A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS

Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:4-8

“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5b,6)

The book of Revelation was written to encourage the early Christians who were going through a period of severe persecution. As we read the book, we also should be encouraged when we face times of difficulty and trails. The message of the book is simple and clear — Jesus Christ rules and He is victorious. Because we are His children, we too are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Romans 8:37).

What greater comfort and encouragement can be found than these words — “To Him who loves us.” We must never forget how much we are loved. When we feel down or lonely, remember these words — “To Him who loves us.” His steadfast love endures forever.

Then we read on — “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood.” Jesus loved us enough to die for us. He humbled Himself and came into this world in human form, so that He could become the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He redeemed us by His blood and thus He freed us from all our sins.

But there is still more — “And (He) made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.” We do not have to be overcome by our circumstances, for by God’s grace and power, we can rule over them as the kings that we are. Jesus has given us the victory — “If God is for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

He has also made us priests. We can intercede before God on behalf of ourselves and others as any good priest would do. Jesus has given us direct access to the throne of God. He has made it possible for us to take our prayers directly to God.

Be encouraged, be of good courage because You are loved by the King of kings. You have been freed from your sins by the blood of Jesus Christ. God has made us a kingdom of priests. “To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Lord Jesus, thank You for loving me and for freeing me from all my sins. You made it possible for me to have direct access to the throne of God. Enable me to fulfill my priestly duty of interceding in prayer on behalf of others. Give me power to rule over temptations and enable me not to be overcome by the difficulties I face. To You be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Standard

DOXOLOGY TO THE TRIUNE GOD

Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:4-8

“Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before the throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood.” (Revelation 1:4,5)

The Apostle John begins his book with a doxology of praise to the triune God. The doxology is unique in that it introduces symbolic representations of the Persons of the Trinity, which are found again in subsequent visions recorded in Revelation.

The doxology begins with the God “who is and who was and who is to come.” The Father is expressed in terms which remind us of the revelation of God’s divine name in Exodus 3:14,15 — “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.'” This was the special name of God given to His people — Yahweh. The name tells us that God is active in the affairs of men in the present age, as He was in the previous ages, and as He will be in the age to come. God is active in our lives now and He will be with us forever.

The Holy Spirit is identified as “the seven spirits who are before the throne.” The number seven symbolizes fullness and perfection. The prophet Isaiah speaks of seven characteristics of the Holy Spirit — “And the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2). How comforting it is to know that the Spirit of the Lord lives in us and He will give us wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

The doxology focuses on Jesus. He is said to be “the faithful witness.” He remained faithful to His witness even to death on the cross and He continues His witness to us now. He is also called “the firstborn of the dead,” which is a reference to His resurrection. And He is identified as “the ruler of kings on earth.” This is a reminder that we live under the authority and protection of the King of kings.

Take great comfort today. The Father is active in our lives and will be with us forever. The Spirit of the Lord lives within us and will give us wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. Jesus continues to be our faithful Witness who reminds us how much we are loved and accepted because of His sacrifice on our behalf. He is alive and He rules over all things.

O Triune God, thank You for Your presence with me. Thank You for loving me and accepting me as Your precious possession. I know that You will be with me always. You will protect me and give me all I need to face life in this fallen world.

Standard

THE BOOK OF REVELATION

Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:1-3

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophesy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)

Revelation is the only book in the New Testament that I haven’t covered in my devotions. I don’t intend to go verse by verse, but I want to cover some of the great passages in the book.

There is probably not a book of the Bible that has been more misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misrepresented than the book of Revelation. To some the message is intimidating and fearful. But this is not the case at all. The Book of Revelation was written to encourage first century Christians who were going through a time of severe persecution. It was most likely written in the last decade of the first century. The early Christians were being persecuted under the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. Thus, the book was written to strengthen and encourage believers who were going through persecution and tribulation.

The message of the book is simple and clear — Jesus Christ rules and He wins. Keep on going! Derek Thomas in his commentary, Let’s Study Revelation, sums up the basic theme of the book with these words — “The book of Revelation is meant to humble us by a vision of the absolute sovereignty of God over history: past, present, and future. There is nothing outside of God’s control. Every power, every evil power is subject to the rule of God.”

Revelation is the only book of the Bible that begins with a promise of a blessing for those who read it and heed it’s message. Of course, all Scripture is inspired by God and is a blessing when we read it. But God makes special mention of the blessing attached to this book — “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophesy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (v. 3).

As the early believers read the book, they experienced God’s blessing during a terrible time of persecution and suffering, for the theme of the book is the victory of Jesus over all His foes. Therefore, it should be a special blessing to us also. We may not be facing the kind of persecution these early believers faced, but we are all in need of encouragement that Jesus Christ is victorious and because we are His children we will be victorious also.

Lord Jesus, it is so comforting to know that You are sovereign over all history. You have already won the victory over Your foes. You will strengthen and encourage me as I face times of difficulty, trial, and pain. Thank You for promising a blessing for me as I read and heed the words of the book of Revelation.

Standard

PETTINESS IN THE CHURCH

Scripture Reading: III John 9-15

“I have written something to the church , but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.” (III John 9,10)

The Apostle John wrote this letter to a member of one of his churches whose name was Gaius. John commended Gaius after receiving a report about him — “For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (vs. 3,4).

In stark contrast to Gaius was another member of the church whose name was Diotrephes. Gaius was walking in the truth, while Diotrephes was being a problem in the church. It is easy to identify the real issue with Diotrephes by the words John wrote about him — “who likes to put himself first.” Diotrephes was a self-centered and self-ambitious person. He rejected the authority of the apostles and wanted to control the church. He was suspect of the leadership of the church and refused to submit himself to authority. He talked nonsense among the other members of the church and even refused to be hospitable to the traveling missionaries who had visited the church.

Unfortunately, there are people in our churches today who are like Diotrephes — self-centered, self-ambitious, petty, suspect of the leaders of the church and resistant to authority. Such people hinder the effectiveness of the ministry of the church. They create division and unrest. It is hard to understand such people. They profess their faith but they are not walking in the truth.

John summed up the matter with these words to Gaius and the other members of the church — “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (v. 11).

Lord Jesus, protect Your church from people who create division and strife. Bless the leaders of the church who are charged to give spiritual oversight to those under their care. Give them wisdom when they have to deal with some of the pettiness in the church. Raise up more people like Gaius who are walking in the truth.

Standard

WALKING IN THE TRUTH

Scripture Reading: III John 1-8

“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (III John 2-4)

The Apostle John wrote this brief letter to Gaius who was a member of one of his churches. John commended Gaius for the hospitality he had shown to some traveling missionaries — “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God” (vs. 5,6).

The most notable quality of Gaius is found in John’s first commendation — “For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified that you are walking in the truth” (v. 3). Gaius was walking in the truth of the gospel. John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (v. 4).

The gospel is the power of God for salvation — “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is a powerful force in our lives that enables us to grow in our sanctification. As we grow in our faith, we will learn how to work out the implications of the gospel for every area of our lives. As we are doing this, we are walking in the truth. This is God’s will for us. It brings glory and joy to Him when we are faithful in living out His truths.

Lord Jesus, enable me to walk in the truth. You are the Truth and I cannot walk in Your truth without Your help. I desire to bring joy and glory to You as I seek to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Standard

THE DELIVERER

Scripture Reading: Daniel 6:16-26

“Then Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before Him, and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.'” (Daniel 6:21)

We come to the end of the historical section of Daniel. As we have seen, King Darius was deeply impacted by Daniel. The king had great respect for Daniel because he lived a life of integrity before the king and others. Darius was greatly troubled when he condemned Daniel to the lions’ den. He woke up at the break of day to see if Daniel’s God had delivered him from the mouths of the lions — “Then at the break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?'” (vs. 19,20).

The king was greatly relieved when he heard the voice of Daniel — “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me” (v. 21). I believe that the angel who delivered Daniel was none other than our Savior and Deliverer, Jesus Christ. I believe that in His pre-incarnate state, Jesus came to Daniel’s rescue and shut the mouths of the lions. Remember that throughout the Old Testament the Angel of the Lord is a manifestation of the Second Person of the trinity, God the Son.

We have a Savior who truly saves us. He comes to us in our times of trouble to deliver us. He gives us courage, endurance and strength to face the dangers and difficulties that we endure. He is our Deliverer, who delivers us from our sins, and ultimately from all our troubles. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

Lord Jesus, my Deliverer, You have come to me in my troubles many times. You have given me courage, endurance and strength to face them. You also have delivered me from them. I know that one day you will deliver me from all my afflictions. Until then let me be faithful to You. Thank You for delivering me from all my sins and thank You for saving me through Your sacrificial work on my behalf.

Standard

HONORABLE CONDUCT

Scripture Reading: Daniel 6:12-18

“Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!'” (Daniel 6:16)

Daniel had a powerful impact on this pagan king. Daniel had consistently served the king with integrity. The king had also witnessed Daniel’s faithfulness to his God. He had seen how Daniel continually served his God. The last words of the king to Daniel before he was placed in the lion’s den were — “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

Darius had a great respect and deep appreciation for Daniel. In fact, he was deeply disturbed when Daniel was placed in the lion’s den — “Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him” (v. 18). Daniel’s honorable conduct and faithful service had left a great impression on this pagan king.

Peter tells us that we have a responsibility to live honorable lives before unbelievers — “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God in the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:11,12). Unbelievers are more influenced by the way we live than by the words we say. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

The pagan king Darius saw Daniels honorable conduct. He witnessed Daniel’s faith and as a result he eventually acknowledged Daniel’s God. What kind of witnesses are we being to the unbelievers who live, work and play around us?

Lord Jesus, grant me strength to live an honorable life before the people I live among, work with, and come in contact with. May they see the out workings of my faith in You. Let my light shine before them as I seek to bear witness of Your grace and love in my life.

Standard

FAITHFULNESS AND PRAYER

Scripture Reading: Daniel 6:10-13

“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before God, as he had done previously.” (Daniel 6:10)

As we have seen, Daniel was faithful to his God. He honored God by living a life of integrity. When the jealous leaders tried to find something about Daniel that would discredit him before the king, they could find no fault and no error. Daniel is one of the few people in the Bible that nothing negative was said about. This is not to imply that Daniel was sinless. He was a sinner like the rest of us. But he faithfully served God and was empowered by God to live his life with the highest degree of integrity.

I am convinced that one of the great factors that enabled Daniel’s consistent faithfulness was his faithful prayer life. Daniel went to his house three times a day and got down on his knees. He prayed and gave thanks to God. He did this every single day and it became a pattern in his life.

We can learn much about prayer from Daniel. Notice that he had a place where he regularly went to pray. He had times in the day that he set apart for prayer. I’m sure he prayed many other times throughout the day as well. When he prayed he always gave thanks to God.

I believe that we need to set a regular time and place to spend time in Bible reading, meditation and prayer. My best time is early in the morning. For years I have made it my practice to make my first order of the day to have time in prayer, Bible reading and meditation. This may not be the best time for some of you. The point is to make sure that you set a time to have fellowship with Jesus every day.

Regular and consistent times of meditation and prayer are essential for our spiritual growth. Prayer brings us into God’s presence, where we can find peace, joy and strength. Prayer reminds us of our total dependency upon God. Regular times of prayer bring direction and hope to our lives. Remember that God delights in the prayers of His people.

Lord Jesus, I cherish my times of fellowship with You as I read Your Word, meditate upon it and pray. I know that You listen to my prayers and that You will answer them according to Your will. Thank You for the great gift and privilege of prayer

Standard

FAITHFULNESS

Scripture Reading: Daniel 6:1-9

“But they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” (Daniel 5:4b,5)

Out of jealousy the other leaders of the kingdom tried to find some fault in Daniel so they could discredit him before the king. In their quest they could find no fault or error in Daniel. Daniel was a man of integrity. He was determined to honor God in everything he did. These leaders recognized that Daniel was a faithful man — “But they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because HE WAS FAITHFUL.”

Daniel had a deep and abiding faith in his God. He knew the steadfast love of God and he desired to honor God in all that he did. Like the Psalmist, Daniel was committed to live a blameless life — “I will ponder the way that is blameless. I will walk with integrity of heart within my house” (Psalm 101:2). Daniel was faithful to God first and he was faithful to serve as a major leader in his country.

I wonder today if the same situation occurred with our nation’s leaders, would we find faithful men and women like Daniel who are committed to honor God and to serve our country with integrity? We need to pray that God will raise up such leaders.

God calls us to faithfulness. He wants us to love and trust Him so that we will desire to live a life worthy of the gospel — “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). We cannot do this in our own strength. As we place our trust in our Savior, He will grant us the strength and wisdom to ponder the way of the blameless and to walk with integrity.

The amazing thing is that even when we are not faithful, God will remain faithful to us — “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (II Timothy 2:13). God’s faithfulness to us should motivate us to be faithful to Him. God’s steadfast love should motivate us to be live our lives in a way that honors him.

Lord God, I confess that I am not always faithful to You. Forgive me when I fail to honor You. I know that even when I am not faithful, You remain faithful to me. Thank You for your grace and forgiveness that is made possible through Your Son Jesus. Give me the strength to be faithful to You, to my family and to my calling.

Standard

THE DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF JEALOUSY

Scripture Reading: Daniel 6:1-5

“Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom.” (Daniel 6:3,4a)

The Babylonian Empire fell to the Medes and Persians. However, Daniel remained in a major leadership role under the Medes and the Persians. Darius, who is called the king in this passage, was most likely one of the most powerful generals under King Cyrus of Persia. He had been given the assignment of establishing a new government in Babylon. Darius realized that Daniel was an exceptional leader. Therefore he planned to set Daniel over the whole kingdom (v. 3).

The other leaders, who were filled with selfish ambition, became exceedingly jealous of Daniel. They began to examine everything Daniel did in hopes of finding some error or fault in him. However, they could find none. So they resorted to an evil plan to destroy Daniel — “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God” (v. 5). Motivated by jealousy, these leaders were determined to do whatever they could to bring Daniel down. They knew that Daniel was a man of great faith, so they tricked the king into making a law that prevented anyone from praying to any god of man for thirty days. People could only make a petition to the king. The punishment for violating this law was the lion’s den (v. 7).

It is amazing how powerful jealousy can be. Jealous people do evil and destructive things. Jealousy brings bitterness to the soul and it is destructive to the one who is jealous. It can also bring great pain on others as a jealous person seeks to hurt those who are the subjects of his jealousy. Jealousy produces bitterness, wrath and anger. It leads to slander and in extreme cases physical harm. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:14). Proverbs warns against jealousy — “Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4).

When we sense any jealous thoughts, we must deal with them quickly because they can lead to destructive bitterness and anger. “But if you have jealousy and selfish ambition in your hears, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic…But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:14,15,17).

Lord Jesus, keep me from selfish ambition and jealousy. Enable me to be faithful to You and to Your Word. Give me Your wisdom that comes from above and enable me to be peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. I can’t produce these qualities in myself; I must trust You to give them to me. Let me celebrate the accomplishments of others and not be jealous of them. Let me rejoice with those how have success and not be envious of them.

Standard