Song of Solomon 8:6 – “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm: for love is as strong as death…..”
Have you ever thought you knew something and then found out you were wrong? That was my experience today. I always thought Song of Solomon 8:6 says that “love is stronger than death,” but when I read it today it says, “love is as strong as death.” So I read it again, and it still said that. So I read it in 4 different translations and they all said the exact same thing, “love is as strong as death.” And yet God is love and He is certainly stronger than death. In fact He triumphed over death. Jesus, who is God come in the flesh, was resurrected after dying the horrific death on the cross. So why does the Bible say that love is as strong as death?
The answer is that Jesus is not just love. Yes He is the love of God incarnate. He is God come in the flesh and He displayed for us 100% the love of God. In fact His love was so rich and deep that He took our sins on Himself and took the wrath of the Father in our place. However Jesus is more than love, He is also righteousness. He never sinned, He never made a mistake, He never disobeyed the Father, and He never acted outside of the will of the Father. He is love and righteousness. Love may be as strong as death but when you put love and righteousness together in the person of Jesus Christ, they are stronger than death. Up from the grave He arose! And though His grace we can be found in Him, which means that because of His love and His righteousness that we can overcome death as well.
That is tremendous news. We can overcome death through the blood of Jesus Christ. Death is our greatest enemy, it is our number 1 fear, but through Jesus we are victorious. This means that our other circumstance and situations can be overcome as well. We don’t have to be slaves to sin or addiction. We don’t have to be overcome by fear or worry. Lost family members and friends can be saved. The chains of addiction can be broken, and relationships can be healed, all because the love of God that is displayed in Jesus, coupled with His righteousness is stronger than anything.
Yesterday in worship our praise band sang a song that said, “the grave has overwhelmed,” and as they sang I felt the weight of the words. Life can be hard and difficult and in fact it can seem overwhelming. They went on to sing a song that says “we have OVERCOME by the blood of the lamb……”. From overwhelmed to overcoming. That is the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Death which seems overwhelming can be overcome! Sin which sometimes steam rolls us and overwhelms us can be overcome. Worry can overwhelm us and keep us up all night. It can make us miserable, but it too can be overcome. How? Through the blood of Jesus, through His love and His righteousness. He is stronger than all things!
He overwhelmed us with His Spirit in worship yesterday and He reminded us through His grace that we can overcome by His power and love.
Theme: This week we will once again concentrate on things that we should be praying as we lead up to revival. Over the past few weeks we have looked at the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90 and we saw how it formed a good foundation for revival praying. It teaches us to pray that we would find our satisfaction in Jesus (v. 14). It also teaches us to pray that we would be a rejoicing people (v. 14). Then we are told to pray for God’s work and that we would get a glimpse of His glory (v. 16), and finally we are instructed to pray that God would establish the works of our hands (v. 17) This means that we should be praying that revival would not be a work of man but a work of God. We need to continue to pray for these things as we lead up to revival but this week I want us to look at some other things that we as followers of Christ should be praying.
Monday – Psalm 125
Psalm 125 is one of the songs of ascent. These songs were sung by the people of God as they journeyed to Jerusalem. Some scholars even think they were sung as the people climbed the steps into the temple. They were psalms designed to help the worshipper get their eyes on God and of course as we have talked about in the past when we truly get a glimpse of God and who He is, when we see His glory and His grace we will experience revival. So the psalms of Ascent can be viewed as revival songs. In Psalm 125 the psalmist makes a great declaration that the “Lord surrounds His people.” What he is telling them is this look to God because God in His goodness and grace surrounds you with His love. This is a good prayer for us to pray today, God help us to see how you surround us and how you love us. God help us to be constantly aware of your grace. The reason for this is because God is good all the time and all the time God is good! We need to get a glimpse of that goodness as we head towards revival because again when we see the love of God and we see His glory it will change us and transform us. Take time today to thank God for His continual love and for the fact that His grace surrounds you.
Tuesday – Psalm 51
David seemed to be a living contradiction. On the one hand he was known as a man after God’s own heart and on the other hand he was a murderer and an adulterer. In Psalm 51 courageously confronts his sin by confessing it to God and crying out not only for forgiveness, but for cleansing. David didn’t just want to be forgiven, he wanted to be changed. He wanted God to remove his sinful desires so that he could be more of what God called him to be. He wanted God to help him realize that God’s salvation was his source of joy and he wanted God to strengthen him to follow Him because of that.
In many ways we are like David. The theologians of old said that we are “simul justus et peccator,” which is latin for saying we are both saints and sinners at the same time. We are made saints through the blood of Jesus and through us putting our faith in Him, yet at the same time we still have a sinful nature and struggle with sin. Because of that our prayer needs to be the prayer of David: “Create in me a clean heart, renew a right Spirit within me, cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing Spirit.” In other words “God, please forgive us but also change us. Help us to desire your presence and cling to your Holy Spirit. Give us the joy of salvation and help us to see just how wonderful the salvation is so that we might follow you.”
Wednesday – Proverbs 28
Solomon makes a great declaration in Proverbs 28:1, “the righteous are bold as a lion.” Certainly when we read this what jumps out to us is us people who follow God standing strong in their faith and that is part of what is meant here, but it goes beyond that. The boldness that Solomon is talking about here is a boldness for life. A person who trusts God can be bold in life knowing that they can face whatever comes their way because God is with them. It also indirectly shows us that a person who follows God can have a boldness in the decisions that they make because they are operating not out of their own wisdom but out of the wisdom of God. We can also be bold as we live because we have the promise of heaven before us. So yes we should be bold and courageous in our faith, but we should also live life courageously, tackle problems with God’s boldness and know that He is with us every step of the way. A great prayer to pray as we head towards revival (and beyond) is God give me your courage. After all God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind.
Thursday – 1 Peter 3:8-9
Being “bold” in our faith does not mean being insensitive or rude, instead we are called to walk in truth and in love. Peter talks about this in 1 Peter when he says we are to be in unity with one another, we are to display sympathy to one another and we are to have brotherly love for each other. He also calls us to be tender hearted and humble. In other words he calls us to care about people to not be selfish or rude, but to put others’ needs even above our own. Peter is calling us through the power of the Holy Spirit to live like Jesus. Jesus was strong and Jesus was bold but Jesus was also compassionate and full of love. Remember when he saw the crowds He was moved with compassion. We need to pray and ask God to soften us, we need to ask Him to help us see other people’s needs and to help us truly care about them and love them for His glory.
Friday – Jeremiah 18
The Christian life should be a life of constant change. We should be growing daily and becoming more and more like Jesus. As John the Baptist said, “more of Him and less of me.” We see that in Jeremiah 18 as Jeremiah goes to a potters house and sees a potter working and reworking a piece of pottery. He takes it and removes anything flawed in it and then he reworks it into what it was supposed to be. He took the piece of clay and turned it into a piece of art. The goal for every Christ follower is to be like Jesus, but for us to get there God may have to work us and rework us just like the potter does with the clay. This transformation is not immediate but it is a process. It takes a lot of time and a lot of grace. Because of that our prayer needs to pray, “Lord I want to be like clay in your hands. Mold me, make me, and shape me into what I’m supposed to be.”
Theme: This week we will once again concentrate on things that we should be praying as we lead up to revival. Last week we looked at the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90 and we saw how it formed a good foundation for revival praying, as it teaches us to pray that we would find our satisfaction in Jesus (v. 14). It also teaches us to pray that we would be a rejoicing people (v. 14). Then we are told to pray for God’s work and that we would get a glimpse of His glory (v. 16), and finally we are instructed to pray that God would establish the works of our hands (v. 17) This means that we should be praying that revival would not be a work of man but a work of God. We need to continue to pray for these things as we lead up to revival but this week I want us to look at some other things that we as followers of Christ should be praying.
Monday – Psalm 40
King David is the author of Psalm 40 and even though he is the king and he is a great leader and great warrior, Psalm 40 is a Psalm of total dependence on God. God has heard his cry, God has delivered him, God has set his feet on the rock, God has even put a new song in his mouth. David realizes that he needs God for everything, so he dedicates his life to following God. He boldly declares God I delight to do your will, I want to tell people about you, I want to follow you. David realizes the goodness of God and the power of God and because of that he says I’m going to follow God. Even though David makes that declaration and even though David is known as a man after God’s own heart, David still struggles with sin. In verse 12 he says “my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see.” He is dedicated to God and he desires to follow God and do his will but David is still sinful and because of that he wrestles with sin. Sometimes this sinful desire is so strong that David says “I can’t see”. In other words my sins sometimes blind me, and keep me from doing the right thing. Sin can blind us as well. Sin can cause us not to see God’s goodness and God’s power. Our sinful natures can blind us to the things of God and when that happens we just look to ourselves and we are driven by our own selfishness and self interests. David realizes that so he prays for God to be his help and his deliverer. We need to pray the same things, God help us not to be blinded by sin. Help us not to be driven by our own selfishness but God help us be driven by you and by a love for your word. Our prayer needs to be much like David’s, God help us delight in you, help us want to do your will, and help us tell others about you.
Tuesday – Matthew 6:25-34
An old hymn says, “prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, here’s my heart Lord take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.” We really are prone to wander in our relationship with Jesus. He has saved us, and given us life and peace and joy and purpose yet we easily get caught up in the lesser things of life. Our hearts and our minds frequently become consumed with thoughts of success and wealth and notoriety. We get overwhelmed with fear and weary and anxiety and if we aren’t careful these things can not only knock us off track but they can keep us off track. We need to run to Jesus and ask Him to keep us from wandering, we need Him to help us “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” We need Him to help us keep our priorities in order and our lives on the right path.
Wednesday – Matthew 11
One commentator points out that the crowds of people who followed Jesus were carrying a heavy load. They were struggling to scratch out a living and provide for their families, they lived with constant reminders that they were under the control of the Roman empire, they were taxed excessively and even their own religious leaders heaped man made rituals and regulations on them. They were dealing with a life weighed down by misery. This type of life filled them up with worrying and with stress and because of that they weren’t trusting God the way that they should be. Jesus, in His grace comes to them and tells them “come unto me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Jesus was saying to them I can lift the burden of worry and anxiety off of you. I can take away your guilt, I can free you from your shame. I can give you a purpose for living, and deliver you from the futility of man made religion. He wanted to set them free of those things so they could thrive in their relationship with God. He wanted to set them free so that they could be revived. The reality of the world that we live in is that it can overwhelm us as well. Lock-downs, covid, social distancing, social unrest and simple uncertainty have all burdened us, yet Jesus’ offer still stands, “come unto me all you who are at weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Come unto Him and He can take away our fears and our anxiety. Come unto Him and He can teach us what is important and help us to truly find rest. Come unto Him and lay your burdens down and you can be revived for the glory of God.
Thursday – John 16
Jesus’ disciples were confused and uncertain about the future. They kept hearing Jesus talk about crucifixion and about going away. They didn’t fully comprehend His words and His words got even more difficult to understand in John 16. Here he talked about it being good for them that He went away. That didn’t make any sense to them at all. He told them the why but it still didn’t make sense. He said when He goes away that He is going to send a helper to us, He said that this Spirit of truth will lead us and guide us, He said that this helper would strengthen us, but it simply didn’t make sense. The disciples didn’t process Jesus’ words. Today since we live on the other side of the resurrection we understand (at least to an extent) what Jesus was talking about. We understand that He was going to send them the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit would comfort them and strengthen them. The Holy Spirit would empower them and lead them and guide them, and He does us as well. As we lead up to revival and even beyond revival we need to pray that we would be aware of the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us. We need to be aware so that we will turn to Him for strength and for comfort. We need to be aware so that we might run to Him for wisdom and for leadership and guidance. We need to pray, “Lord thank you for filling me with your Spirit. Lord help me live with an awareness of the Spirit each and everyday.”
Friday – Hebrews 5
One of our goals in life should be that everyday we learn more about Jesus and that we walk with Him more closely. Because of that we should pray, “Lord teach me.” One person put it this way, “the goal of every Christian should be continued growth. Being a disciple means being a follower and a learner. Because of that we should walk in humility – knowing that we don’t know it all. There is always more to learn about God, about ourselves and about God’s kingdom.” Sometimes our pride or our laziness might get in the way of our continued growth. Because of that our prayer should be “Lord remove pride, laziness and even apathy from my life. Teach me and help me to follow you.”
Theme: This week as we continue to draw closer to Easter we will focus on growing in our knowledge of God. It has been said that the most important thing about a person is what that person thinks about Almighty God. With that being said we need to make sure that what we believe about God is from His word, so that we will be right in our beliefs. Right belief shapes our thinking and should also shape our actions and even our attitudes.
Monday – Exodus 33 (focus v. 18)
Moses’ passionate plea here is that God would show him His glory. Moses wants to see who God is. As one commentator puts it, “Moses wants an intimate knowledge of God Himself.” He has seen God’s power, he has received God’s promises, and he has been assured of God’s presence (v. 14) but Moses wants something more. He wants to know the person of God, because Moses knows that when he truly sees that he will be changed. He will be filled with a lasting sense of wonder and awe and will be filled up with a lasting satisfaction. I can’t help but wonder as I read Moses’ words what our lives would look like if that was our prayer for each day. Certainly if we got just a glimpse of God’s glory we would grow in faith and trust, we would worry less about the things of the world, and we would be more apt to stand strong against temptation. What kind of difference would it make if we prayed that for our worship services? If when we gathered together we gathered not just for the routine of it, but if we gathered longing to get a glimpse of who God is. It would change us, it would empower us and we would see people hunger for things of God which would lead to people coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Moses’ prayer may be 1000s upon 1000s of years old but it is a prayer that would be life changing and maybe even culture changing as well.
Tuesday – Leviticus 19 (focus v. 2)
Leviticus can be a very difficult book to read, after all it is filled up with all sorts of laws and regulations concerning a variety of things that we don’t think a lot about. In fact many times we might read Leviticus and come away saying “what is the point”? The point is simply the holiness of God. God is holy. That is why there were all of those laws and regulations given so that people could approach God. Today we are made holy and can approach God through the blood of Jesus Christ thankfully. Yet God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so God is still holy. We may not spend a lot of time thinking about God’s holiness, but we should. Yes the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God is a God of love, but it also reiterates time and time again that God is holy. That means that He is separate. He is not like us. He is without sin or blemish in any way, and in His holiness He calls us to be holy as well. How can we be holy? We are made holy first and foremost though the blood of Jesus Christ. We are holy because His blood has washed our sins away and we are Holy because His Spirit imputes His righteousness to us. In other words we are just holy because our sins are forgiven, we are holy because of that AND the fact that Jesus’ righteousness is credited to our account. Because of that we should make every effort to live in all Godliness and righteousness. Because we are declared positionally holy we should make every effort to live in practical holiness. This happens when we pray, when we read God’s word, when we repent of our sins and when we cry out to Him for help. We cannot stay away from sin on our own, we cannot do the right thing on our own, but we can through the power of God. God calls us to be holy, and then makes us holy through the blood of His son and then empowers us to live holy through His Holy Spirit. So even as we see the holiness of God, we also see God’s goodness and grace. Ask Him today to help you walk in holiness as you follow Him.
Wednesday – Job 19 (focus verse 25)
We all know that Job’s life had been filled with unbelievable pain and unspeakable struggle, yet here he triumphantly proclaims, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” In other words life has been unbearable, but I know that God is still God and I know that God is still good. He is my redeemer. The essence of redemption is “the recovery of that which is lost” and “the liberation of that which is bound.” One person says “to say that God is our redeemer is to say that God is capable of restoring what has been lost.” It is to say that God can restore relationships, that God can restore our missed opportunities and that one day God will restore this world. Saying that God is our Redeemer also means that God has liberated us from what enslaves us . God sets us free from the sins and fears that enslave us. Jesus purchased us out of slavery and set us free. He Redeemed us and one day He will further redeem us by restoring all the things that sin has destroyed. Because of that we ought to joyfully proclaim even as Job did that “our Redeemer lives!” Pray today and ask God to show you how He is working each and every day toward that redemption. Ask Him to help you trust that He is working for your good and for His glory at all times
Thursday – Zechariah 4 (focus verse 6)
The reader is told here that the rebuilding of the temple will occur not through might or power, but through the Spirit of God. The word that is used therefore might or power means substance, wealth or even military force. God is saying I’m going to rebuild my temple but it’s not going to happen through the things of the world or even through the power of the people of the world. He says I’m going to rebuild my temple through my Spirit. The people of God had a problem because the temple was destroyed. God says I’m going to fix the problem, not through the things of the world but through the power of My Spirit. I can’t help but wonder when I read these words how our lives would be different if we relied on the Spirit of God instead of trying to fix our problems ourselves. What about if we relied on the power of God to build (and even rebuild, after Covid) His church? If we truly realized that problems were solved by the power of God and that the church was built and rebuilt by the power of God we would spend time crying out to Him for help and for strength. In fact we would cry out to Him with passion and with purpose instead of wasting our energy trying to do it ourselves. God is good and we need to put that belief into action by calling on Him, and trusting Him for the results.
Friday – Romans 5 (focus v. 1-2)
God’s grace is on full display in Romans 5. Paul proclaims here that the grace of God reconciles us to God (v. 10). This grace is not given to us based on our own merits or accomplishments but totally on God’s goodness alone (Ephesians 1:6). This grace doesn’t just save us and then leave us however, this grace gives us the power DAILY to walk with God and do the things that God calls us to do (1 Corinthians 15:10) No wonder the hymn writer says, “Amazing Grace”. God’s grace truly sets us free, we no longer have to live to earn God’s favor, but now because of Jesus we can live everyday knowing that we are loved by God and because of that we can live our lives in gratitude wanting to glorify God because of all God has done for us. We aren’t trying to earn salvation, but instead we are living and loving because we have been given salvation! God saves us through His grace and empowers us through that grace as well. We don’t have to earn salvation and we don’t have to live out our faith on our own. God in His grace gives us the ability to follow Him. Again it is an absolutely amazing grace. Find some time today to read through Romans 5 and Ephesians 1 and be thankful for God’s amazing grace. You might even want to get a copy (if you need it) of the hymn “Amazing Grace” and spend some time reading it or singing it. Let the truth of the words hit you and realize that it is all about the grace of God!
Theme: This week we will look at God’s call on our lives to be people of hope. We live in a world that is filled with hopelessness and despair. This is obvious when you pay attention to people as many are full of dread and gloom. We however as followers of Christ should be different. We should be full of joy, peace and hope. How does this happen? Where is our hope found? Perhaps the old hymn says it best, “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Jesus is our hope!
Monday – Romans 12 (focus on verse 12)
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12 is one of those nice sounding verses that we tend to read quickly and don’t really pay a lot of attention to, however when we pay attention and break it down we find that it both comforts us and challenges us. First the challenge, as it tells us to be patient in tribulation. Most of us aren’t very patient people. After all patience is hard, we live in the world of the immediate, where we want what we want when we want it, and we don’t like to wait. We get impatient waiting on food in drive thrus, waiting on a parking place at Wal-Mart, and waiting on a friend to respond to a text. We are impatient people, so patience goes against the grain of our lives. However Paul’s call to the church is not to just be patient but to patient even in tribulation. He is saying that as followers of Christ we should not only be patient when our hamburger takes a little longer than we expected but also when life gets hard. We should be patient when we don’t feel well, when we are confused about life, and when we are struggling with decisions. We should be patient when people have hurt us or have done us wrong. Be patient in tribulation. This is an extremely hard calling. It challenges us beyond our ability. We can’t be patient in our own strength, so be where can we find the ability to be patient in tribulation? Go forward in the verse, as it tells us to “be constant in prayer”. If you want to have the ability to be patient even in times of tribulation you have to be constant in prayer. If you stay connected to Jesus, Jesus will give you the ability to be patient even when the storms of life are raging. Go backwards in the verse as well, “rejoice in hope”. The more time you spend rejoicing and being thankful the more patience you will have. Where does your rejoicing come from? It comes from your hope. Your hope in Jesus causes you to rejoice and be glad, and that bolsters your patience. The challenge is real – be patient in tribulation, but the comfort is real is well. God gives us the ability to be patient as we pray to Him and cry out to Him, and He strengthens our patience as we rejoice in the hope that we have in Him. God calls us to be patient and then gives us the ability to do it. That is the goodness of the Father!
Tuesday – Romans 15 (focus on verse 13)
Dictionary.com defines the word “abound” as “to be rich or well supplied, or to be filled.” Paul says that through the power of the Holy Spirit we can “abound” in hope. The word picture in the Greek language is of a well furnished house. The Holy Spirit sets us residence in our lives and furnishes us with hope. Through Him we are well supplied and filled. Our hope does not come from the things of the world, or from ourselves. It does not come from what we can do or from what we have. Our home comes from believing (Romans 15:13) in Jesus Christ and from His Holy Spirit taking up residence in our lives. This fills us with joy and peace and we abound in hope. When you abound, your cup overflows, so what Paul is saying is the Holy Spirit sets up residence in our lives, He fills us up with hope to where it overflows into the lives of other people.
Wednesday – 1 Peter 1 (focus verse 3)
Peter tells the church that we bless God (meaning we praise Him and glorify Him) because He has saved us and has given us a living hope. Where does this living hope come from? It comes from the fact that Jesus has been resurrected from the dead. If Jesus is still in a tomb somewhere in the middle east then we truthfully have no hope. Because He is alive however we truly have hope, and it is not just any hope, but it is a living hope. It is hope that is alive and is transformative. Because Jesus is alive everything has changed. We can now rejoice in life’s struggles and we can now display patience in life’s hard situations. Because Jesus is alive we have a living hope that gives us joy and peace. Because Jesus is alive our hope is not stale and stagnant but it is living and it flows from us into the lives of other people. The resurrection of Jesus Christ truly does change everything!
Thursday – Romans 15 (focus verse 4)
Again Romans 15:4 is one of those verses that we read through fairly quickly, but we need to stop and linger on it. We need to pay attention to what it says, “through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Paul is saying here that the Scriptures give us endurance in the midst of life’s struggles and that as we endure life’s struggles we find more hope. Hope and endurance leads to more hope. Also Paul is saying that as we read the Scriptures that the Scriptures will give us hope. How does that happen? First it reminds us of Jesus and His power and love. The Bible tells the old, old story of Jesus and His love and we are given hope when we contemplate the love of God. The Holy Spirit also speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures and this gives us hope and encouragement. The Bible also convicts us of our sins and leads us to repentance. This means that we are turning away from the sinful things of the world that rob us of hope and turning to the living God who gives us hope. The Bible also gives us hope because it reminds us of the Sovereignty of God and that God is working in all situations. It also gives us hope because it shows us what God has done and it reminds us of what God is going to do. We may think we are too busy to read the word of God, or that we may not understand it when we read it, but we need to make sure that we are reading it because if we aren’t we are robbing ourselves of hope.
Friday – Psalm 71 (focus verse 14)
Feelings can come and go. Sometimes we may feel God’s presence and other times we may not, but the reality of faith is that God is there all the time. Sometimes we may feel more hopeful than others, but the psalmist lets us know that our hope does not waver, but that we have a continual hope. This is extremely important because the point that it is making is this, there are times you may not feel like you have hope, but even then you do. Your hope does not change, it does not run our, it does not end. Whether we feel hopeful or not, our hope is continual and everlasting. Because of that we should live everyday in faith, rejoicing in hope, and resting in the certainty of our hope whether we feel it or feel like it or not.
Theme: This week we will look at one of God’s great gifts to us and it is the gift of prayer. Many times we think of prayer as something that we have to do or something that we do when life is hard and seemingly out of control, but in reality, prayer is a privilege and it is something that we should willingly engage in. It is a privilege to go to God’s throne of grace and be able to talk to the creator of the universe. We will spend a lot of our time this week looking at Daniel’s prayer life during a time in which it was illegal to pray.
Monday – Daniel 6:1-13
Most of them are familiar with the story. The governors in the Babylonian kingdom were jealous of Daniel and because of that they tried to find fault with him. They were unable to do so because Daniel was a man of integrity, but then they devised a plan to make prayer illegal so that Daniel would be caught praying and thrown into the lion’s den. Their plan of course worked and David spent the night in a den of lions but God protected him, and delivered him from harm.
Even though the governor’s used Daniel’s dedication to God against him, it should cause us to sit up and take notice. They knew that the only way to catch Daniel was in regards to his relationship with God. He was obviously known as a God follower and he was obviously known as a person of prayer. So what can we learn from Daniel about prayer? The first thing I would say is that he prayed because his faith was real and personal. Some scholars believe that Daniel had a prayer chamber built on top of his house with the windows permanently opened toward Jerusalem. They believe that he went there 3 times a day and in an act of faith knelt in prayer and cried out to God. His faith led him to action and in this case that action was to pray.
Our faith should lead us to pray as well. James points out that when we are suffering, we should pray. When we are sick we should pray and that we should pray for one another. He also says that when we are experiencing joy we ought to give God praise. In other words going to God in prayer or in praise should be a natural part of our lives. It should be something that we do at all times because it grows out of a living faith, and that faith motivates us to pray.
Tuesday – Daniel 6:1-13
David Jeremiah rightly says that Daniel’s dedication to pray 3 times a day shows Daniel’s piety or his commitment to God. He could have prayed silently or he could have shut the doors so that no one knew what he was doing but he continued to go into his prayer room and kneel in prayer. It wasn’t convenient and it wasn’t easy but Daniel still prayed. He had to, his faith had to talk to the God that he loved. He wasn’t just praying to get out of a hard situation, in fact by praying Daniel was putting himself into a hard situation, but he still prayed. His relationship with God was that important to Him. Prayer must be more than going through the motions it has to be something born out of our dedication to God and our love for Him. Because we love Him we want to talk with Him and be in His presence.
Wednesday – Daniel 6:1-13
Have you ever wondered what Daniel prayed? What was so important that he would risk his life? We don’t have a copy of Daniel’s prayer but we do have a hint of what he prayed in Daniel 6:11. When his enemies caught him kneeling in his prayer room the Bible says that he was “praying and making supplications.” This lets us know that Daniel was doing more than just going through the motions. He was as one scholar put it, “praying prayers that were specific, applicable and passionate.” I wonder if people would say the same thing about our prayers. Are we dedicated to pray? When we pray are we just going through the motions? Again we shouldn’t be because as the hymn says, “what a privilege it is to carry everything to God in prayer.” Our prayers, like Daniel’s, should be specific and they should be passionate. We should pray about things going on in our own lives and in the lives of people around us. Like Daniel we should be devoted to pray because we love our Father that much.
Thursday – Daniel 6:1-13
One of the dangers in reading passages that we are familiar with is that we just fly through it and don’t pay attention. After all we have heard it and read it before so we think we know it. When we do that however we may miss some extremely important things. I have read Daniel 6 countless times but the truth of verse 10 didn’t really jump out at me. When you read verse 10 however it says that Daniel knew that the king’s edict was signed. He knew what would happen to him if he prayed and he prayed anyway. We know that part and we certainly should pay attention to it because it shows us just how great Daniel’s dedication to God was. It is the next part that we may not have noticed, Daniel went in and knelt in prayer and he “gave thanks”. In other words Daniel knew the situation, he knew the difficulty, he knew what could happen to him and he gave thanks anyway. This is a powerful example for us. We need to be much about our Father’s business regardless of the circumstances that we find ourselves in and this includes giving Him praise. We praise Him and give Him thanks because He is worthy regardless of what is going on in our lives. When we take time to praise Him everyday it also motivates us to do the right thing no matter what. I would also say that it empowers us to be people of integrity as it did Daniel, and on a practical level when we take time to be thankful even in the hard times and on the bad days we will find a joy that we didn’t know before. So when you pray pour out your hearts to God and remember to take time to be thankful as well.
Friday – Hebrews 4:16
Daniel was devoted to God and that devotion showed in his commitment to prayer. You and I today should have a greater devotion and a greater commitment because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Daniel knew about the coming Messiah, he knew about the promise of forgiveness and about the promise of a kingdom. We however know who the Messiah is, we have experienced His forgiveness and we are a part of His kingdom. This should be all the motivation that we need to be committed to pray. The writer of Hebrews adds something else however as he tells us that “we can come boldly before God’s throne of grace.” This is only possible through the blood of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain that separated people from the most holy place of the temple was torn in two from TOP TO rBOTTOM. The Father tore it because our sins had been paid for once and for all. Now we can go directly into the most holy place and commune with the Father. We can go into His presence regardless of where we are or what kind of circumstance we find ourselves in. So let us celebrate the cross by making prayer a priority and seize the opportunity that we have to come boldly before God’s throne of grace!
Theme: This week we will look at God’s calling to us to be active in service. David Jeremiah rightly says, “Christian service is grounded in a prior commitment to serve God. Claiming to serve God without serving others is hollow; serving others without first serving God is uninformed. All service is based upon our identity as bearers of the image of God.” We serve because we were created in His image and we serve others because they are also created in His image.
Monday – Isaiah 6
Isaiah 6 is a very well known and well loved passage of Scripture and rightly so. In it Isaiah is overwhelmed by the circumstances of life. The king has just died and Isaiah has no idea what the future holds for his nation or for himself. He is overwhelmed and God meets him with grace. God gives Isaiah a vision of His power and His majesty so that Isaiah will see who truly is in control and know who the real king truly is. When Isaiah gets a glimpse of God’s greatness, he says he is undone, which means that he is simply blown away by God’s power and goodness. This leads Isaiah to repent and after he repents, God asks a question, “whom shall I send and who will go for us?” God isn’t really asking a question but instead he is issuing an invitation to Isaiah to get involved in service. Isaiah has repented of his sins and put his faith in God, now the logical progression of faith says that Isaiah should get involved in service. Isaiah accepts God’s invitation with the enthusiastic, “here am I! Send me!” Once Isaiah sees God’s glory and repents Isaiah is eager to serve. He is excited to get involved, after all look how much God had done for him. God had given him the assurance that He was in control. He had let Isaiah know that he was loved and He had taken away Isaiah’s sins. Because of that Isaiah wants to serve.
Isaiah could have made excuses. He could have said this isn’t a good time after all the circumstances are hard right now. Or he could have said, “send where?” “What am I going to be doing?” Yet he didn’t make excuses and he didn’t ask questions, he just joyfully said “Here am I Lord, use me.” We should certainly be inspired by Isaiah’s example. God take me and use me. I’m not going to make excuses, I’m not going to wait for a better time, I’m simply going to trust and say, “here am I God use me.”
Tuesday – Matthew 5
Serving is not easy and to be honest sometimes we simply don’t want to serve. It takes time, it takes energy, it takes effort, and that is on the good days. Some days we would say we simply can’t do it. That is just a half truth however, for in reality we can’t do it on our own even on our best days. We can’t serve without the power of God, we can’t serve without His Spirit. We can’t love without His love. We must have Him and be empowered by Him. Especially when you realize this life changing truth that is given in Matthew 5:38 and down to the end of the chapter, we are called to serve and love those people who are our enemies. Why? Why would God ask us to do something like that? The simple answer is because they too are created in the image of God. We are called to serve our neighbors, our families, our friends, our church family, and our enemies. In other words we don’t get to choose whom we serve. We as followers of Christ are to be “much about the Father’s business”, which means we are to serve and serve with love and enthusiasm. We are to serve people, because people whether they agree with us or even like us are created in the image of God. Sometimes our service will not be welcomed or accepted, but that is ok, God says “love them anyway!” May we do that and get active in service for the glory of God.
Wednesday – Mark 10
Do you have a life mission? Do you have a reason for living? Does your life have purpose and meaning? Jesus’ did. He had a reason for living which was to bring glory to the Father and because He lived that way, His life certainly had a purpose and it had meaning. Here in Mark 10:45, Jesus gives us His life mission, “for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus says to His disciples, “I came to be a servant.” Isaiah of course had prophesied this years earlier as he wrote about “the suffering servant”. Jesus came to be a servant. He came to love people and to serve them. He came to serve, and if we are His followers we should be willing to serve as well. In fact we should be asking God everyday “how can we serve?” How can we make a difference? How can we serve our families? How can we serve our friends? How can we serve our church family? How can we get involved and serve at church? How can we reach out to others and point people to Jesus? Who needs His love? Who needs to know they are cared about? Who can we serve for God’s glory?
Thursday – Philippians 2
Philippians 2 we are told is one of the hymns of the early church. We don’t know the notes, and we don’t know the tune. We aren’t even sure what kind of instrument it would have been played on, or if it would have just been sung acapella, but we do know the message and the message is that we should love others, and look out for their interests even above our own because that is precisely what Jesus did. He willingly sacrificed His rights and came to this earth to serve. He chose to empty Himself and take the form of a serve. He chose to obey the Father and willingly went to the cross. He chose to put our needs above His own. Why? For the glory of the Father and because He loved us that much. When Paul thinks about this glorious truth he can’t help but tell the church that they too are called to be servants. If they are going to be like Jesus they have to be devoted to and passionate about loving other people. We have to humble ourselves before God, rely on His power and strength, and in humility serve others. It is what we as people, as families, and as a church are called to do.
Friday – Colossians 3
Paul lets us know here the why of service. We don’t serve to magnify ourselves or for ourselves. We don’t serve to just make others feel better, we don’t serve to make ourselves feel better. Certainly when we serve we hopefully do help others and as we serve it might even make us feel good, yet those aren’t the primary reasons that we serve. The primary reason that we serve is to glorify the Father. Verse 23 gives us a good prescription for life, “whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.” When you serve you are serving the Lord and you are serving for His glory. (Of course Paul doesn’t limit that thought to just service, no he says “whatever you do.” So when you go to work, when you are at home, when you are at church, when you are participating in your hobbies, or when you are resting, do them all for the Lord). We are to live for Him and for His glory, so certainly as we serve we are to serve Him and serve for His glory. That means we serve however He calls us too. It means we serve regardless of the circumstances of life. It means that we serve whether we feel like it or not. The reality is we should prioritize serving God in our lives and we should serve Him in everything that we do, as we live for His glory!
Theme: This week we will look at one of the most neglected blessings of Christianity, the fellowship of the local church. The psalmist says that “God sets the lonely in families, ” which means that God gives us the privilege to belong to the family of God!
Monday – John 17:20-26
Whenever we read the Bible we are standing on holy ground. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable to teach us more about God, but there is something special about John 17. It is not more valuable than the other Scriptures but it is special because in it Jesus is praying. We get to sit in and listen as God the Son talks to God the Father and what makes this prayer even more amazing is that Jesus is praying for us in this prayer. He prays that we would be one and that we would know His love and share His love. That is a great description of the church. We are to know His love and we are to share His love through evangelism and reaching out to those who are lost and hurting. Once we know the love of Jesus we are not supposed to keep it to ourselves, we are to make it known. We are also supposed to show Christ’s love to one another within the church as well. In fact we are told that we are “to be one”. That doesn’t mean that we compromise truth for the sake of unity, but it does mean that we don’t let things like personal presences and selfish actions get in the way of us loving one another and having true fellowship. True fellowship is so important that we are to lay aside these things so that we can effectively follow Jesus and love one another. True fellowship is so important that Jesus prayed about it when He prayed for us.
Tuesday – Acts 2:42-47
The early church was making a difference in a world that wanted nothing to do with Christianity and in fact was hostile to it. That simple fact ought to make us ask the question “how”? Because in reality many of the people in our culture want nothing to do with Christianity and in fact they are hostile to it. So how was the early church able to make such a difference? The Scripture tells us when it says, “they devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching, to fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer.” The early church was devoted to remembering what Jesus did (breaking of bread), they were passionate about Bible study and prayer, and they were devoted to one another and to coming together for true fellowship. One person while observing the early church said, “my how they love one another!” He later decided to follow Jesus because of it. Love makes all the difference so let us truly love one another.
Wednesday- 1 John 1
Here John says “if we walk in the light…….we have fellowship with one another.” If we follow Jesus and live in His light then we truly can have fellowship with one another. Fellowship is not a word that we use often outside of the church, but inside of the church we use it alot. We have fellowship dinners, fellowship halls and times of fellowship. Some churches even have fellowship classes and a handshaking time where they extend “the right hand of fellowship.” True fellowship however is much deeper than those things. It carries with it the idea of oneness so when one member hurts all hurt or when one rejoices, all rejoice. That is what True fellowship is and it makes a difference in the world. True fellowship happens as we walk in the light, in other words we can only have True fellowship when we are walking with Jesus. After all His love truly enables us to love one another.
Thursday – 2 Corinthians 8
Paul writes to the church at Corinth here and gives us a wondrous picture of the church being the church. The churches of Macedonia gave to help provide for the relief of the saints. They gave to help others’ needs. We as the church are certainly called to help one another but this doesn’t always have to be financially. We help through prayer, through giving certainly, but also through listening and reminding one another of the beauty of the Gospel. We help one another through modeling Christ like behavior as well. We help one another through the power of God for the glory of God.
Friday – Hebrews 10
The writer of Hebrews tells the church that they are to consider how to stir one another up to love and good works and that we are to encourage one another. The church should be the most encouraging place in the world. It should be the place that we long to go in times of difficulty. The family of God should be a support system for us in times of grief and struggle. However if the church is to be the encouraging organism that it is called to be we have to be serious about encouraging one another. We have to be deliberate about lifting one another up and loving one another. The writer also says “don’t give up meeting together.” It seems that he is saying that one way we encourage one another is simply by attending church. In other words it might just encourage someone to see you at church on Sundays. Take time to seize those opportunities and let’s love and encourage one another as we go throughout 2021.
Theme: A new year always brings with its share of challenges and opportunities. It brings good days and bad days. In fact days can go from good to bad to good again, or vice versa. Each day is new, but there is one constant in a new year (and a new day) and that is the presence of God. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us and that makes all the difference in how we live. Because of the promise of the presence of God we can now live with hope.
Monday – 2 Chronicles 5
God had always been with His people. He had brought them out of Egypt, He had given them the 10 commandments and He had won numerous victories for them on the fields of battle. He had even led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Now that the people of God were becoming a more settled people they wanted to build a temple where they could go and worship Him. The temple is nearing its completion in 2 Chronicles 5 and many of the relics from David’s reign and the victories that were won during that time were being put into the temple. It would serve as a visible reminder of God’s faithfulness and His goodness to His people. The temple proclaimed the good news of God’s majesty and goodness to His people. And yet the good news stretched beyond the temple as God continued to be with His people all the time, not just when they met inside the temple. That good news continues today as God is with us at all times. In fact we need to live with the realization that God’s presence is always with us. This will change how we live as it will enable us to live with hope, knowing that God is always there. It gives us stability and an anchor in life, knowing that God is always there, and it also shapes the people that we are and it should motivate us to stay away from the sins of the world, knowing that God is always there.
God’s presence is continually with us as we go throughout this new year. He is the constant when everything seems different or changing. He is our anchor point and as Paul says, “He holds us together.” Celebrate God’s presence today. Know that He is with you and live with hope and joy because of that. Let that fact change you and motivate you to live for His glory. Let that amazing promise shape you and let it motivate you to worship, to be thankful each and every day but also to make worship with the body of Christ a priority as well.
Tuesday – Job 23
This is certainly a difficult chapter to read as Job contemplates God’s works and the things that He has done and has allowed. Job says basically God is always there and for that I’m thankful, but there are some things that don’t make sense to me. He says God does what God wants to do and I simply have to trust Him even when what He does doesn’t seem to make sense. Verse 13 says “God is unique”, what Job is saying there is that God is wholly other, there is no one like Him and because of that we cannot fully understand Him. Certainly He does as Job says “whatever He wants and desires.” Because of that realization Job says I am terrified and not just terrified but terrified of God. Job is scared because He realizes that God is so much greater than Him and because of that Job cannot put Him in a box. Job now has a holy reverence for God and the greatness of God. We would do well to have that today as well. Yes we can run to God as our Father, and yes He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother, but He is also the God of the universe. He is in total control and we need to understand that and have a holy reverence for Him. We can only come to Him because He may be a way for us to do so, so we come to Him on His terms and even when we don’t understand Him (as Job didn’t) we trust Him, and we know that He is always with us.
Wednesday – Psalm 16
Psalm 16 is beautiful in tone and filled with hope. It tells us about God’s faithfulness and the victory that comes through the Messiah. It tells us that because God is always with us that we should not be moved (v. 8) In other words we can stand strong because of the presence of God. Verse 9 even tells us that we can live rejoicing and we can live with hope because God is always with us. He will not forget us, He will deliver us, and He is faithful to us (v. 10). David even says “you will not allow your Holy One to see corruption” in verse 10. This is prophetic to Jesus, who died but who did not stay in the grave, but up from the grave He arose. Because of God’s faithfulness that is seen through the person of Jesus Christ we can have joy. David in fact says we can have fullness of joy in God’s presence. This is a promise that we experience joy now when we spend time in the presence of God. It is a reminder that we can have joy everyday of our lives because God’s presence is continually with us. But it is also a forward looking passage that says in heaven, in the kingdom of God we will have “fullness of joy” because then we will be fully in His Presence and fully aware of His presence. We can rejoice everyday because of God’s faithfulness and because of the promise of God’s kingdom which means there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Thursday – Psalm 121
Psalm 121 lets us know that God does not sleep or slumber but that He keeps watch over His children. He is continually with us and He is continually watching us and watching over us. What an amazing Father. The psalmist says, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from where comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Let that sink in. The God of this universe willingly watches over you. He chooses to care about you and to love you. He also chooses to help you. The God of this universe, the one who created heaven and earth helps you. Don’t get overwhelmed by what goes on on this earth but instead trust the one who made the earth. He helps you, He loves you and He is always with you. Simply trust Him and don’t be dismayed.
Friday – Matthew 1
Matthew 1 is a passage of Scripture that we usually read at Christmastime. It contains the genealogy of Jesus and then tells us about His birth. So why should we read Matthew 1, this Christmas passage of Scripture when we are 343 days (49 weeks) from Christmas? Because of the glorious promise that we are given in verse 23. It is a promise that tells us who Jesus is, He is Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” Whatever we face in 2021, whether good, bad or in between there will be one constant, God will be with us. There is reason to live with rejoicing hope because of that!
Theme: When we turn the calendar on a New Year we are faced with excitement and perhaps anxiety at what the New Year will hold. After 2020 many were eager to turn the page and run quickly into 2021, but what will 2021 be like? What circumstances will we face in this New Year, what challenges will we overcome? What victories will we celebrate? These are all questions worth considering and things that are especially worth praying about because as we pray we will be reminded that we are dependent on God and that no matter what occurs this year God will be with us. Because of that fact and because of God’s might and majesty we can approach 2021 with a spirit of hope, knowing that we are loved by God, that He is in control and that nothing can separate us from His love.
Monday – 2 Chronicles 7
One of the biggest words in the dictionary is the word “if”. Here the Biblical author uses it to remind God’s people of their responsibility to repent, and to cry out to God in faith. 2 Chronicles 7:14 has become a very familiar Scripture to us, “if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will heal from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Theologians will discuss and debate whether this promise applies to us today. It was definitely a very specific calling and promise to the people of Israel during the time that it was written. Their land was suffering because the people had turned away from God and God had left them to their own desires. God now graciously called them to repent and change and He gave them the promise of forgiveness and healing.
Many would say that this promise is then not meant for us, that God is not obligated to send healing to our land if we repent. I would agree that God is not obligated to do so, but I do believe if we repent He will forgive us and I do believe that if we repent and follow Him that our land (and our own lives) will be much better off. This passage then becomes a reminder to us as God’s people of how we are to live our lives. We are to repent daily, we are to humble ourselves before Him everyday, we are to seek His face and pray everyday, and we are to follow Him everyday. When we do those things God offers us forgiveness and grace. When we do those things our lives will be what they were created to be and we will become a blessing to the world. When we do those things God will certainly turn “our land” around because we are living for His glory. The interesting thing about this verse to me is it doesn’t talk about the world at all. It doesn’t say if the people of the world will turn to God then God will do this, instead it says if God’s people will repent and pray and seek His face then God will work. In other words it doesn’t start with those outside of the church, it starts with those inside. So may we realize that it starts with us and may we live accordingly.
Tuesday – Psalm 42
This psalm seems very poetic as the psalmist writes about his longing for God. He used to go to the temple and worship and he used to join with the multitudes in shouts of praise. He remembers it well but because of the exile in the Old Testament he is not able to get to the house of God anymore. The reality is however he could still worship, he could still pray, he could still rejoice in the Lord and seek God’s face, yet he doesn’t and he reaps the consequences of it. Verse 5 would tells us that he is downcast and his mind is in turmoil. Why? Because he has chosen to ignore the presence of God. God’s presence was not limited to the temple but he lived as though it was because of that he is emotionally spent. In verse 6 however he remembers the Lord and his hope is restored.
His words are thousands of years old, but they are extremely relevant to us today. If we want to live with hope, if we want to overcome the negativity of our circumstances, if we want to rise above being downcast we must remember the Lord, each and every day, not just when we are in the house of God for worship, but when we are in our homes, when we are in our cars, when we are at work or when we are at play. We must remember the Lord at all times, because God is good and He is the source of our strength, and our hope.
Wednesday- Matthew 6
Jesus’ disciples ask Him about prayer in this passage and Jesus of course responds to them by giving them the Lord’s Prayer. However before He teaches them the way to pray, He teachess them how to pray. He tells them to pray in secret. This is not a prohibition against praying out loud in church or in prayer gatherings, but it is a warning about praying to be seen by people. After all when you pray you aren’t praying to people you are praying to God. So Jesus encourages His disciples to pray in secret, which would also mean to pray with sincerity. If you are praying in secret, you have to truly believe in the power of the God that you are praying to. Jesus calls us to do that numerous times in this passage of Scripture and then He gives us this promise in v. 6, “and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Many times we probably gloss over that promise and don’t pay attention to it, but we should pay attention because God is promising us that He will reward us when we pray with sincerity. We aren’t told what the reward will be, but perhaps it is hope. When we cry out to God and are sincere when we do so, certainly God will give us hope. Hope in knowing that we are loved and hope in knowing that God is in control and that He is working all things together for good. When we sincerely pray, God will give us hope. So as we go into a New Year let us have a renewed focus on prayer, and let us pray with sincerity so that we can live with hope!
Thursday – 1 Timothy 2
Prayer gives us hope and when Paul writes to Timothy he of course talks about prayer. He in fact tells Timothy that he wants people to pray and to lift up holy hands in worship (v. 8). This would be a normal desire of someone who was a pastor or church planter as Paul was, however he doesn’t just say I want people to worship and pray, he also says and I want them to do it without anger or quarreling. His words are a reminder that our faith must impact our lives. If we are praying and worshipping we should love other people. When do we get angry? Many times it is when we are offended. So Paul is saying that because of our faith we should love people and not be offended. That is great advice as we go into a new year, in the midst of a culture that loves to be offended. We as Christians are called to live differently, to not be offended by others, but to love them and live not to have our own way, but to live for the glory of God.
Friday – James 1
“If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given to Him.” These words remind me of an old hymn that says, “beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,” because they are life giving words. God promises us His wisdom if we just ask. We need His wisdom to deal with all that life throws at us and certainly as we go into 2021 we need God’s wisdom and help. The wonderful thing about our Savior is that He promises to give it to us. He will give us His wisdom and His help, if we just cry out to Him. When we cry out to Him we are showing that we are dependent on Him and that we need Him. In His grace He gives us the wisdom that we need for life. So make it a priority this year to cry out to God in prayer and specifically to pray for wisdom, after all He promises to give it to us!