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 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 21

Text: Psalm 62 (Read it here)20160621

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

(Psalm 62.1-2, NIV)

My Soul Finds Rest
Author: Rob Anderson

One would thing getting a good night’s sleep with plenty of rest would be easy. Google “How to get good rest,” however, and you discover that perhaps it is not quite as easy as it seems.

For instance, a Huffington Post article (you can find it here, if you would like) lists 37 things, all supported by science, to help you get better sleep. Things like

  • Slip on some socks
  • Keep your room dark
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid heavy meals when it is late
  • Keep your bedroom quiet
  • But not too quiet

Now, one can do all 37 of these things, or, one can simply find their rest in God.

You see, one of the things that prevents us from resting well is those little conversations we have in the back of our mind about who is really in control and should we do if things look out of control.

The psalmist tells us these words:

He is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

If God is your rock and your fortress and the one who provides salvation, I can see why rest is found in him.

Questions:

Have you ever considered following God a challenge or something you have to work hard to accomplish? What caused you to have these feelings? What aspects of following God do you have to work hardest to do? What is the reward for these efforts?

When the psalmist writes that his or her soul finds rest in the Lord, do you believe him or her? In what ways has your soul experienced rest in God? How would you describe this idea of “soul finding rest” to someone just starting out on their faith journey?

How is salvation and hope tied to the idea of finding rest in the Lord? How do these two things calm fears and reassure you in the midst of what you might at times describe as the “struggle” to find God?

Vacation – June 19

Text: Acts 4.23-31 (Read it here)20160619

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

(Acts 4.29-30, NIV)

Hello, God?
Author: Rob Anderson

Hello, God?

It’s me.

Again.

Are you there?

Are you sure?

Because, you see, last time we had this conversation, I’m not sure you really heard me. At least, I wonder if you did because nothing really changed, or at least, I don’t feel like it did and so, here I am again.

God?

Are you there?

There is a part of me that is jealous of the believers in Acts 4. In the midst of great struggles they pray to God for boldness and what happens? The place they were meeting was shaken by what we can only assume was the power of God.

Too often, my prayers are more like the one above, not prayers of power that God responds to in miraculous ways.

That being said, I don’t want us to assume that our prayers are unheard (they are not) or that a prayer without shaking ground is invalid (it is not). Instead, let’s look at three things that might give us more comfort during our times of prayer.

First, notice that the believers pray to the “Sovereign Lord.” They go on to explain what they mean by this: the one who made the heavens and earth. When you pray, do you remember and acknowledge the power of God?

Second, when troublesome times hit the believers, their first inclination is to pray. Not complain or bemoan their circumstances with one another. They turn to God and pray. How do you respond to troubles?

Last, they seek to move into the fire, not away from it. Too often we try to pray away the problems. In Acts 4, the believers pray for boldness to speak powerfully.

The ground may not shake when you pray, but God’s power is no less real when you do.

Questions:

When you face trouble or persecution (even a minor episode of trouble), what is your response? What would you consider an appropriate response? What would you consider a poor response? How does your response compare to how the early Christians in Acts responded when facing persecution?

Why do the Christians in Acts 4 appeal to God’s sovereign nature when they pray to him? What does their prayer tell you about how they viewed God, especially during times of dire circumstances?

How do you think you would respond if you prayed for God to “stretch out his hand” and at the conclusion of the prayer the place where you were meeting was shaken? How do we assume God will respond to our prayers? Does our assumptions indicate a sense of trust or indicate we may be filled with more doubts than faith? In what ways?

Vacation – June 17

Text: Psalm 29 (Read it here)20160617

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

(Psalm 29.10-11, NIV)

Glory!
Author: Rob Anderson

as·cribe

əˈskrīb/
verb

  1. attribute something to (a cause).
  2. regard (a quality) as belonging to.

If one were to look up the definition of “ascribe,” one would find that the definition includes giving a cause for certain qualities or characteristics of someone of something.

Since this is the case, as we begin to read Psalm 29, we need to ask ourselves: what is the cause of the psalmist giving (ascribing) God glory and strength? What has he done (cause) to deserve such descriptions being said about him?

Seems like a no-brainer question, doesn’t it? Or at least, it should. Our lives are filled with things God has done for us:

  • He has given us our family, friends, and loved ones
  • He has blessed us with wealth—even when our bank account seems to be empty
  • He has loved us enough to send his son
  • He offers us salvation

If that list is not enough, however, continue to read further in Psalm 29:

  • The voice of the Lord is over the waters.
  • The voice of the Lord is powerful (and majestic)
  • The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars.
  • God makes Lebanon leap like a calf.

The Lord is enthroned as King forever.

Perhaps most important attributes for us today are found in the final verse:

The Lord give strength to his people;
The Lord blesses his people with peace. (v. 11)

 As you reflect on your day today, think of the ways he has given you strength and blessed you with peace and respond appropriately: “In his temple all cry, Glory!”

Questions:

Make a list of things that you would ascribe (meaning: attribute to or regard as belonging to) to the Lord if you were going to give him glory, strength, and honor?

In what ways have you heard the voice of the Lord present himself in majesty and power? How have you seen his truths present themselves as more powerful than the claims of those who do not follow him?

The “flood” is often considered in Jewish thought as chaos and a fearful power. If this is true here in Psalm 29, what is the psalmist saying about the power of God when he writes he is “enthroned over the flood?” How have you seen the power of God show itself as greater than the power of Satan and the forces of evil?