December 1, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Snow In the Backyard

Daniel 8:1-27

     Daniel describes yet another vision that he had. In this vision he saw a ram with two horns, one longer than the other. The ram butted everything out of its way in all directions. Then a goat with a single horn appeared in the west. The goat charged the ram and broke off both its horns then trampled it on the ground. The goat became very powerful, but at the height of its power its horn was broken off and four horns emerged to replace it. Each of the four horns pointed to a different compass point. At this point the metaphor of the vision becomes confused (as often happens in dreams). A small horn came out of one of the four horns and extended towards the land of Israel. The power of the small horn extended up to heaven where it challenged the authority of the Commander of heaven’s armies by cancelling the daily sacrifices and defiling the Temple.
     In the dream someone who looked like a man approached Daniel and a voice called out that Gabriel should explain the vision to him. When Gabriel approached Daniel, Daniel was so frightened that he fainted. Gabriel roused Daniel with a touch and explained the vision to him. The ram represented the kingdom of the Medes and Persians (what we know today as the Persian Empire). The goat represented the kingdom of Greece. The single horn represented Alexander the Great (something we can tell looking back that is not explicitly stated in the explanation) who died at the height of his power. He was replaced by four generals who each took over part of his empire (one in each direction from the land of Israel). Shortly before the four Hellenistic kingdoms were conquered by Rome one of those kingdoms was ruled by a king (Antiochus Epiphanes) who attempted to put an end to traditional Jewish worship and who rededicated the Temple to the worship of Zeus. Daniel is told that this king will be brought down, but not by human power. Antiochus Epiphanes was successful in battle against the Parthian Empire (revitalized Persian Empire) who had invaded his territory. However, after his initial successes and before he could consolidate them he died suddenly of disease. There are many who see more to this vision than that obvious interpretation since at the end of the explanation Gabriel tells Daniel to keep the vision a secret. I am satisfied with the interpretation of this prophecy being about the fall of the Persian Empire to Alexander the Great and the eventual fall of the Seleucid (Antiochus Epiphanes was a member of the Seleucid dynasty) dynasty. I am willing to consider additional meanings for this prophecy considering that in the explanation Gabriel says that it refers to the very end of time.

Rock Wall in the Woods

1 John 2:1-17

     John wrote this letter so that we might not sin, but he told us that even if we do sin we have an advocate who will plead our case before the Father. IF we know and love God we will follow His commands. Someone who does not follow God’s commands does not know or love God. If I wish to be viewed as living in God I must live as Jesus did.
     John tells us that the command to love one another is not a new command. Yet it is new because Jesus showed us what it means to truly live this command. If I claims to be living in the light in fellowship with God, yet harbor animosity towards a fellow believer, I am in fact living in darkness and am not experiencing the light of God. If I love my fellow believers then I am living in the light and I will not cause anyone to stumble. John tells us not to love the things of this world. I strive to love serving God more than I crave physical pleasure, more than I take pride in my accomplishments or my possessions. All of those things will fade away and be of no real consequence. I know that only what I do that pleases God and serves His will has real meaning, but I still find myself chasing after those other things.

Shallow Roots

Psalm 120:1-7

     If we cry out to the Lord when we face trouble, He will hear our prayer and answer us. He will rescue us from among liars and deceitful people, but we must be careful not to be one of those. I will seek peace, even when I live among those who are seeking war and violence.

Fall in the Woods

Proverbs 28:25-26

     Greed is the source of conflict, we fight because we want what others have. Trusting in your own insight is a sure route to trouble. Ask others for their advice and you will soon learn wisdom.

November 30, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Rock Wall In the Woods

Daniel 7:1-28

     Daniel recounted a vision he had during the reign of King Belshazzar of Babylon. In the dream he saw four beasts rise up out of a great sea. He gives a description of each of the beasts. The fourth beast has the most detailed description. It is described as starting out with ten horns. Then a small additional horn arises and three of the original ten horns are ripped out to make room for it. The small horn had human eyes and a mouth and it boasted of its great might. The fourth beast was killed and burned with fire while the other three beast had their power taken from them but lived on for a time. Then Daniel saw someone like a “son of man” come from heaven who was given sovereignty over all of the earth and a kingdom that would last forever.
     Daniel’s vision was explained to him. He was told that the four beasts were four kingdoms that would rise to power on the earth, but in the end the Kingdom of God would displace them and last to eternity. To this point it appears to be a vision recounting the same future as the one from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that first brought Daniel to prominence. However, the explanation of the fourth kingdom contains additional information. It tells us that a ruler would arise over the fourth kingdom who would defy God and attempt to change the religious practices of the people of God. As with many apocalyptic prophecies there are many interpretations of this prophecy. On the face of it, it appears to me to be a prophecy about something different from that of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. At least elements of it refer to the four kingdoms that Alexander the Great’s empire split into upon his death. I, also, believe that there are other times and places where this prophecy will apply. The rise of the boastful ruler who attempts to co-opt rituals and behaviors designed to worship God into worship of himself and pillars of his power base is a common theme throughout history. History, also, shows us that such rulers repeatedly use the power they so gather to bring horror upon those they rule over. These rulers generally come to a destructive end. There is more to be taken from this passage, but for today I come away with the knowledge that rulers will arise who think that they can displace God. They will persecute any who do acknowledge any god higher than themselves. Yet, ultimately God will bring them down in a way that shows that He is in control of history.

Woodpeckers Were Here

1 John 1:1-10

     Today I begin the book of 1 John. The author begins by declaring that he had seen and touched Jesus in the flesh. He is telling what he has actually seen and heard. Jesus is the Word of life and life itself. If we listen to and follow the words contained within this book, we will have fellowship with the author and with God. If we are attentive to these teachings we will share the joy that the author experienced.
     God is light, if we live in spiritual darkness we do not have fellowship with God. If we practice the truth of God’s word, spiritual darkness will be driven out of our lives, just as bringing light into a room drives out the darkness. I need to work at shining God’s light into all the corners of my life to drive out sin. The author tells us that if we claim to be without sin, we are liars and we are calling God a liar. However, if we admit to our sins and strive to turn from them God will forgive us and cleanse us from wickedness. I strive to make sure that those around me do not get the impression that I think I am without sin, or better than them.

And Here

Psalm 119:153-176

     The very essence of the words of God is truth. God’s rules are based on essential truth about humans and the world. Those who choose to ignore His words and behave wickedly are traveling into great danger because they are moving away from that which is truthful and essential. If we love doing what God desires and walk in the path of His commands we will not stumble and God will come to our rescue when trouble threatens. When I wander away from the Lord’s will and stumble into trouble, I will cry out to Him and He will guide me back to His path’s and out of trouble. I love the final verse of today’s psalm:

I have wandered away like a lost sheep;
come and find me

That sums up so much of my life and God’s faithfulness in coming to find me when I have cried out to Him.

Woodpeckers Once More

Proverbs 28:23-24

     In the long run those around you will be happier if you give them honest criticism than if you flatter them. Someone who is willing to steal from their parents will be equally willing to murder if they think they can get away with it.

November 29, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Winter Is Coming

Daniel 6:1-28

     Once Darius had conquered Babylon he divided his kingdom into 120 provinces and appointed a governor over each province. He then appointed Daniel and two others as something akin to an Inspector General to audit how the governors exercised their authority. Because Daniel was effective at this job, the king made plans to give him authority over the entire kingdom. The other officials and administrators began looking for ways to diminish Daniel’s influence. They were unable to find fault (at least what the king would have considered fault) with anything about the way Daniel carried out his official duties. Since they could not find anything wrong with the way he did his job, they decided to attack Daniel on the basis of his religion. But they could not attack him directly, so they went to King Darius and told him how wonderful he was. They recommended that he pass a law that for thirty days, no one could pray to anyone but him on pain of being thrown into a den of lions and told him that they supported it unanimously (they failed to tell him that they obtained that unanimity by not inviting anyone who might have disagreed). King Darius was convinced by their flattery. I don’t know about you, but this is sounding familiar. Time and again I see prominent figures attacked for their beliefs when those beliefs have little to do with the job those people do (except possibly making them better at it).
     What was Daniel’s response to this new law? It was to continue worshiping in the manner that he had always done. He changed nothing. He did not even attempt to be more secretive about his actions. The other officials went to his house and caught him violating the new law. They brought him before Darius and demanded that the king enforce the law. King Darius immediately realized what had happened and began looking for a loophole that would allow him to let Daniel off. The officials insisted that the king enforce the law and because he could find no loophole he gave the order for Daniel’s arrest. Just before having him placed in the den of lions the king told Daniel that he hoped that the God Daniel served would rescue him.
     The king spent the night in fasting and refused to sleep. In the morning he went to the lions’ den and called out for Daniel. Daniel answered the king and told him that God had kept the lions from harming him. The king ordered Daniel brought forth from the den. The king then ordered that those who had been behind the plot against Daniel be arrested and thrown into the lions’ den. The lions immediately attacked and ate them, demonstrating that Daniel’s safety was not the result of the lions not being aggressive against humans or not hungry.

Stream In The Woods

2 Peter 3:1-18

     In this passage Peter addresses the issue of the Lord’s return. First he tells us that some will scoff. The scoffers will question why Jesus has not yet returned and suggest that this is because He is not coming back. Peter reminds us that God destroyed the Earth once already with a flood and that He is going to destroy it a second, and final, time with fire. We must not forget that time does not mean the same thing to God as it does to us. God does not perceive time the way that we do. A thousand years looks no different than a day to God. I believe that what Peter is saying here can be compared to talking about a map. On a map of a state, there is no distinction between an inch and a thousand feet, both are too small to be separated out. When I tell you that two places are close together, if you do not know the scale of the map I am using, you will not be able to judge just how far apart they are. For example, to someone in California, Washington, DC and New York City are close to each other, but to someone in Baltimore, MD they are quite a distance apart. So Peter is telling us that Jesus is not being slow in returning, it is just that we do not understand the scale on which He is measuring time.
     God is not being slow in bringing about the judgment. He is being patient. He wishes to give everyone an opportunity to repent. He wants to give us time to reach out to our friends and neighbors and perhaps convince them to turn from sin to following Him. However, the day of Jesus return will come without additional warning. Since everything in this world is going to be destroyed, we should live our live accordingly. Let us live recognizing that the material things of this world are temporary and thus willingly sacrifice them in order to accumulate honors that are eternal. I will strive to live a peaceful life that is pure and blameless before God. In the meantime, I will use the time that God has given me to attempt to convince others to turn from their sins, praying that the Holy Spirit will move in their lives and show them God’s path.

She Came Looking For Me

Psalm 119:129-152

     God’s instructions are wonderful and following them gives me joy. They are straightforward and uncomplicated such as even those who are not very bright can understand what God wants from them. I am saddened by those who choose to ignore God’s instructions, both for the grief they inflict on others and for that which they inflict on themselves. God’s commands lay out the path to joy, happiness and fulfillment. They are trustworthy and thoroughly tested. We may not understand why God calls for us to behave as He does, but we can have confidence that it is the best path for us to follow. I will continue to pray to God that He give me the strength and courage to do as He commands.

Back Inside, Where It’s Warm

Proverbs 28:21-22

     It is never good to show favoritism, yet there are people who will do wrong for the pettiest of rewards. Attempting to get rich quick is a sure route to poverty. The timing on this second could not be more perfect for me. I am reading it (and writing this) while there is lots of buzz over the size of the PowerBall Lottery prize. Many have chosen to buy tickets in the hope of getting rich quick.

November 28, 2012 Bible Study

     I am going to try various ways to improve my blog. The last couple of days I was asking for people from particular countries to respond to my blog. I chose countries that I had been receiving hits from for the previous couple of days. Interestingly, no one visited my blog from the country I chose each day. So, I am going to discontinue that idea. I will be trying different things. If my changes make any difference to you, please let me know what you think (good or bad).
     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.


Daniel 5:1-31

     Today’s passage is where the phrase “the writing on the wall” comes from. The story begins by telling us that King Belshazzar, one of Nebuchadnezzar’s successors, was throwing a feast for some of his nobles. As part of this feast, he thought it would be a great idea to use cups taken from the temple in Jerusalem to drink in celebration of their various idols. In the middle of their celebration and worship of these gods a hand appeared and began to write on the wall. King Belshazzar became frightened and immediately summoned his various magicians and fortune tellers. He offered them a great reward if they could tell him what the writing meant. None of them could read the writing let alone tell him what it meant.
     The king and the nobles were badly shaken by the failure of these wise men to interpret the writing. When the queen mother heard of the uproar, she hurried to the banquet and instructed the king to summon Daniel, recounting how Daniel had demonstrated great ability under Nebuchadnezzar. King Belshazzar followed he advice and summoned Daniel. When Daniel arrives the king offered him great riches for solving the mystery. Daniel declined the king’s offer but answered the mystery anyway. Daniel told the king that he, the king, knew of Nebuchadnezzar being humbled before the Lord, but chose to defy the Lord by drinking to idols with cups taken from the Lord’s Temple. The writing was a message that God had chosen to end King Belshazzar’s reign. That very night Darius the Mede conquered Babylon and killed Belshazzar.
     This is a very telling story. King Belshazzar and his nobles are busy partying while the city which they are in charge of is under siege. On top of that they chose to ignore the evidence of God’s power that had been evident in the reign of the king’s predecessor. I have a sense that they used the implements from the Temple in Jerusalem at the feast as a deliberate defiance against an ethos of moral behavior and self-sacrifice. The king and his nobles saw no reason they should refrain from obtaining their own pleasure even though their city was under attack and some of their fellow citizens were suffering.

Charlie Awaits His Cue

2 Peter 2:1-22

     Peter writes that just as there were false prophets in Israel there will be false teachers among the Church. These false teachers will make up clever lies to get a hold of other people’s money. Peter writes that God will bring judgment upon these false teachers just has He has brought judgment upon sinners in the past. He tells us that we have the example of Lot to show us that God can and will rescue the godly out from the middle of such sinners. God is especially harsh on those who indulge twisted sexual desires and defy authority. These false teachers indulge in evil pleasures and lure people into sin. They will attempt to build up a reputation for godliness among the Church while plotting to take advantage of those whom they have fooled. They scoff at the idea of supernatural powers while indulging in evil pleasures. They claim that the freedom of Christ is the freedom to engage in licentious behavior, rather than recognizing that such behavior enslaves those who partake in it. There is a reason that our society has added sexual addiction to the list of addictions that people need treatment to escape. All sins are addictive, we are to accept the freedom of Christ and resist being re-enslaved to sin (become addicted to once more).
     We should be wary of false teachers. Peter here gives us several methods for recognizing them. The first is their obsession with gaining other people’s money. Preachers who spend an inordinate amount of their time asking others to give to their ministry, especially when that ministry is situated in such a manner so as to make it difficult for those giving to receive an account of how the money is actually spent. In addition, they are constantly talking about their powerful ministry and perhaps the power they have over supernatural beings. Finally, they often indulge in sexual sins and do not make much effort to hide such behavior from their followers. We see this again and again in accounts of big name preachers (and some not so big name ones as well) who have brought discredit on Christianity, from Jim Jones to Jim Baker to many others. The story often comes out about how they have indulged themselves sexually with persons other than their wives.

Getting Rid Of Excess Leaves

Psalm 119:113-128

     O Lord do not let me have divided loyalties. Let me desire to follow your commands, not seek after worldly pleasures. Help me to focus on keeping your commands and serving You. Give me a love for serving You that dwarfs my desire for wealth. Teach me to seek how I may better serve you in all that I do. Show me the actions You wish me to take and the wisdom to understand why that is the course I should follow.

Smoke Signals

Proverbs 28:19-20

     A hard worker will have sufficient to supply their needs and a trustworthy person will be rewarded. On the other hand those who seek to get rich quick and fantastical schemes to profit without effort will end in poverty.

November 27, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me. I am striving to improve these devotionals, so from time to time I am going to take note of countries from which I have seen a significant number of visitors and ask how those from that country think I can improve my blog. Today I have chosen Hong Kong. If you live in Hong Kong and are visiting my site today, please tell me why you visited my site and how I could improve it. Thank you.

Magrat Stalks a Leaf

Daniel 4:1-37

     Today’s passage is about another dream that Nebuchadnezzar had that was interpreted by Daniel. When Nebuchadnezzar woke from his dream he summoned all of the wise men and magicians of his realm and described his dream to them requesting that they interpret it for him. None of them could give him an answer except for Daniel. Daniel was hesitant to interpret the dream for Nebuchadnezzar but the king insisted that Daniel tell him the meaning.
     The dream was of a large tree that soared high into the heavens such that it could be seen from the entire earth. A messenger came down from heaven and ordered that the tree be cut down and that “he” live as an animal for seven “periods of time.” Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he, Nebuchadnezzar, was the tree and that he would lose his power and his mental capacity and would live as an animal for seven periods of time (the passage never specifies if this is days, months, years or some other unit of time).
     The passage tells us that twelve months later, Nebuchadnezzar was on his palace roof looking out over the city of Babylon and musing on what a wonderful and powerful ruler he was when a voice spoke from heaven and he lost his mind and was driven from human company. He lived as a beast for seven periods of time. At the end of that time, he looked up to heaven and praised God. His exile ended when he recognized that God was the final arbiter of who will have power and who will be powerless, that no human effort can change the course that God has chosen. Upon recognizing these facts, Nebuchadnezzar was restored to power in his kingdom.

Magrat Watches the Bird Feeder

2 Peter 1:1-21

     I begin reading Peter’s second letter (the second of the two that we still have, I am sure that he wrote many others over the course of his life and ministry that have not been preserved). He starts off with a wish/blessing for us, but it is a conditional blessing. He expresses his desire that God give us ever increasing grace and peace, but he tells us that this will only happen as we grow in our knowledge of God and Christ.
     Peter writes that God has given us everything we need to live a godly life as a result of our coming to know Him through Jesus. In light of this fact we should make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Peter then tells us how to go about that. The starting point is faith. Then we add moral excellence, followed by knowledge. As we increase in knowledge, we need to exercise self-control. We need to exercise self-control with patient endurance. Patient endurance should be supplemented with godliness. We should add brotherly affection to our godliness and then extend brotherly affection to love for everyone. It is a progression and it all fits together. We cannot skip over parts of it and say, “Well, I have love for everyone, so I don’t need knowledge (or moral excellence, or self-control).” In addition, it is not enough to have knowledge and not love for everyone. On the other hand, it is a progression. We are not going to have moral excellence until we have faith. We are not going to grow in knowledge until we exhibit the moral excellence that we know (and so on). The more we grow in this progression, the more that God can use us to serve His purposes. If we fail to develop according to this process it indicates that we are short-sighted, or completely blind to God’s plans in this world.
     Peter reminds us that his knowledge is not that of clever stories, but of someone who actually witnessed the events of the Gospel. He goes on to tell us that the prophesies in Scripture do not derive from human understanding or initiative. The Scriptures came about when the Holy Spirit moved the prophets to convey a message from God.

Magrat Watches the Bird Feeder

Psalm 119:97-112

     The path to knowledge and wisdom is following God’s commands. If we study God’s commands AND follow them we will be wiser than our enemies. There are two pieces to this. First, following God’s commands will give us greater wisdom than those who do not follow God’s commands. Second, we will not be enemies of those who also follow God’s commands since it is a violation of God’s commands to be at odds with those who are following God’s commands. If we are faithful in following God’s commands we will be wiser than our elders who fail to do so. As we follow the Lord’s commands, we will find doing so as rewarding as we find honey to be sweet when we eat it.
     As we study God’s word and follow His instructions we will find that we do not trip over obstacles we did not see coming. We are able to prepare for troubles before they come upon us and navigate around them. We do not need to stumble in the dark with no way to plan for future events. IF we follow the commands of the Lord we will discover that we are prepared for what happens. The path He will lay out for us will take us around obstacles and troubles.

Magrat Stalks the Leaves

Proverbs 28:17-18

     Those who do evil will be hounded by enemies that exist only in their minds (although they may have real enemies as well) until the day they die. Those that are innocent will be rescued from harm as if a hand is held over them (because One is), while destruction will come without warning to those who are crooked and evil. When I read this proverb I envision an innocent walking out in front of a bus which slams on its brakes and stops just short of hitting them. Meanwhile the evil person who has been plotting to harm them is walking along behind and gets run over by the speeding car that swerves to avoid the suddenly stopped bus.

November 26, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me. I am striving to improve these devotionals, so from time to time I am going to take note of countries from which I have seen a significant number of visitors and ask how those from that country think I can improve my blog. Today I have chosen the Philippines. If you live in the Philippines and are visiting my site today, please tell me what you would like me to do differently with my site, and if you visit it regularly let me know why. Thank you.

Blowing the Shofar

Daniel 2:24-3:30

     Daniel described King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to him and then told him what it meant. Daniel first tells Nebuchadnezzar that no man could reveal the king’s secret. However, there is a God in heaven that can reveal any secret. This God has revealed the king’s secret to Daniel. Daniel describes the dream as of a giant statue made of mixed materials. The head was of gold, its chest and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs were of bronze, its legs were iron and its feet were mixed iron and clay. In the dream, a rock was then cut from a mountain, but not by human hands. The rock struck the statue and crushed it into small pieces. The wind rose up and blew the bits away. The rock then grew into a mountain that filled the whole earth.
     Daniel then explains the meaning of the dream to Nebuchadnezzar. The gold head was Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom. Each of the different metals represented the empires that one after another succeeded Nebuchadnezzar’s. The mixed iron and clay represents and empire that will be two kingdoms that form alliances with each other through intermarriage. The two kingdoms will not hold together just as iron and clay do not mix. The rock represents a kingdom set up by God that will crush all the other kingdoms into nothingness and endure forever. Traditional interpretation is that the silver kingdom was that of the Persians which succeeded the Babylonian Empire, the bronze was the empire of Alexander the Great and the iron was the Roman Empire (with the iron and clay feet being after Constantine established Constantinople separating the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western parts). The rock represents the rise of God’s Kingdom with the coming of Christ. After Daniel reveals the dream and its interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar appointed him to a high office. At Daniel’s request, Nebuchadnezzar also appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to high office.
     Some time after this, Nebuchadnezzar built a giant statue and ordered all of the kingdom officials to gather for the dedication of the statue. Nebuchadnezzar then ordered that all of the people bow down and worship the statue when they heard the sounds of the musical instruments. Those who refused to bow down would be thrown into a blazing furnace. When the horns and other musical instruments sounded all of the people bowed down except for some of the Jews. Some of the court musicians made Nebuchadnezzar aware that Daniel’s three friends, Meshach, Sadrach and Abednego did not worship the gods of Babylon and had refused to bow down and worship the statue. Nebuchadnezzar was infuriated. He had the three brought before him and offered them one more chance to worship the statue. He asked them what god would rescue them from his power when he had them thrown into the furnace. They replied that they had no need to defend themselves to him and that the God that they served was able to rescue them from his power. They further said that even if God did not rescue them from his power, they would not serve his gods nor worship the statue he had built.
     Nebuchadnezzar was so furious at this response that he ordered the furnace stoked up even hotter. He then ordered them tied up and thrown into the furnace fully dressed. The fire was so hot that it killed the soldiers who threw the three into the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar suddenly cried out that instead of three bound men lying in the furnace, he saw four men unbound walking around in the fire unharmed. Nebuchadnezzar approached the furnace as close as he could and called for Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego to come out of the furnace. When the three emerged, those nearby observed that not only was not a single hair on their heads was singed but they did not even smell of smoke.
     I think that the response of Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego is a model for us today when we pray for divine intervention. They declared that they knew that God was capable of rescuing them from Nebuchadnezzar’s power, but they recognized that He might not do so. They declared that they would be faithful to God even if he did not grant their petition. We should have faith that God is capable of granting that which we are asking of Him, but that even if it is His will to not do so, we will continue to faithfully serve Him and we will NOT give our loyalty to other gods in His place.

Thanksgiving Worship Team

1 Peter 4:7-5:14

     Peter tells us that the end of the world is coming soon, so we should be disciplined in our prayers. In addition he tells us to show deep love for one another and demonstrate hospitality. Before I began this daily devotional blog I had been aware of the Bible’s instruction for us to be hospitable but I had never realized how much emphasis it placed on exhibiting hospitality. In this passage, Peter goes on to tell us that each of us has been given a spiritual gift from God. We are to use whatever gifts we have been given to serve one another. We need to use all of the energy and strength that God has supplied us with in the exercise of our spiritual gifts. By doing this we will bring glory to God in everything we do.
     We should not be surprised that we suffer for being Christians. We should be joyful when we suffer and receive insults for being Christians for it is a sign that God’s Spirit is resting upon us. We should not suffer for doing wrong. However, when we suffer for being faithful to God we should praise God for the honor of suffering in His name.
     Peter wrote that the elders should care for the congregation willingly, not for what they can get out of it, but because they are eager to serve God. The elders should not lord it over those who have been entrusted to their care. Instead they should lead them by setting a good example. Younger men should accept the authority of the elders and all in the Church should serve one another with humility. We must stand firm against the devil and be alert against his attempts to lead us astray. Our fellow Christians throughout the world are experiencing trials for their faith just as we are.

Bonita Ness Leads Worship

Psalm 119:81-96

     Even when my life is filled troubles and strains and I am being persecuted for following the Lord I will look to the Lord for rescue. I know that in His time He will provide me relief. I will not abandon His commands because I know that He loves me with unfailing love. The Lord’s commands are eternal and will withstand the test of time. I will not forget the Lord’s commands because they are the path by which He gives me life and joy. Even though my enemies may lay in wait and plot against me, I will not be distracted from following God’s commands.
     I have just written to above in positive affirmation as if I do these things as a matter of course, when these are merely my statements of what I wish to do as God gives me the strength to do so.

Performing a Choric Reading

Proverbs 28:15-16

     A wicked ruler is as much of a danger to the poor as any wild predator. A ruler who oppresses those over whom he rules is demonstrating a lack of wisdom, while a ruler who fights corruption will lead a long life.

November 25, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Deep Creek Lake in the Fall

Daniel 1-2:23

     Today I begin reading the book of Daniel. The book starts with the story of how Daniel and his three friends ended up in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar. As young men they were brought into exile in Babylon and chosen to serve in the court along with other young men in exile. From other sources, I have come to the belief that part of the reason that the young men in this program were chosen was because they were not Chaldeans (the name of the ethnic group that ruled Babylon) and thus were not threats to attempt to usurp the throne. The mental image I always have of these young men is of 18-20 year-olds. However, it is likely that they were actually probably just entering puberty and thus were about 10-12 years old.
     The king directed that they be fed the same type of food which he ate. This food was not kosher, but relative to the story, it was also probably very fatty. Daniel and his three friends (an interesting side note at this point. We know Daniel by his Hebrew name, Daniel, but his three friends by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach,and Abednego) did not want to eat this food because it was not kosher (and possibly because they did not like the way it looked/tasted. They were after all at an age when children are often particular about what they will eat). Nevertheless it is notable that Daniel was willing to stand up to those who had been put into authority over them and request different food. The chief of staff was hesitant to feed them differently because he believed that the food the king was providing was what would provide for the young men to grow and develop into strong and intelligent men. Daniel shows his wisdom. Rather than throw a tantrum and refuse to eat, he suggests a trial. The chief of staff will feed them only kosher food (and since there was no kosher meats available at that time and place, that meant all vegetables) for ten days. In addition, they would drink only water. Daniel suggested that at the end of ten days the chief of staff could compare what they looked like to the other boys and make his decision based on that. This suggests that Daniel had some understanding of good nutrition. At the end of the ten days, the four boys looked much healthier than their contemporaries. The story then tells us that these four young men demonstrated an unusual aptitude for learning. If we think about it, it makes perfect sense. Their contemporaries were feasting and drinking every day on the food and wine provided by the king, while Daniel and his three friends were eating healthily and drinking water. Even if the four of them did not study more than their contemporaries, they would have been mentally prepared to get more out of their studies because their minds would not have been fogged by alcohol. The difference was so profound that they clearly stood out when they were brought before the king.
     Shortly after the four had “graduated” and entered into service of the king, the king began suffering nightmares. He gathered his court soothsayers. I note two interesting points about this. The first is that the list of those the king called are variations of those who claim magical powers as the basis for their wisdom. The second is that Daniel and his friends were not among those called. The king asked the magicians (I will use this term to separate them from the group of wise men that included both them and those who did not claim magical powers) he had gathered to tell him what his dreams meant, without revealing what those dreams were. The magicians responded that such a thing was impossible, that there was no way for them to know what the king’s dreams were. That only a god would know that and none of them were gods. The king was furious that they could not tell him what his dreams were and ordered that all of his court wise men be executed. The king had correctly concluded that the magicians were primarily a bunch of con artists who used tricks and subterfuge to make it seem as if they had magical powers. The thing he overlooked was that he had at least four advisers who did not claim magical powers. When the commander of the kings guard came to arrest Daniel and his friends they were unaware of what had happened (not having responded to the first summons since they did not claim any magical powers). When they found out what this was all about Daniel went to the king and requested some time to interpret the dream. The king granted him his request. Daniel went home and held a prayer meeting with his three roommates (OK, I am guessing the part about them being roommates and the prayer meeting part is just my interpretation). That night Daniel received a vision answering the king’s question about his dreams. Daniel’s response was to praise God and give all credit for the answer to God. Refusing in any way to take credit for the answer himself, not even to the point of implying that getting the answer was a result of his special relationship with God. Daniel’s prayer of praise contains within it the idea that anyone who was willing to subject themselves to God could have asked and received the answer. Do we have the faith to ask God for these sorts of answers? And as importantly, do we have the humility to acknowledge that when we get these answers it is not because we are somehow special?

Tree Fallen Into the Lake

1 Peter 3:8-4:6

     Peter tells us to be of one mind with our fellow believers. We are to love each other with tender hearts and a humble attitude. We should not respond in like fashion to those who treat us badly and/or insult us. Instead we should bless those who mistreat us and talk about the good things we see in them. Peter points out that few will desire to harm us if we are always eager to do good. And even if we are persecuted for doing good, that is better than to be punished for doing wrong. God will reward us for doing good, even if those of the world mock and mistreat us for it. We need to be prepared to explain our faith when people question us as to how we can live our lives as we do (and hopefully we are living our lives in a way that glorifies God). But when we give that explanation, we are to be gentle and respectful (I believe that for many of us–definitely myself included–this is the hardest part). If we follow Peter’s instructions when people speak against us they will be shamed as others compare their slanders with our actual behavior (and perhaps those slandering us will be ashamed of saying such malicious things and come to know the Lord).
     Peter tells us that we should be prepared to suffer for our faith because Christ Himself suffered even though He was sinless. He tells us that when we experience physical suffering for our faith, it will make us even more determined to be faithful to God. As we choose to avoid drunkenness and wild parties, immorality and lust, and other self-destructive behavior, those around us who seek fulfillment in such things will be surprised and slander us. They will call us prudes and killjoys (and worse). Let us remember the joy that comes from serving the Lord.
Restored Deep Creek Riparian Zone[/caption]

Psalm 119:65-80

     The Lord has indeed done many good things for me. I believe that His commands (even though I often fail to keep them) are the path to happiness and fulfillment. I request that He give me good judgement and knowledge of what He desires me to do. I value God’s commands more than I value any amount of wealth. I was created by God, it makes sense that following His instructions is the path to the greatest happiness and health. I know that the difficult times (and truth be told, they have not really been that difficult) I have experienced are necessary discipline to teach me to follow God’s commands more closely. Let me form more close friendships with those who are striving to serve God, so that they may strengthen me and I them. Let me follow God’s commands in all that I do, so that I never need be ashamed.

Milkweed Pods

Proverbs 28:14

     Those who fear to do wrong will be blessed, but those who stubbornly refuse to accept admonishment will soon find more trouble than they bargained for.

November 24, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

God’s Paint-By-Numbers Green Lane Edition #288

Ezekiel 47-48:35

     Ezekiel next described a river that flowed out from the Temple that got deeper as if got further from the Temple. He said that life would flourish wherever this river flows. The river would flow into the Dead Sea making it fresh and full of fish. He tells us that the marshes and swamps around the Dead Sea will still be salty. Many trees will grow alongside this river and life will flourish wherever it flows. The trees that grow along the river will never lose their leaves and they will always be full of fruit.
     This passage is part of several in the Bible which talk about the River of Life that flows forth from God. I do not know if Ezekiel was talking about a metaphorical river here or if he was describing something that will actually happen where enough water is washing down into the Dead Sea for it to become a fresh water lake. Today however I will treat it as being metaphorical (because I think the metaphor has value). The Dead Sea supports no animal life of any kind (fish, reptile, amphibian or mammal). Yet Ezekiel tells us that when the River of God starts flowing into it from Jerusalem it will come to life and support an abundance of fish and other sources of food. This is a great metaphor for the impact of Jesus on people’s lives. Areas of their self that have been dead come to life. And as we drink from the River of Life it gets deeper because God comes to live within us and we become a source for that River as well. Let us drink deeply from the River of Life and invite God into our hearts so that His water can flow out from us to refresh those around us.

Deep Creek Lake

1 Peter 2:11-3:7

     Since we are temporary residents and foreigners in this world we should be careful not to give in to the desire to be part of this world. We should be careful to live properly and honorably among our unbelieving neighbors so that even when they accuse of us wrongdoing they will see our honorable behavior and give glory to God. Peter is not satisfied to tell us to live honorable lives. He follows it up by giving us instructions on how to do so. He tells us that we should respect all human authority. That while Christ has set us free we should not use that freedom as an excuse to do evil. He tells us that in our work we should accept the authority of those over us and treat them with respect, even if their behavior is not worthy of respect. We should do what we know is right and patiently endure unjust treatment. When we suffer for being good we should endure it patiently because this pleases God.
     He goes on to tell wives that they should accept their husband’s authority. He says that they should do this so that even if their husband refuses to accept the Gospel, he may be won over by their pure and reverent life. Further Peter tells women that they should not be concerned with external beauty–fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, and beautiful clothes. Instead they should focus on the beauty that comes from within, the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that never fades. Then he says the part that so many overlook in their outrage over this. Husbands are to give honor to their wives in the same way that wives are to accept their husband’s authority. Peter tells husbands that their wife is their equal and that they should treat her as such. He tells us that not doing so will hinder our prayers. An important point in this is that the instruction to the husband is not conditional upon the wife accepting the husband’s authority just as the instruction to the wife is not conditional upon the husband giving honor to the wife. We are each accountable for fulfilling our side of the bargain, irrespective of whether our spouse is fulfilling their side.

Another View of Deep Creek Lake

Psalm 119:49-64

     God’s promise to me provides me with comfort whenever I face trials and troubles. I will follow the Lord’s instructions even in the face of mocking by those who do not believe. O Lord I strive to follow the psalmist’s example and spend my life following Your commands. Do not let evil people entice me into disobeying your commands. Teach me Your decrees Lord, so that I may gain wisdom.

Magrat Stalking a Leaf

Proverbs 28:12-13

     Everyone is happy to see the success of those who serve the Lord, but when the wicked rise to power people hide in fear. When we succumb to sin, we are better served to confess those sins and turn from them than to attempt to conceal them from others. All too often I have struggled with situations because I tried to cover up my failings and sins, when if I had openly confessed my failure I could have resolved the problem and put it behind me.

November 23, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Fall day at Green Lane Park

Ezekiel 45:13-46:24

     In today’s passage Ezekiel describes the sacrifices and rituals that are to be performed after the children of Israel are restored from exile. As I read this I can see the beauty and solemnity of the rituals. There is a certain quality to rituals that allows us to submerge our concerns for our daily troubles into worship of the Lord. It is a fine line because all too easily the ritual becomes the focus rather than something that places our focus on God. I struggle with the issue of rituals because, as a Mennonite, I come from a tradition that has focused more on the dangers of rituals than the benefits. I will strive to develop rituals that allow me to submerge my concerns for the issues of daily life and place my focus on God.

1 Peter 1:13-2:10

     Peter tells us to think clearly and exercise self-control. We must not slip into living to satisfy our own desires. We should strive to be holy, just as God is holy. God paid a price to rescue us from the empty meaningless life we led before His Spirit came upon us. God does not play favorites so we must live in reverent fear of Him, recognizing that we are foreigners in this world. We place our trust in God because He raised Jesus from the dead. In response to this wondrous gift let us show sincere love for one another.
     We need to avoid all sorts of dishonesty and deceit. It is not enough that what we say is technically true. We are to avoid telling people partial truths that we know will lead them to believe something that is not true. Further we need to avoid hypocrisy, jealousy and unkind speech. We need to avoid all that because we are being built into God’s Temple with Jesus as the cornerstone. We must avoid behaviors that might block others from coming to Christ and worshiping God. Instead we should offer spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to God. I need to sacrifice my desires and the things that I desire in order to better serve the Lord. I will trust that the Temple that God is building with Christ as the cornerstone will be an architectural masterpiece despite the critiques of those who do not trust in Christ.

Another View Across the Lake

Psalm 119:33-48

     These two stanzas are indeed my prayer today. O Lord give me the wisdom to follow Your commands, Make me eager to do your will rather than eager to acquire wealth. Turn my eyes away from the worthless things of this world and instead focus my sight upon you. Help me to abandon my shameful, sinful ways so that I may live to bring glory to Your Name.
     I ask O Lord that you do not take your word of truth from me. I will study God’s words and hide them in my heart so that I may meditate on them all of my days. Let me not be ashamed to speak of God’s commands and what they mean to me, whether I am speaking to the rich and powerful or to the poor and lowly. I resolve to follow the Lord’s commands and delight in them in the face of any ridicule that comes my way.

God’s Paint-By-Numbers Green Lane Edition #289

Proverbs 28:11

     The rich often mistake their ability to gather wealth for wisdom, but the poor person with understanding is not fooled.

Better Than I Deserve

    Last night, the night before Thanksgiving, our congregation had a Thanksgiving service. Earl Anders was invited to speak. The theme of his message was an explanation of how he chooses to respond when people ask him the classic question of greeting, “How are you doing?” He told us that he usually answers, “Better than I deserve.” When he said that it struck a chord with me. That is so true of my life. My whole life has been better than I deserve. But it is more than that, I do not deserve what God has done for me. I am not deserving of the mercy that God has shown for me. Paul referred to himself as the worst of sinners. I cannot even give myself that much credit. I am just a mundane, everyday sinner, but a sinner nevertheless. There is some benefit to be had from turning around the worst of sinners, but what glory does God gain from the mercy He has shown me? How can anything repay God for the great mercy He has shown me? Yet He has shown that great mercy to me nonetheless. I will be forever grateful for what He has done for me. I am completely undeserving of the wonders God has performed for me. I cannot find the words to express what my life would be like had God given me what I deserve. I deserve to be poor and starving, not healthy and well-fed.
    God gifted me with loving, God-fearing parents who set my feet on the right path. I am grateful that they set such a solid basis for my life that when I realized how empty of meaning everything this world had to offer was, I knew where to turn. Then when I had wasted many opportunities in my life to serve Him, He brought a wonderful woman into my life to be my wife. She has inspired me to seek what new opportunities He has for me. And just as I had been beginning to think that I had wasted all opportunities to use my gifts to make a difference for Him, last night after the service a man from my congregation approached me and asked if I had any ideas about how to address a problem the ministry he was involved with was having. It was a problem that bore close resemblance to a problem I had recently solved for my job, so I knew exactly what the solution was and was able to direct him in the right direction. I am so blessed by God in all manners and I continue to pray that He bring new opportunities for me to serve Him.