December 11, 2016

I Chronicles 19-22 - 
Some time after this Nasash, King of the Ammonites died and his son succeeded him to the throne.  David said, “I’d like to show some kindness to Nasash’s son --treat him as well and kindly as his father treated me.”  So David sent condolences about his father’d death.  But the Ammonite leaders warned Nasash’s son, Hanun, “Do you think for a moment that David is honoring your father by sending you comforters?...He’s sent these men to snoop around the city and size it up so that he can capture it.  So Hanun seized David’s men, shaved them clean, cut off their robes halfway up their buttocks and sent them packing....Fearing David’s anger for the humiliation of his men, the Ammonites hired Arameans to get ready for battle.  When Joab went out to fight them, he divided his troops to battle them on both fronts though the Arameans fled the moment Israel’s troops confronted them, and the Ammonites followed in retreat...When they attempted a second attack, David joined the battle and destroyed the opposition.  When all the kings saw that this attack had been routed by Israel, they made peace with David and served him...

Now Satan entered the scene and seduced David into taking a census of Israel...Joab resisted, asking why David would want to do this and risk getting Israel in trouble with God...But David wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Joab went off and did it.  

There were 1,100,000 fighting men of which Judah accounted for 470,000.  Joab, disgusted by the command- it in fact turned his stomach - protested by leaving Levi and Benjamin out of the count.  And God, offended by the whole thing, punished Israel.  Then David prayed, “I have sinned badly in what I have done, substituting statistics for trust; forgive my sin - I’ve been really stupid.”  God answered by speaking to Gad, David’s pastor;  Go and give David this message; “God’s word:  You have your choice of three punishments; chose one and I will do the rest.”  Gad delivered the massage to David:  “ Do you want 3 years of famine, 3 months of running from your enemies while they chase you down, or 3 days of the sword of God-an epidemic unleashed on the country by an angel of God?”  David told Gad, “They are all terrible!  But I’d rather be punished by God whose mercy is great, than fall into human hands.  So God unleashed an epidemic in Israel---70, 000 Israelites died.  God sent the angel to Jerusalem but when he saw the destruction about to begin, he compassionately changed his mind and ordered the death angel , Enough’s enough!  Pull back!  

The angel of God had just reached the threshing floor of Araunah.  David looked up and saw the angel hovering between earth and sky, sword drawn and about to strike Jerusalem.  David and the Elders bowed in prayer and covered themselves with rough burlap.  David prayed, “Please!  I’m the one at fault.  But these sheep, what did they do wrong?  Punish me, not them, me and my family; don’t take it out on them.”  The angel of God ordered Gad to tell David to go and build an altar to God on the threshing floor of Araunah...David asked Araunah to give him the site of his threshing floor and charge him the market price for it so he could put an end to this disaster.  “Oh master, my King”, said Araunah, “just take it; do whatever you want with it!---It’s all yours!”  David replied, “ No, I’m buying it from you and at full market price.  I’m not going to offer God sacrifices that are no sacrifice.”  At this time the Tabernacle that Moses had constructed in the desert...were set up at the worship center in Gibeon.  But David, terrified by the angel’s sword, wouldn’t go there to pray to God anymore.  So David declared, “From now on, this (Araunah’s threshing floor) is the site for the worship of God; this is the place for Israel’s Altar of Burnt Offering.” 

Later, David was thinking, “My son Solomon is too young to plan ahead for building the temple.  But the sanctuary that is to be built for God has to be the greatest, the talk of all nations; so I’l get the construction materials together.”  That’s why David prepared this hugh stockpile of building materials before he died.  

Then he called in Solomon and commanded him to build a sanctuary for the God of Israel.  David said to Solomon, “I wanted in the worst way to build a sanctuary in honor of my God.  But God prevented me, saying, ‘You’ve killed too many people, fought too many wars...  But you are going to have a son and he will be a quiet and peaceful man and I will calm his enemies down on all sides.  His very name will speak peace--that is, Solomon, which means Peace....He will be the one to build my sanctuary in my honor....

So now, son, God be with you.  God-speed as you build the sanctuary for you God, the job God has given you.  And may God also give you discernment and understanding when he puts you in charge of Israel so that you will rule in reverent obedience under God’s revelation.  That’s what will make you successful, following the directions and doing the things that God commanded Moses for Israel.  Courage! Take Charge!  Don’t be timid; don’t hold back....David gave orders to all of Israel’s leaders to help his son, Solomon...”My part in this was to put down the enemies, subdue the land to God and his people; your part is to give yourselves, heart and soul, to praying to your God.  So get moving---build the sacred house of worship to God.

Revelations 6 - 
I watched as the Lamb ripped off the first of seven seals on the scroll.  A white horse, carrying a rider with a bow came out of the seal and was given a victory garland.  He rode off victorious, conquering right and left.

When the Lamb ripped off the second seal...another horse appeared, this on red.  Its rider was off to take peace from the earth, setting people at each other’s throats, killing one another.  He was given a huge sword.

When the Lamb ripped off the third seal ....a black horse this time.  Its rider carrying a set of scales in his hand for a quart of wheat for a day’s wages or three quarts of barley but all the oil and wine you want...

When he ripped off the fourth seal.. a colorless horse, sickly pale.  Its rider was Death & Hell was close on its heals.  They were given the power to destroy a fourth of the earth by war, disease, and wild beasts.  

When he ripped off the fifth seal, I saw the souls of those killed because they held firm in their witness to the Word of God....then each martyrs was given a white robe and told to sit back and wait until the full number of martyrs was filled from among their servant companions and friends in faith.

I watched as he ripped off the sixth seal: a bone-jarring earthquake, sun turned black as ink, moon all bloody, stars falling out of the sky like a fig tree in a high wind, sky snapped shut like a book, islands and mountains sliding this way and that.....The great Day of wrath has come---who can stand it?

December 10, 2016

I Chronicles 16-18 - 
When David had completed the offerings of worship, he blessed the people in the name of God.  Then he passed around to every one there, men and women alike, a loaf of bread, a slice of barbecue and a raisin cake.  Then David assigned some of the Levites to the Chest of God to lead worship--to intercede, give thanks and praise the God of Israel....

That was the day that David inaugurated regular worship of praise to God...Sing to God, everyone and everything!  Get out his salvation news every day!  Publish his glory among the godless nations his wonders to all races and religions.  And why?  Because God is great---well worth praising!...Give thanks to God --- he is good and his love never quits....  

After the king had made himself at home, he said to Nathan, the prophet, “look at this.  Here I am comfortable in a luxurious palace of cedar and the Chest of the Covenant of God sits under a tent.”  Nathan told David, “whatever is on your heart, go and do it; God is with you.”  But that night the word of God came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell my servant David.  This is God’s word on the matter.  You will not build me a ‘house’ to live in.  Why I haven’t lived in a house from the time I brought up the children of Israel from Egypt til now; I’ve gone from one tent and makeshift shelter to another...

So here is what you are to tell my servant David...I took you from the pasture, tagging after sheep, and made you prince over my people of Israel.  I was with you everywhere you went and mowed down your enemies before you; and now I’m about to make you famous, ranked with the great names on earth...and now I’m telling you this:  God himself will build you a house!  When your life is complete and you’re buried with your ancestors, then I’ll raise up your child to succeed you, a child from your own body, and I’ll firmly establish his rule.  He will build a house to honor me, and I will guarantee his kingdom’s rule forever.  I’ll be a father to him, and he’ll be a son to me.  I will never remove my gracious love from him as I did from the one who preceded you.  I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; this throne will always be there, rock solid.”

Nathan gave David a complete and accurate account of everything he heard.  King David went in, took his place before God, and prayed: ...Who am I, my Master God, and what is my family, that you have brought me to this place in life?  But that’s nothing compared to what’s coming, for you’ve spoken of my family far into the future, given me a glimpse of tomorrow and looked on me, Master God, as a Somebody.  What’s left for David to say to this--to your honoring your servant, even though you know me, just as I am?  

O God, out of the goodness of your heart, you’ve taken your servant to do this great thing and put your great work on display.  There is none like you, God, no God but you have nothing to compare with what we’ve heard with our own ears....So now, great God, this word that you have spoken to me and my family, guarantee it forever! ...

You, my God, have plainly told me, “I will build you a house.”  That’s how I was able to find the courage to pray this prayer to you.  God, being the God you are, you have spoken all these wonderful words to me.  As if that weren’t enough, you’ve blessed my family so that it will continue in your presence always.  Because you have blessed it, God, it’s really blessed--blessed for good!

Thus David ruled over all of Israel.  He ruled well, fair and evenhanded in all his duties and relationships.

Revelations 5 - 
I saw a scroll in the right hand of the One Seated on the Throne...”is there anyone who can open the scroll, who can break its seal?”  There was no one...I wept and wept and wept...One of the Elders said, “Don’t weep.  Look, the Lion from Tribe Judah, the Root of David’s Tree, has conquered.  He can open the scroll, can rip through the seven seals.”  So I looked, and there, surrounded by Throne, Animals and Elders, was a lamb, slaughtered but standing tall.  Seven horns he had and seven eyes, the Seven Spirits of God sent into all the earth...the moment he took the scroll, the Four Animals and Twenty-four Elders fell down and worshipped the Lamb....

I looked again.  I heard a company of Angels...ten thousand times ten thousand their number, thousand after thousand after thousand in full song....The Four Animals called out, “Oh, Yes!”  The Elders fell to their knees and worshiped.

December 9, 2016

Day 344 of 2016

On the surface, 1 & 2 Chronicles appear to have nothing in common with Revelations.  Yet in his introduction to each, Eugene Peterson points out that both build on the priority of worship...

In the days of Jesus, the Hebrew Old Testament ended with 1 & 2 Chronicles .  This means that God ended both halves of the Bible on the same note: worship.  He longs for you and every human being to make worship your highest priority.  

Worship, like faith, is part of Christianity 101, the basics of what it means to live a life that pleases God.  You will see this again and again as you read over the next six days.  God designed everything in the universe , including you to glorify him.   

December 8, 2016

I Chronicles - 13 - 15 -  
David consulted with all of his leaders...then David addressed the entire assembly of Israel, “if it seems right to you, and it is God’s will...let’s bring the chest of our God back--the chest that was out of sight, out of mind during the days of Saul.”  The entire assembly agreed...then David and all of Israel went to Baalah (Kiriath Jearim) in Judah to bring back the chest....They moved the Chest of God from the house of Abinadad with Uzzah and Ahio in charge...David and all Israel worshiped exuberantly in song and dance, with a marching band of all kinds of instruments.  When they were at the threshing floor of Kidon, the oxen stumbled and Uzzah grabbed the chest to keep it from falling off.  God erupted in anger against Uzzah and killed him because he touched the Chest....David lost his temper, angry because God exploded against Uzzah....David was terrified of God that day...so David called off the parade of the Chest to the city of David.  The Chest of God was in storage in the house of Obed-Edom for three months.  God blessed the family of Obed-Edom and everything around him.

The minute the Philistines heard that David had been made king over a united Israel, they went out in force to capture David.  When David got the report, he marched out to confront them...David prayed to God: “Is this the right time to attack the Philistines? Will you give me the victory?  God answered, “Attack;  I’ll give you the victory.”  David attacked and slaughtered them....yet later the Philistines were back at it again, plundering in the valley.  David again prayed to God.  God answered, “this time don’t attack head on; circle around and come at them out of the balsam grove.  When you hear a sound like shuffling feet in the tops of the balsams, attack; God will be two steps ahead of you, slaughtering the Philistines...

After David built houses for himself in Jerusalem, he cleared a place for the Chest and pitched a tent for it.  Then David gave orders that “no one carries the Chest except the Levites...David then called everyone in Israel to assemble in Jerusalem to bring up the Chest of God to its specially prepared place...So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the Chest...The Levites carried the Chest exactly as Moses, instructed by God, commanded -- carrying it with poles on their shoulders, careful not to touch it with their hands... Now when they were ready, David, the elders of Israel, and the commanders of thousands started out to get the Chest of God from the house of Obed-Edom.  And they were rejoicing, and they paused to worship.  David also wore a linen prayer shawl.  On they came, all Israel on parade bringing up the Chest of the Covenant of God, shouting and cheering, playing every kind of brass and percussion and string instrument.  When the Chest of the Covenant of God arrived, Michal, Saul’s daughter, was watching from a window.  When she saw King David dancing ecstatically, she was filled with contempt.

Revelations 4 - 
Then I looked, and oh!---a door open into Heaven.  The trumpet-voice, the first voice in my vision, called out, “ascend and enter.  I’ll show you what happens next.”  I was caught up in deep worship and oh!---

a throne with one seated on the throne...24 thrones circled the throne with 24 elders seated on these thrones.  7 fire-blazing torches fronted the Throne (these are the Sevenfold Spirit of God).  Prowling around the Throne there were 4 animals...the first was a lion, the second an ox, the third with a human face, the fourth like an eagle in flight.  The four animals were winged, each with 6 wings.  They were all eyes...and they chanted night and day, never taking a break: Holy, holy holy is God our master, sovereign-strong, the was, the is, the coming.  

Every time the animals gave glory and honor and thanks to the One Seated on the Throne, the 24 elders would fall down and worship the one on the throne chanting:  Worthy, o master!  Yes, our God!  Take the glory!  the honor!  the power!  You created it all; it was created because you wanted it.

December 7, 2016

I Chronicles 10-12 - 
The Philistines went to war against Israel...The battle went hard against Saul, the archers found him and wounded him...so Saul took his own sword and killed himself.  The armor bearer, panicked, because Saul was dead, then killed himself....they stripped Saul, removed his head and his armor and put them on exhibit throughout Philstia, reporting the victory news to their idols and the people....

The people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul.  All of their fighting men went into action--retrieved the bodies of Saul and his sons and brought them to Javesh, gave them a dignified burial under the oak at Jabesh, and mourned their deaths for 7 days.  Saul died in disobedience...Instead of praying, he went to a witch to seek guidance.  Because he didn’t go to God for help, God took his life and turned his kingdom over to David, son of Jesse.  Then all Israel assembled before David at Hebron......David made a covenant with them in the presence of God at Hebron.  Then they anointed David king over Israel exactly as God had commanded through Samuel.  

David and all Israel went to Jerusalem (it was the old Jebus, where the Jebusites lived).  The citizens of Jebus told David, “No trespassing - you can’t come here.”  David came on anyway and captured the fortress of Zion, the city of David...David had said, “The first person to kill a Jebusite will be commander-in-chief.”  Joab son of Zeruiah was the first; and he became the chief...David’s stride became longer, his embrace larger -- yes, God of the Angel Armies was with him...

These are the chiefs of David’s Mighty Men, the ones who linked arms with him as he took up his kingship... Jashobeam was chief of the Thirty.  Singlehandedly he killed 300 men, killed them all in one skirmish.  Next was Eleazar, one of the Big Three of the Mighty Men.  He was with David at Pas Dammim where David was holed up in a cave while the Philistines were preparing for battle at Bethlehem.  David had a sudden craving: “What I wouldn’t give for a drink of water from the well in Bethlehem, the one at the gate!”  The Three penetrated  the Philistine camp, drew water from the well at the Bethlehem gate, shouldered it, and brought it back to David. And then, David wouldn’t drink it!  He poured it out as a sacred offering to God, saying, “I’d rather be damned by God than drink this!  It would be like drinking the lifeblood of these men --they risked their lives to bring it.”  So he refused to drink it.  These are the kinds of things that the Big Three of the Mighty Men did.  

Abishai, brother of Joab was the chief of the Thirty...he was highly honored by the Thirty--he was their chief -still, he didn’t measure up to the three.  Bebnaiah was a Mighty Man...He was highly honored among the Thirty, but didn’t measure up to the Three.  David put him in charge of his personal bodyguard.  The Mighty Men were:
Asahel, brother of Joab, Elhanan, Shammoth, Helez,Ira, Abiezer, Sibbecai, Ilai, Maharai, Heled, Ithai, Benaiah, Hurai, Abiel, Azmaveth, Eliahba, Jonathan, Ahiam, Eliphal, Hepher, Ahijah, Hezro, Naarai, Joel, Mibhar, Zelek, Naharai, Ira the Ithrite, Gareb, Uriah, Zabad, Adina, Shiza, Hanan, Joshaphat, Uzzia, Shama and Jeiel, Jediael, Joha, Eliel, Jeribai and Joshaviah, Ithmah, Eliel, Obed, and Jaasiel....

When they came together, one of the men who was moved by God’s Spirit, said “We’re on your side, O David.  We’re committed, O son of Jesse; All is well, yes, all is well with you, and it is well with whoever helps you.  Yes, for your God has helped and does help you....All these soldiers came to David at Hebron, ready to fight if necessary, they were both united and determined to make David king over all Israel.  And everyone else in Israel was of the same mind.

Revelations 3:7 - 3:22 - 
Write this to Philadelphia...I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut.  You don’t have much strength.  I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word.  You didn’t deny me when times were rough.  “and watch as I take those who call themselves true believers but are nothing of the kind---watch as I strip off their pretensions and they’re forced to acknowledge it’s you that I’ve loved.  Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep u safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth.  Are your ears awake?  Listen.  Listen to the wind words, the Spirit is blowing through the churches....

Write to Laodicea...I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking.  You are not cold, you’re not hot---far better to be either cold or hot!  You’re stale.  You’re stagnant....You brag, “I’m rich.  I’ve got it made.  I need nothing from anyone, oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless...The people I love, I call to account--prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best.  Up on your feet, then!  About face.  Run after God!  Look at me, I stand at the door.  I knock.  If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you....Are your ears awake?  Listen.  Listen to the wind words, the Spirit is blowing through the churches....

December 6, 2016

I Chronicles 6 - 9 - 
These are the persons David appointed to lead the singing in the house of God after the Chest was placed there....  These are the persons, together with their sons, who served by preparing for and directing worship.... Heman, the choirmaster; Asaph, Heman’s associate stood on his right hand while Ethan was Heman’s associate who stood on his left side....

The first Israelites to return from exile to their homes and cities were priests, the Levites and the temple support staff.

Revelations 2:18 - 3:6 -  
Write this to Thyatira, “I see everything you’r doing for me.  Impressive!  The love and faith, the service and persistence.  Yes, very impressive!!  But why do you let Jezebel who calls herself a prophet mislead my dear servants into Cross-denying, self-indulging religion?  I gave her a chance to change her ways but she has no intention of giving up a career in the god-business.  I’m about to lay her low, along with her partners...Then every church will know that appearances don’t impress me.  I x-ray eveery motive and make sure you get what’s coming to you...... Are your ears awake?  Listen.  Listen to the wind words, the Spirit is blowing through the churches....

Write this to Sardis...”I see right through your work.  You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone dead.  Up on your feet!  Take a deep breath!  Maybe there’s life in you yet.  But I wouldn’t know it by looking at your busywork; nothing of God’s work has been completed...Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears--grasp it again and turn back to God...Are your ears awake?  Listen.  Listen to the wind words, the Spirit is blowing through the churches....

December 5, 2016

1 & 2  Chronicles -  
God’s people are in danger of losing touch with what made them God’s people in the first place...A new writer, possibly Ezra, took it in hand to tell the old and by now familiar story but with a new slant.  His task was to recover and restore Israel’s confidence and obedience as God’s people.  

Remarkably, and improbably, considering the political and cultural conditions of the time, this author insisted on the core identity of Israel as a worshiping people in the Davidic tradition....There is no true storytelling without names and this immersion in names calls attention to the individual, the unique, the personal which is inherent in all spirituality.  Chronicles erects a solid defense against depersonalized religion...  And Chronicles provides a witness to the essential and primary place of worship in human life.  The narrative backbone of Chronicles is worship - the place of worship, the ministers of worship, the musical components of worship, and the authoritative role of King David, the Master of worship, who maintains faithfulness and integrity in worship.  

In the way this story of Israel’s past is told, nothing takes precedence over worship in nurturing and protecting our identity as a people of God.   And nothing in the preparation for and conduct of worship is too small to be left to whim or chance....right and faithful worship turns out to be what counts most of all.  The people of God are not primarily a political entity or a military force or an economic power; they are a holy congregation diligent in worship.  

To lose touch with the Davidic (and Moses-based) life of worship is to disintegrate as a holy people.  To be seduced by the popular pagan worship of the surrounding culture is to be obliterated as a holy people... Accurate worship, defined and fed by the God who reveals himself in Jesus Christ.  And personal names that add up to a people of God, a holy congregation...the worship of God  is the indispensable foundation for living whole and redeemed lives.  

I Chronicles 1 - 
Israel’s family tree - the trunk - Adam through Noah’s 3 sons (Japheth, Ham and Shem).  Out of Shem’s branch (10th generation from Adam) came Abram ( 9th generation from Shem).  Abraham’s son Israel (Jacob) had Judah who also had Perez with his daughter-in-law Tamar.  Perez had Hezron whom had 3 sons, one of which was Ram.  Ram had Amminadad whose son was Nahshon, a prominent leader in the Judah family.  Nahshon had Salmon whose son was Boaz.  Boaz had Obed and Obed had Jesse whose son was David (7th son - 11 generations after Abram).  David had 6 sons while he lived in Hebron all by different women then moved to Jerusalem where he had 4 sons with Bathsheba, including Solomon, before having 9 more sons.  There were other sons by his concubines.  Solomon - Rehoboam-Abijah-Asa- Jehoshaphat- Jehoram-Ahaziah-Jotham-Ahaz-Hezekiah-Manasseh-Amon-Josiah- Jehoikim-Jeconiah-Pedaiah, Zerubbabel-Hananiah-Shecaniah-Shemaiah-Neariah-Elioenai.   

Revelations 2:1-2:17 - 
Write this to Ephesus, The one with seven starts in his right -fist grip speaks:  “I see what you’ve  done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quite...I know your persistence, your courage in my cause, that you never wear out.  But you walked away from your first love--why?...Turn back!  Recover your dear early love.  No time to waste...Are your ears awake?  Listen.  Listen to the wind words, the Spirit is blowing through the churches....

Write this to Smyrna...I can see your pain and poverty--constant pain, dire poverty - but I also see your wealth...Fear nothing!  Don’t quit, even if it costs you your life.  Stay there believing.   Are your ears awake?  Listen.  Listen to the wind words, the Spirit is blowing through the churches.  

Write this to Pergamum-- you continue boldly in my Name; you never denied My name, even when the pressure was worst...But why do you indulge the Balaam crowd?  Don’t you remember that Balaam was an enemy agent...  Enough!  Don’t give in to them... Are your ears awake?  Listen.  Listen to the wind words, the Spirit is blowing through the churches.

December 4, 2016

Nehemiah 10-13 - 
Everyone old enough to understand joined in a binding oath to follow the Revelation of God given through Moses which included:  not to marry our daughters to foreign neighbors nor let our sons marry their daughters, not to trade with them on the Sabbath or any other holy holidays, every 7th year they will leave the land fallow and cancel all debts, accept responsibility for paying an annual tax for providing The Temple with supplies, take responsibility for delivering annually to the Temple the first fruits, our firstborn sons and cattle, and the firstborn from our flocks for the priests who serve in the Temple.  We will bring the tithes from our fields to the Levites.  We will bring our best grain, of our contributions, of the fruit of every tree.

When it came time for the dedication of the wall, they tracked down and brought in the Levites from all their homes in Jerusalem to carry out the dedication exuberantly: thanksgiving hymns, songs, cymbals, harps and lutes....I had the leaders of Judah come up on the wall and I appointed two large choirs.  One proceeded on the wall to the right toward the Dung Gate...the other proceeded to the left.  I and half of the people followed them on the wall...That day they offered great sacrifices, an exuberant celebration because God had filled them with great joy.  The women and children raised their happy voices with all the rest.  Jerusalem’s jubilation was heard far and wide. 

That same day men were appointed to be responsible for the storerooms for the offerings, the firstfruits and the tithes.. During the time of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily allowance for the singers and security guards.  Also on that same day there was a reading from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people.  It was written that no Ammonite or Moabite was permitted to enter the congregation of God, because they hadn’t welcomed the People of Israel with food and drink...When they heard the reading of The Revelation, they excluded all foreigners from Israel.  

Some time before this, Eliashib - the priest in charge of the storerooms of the Temple- was close to Tobiah and had made available to him a large storeroom that had been used to store.  When this was going on, Nehemiah was not there in Jerusalem as he had traveled back to the king...But when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem and learned of the wrong Eliashib had done in turning a room in the courts of the Temple of God, he was angry, really angry, and threw everything in the room out into the street, all of Tobiah’s stuff....  

And then Nehemiah had learned that the Levites hadn’t been given their regular food allotments...so the Levites and singers who led worship had all left and gone back to their farms.  Nehemiah called the officials on the carpet...he got everyone back again and put them back on their jobs so that all of Judah was again bringing in before assigning new leaders - men who had a reputation for honesty and hard work.. Nehemiah also confronted those who were bringing in and selling good on the Sabbath, as well as some of the men who were again marrying women from other nations.  He then organized the orders of service for the priests and Levites so that each man knew his job.

Revelation - 
John of Patmos - a pastor of the late 1st century - has worship on his mind, is preeminently concerned with worship.  The vision, which is the Revelation, comes to him while he is at worship on a certain Sunday on the Mediterranean island of Patmos....Worship shapes the human community in response to the living God.  If worship is neglected or perverted, our communities fall into chaos or under tyranny....

As the Revelation makes clear, worship must be carried out under conditions decidedly uncongenial to it.  John’s revelation is not an easy read...but the demands he makes on our intelligence and imagination are well rewarded, for in keeping company with John, our worship of God will almost certainly deepen in urgency and joy.  

Revelation 1 - 
I John, am writing to the 7 churches in Asia province... Glory and strength to Christ who loves us... The Master declares, “I’m A to Z. I’m the God who is, the God who was and the God about to arrive.  I am the Sovereign-Strong”.....

It was Sunday and I was in the Spirit, praying, I heard a loud voice behind me, trumpet-clear and piercing... I turned and saw the voice.  I saw a gold menorah with seven branches, and in the center, the Son of Man...I saw this and fainted dead at his feet.  His right hand pulled me upright, his voice reassured me: Don’t fear: I am First, I am Last, I’m Alive.  I died but I came to live and my life is now forever.

December 3, 2016

Nehemiah 7-9 -  
After the wall was rebuilt, Nehemiah put his brother, Hanani, along with Hananiah (captain of the citadel), in charge of Jerusalem because he was an honest man and feared God more than most men...God put in my heart to gather the nobles, officials, and the people in general to be registered...  The total count for the congregation was 42, 360 along with 7,337 slaves and 245 singers = 49, 942.

By the time the 7th month arrived, the People of Israel were settled in their town.  Then all the people gathered as one person...and asked Ezra to bring the Book of the Revelation of Moses that God had commanded for Israel....He read it...from early dawn until noon in the hearing of the men and women, all who could understand it.  And all the people listened.  They were all ears...Then Ezra praised God, the great God, and all the people responded, “oh yes, yes!” with hands raised high.  And then they fell to their knees in worship of God, their faces to the ground.

On the second day of the month, the family heads and leaders gathered around Ezra to get a deeper understanding of the words of The Revelation and found that the People of Israel were to live in booths during the festival of the seventh month...so the people were asked to follow this tradition...the entire congregation that had come back from exile made booths and lived in them.  The people of Israel hadn’t done this from the time of Joshua, son of Nun, until that very day--a terrific day!  Great joy!  Ezra read from the Book of the Revelation each day, from the first to the last day--they celebrated the feast for 7 days.  On the 8th day, they held a solemn assembly in accordance with the decree.

Then on the 24th day of this month, the People of Israel gathered for a fast, wearing burlap and faces smudged with dirt as signs of repentance....while they stood there in their places, they read from the Book of Revelation of God for a quarter of the day.  For another quarter of the day, they confessed and worshiped their God.  

Then the Levites prayed:
...You’re the one, God, the God who chose Abram....You found his heart to be steady and true to you and signed a covenant with him...Through your servant, Moses, you decreed commands, rules and instructions.  You gave bread from heaven for their hunger, you sent water from the rock for their thirst....And you, a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, incredibly patient, with tons of love--you didn’t dump them...You gave them your good Spirit to teach them to live wisely....their clothes didn’t wear out and their feet never blistered...and they ate, grew fat on the fat of the land; they reveled in your bountiful goodness.  But then they mutinied, rebelled against you...

but when they called out for help in their troubles, you listened from heaven and in keeping with your bottomless compassion you gave them saviors; saviors who saved them from the cruel abuse  of their enemies.  But as soon as they had it easy again, they were right back at it--more evil. So you turned away and left them again to their fate .... Still because of your great compassion, you didn’t make a total end to them, you didn’t walk out and leave them for good, you are a God of grace and compassion...Because of all this we are drawing up a binding pledge, a sealed document signed by our leaders.

Jude - 
Our spiritual communities are as susceptible to disease as our physical bodies.  But it is easier to detect whatever is wrong in our stomachs and lungs than in our worship and witness....

As much as we need physicians for our bodies, we have an even greater need for diagnosticians and healers of the spirit.  Jude’s letter to an early community of Christians is just such a diagnosis...

The primary Christian posture is, in Jude’s words, “keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ (verse 21.)”

Jude 1 -  
I Jude, a brother to James, writing to those loved by God...

relax, everything is going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!...I have to write insisting---begging!---that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish.  

What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks, who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels...but these people sneer at anything they can’t understand and by doing whatever they feel like doing--living by animal instincts only--they participate in their own destruction.  I’m fed up with them!...

These are the “grumblers, “ the bellyachers, grabbing for the biggest piece of the pie, talking big, saying anything they think will get them ahead....As the apostles told us, “in the  last days there will be people who don’t take these things seriously anymore.  They’ll treat them like a joke, and make religion of their own whims and lusts.”  These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves.  There is nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!  

But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right in the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ.  This is the unending life, the real life!  Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith.  Go after those who take the wrong way.  Be tender with sinners but not soft on sin.  The sin itself stinks to high heaven.

December 2, 2016

Day 337 of 2016

The readings this past week challenged you to put God-acts with your God-talk... This week’s readings tossed you out of your comfort zone and into some awkward places.  

John did just this when he wrote:  “Christ sacrificed his life for us.  This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.  If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love?  It disappears.  And you made it disappear.”

Ezra put you in that awkward place, too, having you walk beside him among people who claimed to love God yet who compromised their faith by their actions

How will you try to get your brothers and sisters in Christ to live consistently in him?  Or how will you respond when God prompts you to do something for him that no one else wants to do? 

Please join us in our journey over the next 7 days.  Our daily blog can be found on WRC's website at:   https://wyckoffreformed.squarespace.com/son-rise-on-scripture…/  

(Synthesized from "The Message//Remix:Pause - A Daily Reading Bible")

December 1, 2016

Nehemiah 4-6   
 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he exploded with anger....Nehemiah prayed, “Oh listen to us, dear God.  We’re so despised.  Boomerang their ridicule on their heads....they’ve insulted the builders.

We kept at it, repairing and rebuilding the wall.  The whole wall was soon joined together and halfway to its intended height because the people had a heart for their work.  When Sanballat and Tobiah heard of their progress, they were furious.  They put their heads together and decided to create as much trouble as they could.  We countered with prayer and set a round-the-clock guard against them.  But soon word was going around Judah that the workers had tired and they were in over their heads....So Nehemiah stationed armed guards at the most vulnerable places of the wall then spoke to everyone saying, “Don’t be afraid of them.  Put your minds on the Master, great and awesome, and then fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your homes...From then on half of my young men worked while the other half stood guard with lances, shields, bows and mail armor. 

A great protest, however, was mounted by the people against their fellow Jews.  Some said, “We have big families, and we need food just to survive.”  Others said, “We’re having to mortgage our fields and vineyards and homes to get enough grain to keep from starving.”  And others said, “We’re having to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards...Nehemiah got really angry when he heard their protests and complaints.  After thinking it over he called the officials on the carpet and said, “Each one of you is gouging his brother.”  Then he called a big meeting to deal with them by stating that “gouging one’s fellow Jews with interest needs to stop.  “Give them back their foreclosed fields and homes right now and forgive your claims on them.  They said they would  then Nehemiah called the priests together and made them promise to keep their word...

...For 12 years, Nehemiah and his followers didn’t use their food allowance nor tax the people for it....All my men were on the job to do the work.  We didn’t have time to line our own pockets.  Nehemiah fed 150 people at his table in addition to those who showed up from surrounding nations.  

Then Sanballat and Tobiah sent a messenger for Nehemiah to come and meet with them.  “I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I replied, I’m doing great work, I can’t come down...4 times they sent the same message then Sanballat sent a letter accusing Nehemiah of plans to start a rebellion after finishing the wall. Nehemiah replied the there was nothing to what they were saying and that they made it all up in an attempt to intimidate the Jews into quitting.  Then he prayed, ‘Give me strength.”  Nehemiah then met secretly with Shemaiah who recommended that Nehemiah hide out in the Temple of God....Nehemiah sensed that God hadn’t sent this man.  The so-called prophecy he spoke was the work of Sanballat and Tobiah, they had hired him.  So Nehemiah declined this advice and asked God not to let his enemies and false prophets undermine his work and confidence.

The wall was finished on the 25th day of Elul.  It had taken 52 days to build.  When all our enemies heard the news, they totally lost their nerve.  They knew that God was behind this work.

3 John - 
Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make faith visible....It is good work you’re doing, helping travelers on their way, hospitality worthy of God himself.  

Earlier I wrote something along this line to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves being in charge, denigrates my counsel.  If I come, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account for spreading vicious rumors about us...he not only refuses hospitality to traveling Christians, but tries to stop others from welcoming them...instead of inviting them in he throws them out.  Friends, don’t go along with evil.  Model the good.  The person who does good does God’s work.  The person who does evil falsifies God, doesn’t know the first thing about God.  Everyone has a good word for Demetrius.

November 30, 2016

Nehemiah - 
Separating life into distinct categories of “sacred” and “secular” damages, sometimes irreparably, any attempt to live a whole and satisfying life...Such a concept as this surely wasn’t from the Bible.  The Holy Scriptures, from beginning to end, strenuously resist such a separation.  

Work, by its very nature is holy.  Nehemiah started out as a government worker in the employ of a foreign king.  Then he became a building contractor called in to rebuild the walls  of Jerusalem.  His coworker Ezra was a scholar and teacher, working with the Scriptures.  Nehemiah worked with stones and mortar...Neither job was more or less important or holy than the other...God’s people needed the work of both of them.  We still do.

Nehemiah 1-3 - 
Hanani, one of my brothers, had just arrived from Judah with some fellow Jews in the month of Kislev in the 20th year....They told me “The exile survivors who are left in the province are in bad shape...

When I heard this, I sat down and wept.  I mourned for days, fasting and praying before God.  I said,...”Look at me, listen to me.  Pay attention to this prayer of your servant that I am praying day and night for your servants...We’ve treated you like dirt!... All the same, remember the warning you posted to your servant Moses...if you come back to me and do what I tell you, I’ll gather up all these scattered people from wherever they ended up and put them back in the place I chose to mark with my name...O master, listen to me, listen to your servant’s prayer...and make me successful today so that I get what I want from the king.”  I was a cupbearer to the King.  

At the hour for serving wine, the king asked me, “Why the long face?”.... So Nehemiah told him of his concerns and the king inquired, “So what do you want?”  Praying under my breath to God, I said, “If it pleases the king, and the king thinks well of me, send me to Judah to the city where my family is buried so that I can rebuild it.”  The king, after inquiring how long it would take, approved to send him along with letters authorizing his travels and requests for materials.  ...The generous hand of my God was with me in this and the king gave them to me...When Sanballat and Tobiah, Ammonite officials, heard about this, they were very upset, angry that anyone would come to look after the interest of the People of Israel.  

And so Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem.  After he had been there three days, he got up in the middle of the night to investigate the walls and overall situation...the local officials had not idea where I’d gone or what I was doing-- I hadn’t breathed a word to anyone else who would be working on the job.  Then I gave them my report and told them, “Come-- let’s build the wall of Jerusalem and not live with this disgrace any longer.”  I told them how God was supporting me and how the king was backing me up.  They said, “We’re with you.  Let’s get started.”  They rolled up their sleeves ready for the good work.   When Sanballat and Tobiah, Ammonite officials, heard about this, they laughed at us following which Nehemiah shot back that God will make sure they succeed while warning them to keep their noses out of it.

The high priest Eliashib and his fellow priests were up and at it at the Sheep Gate.  The men of Jericho work alongside them.  The Fish gate was built by the Hassenaah brothers,...... and so on went the recording of the various groups/families assigned to rebuild a certain portion of the walls.   

2 John 1 - 
Let grace, mercy and peace be with us in truth and love from God the Father, and from Jesus Christ, son of the Father.  

I can’t tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth...that we love each other.  Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love.  This is the first thing you heard and nothing has changed...  

Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God.  But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.  If anyone shows up who doesn’t hold to this teaching, don’t invite him in and give him the run of the place.

November 29, 2016

Ezra 7-10 - 
After all this, Ezra, related back to Aaron, arrived from Babylon, a scholar well-practiced in the Revelation of Moses...Because God’s hand was on Ezra, the king gave him everything he asked for.  

It was the 7th year of Arraxeerxes reign.  He arrived in the 5th month of the 7th year.  Ezra had committed himself to studying the Revelation of God, to living it, and to teaching Israel to live its truths and ways.  Ezra took a letter from the king which included:  You are being sent by the king and his 7 advisors to carry out an investigation of Judah and Jerusalem in relation to the teaching of your God that you are carrying with you along with the silver & gold that the king is giving for Israel...Use this money carefully...whatever else you need for the Temple of your God you may pay for out of the royal bank...Everything the God-of-Heaven requires for the Temple of God must be given without hesitation...I, authorize you, Ezra, exercising the wisdom of God that you have in your hands.

Blessed be God, who put it in the mind of the king to beautify the Temple in Jerusalem!  Not only that, he caused the king actually to like me and back me.  

My God was on my side and I was ready to go.  And I organized all the leaders of Israel to go with me....I looked over these leaders and found that they were all laymen and priests but no Levites so I sent for the leaders to send us ministers of the Temple of God.  Well the generous hand of our God was on us and they brought back to us a wise man.  His name was Sherebiah who with sons and brothers numbered 18.  They also brought Hashabiah and Jeshaiah which included another 20.  

Ezra then claimed a fast to humble themselves before our God, and pray for wise guidance for their journey since he was embarrassed to talk to the king about protection along the way .  So they fasted and prayed about these concerns.  And he listened.  He then picked 12 of the leading priests - Sherebiah and Hashabiah along with 10 of their brothers.  The group left this gathering place on the 12th day of the 1st month to travel to Jerusalem.  When they arrived, the exiles offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel....

After all this was done, the leaders came to Ezra and said, “The people of Israel have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring people around here with all their vulgar obscenities---the holy seed is now mixed in with these other peoples.  And our leaders have led the way in their betrayal.”  When I heard all this, I ripped my clothes, pulled hair from my head and beard; I slumped to the ground appalled.  Many were in fear and trembling because of what God was saying about the betrayal...so Ezra fell to his knees and stretched out his hands to God.  And he prayed.... “ our iniquities are piled up so high that we can’t see out; our guilt touches the skies....yet here we are, at it again, breaking your commandments by intermarrying with the people who practice all these obscenities”... 

Ezra wept, as he prayed and confessed, a large number of men, women, and children of Israel gathered around him.  All the people were now weeping as if their hearts would break.  Shecaniah, acting as a spokesman acknowledged that they betrayed God by intermarrying others..”but all is not lost, there is still hope for Israel; let’s make a covenant right now with our God, agreeing to get rid of all these wives and their children...Now get up, Ezra.  Take charge--we’re behind you.  Don’t back down.”  So Ezra stood up and had the leaders solemnly swear to do what Shecaniah proposed.  And they did it.

A notice was sent throughout Judah and Jerusalem ordering al the exiles to meet in Jerusalem within 3 days.  They met in Jerusalem on the 20th day of the 9th month...because of the business before them, and aggravated by the buckets of rain coming down on them, they were restless, uneasy and anxious.  Ezra spoke to them about how they have broken trust and need to make a confession to God and do what he wants you to do; separate yourself from the people of the land and from your foreign wives.”  The whole group said, “Yes, we’ll do it--just the way you said it!” then asked that it be done over time to come at an appointed time.  They sat down together on the 1st day of the 10th month to pursue the matter.  By the first day of the first month they had finished dealing with every man who had married a foreign wife.

I John 5 - 
The reality test on whether or not we love God’s children is this:  do we love God?  Do we keep his commands?  Every God-begotten person conquers the world’s ways.  The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith!  The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes in Jesus.  We have a triple testimony: the Spirit, the Baptism, the Crucifixion.  And the three in perfect agreement. 

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life... and how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he is listening.  And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours

November 28, 2016

Ezra 4-6 -  
Old enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building the Temple.  They came to Zerubbabel and said, “We’ll help you build, we worship your God the same as you....Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the family heads said to them, “Nothing doing.  Building the Temple is not the same thing to you as to us...

So these people started beating down the morale of the people of Judah, harassing them as they built...They kept this up for about 15 years then got King Artaxerxes to halt the construction after writing him a letter that the Jews would no longer pay a penny of tribute, tax or duty once the Temple was completed.  So nothing more was done until the 2nd year of King Darius‘ reign.  

Meanwhile, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah were preaching to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem...and so Zerubbabel and Jeshua started again rebuilding the Temple.  The prophets were right there helping them.   

Tattenai, governor, came up to the Israelites and asked them who issued a permit for  them to rebuild the Temple.... But God had his eye on the leaders of the Jews, and the work wasn’t stopped until a report could reach Darius and an official reply be returned.  Tattenai sent a letter to King Darius at which time Darius ordered a search through the records and found a memo regarding what Cyrus had ordered re the rebuilding of the Temple...He then responded to Tattenai to stay out of the way.  Leave the governor and leaders of the Jews alone so they can work on that Temple of God as they rebuild it.  

Darius also gave specific orders that all construction costs be paid to these men from the royal bank out of the taxes in the lands beyond and whatever is required for their worship...is to be given to them daily without delay so that they may make sacrifices and pray for the life of the king and his sons....So the leaders of the Jews continued to build; the work went well under the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah....The temple was completed on the 3rd day of the month Adar in the 6th year of the reign of king Darius.

On the 14th day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover...with great joy they celebrated for 7 days...

1 John 4 - 
My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear.  Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you... Here is how you test for the genuine Spirit of God.  Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ....you come from God and belong to God...for the Spirit in you is an actual flesh and blood person  --comes from God and belongs to God ...  you come from God and belong to God...for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world.... The person who has nothing to do with God will of course not listen to us.  This is another test for telling for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God...This is how God showed his love for us:  God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him...if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other...If we love one another, God dwells deeply within us and his love becomes complete for us - perfect love.  This is how we know we’re living steadily and and deeply in him, and he in us.  He’s given us life from his life, from his very own spirit.  Everyone who confesses that Jesus is the son of God participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God.  

God is love.  When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us...There is no room in love for fear.  Well-formed love banishes fear... We though are going to love---love and be loved.  First we were loved, now we love.  He loved us first...The command we have from Christ is blunt.  Loving God includes loving people.  You’ve got to love both.

November 27, 2016

Ezra - 
History had not treated the people of Israel well and they were in decline...They were hanging on by their fingernails.  And then Ezra arrived.  

This is an extreme case of a familiar story, repeated with variations in most centuries and in most places in the world.  Men and women who find their basic identity in God as God reveals himself in Israel and Messiah; don’t find an easy time of it....the people of God have come perilously close  to obliteration several times.  We are never out of danger.  Because of Ezra, Israel made it through.  

God didn’t leave Ezra to do this single-handedly, he gave him substantial and critical help in the rescue operation in the person of Nehemiah...Ezra used worship and text to help the people of Israel recover.  He engaged them in the worship of God, the most all-absorbing,comprehensive act in which men and women can engage.

Ezra 1-3  
In the 1st year of Cyrus, King of Persia - which fulfilled the message of God preached by Jeremiah - God prodded Cyrus to make an official announcement throughout his kingdom which stated:  God, the God of heavens had given me the kingdoms of the earth.  He has also assigned me to build him a temple of worship in Jerusalem.  Who among you belongs to his people?  God be with you!  Go to Jerusalem and build the Temple of God....

The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin...set out to build the Temple of God in Jerusalem.  Their neighbors rallied behind them enthusiastically with financial & moral support.  Also, Cyrus turned over to them all the treasures from the Temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had taken.  He put Mithredath in charge of the transfer and provided a full inventory for Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.  The total number of Israelites who returned to Jerusalem was 42, 360.  That did not include the male and female slaves which numbered 7, 337.   

When the 7th month came and the Israelites had settled into their towns, the people assembled in Jerusalem, Jeshua and his brother priests, along with Zerubbabel and his relatives went to work and built the alter of God.  Even though they were afraid of what their non-Israelite neighbors  might do, they went ahead anyway.  They began offering whole-burnt offerings the very first day of the 7th month, even though the Temple’s foundation had not yet been laid.  They gave $ to hire masons and carpenters.  They gave food, drink, and oils in exchange for cedar...then they got started in the 2nd month of the 2nd year after their arrival.  They appointed the Levites twenty years of age and older to direct the building of the Temple...When the workers laid the foundation of the Temple, the priests stood up with trumpets and the Levites with cymbals, to praise God in the tradition of David...They sang antiphonally praise and thanksgiving to God....All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising God as the foundation of the Temple was laid...many of the older priests, Levites and family heads who had seen the first Temple wept loudly for joy...The sound of their voices reverberated for miles around.  

I John 3 - 
What marvelous love the Father has extended to us!  Just look at it --we’re called children of God...

What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him---and in seeing him, become like him....No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin.  None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ.  They’ve got him backwards....

It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah.  Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children.  The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister.  A simple test.

For this is the original message we heard:  We should love each other....the way we know we’ve been transformed from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters...this is how we’ve come to understand and experience love:  Christ sacrificed his life for us.  

This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.  If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love?  It disappears.  And you made it disappear.

My children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.  This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.  It is also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it.  For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 

And friends, once that is taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God!  We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. 

Again, this is God’s command:  to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ.  He told us to love each other, in line with the original command.  As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us.  And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.  

November 26, 2016

Daniel 10 - the end
In the 3rd reign of Cyrus of Persia, a message was made clear to Daniel....it dealt with a big war....”During those days, I , Daniel went into mourning over Jerusalem for 3 weeks.  I ate only plain and simple food, no seasoning or meat or wine.  I neither bathed nor shaved until the 3 weeks were up.  

On the 24th day of the first month, I was standing on the bank of the great river, Tigris. I looked up and to my surprise saw a man dressed in linen...I, Daniel, was the only one to see this.  The men who were with me, although they didn’t see it, were overcome with fear and ran off and hid, fearing the worst.  Left alone after the appearance, abandoned by my friends, I went weak in the knees, the blood drained from my face....”Relax, Daniel, the man dressed in linen said, “Don’t be afraid.  From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard and I was sent out to come to you.”... “How can I, a lowly servant, speak to you, master?  I’m paralyzed.  I can hardly breath!”  “Then this humanlike figure touched me again and gave me strength.  He said, ‘ Don’t be afraid friend.  Peace.  Everything is going to be all right.  Take courage.  Be strong.‘  “Even as he spoke, courage surged up within me.‘  

The man in linen informed Daniel of the upcoming events regarding kings and wars in the south and north...”Those who keep their heads on straight will teach the crowds right from wrong by their example.  They’ll be put to severe testing for a season...The testing will refine, cleanse and purify those who keep their heads on straight and stay true, for there is more to come....

That’s when Michael, the great angel-prince, champion of your people, will step in.  It will be a time of trouble, the worst trouble the world has ever seen.  But your people will be saved from the trouble, every last one found written in the Book...Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly....and those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever.... those who have lived wisely and well will understand what’s going on.”   

“From the time that the daily worship is banished from the temple and the obscene desecration is set up in its place will be 1, 290 days.  Blessed are those who patiently make it through 1,335 days.  And you?  Go about your business without fretting or worrying.  Relax.  When its all over, you will be on your feet to receive your reward.”

I John 2 - 
I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father....when Jesus served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good--not only ours, but the whole world’s.  

Here is how we can be sure that we know God is the right way:  Keep his commandments. .. the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love...anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same life Jesus lived....Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark.  It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others...

I remind you, my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus‘ name... and a second reminder, dear children: You know the Father from personal experience....God’s word is so steady in you.  Your fellowship with God enables you to gain a victory over the Evil One.  

Don’t love the world’s way.  Don’t love the world’s goods.  Love the world squeezes out love for the Father.  Practically everything that goes on in the world--wanting your own way, wanting everything  for yourself, wanting to appear important---has nothing to do with the Father.  It just isolates you from him....

But you belong.  The Holy One anointed you, and you all know it...affirming the Son is an embrace of the Father as well....And now, children, stay with Christ.  Live deeply in Christ.

November 25, 2016

Day 330 of 2016

I Peter 4: 12 reminded us that:  
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump on the conclusion that God isn’t on the job.  Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced.  

This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner....So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride.  Trust him.  He knows what he’s doing and he’ll keep on doing it.

How do you act when life gets ugly?...Why would God continue to repeat this theme of godly people suffering for their beliefs over and over again?  When life is really difficult, how do your actions reveal your true belief about God?  

All of this sounds as though God is telling you to buck up and take whatever comes with a smile on your face.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Remember Jeremiah and the cries of the Psalms. God is compassionate....Find peace and strength in him.  Shad, Mesh and Abed didn’t walk into the roaring furnace on their own.  God was waiting for them in the midst of the fire.  Today, discover he is waiting for you there as well.

Please join us in our journey over the next 7 days.  Our daily blog can be found on WRC's website at:   https://wyckoffreformed.squarespace.com/son-rise-on-scripture…/  

(Synthesized from "The Message//Remix:Pause - A Daily Reading Bible")

November 24, 2016

Daniel 7-9 - 
In the first year of King Belshazzar, Daniel had a dream.  What he saw as he slept terrified him.  “In my dream, I saw the 4 winds of heaven whipping up a great storm.  4 great animals, each different from the others, ascended out of the sea:
The first animal looked like a lion, but it had the wings of an eagle...it’s wings were pull off, it then pulled erect so it was standing on two feet like a man.  Then a human heart was placed in it.
The second animal looked like a bear, lurching side to side, holding 3 ribs in its jaws.  It was told, “Attack! Devour!  Fill your belly!”
The next animal looked like a panther.  It had 4 birdlike wings on its back.  This animal had four heads and was made to rule.
After that, a fourth animal appeared.  This one was a grisly horror...It had huge iron teeth.  It was different from the other animals-this one was a real monster.  It had ten horns.  As Daniel was staring at the horns, and trying to figure out what they meant, another horn sprouted up, a little horn.  Three of the original horns were pulled out to make room for it.  There were human eyes in this little horn, and a big mouth speaking arrogantly...

Then, as I watched, the monster was killed and its body cremated in a roaring fire.  The other animals lived on for a limited time, but they really didn’t do anything...then I saw a human form,  a son of man, arriving in a whirl of clouds...he was given the power to rule...

But as for me, Daniel, I was disturbed.  All these dream-visions had me agitated, so I asked one of those in my dream “These four animals mean 4 kingdoms will appear on earth.  But eventually the holy people of the High God will be given the kingdom and have it forever--yes, forever and ever”  

But I wanted to know more.  I was curious about the fourth animal....the bystander continued telling me that the 4th animal is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth.  It will be different from the first three, a monster kingdom that will chew up everyone in sight and spit them out.  The ten horns are ten kings,,,but then another king will arrive.  He will be different from the earlier kings.  He will begin by trampling 3 kings.  Then he will blaspheme the High God, persecute his followers and get rid of sacred worship and moral practice.  But then the court comes to order, the horn will be stripped of its power...then the royal rule and authority ...will be handed over to the people of the High God....and there it ended.  

I Daniel, was in shock.  I was like a man who had seen a ghost.  But I kept it to myself.

In the third year of King Belshazzar, another vision came to me... In the vision, I saw myself in Susa, standing at the canal.  Looking around, I was surprised to see a ram also standing at the gate... I watched as the ram charged; first west then north, then south.  No beast could stand up to him.  He did just as he pleased, strutting as if he were king of the beasts.  

While I was watching this, wondering what it all meant, I was a billy goat with an immense horn in the middle of its forehead come out of the west and fly across the whole country...the billy goat approached the double- horned ram and, enraged, charged it viciously... the ram didn’t stand a chance....then the billy goat swelled to an enormous size.  At the height of its power, its immense horn broke off and four other big horns sprouted in its place, pointing to the four points of the compass.  Then from one of these big horns, another horn sprouted.  It started small, but then grew to an enormous size, facing south and east....It even dared to challenge the power of God...the horn cast God’s truth aside...
Then I overheard two holy angels talking about how long is it going to last...the other answered “over the course of 2300 sacrifices, evening and morning.  Then the Sanctuary will be set right.  

While I, Daniel, was trying to make sense of what I was seeing, suddenly there was a human-like figure standing before me...and a man’s voice calling out, “Gabriel, tell this man what is going on....He came up to me, but when he got close I became terrified and fell facedown on the ground...”Understand that this vision has to do with the end of time...the double-horned ram you saw stands for the two  kings of the Medes and Persians.  The billy goat stands for the kingdom of the Greeks.  The huge horn on its forehead is the first Greek king.  The four horns that sprouted after it was broken off are the four kings that come after him, but without his power....

I, Daniel, walked around in a daze, unwell for days.  Then I got a grip on myself and went back to work taking care of the king’s affairs.  But I continued to be upset by the vision.  I couldn’t make sense of it.  

Darius, born a Mede, became king over the land of Babylon.  In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel was meditating on the Scriptures that gave, according to the Word of God t the prophet Jeremiah, the number of years that Jerusalem had to lie in ruins, namely 70.  I turned to the Master, asking for an answer--praying earnestly, fasting from meals, wearing penitential burlap and kneeling in ashes.  I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God...”O God, you never waver in your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love you and do what you say.  Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable.  We have done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around your clearly marked paths.  We’ve turned a deaf ear to your servants, the prophets....you have dome everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us...

Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of you, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we’ve forfeited our rights... We defied your instructions and did what we pleased.  And now we’re paying for it...Master, you are our God, for you delivered your people from the land of  Egypt in a show of power...we confess that we have sinned...we know it’s our fault that this has happened, all because of our sins and our parents’s sins and now we’re an embarrassment to everyone around us....

So listen, God, to this determined prayer of your servant.  Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary.  Act out of who you are, not out of what we are. ...We know that we don’t deserve a hearing from you.  Our appeal is to your compassion.  This prayer is our last and only hope.  .....

While I was pouring out my heart,...the humanlike Gabriel, the one I had seen in an earlier vision, approached me, flying like a bird about the time of evening worship stating, “Daniel, I have come to make things plain to you....You are much loved.  So listen carefully to the answer, the plain meaning of what is revealed:  Seventy sevens are set for your people and for your holy city... Here is what you must understand:  From the time the word goes out to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Anointed Leader, there will be seventy sevens.  The rebuilding will take sixty-two sevens...those will be rough times.  after the 62 sevens, the Anointed leader will be killed--the end of him....   

1, 2, & 3 John - 
The two most difficult things to get straight in life are love and God.  More often than not, the mess people make of their lives can be traced to failure or stupidity or meanness in one or both of these areas.  

The basic, and biblical, Christian conviction is that the two subjects are intricately related.  If we want to deal with God the right way, we have to learn to love the right way.  If we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way.  God and love can’t be separated.  John’s three letters provide wonderfully explicit directions on how this works with Jesus, the Messiah, as the focus....In his letters, we see him reestablishing the original and organic unity of God and love that comes to focus and becomes available to us in Christ Jesus.

1 John 1 - 
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in...The Word of Life (Jesus) appeared right before our eyes;  we saw it happen!...

Our motive for writing is simply this;  We want you to enjoy this, too.  Your joy will double our joy!  This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you:  

God is light, pure light; there is not a trace of darkness in him. 

If was claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth - we’re not living what we claim.  

But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s son, purges all our sin.  

If we claim that we’re are free from sin, we’re only fooling ourselves...if we admit our sins..he’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.   

November 23, 2016

Daniel 3-6 -  
Nebuchadnezzar built a gold statue....a herald then proclaimed in a loud voice...fall on your knees and worship the gold statue that has been set up...Anyone who doesn’t kneel and worship shall be thrown immediately into a roaring furnace....Then some Babylonian fortunetellers stepped up, went to the king, and accused the Jews (Shad, Mesh, & Abed) who are ignoring you and your command.  Furious, the king ordered these three brought in.  The king gave them a second chance and reiterated that they would be thrown in the furnace if they didn’t comply before asking “who is the god who can rescue from my power?”  

The three answered the king with, “Your threat means nothing to us.  If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up.  O king, but even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king.  We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the statue you set up.”  

The king, his face purple with anger, cut off the three.  He ordered the furnace fired up 7x hotter than usual...then the three were pitched into a roaring fire where flames from the furnace killed the men who carried them to it while the fire raged around the three... Suddenly, the king jumped up and questioned how many men were thrown in the fire...”look, I see four men, walking around freely in the fire completely unharmed!  And the fourth looks like a son of the gods!”  The king called for the three men to come out.  All the important people...gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn’t so much as touched the 3 men...the king said, “ blessed be the God of Shad, Mesh, & Abed!!!...I issue a degree: Anyone, anywhere, who says anything against the God of these three will be ripped to pieces....Then the king promoted these three in the province of Babylon.

The king later had another dream that scared him...When all his wise men were assembled and he told them the dream, none could tell what it meant.  And then Daniel came in.  The king told him his dream and Daniel (aka Belteshazzar, named after one of the king’s gods) was asked to interpret it.  At first, Daniel was upset.  The thoughts that came swarming into his mind terrified him.  The king told Daniel to “stay calm.  Don’t let the dream and its interpretation scare you.”  “My master” Belteshazzar said, “I wish this dream were about your enemies and its interpretation for your foes”...Then after interpreting the hard times that the king would face, Daniel concluded “So king, take my advice.  Make a clean break with your sins and start living for others.  Quit your wicked life and look after the needs  of the down-and-out.  Then you will continue to have a good life.”  

All of what Daniel predicted happened to the king just 12 months later as he boasted at how great Babylon was and how he built it all by himself to display his honor and glory!  Then a voice out of heaven spoke and sentenced him to 7 seasons, enough to learn that the High God rules human kingdoms and put whomever he wishes in charge.”  The king was then driven out of human company ate grass like an ox and was soaked in heaven’s dew.  His hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a hawk.  

“At the end of 7 years, I, the king looked to heaven.  I was given my mind back and I blessed the High God, thanking and glorifying God, who lives forever.....At the same time that I was given back my mind, I was also given back my majesty and splendor, making my kingdom shine.  I was reestablished as king and became greater than ever.  And that’s why I’m singing...singing and praising the king of heaven:  “Everything he does is right, and he does it the right way.  He knows how to turn a proud person into a humble man and woman.”

Years later, King Belshazzar held a great feast for his 1,000 nobles.  The wine flowed freely.  The king, heady with the wine, ordered that the gold and silver chalices his father, Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from God’s temple of Jerusalem be brought to them...They drank the wine and drunkenly praised their gods made of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.  At that very moment, the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the lamp-illuminated, whitewashed wall of the palace.  The king was scared out of his wits and yelled for his wise men to tell him what it meant, promising they would become famous and rich.  All the wise men could neither read what was written nor interpret it...

The Queen heard of the hysteria among the king and his nobles and came to the banquet hall...”Don’t sit around looking like ghosts.  There is a man in your kingdom who is full of the divine Holy Spirit...Have Daniel called in.  He’ll tell you what is going on.  So Daniel was called in...Daniel answered the king, “You can keep your gifts, or give them to someone else.  But I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.  God gave your father a great kingdom and a glorious reputation though he developed a big head and a hard spirit.  Then God knocked him off his high horse and stripped him of his fame.  He was thrown out of human company, lost his mind and lived like a wild animal...Your his son and have known all this, yet you’re as arrogant as he ever was...God sent the hand that wrote on the wall and this is what is written:  MENE - God has numbered the days of your rule and they don’t add up, TEQEL- You have been weighed on the scales and you don’t weigh much, and PERES - Your kingdom has been divided up and handed over to the Medes and Persians....That same night, he was murdered.  Darius the Mede was 62 years old when he succeeded him as king.

Darius reorganized his kingdom.  He appointed 120 governors...over them were three vice-regents, one of whom was Daniel....But Daniel, brimming with spirit and intelligence, so completely outclassed the others that the king decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom.  The others got together to find some old scandal or skeleton in Daniel’s life  that they could use against him, but the couldn’t dig up anything.  He was totally exemplary and trustworthy... so they went to the king and suggested a new decree which stated that for the next 30 days, no one is to pray to any god or mortal except to the king.  Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions‘ den...King Darius signed the decree.  

When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done...3 times a day he knelt in prayer, thanking and praising God.  The conspirators came and found him praying, asking God for help...They went straight to the king and reminded him of the royal decree before they told him that Daniel was ignoring it...

At this the king was very upset and tried his best  to get Daniel out of the fix he put him in.  He worked on it the whole day long but the others persisted and the king caved in and ordered Daniel thrown into the lions’ den.  but he said to Daniel, “your God to whom you are so loyal is going to get you out of this...

Then the king went back to his palace.  He refused supper.  He couldn’t sleep.  He spent the whole night fasting.  At day break the king got up and hurried to the den and called to Daniel.  Daniel responded, “My God sent his angel...so they would not hurt me. I’ve been found innocent before God and also before you.  O king, I’ve done nothing to harm you...then the king commanded the conspirators who had informed on Daniel be thrown in the lions‘ den along with their wives and children....

From then on, Daniel was treated well during the reign of Darius and also  in the following reign of Cyrus the Persian.

2 Peter 3 - 
Both letters I’ve written as reminders to hold your minds in a state of undistracted attention.  

First off, you need to know that in the last days, the mockers are going to have a heyday.  Reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings, they’ll mock....

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends.  With God, one day is as good as a thousand years...He is giving everyone space and time to change.....

Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival...do the very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace...

Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

November 22, 2016

Daniel - 
Obedience to God in the pressures and stresses of day-by-day living and trust in God’s ways in the large sweep of history are always at risk, but especially in times of suffering and persecution.  Daniel was written out of  such times....

Daniel is composed, in approximately equal parts, of stories and visions - 6 stories (1-6) and 4 visions (7-12).  The stories tell of souls living faithfully in obedience to God in a time of adversity.  The visions are wide-screen renditions of God’s sovereignty worked out among nations who couldn’t care less about him....The 6 soul-survival stories nourish a commitment  to integrity and perseverance right now...The 4 visions of God’s history-saving ways nourish hope in God during times when world events seem to put God in eclipse....

Daniel is one of our primary documents for keeping it all together - the personal and the political, the present and the future, the soul and society.  

Daniel 1-2 - 
Nebuchadnezzar had taken King Jehoiakim and the leaders of Judah in exile to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar  told Ashpenaz, head of the palace staff, to get some of the Israelites from the royal family and nobility-- young men who were healthy and handsome, intelligent and well-educated, good prospects for leadership positions in the government, perfect specimens!-- and indoctrinate them in the Babylonian language and the lore of magic and fortunetelling...After 3 years of training, they would be given positions in the king’s court.  

Four young men from Judah - Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah - were among those selected.  Ashpenaz gave them Babylonian names - Daniel= Belteshazzar, Hananiah= Shadrach, Mishael= Meshach, and Azariah= Abednego.  But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s food or drinking his wine, so he asked to be exempt from the royal diet...by God’s grace, the head of staff liked Daniel, but warned him about going against the king’s instructions...But Daniel appealed to the steward to allow them to “try us out for 10 days on a simple diet of vegetables and water.  then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu.  Make your decision on what you see.”...At the end of the 10 days, they looked better and more robust than all the others so the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu.

God gave these four young men knowledge and skill in both books and life.  In addition, Daniel was gifted in understanding all sorts of visions and dreams...  When the king interviewed the four at the end of their training, he found them far superior to all the other young men....and so they took their place in the king’s service ...who found them 10 times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom put together.  

Nebuchadnezzar started having dreams that disturbed him deeply.  He couldn’t sleep & called all the Babylonian wise men to interpret his dream though warned them that if they couldn’t tell and interpret his dream they would be killed.
So he insisted that they tell him his dream first  so that he’ll know they were on the up and up instead of just blowing smoke in his eyes (aka -up his ass).  The wise men responded that “Nobody anywhere can do what you ask.  And no king, great or small, has ever demanded anything like this...what you are asking is impossible unless some god or goddess should reveal it--and they don’t hang around people like us.”  That set the king off.  He lost his temper and ordered the whole company of Babylonian wise men killed, which included Daniel and his friends. 

When Arioch, chief of the royal guards, was making these arrangements,  Daniel wisely took Arioch aside and quietly asked what was going on....then went to the king and asked for a little time so that he could interpret the dream...Daniel then went home and told his companions...He asked them to pray to the God of heaven for mercy in solving this mystery so that the 4 of them wouldn’t be killed along with the whole company of Babylonian wise men.  That night the answer to the mystery was given to Daniel in a vision.  Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven saying:

Blessed be the name of God, for ever and ever.  He knows all, does all: he changes the seasons and guides history.  He raises up kings and also brings them down.  He provides both intelligence and discernment, he opens up the depths, tells secrets, sees in the dark---light spills out of him!  God of all my ancestors, all thanks!  all praise!  You made me wise and strong.  And now you’ve shown us what we’ve asked for.  You’ve solved the king’s mystery.

So Daniel went back to Arioch who didn’t lose a minute to inform the king.  The king asked Daniel for his interpretation to which Daniel initially replied, “No mere human can solve the king’s mystery, I don’t care who it is...but there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries and he has solved this one.....but the interpretation is given through me, not because I’m smarter than anyone else in the country but so that you will know what it means, so that you will understand what you dreamed.  Then Daniel proceeded to interpret the king’s dream of what will happen in the years to come...When Daniel finished, the king fell on his face in awe before Daniel and ordered the offering of sacrifices in Daniel’s honor... Then the king promoted Daniel to a high position in the kingdom, lavished him with gifts and made him governor over the entire province of Babylon and the chief in charge of all the Babylonian wise men.  At Daniel’s request, he appointed his friends to administrative posts throughout Babylon.  

2 Peter 2 - 
But there will also be lying prophets among the people, just as there will be lying teachers among you... They give the way of truth a bad name.  They’re only out for themselves.  They’ll say anything, anything, that sounds good to exploit you...

God knows how to rescue the godly from evil trials....God is especially incensed against these “teachers” who live by lust...they despise interference from true authority, preferring to indulge in self-rule.  Insolent egotists, they don’t hesitate to speak evil against the most splendid of creatures...These people are nothing but brute beasts...their specialty is greed and they’re experts in it...They are loudmouths, full of hot air, but still dangerous.