Vacation – June 30

Text: Revelation 6.1-8.1 (Read it here)20160630

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

(Revelation 7.11-12, NIV)

Silence
Author: Rob Anderson

It doesn’t end quite like you would expect it to, does it?

In Revelation 6, the Lamb begins to open the seven seals of the scroll found in heaven.

After the first seal is opened, there is a voice like thunder and a white horse rides out, bent on conquest.

After the second seal, a red, fiery horse, with a rider who has a large sword, having the power to make people on earth kill each other.

After the third seal, a rider is on a black horse with a pair of scales.

After the fourth seal is broken, a rider on a pale horse named “Death” comes, one which had the power to “kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.”

After the fifth seal, the souls of those who had been slain call out in a loud voice: “How long?”

After the sixth seal is broken, there is a great earthquake. The sun turns black and the moon blood read.

So what would one expect as a climax after the seventh and final seal is opened?

My assumption would be that complete chaos would break loose after this last seal is broken. There has been a buildup of events, leading up to the culmination of … thirty minutes of silence.

Why?

I believe that once that final seal is broken, the deed is done. God’s punishment on the wicked and salvation for the righteous is complete and the only natural response to the sovereignty of God is silence.

In Habakkuk 2, we are reminded that false gods need to have their voices provided for them, but when the One in power is acknowledged, silence is the best option. There is no need to clamor or try to say just right thing. God has already done what needs to be done and now, we simply rest in his goodness.

Let all the earth be silent, indeed.

Questions:

Revelation 5 tells us that the lamb that was worthy to open the seals of the scroll that told of the final battle between God and Satan was a lamb that looked like it had been slain. Does a lamb, much less a slain lamb, evoke a sense of power and awe in your mind? Why or why not? In what ways does the death of this lamb actually indicate a power far beyond what it appears on the surface?

Stop and think for a moment about the 7 attributes applied to God in Revelation 7.12. What does it mean for God to be worthy of these seven things? How do these attributes help cement in your mind God’s sovereignty, that is, his worth as the creator and sustainer of the world, and in the book of Revelation, the victor over evil?

When the final seal of the scroll was opened, there was silence for half an hour. What did you expect to happen when this seal was opened, based on what you have read about the other 6? In what ways does silence actually show power, more power than a commotion would have indicated? What examples can you give that shows this to be the case?

Vacation – June 29

Text: Psalm 145 (Read it here)20160629

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.

(Psalm 145.1-3, NIV)

The Greatest of All Time
Author: Rob Anderson

In recent days, we saw the passing of Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers who ever lived and judged by most to be the most recognized sports figure of the last century. Ali may be the only boxer I can recall seeing fight—I am not really a fight fan. There was something about him, however, that made people take notice. If you read boxing history, Ali fights were spectacles sights to behold.

What other sporting figures stand out to you as the greatest of all time in their respective sport?

What other sporting events stand the test of time as the greatest spectacle you have ever seen?

What events rank high enough on your list that in the years to come your children and grandchildren will gather around at family gatherings and hear you tell the stories of: I remember the time I got to see in person…

Let’s go a step deeper.

What events or moments in your life have been so impacted by God that you will tell of them from “one generation to another?” (See Psalm 145.4)

You may have seen the greatest boxer or baseball player ever to set foot in the ring or on the diamond, but you also have a God whose greatness no one can fathom. He is the good worthy of praise and glory and honor.

So, when is the last time you talked to others about the greatest of all time, the Lord Almighty?

Questions:

Have you praised God today? In not, why not? If so, why and how did you praise him? Why is God worthy of praise “forever and ever?”

In what ways has previous generations commended the works of God to you? What specific people and what specific incidents can you think of that demonstrate this? How have you done the same for others? What happens when one generation fails to commend God to the next? Can you think of any examples of this happening?

How reassuring to you is the fact that God is trustworthy and faithful in all he does? In what ways do you make these promises a foundational element to your life of faith? How would your faith walk be different if you didn’t have these promises to count on? In what ways can you eliminate doubt and fear from your life based on these promises?

Vacation – June 28

Text: Colossians 1.15-23 (Read it here)20160628

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

(Colossians 1.18-20, NIV)

Substitute Teachers
Author: Rob Anderson

Think back to your elementary days. Do you remember that time you had a substitute teacher? So just exactly how did you act?

When I was in the fifth grade, we knew we were going to have a substitute for an extended period of time—several weeks. We were pretty excited about it and to be honest, it was for all the wrong reasons.

Even before the first day the teacher was absent, we were already planning ways in which we would skirt the rules and dupe the teacher. We would sit in all the wrong places and convince her that our “regular” teacher allowed all kinds of things that she in fact would never allow.

On the day the substitute showed up for class, we were in for a surprise. The “substitute” was actually a teacher who had been in our school the previous year. She knew all of us by name. To make matters worse, she went to church with me!

We knew we were defeated before the school day even began. There was no way we would pull a fast one on her.

When we read Colossians 1, I wonder if the first readers of the letter assumed about Jesus many of the things we did about our substitute. There is a sense that a substitute teacher is not a “real” teacher. (He or she wouldn’t be called a sub if he or she was permanent, right?)

When the first readers of Colossians listened to Paul, here is what they heard:

  • Jesus is the image of the invisible God
  • He was the firstborn
  • In him all things were created
  • He is the head of the body
  • He has supremacy

Jesus doesn’t sound much like a substitute or like he is playing second-fiddle, does he? And he is not. It is through him that we have salvation. He is the one who reconciles us to God. Without Jesus, we have no opportunity to be with God.

How do you look at Jesus today? Is he just a small part of the bigger picture or is he the one you allow to bring you into a relationship with God?

Questions:

We often hear people talk about the “apple not falling far from the tree.” What do we mean when we say this? What characteristics do you have that you or others have seen in your parents or perhaps siblings? In what ways are your actions close enough to one another that you could even be mistaken for the other?

When we look at Jesus, we see God—the fullness of God dwells in him. How does this fact help you as you desire to know God? What things about God do you know only because you know Jesus?

What does Paul mean when we writes that Jesus is the head of the church, “so that in everything he might have the supremely?” What does it mean to be the supreme being? If Jesus is supreme, how does our life compare to his? How does this change or affect the way you chose to live your life?

Vacation – June 25

Text: Romans 8 (Read it here)20160625

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

(Romans 8.1-2, NIV)

More than Conquerors
Author: Matthew Killough

Conquer is not a word that we use much these days. I can’t remember the last time my neighbor mowed his yard and shouted loud enough for all to hear, “And that, my friends, is how you conquer Bermuda grass!” Perhaps you have over heard your co-works brag at the Keurig coffee maker, “I conquered those TPS reports like Genghis Kahn, SERIOUSLY!” However, at my office we just don’t hear that word much. Now, we are all very familiar with winning. Sports teams and participants are conditioned to win at almost any cost. The ability to win has even become very lucrative, as professional athletes across the globe are often millionaires.

So when we read Paul’s words to the Romans that we are “more than conquerors” we think we know what Paul is talking about: it must be winning. I beg to differ! Trust me, no one knew more about conquering than the Romans. Of course you know all about Julius Caesar conquering the known world and how his nephew, Octavian, brought peace to the Roman Empire through roads and the Roman army. But did you know that the Greek word that Paul uses for “conqueror” is actually made of two words: hyper and nike. Of course hyper means “above, beyond, more than.” And nike simply means “victory”. So when Paul uses the Greek word for conqueror he is literally saying that in all things we have a hyper-victory. However this victory does not mean the destruction of our enemies. Paul goes on to say that the hyper-victory is the fact that nothing: neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you feel estranged from God’s love? Has someone or some situation left you feeling as though God cannot reach you? Instead of knowing the victory that Paul proclaims in Romans chapter eight, you wonder if you were ever a conqueror at all. Let me assure you that these things are temporary. Even when we feel as though we are too weak to pray the Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us (8:26). This is the glorious victory that overcomes the world!

Questions:

How scary is God to you? Can you think of a time in your life—perhaps now—when you feared that God would punish you or was perhaps anxiously waiting for you to make a mistake so he could smite you? How did you arrive at this conclusion as to the nature of God?

How does Paul’s statement that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus contrast or compare to your thinking in the previous question? How reassuring is this fact to you as you try to live your faith? In what ways do you still try to include a “but…” to this statement, as in, “There is no condemnation, but…”

How does the knowledge of God’s salvation coming through the power of his Son, not through your own power, alter how you attempt to live a life for God? In what ways does this actually make your life easier, and yet at the same time, a more powerful witness to God’s power at work in your life?

Vacation – June 24

Text: Matthew 12.1-14 (Read it here)20160624

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

(Matthew 12.11-12, NIV)

Sabbath Rules
Author: Rob Anderson

Earlier this year, our extended family spent a week at a beach house on the Gulf of Mexico. Literally just steps away from the white sands, the breeze coming in from across the ocean, the beautiful sunsets and the peaceful sound of the waves crashing on shore.

The picture you see on this page is the picture of my “breakfast nook” every morning. A cup of coffee in my hand, often times my Bible or a book to read. A lot of time was spent enjoying this view.

But a lot of time was spent ignoring this view, as well.

See, it is difficult for me—and my guess for many of you—to turn everything off and just enjoy the moment. Truth be known, it took several days to get to the point where I could relax enough to fully soak in the scenery. As long as there is wifi, there is work to be done and it is too easy to slip into the habit of making a day of rest a day of regular routine.

The Pharisees understood this. In their attempt to ensure people kept the Sabbath in accordance to God’s laws, they began to apply rule on top of rule on top of even more rule. Their intent was good, but the result was not and as a result, their rules superseded the purpose for the Sabbath: rest and remembrance of the God who made all things.

As you have read through these daily devotional thoughts during June, I hope you have been encouraged to take a moment of Sabbath here and there.

The work will still be there.

The moment may not.

Questions:

Why do you think the Jews were so adamant about making rules as to what one could or could not do on the Sabbath? In what ways is this just a natural reaction to following instructions—defining exactly what was required? In what ways does this run counter to the nature of God?

Why is it easier sometimes to follow the specifics of the law than it is to offer mercy? What are some times in your life that you wish you had been shown more mercy than sacrifice? What examples can you give where you wish you had shown more mercy than sacrifice?

In what ways do we as followers of Christ refuse to offer healing for people because they do not fit our definition of what it means to be the kind of people deserving of healing or forgiveness? In what ways do these actions and attitudes cause us to try to play the role of God rather then being individuals pointing others to the sovereign Lord?

Vacation – June 23

Text: Psalm 99 (Read it here)20160623

The King is mighty, he loves justice—
    you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
    what is just and right.
Exalt the Lord our God
    and worship at his footstool;
    he is holy.

(Psalm 99.4-5, NIV)

Exalt the Lord Our God
Author: Ralph Beistle

In Psalm 99, a call was given to God’s people to “Exalt the Lord our God.”  In other words: reverence, honor, glorify, and regard His power, character, and quality high above anything with which He might be compared.  As such He chose to bless His people – and the Psalmist specifically cites Moses, Aaron, Jacob, and Samuel as persons who glorified and worshiped Him.  They were used to lead others to do God’s will because they had a proper sense of reverence toward the Almighty.

Unfortunately, most people did not grasp the vital need to glorify Him – not in the days of Noah; in the days of the founding of the nation of Israel; nor in New Testament times. The sad thing is that this same disregard for the Lord our God prevails today.

Remember Paul’s discourse to the learned men of Athens in Acts 17.  Paul introduced them to another kind of God – one previously unknown to them.  In those days, the prevailing philosophy was there were many gods, some capricious, some exploitive – all of them conceived in the minds of men, instead of being revealed to them by the words of the Prophets, Priests, or teachers of the Scriptures.  Paul knew and referred to Greek philosophy.  He was not reluctant to criticize their “foreign” religion, so that they could know the REAL GOD, who is deserving of exaltation because:

  • He made everything.
  • He does not require man-made structures.
  • He gives life and breath to anything that lives.
  • He is not distant to anyone.
  • He raised Christ from the dead.

John adds an ultimate description to justify our call to exalt the Lord our God:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  1 John 4:1-2.

Responding to this God, man must:

  • Seek Him
  • Repent of disobedience
  • Exalt Him

Today, let us resolve to continually:  “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy.”  Psalm 99:9.

Questions:

If someone told you “the Lord reigns,” what do you think they would be talking about? In what ways does the reign of God present itself to you today?

How important is justice to God? How important is justice to you? When you think about a sovereign Lord who loves justice, what sort of actions do you expect from God? How does God show his justice today?

Why does it make sense to worship a God who is sovereign, that is, who created the heavens and earth and reigns over them today? Why is worship of God such a key element of finding rest in God? How can you better worship God today?

Vacation – June 22

Text: Hebrews 4 (Read it here)20160622

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

(Hebrews 4.1, NIV)

Sabbath Rest
Author: Trent Roberson

“And God rested on the 7th day from all his work.” We are working people. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and seldom do we encounter a problem that a little hard work, a few extra hours, a little sacrifice can’t resolve. But, we are tired. We long for rest. We need a break, just a few hours to get caught up. God created us to need rest. We are made in his image and the creation brought him to the point of needing rest.

Did you know that the mattress industry in the United States is not only a 9 billion dollar industry, but one of the fastest growing sectors America. We are people who are in need of rest and we are searching for better rest. We are tired!

Hebrews 4 wrestles with the topic of Sabbath rest, but this rest only makes sense when contrasted to the writers reference to the rebellious and disobedient Israelites who were not going to enter His promise land rest due their actions.

The rest that we are longing for can’t be bought or discovered through a personal rest number.  Our Sabbath rest is truly discovered the moment we overcome unbelief and recognize our need for salvation. Mankind is restless outside of Christ. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”.(Matthew 11:28) True Sabbath, real rest, only exists in Christ. The creator made us that way. What we are really chasing came at a great price, but it can’t be bought by us.

So, what’s our response? Pursue Christ. Quit chasing gratification and purpose outside of Christ. Slow down and enjoy God’s blessings.

Questions:

The author of Hebrews speaks of the importance of finding a rest in the Lord that comes from a faith that acts in obedience. How have you found obedience and rest connected in your life? In what ways has disobedience actually served to create more work for you, rather than avoid it?

The allusion here is to the people of Israel entering into the Promised Land, or at least, the offer of the Land until the people’s disobedience disqualified them from entering. How can we understand the importance of following God through obedience and receiving a reward of rest? In what ways does a lifestyle of obedience give us rest today, versus at some point down the road in the future?

How is the word of God connected to entering into his rest? Why do you think the author of Hebrews brings it up in this passage? How can you open yourself fully to the rest that comes only from God, but only comes through obedience to him?