Scripture Reading: Daniel 5:17-6:28 / 1 John 1:1-2:11 / Psalm 136:1-12
Justice is a good word. It is based upon truth, what is right and what is deserved. Justice brings with it reward or punishment. It evaluates everything on the basis of black or white, good or evil. Justice delivers appropriate judgment and everyone who has been wrong or victimized longs for justice.
Forgiveness is another good word. It is based upon mercy and grace. Forgiveness mercifully does not give us the punishment that we deserve but graciously gives us pardon that we do not deserve. Justice and forgiveness seem to be diametrically opposed yet God is a just God AND God is a forgiving God. He is both just and forgiving…how can this be?
John pens a truth that gives us great hope and understanding to God’s justice and forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Confessing our sins opens the door of God’s grace to be activated in our lives.
Both justice and forgiveness require a price and payment to be made. Justice acts like a prosecutor - demanding rightness, payment and retribution. God responded justly by sending a flood to a wicked world. Fire and brimstone fell upon reprobate Sodom and Gomorrah. God is just as the sins of man must be paid for and punished.
Yet God is also forgiving and is an advocate for mankind. Sin does require payment but Christ came to be the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins as the Just died for the Unjust. God’s justice was satisfied and Christ became our advocate with The Heavenly Father. Forgiveness paid the price required by justice.
Also, justice and forgiveness have tremendous power. In a court of law, justice is served when truth is determined and pronounced. The judge’s verdict of justice is backed by an enforcing and authoritative power. The verdict of the judge is final unless it is determined that justice was denied. Forgiveness carries an even greater power as it has the power to cleanse the unjust. Confession activates the power of forgiveness and cleanses the guilty…completely and totally.
Interestingly, both justice and forgiveness make faithful promises. Justice promises to condemn man’s sin and unrighteousness. No one can escape God’s promised judgment and condemnation of sin. Because of this, God counters by a faithful promise to forgive those who confess their sin. God promises pardon and deliverance from sin.
We all live in the shadow of Gods justice and forgiveness. God’s justice will be satisfied by either our condemnation or Christ’s sacrifice. His forgiveness can only be activated by our confession. So what are you waiting for? Confess your sins…
Scripture Reading: Daniel 4:19-5:16 / 2 Peter 3:1-18 / Psalm 135:13-21
The gift of “patience” is something that is often learned as we mature. We have all heard our children ask in the car, “When are we going to get there?” They have no concept of time and for them, a few minutes feel like a few hours! Sadly, some never learn patience even when they “grow up”. Impatience is sometimes the byproduct from the broken and failed promises others make.
Peter writes to Christians in Asia minor to remind them of the faithfulness of God’s promises, especially the second coming of Jesus Christ. The message of Christ’s return was well known and taught in the early church. At the time of Peter’s letter, 2 generations had passed since Christ’s ascension and He had not returned. They had waited for His coming and began to doubt He would ever return. False teachers cast doubt on Christ’s return and said it was a hoax.
Peter writes and assures them, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8,9)
God’s timetable is not our timetable. As a small child has no concept of “time”, we struggle to understand God’s timetable. A thousand years is like one day to God. In other words, 1 year to us is like 1 minute and 26 seconds in heaven. We fail to understand God is eternal and not regulated by earthly measurements. His timetable is perfect; ours is affected by the destructiveness and impatience of sin.
Some ask, “Why hasn’t Christ returned?” The foundational reason - because God is patient and does not want anyone to perish but come to repentance. His delay is one of grace and mercy, as He takes no pleasure in judgment. The coming of Christ is PROMISED. A delay in His coming does not mean it is a broken or failed promise. Once again, it is according to God’s timetable and Christ will be faithful to return.
Knowing this, our lives are to be measured not by time but by action. It is not how much time we have but what we do with the time we have. The delay of Christ’s return should not foster indifference in our lives but a sense of divine purpose. Our affections are not to be set on the things of this world but those things above.
We need to be reminded of Christ’s return because lives centered upon God’s eternals will produce holiness and righteousness. As the early church lived in expectancy, we will also live in expectancy when we look for His return. There will be a burden for the lostness of man and a desire to see them come to repentance before it is too late. It is easy to minimize His return when we live for the moment so live for something eternal and certain…He is Coming Again!
Scripture Reading: Daniel 3:13-4:18 / 2 Peter 2:1-22 / Proverbs 29:1-9
With 6 seconds left and down 26-21, the losing Colorado Buffalos had one desperate play left. The Colorado quarterback went to the sidelines and talked to head coach Bill McCartney. It seemed like the roaring stadium went quiet until a fan shouted out from the stands, “Hey, coach, where’s your God now?” The fan must have been aware of McCartney’s Christian witness as the founder of Promise Keepers.
In desperation, the Colorado QB threw the football 74 yards where it was tipped and then grabbed by a Colorado player who fell into the end zone for the winning touchdown. Later McCartney admitted he heard the fan’s taunt but knew immediately his team would win because God doesn’t back down from any challenge and would have McCartney’s back.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced the same kind of circumstances but instead of a football field, they faced a furnace. It wasn’t a game but a matter of life and death. When they refused to bow down to the image erected by Nebuchadnezzar, the king threatened to throw them into a furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. Their response to Nebuchadnezzar’s threat, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. (Daniel 3:17)
They accepted this challenge, knowing that it was not necessarily about them but about God. They believed God would validate their faith but more importantly, He would manifest His power and glory. God would defend His name and His children. Their next comment was not an expression of doubt but confirmed their commitment to God despite the outcome. “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (vs.18)
The gauntlet had been thrown down and the three were thrown into the fiery furnace. The furnace was so hot that the guards who threw them in died because of the fire’s intensity. With great amazement, Nebuchadnezzar saw not three but four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed. He said, “the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (vs.25)
God not only delivered them, He walked with them in the midst of the fire. They were unharmed, clothes not singed, robes not scorched and not a scent of smoke was detected. Nebuchadnezzar recognized the greatness of their God and their faith. God hasn’t changed…He still uses the fires of life to purify and refine us while the world looks on in amazement. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we know that there is someone else with us. Six seconds or six hundred degrees…it’s never too late or too hot!
Scripture Reading: Daniel 2:24-3:12 / 2 Peter 1:1-21 / Psalm 135:1-12
Great men who have been used in great ways have been men of great humility. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and he turned to the enchanters, astrologers, magicians and wise men to not only interpret it but also reveal the dream. When Daniel heard about the death sentence given for all “wise men” (including himself), he and the 3 young Hebrew men desperately went to God in prayer.
Daniel knew that only God could reveal and interpret the dream. His life was about to come to a tragic end unless God came through with the divine revelation and interpretation. After a night of intercession, Daniel asked to see the King because God revealed to him the dream and interpretation. King Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel if he could explain and reveal the mystery of the dream.
Daniel’s response, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.” (Daniel 2:27,28) All the world’s money, power and success were not enough to buy, demand or produce the dream’s revelation. Nebuchadnezzar along with the wisest and craftiest men were helpless to understand his dream.
The Babylonians prided themselves and even wrote books on how to interpret dreams. They consulted all of earth’s resources and sought the pagan gods yet it was all in vain. Human wisdom, human power and pagan gods were unable to reveal the mystery. The futility and vanity of the world was exposed while the power of God was about to be seen.
Daniel boldly told the powerful king that what he sought for could only be solved by the power of the almighty God. There was a desperate hunger for the king to understand his own dream. Somehow he knew that this dream was sent by God as a revelation of things to come. His anger at the enchanters revealed his inner emptiness. Nebuchadnezzar, like all men, struggled with a “God-shaped” vacuum inside his heart. The mysterious dream and miraculous interpretation was an act of God that would impact the King’s life forever.
This was an opportunity for Daniel to gain notoriety and security in the Babylonian kingdom because he knew the mystery of the dream. Instead of taking credit, glory or honor for the revelation, Daniel humbled himself as simply a messenger of God and unfolded the future of Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom. “As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you O king, may know the interpretation…” (vs.30)
God works through us not for the purpose of our self-exaltation but for His exaltation. We cannot get caught up in a spirit of pride and arrogance but walk in humility, faith and Godly dependency. After all, it’s not about us…it’s about Him.
Scripture Reading: Daniel 1:1-2:23 / 1 Peter 5:1-14 / Psalm 134:1-3
Israel was taken captive by Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar selected the most promising of the young Jewish men to serve in his court. Among those selected were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. These young men showed great promise of learning and achievement.
The chief official gave all of them new names, a flattering expression of honor. Daniel’s name which means “God is my judge” was changed to Belteshazzar, “Praise of Bel”. Interestingly, Daniel is called by his Babylonian name 5 times, all by other people, but Daniel uses his real name 75 times. Daniel refused to allow the memory of Jehovah to be forgotten or overshadowed by another god. They could change his name and call him by another but it couldn’t change Daniel’s character and integrity.
Daniel had a promising future as he was destined to gain great power and position. For three years, He was to be groomed in politics, philosophy and theology. Earthly honor and glory awaited him and all he had to do was cooperate and take advantage of the great opportunity given to him. But Daniel refused to compromise his convictions and faith. He made a decision that could have possibly brought about his ruin and death.
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” (Daniel 1:8) The royal food was sacrificial food offered to pagan gods. God had forbidden Israel to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. The Old Testament also prohibited “strong drink”. The Babylonians did not dilute their wine but the Jews customarily diluted their wine with water. They diluted their wine by 3 parts water, others by 6 parts and some as much as 10 parts water.
Daniel defied the king’s orders and requested to eat ceremonial clean vegetables and drink only water. He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. He had the highest of standards for his life and an uncompromising commitment to God. He determined to serve God regardless of the cost, even if it meant his very life. Sometimes there is a cost for true discipleship but God always honors those who passionately and faithful pursue Him.
The head official granted Daniel’s request but only for a 10-day trial period. After the designated time, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” (vs.15)
God’s favor rested upon them and He honored their faith. It wouldn’t be the last time they would have to take a stand for spiritual integrity and character but it wasn’t the last time God would favor them with deliverance and protection. Daniel became the greatest among all of the young men after a series of “God” events as The Lord exalted Daniel to a place of influence in the Babylonian kingdom. When we stand for God in the face of adversity…God stands for us.
Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 47:1-48:35 / 1 Peter 4:1-19 / Psalm 133:1-3
Ezekiel was given a vision of the temple that will be established during the millennial (1,000 years) reign of Jesus Christ. God proclaimed that one day, He would bring Israel back to their country. This gave Ezekiel and Israel great hope of returning from the captivity of Babylon, never to be taken captive again.
As he looks upon the temple, he sees water coming from under the altar and flowing out through the temple door to the Dead Sea. The amazing thing about this water is that the trickle eventually becomes a river. The angel of God measures a distance of 1,750 feet and the water is ankle deep. After another 1,750 feet, the water is up to Ezekiel’s knees. As Ezekiel moves another 1,750 feet, the water is as deep as his waist. It continues to grow and deepen and after another 1,750 feet, the water is over Ezekiel’s head.
A river starts out as a small stream but as other water sources are added to the stream, it becomes an expansive river. The amazing thing about this “river” in Ezekiel 47, is that is deepens and grows without any other contributing tributaries. A river like this is impossible and only formed by the supernatural hand of God.
This water is a representation of The Spirit of God. As the water flowed from the altar, redemption flowed from the cross of Jesus Christ as He offered Himself for the sins of mankind. The Spirit draws us to the altar/cross of Christ’s sacrifice and cleanses us from all of our sins. Jesus also promises a great outpouring of His Spirit when He cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this He meant the Spirit...” (John 7:37-39)
The effectiveness, power and presence of The Spirit expands and deepens in the world today. As the Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, it flowed out of the Temple and onto the streets of Jerusalem. The Spirit empowered the early church and they reached past Jerusalem, to Judea, Samaria and all around the world.
The Holy Spirit draws us to Christ and when we accept Christ as Savior, God deposits His Spirit in our lives. The living, powerful and holiness of God’s Spirit abides within us and becomes our comforter. Yet like that river, the impact of God’s Spirit doesn’t stop there. His desire is to grow and deepen within our lives.
God has designed The Holy Spirit to impact and fill our lives completely. It begins with a trickle of His presence but quickly manifests to an expansive river. Our desire should not be to simply walk, wade or traverse through His Spirit but to swim in the current of His supernatural power. Let God mold and shape you into the person He wants you to be. Jump into the river of God’s Spirit…Go All In!
Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 45:1-46:24 / 1 Peter 3:1-22 / Proverbs 28:18-28
Here in the first seven verses of 1 Peter 3, we find six verses of instructions for wives and one verse of instructions for husbands. It sounds like women have a lot to learn but some women explain the instruction discrepancy this way, “If you went to a pet store to buy a pet turkey, you would pick up a cage, food, water bowl and a turkey manual where you would find lengthy instructions on how to care for your turkey. On the other hand, the turkey wouldn’t need a book telling him how to live with you because the smarter one gets the instructions…touché.
Some say women are given more instructions because men are more difficult and challenging! There may be only one verse of instructions for husbands but it is an all-important one. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)
One of the greatest heart cries of a wife is to be heard and understood. Women are biologically unique and husbands do not have a clue to the hormonal changes they experience. Wives struggle with progesterone and the ensuing effects of tension, depression, pessimism, discomfort and irritability.
During these times, it is difficult for husbands to understand and they struggle to heed Peter’s instruction for consideration. Often times, a husband is oblivious to his wife’s voice and emotions. This will eventually lead to the wife’s frustration, “You don't
understand me!” Wives need emotional support, conversation, encouragement, time, her husband’s attention…there are too many lonely wives.
God calls husbands to respect and honor their wives as the weaker vessel. Physically and emotionally, the wife is a delicate creature. They need their husband to care and protect them. Women have a greater appreciation for stability, security and enduring human relationships. Security of a husband is vital for wives.
A husband gets his self-worth from his job; a wife gets her self-worth from her husband! Statistics reveal that during their late 30’s and early 40’s, a wife is the most dissatisfied and the husband is the most satisfied. The husband is at the height of job advancement and the wife suffers from his lack of presence. Husbands are the key to their wives self-esteem and self-worth.
It can’t go without saying that a wife needs the deep, unselfish and sacrificial love of her husband. As Christ loved the church, so men are to love their wives. The greatest thing a husband can give his wife is understanding, honor and love. Wives respond with joy, love and submission but God also responds by answering the husband’s prayers. Men, the next time your prayer goes unanswered, don’t check your faith, check your relationship with your wife…God wants to get your attention!
Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 43:1-44:31 / 1 Peter 2:4-25 / Psalm 132:1-18
Before the days of laser levels and GPS survey equipment, a foundation stone was laid as the starting point for erecting a building. The cornerstone was the first stone laid and it was placed at the corner of the building. It was perfectly leveled and precisely aligned. All of the other stones that followed were laid and set in reference to the cornerstone. This foundational stone determined the measurement, uniformity, alignment and position of the entire structure.
Peter refers to Isaiah’s prophecy when he writes, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6) Peter is calling Jesus the cornerstone of the Church and of our lives. Not only is Christ our foundation, He is our cornerstone of righteousness and strength.
It took 30,000 workers over seven years to complete the Solomon’s Temple. All the stones were quarried far away from the building site so not to disturb the holy place with extreme business, dust and noise. Jesus was quarried during His 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. His life was subjected to the will of His Father during the times when He separated Himself in prayer…”Thy Will Be Done.”
God chose Jesus and He was laid as the foundational stone of redemption. Our iniquity was laid upon Him and Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself for us. Christ’s death was not a result of man laying their hands upon Him but The heavenly Father laying His hand upon Christ’s mission as Savior of the world. He was laid and nailed upon a cross for our sins. He was also laid in a tomb but God raised Him up from death unto life and validated the covenant made by His blood.
He is a precious cornerstone – the dear and costly foundation of salvation. Christ not only strengthens the building, He also adorns it by bringing unity to all the parts and keeping them together. He brings together His church and unites men and women from all nations and backgrounds. The building’s strength and reliability is found not in its exterior beauty but in its unseen foundation. The cornerstone is the most solid and most exact stone in the foundation. Everything rises or falls on the cornerstone.
Jesus is one in whom we can place all of our trust. He is as solid and true as any earthly cornerstone. He is the measurement of truth and He alone aligns eternity. He fashions and directs the affairs of man. Those who build their hopes and lives upon Him are fashioned into a tabernacle for His glory. He gives our steps purpose and our calling sure. “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand…all other ground is sinking sand!” Though the winds of life assail against us, we stand secure…on Christ the Cornerstone!
Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 41:1-42:20 / 1 Peter 1:1-2:3 / Psalm 131:1-3
Someone sent me some insights from a class of 8 year olds about, “What is a grandparent?” One said, “They know we should have a snack time before bed time, and they say prayers with us and kiss us even when we've acted bad.” Another wrote, “Grandparents don't have to do anything except be there when we come to see them… They are so old they shouldn't play hard or run. It is good if they drive us to the shops and give us money.”
Sometimes kids have a better insight than we give them credit for! On October 26, 2013, I became a brand new grandpa! I think I am going to enjoy this “grandparent” job and have heard it is the greatest. I held Avery tonight and thought I had her asleep but she began to stir…she was hungry. Newborn babies are always hungry.
Peter relates a newborn’s hunger to the spiritual hunger that is to drive us. Babies do not need to be told when to eat; they long for and eagerly expect to be fed. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2,3)
A healthy newborn has an instinctive yearning to be fed. They don’t rationalize or chemically analyze the milk but instantly feed upon it. The milk is so desired and it also satisfies them the very moment they drink it. They quiet down, become calm and feed like there is no tomorrow. They are often impatient.
Followers of Jesus Christ are to respond to the milk of God’s Word in the same way. There should be a yearning for God’s Word and an eagerness to read, study and meditate upon it. The Holy Spirit overshadows us with His presence, as we look deep into The Word. Our spirits are calmed, minds are renewed and souls are satisfied. The Word of God is capable of supporting and strengthening us.
The only way to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ is by the purity of The Bible. The supernatural power of The Word transforms our lives and causes us to grow. It is the foundation of our faith and gives direction to our every decision and pathway.
We are alarmed when a newborn refuses or does not desire to eat. It isn’t natural and a sign that something is wrong with the baby. The same with us…it is alarming when there is not a craving for The Word and presence of God. Something is internally wrong and if not corrected, we will die of spiritual malnutrition.
What is the answer? We must eat (seek Him) even when we are distracted. We cannot look to the things of this world to satisfy the longing of our soul. We must cultivate a hunger for the things of God. We must taste of The Lord and we will discover He is good…all the time!
Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 40:1-49 / James 5:1-20 / Psalm 130:1-8
A man pursued by a roaring hungry lion, felt it’s hot breath on his neck and knew his time was short. He prayed in desperation, “O Lord, please make this lion a Christian!” Within seconds, the frightened man realized the lion had stopped the chase. When he turned around, he saw the lion kneeling with its lips moving in prayer…his prayer was answered! He was relieved until he overheard the lion’s prayer, “And bless, O Lord, this food for which I am exceedingly grateful.”
Seriously though…prayer is powerful! Some believe that prayer is an emotional crutch or a tension reliever that can’t change circumstances, people or lives. They base their opinion on their experience, comprehension and understanding. Prayer is not a fact to be tested but it is a powerful, God ordained truth to be experienced and practiced. James writes, “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
Experiments have been done in the name of science on the power of prayer. Hospital patients were randomly divided into two groups and without their knowledge, one group was prayed for while the other was not. They discovered the patients who were being prayed for progressed dramatically compared to the other group. There was a vast improvement in them physically, mentally and emotionally.
The power of prayer can be likened to the power of a gun. The person pulling the trigger is part of the gun’s power. A loaded gun lying by itself is not dangerous or powerful. It has potential but is harmless until the trigger is pulled by someone and unleashes its power. We are a vital part in the process of prayer. James earlier says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (4:2)
The gun itself is prayer. A gun has many precision parts that work together to make it functional. Prayer has a lot of complexities and we may not understand how it all works but by faith we activate prayer. And just like a gun, prayer also has a safety switch that is controlled by the divine will, wisdom and sovereignty of God. We lay all of our desires and will at the throne of His grace and mercy.
The ammunition is the power of the Holy Spirit. He penetrates the natural and supernatural forces targeted by prayer. God responds to passionate and prevailing prayer. The miraculous and supernatural power of God opens the windows of heaven, stops the work of the enemy and brings life where there is death.
A secular Gallup Poll found the divorce rate of couples in America to be 1 out of 2. The divorce rate for couples that attend church together: 1 out of 2. But when the couples also pray together daily, the divorce rate changes to 1 out of 1,152! There is nothing that can stop the power of prayer…except us. God has given us the powerful weapon of prayer…pull the trigger.
Pastor James Clark has pastored Calvary Assembly since 1985. He is blessed with his wife Yvonne, six children, two son-in-laws, a beautiful granddaughter and hopefully many more grandchildren to follow!