in any life in the world. Our minds are far too small; we see far too little of what is really happening; we can’t see where it is all going and how it is all to be resolved.

But again, answering those kinds of questions is not now John’s point. His point is to assert the truth that lies in the foundation of any true understanding of the world and its history: viz. that it is all under God’s control. God is not asking, Christ is not asking to be taken off the hook, to be excused for what is happening in the world. The Devil is doing great evil as he rages against the kingdom of God, to be sure – the Bible often enough describes that evil and shows us the devil doing it and we will see more of his evil in Revelation –; man is doing great evil and making matters so much worse for himself – that too is obvious and a frequent teaching of Holy Scripture –; but above and behind it all, waging war for the world and the souls of men, using and exploiting the Devil’s hatred of all that is good and man’s selfish clamoring for his own interests at the expense of others, is the plan and purpose of God, written as it is in that scroll the seals of which the Lamb is breaking one by one.

Wars, famine, disease – all the heartbreak of human life (including all of your heartbreak, trouble and sorrow) – and the persecution of the church and her struggles in a world of sin and enmity toward God and Christ, all of this is about what God is doing in the world in the interest of salvation and judgment. It is all leading up to and preparing for the consummation of all things at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.....Every trial you undergo as a Christian, every difficulty that you face as a human being, it is in every case a piece of this larger drama of salvation and judgment. Your life as a Christian, for that matter every single human life on the face of the earth, is what it is because the Lamb of God is breaking the seals of the scroll one by one.

Lamb of God come!

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Daniel 5-7; Revelation 7

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday, April 18th: Daniel 1-2, Revelation 5 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Daniel 1-2; Revelation 5

I've always been amazed by Daniel and his unwavering commitment to holiness.  When he was taken into captivity he was likely still a teenager.  He was torn from his home, his country, his culture, everything, and immersed in a totally foreign and completely pagan way of life.  But despite the pressure to do whatever his captives told him to do, he drew the line as soon as they asked him to do something that went against God's Word.  He would not compromise.  What amazing faith and courage!

In Chapter 2 I love how quickly and adamantly Daniel tells the king that what he had asked for was completely impossible with man, and that all glory went to God alone for telling the king both his dream and its meaning.  Bold and courageous faith.

In Revelation we see that God is the author of history, and that everything in history - past, present, and future - unfolds exactly how He has planned.

Rayburn put it well:  Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb who was slain, alone has the power and the authority to rule that history and to bring it to its appointed end. Without him there is no meaning, no goal, no purpose; just a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. With him there is a certain fulfillment, a glorious conclusion, a triumph, a moral, just, and right consummation for every human being that has ever lived in the world and for the entire world as a whole.

Jesus alone is worthy of all glory, honour, and worship.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Daniel 3-4; Revelation 6

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday April 17, 2015 Leviticus 26-27; Revelation 4 ~ Elizabeth

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Leviticus 26-27; Revelation 4

I have to admit, Leviticus is one of those books of the Bible that just makes my eyes cross. Not as a whole...I do find much of it fascinating. However, the repetitiveness of it does get to me. However, I can't help but notice that in today's retelling of the Commandments and the specifics of everything is so important. It's not just that you do what God tells you, but that you do it a very specific way. There's no room for error here. No slacking. No thinking that God doesn't really care THAT much so He'll let it slide this time. Nope. Everything has to be done how He wants or it doesn't count. It's all or nothing. Thankfully for us we don't have to do everything perfectly. We can't. The Law is a mirror showing us how impossible it is for us miserable sinners to do anything in a manner pleasing to God. Thanks to Jesus Christ, when God looks at us He doesn't see the poor miserable sinners that we are, but the beloved Son who took our sins upon Himself so that God would only see His righteousness when He looks at us.

In our Revelation reading today, we have a description of the heavenly beings and the songs of praise being sung continually day and night. It's another one of those parts where my eyes cross, but not because it's tedious to read, but because I'm a visual learner. I have to be able to picture in my mind what I'm reading or I'm just lost. I can't picture this glorious sight. I wish I could but I just can't. It's beyond my poor little brain's ability. However, that's OK because one day I will see it and I'll forget everything I ever saw here on earth. And that's thanks to Christ's sacrifice for me that causes God to see Him and not me. It is good.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Daniel 1-2; Revelation 5

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thursday, April 16th: Leviticus 25, Revelation 3 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Leviticus 25; Revelation 3

I love God's plan of the Sabbath Year and particularly the Year of Jubilee.  What a tremendous display of God's mercy, compassion, and generosity - which means it's also hugely convicting for us to display those same characteristics in our lives as believers.

Unfortunately, there's not much evidence that the Jews every actually carried out the Year of Jubilee.  People's natural reaction when others are down is often to take advantage of them for their own gain, instead of helping them out with generosity, expecting nothing in return.  What a challenge for us.  Are we willing to help others when they are in need, or do we look for a way to gain from their loss?  Are we willing to give without expecting anything in return, or are we more concerned about our bottom line?

Truthfully, there should be no poor among us - not because God guarantees everyone riches, but because the church should rally around those who fall on hard times, despite their best efforts.  We shouldn't enable those who are lazy to continue in their irresponsibility, but we also shouldn't be looking for a loophole in order to get out of helping each other.

Do we have a spirit of mercy, compassion, and generosity?  And do we live out what we say we believe?

In our Revelation passage we are again confronted with several spiritual challenges.

Though the church in Sardis has a small remnant of faithful believers, the majority of them were nominal if not non-existent believers.  They looked good on the outside, but were spiritually dead inside.  They didn't seem to have any glaring faults - no false teachers, no obvious compromise with the world, no overturning of the gospel.  They looked like a Christian church - but they were apathetic, and on the verge of spiritual death - and come under the greatest condemnation of the seven churches.

The natural tendency of our souls is spiritual entropy.   In order to prevent spiritual decay we cannot coast or become complacent or think we've arrived.  We have to work at our faith in order for it to continue to grow.   Sometimes we need to get back to the basics and rebuild from there.

But, thankfully, there is a different between mostly dead and all dead.  The church of Sardis heeded God's warnings, and their faith was awakened!  We know from history that a man named Melito was bishop of Sardis and the church he pastored fifty or sixty years after John wrote the book of Revelation was a faithful Christian congregation full of life.

The church of Philadephia was reminded that there is a limited opportunity for evangelism.  At some point, God will close the door on the opportunity for salvation and judgment is certain.  Often we lack confidence to talk to people about the gospel because Christians are a minority, lacking size and influence in our culture.  If almost everyone was a genuine believer, it would be much easier to talk about it.

That being said, we need to remember that it is not us that does the work, the Holy Spirit does.  He will draw people to Himself, but we can choose whether or not to be blessed by playing a part in how God moves when we obey the call to speak the truth.  We need to be purposeful and proactive in spreading the gospel when we sense God calling us to speak.

The believers in Philadelphia are also reminded that God will always walk with them through trials, tribulation, or persecution.  He is faithful and He will keep us strong in hard times.

The church in Laodicea was condemned for being lukewarm.  They were neither hot (like the hot water of Hierapolis thought to have healing qualities and used for baths) nor refreshingly cold.  They were lukewarm - useless.  They weren't doing anything to advance the kingdom, they were ineffective and unproductive witnesses of the gospel.

Wealth can lead to complacency and a lack of dependence on God.  True value is not in material possessions, but in a right relationship with God and our everlasting future in His kingdom.

God's purpose in discipline is always to draw us back to Him and to strengthen our faith.

The last thing that jumped out at me was how many times it says "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches".  We can hear unproductively, like the saying "it goes in one ear and out the other".   Biblical knowledge is important, yes.  But we need to take that biblical knowledge and apply it to our lives in order to have truly heard what the Spirit is saying.

Are you listening?

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Leviticus 26-27; Revelation 4

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wednesday, April 15th: Leviticus 23-24, Revelation 2 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Leviticus 23-24; Revelation 2

I find the feasts fascinating and would've liked to have spent more time studying them in depth, but that didn't happen this time around.

I appreciated Deffinbaugh's summary....
the fall holidays of Leviticus track the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The blowing of trumpets speak of the warnings and shaking on the earth to call all mankind to repent. The Day of Atonement speaks of the day that Jesus will physically return and the day that Israel as a nation will find salvation. The Feast of Tabernacles speaks of the Millennial Kingdom.....

Should the Church of Jesus Christ celebrate these things? Four times in Leviticus 23 we are told, “It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.” Of course, the command is addressed to the Jews. On the other hand, these appointed times testify over and over again about the past and future work of our Lord. Should we not make room for the principal ones like Passover, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles? These speak of three major doctrines of our faith: the Death of Jesus for our sins, His return, and His coming Kingdom. Think how clearly these holidays speak of these truths, because they are free from the secular clamor that surrounds Christmas and Easter.

Leviticus 24 shows us the importance of ritual in developing our spiritual maturity.  The lamps and bread were to be tended exactly the same way all the time.  Justice also to be a matter of ritual and was to be carried out consistently every time.  So, too, we should develop spiritual rituals.  Of course, rituals can become meaningless if we do them without thinking.  But that doesn't mean there is a problem with the ritual itself.  Indeed, we all know the power of forming good habits in our daily life, how much more so in our spiritual lives!  (Like Daniel and his prayer ritual).

There's a lot going on in our Revelation passage.

In the letter to the church in Ephesus we see that the Christian life takes hard work and effort, that tremendous value is placed on truth and integrity, but that both of those do not make up for a lack of love.  We can't excuse our bad behaviour with our other good behaviour, thinking the scales are tipping in our favour.  We need to remain humble and pray that God would reveal our weaknesses to us, and be willing to fix them in His strength.

The letter to the church in Smyrna reminds us that trials and tribulations are test of the integrity of our faith and our loyalty to Jesus Christ.

The letter to the church in Pergamum reminds us that the church must not give in to the temptation to compromise our ethics in order to conform to society around us - talk about applicable to us today!  Truth is what God has revealed to be truth in the scripture, and we need to be willing to stand firm on that.  As unpopular as it is in our society today, there is absolute truth.   There is obedience and disobedience to God's commands.  There is judgment for those who disobey.  As Christians, living by God's truths is not optional.

The letter to the church at Thyatira reminds us of the necessity of living a holy life. I will give to each of you according to your works. We'd love to be able to skip that verse, but we can't. God commands us to live a holy life, and if we refuse, there will be consequences.  Of course, our obedience does not save us - we are saved by grace, not by works.  But works must accompany faith or that faith is dead.  We need to live in thankfulness to Jesus for His free gift of salvation, while at the same time obeying God in the prospect of the judgement day.
Wow - there was a lot going on in our passages today!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Leviticus 25; Revelation 3

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday, April 14th: Leviticus 21-22, Revelation 1 ~ Nathan

In Leviticus 21 it mentions in verses 7, 13-15  about how important it is that the priests marry virgins, to keep pure. The importance of keeping sexually pure is one thing our society laughs at today. This is one thing that Christians need to stress the importance of to our youth, even though the world around us doesn't take thin seriously.

At the end of both chapters,  after God gives the Israelites rules to follow,  He reminds them that He is God and that they (and us) should obey,  follow and respect Him. He has made these things special and has made us special. He brought the Israelites out of Egypt in order to be their God.

In Revelation 1, John starts out by saying that this revelation is from Jesus Christ,  and God gave him this revelation to show us what must happen soon (v1), and then goes on to say there's not much time left (v3).  Maybe we need to have more urgency in accomplishing what God wants us to do? 

This is a good reminder for me. As I near being 40 yrs old,  in my mind I'm still 25 and think I can physically do anything at the same speed and recovery time as I used to. But when I'm honest with myself,  I know that those days are in the past. They seemed to fly by so fast and without warning. I don't want that to happen to me spiritually.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday, April 13: Leviticus 19-20; Hebrews 13-by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Leviticus 19-20; Hebrews 13

"Because I'm your parent and I said so."

If you are a parent you've likely said those words...or at the very least thought them. We are the guardians and protectors of our children. It is our job to make sure they are raised in a way that they will reach maturity and become responsible citizens. It is our job to shape them, guide them, and lead them. We pass on our traditions, our values, our faith, and our life lessons. We have experiences that our children have not had and we can share our wisdom in many areas. We don't restrict our kids just for the sake of bossing them around. We want to make sure they do not make some of the same mistakes we did. We want to protect them. We can, and often do, give reasons for our rules but it often boils down to the same reason: We want the very best for them.

God is our Heavenly parent. He has the same role as our earthly parents: to guide us, to lead us, and to shape us to reach full maturity in Him. He wants the best for us. He doesn't merely give us life guidelines to mess with us or boss us around...he does it for our own good.

"I am the Lord" is written 14 times in this passage. I think that's kind of the same as "Because I'm your parent and I said so." God wants the very best for us. He sets out instructions and "rules" because He knows what happens if they are not followed and we are not experiencing all that He has in mind for us.

One thing that Hebrews reminds us is that there is one very significant difference between our earthly parents and our Heavenly Father. While our earthly parents are limited to their own advice and they may even be wrong or give advice that might not work. Our parents can, and will, be wrong or they will change or they will make mistakes. However, (Hebrews 13:8) says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." What a comfort to know!

One other note that stood out for me. I've heard on a few occasions that the Bible never calls out homosexuality as a sin. This passage outlines a stance against homosexuality.
Leviticus Verse 20:13 says:
13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
As Christians, we are commanded to love people. We are commanded to love but that doesn't mean that we need to accept their actions as right. Love the sinner...and we are all sinners and we all struggle with sin. Our own struggle may be less obvious to others. Society may brand Christians as intolerant because they believe that the Bible does say that homosexuality is a sin. However, Hebrews reminds us:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

We live in this world, but this world is not our home. Our Dad is waiting at home for us to return and when we get there we will be able to see all things clearly and He will say, "See? Because I am your parent and I told you so."

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Leviticus 21-22; Revelation 1